4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher), by leave, proposed -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Hume on the ground of ill health.
.- I have great pleasure in seconding the motion, and express the hope that it will not be long before we shall see the honorable member for Hume in his place again.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Census and Statistics Act - Provisional Regulation - Return of Trade Union Statistics - Statutory Rules. 1912, No. 137.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations, Amended, &c. - -Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 107, 119,121.
Public Service Act - Department of Home Affairs- Central Staff- Promotions of -
Service Commissioner’s Office.
Sugar Bounty Act- Sugar Bounty Regulations
Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 128.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations, Amended, &c. - Statutory Rules 1912, Nos. 120, 122.
Debate resumed from 9th July (vide page 575), 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 pence 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 commencing my speech, which will be brief, I wish to add my congratulations to those that the honorable members for Werriwa and Indi have received on the manner in which they commended the adoption of the AddressinReply to the House. Although I have been a member of this House for some years, I have never before known an amendment or a direct motion of censure to be couched in such language as that of the amendment of the Leader of. the Opposition to the motion for the adoption of the Address, nor one justified by so few facts in the statements of its supporters. Honorable members are asked to inform the Governor- General 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 my opinion that is the most extravagantly worded amendment that has ever been submitted to this House, and beyond a charge in reference to the Brisbane strike not even the suggestion of an argument has been presented to justify it. Were Ministers guilty of the crimes alleged, they would have no right to their places on the Treasury bench. Since the statement of the honorable member for Brisbane in regard to this strike, of which he was an eye witness, honorable members opposite have changed their ground. Not one of them, with the exception of the honorable member for Bendigo, has committed himself to the statement that he would have sent troops to Brisbane, and the honorable member for Bendigo is paying for his indiscretion by the desertion of his friends and colleagues. The view of the. honorable member for Brisbane that every man who votes for the amendment must be held to be in favour of the sending of the troops to Brisbane is the correct one. However, I have no wish to deal at large with the speeches of members of the Opposition. This seems to me a convenient opportunity to reply to the criticism of my Department, which was made by the honorable members opposite when the Supply Bill was under discussion last week, and I propose also to answer one or two of the assertions of the honorable member for Mernda, who was not over courteous- to honorable members on this side though we were very indulgent to him. He told the House that if we establish a navy, continue the compulsory military training scheme, and carry out certain public works, we shall have in the future to face a considerable financial responsibility. Isthere anything new in that? Have we ever been blind to the fact that we shall have to face that responsibility? Are honorable members opposite prepared to say that the construction of a navy for Australia should be abandoned?
– No one has suggested that.
– If no one suggests an alternative, is there any one innocent enough to think that we shall not have to face the financial responsibilities?
– Of course, honorable members will have to do that so long as they remain in power.
– We have accepted the responsibilities of the position, but, as a Government, we have determined not to borrow for the creation of a navy and army. On that policy we have staked our existence. We take the view that the establishment and maintenance of defence is in the nature of a national insurance, and that -we should be prepared to pay the premiums necessary to keep the policy in force. Honorable members opposite will not say anything against the construction of war vessels. How many honorable members over there are prepared to say “‘We shall not pursue the compulsory military service scheme?”
– It is our own; we could hardly go back on what we did ourselves.
– I have seen my right honorable friend go back on people before. I saw him leave the Administration of the present Leader of the Opposition, and go across to that corner.
– I had a very good rearon, and I gave the reason, too.
– My right honorable friend took quite a long time to make up his mind about it. He had six months, and the right honorable gentleman finally took up the attitude of saying, “ I will please myself.”
– It will be a long time from now before you leave your billet.
– I believe it will be !
– You will stick to it as long as you can.
– There is not the slightest doubt that this party is going to retain possession of the Treasury bench.
– You do not think so in your heart.
– I do think so in my heart, and the honorable member knows that the Opposition would be very glad to crawl away from this squib which they have ignited without making any attempt in the debate to justify the language they have employed in their amendment.
– We do not need to crawl ; we should walk upright under any circumstances.
– If my honorable friend takes exception to the term “ crawl,” I withdraw it. I was trying to get an expression of opinion from honorable members opposite, who make these allegations about reckless finance, as to which of these propositions they take exception to. I have dealt with the navy, and there is silence. I mentioned compulsory military service, and I heard no expression of opinion from that side, except a statement from the right honorable member for Swan, that the Opposition will stand by their own production. I shall not occupy time by disputing whether it was their particular idea or not, but, at any rate, they leave the matter there. Now will honorable members on the other side of the House express an opinion in favour of cutting down the expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions ?
– You seem to be fishing for a policy now.
– I am announcing that the Government stand by each of these undertakings, and accept the responsibility of seeing them through. The question of lighthouses is also mentioned in the speech of the honorable member for Memda as another big financial obligation, but I do not think my honorable friends opposite are prepared to oppose the carrying of that measure into effect. When we reach the question of another big expenditure on the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, will the right honorable member for Swan express any opinion in opposition to it?
– Judging from the way the Government are going to work, it will cost twice what it ought to.
– If my honorable friend is honest to himself and the State which he represents he will acknowledge that the
Government have been very actively and energetically negotiating to get the preliminaries of that matter settled.
– It will cost twice as much as it ought to, and take twice as long, too.
– The position the day before yesterday was that we could not proceed under the terms of the Act passed by this Parliament until we got the approval of the Government of South Australia.
– That was your own negligence ; you ought to have got it six months ago.
– When the honorable member talks about negligence, he makes me feel that the language which I am permitted to use in this Chamber is not adequate. He was in a Government for seven years, and did nothing.
– I had not the authorization.
– The present Government came into office, turned round, and put the Bill through. We have now arranged the preliminaries which were absolutely necessary before the line could be proceeded with.
– They ought to have been settled six months ago.
– My honorable friend can take it from me that it has been a most difficult and delicate matter for the present Commonwealth Labour Government to deal with the anti-Labour Government in South Australia on this question.
– That consideration never entered into the question.
– It is not a fair remark.
– Why did you not settle with the previous Labour Government in that State? You had plenty of time.
– Had the other Government remained in power I have not the slightest doubt that the matter would have been adjusted months ago.
– The South Australian Government could not be unjust to their own State. An absurd provision was inserted here when the Bill was in Committee.
– There has been a big delay, anyway.
– There has been, and it has been the subject of anxious negotiation on the part of the present Commonwealth Government.
– You have no sleepers or rails yet.
– We have sleepers and rails at Port Augusta. They are or the wharf to-day.
– The honorable member for Swan can rely on this : that the Government which was energetic and determined enough to bring the Act into existence will be energetic and determined enough to give effect to it.
– It was the speech of the right honorable member for Swan that passed the Survey Bill, and that was the first practical step towards the building of: the railway.
– The honorable member cannot congratulate himself upon any particular effort which he made to pass that measure.
– I meant the right honorable member for Swan.
– I know what the honorable member meant; but these interjections amount to nothing. The fact remains that we brought this project to a head. We have to accept the financial obligation of giving effect to it, and we are prepared to do so. We come, then, to the next big proposition - the construction of the Federal Capital-
– The Governmenthave made political appointments to carry out the Western Australian project.
– There is no man in thisHouse more qualified to express a definite and decided opinion upon political appointments than the honorable member himself. He happens to be at this disadvantage - that I come from the same State as he does.
– Yes, and you know nothing about it. You liveover here; you have never lived there. You are a stranger in the streets of Perth, and even of Kalgoorlie.
– Imust ask the right honorable member for Swan to discontinue these interjections.
– Apparently, I know sufficient about the honorable member’s past to make him pretty annoyed to-day. I make the statement definitely that the honorable gentleman’s method of conducting operations in Western Australia for quite a time was, “ Well, gentlemen, you know, unless I get a supporter, different consideration may be given to different divisions.”
– When did I do that?
– Either at Greenough or at Geraldton.
– The honorable member does not know which.
– I can find the right honorable member’s speech if I go through my scrap-book. He was also guilty in his own State of having constituencies where about 250 or 300 men returned one member, while on the gold-fields, where Labour men were elected, it used to take 3,000 constituents to return a candidate.
– The gold-fields members acquiesced in that arrangement.
– They might have temporarily acquiesced in it.
– Mr. Vosper did, for one.
– I believe that the goldfields members at one particular time did acquiesce in the arrangement, but they got a pretty short shrift when they went up there next time for having done so. My right honorable friend himself has recollections of a particular day in Kalgoorlie when things were not too satisfactory to him.
– Oh ! Lord, keep our memories green !
– I do not intend to pursue that line of argument.
– No, because the honorable member has a bad case. He had better drop it.
– I have not a bad case.
– The honorable member has ; he cannot present any evidence in support of his statement.
– I have been looking for evidence to justfy the extravagant language which is used in the amendment to the Address-in-Reply, and the exceptional statements which were made last night by the honorable member for Mernda.
– That is far away from me, and Western Australia, too.
– If my right honorable friend will keep getting annoyed at the few remarks I am making, I cannot help replying to him. Having mentioned these different matters,I now come to the question of constructing the Federal City. Which of the New South Welshmen in the House will take up the attitude now that the Government are not going to get support if they are prepared to go on with the energetic construction of the city ?
– A Queenslander is, anyhow.
– I have no doubt that there is a number of honorable members who have certain opinions as to whether it is advisable at this juncture to construct the city. Personally, I am in favour of its construction. This Government, with the approval of both Houses, decided that the city should be constructed. We ought to give effect to that decision or leave the Treasury bench.
– It was obtained by logrolling and ear-wigging.
– No. My honorable friend is not justified in making that statement.
– I never had so much earwigging before.
– No cheers now.
– We are getting some cheers from the men who are acquainted with what we are doing. These propositions must carry with them a financial obligation. If ever the House was treated to one of those pessimistic utterances which are generally attributed to those who are vulgarly referred to as “ thestinking fish party,” it was last night by the honorable member for Mernda. It is stated that over a number of years we shall have to spend so many millions of pounds. Who disputes that? For years past have we not spent a number of millions of pounds? As obligations mature so will provision be made to meet them. As regards the question of reproductive works which are urgent and necessary in the public interest I do not subscribe to the view that it is not an advisable policy to get financial assistance.
– Which of these works would the honorable member call reproductive ?
– I would include the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and also the railway from north to south, in the event of its construction being approved of. I believe that the policy can be extended.
– The capital, for instance.
– I think that, in connexion with the purchase of the land at the Federal Capital which can ultimately be turned into an interest producing factor it would be justifiable to get some financial assistance in order that the transfer might be effected quickly.
– Is that the extent to which the honorable member would go?
– That is the extent to which I am going now. We shall meet all of these obligations as they arise, and we shall also meet the other obligation of providing the half -million pounds which will be necessary in order to see that mothers in a necessitous state shall be provided for. We shall carry out that policy in the event of our being allowed to continue to occupy the Treasury Bench. I have gone very much further in connexion with the general trend of this debate than I intended to do. I want to say a few words in reply to those honorable members who have criticised the Post and Telegraph Department. I recognise to the full that there are very great difficulties in this huge spending department. We find that all over Australia people are becoming more and more desirous of getting into touch with civilization in every possible fashion.
– Quite right, too.
– Quite right, I agree. I find that whereas the revenue of the Department in 1902 was ,£1,872,000, at the present time it is £3,922,000. I am leaving out odd figures. The revenue has doubled in the last ten years. The expenditure on the Department has proceeded at practically the same rate. ‘ In 1901-2 it was £2,467,000, while during the past year - it has not been quite adjusted yet - it was, approximately, £4,380,000.
– The honorable gentleman will have to increase the expenditure to give facilities, too.
– Yes, I am putting this view, which is a confirmation of the statement I made ©n assuming the control of the Department in October last, that I would take a generous appreciation of what the revenue was likely to be in country divisions, without over-estimating the cost. In other words, the policy of the Government lias not been directed on the basis that the Post and Telegraph Department must necessarily be a paying concern: -I do not take that view, and, with the’ approval of the Treasurer, we are carrying out a policy which is calculated to give very great- and additional facilities to the -outside person and secure a better set of conditions in the more thickly-populated places.
– Some of the honorable member’s Deputies do not take’ that view., anyhow.
– My Deputies have been definitely instructed to accept the view which -I am presenting to the House. I am certainly not presenting the view that they: are justified in pursuing a policy of recklessness in regard to their estimates’. 1 Mr. Mcwilliams.- They are not very reckless.
– They are reducing the salaries of the most poorly-paid persons in the whole of the Service.
– My honorable friend is not entitled to make that statement.
– I will produce proof of it.
– There is no person in the service of the Department, considering the work which is tendered to it, who is not in a better position to-day than he was when the Government assumed office.
– I shall give a number of specific cases.
– I intended to arrange my statement under different heads.
– Does the expenditure include works ?
– The figures I have given do. As an indication of how the works have progressed, I may mention that the expenditure on new works in 1901-2 was .£32:73°» in- i9o8-9 £383>°°°> and in
– Does “the honorable member mind giving the figures for -1910?
– I have not the figures for that year. I am not quoting these figures for the purpose of showing that this Government is doing anything exceptional or which was not done by my predecessor.
– The Department has always paid very well.
– I am not arguing that, nor am I taking the point that the Government are not justified in ‘ proceeding, with the policy, even if the Department is not a paying proposition. The public convenience, commensurate with a reasonable appreciation of our financial obligations, is the policy of the Government. As art indication of how we are progressing, I may say that from 1909 to the 31st of May, 1912, the number of new mail services and the extensions of existing services was 724. Further, the number of new post-offices and extensions - official, semi-official, and receiving - was 1,136;: while there were open 302 miles of new telegraph line. There were 105 miles of undergrounding done, and 646 new junction lines provided, with a net increase of telephone subscribers of 21,493. It is not unreasonable to suppose that, with such a rapidly- expanding service, there should be experienced some difficulty in givingeffect to the requests submitted by the community. As to the policy of the Government in connexion with a service so rapidly expanding, I ask the honorable member for Flinders - who criticised the Department the other evening - what portion or how many of the services he is prepared to recommend the removal of? As a matter of fact, we find that there is a very considerable demand in the honorable member’s own constituency for additional facilities.
– And most of them necessary, I believe.
– I believe they are. As a matter of fact, if the Government were to take an irresponsible view of their financial obligations, quite a number of the works under consideration might be carried out.
– I never made any reference to the expenditure on works.
– Then I must ask the honorable member whether he objects to the consideration we are giving to the employes of the Department?
– I shall tell the House exactly what I mean.
– Had the PostmasterGeneral not better wait until he hears the honorable member for Flinders?
– The honorable member for Parramatta, who is interjecting, had a fairly good opportunity to express his views; and I do not think that, up to the present, I have occupied an unreasonable time. If the honorable member for Flinders does not object to the expenditure on works and the granting of additional facilities, his objection must be to the payment to the employes. Apparently, honorable members opposite do not object to the expenditure on public works, in connexion with which the policy of the Government is to secure as direct supervision as possible, while encouraging day labour rather than contract labour. This is, I think, a convenient time to state that, as a consequence of certain recommendations submitted by the Postal Commission, there is now an altered system in the Department. At the Central Office, heads of branches of the Department have authority to deal with cases that come before them, and submit a recommendation direct to the Secretary.
– Some of them are not big enough for the job.
– I suppose we all find ourselves a little embarrassed in that connexion. These heads of branches of the Department, however, are the best that were available; and they can now send their recommendations almost direct to the Minister. In this way, I understand, much of the delay and difficulty associated with the Department is being removed. The honorable member for Parramatta the other night dealt with the question of accounts ; and I may say that the position of the Accountant’s Branch in Sydney, when the’ present accountant took control, was as bad as any I have seen presented in connexion with a public Department.
– Is it better now?
– It is not.
– It is undoubtedly very much improved.
– It is not.
– Does the honorable member think that he is in possession of information sufficient to justify him in making that statement? For instance,there was£30,000 worth of telephone accounts either muddled or not presented when the present accountant took office.
– That is not a correct statement.
– It is, and the honorable member knows that it is correct.
– It is not correct ; and the Postmaster-General is doing a man an injustice in making the statement.
– I am doing no injustice. The management of this branch required to be absolutely remodelled ; and I believe that now we have a capable accountant who is proceeding with the work.
– The only trouble was that the Minister would not get labour enough to do the work.
– The honorable member is not acquainted with the position, or he would not make that statement. The improvement that has been effected in connexion with the accounts branch amply justifies the appointment of the accountant, and will lead to a very considerable reduction in expenditure, providing, as it does, for greater rapidity and accuracy in the adjustment of accounts.
– We have been hearing that for a long time, and things arc no better yet.
– The honorable member is not acquainted with the facts.
– The PostmasterGeneral is very rough on his predecessor.
– Not at all. My predecessor was responsible for this appointment; and I believe that, behind him, his predecessor contemplated making the change. The fact remains that the appointment was absolutely necessary ; and I believe that this, together with the additional powers given to the Deputies, with the consequent encouragement to accept responsibility, will lead to a better state of affairs in the carrying out of the works policy of the Department.
– The Deputies have been tied up, and unable to do anything without referring to the Head Office.
– I have considerably released the Deputies ; the directions are all in favour of allowing them to deal with any reasonable proposition laid before them.
– Then the PostmasterGeneral is on the right track.
– Honorable members on both sides frequently complain about the difficulty in getting replies to communications. Let us say, for instance, that a constituent in Barcaldine writes to the honorable member for Maranoa ; this communication takes several days to reach Melbourne, and after being submitted to the authorities here has again to be sent on to the Deputy in Queensland.
– If it is not lost on the way.
– It has little chance of being lost on the way. If the Deputies can decide these matters well and good. I believe that the encouragement which is being given them to decide matters is leading to good results, and is expediting the progress of works and the extension of facilities desired by the public.
– The Minister requires to give the Deputies more labour and more material I think.
– The Department received nearly _£1,000,000 last year for new works, and if the Treasurer is generous in the present year we shall get an equal or even larger amount. The next proposition which has been referred to relates to the Staff. The honorable member for Parramatta has often repeated the statement that “ the Service is seething withdiscontent.”
– Hear, hear ! I have.
– Well, personally, I do not believe it. I believe that what is so described is political discontent - that is to say, it is presented very often for political purposes.
– That is rough.
– It is rough against my honorable friends. I would not for a moment contend that there are not in the Service quite a number of men with legitimate inclinations and aspirations to improve the position in which they find themselves, who are unable to get all they want. Their desires in that respect are perfectly legitimate. But when we come to consider the position in which we find ourselves we must come to the conclusion, I think, that the alterations that are being made in the condition of the postal employes and the Public Service generally are very satisfactory, and that there has been a marked im provement during the time that this Government has been in office.
– Does not the honorable gentleman think that if the officers devoted more attention to their business and less to politics he would’ be getting better work out of them?
– They have no obligation to do anything except attend to their duties. The political opinions expressed by officers are of no concern to this Government. They are perfectly at liberty to do what they desire in regard to political questions. If they favour the policy of this Government they are at liberty to say so ; if they do not, all right. If there is a storm centre at the present time-
– The Minister has us at a disadvantage; we cannot reply to his statements.
– My honorable friend has had a fair opportunity of expressing his opinions. He comes from the State of New South Wales, where, I believe, there has been some unrest in three branches of my Department, namely, among the telegraphists, the sorters, and the letter-carriers. I have taken the trouble to obtain the facts concerning the increases of salary received by these officers, and will give the House the result. The telegraphists in New South Wales, in 1901, received on an average £153 per annum.
– I should like to tell the honorable gentleman that no telegraphist, no sorter, and no letter-carrier has ever approached me in any way.
– If no telegraphist, no sorter, and no letter-carrier has ever approached the honorable member, how has he become acquainted sufficiently with the feeling in the Department to feel justified in saying that it is “ seething with discontent.’’ ?
– I keep my eyes and ears open, that is all.
– As I have said, the average salary of telegraphists in New South Wales in 1901 was £153; in 1908 it was £T5;* in 1912 it is ,£193. In Victoria the average salary in 1901 was £154; in 1908 it was £165 ; in 191 2 it is In Queensland the average salary has risen from ^153 in 1901 to ,£185 in 191.2. In South Australia the average has risen from .£156 in 1901 to .£196 in 191 2. In Western Australia the average has risen from £156 in 1.90T to £196 in 1912. In Tasmania the average has risen from £itS in 190t to £i8o in 1912. These figures show that during the interval from 1901 to t9t2,the condition of the telegraphists has been considerably improved, largely in consequence of the pressure brought to bear by the party which is in power at the present time.
– The Public Service Commissioner was improving the condition all along; at least, we hope he was.
– The range of .State salaries shows that the officers progressed from a minimum to a maximum, but that there was no regular course of progression. In every State there were bars which retained the majority of the officers at salaries much below the maximum, whilst Commonwealth officers can progress automatically to a salary of at least .£200 per annum at the present time. I will next deal with the sorters. In New South Wales, in 1901, the average salary of sorters was .£142 ; it is ^164 in 191 2. In Victoria, in 1901, the average was £169 ; it remains at that average. In Queensland, in 1901, the average was .£143; it is £162 in 1912. In South Australia the average in 1901 was ,£132 ; it is .£165 in 1912. In Western Australia the average in 1901 was ,£147; it is £17$ in 1912. In Tasmania the average in 1901 was £33’i* it is ^163 in 1912. Consequently, there has been a considerable advance in regard to that class of employ^.
– The despatching officers have had no increases.
– There are a few who, in consequence of additional senior posi tions not being available, have remained practically where they were. But the general service has improved extraordinarily since it has been under the control of the Federation.
– I admit that.
– Are not the sorters shorthanded in some offices?
– In some few cases they may be.
– They are overworked, I think.
– If the existence of such instances is demonstrated, we shall endeavour to provide a remedy on the next Estimates. We shall try to effect an improvement whenever the proof is forthcoming that the necessities of any particular case require attention. I turn now to (he letter-carriers. In New South Wales, in 1901, the average salary was £101 ; in 1912 it is .£138. During the same period in Victoria the average has risen from £120 to £T34i in Queensland, from £112 to £131 ; in South Australia, from £11$ to £z3& > ‘n Western Australia, from ;£n6 to £133; and in Tasmania, from £S9 to £132.
– Averages do not help the man who does not get anything.
– But Parliament is not a competent tribunal to settle these particular cases.
– Have the Government any proposal for settling the grievances of the South Australian transferred officers?
– The policy of the present Administration with respect to grievances of officers is to allow them to go to an investigating tribunal, and to have their cases heard by it.
– But the honorable member’s Department says that the Court has no jurisdiction in respect of these transferred officers.
– The honorable member in not correctly stating the position.
– I have read every document relating to the status of the transferred officers, and the power of settlement by arbitration,
– The Government are prepared to allow their officers to go before the Court; and, what is more, they will honour the decisions of that Court. We shall not attempt to embarrass public officers in presenting their case to the Court.
– Have the Government objected to the jurisdiction of the Court?
– The only objection lodged relates to matters of purely local concern - as to whether a man, for instance, shall work in this or some other room.
– But have the Government raised objections to the Court making an order against the Commonwealth?
– It is reported in the press that the Government have done so.
– Such a report is incorrect. We have taken the view, however, that matters of local internal concern, in respect of which the administrator of the Department affected must of necessity be the only person able to prescribe what is necessary, should be left to the Public Service Commissioner. But in respect of wages, hours of employment, and general conditions of the service, every facility will be given to public servants to obtain the decision of an investigating tribunal.
– If there is an obvious grievance, why should it not be dealt with?
– Who is to be the arbitrator ?
– The PostmasterGeneral, I should think, in the case of his own Department.
– The point is that the Court might have no jurisdiction. In that case, what would the honorable gentleman do with regard to these grievances r
– I make the definite statement that in respect of wages, conditions of employment, and general concessions - everything upon which the Court, as a consequence of the presentation of evidence, is capable’ of giving a decision - the Government will not discourage the ameers to seek that decision, and will honour it when it is given.
– Who will bear the expense ?
– Who should bear it, save those who are directly interested? Who bears the expenses to which the workers outside are put at the present time in bringing a case before the Court? They hear it themselves. In view of the fact that alterations representing an additional annual expenditure of from £270,000 to £300,000 per annum have been made during the life of the present Government, we take the view that it is time to call a halt for the present.
– The Government say that so far as they can do so, they have done these officers justice?
– So far as we are capable of expressing an intelligent opinion on the facts as presented, we believe that we have done them justice. Let us look for a moment at the position of some of these officers. A telegraphist in Sydney works about six and a half hours a day for an average payment of £193 per. annum. He is granted three weeks’ leave on full pay every year, and is paid while on sick leave, arid in respect of every statutory and gazetted holiday. On the completion of twenty years’ service he is entitled to six months’ leave of absence on full pay. I believe we are not justified at present in recommending an alteration of his position. That is my definite opinion in regard to the telegraphist.
– But if the Court granted an increase, the Government would honour that decision?
– Certainly. The hours of employment of the telegraphists in Sydney and the question of the .broken shift appear to be matters of some concern. There are 205 telegraphists employed in the Sydney General Post Office. Of these, 72 work from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. - a continuous shift of hours - while 36 work from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and from 3 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. That is the broken shift about which there has been so much complaint.
– How many hours has a man to work in order to get in his day?
– He puts in his day’s work between 10 a.m. and 6.30 p.m.
– Does that include the broken time ?
– Yes. There are only thirty-six out of 205 who work the broken shift, and they are called upon to work it about once in five weeks.
– Is the honorable member including the country offices?
– No. The conditions are different in the country offices, and there is no difficulty in respect of them,. The trouble has arisen only in connexion with the Sydney General Post Office. Whilst I think every man is justified in doing his utmost to secure the best possible conditions for himself and those dependent upon him, this grievance in respect of the broken shift does not appear to me to be the most deserving of adjustment among those which have to be faced by the Public Service Commissioner or myself. There was a time when, under the system in force in the
Sydney General Post Office, messages were delayed in some cases for hours, and there had to be a re-adjustment of the staff in order that that state of affairs should be discontinued. I do not think, however, that any telegraphist in that office is asked to do more than a fair thing.
– Do all the country offices work the broken shift?
– Most of them do not. Another matter to which I desire to make reference is the question of wireless telegraphy. The Government, in consequence of difficulties with which they were confronted when they took office-
– Two years ago. Mr. FRAZER. - My right honorable friend is very keen on that point. He seems to have remembered every minute of the two years he has spent in Opposition.
– We expected the Government to do something in two years.
– Quite so; but my honorable friends opposite unfortunately got us into a position in respect of wireless telegraphy which is a most difficult and delicate one to handle.
– The honorable member inherited it.
– I did, and in this respect I am still in a difficult position. In the first place, proceedings have been taken against us by the Marconi Company, but as the hearing of the case has been adjourned until September, I do not propose to touch upon its merits. We found ourselves hampered and tied up in such a. way that for a time it appeared that we were going to be without a system of wireless telegraphy. This Government grasped the position, and to-day we have a wireless station opened in Melbourne, and another in Hobart. A station will, I believe, be opened in Adelaide shortly, another in Brisbane at the end of July, and a further station between Port Moresby and Thursday Island should be in commission by the end of August.
– And all were begun after the Fremantle station.
– That is so. Does the right honorable gentleman blame me tor that? The Postmaster- General of the Government of which he was a member made a contract in regard to the Fremantle and Pennant Hills stations.
– And his successor said that, had he been in office at the time, he would have done the same thing.
– I believe that my predecessor did make that statement ; but, owing to the healthy conditions existing on this side of the House, in which it is possible for honorable members to hold their own opinions about such matters, I am disposed to say that I am unable to agree with my predecessor in that matter.
– When is the honorable gentleman going to open the Fremantle station?
– As soon as it is finished. If the right honorable gentleman could tell me how it would be possible to induce the contractors to finish the work more expeditiously, I should be very pleased.
– But the Government have extended the work proposed to be done.
– We have made no extension which was not designed to secure efficiency. Unfortunately, during a trial, the station at Fremantle extended itself. One of the pulley-wheels went out through the roof and took a couple of the rafters with it.
– I never heard anything about that.
– That may be so. 1 have said that we are in a difficult and delicate position in view of the fact that the Government have been cited before the Court in connexion with wireless telegraphy ; but I take the House and the country into the confidence of the Government so far as to say that we intend to proceed with the erection of wireless stations.
– When is the honorable gentleman going to open the station at Fremantle ?
– If the right honorable gentleman will tell me when the station will be finished, and will pass the test, I shall tell him when it will be opened.
– Why open the others, and not the Fremantle station?
– The reason is that the Government have themselves constructed the stations which are opened, but the PostmasterGeneral of the Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member let a contract for the stations which are not yet opened.
– What was the contract price for the Fremantle station?
– I think it was about £4,000 for the apparatus.
– It will cost £20,000.
– The right honorable gentleman will probably recognise the phrase when I say, “ What is a million? “
– What is the station going to cost when it is finished ?
– It will cost the amount stipulated in the contract, which, to the best of my belief, is about ; £4,000forthe apparatus.
– The right honorable gentleman may shake his head and object, but we have constructed stations, and the average cost of those constructed on the system adopted by and assigned to the Commonwealth Government does not approximate to that amount.
– There is a big difference in the size of the stations.
– There is ; and I do not desire to say anything disrespectful of the contractors. When they can convince me that the stations they are constructing can pass the stipulated tests, and can hand them over to the Government, I shall be delighted.
– The amount of £4,000 does not include buildings?
– No, it does not.
– How much more is required for buildings?
– As the right honorable gentleman appears to be so much interested in finding out the exact cost of the Fremantle station, I shall get the information for him; but I have already told him that I have not the papers here which supplythat information.
– Is the Minister going to hold the contractors liable for their penalties ?
– I say that the contractors must carry out the conditions of their contract before they will be paid.
– That is all - no penalties ?
– Is not the penalty a condition of the contract ?
– If the Minister is going to make them pay.
– Has the contract been varied ?
– Not by me ; but it was varied previously in connexion with the site.
– Perhaps the Minister will tell us this before he goes on-
– What I propose to tell honorable members is that we intend to construct during the present financial year ten or eleven additional wireless stations around the coast of Australia. Whilst the sites of these stations have not been definitely fixed, they will in all probability be in the vicinity of Mount Gambieror Nelson, at Eucla, Eden, Rockhampton, Townsville, Cooktown, Port Darwin, Wyndham, Roeburn, Geraldton, and Albany.
– And all to be opened before the Fremantle station?
– They will be opened as soon as we can have them constructed. The policy to be pursued is to secure a line of communication around the whole of the coast-line of Australia. Some of the proposed stations will be continuous stations, whilst others will not require to be worked at night, because the communication can be picked up from those in continuous work. The general idea is to secure uninterrupted communication right round the coast of Australia for the protection of shipping and the granting of facilities to the public We intend also to provide the means for linking up with the Imperial scheme by constructing a station at Port Darwin.
– When does the Minister think that the Fremantle station will be opened?
– I wish I could tell the right honorable gentleman. I can tell him that it is my desire to have it opened at the earliest possible date.
– When will that be, I wonder?
– I am very sorry that I am unable to give the right honorable gentleman the information he is seeking.
– What is the position in regard to Pennant Hills?
– It is such that the Government have not felt justified up to the present time in taking possession of that station. We are at present conducting tests which I hope will be successful, as I should like to have the station taken over. I certainly have made no statement calculated to embarrass those responsible to the Government in connexion with the contract for the stations at Pennant Hills and Fremantle, but I do insist upon safeguarding the position of the Government within the terms of the contract.
– Can the Minister say what is being done to provide wireless communication with the Pacific Islands?
– The Pacific Islands arenot included in the proposals of the Government for this year. I have, however, indicated a programme in connexion with the general linking up of the coast-line of Australia, which we believe can be carried out during the current year. It is portion of a more complete system of wireless telegraphy, Which I hope will be continued next year.
– Has any progress been made in the negotiations between Great Britain and New Zealand?
– No. The Imperial Government are not dealing with the Commonwealth in regard to that matter though it is possible that they may be in correspondence with New Zealand.
– What about the station at Pennant Hills? Has that been taken over by the Commonwealth?
– No. It has not yet accomplished the tests provided for in the contract.
– It is like the Fremantle station, which resembles Mahomet’s coffin, in that it is suspended between Heaven and earth.
– Or like King Charles’ head. There is only one other matter to which I desire to refer. At the last Imperial Conference an effort was made by the representatives of Australia, to get cheaper cable communication between the Commonwealth and the Old Country. At the instance of the British PostmasterGeneral the following resolution was adopted -
That, in the event of considerable reductions an the Trans-Atlantic Cable rates not being effected in the near future, it is desirable that the laying of a State-owned cable between England and Canada be considered by a subsidiary conference.
Since then a scheme of deferred cables has been brought into existence, under which a 50 per cent, reduction has been effected in the rate, provided the cable message is in open language. The Government do not consider that this concession, plus the concession of what are known as letter cables - that is letters which can be sent by cable a certain distance and transmitted by post the remainder of the journey - fulfils the conditions imposed in the resolution I have quoted, and negotiations are now proceeding with the British Postmaster- General with a view of giving effect to the decision which was arrived at by the Conference.
– The last mail shows that there is great opposition to an Atlantic State-owned cable.
– The statement which was made by the British PostmasterGeneral appears to indicate that he is in opposition to it.
– And so are many Liberal newspapers.
– I am expressing the view of the Government when I say that the last word has not been uttered upon this matter. We do not think that the promise which is contained in the resolution I have quoted, has been redeemed, and we are taking further action with a view to securing its fulfilment. I have nothing further to say. I believe that I have dealt with the matters which come particularly within the purview of the Department, and in conclusion I merely desire to add that 1 hope the amendment which is couched in such ill-chosen and extravagant language will be emphatically rejected, and that the motion which was moved by the honorable member for Werriwa, and seconded by the honorable member for Indi will be agreed to.
– I think we might reasonably have anticipated that the speech of the PostmasterGeneral, following as it did immediately upon the weighty indictment of the honorable member for Mernda, would have contained something more than a passing and contemptuous reference to that speech. But perhaps it was too much to expect the Postmaster-General to deal with a matter which really belongs to the Treasury. Tn those circumstances it would have been better taste if the honorable gentleman had declined to make any reference to that deliverance. To refer to the speech of the honorable member for Mernda as a pessimistic one, and to characterize it as being of the “stinking-fish” variety, is scarcely an answer to it. That weighty and wellconsidered deliverance traversed a good deal of the ground which I had proposed to cover, although there are still one or two other points in regard to finance to which I intend to allude. Certainly, this debate, so far as it has touched the question of finance, has been responsible for the enunciation of somewhat- remarkable and somewhat original theories. For instance, we had a statement by the honorable member for Denison - who, I believe, occupies the position of a financial authority upon the opposite side of the chamber - to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank is not going to be used as an instrument to deprive ordinary banking companies of the whole of their business. He said that the Government intended to leave to them their accommodationbills. I wonder does he know what an acommodation-bill is?
– The honorable member has not read my speech. I said that they would be able to deal with commercial business.
– The honorablemember added much, to the gaiety of the debate by his reference to this subject. I heard him say distinctly - and other honorable members heard him - that the Government propose to leave to the banks their accommodation paper. His remark indicates that he takes a somewhat original view of banking transactions. He thinks that if the banking companies have left to them a return upon their capital of something like 5 per cent., that will be a fair thing. But he did not tell us how they will obtain 5 per cent, from dealing with accommodation-bills. However, his statement was nothing compared with the speech which emanated from the Prime Minister and Treasurer, and a quotation from which I have taken the trouble to extract from Hansard. In dealing with the note issue - as will be seen by reference to page 114 of Hansard - he said -
It is a worn out fad that paper displaces gold. We are a gold-producing country, because we produce more gold than we export.
Honorable members who heard that statement simply gasped at the gulf of financial simplicity which yawned under the Prime Minister’s feet. Why did not the honorable gentleman consult the honorable member for Denison, or his colleague, the Minister of Home Affairs, before committing himself to such an amazing utterance? The veriest tyro in the study of the most elementary books upon finance knows that the fact of our being a gold-producing country has nothing whatever to do with the particular danger which was referred to by those who urged that the institution of a Commonwealth note system might have the effect of driving money out of the country or out of circulation. As everybody knows, the gold we produce is simply one of our ordinary products, like wheat and wool, and the particular danger which is always apprehended, and which is always present in connexion with a Government note issue, which has not an abundant backing of gold coin, is not that the notes will not ultimately be met, but that they will not be immediately met. That danger has been illustrated not once, but a hun dred times, in the history of finance. It is not the ultimate solvency of financial institutions which is in question in times of crises so much as their ability to immediately secure sufficient coin to meet the demands made upon the note issue. If you compare the position of the banks before and after the Commonwealth note issue, the state of affairs becomes clear. So long as the banks were issuing notes, a large part of their circulation consisted of those notes, and they retained gold to meet them, because at any time a demand might have been made for their payment in gold. Would it have been any answer to say, “ You must not ask us for sovereigns. This is a gold-producing country, so that you are sure to be able to get your gold ultimately “ ? The supposition is ludicrous ! Had the Treasurer consulted those of his friends who have knowledge of these matters, he would not have given utterance to a proposition so much1 at variance with the most elementary principles of finance. The Commonwealth Bank may, and probably will, have its uses, but the lending of money at cheaper rates to small farmers, artisans, and tradesmen who were deluded by the promise of it into voting for the Labour party will not be one. They will not be able to borrow for a farthing less than they have to pay now, and no member of the Government now contends that the bank is a means of cheapening money to any section of the community. The manner in which the bank was established was extraordinary. A capital of £.1,000,000 was lent to it; giving it a yearly burden of £35^00 in interest charges. The success of the institution, if it is to have any, must depend on its being able to get from the Savings Banks of the States a substantial part of the money which now lies in them at the credit of depositors.
– Because it has no capital of its own.
– Why should depositors transfer to the Commonwealth Bank ?
– I do not think that they will in any number. My statement is that if the Commonwealth Bank succeeds as a commercial undertaking, it can do so only by winning over a large part of the deposits now in the Savings Banks of the States. I do not think that it will do so, and, therefore, in my opinion, it wilT not be more than a Government Department for the purpose of certain financial functions. As for entering into competition for ordinary commercial business, it has no hope of doing that unless it can provide itself with capital. If it succeeded in obtaining a large part of the money now in the Savings Banks of the States, and of the money which, had it not been established, would assuredly have been deposited in those Savings Banks, one result would be that agencies which in Victoria and New South Wales at least have brought cheap money within the reach of those who would otherwise not have been able to obtain it, by the adoption of the Credit Foncier system, would be seriously crippled, and obliged to raise their rates and to refuse advances in some cases where they now make them freely. Ministers do not seem to have considered that. The establishment of the Commonwealth Bank will not reduce the rate of interest in any degree; but should the bank take money from the Savings Banks of the States, the effect must be to harden the rates of interest, and to prevent those institutions from making many of the advances which, under the Credit Foncier system, they now make to farmers, settlers and small householders. The one thing wanting to complete the topsy-turveydom of the system under which the bank was established without capital has been pointed out by the honorable member for Richmond, namely, the absolute divorcement of the banking business from the note issue. The Minister of Home Affairs must know that the issue of notes is essentially, and in its nature intimately, connected with ordinary banking operations. Canada has been cited as the example on which our system is based, but the honorable member for Mernda showed clearly last night, as any One can ascertain for himself by reading up the subject, that the great bulk of the Canadian currency consists of notes issued by the ordinary banks, an. issue depending on and fluctuating according to the necessities of ordinary commercial operations.If the Commonwealth Bank will everhave any ordinary banking business of any moment, which I doubt, . everything has been done to prevent that from being used as a. guide or means for determining what should be the volume or flexibility of the note issue. The Treasurer claims that £180,000 has been gained by the Commonwealth note issue, but the money could as easily have been got, or most of it, with a tax upon notes.
– The private banks retaining the right to issue notes?
– Yes. In that case the banks would have been responsible for the notes, not the Commonwealth.
– The security is greater now.
– No one disputes that the Commonwealth security is absolute, nor is it disputed that the ultimate security of the banks, so far as their note issue is concerned, is absolute. Honorable members seem to forget that we are dealing with currency, not with solvency ; with the question whether there will be a sovereign for each note at the moment when gold is wanted. At present there is not a sovereign for each note. In Canada they have in their coffers practically a sovereign for every note.
– Is there very much difference between the capital of the Commonwealth Bank and the capital of our ordinary banks?
– An immense difference.
– How much?
– I am not in possession of the actual figures, but the honorable member will have an opportunity of dealing with the matter himself. I come now to the much-debated question of departmental extravagance, which forms a part of the charge to which the PostmasterGeneral has referred in terms of contempt and indignation. I shall deal first with the Post and Telegraph Department. With a view to ascertaining in the only way possible whether the ordinary current expenditure of that great Department had gone up to an undue amount, I made a comparison between the financial years 1909-10 - the year immediately before the present Government came into power - and 1911-12, the year just closed. In order to make such a comparison, the first essential is that all expenditure on new works, additions, and extensions should be omitted. I understood the honorable member for Bendigo to be apprehensive that I had been misled in my statement by referring to a portion of a sum of £2,000,000, which it had been proposed to expend but I understand that that was expenditure on new works; &c. It would not be right to include in either case such things as additions and’ new works, because when new services are being provided, they must be paid for. I desired to bring the question down to theordinary working expenses of the Department. I admit also that the ordinary working expenses must naturally increase as thebusiness increases. It seems to me that we: ought to have some intelligible business idea of how our Departments are being managed, and in order to make a fair comparison between the period immediately prior to the Labour party taking office and the present time, I excludedeverything except the current working expenses which are under the head of salaries and contingencies. Honorable members will find them set out in the Estimates of revenue and expenditure.
– Contingencies include renewals.
– Yes, but renewals are an ordinary business expenditure, and any ordinary business would have to replace worn-out stock out of revenue. The revenue of the Department for 1909-10 was £3,731,000. For 1911-12 it is £4,211,000, although the official figure is £300,000 less; but in order to make a fair comparison between the revenues of those years, it is necessary to give the revenue of the last financial year the benefit of the sum of £300,000 as representing the loss on penny postage.
– Is it not more than that ?
– I made particular inquiries, and I think the PostmasterGeneral will bear me out that that figure is about right.
– I do not dispute the honorable member’s estimate. I think it is just about right.
– I thought at first -that the additional revenue during the present year arising from the toll telephone systera ought also to be set off, but on making inquiries I found it was impossible to say whether that system had really led to any substantial increase at all.
– Do the Department say that?
– The Minister has not said anything, but so far as the Department go they are unable to say that it has led to any substantial increase of revenue.
– After all their trumpetings, eh ?
– However that may be, I have not taken account of it.
– Why does the honorable member say that the Department expresses an opinion on the matter?
– The Department do not express any opinion, but when I go, as every honorable member has a right to go, to seek for information and explanation of published figures from officers of the Department, if the officers say that they can not furnish any figures showing that there has been an increase from that particular source, the Minister will recognise that I am entitled to use the fact.
– I think the honorable member would be more entitled to recognise that if he asked me for the information it would be given to him.
– If the Minister thinks that there has been an increase of revenue through the introduction of the toll telephone system, that, of course, will strengthen my argument ; but I am not relying on it. I take it that there has certainly been no decrease. I have, therefore, left the matter out of account altogether. The figures I have given show that there has been an increase of revenue to the extent of , £480,000, or 12.8 per cent., from the year 1909-10 to the year 1911-12.
– That includes the loss on penny postage?
– It includes £300,000 as a set-off against that loss. The actual increase of revenue is only , £180, 000, but by making the comparison in the way I have stated, I find that the increase in the revenue from business has been 12.8 per cent. The expenditure on salaries and contingencies in 1909-10 was £2,263.000, and in 1911-12 , £2,746,000. Leaving out, therefore, new works and additions, and new services of all kinds, there has been ait increase in working expenses of £483.000, actually more than the total increase of the whole of the revenue after making an allowance of , £300, 000 for the loss on penny postage; or an increase of 21.3 per cent. in the expenditure on salaries and contingencies.
– What does the honorable member include in contingencies?
– I should have thought that the Minister would know a great deal better than I do.
– I will give my honorable friend a statement of what is included in contingencies.
– I hope that the Minister or the Treasurer will at an early stage - of course, they cannot speak again in this debate - take an opportunity of answering all these financial criticisms. In the first place I am showing a plain statement of facts and figures. “ Contingencies “ in a Department like the Post Office is the widest possible term. I chose salaries and contingencies because these two items include the running expenses of the Department.
– Does the honorable member include the expenditure on new nonpaying services in the back country ?
– I include the whole of the actual working expenses. I agree with the Postmaster-General when he said that he did not propose to make considerable profits out of the Post and Telegraph Department. I do not know that if the Department, with all its accounts properly kept and scrutinized, were worked so as to clearly meet its own expenses we should not all be thoroughly well satisfied, and probably by that means it would be doing the greatest service to the community. In- every business Department where we find that the revenue has continually increased by leaps and bounds, as the revenue of the Post Office has done for many years past, we would expect the expenditure to go up, but we certainly do not expect it to go up at the same rate as the revenue goes up. Much less do we expect it to go up at nearly double that rate, as has occurred in the Post Office during the past two years. From the beginning of Federation up to the year 1909-10 there had been a gradual process of bringing the expenditure on the Post Office into line with its revenue, working it as a business concern should be worked ; but from 1909-10 we have had this extraordinary result, that whereas the revenue has gone up by 12.8 per cent., the expenditure on contingencies and salaries has increased by 21.3 per cent. It is no answer whatever to these figures for honorable members on the other side to ask, “ Are you in favour of cutting down salaries?” It is the duty of the Treasurer, who is charged with the trust of administering the people’s money, and the PostmasterGeneral, who administers this Department, to justify the increase of expenditure whether for salaries or for anything else. It has been pointed out by interjection once or twice that a sum of, I think, about £120,000 per annum was added, to the payments of public servants in the Post Office during these two years.
– The. special concessions plus the ordinary annual increments will be in the vicinity of £270,000.
– That accounts for a very small proportion of the increase.
– No, it accounts for a very substantial portion of it.
– I think if honorable members will look at the figures for the Post Office which are set out in the
Budget-papers they will find that the increases in contingencies are very much greater than the increase in salaries.
– Does that include buildings and undergrounding?
– It excludes new works, and undergrounding, I take it, comes under that head.
– After all, what does it demonstrate? Simply that we have been extending the services.
– Order !
– Not at all.
– It does.
– Order [
– It is hardly fair that I should be placed in the pillory and cross-examined as to the various modes by which the expenditure has been increased. Frankly, I do not know. That is a question which we may reasonably ask of the honorable gentleman who has been administering the Department. All that I desire to say is that, whilst the current expenditure on the management of this great business Department has gone up by nearlydouble, there may be a completely satisfactory answer, or series of answers, but we are entitled to get the informationThis House and the public will demand it. Coming to a very much smaller concern - the Department of Home Affairs - I find that the increases in the salaries and contingencies on its ordinary administrative staff have gone up, during the period I have named, by 24 per cent. - from £38,801 to £48,205. Comparing the figures for 1909-10 with thefigures for 1911-12, here, again, all comparisons are falsified and rendered absurd* unless we eliminate matters which are entirely new, and which are not common to the two years In making the comparison? which I am going to submit, I found it necessary to leave out the whole of the Defence Department, because there is no possibility of comparing the Defence Department now with the Defence Department two years ago. I have also left out the whole of the expenditure on the Northern Territory, because that is new. I have leftout all the expenditure on new works and. additions for both years; I have left out another item which is new, namely, the interest and sinking fund in respect of transferred properties. I have left out thesugar bounty, not because it is new, but because, for particular reasons that do not depend at all upon administration, it hasgone up considerably - by about £200,000 a year.
– Simply on account of the bad season.
– At all events, I have left out this expenditure, and the Minister will see that it ought to be left out. I have also left out the expenses on land tax and coinage, because they are new ; and the electoral expenses, because they vary. and include some things at one period which cannot well be compared. Leaving out the whole of the Defence Department, and all the new works, in fact, everythingI have enumerated, and coming down to the bedrock ordinary current expenditure of carrying on the Government of this country - I have the figures for all the Departments set out here - I find that in the two years in which the Labour Government have been in power it has risen from . £5,651,451 to £7,172,701. In other words, it has gone up by 26.9 per cent.
– How much of that in crease is accounted for by old-age and invalid pensions?
– I was coming to that. Of course, the largest amount of this expenditure is accounted for by the increases in the largest items, namely, oldage pensions and Post Office expenses. But if honorable members will look through the other parts, they will find, with some variations, a corresponding increase in all the Departments, with the single exception, for some reason, of the Treasury, where the expenditure has only slightly increased.
– Would not a good deal of these increases apply to all businesses ?
– Perhaps so. But where we find that within two years the administration of a country like this, which previously was in a very prosperous condition indeed, and in which the expenses had gone up enormously - during the whole period of Federation - where we find the expenditure making a sudden bound, to an extent of considerably over 25 per cent., it gives us occasion to think, and entitles us, I think, to call upon Ministers to justify, if they can do so, such enormous increases. I am challenged about the expenditure on old-age , pensions. This is certainly enormous. It has become an immense tax, and, coupled with other things to which I shall refer in a moment, is initiating a system that may become a burden which will very considerably hamper the future development of the country. But I have never taken the position that -we should deprive those persons of pensions who already receive them. Moreover,I have always stated, both publicly arid privately, that, in the circumstances of this community, having regard to the conditions under which people came out here, in many cases severing their ordinary family ties, and being stranded, it becomes necessary to provide for those who have not been able to make provision for themselves. Then, again, there are those who are approaching the statutory age, and who, therefore, cannot make provision for themselves and in regard to these it will still be necessary to have recourse to the Treasury. But I say - not as a result of an impulse, or as something. I have said only recently, but as something I have said for years - that I should regard it as one of the worst thingsthat could happen to the country if we were to adopt, as a permanent part of our future policy, the providing for the wants of old age and invalidism by doles out of the public Treasury.
– I do not think the honorable member would succeed in altering the present system.
Mr.W. H. IRVINE.- I have said so, and I said so at every meeting I addressed before the last election. Honorable members know that what I say before my constituents, I am not afraid to say in this House ; and what I say is the result of definite con- clusions at which I have arrived. I have nothing to gain or lose by saying, or not saying, things in regard to a particular policy, and, therefore, it may be that I am in such a position that I can state what I think whether it be popular or not. I make statements because I believe them to be true. I think that, while making provision, not merely for this year, but for many years to come, out of the public Treasury, for those who cannot be provided for otherwise, if we were to initiate some Stateaided co-operative movement for achieving the same end, we should be doing something infinitely better for the people themselves, and for the future strength and character of the community. When the McLean Government, of which I was a member, was in power many years ago in Victoria, a scheme was initiated by Mr. Shiels, in the early days of old-age pensions; but owing to political circumstances, into which I need not now enter, it did not have that attention which it ought to have received. That scheme was based on making provision for the necessities of those who could not provide for themselves owing to old age ; but during a period, which was then stated to be fifteen years, certain financial hypothecations were to be made with a view to creating a fund to be supplemented by the voluntary contributions of persons of every age. Those contributions were to be capable of being made at any time, and, bearing compound interest, were to be added to out of the fund created by the Government. This, it was deemed, would form a magnificent means of State-aided insurance to meet, not merely the wants of old-age, but, in some cases, the exigencies of unemployment. However, that is too long a story to go into on a motion of this kind. I urge that the time has come when we should review and re-organize the whole system which we are now initiating of providing for the wants of humanity directly out of the public Treasury.
– Until that is done, the honorable member would not abolish the present system?
– I thought I had said so; at any rate, I have often said so in public, and I say so now.
– I make the interjection because, during the Werriwa election, it was said that the honorable mem-, ber was attacking the principle’ of old-age pensions.
– The honorable member for Flinders is attacking that principle now !
– I am certainly attacking the principle.
– The honorable member for Flinders is “ straight,” and, in that, he is different from other honorable members opposite !
– I take the fullresponsibility for attacking the principle, and I say that the payment of pensions or any such grants cannot be justified as a matter of principle, but only as a matter of necessity - that is the position I take up.
– I am only anxious that honorable members opposite should not be able to say, as they do, that the honorable member would leave the aged people without anything.
– Of course, I have been accustomed for many years to having things said about me - to having my speeches distorted - and I really do not mind very much. All I can do is to say to honorable members on both sides exactly what I mean; and they, at all events, cannot be mistaken. We are told now that, in addition to the £,2,240,000 required for old-age and invalid pensions, another £500,000 is to be expended on a maternity grant simply because there happens to be a surplus in the Treasury Without hesitation, I express the hope that there is enough manliness and independence left in this community of British people to scout the idea, and absolutely reject the proposal.
– No cheers from, honorable members opposite !
– I believe that what I am saying is only common sense. So long as this expenditure was devoted to the necessities of old age and invalidism it had a kind of sanction, from the fact that such a power was placed in the Constitution at the initiation of Federation, and people had got accustomed to the idea and accepted it. But now, simply because there happens to be an overflowing revenue, we have this new proposal made.
– Because there is a desire for a new placard!
– Because of a desire for a new placard there is the proposal that we should take £500,000 out of the public Treasury in order to do what? In order to attempt to buy the votes of those who otherwise are being deprived of votes.
– That is a low-down insinuation!
– Could anything be plainer? Is it not palpable on the face of it?
– The honorable member does not care for the suffering women and children !
– We shall have the nationalization of hospitals next !
– I am. glad the honorable member for Brisbane has said that. I read in the Sydney or the Brisbane Worker last week-
– It does not matter which !
– I read in one or the other that the next step must be to provide medical comforts and free hospitals.
– They have all these in Glasgow !
– We are to have more still. It is further proposed that out of the public Treasury-
– The Government may as well pay legal fees also.
– It would be a capital idea. Why should not legal costs be paid out of the Commonwealth Treasury? Personally, I see not the slightest objection to it. The result would simply be that we should get additional security for our fees. Then, are we going to have pensions for children as soon as the Government get more money into the Treasury ? Are we to have free food for school children? I suppose next year that will be provided for; or perhaps it will be left over until just before the next general election. I should like to suggest one or two more directions in which money might be granted. Why not pay the funeral expenses of everybody out of the Treasury ?
– Is that in the honorable member’s programme?
– Oh, it does not suit me. I am afraid it would be quite inconsistent with my principles .
– It would be quite appropriate, because the honorable member’s party is going to its funeral.
– Then again, I do not see why the Treasury should not provide capital for young tradesmen starting business. It is very necessary that they should have money just at the time when They want a little. Why should they not get it out of the Commonwealth Bank? Why not finance young people who are about to start housekeeping? That is just when they need a little ready cash. An advance from the Treasury would be very nice. I remember that in the Statute of Charities - a very famous old Act of the reign of Queen Elizabeth-one of the objects considered commendable in the matter of charity was the providing of marriage portions for dowerless maids. Surely that would be a nice thing to do! Why not? Apparently honorable members opposite desire to provide for all the wants of humanity out of the Treasury. Where do they propose to stop? Why stop anywhere ?
– No wonder the honorable member for Denison is enthusiastic.
– You will find that when you commence on these lines you will be merely inaugurating in this new country a system which finds no parallel, so far as I know, in the history of the civilized world, unless you go back to the time of the later Roman Empire - to that state of degradation which conduced to the destruction of one of the greatest empires the world has ever known, when the emperors bought and maintained their posi tion and power simply by grants and doles out of the public treasury at the expense of the public taxpayer. You will have to go on ; you will find no stopping place ; until we shall expect to be taken in hand in the cradle and led over all the rough places of life until at length we drop into a government grave. There is no point at which you can stop. You talk about principle. Where is the principle which prescribes the point at which you can stop ?
– Is this the “ gelatinous compound “ ?
– The honorable member will find at the next election that what! he took for gelatine was gelignite. There is, from the Labour party’s point of view, always a double advantage in every new extension of this kind. There is, first, the perfectly obvious and immediate advantage that this policy buys a large amount of political support, and is, in fact, palpably and openly a political bribe.
– Order ! The honorable member must not use language of that description.
– Well, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may modify that language by saying that this policy is an obvious advantage to the Labour party and to the Government ‘ in that it is likely to secure to’ them some support which they might not otherwise obtain from the electorates. It has a further advantage for this party, and for this party alone, that it is one other step towards their main and ultimate goal, the nationalization of the means of production. It is one more assault upon the institution of property, upon the rights of property, upon the rights of the taxpayer, which will make their ultimate goal more easy of access to them by gradually bleeding those interests which hitherto have been condemned by them under the general title of “Capitalism.” So that they attain two ends : gaining immediately political support, and also the other destructive end that every step they take in this direction imposes a fresh burden of taxation, and by that means lowers the whole position of the present social status and makes an attack upon the ground work on which our existing system is based. Honorable members opposite are only beginning. They know that they are only grazing the surface.
– Hear, hear !
– I am delighted to elicit those cheers, because at last we are getting valuable admissions as to what is intended. The honorable member for Brisbane cheers heartily when I say that his party are only beginning with this course. Will they cheer as heartily when I tell them that they can only continue in it by constantly increasing the existing taxation? Where are they to get the money from ? Are they going to get the money for these perpetually increasing charges from any other source than from the taxation of those people who have any? They are making politics a war between the “Have-nots” and the “Haves.” To leave the point with which I have been dealing, may I repeat that we ought to undertake a fair review of the financial situation of the Commonwealth? We are living from hand to mouth. 1 remember some time ago using the metaphor that we had ceased to take our latitude and longitude by the stars, and were sailing by the log. We do not even throw the lead now. We go straight ahead; and the only answer which my honorable friends make when the cry of “ breakers ahead “ is raised is that the full tide will carry us over all the shoals. They think that the loss will not fall upon them, or upon those they represent.
– A very nice airy statement, with no argument to support it.
– I have been endeavouring to show the facts - the enormous increase in the ordinary expenditure of carrying on the government of the country ; and, in addition to that, I have shown that these proposals for increasing doles from the public Treasury will still further increase our difficulties. There are many natural wants which the manhood and fibre of our race have always caused our people to deem it their pride to be able to meet for themselves. Honorable members opposite are doing as much by initiating this policy to depreciate and destroy the very fibre that has made the British race distinguished amongst other races for its independence as they would do to injure a man by inducing him to embark upon the drug habit. That is a habit which, once it gets hold of a man, demands fresh and increasing doses, leading to an insatiable desire for more. All the while, the man becomes weaker, more enervated, less moral, has less courage, and is less of a man than he was before. And so it will be with the community if we proceed on these lines. We have in Australia a magnificent estate, with a copious revenue, and as the first foundationstone in the structure of any criticism of the future finances of the Commonwealth, we must look at the great national works of development that are immediately before us. The first of these is a largely increased naval expenditure. I place it first because it is the most essential of all, and absolutely essential to our continued existance as a political entity. We are not accustomed in this respect to make much difference between military and naval defence. I do not desire to say anything against military defence or the system of compulsory training that has been adopted in connexion with it, but I do. say that the maintenance of the supremacy of the nation of which we are a part, in these as well as in other oceans, is not only our first but our last line of defence. That must not be forgotten. I do not doubt that we could defend by a military force and by conscription the eastern fringe of the continent of Australia. But once we allow the British naval power to sink, even into second place, our right and our power to hold the continent as a political entity is gone. We must, therefore, look forward to a huge and increasing naval expenditure, until our burden bears something like a fair proportion to the burden borne by our fellow-citizens in Great Britain. Then, again, the Northern Territory - that vast area which we have taken over at a cost of £400,000 a year or more - will necessarily involve a great deal of public expenditure, but, so far as I can see, we have had no statement from the Government as to the lines which they propose to follow. We have had no indication, save a sort of academic statement, that they propose to settle the Territory under the leasehold, instead of the freehold, system. That appears to me to be, after all, only one of the minor aspects of this question. How are the Government going to tackle the job? What are they going to do ? What railways are they going to construct ? What areas are they going to attempt to settle by pastoral occupation, and what areas are to be devoted to agricultural occupation?
– And where are they going to obtain the population to settle the Territory?
– There are other preliminary considerations. First of all, have the Government even caused a survey to be made for such purposes?
– The surveyors are at work now.
– Some preliminary steps have been taken, but there is a still more important question to be determined. So far as I can judge the present policy of the Government, it is that they propose to use the Public Service as the agency of development in that vast Territory. If they do that - if they intend to create a larger and increasing Public Service to develop the Northern Territory, and to work out its destinies - they will make that Territory a bottomless pit for the public moneys of the Commonwealth. There is only one way in which they can possibly succeed in developing and opening up that country. It is one that has always been followed in British communities, and while it certainly carries with it disadvantages I propose to outline to-night the lines on which I think some of them might be rectified. The method to which I refer is that of inviting and attracting to the Territory to be opened up, enterprise, energy, and capital by the only way in which it is possible to induce them to take great risks, and that is by offering them great rewards. The land grant system for the construction of railways possesses obvious difficulties, but it also possesses immense advantages. I should like to throw out for the consideration of honorable members on both sides of the House not a cut-and-dried scheme, but a general indication of the lines on which it might be possible to invite and attract to the development of the Northern Territory some of the same kind of pioneering energy that has developed other countries. I should like to point to the lines on which it might be possible to attract capital, willing to take risks, and force of character such as have gone into the development of Canada, South Africa, and, indeed, every other country that has been developed. I do not think that even the absolutely free grant system has failed, but we have learned much as to the difficulties and the useful qualities of the systems of railway construction and general development which have proceeded on that plan. I suggest the adoption of some system, based upon granting to capitalists and others willing to take them up, large areas on leases of twenty or thirty years, with the right, under prescribed conditions - prescribed according to the locality, the character of the soil, and the particular areas involved - to grant freehold titles in blocks suitable for settlers, within the period of their lease. These- grants should be made in return for railway construction, water conservation works, and so forth.
– That has already been tried in the Northern Territory.
– The honorable member makes a number of bald statements, which, on investigation, usually prove to have very little foundation in fact.
– One company obtained 100,000 acres-
– I do not think the honorable member understands what I have been saying. My contention first of all is that if we desire to have great railways constructed, and especially if we desire to have roads and water conservation works carried out on terms that will not spell absolute financial ruin to the Commonwealth, we can secure them only by encouraging and inviting the enterprise of private companies and individuals. These works cannot be carried out by the Government. If we do attempt to develop the Territory by means of Government undertakings, then I prophesy that from this time forth we shall find in the Territory a perpetual and rapidly increasing sink for public money. I do not suggest that these railway lines or other works should be handed over; my proposal is that part of the conditions for the temporary occupation which, is given these people should be that they should construct the necessary public works whatever they might be. They must look for their reward in the disposition of the freehold titles to the land. Another thing to which we must look forward in connexion with the future financial obligations of the country, and one which we should be very foolish not to make provision for, is the conservation of the waters of our great rivers. Apparently we have never even thought very much about that, though casual references to the subject have been made by honorable members from time to time. It is a serious feature of future policy which has not yet been broached.
– We have not the necessary power.
– The honorable member refers, I take it, to our constitutional power, and I think we have the necessary power, certainly in respect of the navigable rivers of the Commonwealth. The matter is one which has already been the subject of comment and decision in the United States, where the constitutional powers of the Federation are very similar to ours. ;i
– The honorable member should begin with the Murray River, and see how he will get on.
– I think we have die necessary power; but if we have not we ought to obtain it. I believe firmly that, whatever we may say with regard to other powers, the people would be willing and anxious to invest this National Parliament with the power to make necessary works for the conservation of what may properly be called the national rivers of Australia. With regard to immigration, we have only touched the surface of the subject. Here, again, we are powerless to do effective work unless we have the necessary funds. In my opinion, we should combine what I might call immigration bureaux and agricultural agencies in the older countries. This will involve very considerable cost. We require agencies capable not merely of giving the fullest information for immigration purposes, but for purposes of trade and commerce. If we could combine the two under proper regulation and administration, we should be able not only to introduce to the Commonwealth a proper class of settlers, but to immensely stimulate the markets for our products in the older countries of the world.
– We are acting on those lines now.
– Action on those lines will always receive my cordial support; but if the work is to be well done, much expenditure of money and very careful administration will be necessary. I have touched upon a few of the matters which obviously will require full financial support from the revenues of this country in the future. We ought to be prepared to tackle them. Any Government intrusted at this critical stage in the history of Australia with the millions of revenue we have, and with these huge expenditures facing us in the future, should be able, not merely to give a hand-to-mouth statement of current expenditure, but to lay down some general principle, and suggest how far the financial burden shall rest upon particular years, and how far it may be spread over several years by borrowing. We should have a definite statement as to the works to be undertaken, so that we may know how far our financial power will permit us to proceed in the directions I have indicated. I intend now to leave the subject of finance entirely, and deal with. another widely apart from it. One of the accusations made in the motion launched by the Leader of the Opposition against the Government is that they have not taken steps to bring about industrial peace. Has the advent of the Labour party to power brought industrial peace? Has it tended in that direction?
– Is there greater prosperity at the present time? That is the question.
– I think that the honorable member for Capricornia has a finer sense of humour than any other man in the House. It takes weird shapes sometimes, but it is always there.
– I meant what I said. I believe that the people of Australia are better off than, are those in any other part of the world owing to Labour legislation and Protection.
– I have no hesitation in saying that whatever the ultimate settlement of this hugely difficult question of the relations between labour and capital may be, the particular machinery which the Labour party have been and are sup-‘ porting, namely, the Conciliation and Arbitration Court of Australia, has failed to perform the duty for which it was brought into existence. It has failed lamentably. I am going to refer to the record of the Court in a very short time. It has been a momentous example of a piece of machinery of the most cumbrous and most unsatisfactory kind, because it has cost the people of the country whose interests on both sides it was supposed to conserve immense sums of money, whilst the results of its action have been wonderfully little. The reason is that it is not a Court at all. I am not saying anything whatever in criticism of the President of the Court. You cannot make a thing a Court by calling it a Court. You cannot make functions judicial by calling the place where they are administered a Court. Judicial functions and the functions of a Court are those which determine the. rights under the law between parties. There must be law before we can determine any rights between parties. The function of this so-called Arbitration Court is not to determine rights under the law at all, but to make law. lt is a subordinate legislative department of Government. I arn not sure that at the present moment it is not one of the most important legislative departments in existence in Australia. What it does is legislation. It is not a Court. I think I shall be able to show that a large proportion of the trouble which has arisen is due to that fact. I should like to read a few remarks from a competent authority, upon it to show that the work is really not the work of a Court at all ; that it is not judicial work, that it is purely legislative work. I may here say that if we have legislative work being carried out by any authority, even though we may call it a Court, we cannot remove it from public criticism. It has always been the practice, and a very proper .practice, that the Judges who are placed in a position in which they have to perform judicial functions, determine rights as between citizens and administer the law, should, unless they are guilty of very flagrant wrong, be exempt from criticism altogether, except in the way ordinarily provided in the shape of an attack on them by a motion submitted in Parliament. Here we have something which is not a Court, but which is as much a legislative body, not in determining rights under the law, but in determining the conditions under which people are to be allowed to enter into contracts, as any other that could be mentioned. This is pure legislation. The authority I propose to read upon this subject is no less an authority than Mr. Justice Higgins himself, and honorable members will see that his words entirely bear out what I am saying. In the first case he had to decide, namely, the King v. McKay, he said -
It is the function of the Legislature, not of the Judiciary, to deal with social and economic problems ; it is for the Judiciary to apply, and, when necessary, to interpret the enactments of the Legislature. But here, this whole controversial problem, with its grave social and economic bearings, has been committed to a Judge, who is not, at least directly, responsible, and who ought not to be responsive, to public opinion. Even if the delegation of duty should be successful in this case, it by no means follows that it will be so hereafter.. I do not protest against the difficulty of the problem, but against the confusion of functions - against the failure to define, the shunting of legislative responsibility. It would be almost as reasonable to tell a Court to do what is “ right “ with regard to real estate, and yet lay down no laws or principles for its guidance.
In the course of the long discussion of this case, I have become convinced that the President of this Court is put in a false position. The strength of the Judiciary in the public confidence is largely owing to the fact that the Judge has not to devise great principles of action as between great classes, or to lay down what is fair and reasonable as between contending interests in the community ; but has to carry out mandates of the Legislature, evolved out of the conflict of public opinion after debate in Parliament. I venture to think that it will not be found wise thus to bring the Judicial Department within the range of political fire.
With every word of that statement I entirely agree. I shall be able to show presently that in that first impression of the President of the Arbitration Court lies the root of the whole trouble. That Court has not only failed to discharge the functions for which it was created, but it has plunged the masses of the workers of this country into an expenditure which has been terribly wasteful.
– It will not be so wasteful now that the lawyers have been eliminated.
– I suppose that that remark is intended as a personal reflection on myself?
– Not at all.
– I thought that it might be. I have had nothing whatever to do with cases of industrial disputes, except to argue constitutional points in other Courts. But the elimination of the presence of lawyers, even from the Arbitration Court, has not shortened its proceedings. The President of that tribunal found himself called upon to legislate. He himself says so. He has legislated, giving effect honestly and honorably to his own views on questions of social and economic science. His own views, and those of a particular section of the community, are greatly opposed to the views which are entertained by other sections. But he has done all that he can do. He was called upon to legislate, and he has legislated. What is the use of describing such a tribunal as a Court? It legislates just as much as does a municipality when it passes any by-law, or as does this Parliament when it approves of any Bill. By putting into operation his own views on social and economic questions, the President of the Arbitration Court has made that tribunal a kind of lodestone for all the Radical political feeling throughout this Continent. He has given effect, though reluctantly, to functions which he himself says are purely legislative. The consequence is that this Court has become the centre of the aspirations of one of the great political parties in this country. The inherent defect is, I think, to be found in the principal Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The whole basis of this so-called judicial tribunal is of a purely legislative character, and it contains within itself the germs of failure.
– That is no reason why it should be condemned.
– Yes. I will show why it will always be an immensely expensive tribunal. Let me compare it, for example, with Wages Boards or with any of the other methods which are adopted for securing industrial peace. Wages Boards are admittedly minor legislative bodies ; but they are representative of both sides of industry. Their member’s meet together, discuss matters, and thus come to understand each other’s point of view. On the whole, these Boards have done their work well, because the rival parties have come together and reasoned with one another. Though their decision ultimately rests with the chairman-
– That is the weak spot.
– I do not think it is - somebody must decide. At any rate, it will be acknowledged that in attempting to arrive at a decision many difficulties are swept away, and many misunderstandings are obviated, with the result that instead of an ugly, sore feeling being left behind, the future course of industry is smoothed over considerably.
– Does that happen under the Wages Board system?
– I think it is very likely that heart-burnings and ill-feeling have sometimes resulted from Wages Boards determinations.
– The honorable member should see the men who get sacked for acting upon the Boards.
– I know nothing about that. I think it will be generally acknowledged, in Victoria at all events, that, on the whole, the Wages Board system has proved a real step in the advancement of industrial peace. It has evils associated with it, it is true, but it has made a real step - and the only substantial step - towards industrial peace. I come now to a few of the cases which have been before the Arbitration Court, and to the times that their proceedings have lasted. Honorable members will recollect that every day that a case lasts, either before the Arbitration Court or any higher tribunal, twenty, thirty, or perhaps forty, different parties are being mulcted in legal expenses. Under Mr. Justice O’Connor’s presidency, two cases were heard, namely, that of the Merchant Service Guild and that of the shearers, both of which were settled. The next case before the Court was that of the Federated Amalgamated Railway Servants. In that case no inconsiderable expenditure was incurred by the men themselves in organization. They spent a good deal of time and money in organizing, and in the work preliminary to litigation. The matter was argued before the High Court, and it was held that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act did not apply to them at all. The next case which came before the Court was what is known as the McKay Harvester case. It was heard before Mr. Justice Higgins, and it lasted from 7th October to 10th November - a period of twenty-one days. That was equal to about a month’s hearing. It came before the High Court as the case of the King v. Barger. The arguments lasted ten days, a large number of persons being represented, and the Act was declared invalid. The next case was that of the marine cooks. They are among the few who have got any good from the arbitration law, and apparently a section of them, at any rate, the scullery men, certainly deserved an improvement of their conditions. The case lasted eighteen days before Mr. Justice Higgins, and there was an order for £7 14s. witnesses’ expenses, and 13s. Court fees, but the expense to masters and men must have been very great. Now I come to the settlement of the Broken Hill dispute, which ‘was referred to the other night as the great triumph of the Act. The hearing of that case before Mr. Justice Higgins occupied twenty-two days, and took place at Broken Hill, Port Pirie, and Melbourne, and about a week was occupied in an argument before the High Court. The men emerged with a battered award, giving them their rates, but leaving it open to the company to carry on its operations by contract if they chose to do so, instead of paying the rates. One of the most remarkable of all these cases is that of the timber workers, which was mentioned by the honorable member for Kooyong. I ask honorable members to consider it, because it shows what will happen when you treat as litigation what is not the subject of litigation at all. If you bring employers and employes into the ring, and say, “ Fight it out ; litigate,” you create an immense waste of energy and money. In this instance, after a great deal of trouble an association was formed of the sleeper hewers in Western Australia, the timber-yard employes in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney, the saw-mill employes in various parts of the country, and the workers in soft woods in Queensland, men who had nothing in common. The creating of that association cost a great deal, and took a good many persons away from their work. Then a case was brought before Mr. Justice Higgins. He heard it for a full month in Melbourne, and reserved a number of points of law for the High Court, which that tribunal considered for a fortnight, so that the legal expenses of both parties must have come to a very large sum. Then Mr. Justice Higgins heard further arguments, and after the finding of the High Court, he suggested the withdrawal of the claim, not in consequence of the High Court’s finding, but because the men had not complied withwhat must be a technical preliminary to all litigation, that is, they had not obtained authority from all the various branches for making the demands they made. The President of the Arbitration Court, after the withdrawal of the case, said -
Though the proceedings in this casehave failed, they have not been fruitless. They have elicited from the High Court certain valuable determinations on difficult points of law that have arisen.
What a comfort that must have been to the wage earners interested, who had contributed their shillings only to get that result !
– Would not much the same thing have happened under a Wages Board ?
– No. Under the Wages -Board system the elected representatives of the men state their case generally. The honorable gentleman apparently does not appreciate the effectof litigation, which is the most serious form of fighting permitted in modern civilization, and as costly as ever fighting was in ancient times. Then we have Whybrow’s case, or the case of the bootmakers. Its hearing occupied sixteen days in Melbourne, four in Sydney, five in Brisbane, and three in Adelaide. Questions were reserved and argued before the High Court in September, 1909, and in April, 1910, an order nisi for prohibition was granted. There was argument before the High Court from, 20th June to 1 2th July, and then an agreement was embodied in the award. From 19th September to 10th October there was further argument on a case stated by the President as to whether a common rule would apply. It was held that a common rule was invalid, and therefore the whole proceedings came to the ground. In that case we had litigation for nearly a year, with absolutely no result.
– There was an arrange ment made.
– Yes ; but it did not carry out the view of the President, which was that a common rule was essential.
– What is practically a common rule has now been agreed to.
– That may be so; and that agreement could have been arrived at without litigation. I am a hearty believer in encouraging and facilitating arrangements without litigation. My point is that if you establish a tribunal and call it a Court, compelling it to adopt the methods of a Court, and practically giving it power to legislate, you involve the parties to a. dispute in immense expense, altogether out of proportion to the benefits derived. Then there was the case of the Federated Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association. A number of enginedrivers and firemen throughout Australia formed themselves into an association, and summoned seventy-two firms and companies to Melbourne from all parts of the continent, dislocating and inconveniencing business to a very considerable extent.
– I think 172 employers were summoned.
– At any rate, an immense number of persons had to make arrangements to be represented.
– They did not come themselves to Melbourne.
– They had to see that they were represented, and to go to the expense and trouble of preparing for litigation. After a full investigation the learned President found that there was not a case at all. Passing over some minor cases, we come to that of the Brisbane Tramway Company’s employes respecting the wearing of a badge. As it is still under review by the High Court, I must not speak about it. Perhaps, to use the language of the racing stable, it, too, may be added to the list. To any one who has anything to do with the administration of this Act, or who sees it administered as I have seen it, it is no gratification to know that so much money is being thrown away into what has been called a Serbonian bog of technicalities. It is an injury to all sections of the community that the savings of the wage-earners should be lost in such a way. I have taken up a good deal more time than I intended, but I think I have touched upon most of the subjects upon which I intended to speak. Above all, the immediate and urgent necessity is that the Treasurer should be able when he makes his Budget statement - which I hope will be soon - to indicate to the House and to the country a general outline of the future financial development of Australia, the mode in which he is going to undertake the great developmental duties which lie before him, if he proposes to undertake them, and the particular way in which he proposes to raise the money for those purposes.
– As one of the independent members of this House I do not feel called upon to take one side or the other in the purely party warfare that is being waged in connexion with the motion of censure, but I should like to offer some opinions of my own upon several matters that have arisen during the debate, or that are open to comment in the discussion of an Address-in-Reply. The motion of censure itself is worded in that allembracing style of generalities, without details, which is characteristic of the programmes of the party from which it came. It is practically divided, into four branches. In the first the Government are censured for neglecting to secure industrial peace and good order and to uphold the Constitution ; in the second for their maladministration of public affairs and public Departments ; in the third for grossly partisan actions and appointments ; and in the fourth for reckless irresponsibility in financial affairs. The three last are infinitely more serious than the first - which turns upon one particular incident that has passed away, and the like’” of which we hope we may never see again - while they affect the government of the country now and for all time ; yet the Leader of the Opposition, in submitting his amendment to the House, dealt practically only with the first. He spoke for four hours, and never reached the second, third, or fourth branches of his motion at all. He said he had not time; but he had just as much time to do it as other members of his party to whom he left the work. One disadvantage involved in his leaving it to others was that he was speaking on behalf of the Opposition in support of the general charges, and we expected to hear from him the particular incidents upon which they were based. When he uttered them, we should know which actions of the Government the Opposition were challenging, but when other honorable members mentioned them, we might be told that they, were speaking only for themselves. The Leader of the Opposition said he was not physically able to speak further, but he had spoken for about four hours on the Friday, and concluded his speech at about twenty minutes to 4. The remaining twenty minutes were of very little value, and I was rather surprised that the Prime Minister began to speak in reply. If the Leader of the Opposition had felt it necessary at that time of day to ask for leave to continue his speech on the following Tuesday, I am satisfied that it would have been most willingly granted to him by the Government, and he would then have been able to resume his attack. The whole of the first charge turned upon the Brisbane strike. As the honorable member for Perth said last night, the whole gravamen of it was in connexion with the failure of the Government to respond to the appeal sent to them by the Queensland Government for military assistance. I do not know why the Opposition do not simply say point-blank in their motion of censure that the Government were at fault for failing to uphold the Constitution by not doing so and so, unless it is that, as we can see from the manner in which the subject has been debated, it is very hard to pin them down to actual matters of complaint. I have no sympathy at all with strikes of any kind whatever in Australia. I have often sympathized sincerely with the men in the grievances for which they have struck, but I have always thought that if ever there was a weapon that should be abolished in this country it is the strike. Persons who are opposed to the workers must always remember that the strike is a weapon that obviously recoils upon the workers themselves. The workers and their wives and children are the bitterest sufferers by it, and I am constantly surprised that they resort to it so often. There is no reason whatever for strikes of any kind in a country like Australia, where we have universal adult suffrage, with an absolutely secret ballot. Now that the cursed scandal of the postal vote has been abolished, every man and every woman votes in secret, which they did not do under the postal voting system. I believe that is why some people are so strongly in favour of it. I sympathized with the men in their grievance in the Brisbane tramway strike, because it was an outrageous piece of tyranny for any single individual to attempt to dictate to them whether they should or should not wear a paltry trinket on their chains. I do not think any decent man would attempt to defend such conduct in this country at any time. It is altogether outrageous to think that this tyrant, a foreigner at that, working for an outside company, should have been able to set the whole of this country in a flame, and involve the Constitution, and should even now be causing the time of this House to be taken up. Notwithstanding all that, however, and apart from the fact that they were going to the Arbitration Court, the men should never have struck. Having decided to go to the Arbitration Court, they had less justification than ever for striking, even if they had any justification before. I know that some honorable members say that if they had remained at work without striking they would gradually have lost their employment, and there would have been no persons to go before the Court, but that could have been got over by the men refraining from wearing the badge until the Court had settled the question. So far as the general strike was concerned, the only phrase that can describe it is /’utter madness.” When such a state of affairs is brought about, it must be suppressed by all lawful means. Any State Government will always find me with them in endeavouring to preserve law and order. Every one must admit that we cannot allow resort to violence or force. If any section of the community do resort to force, they must be met by force, and chaos at once begins. I sympathize very much indeed with the men who are called upon at these times to keep order, and who are primarily, and ought always, to be the police. They have a most difficult duty to perform. We are not all saints, and every person has more or less of temper. Many and many a time the tempers, of the police are so tried that if they do use more violence than they should have done they can lie very well excused. When an ‘ ordinary set of policemen are trying to keep in order a peaceful crowd which is assembled to witness a procession or other public affair, though the people generally are good humoured, all sorts of insulting remarks are made by thoughtless individuals, which cause a general laugh at the cost of the unfortunate police, who are quite impartial, and are only there to keep order. They can be very well excused if at times they do lose their tempers and act more harshly than prudence would dictate they should do. That, however, is not the main question in this particular trouble. The chief question in connexion with the strike is where we are concerned in the call which was made upon the Federal Government. It was the first time that a Federal Government had been asked to protect a State against domestic violence under section 119 of the Constitution - in other words, to call out the military. I think it was one of those occasions when, as the honorable member for Flinders has said, in reference to other matters, and I join with him in making the statement -
I wish we could for a few hours throw aside our party clothes and endeavour in a reasonable spirit to deal with what is undoubtedly a difficult problem.
It is lamentable that on the very first occasion when the serious question of when, and under what circumstances, the Federal Government is to call out the military to protect a State against domestic violence has arisen, we have not been able to discuss the question entirely free from party bias. The whole matter has been discussed here openly and avowedly, on the one hand, by way of an attack upon the Government, and, on the other hand, by way of defence by the Government and their supporters of the particular persons who were involved in the strike. The question of calling out the military to keep order amongst citizens, in other words, to ask them to do police duty, has always been a matter of very grave concern indeed. My thoughts were first turned to the subject in the nineties - about the time of the maritime strike. It is significant that the military were not called out on that occasion. They were called into barracks, but were not ordered out. Before any attempt to use them was made, the utmost was done by the local authorities with the ordinary police and special constables. I held then, and have held ever since, one very decided opinion, and that is that only in the gravest cases, when there is practically an armed mob to meet, should the military be called out to deal with any local disturbance. To begin with, we know very well that there is no duty which the professional soldier hates more than that of being called out with the possibility of having to fire upon a number of unarmed men, women, and children. He feels - and the better soldier he is, the more he feels it - that it is a cowardly business. He likes to go out and fight men who are armed to fight him, but he does abominate having to fire upon those who are unarmed, and who invariably in these crowds include women and children. If that be the case in connexion with the ordinary military, how much more so must it be the feeling of a citizen soldiery, which, as the Leader of the Opposition has stated, is the case with our military? The honorable member for Brisbane has made a very able and valuable speech on this subject, for the reason that the great difficulty in all these troubles is to ascertain what the truth is. Those of us who were not on the spot have to try to ascertain what the truth is. The honorable member for Brisbane is the only member who has spoken who was an eye-witness of the whole occurrence, and consequently his remarks are much more valuable than those which have been made by other honorable members on one side or the other. He quoted some excellent evidence which was given on oath by the present Lord Haldane, as Secretary for War, before a Select Committee of the House of Commons. I took it upon myself to follow up the inquiry, and to read the report and the evidence. I do not want to occupy too much time, but seeing that this is the first time that this subject has come before the Federal Parliament, it will be just as well that we should put all the information we have in Hansard, for reference hereafter. In 1908, the House of Commons appointed a Select Committee on the employment of the military in cases of disturbances, and paragraph 13 of the report reads as follows -
The very emphatic concurrence of the Military Authorities in the view that troops are only to bc called out in case of gravest necessity may be regarded as a measure of the soldiers’ extreme dislike of the obligation to discharge this most disagreeable and painful duty.
The first witness was Mr. C. Troup, CB., the Permanent Under-Secretary to the Home Office, who gave this evidence -
Have you some observations to make upon the question of restricting the employment of the military? - I think too much emphasis cannot be laid upon the principle that military aid should only be called in as a very last resort, and that it is the duty of the police to take every possible means beforehand to deal with disturbance or possible disturbance, without calling in the military.
In his evidence, the Right Honorable Richard Burdon Haldane, Secretary of State for War, said -
I suppose there is no doubt that there is a general consensus of opinion in the Home Office that if possible military aid should hot be called in except in the last resort? - Yes; again and again we have represented that to the local authorities.
In answer to another question, his lordship said -
Now, the soldier is a person who is different from an ordinary citizen in this, that he is armed with a deadly weapon, and, moreover, he . comes out in a military formation. The result is that if he appears unnecessarily he is apt to create an impression in the minds of those who are about of a hostile character. His very menacing appearance may, lead to the very thing which it is his purpose to prevent - disturbance. For that reason, _ in the War Office, we are very averse to allowing the military to be employed. We are compelled to do it ; we have no choice ; we have to obey the law; but we always tend to insist - ana while I am there we always shall insist very strongly - on this, that we are called out legally and not illegally. We are called out illegally if we are called out under any circumstances which admit of being dealt with by a force less menacing than a military force necessarily is. There is a principle which must be borne in mind, and that is that people are taken to. intend the consequences of their action. It may be perfectly legal for the military to march up and along a certain street, but if their doing so will unnecessarily and unjustifiably bring about a disturbance, the military may find themselves breaking the law.
Later, be gave this evidence -
My view of the law, and it was the view of Lord Bowen also, whom I assiste-1 to frame the paragraph in the Featherstone Report on the subject, which, I think, is quite unambiguous on the point, is that the civil authority has no power to use more force than is necessary, and, therefore, has no power to call out the military unless they cannot get on without the military. They ought to do it by civil aid if they can.
In another place he was asked a question by Mr. Curran -
We are taking up, perhaps, a partial position in speaking for the section affected in the civil world. What we want to get at is that violence has always broken out after the presence of the military, that is to say, violence of a serious character. I am with you to this extent, that I think the calling out of the military unnecessarily very often leads, or may lead, to a breach of the law, by making an unnecessary demonstration which incites and provokes the public, and that is a view on which the War Office, not only in my time, but always of late years, have acted consistently and strongly. We hold the military ought not to be called out except in the last resort.
In answer to another member he said -
The military authorities say : “ We are here, and if we use our firearms it is to kill.” That is why we demur to being called out except in the Inst and most perilous necessity.
Then the question was put to him -
I do not know if you know about the Riots Commission which held a sitting in Belfast, under the Presidency of Mr. Justice Day. That Commission recommended in its report : “ It has been made abundantly clear by facts that for the primary and all important duty of preserving order, the rifle is worse than useless, and that its efficiency as a weapon for the restoration of order is very questionable; but, on the other hand, in every instance in which tile baton was used with judgment (in the riots of 1886) and determination, whether for the preservation or restoration of order, it proved to be a thoroughly reliable and effective weapon.” It was further held that “ the rifle has the following serious disadvantages : Its range with ball cartridge made it excessively dangerous to inoffensive people, and its use ought, in our opinion, to be absolutely prohibited for police purposes in towns.” - If I may say so, I entirely agree with that, and I think riots should be put down wherever possible by special constables with batons and not by the military. We do not exist for that purpose.
– The Ministerof Defence did not say that last night.
– I do not care what the Minister of Defence said ; I am quoting the evidence of the heads of the military authorities in Great Britain. The report proceeds -
I think the committee will understand from the evidence you have been good enough to give us that, first of all, you lay the greatest possible stress upon the unwillingness of the War Office and the military authorities to permit the use of military forces except in cases of the grievous necessity. You lay great stress upon that, as was the case with Mr. Troup, representing the view of the Home Office the other day, and the Committee may take it that the War Office and the Home Office are entirely in agreement? - Entirely in agreement.
Major-General Browne was examined and said -
My view is that the military should not be called out in ordinary cases of riot until the citizens have done their duty. It is just as much the duty of a citizen to protect life and property as it is the duty of a soldier; yet we find that this duty is seldom, if ever, performed.
Another witness, Captain Tomasson, Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire, was asked -
You entirely concur in the views expressed to the committee by Mr. Troup, in particular as to the desirability of not calling out the military in any case other than that of absolute necessity ? - Only in the very last extremity.
Then we have theRight Hon. Sir. A. P. MacDonnell, Under Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who was asked -
Would you concur in the opinion universally expressed to us by all the witnesses, that it is not only desirable, but essential that the military should not be called upon in aid of the civil authority except as a last extremity and a last resource? - I quite concur.
What I have quoted is evidence given before a Select Committee of the House of Commons by men of standing in their particular spheres; and it is of infinite value to us in deciding when the military shall be called out.
– Denham disagrees with them all !
– That may be. One point in connexion with the calling out of the military seems to have been lost sight of. Previous to Federation, the same Government which called out the police had the power of and responsibility for calling out the military ; and the responsibility for any extravagance or violence brought about by force was with the Government who brought them into action.. Then the State Governments, as a rule, were always chary, so far as the military were concerned. Now, however, the State Governments have a chance; and, while they are responsible for the police, they can throw the whole weight on the Commonwealth if the trouble, in their opinion, renders the military necessary. The States are very particular that the Commonwealth shall not interfere in their affairs; but when any disagreeable work is to be done, they do not hesitate to throw the responsibility on the Commonwealth. That is one reason why we should be particularly careful to see that only in the last resort the military are called out. In the discussion of this matter, it was at first claimed by many critics outside that the Commonwealth had no discretion - that, as soon as the demand was made, the Commonwealth, as servant, was bound by the Constitution to send the military. I was particularly glad, however, when the Leader of the Opposition abandoned that position from the start, and admitted, as every sane man must, that the Commonwealth Government has a discretion. It has been said that, if the military were called out, there would be no necessity for them to fire; but I do not see how military are to keep order unless they do fire. We are told that the very presence of the military would be sufficient ; but does any one imagine that military, standing in the streets, would be any less liable to be pushed by a crowd than would the police? A policeman who can use his baton is much more likely to be able to keep order than is a soldier simply standing with a rifle in his hand. It is a farce to say that the military can do any good unless they fire when it becomes necessary to fire. Lord Haldane very properly expresses what is a well-known principle in law when he says that every man is naturally presumed to intend the natural consequences of his acts. As he points out, when the military are out, they are there to kill - that is the meaning of the calling out of the military, and the reason they are supplied with ball cartridge. These expressions of opinion by Lord Haldane are only common sense. No man can get away from the position that, if the military are called out, it is meant that, if necessary, they will kill : and no one who favours the calling out of the military can defend himself by plausible words to the effect that the mere presence of the military will keep order. As Lord Haldane warns us, the very presence of the military causes disturbance because of their menacing character. It is a remarkable thing - one can see the reason for it - that throughout this debate there has been considerable difficulty in inducing any honorable member on the Opposition side of the House to admit that he would have sent the military to Brisbane during the strike. Honorable members on the Government benches tried in every possible way time after time to extract such an admission from Opposition speakers. The honorable member for Adelaide shot across the chamber over and over again the interrogative, “Would “ you’ have sent the military to Brisbane?” The one honorable member who, when absolutely cornered, made the admission desired, was the honorable member for Bendigo. He said, “ Yes, if I believed the circumstances to be as reported.” Then the further question was jammed at him, “ Do you believe that the circumstances were as reported?” The honorable member said, “I do.” But he was the only one who would take the responsibility of admitting that .under the circumstances then existing he would have called out the military. Other honorable members opposite said that there was no real intention to call them out, no intention that the troops should be used at all. I venture to say that the criticism in the press and on the platform that has been ladled out against the Government has induced the public to believe that in the opinion of the Opposition the troops ought to have been called out. I am not so much concerned with the acts of this Government, or, for the matter of that, of any other Government, but I am concerned with this matter because it affects the Federal Government as such. The position is that we as a Federal body are responsible for what our officers at any time do. Undoubtedly the public have been Jed to believe over and over again that the Government were condemned because they did not call cut the military. I venture to say that if one were to ask 100 persons of what it was that the Opposition complained against the Government most, the reply of ninety-nine of them would be that the chief complaint was in connexion with the Brisbane strike. If one were to ask, “ What for?” the answer would be “ Because the Government did not call out the military.” Yet we are deliberately told by members of the Opposition that they never intended that the military should be called out. If that be so, what is all the row about? When the honorable member for Riverina was speaking on this subject, the Leader of the Opposition said by way of interjection - Hansard, page 443 -
I have shown elaborately that there was no need to send troops.
Later on when the honorable member for Riverina sought to draw some inference from what he had said, the Leader of the Opposition replied -
The inference is, there should not have been a refusal, that there should have been an undertaking that so soon as it might be necessary for the protection of life and property assistance would be given.
Then the honorable member for Darling Downs said - page 228 -
They were not asked to send the military to Brisbane.
In the name of creation, what were they asked to do? Is it not like talking to a lot of children to say that the Government were not asked to send the military to Brisbane? This is the telegram which was sent by the Premier of Queensland -
In consequence of general strike riot and bloodshed are imminent in Brisbane. State police are not able to preserve order. Firearms have been used to prevent arrest of a man guilty of riotous conduct. The Executive Government of State request that you direct steps to be taken immediately to protect State against domestic violence in .terms of section ug of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act.
How could the Federal Government take any steps to protect the State against domestic violence except by calling out the military? They have no police at their disposal. All they can do when asked for assistance is to call out the only force with the care of which they are intrusted. Has it not been said over and over again that the reason for the insertion of section 119 in the Constitution was because the right to maintain military forces was taken away from the States? It was inserted to insure that the States might have the assistance of the Military Forces if their aid became necessary. What is the use of trifling with words by telling the people that the Federal Government was never risked to send troops to Brisbane? The Premier of Queensland telegraphed to the Federal Government, “ My police are unable to put down rioting.” What was the next thing? The next thing was to obtain the aid of the military. Who had command of the military ? The Federal Government. Therefore the State Premier said, in effect, “There is a state of domestic violence, and we require military aid.” It is trifling with us to say that there was no intention to call out the military. One says that there was no need to send troops, and the other says that the Federal Government was not asked to send them; but that the Government was merely requested to protect the State in accordance with the Constitution. How did the honorable member for Darling. Downs expect the Federal Government to protect the State? Did he expect them to say, “ Now, be good boys, and do not make a noise?” The thing is perfectly ridiculous ! The Leader of the Opposition referred to the United States of America, and said that in that country if the police are unable to enforce peace and order, the troops, which are under the control of the Federal power, may be called upon. With that, I entirely agree. But trie question arises - were the police in Brisbane unable to maintain order? In England, the evidence distinctly given by the UnderSecretary for Home Affairs, the Secretary for War, the Chief Constable of Nottingham, the Under-Secretary for the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland1, and Major-General Browne - one and all - was that only in the last extremity should the military be called out. Does any one mean to tell me that there was such a state of affairs in Brisbane on the night of the 2nd of February, when the Premier’s telegram was sent, that the police could not cope with the situation ? What happened? I have said that there is great difficulty in ascertaining exactly what the state of affairs was. I have endeavoured to find out, and I shall tell honorable members what the Brisbane Courier had to say. As far as the records show, the police in Brisbane were quite able to cope with all disturbance existing at that particular time. We are told in the Premier’s telegram that -
Firearms have been used to prevent arrest of a man guilty of riotous conduct.
Why, sir, firearms were actually used in one of the suburbs of Melbourne last night to prevent the arrest of a man. Was that a reason for calling out the military? We are also told that a piece of dynamite was found on the tram-rails. But the Leader of the Opposition went out of his way to say that there was nothing to connect that with the strikers. Was that then a cause for calling out the military? Had the police been reduced to such a weak state in Brisbane that they were not able to cope with these things ? The actual facts of the case seem to be these : On the evening of the 2nd February, I think at about 7 o’clock, the Premier sent his telegram to the Federal Government. On the next day - the 3rd February - the Federal Government replied that -
Whilst the Commonwealth Government is quite prepared to fulfil its obligations to the States if ever the occasion should arise, they do not admit the right of any State to call for their assistance in circumstances which are proper to be dealt with by the police force* of the States.
I do not think that anybody in any part of this Chamber will attempt to dispute that proposition. The telegram went on to say -
The condition of affairs existing in Queens land does not, in the opinion of my Ministers,, warrant the request of the Executive Government of Queensland contained in Your Excellency’s message being complied with.
Now, what was the state of affairs at that particular time? I shall quote what Mr. Denham himself said, from the Brisbane Courier of 5th February. The 5th, I ask honorable members to recollect, was a Monday. The Premier had sent his telegram on Friday, the 2nd, and. had received his reply on Saturday, the 3rd. The passage in the Cornier reads -
On receipt of the message, Mr. Denham had a long interview with -the Home Secretary and the Commissioner of Police, and he said : - “ I can assure the citizens that ample protection is afforded by the enrolment of special constables, foot and horse, and I see no reason why ‘ early in the week normal conditions of trade should not obtain in the metropolitan area.” In response to the announcement yesterday morning, the Home Secretary, as chief of the local authority, has received urgent requests from, country districts for the supply of flour, and each of these requests has been promptly and duly honoured.
In the same newspaper, we find these words in large print -
The Premier, in an interview on Saturday,, said that plans were maturing for such a measure of protection against molestation and intimidation as would allow of a resumption of business with security to life and property at an early date. Speaking again yesterday, Mr. Denham said, “ I have been in close conference with the Commissioner of Police to-day» and am pleased to be able to say that by reason of the large enrolment of civilians who have volunteered to assist in ‘preserving peace and< insuring the conduct of business without hindrance or insult to workers and others, theapproaches to the wharfs and railway stations,., in addition to all the main portions of trie city of Brisbane, both north and south, will be so patrolled by noon on Monday -
Two days after the refusal of the military - business and traffic can be resumed with se»curity to all concerned.”
How could any man say, in the face of those two statements by the Premier of Queensland, that such a condition of domestic violence existed in Queensland on the night of 2nd February as justified him in asking for the protection of the Commonwealth Military Forces, or would have justified the Commonwealth Government, on the morning of the 3rd, in calling out the military ? The idea is monstrous. Nothing more than these statements by Mr. Denham is wanted to show the actual position. Do not these facts bear out the statements of some of the witnesses before the Royal Commission to which I have referred, one of whom - Major-General Browne - said it was as much the duty of the citizens to keep order as it was the duty of the military to do so, and that citizens should do their duty to the very last Before the military were called out? Yet we find that the State Government, when their own police and the special enrolment of constables were able to deal with the whole trouble, desired military assistance.
– On their own showing, they had ample resources.
– Quite so. A point worthy of notice is that special constables were not enrolled on the day that the request for military assistance was made. As the honorable member for Brisbane pointed out, the Government had been enrolling them for some days previously. Mr. Denham stated on the Saturday morning, just after he receipt of the message from the Commonwealth Government, that he was able to give citizens the assurance that “ ample protection is” - not “would be” - “afforded.” That shows, to apply the words of the honorable member for Ballarat, that the police, including the. special enrolments, being able to enforce peace and order, the troops could not be called upon to execute the laws of the Union. But the strongest piece, of evidence is to be found in a statement made by Mr. Denham on the 3rd February - the day after his request had been made to the Commonwealth Government, and the day on which the refusal to comply was received by him. I ask the House to remember that section 119 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall protect a State when requested against “ domestic violence,”, and that that was what Mr. Denham asked the Commonwealth Government to do. Nevertheless, we find that the Courier re ports him as saying, on the 3rd February -
It is not so much deeds of violence as the holding up of food supplies that constitutes a very serious menace.
In other words, he declared that domestic violence was not the most serious trouble to be feared, but that what was necessary was to prevent the holding up of food supplies. We were not asked to send troops to protect the food supplies, and it was not our duty, under the Constitution, to do so. The holding up of food supplies is undoubtedly a serious matter, more serious, perhaps, than is domestic violence, but we must have regard to our constitutional duty. Mr. Denham sought the assistance of the military, and asked, the Commonwealth to intervene because of “ domestic violence,” although he told the Courier, the day after his request had been made to the Commonwealth Government, that the domestic violence was not so serious as the holding up of food supplies. Earlier in the very day on which he made, that statement, however, he said, as I have already shown -
In response to the announcement yesterday morning the Home Secretary, as chief of ‘ the local authorities, has received urgent requests from country districts for the supply of flour and -
I ask honorable members specially to listen to what follows - each of these requests has been promptly and duly honoured.
If these requests were “ promptly and duly honoured,” how could it be said that there was any holding up of food supplies? I know nothing of what happened at Brisbane, save that which I have read and heard, but I am content to base my position on Mr. Denham’s own statements as made and reported at the time in the Brisbane newspaper that was supporting him. The whole of these statements prove, I think, that such a state of affairs did not exist as would have justified the calling out of the troops. If, as the honorable member for Flinders once said, we could for a few hours throw aside our party clothes, and endeavour in a reasonable spirit to deal with what is undoubtedly a serious matter, we should all, I am sure, come to the conclusion that when this request was made such circumstances had not arisen as would have justified the calling out of the troops. What was the Commonwealth Government asked to do? The inference to be drawn from the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat is that there was no need to send troops; but he said also that there should not have been a refusal - that there should have been an undertaking that, as soon as it might be necessary, protection to life and property would be given. The honorable member for Darling Downs said that -
Had the Prime Minister sent a message to the Premier of Queensland stating that, in his opinion, conditions had not yet arisen which called for intervention on the part of the Commonwealth, but that he had given instructions to have everything in readiness for such an emergency, it would have had a most reassuring effect upon the people.
– Such an undertaking would have been grossly improper.
– That, at all events, is the view of the honorable member for Darling Downs. I should like to ask honorable members whether the charge made against the Government by the Opposition is that they failed to give such an assurance? Have we not been told over and over again by the Opposition that Mr. Denham, being on the spot, knew what the actual state of affairs was? We have been told by the Opposition that, the Executive Government of Queensland having stated that there was domestic violence, it was not for Commonwealth Ministers here to waste time’ in ascertaining whether the position was correctly stated. How were they to ascertain the true facts? Were they to make inquiries from the Government, which had already told them that there was a state of domestic violence in existence, or were they to interrogate the strikers against whom the military were to be called out? Were they to make these inquiries at Brisbane? They had to act on their own knowledge, and, to a great extent, on intuition. Do honorable members think that if the Government had replied to Mr. Denham’s request, that they did not think that circumstances had arisen which would warrant their intervention, but that they would be prepared to act later on if necessary, the Queensland Government would have been satisfied? As a matter of fact, did not the Federal Government say practically what the Opposition suggest they should have said? Practically they did, but they reversed the order of things. The honorable member for Darling Downs said -
They were not asked to send the military to Brisbane. They were merely requested to protect the State in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. Did the Government give any assurance to the State authorities that they were taking action with a view to having every thing in readiness should occasion arise for their intervention?
Have honorable members of the Opposition altogether overlooked the wording of the telegram that was sent in reply to the request for military assistance? At the very outset of that message the Commonwealth Government stated that they recognised their duty and their obligations. They said -
Whilst the Commonwealth Government is quite prepared to fulfil its obligations to the States if ever the occasion should arise -
There was the assurance, “ Show us the facts and we shall be prepared to act up to them “ - they do not admit the right of any State to call for their assistance in circumstances which are proper to be dealt with by the police forces of the States.
In taking up that stand they were backed up by the opinion of witnesses before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the employment of the military in cases of disturbance. Would the Opposition have done what the honorable member for Darling Downs said this Government should have done? The Leader of the Opposition said that there should not have been a refusal - that troops should not have have been sent, but that there should have been an undertaking that as soon as it was necessary support would be given. The Government gave that undertaking in the first part of the message in reply. They said that the Commonwealth Government was quite prepared to fulfil its obligations tothe States if ever the occasion should arise,, but that they did not deem that, in the circumstances existing in Brisbane, such an occasion had arisen. I am not responsible for the Government. The matter is their funeral ^ and not mine. If they do anything wrong, they have to suffer for it, and not I. I am not a member of their party, bound to back them up whether they be right or wrong. But I am dealing with this matter as one between those who make the charge and those who reply to it. I say that the particular care which member after member on the opposite side took to avoid saying that he would have sent the military is the best proof possible that none of them would have sent the military in the same circumstances. I think this particular occasion was one of those which I have said we have to fear under our present Federal Constitution, that when a disagreeable position arises, and violence may have to be used by Government force, the State Governments will, if they are encouraged, try to throw the onus of grappling with the difficult situation upon the Commonwealth Government. In this connexion there is one piece of evidence which seems to bear out what I say. The Prime Minister told us that Mr. Appel, one of the Queensland State Ministers, speaking on the subject at a later date, said -
The Prime Minister missed a good political point.
Fancy any person in the crisis that existed in Brisbane - at a time when, according to the State Premier, riot and bloodshed were imminent, thinking of political points ! lt violates one’s sense of propriety altogether that a man in the position of a State Minister should regard such a condition of affairs from a. political point of view. I do not wish to make any charge. I can only draw an inference. Inasmuch as Mr. Appel said that the Prime Minister had missed a good political point, that enables one to draw the inference that the Government of which Mr. Appel was a member were trying to make a good political point by putting the onus of settling the difficulty ipon the Federal Government.
– Hear, hear; it was a trap.
– There is one other matter :in this connexion to which I should like to refer, and it is involved in a remark made by the honorable member for Darling Downs. The honorable gentleman’s remark was not caught by the Hansard reporter in exactly the words in which I heard him utter it. After dealing with the subject at some length, the honorable gentleman, referring to the non-issue of a proclamation by the State Government, said -
The Attorney-General now shelters himself behind a miserable technicality.
I refer to the use of the words “ miserable technicality.”
– I can assure the honorable member that I did not. alter the Hansard report of the remark referred to in the slightest degree.
– Then I can only repeat that the Hansard reporter did not catch the remark as I heard the honorable gentleman make it. 1 was paralyzed when I heard the words “ a miserable technicality.” I was quite prepared to hear such a remark made over and over again by a layman ; but I was not prepared to hear a lawyer describe the requirements of the law, when violence was to be resorted to, as a “ miserable technicality.” The difference involved is that between the committal of murder and the doing of that which is justifiable by the person who takes action. Th-v is what is involved in the technicality referred to by the honorable gentleman, and no one knows it better than he does himself. In fact, he acknowledged the true position a few seconds later in his speech. Honorable members will probably remember that the honorable member for Flinders interjected, “ He did issue a proclamation.” “ Yes,” said the honorable member for Darling Downs, in an aside, “ he issued one, two, or three days afterwards to enable him to take advantage of the local law.” If the Premier of Queensland did issue a proclamation, did comply with the technicality, before he dared take advantage of the State laws, how could it be a miserable technicality for the Commonwealth Government to insist upon the issue of a similar proclamation under their law? We know that under our Defence Act a proclamation has to be issued before the Commonwealth Government can act. I am aware that some people say, as Mr. Denham said, that he approached the Commonwealth Government under the Constitution, and not under the Defence Act, and the Constitution does not prescribe the issue of a proclamation. But we have to remember the fact that what governs the Commonwealth Government, whoever they may be, are the Acts passed by this Parliament.
– And passed by the people.
– They are governed by those Acts. I do not know why the honorable member for Ballarat should laugh.
– I was laughing at the Attorney-General’s ridiculous interjection.
– Does any one mean to say for a moment that the members of. any Commonwealth Government are at liberty to ignore an Act of this Parliament, which has not been dealt with by the High Court, and say that, because the Constitution does not provide for a certain thing, it is not necessary, when this Parliament has laid down the conditions in the Defence Act under which the military should be called out, and the manner in which they should be called out?
– Will the honorable member say when that objection was first raised ?
– I do not know, nor does it concern me at all. I am not concerned as to whether the Attorney-General knew of this omission or not. I am dealing now with a. statement made on the floor of this
House which is likely to mislead any one outside, or who heard the honorable member for Darling Downs, a lawyer, accuse the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth, when he said that the issue of a proclamation was required by law before the military could be called out, of sheltering himself behind “a miserable technicality.” A fewminutes later, the honorable member for Darling Downs admitted that the State Premier, who demanded the assistance of the military, himself issued a proclamation in order to justify the use of force under the State laws.
– Will the honorable member quote that part of my speech in which I said that, if that were the real objection, it should have been communicated to the State Government.
– I know that the honorable gentleman said that.
– It is very important.
– I quite agree; but I am not arguing as to whether the Attorney-General knew of this objection or not. I will say that if he knew of it, that is what, in my opinion, should have been done.
– Considering that the Prime Minister referred to the section providing for a proclamation two days after the reply. it is evident that the Government knew of it, but they never raised that defence.
– I am not arguing that point at all. I am dealing only with the statement that the neglect to issue the proclamation was described by a lawyer on the floor pf this House as” a miserable technicality,” though he immediately afterwards admitted that Mr. Denham, two or three days later, issued a proclamation in order to enable him to take advantage of the State laws.
– I said there were two conditions which required to be fulfilled.
– When the Attorney-General was speaking on that occasion, he said -
But there are these two conditions - one that a proclamation shall be issued by the Governor of the State ; and, secondly, that having been done, and the matter having thus been brought under the notice of the Commonwealth, that an application shall be made to them for military assistance. The Commonwealth Government then, having reviewed all the circumstances, may, if they think fit, send troops, or otherwise may not send them.
I say that if I had been Prime Minister the first thing I should have required to know was whether the proclamation had been issued. I would have shown then the strength of my contention now, that its issue was no “ miserable technicality,” but an absolute, vital necessity, because, if the military had been called out and anybody had been killed without the Statute law having been complied with, we know perfectly well what they would have been guilty of. Some comment has been made upon the telegram which was despatched tothe Prime Minister by Mr. Coyne. I regard that telegram as the height of impudence. It exhibited gross ignorance on the part of the man who sent it,because he ought to have known that the Commonwealth could not intervene except upon the request of a State. The Prime Minister has been condemned for the reply which he forwarded to that communication. But probably he knew the men with whom hewas dealing. I candidly confess that I would have transmitted a stinging reply to it. However, he chose to send an answer which was calculated to mollify the menHe said, “ Hope good sense will continue to the end.” I do not think that he should be taken to task, because, knowing the men with whom he was dealing, he chose to transmit that reply in preference to a. stronger one. I have endeavoured to discuss this matter entirely from the position of a member of this Parliament who recognises that this is the first occasion on which an application has been made to the Commonwealth by a State to protect it from domestic violence under section 119 of the Constitution. It was a momentous occasion, and one which should prompt us to discuss the position entirely free from party feeling. I have endeavoured to debate it from that stand-point, and I am glad to think that, upon Mr. Denham’s own showing, the aid of the troops was not required - that the last resort had not been reached.. The Leader of the Opposition has himself declared that there was no need to send the troops. Consequently, we have to congratulate ourselves that the Government did not create a precedent by sending the military to Brisbane simply because they were asked to do so by the Queensland Government. I hope that that precedent is one which will be followed in the future. Only in the very last resort should the military be sentto protect a State against domestic violence. In this connexion we should recollect the statement of Mr. Haldane, that the military, when they are called out, goout to kill, and that a man is assumed to intendthe natural consequence’s of his act. That consideration is one which is seriousenough to cause a Government responsible for the control of the troops to wait till the last moment before availing themselves of their services. I would further remind honorable members that the report of the Riots Commission, in which Mr. Haldane acquiesced, stated that the rifle is worse than useless as a weapon to quell a local disturbance - that the use of the baton judiciously and determinedly by constables and special constables is much more effective. In such circumstances a man with a rifle can do nothing. He cannot use it as a weapon to beat back the people. The Commission also pointed out that it was a dangerous weapon to use, because of the distance which it carries and the liability of inoffensive persons to be killed. It recommended that the baton should be used to quell all local disturbances. I repeat that I have endeavoured to deal with this question from the stand-point of an independent member, who is not compelled to father what the Government have done, or to join in the attacks of the Opposition. I was very pleased indeed when I read the evidence which was given by the various witnesses before the Commission to which I have referred, to discover that my own views were entirely in accord with theirs.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 till 7.45 p.m.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the Prime Minister be allowed to make a statement?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear.
– Last night the honorable member for Mernda quoted from the AuditorGeneral’s report on the gold reserve held under the Australian Notes Act. I have not read the Hansard report of his speech, but for the purposes of my explanation let me read the remarks attributed to him by the Argus, this morning. They are these-
According to the Auditor-General, the Government had issued notes beyond the specified amount. His particulars of 8th May, 1912, showed that the total gold verified on 14th November, 1911, was £4,692,077. He (Mr. Harper) had taken out figures which showed that there should have been £41826,335, or, in other words, £134,258 in gold was short of. the amount provided by law. That was something that required answering. (Hear, hear.) It was almost laughable the way this thing had been handled. To say the least of it, the replies made by the Prime Minister to questions from members in the House on the subject of the note issue and the trust funds connected with it had been disingenuous. That was remarkable, since there had been no greater stickler for the sacredness of the trust funds than the Prime Minister. The law on the matter was clear. It was the duty of the Treasurer, if he did not keep any surplus amount in gold, to put into a bank or into some other interestbearing investment. It was not enough to say that nothing ill had resulted, but that was an excuse often made use of by a defaulter. A Treasurer had no right to depart by a hair’s breadth from the obligations of a trustee. (Hear, hear.) If he did so, he set a very bad example to the public servants. If the laws of Parliament were not obeyed by responsible Ministers, then Parliament might as well be shut up.
In regard to those statements I have the following report from the Assistant Secretary to the Treasury -
The above is the Argus report of Mr. Harper’s speech in the House of Representatives last evening. His reference is to page igo of the Auditor-General’s report on the accounts of 1910-11. Therein it is stated that the total circulation on 14th November, 191 1, was £10,076,335. According to the Treasury records the circulation was 29,929,013. I have conferred with the Auditor-General, who informs me that the figure quoted by him includes the amount of notes held by the Treasury Teller. The legal requirements as to the gold reserve was as follows : -
This afternoon the Auditor-General communicated with me by telephone, and expressed his regret that -an inaccuracy appears in his report which may have led to the statements of the honorable member for Mernda. He asked me to take such steps as I might think proper to make the real position clear to the public, and although my communication with him was only by telephone, I thought that I ought to take the first opportunity to make a statement to the House. The AuditorGeneral informed me that when he prepared his report for his office it was accurate, but that some of his officers had dealt with it in such a way that an inaccuracy had crept in, which he did not detect when signing the report before it was printed. He added that he agreed entirely with the statement of the Treasury officials which I have just read.
– Coming to the charge against the Government of maladministration of public affairs and public Departments, I do not remember that any definite statement has been made to support it. As to the charge that the Government have made grossly partisan appointments, I have only to say with regard to the reference to preference to unionists, that I expressed my views on the subject by word and vote when the matter was discussed last year, and have nothing to add now. Various appointments have been criticised at considerable length, but only those of Mr. Campbell and Mr. Ryland have been seriously found fault with. I was very much’ impressed with the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta that he had no objection to the appointment of a Labour member if he were fitted for the position to which he was appointed. He said -
I wish to repeat that my only ground of criticism is that the persons chosen were not the best who could have been obtained for the positions to be filled.
A great many members of the Opposition laid stress on the fact that the persons appointed were’ Labour supporters, which, they seemed to think sufficient to condemn the appointments. The honorable member for Parramatta takes the ‘right position. It does not matter what a man’s political views may be, the only question is his fitness for the position he is appointed to fi-11. So far as Mr. Ryland is concerned, T know nothing of him, but time will show whether those who appointed him were justified in their choice. Neither do I know anything of Mr. Campbell, but I have been much impressed by what the Adelaide Register has said of him. That newspaper does not support the present Government, but its issue of the 9th May last contains this paragraph -
Mr. Campbell can make no pretension to any special knowledge or training to qualify him for the task imposed upon him ; but he is a quick learner, and is gifted with practical enthusiasm for useful public service, and the power to discern and appreciate the essential factors of an intricate problem. He is a bold and independent thinker, who forms strong convictions, and is readily able to express his views forcefully. Altogether, therefore, Australia may hope to be as well represented on the Commission by Mr. Campbell as New Zealand will be by her ex-Premier, Sir Joseph Ward. In any case, Mr. Campbell is afforded a unique opportunity - such as comes to very few men in a generation - to study Imperial questions at first hand, and to fit himself foi a brilliant career as a legislator or administrator, and nobody who knows him doubts that he will profit to the utmost by his good fortune.
No greater commendation could come froma newspaper opposed to the Government. I do not think that any one hasseriously attacked the appointments of Mr. Miller, Professor Gilruth, Professor Spencer, and Mr. Justice Bevan. These show that the Labour Government did not give the highest gifts in their power to gentlemen connected with the Labour movement. In the appointment of Professor Gilruth they havesecured, if I may be allowed to say sofrom the little experience I have had. of him, the man who will make a success of the Northern Territory if anybody can do it. He is vigorous and determined, and has great faith in the Territory. He believes that not only white men, but white women, can live there, and he has shown his belief by taking his wife and two children to live there. No man could give greater evidence of his faith than he has. done. If Dr. Gilruth, with his vigor, determination, and ability, does not make a success of the government of the Territoryfrom Darwin, I do not know who will. I- should like here to express my approval of the action of the Government in determining that the Territory shall be governed’ from Darwin, and not from Melbourne. We now have some hope that something may be done up there. The last charge inthe amendment, of reckless irresponsibility in financial affairs, is one of the most* serious, but it is a singular thing that the Leader of the Opposition made no reference - to it when moving the amendment, or even., in his Ballarat speech. The Argus, referring to financial affairs, and to his speechon that occasion, said -
The electors . . . will also require to take a very strong hand to secure another important change,and that is financial reform. Mr. Deakin was unaccountably silent on this matter. He refrained from saying anything against the financial orgy in which the anti-Liberal party is revelling. No Liberal programme will be acceptable which does not promise that the excessive expenditure will be stopped.
The honorable member has omitted the question altogether, not once, but twice. That is very significant. The discussion in this House has shown that, while members of the Opposition are all able to say that the expenditure of Australia has enormously increased - any child that reads the figures could tell that - not one of then* will say what item he is prepared to strike off. It is of no use for them to say that our expenditure is increasing, unless they are ready to state which item they are going to delete. Take, for instance, the Navy. The honorable member for Flinders, one of the strongest critics of the financial administration of the Government, says the Navy must be supported, and the honorable member for Parramatta, when speaking on the subject the other day. said -
When I see this Government spending nearly £5,000.000 instead of less than£2,000,000, I say, “ Good luck to them.” I will not be overcaptious and over-critical, but will get behind them as far as the substantial side oftheir administration goes.
We are also told that the expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department has greatly increased. MayI say, in reference to the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders about that and some other Departments, that I wish he and other members of the Opposition would tell us the actual items to which they object? I confess thatI am eager to learn in this matter. I know that the financial question is serious, and that we have to see where we are going, and I am very anxious to learn all I can.I am not a captious critic, and am not finding fault with the Opposition for offering any fair criticism on the subject, but not one of them will tell me the items to which they object. When they are told that the expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department includes a great increase in new works, the honorable member for Flinders says, “I do not include those at all.” When another honorable member says it means a great increase in salaries, which is absolutely necessary, and, according to some honorable members, still more is wanted for that purpose, the honorable member replies, “ I do not necessarily include those. I include general questions of administration and contingencies.” That does not help me or the public outside at all to find out what particular thing the members of the Opposition are going to remedy. I strongly object to the Post and Telegraph Department being criticised, or even administered, as a revenueproducing Department. It was not created in the first instance to produce revenue. Its object is to create and facilitate commercial and social intercourse amongst the people, and revenue is a secondary consideration. We must, of course, have regard to it, but it is not the primary object of the Department. So long as we have an immensely undeveloped territory, with people living out in the back-blocks, and requiring to be brought into touch with civilization by means of mails, telegraphs, and telephones, we shall have an expensive Department that will not produce as much as it expends. I represent an outlying district in the small State of Victoria, and I know what the difficulties are there. We have places that are still in want of telephone communication, where the people have to send 50 or 60 miles for a doctor. It is often a question of life or death, because on account of the expense people do not send for the doctor until the last moment. Then a man has to ride 50 or 60 miles over rough hills, where there are no decent roads, and bring the doctor back. By the time he arrives, it often happens that the patient has passed away. Telephone communication means everything to those settlers, and if we want people to go into the back-blocks to open up the country districts, we must do something to remove the hardships of their existence. My sympathy goes out strongly to all those who are doing pioneering work. I do not say they go out into the wilds for patriotic or philanthropic motives. Their object, like that of others in other parts, is to earn a living and make money; but, at the same time, they are doing an immense amount of good for the whole of Australia in developing our undeveloped country.
– Does the honorable member know of cases where telephone lines have been built to provide medical facilities ?
– I do not.
– Nor do I.
– I am pointing out that that is one of the things we must consider in establishing back-country telephones. Telephone lines for people out in these little clusters in the back-blocks are not likely to pay for years. At present, the settlers are never given telephone communication unless it is estimated that it will pay in six or seven years, and they have to guarantee a certain proportion of the estimated deficiency, but I hold that they should be given telephones before they are paying concerns, as this means everything in the settlement of the people in our outlying districts. What I have said with reference to Victoria applies with tenfold force to the other States, where the distances are greater. The honorable member for Bendigo, another member of the Opposition, defended the expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department, andI think every one else will do the same. The “great forte of the honorable member for Balaclava at the present time is condemning the expenditure on the Federal .Capital. On the other hand, the honorable member for Lang, another member of the Opposition, says the Government are not spending enough on it. An attempt is being made to throw on the Government the onus of the expenditure on the Federal Capital, although this is certainly one of those questions which are not party questions. Honorable members know the opposition I have shown to the site that has been selected, and to the expenditure which has been undertaken there. I am still opposed to the spending of money there. Criticisms are being levelled against the Government as though they, as a party, and not members on all sides of the House, were responsible for this expenditure; but it is a remarkable fact that last year, when £100,000 was on the Estimates, and £,66,000 remained to be spent, and I moved an amendment to reduce the item by £66,000, only ten voted for it, and twenty-nine voted against it, there were five pairs, and no fewer than twenty-six members neither voted nor paired. Let me mention, for the benefit of the Women’s League and same of the People’s Party Leagues, that are passing motions on the subject, that amongst those who neither voted nor paired on the amendment were the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for ‘ Mernda, the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Grampians, the honorable member for Melbourne, the Minister of Trade and Customs, and, last but not least, the honorable member for Balaclava himself. I deal with this matter because there is a number of leagues in Victoria which are pinning their faith to a reduction of the expenditure in that direction.
– Have not you got that bee out of your bonnet yet?
– The man I am asking my honorable friends to take into the next caucus and deal with is the honorable member for Balaclava. I am still more surprised when we hear this talk about reckless expenditure to find that even the honorable member for Wimmera found fault the other night because sufficient money is not being spent. He said that the proposed grant of £500.000 to Tasmania is miserable, and that the amount ought to be increased to £900,000. I do not know where we are tc get any unanimity from the Opposition as to the reduction of the expenditure on a single item. When honorable members on the other side make charges they ought to come down as close -to details as they possibly can, and say, “ That is an item which ought to be reduced.” What puzzles me is that they are all prepared to say that the expenditure ought to go on. Not one of them is prepared to say that- it should be cut down. Yet many of them find fault with the Government. Why ? For spending the money and not raising loans. In the name of creation, does any sane man talk about raising a loan when he has money in his pocket ? The present Government have been blessed with an enormous revenue, and what are they to do with it? Should they not spend the money on all these items, instead of raising loans? It should be remembered that we cannot carry forward surpluses from one year to another. At the end of the financial year, if a big surplus is not paid into a trust fund for particular purposes in order to spend the money afterwards, it must go to the States under the Surplus Revenue Act. Perhaps that is where the shoe is pinching. The Government are perfectly justified, I contend, in spending the money as long as they have it. As the Postmaster-General said to-day, when they get short of money it will be for them to say how they will raise funds, but at the present time they cannot be blamed for spending the revenue which is coming into their hands. I certainly hope that they will not have such a booming revenue from Customs in the future as they have had in the past. We have been told by one honorable member opposite that all that the Government party want is the expenditure of money, because their people do not have to pay the taxes. Why, sir, the great mass of the revenue which the Government get is obtained from Customs and Excise, to which all people in the community contribute. A little over £1,000,000 is coming in from the land tax. But apart from the revenue of the Post Office, the whole, huge amount is obtained from Customs and Excise, so that the whole of the people are affected. It appears to me that the censure motion is more noted for what it does not refer to than for what it does refer to. It is remarkable to me, as a Protectionist, that it contains no reference to the Tariff. There was a good deal about the Tariff in the speech ‘of the Leader of the Opposition, but then he only spoke for himself. This is where I do find very serious fault indeed with the Ministry. I admit that the revision of the Tariff is no part of the Labour party’s programme. But there are plenty of things -in the Ministerial programme which are outside the Labour party’s programme. Why is not a Protectionist Tariff brought in ? Why have we not had during this Parliament an effective revision of the Tariff ? At the present time the Tariff is not protective, and, as a revenue producer, it is- unnecessarily high. If it is not going to be made higher, and effective, from the Protectionist point of view, then the duties ought to be reduced. The singular thing is - and this is another instance of our cursed system of party government - that although we have in the House an absolute majority of Protectionists pledged to effective Tariff revision, we cannot with either party in power get such revision. With an elective Ministry we should have an honorable member moving a direction to the Minister to bring in an effective Protectionist Tariff, and it would be carried by a large majority composed of honorable members sitting in all parts of the chamber. But because this farcical party system of government is carried on, we cannot get that which I believe the majority of the people in Australia, as shown by the members they return, want from’ either party. The position at the present day is exceptionally striking. If we take up the last returns which have been issued, we find that not only have the importations increased enormously, but that the increases continue on items which could well be produced here. Comparing the first four months of this year with the corresponding period of last year, there has been an increase of ,£843,618 in the importations of apparel and of all descriptions of softgoods, an increase in the importations of biscuits, an increase of £55,749 in the importations of boots and shoes, an increase of £^5,981 in the importations of cement, an increase of £24,890 in the importations of cocoa and chocolate, an increase of ,£27,680 in the importations of cordage and twines, an increase of nearly £51,000 in the importations of drugs and chemicals, an increase of ,£8,169 m the importations of earthenware and chinaware, an increase of .£105,757 in the importations of fish of all kinds, an increase of £22,799 m the importations of furniture, an increase of £45,494 in the importations f hats and caps, a very large increase in the importations of iron, an increase of £54>033 in the importations df paints, colours, and varnishes, an increase of £8,806 in the importations of pickles and sauces, an increase of ,£15,210 in the importations of soap, and an increase in the importations of various other articles. All these articles are being poured into the country simply because our Tariff is not effective. The Leader of the Opposition spent a good deal of time in dealing with the question of the Tariff. Of course, as I said just now, he was speaking only for himself. His great remedy at the present time is the creation of an Inter-State Commission, or a Board. He glories 111 the idea of instituting an Inter-State Commission. It is marvellous to me how all the members of the Fusion Government do glory in the idea. When the Leader of the Opposition was talking about the matter the honorable member for Batman asked him the same question as I asked the honorable members for Kooyong and Darling Downs last year, “ Why did you not bring this body into existence?” and he gave exactly the same reply as they did. “If w«* had occupied,” he said, “ the Treasury bench longer, such a body would have been appointed bv this time.” It is a remarkable thing that member after member of the Fusion Government, whenever they are tackled on the subject of an Inter-State Commission, reply that they did not bring it into being because they had not time to deal with the matter. The Fusion Government introduced an InterState Commission Bill in the Senate, and it was read a first time, on the motion of Senator Best, on the 1st October, 1909. The second reading was moved on the 6th October, when Senator Best fully explained the provisions, and it was debated for one hour and forty-five minutes. On the 13th October, it was further debated for three hours and thirty-eight minutes, and, on the 14th October, from thirteen minutes past 6 o’clock until the Senate rose. That Bill was never dealt with again, although Parliament did not prorogue until 8th December. If the Government had been serious in the matter, the measure could have been passed during the two months. They passed numbers of other Bills, and the “gag” was used whenever necessary; they had majorities in both Houses sufficient to carry any measure they chose. Itis remarkable that just about the time the Bill collapsed a deputation waited on the Attorney-General from, I believe, employers connected with the shipping companies, who took exception to some of its provisions.
Whatever the reason was, the Bill was dropped ; and I do not know that, ‘if the Opposition were in power now, an Inter-State Commission Bill would be put through. It was part of the arrangement made at that famous, or, I might say, infamous, secret conference between the representatives of the Fusion Government and the Premiers when the Financial Agreement was born. The Federal Government proposed that an Inter- State Commission Bill should be passed, and the Premiers promised to introduce measures conferring certain powers on the Federal Government through the means of that Commission. We were told that, because of this arrangement, there was no necessity for an amendment of the Constitution in order to have new Protection. It is remarkable that the Fusion Government should drop the InterState Commission Bill two months before Parliament prorogued, and that not a solitary State Parliament to this date has ever attempted to carry out its part of the bargain. This proves conclusively what the honorable member for Ballarat said when going through the country in the recess before the Fusion Government was formed, namely, that we had been told by the honorable member for Parramatta to wait until the States gave the necessary power, but that in his (the honorable member for Bal.larat’s) opinion, waiting had proved hopeless in the past, and would prove hopeless in the future. And so it ‘has. The honorable member for Ballarat, in the course of his speech when introducing the amendment, referred to two or three other matters, including the delay in the construction of the Warrego. I entirely agree with the honorable member that the Government were particularly lax in what they have done in this connexion. They have been trifled with by the New South Wales Government over the building of the ship, and over the question of the site for the Naval College at Jervis Bay ; and this is anything but creditable to them. But we do not hear one word of criticism from the coLeader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Parramatta, the honorable member for Lang, or any other persons interested in the capital of the’ adjoining State. I congratulate the representatives of New South Wales on being all of one body, no matter where they may sit in the House, when any question arises affecting Sydney. They stand most- loyally together, no matter what Government is in power. In the Governor-General’s Speech, the Government state that they have accepted the rcommendation of a Railway Conference that the standard gauge shall be 4 ft. 8£ in. I should like to know who recommended that gauge? What was this Railway Conference? It has been shown before now that a former Conference _ of Railways Commissioners recommended 4 ft. in. wholly and solely because it would cost less to transfer 5 ft. 3 in. to 4 ft. 8£ in. than vice versâ. The merits of the two gauges were never discussed. After that we had a Conference of EngineersinChief, and they’ recommended a gauge of 4 ft. 8£ in. But why? Because the Railways Commissioners had recommended it - they say so in their report. Then, again, we had the precious War Council, but who they were or what their qualifications were to deal with the question of the gauge, I do not know. These are the only three bodies who have recommended 4 ft. 8 J in., and none has recommended it on the merits of the two gauges. I thought the Government were grossly wrong when they refused to accept that fair amendment submitted by the honorable member for Angas, when he proposed that the gauge for the transcontinental railway should be that which was approved by this House after a report from the Engineers-in-Chief on the merits of the question. The Government would not accept that amendment, on the ground that it would delay the construction of the railway; but we could have had a dozen conferences and reports in the meantime, and the railway is not started yet. There are various other references in the Governor-General’s Speech to proposed legislation, but these I do not intend to deal with, because there will be opportunity when the measures come before the House. Before I sit down, I should like to refer to the present position of affairs so far as it affects myself and the country generally. There are three Independent members in the House ; and we are constantly being asked by supporters - by honorable members on both sides - why we do not join, either the Labour party or the Opposition. So far as I am concerned, I am not prepared to bind myself to join either. To begin with, I am not prepared to adoptthe Labour party’s programme, or any programme that is prepared for me by outsiders. I strongly object to the methods’ of both parties- methods that are now practically the same. It is remarkablethat, after condemning the Labour party for its methods in politics, the Opposition should practically adopt all of them.
– Is the honorable member speaking for the whole of his party now?
– Unfortunately, the rest of my party are in bad health, and I have not had the. benefit of a talk with them. But, knowing the past careers of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and the honorable member for Hume, I can say that, if they had been in the enjoyment of good health, they would have made things lively for the Opposition and parties generally.
– Not at all !
– The honorable member for Swan says “Not at all,” but I know better. Let us see what the position of the parties is. First of all, there is the question of the framing of a programme. Here, again, both parties are the same - the programme in each case is framed for the party by outside bodies. That is my first objection. I cordially agree with the honorable member for Flinders when he says that the programme should be framed by the parliamentary leaders of any party.
– That would never do !
– I emphatically say that it would do. When a man stands as a candidate for Parliament, it is pre-supposed that he has devoted more time and consideration to public affairs than has the rest of the community - that he has some thoughts and ideas which he wishes to lay before the people, and desires to lead them in a certain direction. If that is the sort of man who is sent to Parliament, and he is in the inner ring of politics, knowing what is wanted and the possibilities in regard to doing it, he ought, with his party, to frame a programme in which he has faith, and to lay it before the public, saying - “ This is what we recommend, and we know it is right ; if you do not like to follow us, send some one else here with another programme.”
– That would not do!
– Why? Because so many people consider their seats first and their policy afterwards. Then there is the question of the selection of candidates. How are they selected ? It used to be an objection, in which I joined, and in which I join to this day, that, in the Labour party, candidates had to apply for nomination, and to be selected by members of leagues who met and voted. They were not allowed to declare themselves until so selected. But that particular caucus-binding arrange ment has been adopted by the representatives of the Fusion party. It is bad and wrong, even as far as new candidates are concerned. The Constitution enables any man qualified as an elector to become a candidate, and it is open to any man to offer himself. If two candidates offer themselves on the same side, let representatives of the party do as was done in times gone by, before we had these coercive organizations outside. When two or three candidates came into the field on one side of politics, a committee was chosen to decide between them - if there was a. chance of getting one of them, to stand down - to prevent the party being split. But, however bad this new system may be in connexion with new candidates, it is intolerable when applied to a sitting member. It seems to me to be a most extraordinary thing to-day that the Prime Minister of Australia cannot offer himself for re-election to this House until he has submitted himself to a secret ballot, by whom he must be selected and nominated. Practically the whole of his constituents may be in favour of him; but if these people, who, after all, can be only a small number, decide against him, he has to stand aside. Strange as it may appear, the same procedure has been adopted bythe Opposition side. We know very well that, at a State election in Victoria not long ago, an Honorary Minister, Mr. John Thomson, because he refused to submit his name to the Women’s League in the Hamilton district, had a candidate run against him. He took up a dignified stand, and would not yield to such treatment. But what do we find in connexion with the Opposition party ? In South Australia we actually find Senator Sir Josiah Symon being rejected by his own side because. he would not submit the question of whether he was or was not to retire from public life to a little selection body chosen by a conference. I cannot understand men like the right honorable member for Swan, the honorable member for Ballarat, and the honorable member for Flinders, with many others on the same side, consenting to such a procedure as was adopted in this case. Here is a circular which has been issued in South Australia -
THE LIBERAL UNION.
Private and Confidential.
The following gentlemen were nominated in addition to those mentioned in the businesspaper. Names are given in alphabetical order : - Duncan, Hon. J. J., Lucas, Hon.E., McLachlan, A. J., Moulden, B. A., Morris, C. R., Sowden, W. J., Symon, Sir Josiah.
The following correspondence has taken place with the above gentlemen : -
Adelaide, 7th May, 1912.
Re Senate Nominations.
I beg to notify you that in accordance with rule 39 of the Constitution, which reads as follows : -
To secure selection of a candidate a member desirous of contesting an election must submit his name to the President of the District Committee - “ Must submit “; I like that phrase - and state his willingness to support the principles of the union and its platform, and not to contest the election if not selected, the following gentlemen have submitted their names and signed the necessary forms in compliance with the above rule.
Then follow the names of Senator Vardon and three others -
Nominations have also been received, subject to the nominees’ compliance with the constitution, of the following -
Then follow eight names -
I am sending herewith to each candidate who has not yet complied with rule 39 a form for signature drawn up in accordance with that rule. I have been instructed by my council to send out to each member of that body a ballotpaper with the names of those duly nominated. Only names can appear on the ballot-paper of those who submit themselves in accordance with the constitution of the union.
There is no doubt about the word “ submit “-
To permit of the papers being issued promptly the President instructs me to ask for all submissions to be sent to me by Friday next, 10th inst.
Then comes the reply ; and it is just such a reply as might have been expected from a man like Sir Josiah Symon -
Pirie-street, Adelaide, 10th May, 1912.
Re Senate Nominations.
Your favour of 7th May, for which I thank you, invites me to compete with a number of other gentlemen for selection by the Liberal Union to contest the next Senate election, and intimates that acceptance of the invitation entails the penalty that I must retire from public life if not selected. Twice the electors of South Australia have done me the great honour of returning me to the Senate at the head of the poll, and it is, I venture to think, for them and myself alone to say whether the hour of my retirement has come.
The request you convey, which I quite appreciate, is that I should delegate or commit the decision of that question to some one else. How an I do that with any self respect or regard for my duty to the general bodyof the electors for the State? An invitation from your executive or the union, whose principles and platform I am willing to support, to contest the election is quite a different thing from a request to enter into a competition for a nomination, particularly when you will only allow me to accede to the request if I submit my freedom and lay. myself open to a penalty from which I am now exempt.
Permit me to assure your council and the members of the union that if in their wisdom they think I may be of service, and offer me their nomination, I shall esteem it a high compliment, but I am not prepared to give any pledge beforehand that if they do not offer it I shall retire from public life. Such a pledge is too serious to be made a condition of accepting the union’s own invitation to allow them to consider and decide whether they will offer me a nomination or not.
It is not for me to question the propriety of such a condition in the case of one who is soliciting and competing for a nomination, but I do not take that position, and I prefer freedom of action to shackles of that kind.
– Hear, hear; “a Daniel come to judgment ! “
– It is always a pleasant thing for a man to see his enemies on the same gridiron as he is placed on himself !
It is, therefore, not without grave consideration and much regret that I find myself unable to give the undertaking you require, that I will not contest the election if not selected by the union.
Most faithfully yours,
Walter Hutley, Esq.,
General Secretary, Liberal Union, Adelaide.
I commend the words, “ I find myself unable to give the undertaking you require, that I will not contest the election if not selected by the union,” to the party of freedom.
– What would have happened to a man on the Ministerial side who wrote a letter like that?
– I do not know; but I know what is going to happen to this man. He is going to be omitted from the three candidates selected by the league. I find that Mr. Butler, speaking at Gawler on 27 th June last, said - and there is no doubt that he was referring to Senator Sir Josiah Symon -
However important a man might consider himself, and however great his ability, the Conference declares that he must be prepared to subscribe to the Liberal Union’s platform, and obey its constitution. He was sure that after the last election no one in South Australia could hope to win a seat in the Federal or State election unless he subscribed to oneparty or the other.
– That is worthy of the Sultan of Morocco.
– There must be two of them now.
– The right honorable member for Swan will have to sign the platform.
– I am sure to be selected.
– I remind the right honorable member that there is nothing sure on this earth but death, and if he subscribes to such a pronouncement as that he may not get selected. If he were to subscribe to it, I, for one, should not have of him the opinion I have hitherto entertained. The great objection taken to the Labour party is based on the matter of its Caucus and its lack of freedom. I am not a member of the Labour party, and their rules and regulations do not affect me ; but I am sick and tired of this cant about the Caucus and its want of freedom on the part of members of the Fusion party, who are bound just as much as they are. Are we not aware that every party has its Caucus ? The position was put very clearly by the Age in its issue of 28th November, 1910, when it wrote -
Men may differ from some of the measures passed by the Labour Government. But it is not open to any one who takes sound philosophical views of the development of the modern Parliament to object to the caucus in its most effective working as long as it is used to give effect to the pledges of those who employ it. There are situations in which the caucus may be made a means of treachery against the people - that is, where it is employed as it was in the last days of the Fusion to force through Parliament a measure of which the people had never heard.
Honorable members of the Opposition talk about their freedom, but do we not know that some of their own party have been brought to book for seeking to avail themselves of it? Do we not remember what happened when some of their party took their freedom? It is all very well for them to say that they have their freedom, but God help them if they avail themselves of it. Let me remind honorable members of what happened when the Financial Agreement was before the House, and while the Fusion Government were in power. The honorable member for Parkes, Mr. Bruce Smith, is one of those who, to his everlasting credit be it said, stood out when Australian interests were being attacked, and, no matter how we may differ on general politics, I shall always entertain a kindly recollection of him for the stand he took when the Financial Agreement Bill was before the House. On that occasion he said -
I may say that a good deal of pressure has already been attempted to be brought to bear upon me by members of the very organization which has selected me as their candidate. That is, surely, a strange state of things to exist. I wonder whether there is such a thing as a recognition of individual freedom.
During the same debate, Mr. Coon, who then represented the electorate of Batman in this House, said -
I take the earliest opportunity of saying that I resent any effort to try to pull me over the ropes and to lead me to vote against what I believe to be right. I have never yet given a vote against my convictions, and I am not going to do so at the eleventh hour. … I do not think that inside or outside the Chamber I should be asked to do something in which I do not believe. I feel the position perhaps more keenly than any other honorable member for the reason I have been approached in a direction in which neither Mr. Bruce Smith, Mr. Harper, nor Mr. Irvine has been. Why an effort should be made to induce me to go back on the position that I have taken up, and to vote contrary to the Views that I have expressed, I am at a loss to know.
I come now to the very telling remarks of the honorable member for Mernda, Mr. Harper, who, in the course of that debate, said -
I think that every one, wherever he may sit and whatever his opinions may be, ought to repel emphatically any attempt to interfere with the independence of honorable members.
He knew what he had had to go through, and his subsequent remarks showed how others of his party had been silenced -
I repeat, that there are at least half-a-dozen honorable members on this side of the House -
He was speaking as one of the supporters of the Fusion Government - who did not vote for my amendment the other night, but who have it in their power, if they act according to their professed convictions and support those who wish to amend the agreement, to put that matter beyond dispute.
That was the charge made by a member of the Fusion party. He distinctly alleged in this House, and his statement was never challenged, that there were at least halfadozen members of his own party who had been compelled to vote against their convictions.
– Would it not be fair to add that all those honorable members were re-selected by their party?
– Yes; and would it not be fair also to say that the honorable member was opposed at the following general election by one of his own side, and that that opposition nearly cost him his seat?
– The honorable member is wrong.
– As the result of that opposition the honorable member is one of the six members of the Opposition who represent a minority in this House.
– The Liberal candidate who, with the Labour candidate, opposed me at the last general election, was not recognised by the Liberal party.
– I do not wish to refer to any private conversation, but I am satisfied that I am right. Let us come now to the time when the Referenda Bills were before the House. On that occasion the honorable member for Flinders - and he has consistently stood to this position - gave a wholehearted support to the proposed amendment of the trade and commerce provisions of the Constitution, and he was strongly supported by the honorable member for Wimmera. It is notorious that there were more than these two members of the Opposition - I myself know of* two others - who shared their views. But on the day following that on which these two honorable members spoke in support of the amendment of the trade and commerce section of the Constitution, they were trounced by the Argus for assisting the Labour party, and when the division was taken the only member of the Opposition who crossed over with them was the late Mr. G. B. Edwards. He, in turn, was trounced by the Sydney Morning Herald for his action. I should like to know where the freedom of the Opposition is. Let us look now at the more recent exhibition of this want of freedom, which took place in connexion with the criticism levelled by the honorable member for Flinders at the programme which had been prepared by the Liberal leagues. It is mere rubbish to assert that the Opposition enjoy more freedom than the members of the Labour party. Both parties are in the same position. If a member of the Labour party chooses to break away, he must take the consequences, and if a member of the Opposition chooses to break away from his party he, too, must take the consequences.
– They are not quite so serious.
– Are they not? I wish now for a few moments to discuss the question, “ Why should I join the Opposition?” In the first place, I desire to know what their programme is. Where is their programme? Some members of an outside league met to frame a programme for the party, and I wish to draw attention to a singular similarity in the methods of selecting delegates to the Fusion and Labour conferences, so far as this State is concerned. Those who have followed the Labour conferences know that a motion that is regularly submitted at them provides that no member of Parliament shall act as a delegate on a Labour conference. As soon as that resolution is carried the end of the Labour party as a party wilt come. As soon as the guiding hand of their parliamentary representatives is withdrawn from their conferences, undoubtedly their end must come. At the last Labour Conference held at Hobart, the Victorian leagues were not represented by one member of Parliament, although New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia did send members of Parliament to represent them. Strange to say we find that at the recent conference of the Fusion party, Victoria again was not represented by a member of Parliament, although South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia ‘ were. It is astonishing to find how closely the Fusion are following in the footsteps of the Labour party. The delegates selected by Victoria to represent them at the Fusion conference were Mr. McNeilage, Mr. H. Brookes, Mr. Sambell, Mrs. Hughes, and Mrs. Morton. Heaven help the ) Liberals ! Mr. McNeilage was unable to attend, and his place was filled by Mrs. Brookes. The conference wes held about the 2 1 st and 22nd May; reports of its proceedings were made from time to time, and on nth June last the honorable member for Ballarat criticised the programme drawn up by it. There are one or two features of his speech to which I desire to refer. Alluding to the leagues that had met in conference, he said - -
These Leagues met at the close of last year, when they accomplished the task of drafting a general programme for the Liberal party which they propose to transmit to the Parliamentary party for its consideration as soon as the House meets. They owed a debt of gratitude to these Leagues for having undertaken so important a task. If necessary, the Parliamentary party would make representations to the Leagues about any matters which appear to its members as worthy of elaboration. Thenit would become the duty of the Parliamentary party, before it went to’ the people, to framea fighting platform, which would put in the forefront the matters of pressing importance which’ it believed to be at issue in the coming contest. Judging by present appearances that fightingplatform would be a pretty comprehensive one ; so much was certain to be involved in the- decisive election of 1913. The publication of the Liberal League’s platform became necessary in view of certain erroneous statements.
That fighting platform is to be taken out of the programme drawn up by the various leagues.
– Not necessarily, at all.
– Then I want to know what sort of sorry farce we are going to witness when we have leagues meeting together to do what is called “ the great work “ of preparing a platform if that platform is to be ignored, and some one outside the leagues is to prepare the fighting platform which is not to be taken out of the league’s platform. If that is the true state of affairs, it is as well that we should know it. That programme was published, and it is very evident that I was not the only one who did not understand it. The first man who fell, in over it was one of the prominent members on the opposite side, the honorable member for Flinders. When he was mistaken about it, I might be pardoned for not understanding it.
– That was anterior to the publication of the complete programme, and of my speech.
– Yes; but the complete programme was published on the 14th, and the honorable member for Ballarat spoke, I believe, on the nth June.
– Before he saw it?
– Oh, no. I could mention one matter which would show that he had a good hand in it, or was well represented at the Conference. There is one remarkable circumstance, bearing on the question of the freedom of action of honorable members opposite, to which a reference might be made. I refer to the words with which the honorable member for Flinders commenced his speech criticising the programme. Speaking at Aspendale, the honorable member is reported as having said -
I am going to say in fear and trembling -
I direct special attention to those last words - a few words about the Liberal party, to which I have the honour to belong. Less than a fortnight ago there was in Melbourne a conference of representatives of various Liberal leagues in the States of the Commonwealth with a view, amongst other things, of arriving at what I think we all will admit to be a very pressing necessity for the Liberal party, namely, a policy. There was published in the press what was called a fighting platform.
That seems to be the one mistake the honorable member made. Then he went on to refer to the programme in the terms which have already been quoted by the AttorneyGeneral.
– It was published in the press.
– The press evidently knew as little about it as did the honorable member and others who were outside the league. However, it was nothing for the honorable member for Flinders to make this request. To his credit, be it said, he has always claimed the right of the leaders of the party in Parliament to prepare the programme. He has always been calling out for a programme for the party. As far back as October, 1908, at a meeting in Sydney at which he was present, he is reported in this way -
Mr. W. H. Irvine, M.P., in a speech said that too much time and thought were given up in setting forth in detail the horrors and dangers and fallacies of Socialism, instead of proposing another remedy for the ills which existed in society. Those ills, such as the unequal distribution of wealth and so forth, really existed-. Socialism was a remedy for such - a mistaken one, as they thought; but at any rate it was a positive statement. When speakers confined themselves to setting out in detail these prescriptions which Socialism wrote out for the cure of the ills in the body politic and denying their efficacy, they were merely negative. Mr. Irvine urged that anti-Socialistic prescriptions should be made out instead.
The honorable member has always been calling out for the preparation of a definite programme, and he will have to continue to do so as long as the party opposite is a fusion. The Argus dealt with this in a very open and honest way. The Argus people understand very well the difficulty there will always be in getting a programme of details from a party composed as the Opposition party is. lt is rather singular that as far back as November, 1910, when the People’s party - that was the old Farmers Union - was inaugurated, the Argus commenced a leading article in these words -
The draft “ platform “ of the People’s party, as declared before the inaugural meeting at Horsham on Saturday, is really of less importance than the fact that the organization itself has been duly formed and sets out on its career.
Programmes are nothing; it is only the organization they want. What did the Argus do when reference had to be made to the comments of the honorable member for Flinders upon the programme? The Argus was the first to take the honorable member to task, and said -
It must, however, be somewhat disconcertingto him to read the letter from the Secretary of the Inter-State Conference in another column, and to learn that the “ platform “ has really not yet been published in extenso. He will probably realize that to a considerable extent his comment was premature. But apart from this point, Mr. Irvine’s venture into criticism may well be criticised. It would be quite allowable for an opponent of the Liberal party to sneer at and decry that party’s policy - to carefully coin in advance stinging phrases about a “ geelatinuous compound - political food for political invalids” - and “vague generalities,” for the purpose of such an opponent would be to injure the party. His comment would naturally be destructive in character, and the public would discount it to that extent. But when a member of the Liberal party, and a leading member, attacks it from the inside (unless he have an ulterior motive), his criticism should always be constructive.
The writer went on, in the same article, to say - and this speaks volumes -
The Liberal party need not delay its march or dissipate its energies over details at present. All that will come in due time when, having obtained office, a Ministerial policy has to be formulated.
It is more important that an organization should be started than that there should be a platform framed. The Argus does not want the Opposition to waste time and energy - and it will take a lot of time and energy - in devising a policy at the present time. All that is required is that the electors should shut their eyes and open their mouths, and see what will be sent them, and when the party opposite is returned to power, they will disclose the details of their policy. It is strange that, although we are told that the fighting platform has not been prepared, and that it may be outside the programme prepared by the leagues, the party opposite are nevertheless selecting candidates for the next election. On what platform? They have to sign the pledge to abide by the platform and by the selection.
– It shows that the party is not being bound down.
– It must be; here is Sir Josiah Symon’s letter.
– That is in South Australia.
– Does not this Constitutional Union represent the party in all of the States? I quote the following: -
The Constitution adopted in its revised form at the morning sitting provides for the government of the Australian Liberal Union by an annual conference composed of six representatives from each State. This conference is given power to appoint a central council.
Then follows a number of details. It is clear from this that the Opposition is a united party for both Federal and State politics.
– It has not yet been constituted.
– The honorable gentleman says that the Council has not yet been constituted. Let him listen to this -
The following is the constitution of the General Council for 1912-13 -
I ask honorable members to note the representatives of Victoria on the Council -
Victoria - Mr. H. Brooks, Mr. T. Graham, Mrs. Hughes.
New South Wales - Mr. Joseph Cook, M.P., Mr. Massey Greene, M.P., Senator Millen.
Queensland - Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Foxton, Senator Chataway.
South Australia - Senator Vardon, Mrs. Mayfield, Mr. R. W. Foster, M.P. ; Western AustraliaSir John Forrest, M.P.-
The honorable member says. that the Council is not yet constituted, notwithstanding that he is one of the members of it.
– It has never held a meeting yet.
– The other members are -
Mr. W. N. Hedges, M.P., Mr. J. M. Fowler, M.P. ; Tasmania - Mr. A. T. Cruickshanks, Mr. Evans, Mr. Shoobridge. Secretary, Mr. John West.
The Council are selecting candidates, binding them to a platform, pledging them not to contest seats if they are not selected, and, notwithstanding all this, we are assured that their programme is not yet prepared. The fact is that at the present time all their energies are being absorbed in deciding who are to be their candidates for the Senate at the next elections. This task, we are told, has been turned over to the Federal Parliamentary party, and I can quite understand that it is worrying them beyond measure. I am surprised at the dictatorial attitude which has been taken up by the Liberal section of the Fusion, or the Liberal tail of the Fusion, as it might be more aptly described, having regard to its numbers. Honorable members will recollect that the night the Fisher Government was defeated 1 remarked that we were told the Fusion was to be a Liberal one, with a Liberal policy, that I hoped it was so, but that I could not shut my eves to the fact that ten Liberals were entering it with thirty-two members of the other party, and that I feared the tail would not wag the dog. If the Liberal dog’s tail, when it had ten joints in it, did not control the policy of the Fusion party, how can it expect to do so now? What- is the position? Ten, and subsequently eleven, members of the Liberal party joined the Fusion. They went to the electors and returned reduced in numbers to five. One of their number, in the person of Sir Thomas Ewing, retired, and five were defeated. Thus five remained.
– It sounds like “ Ten little niggers.”
– It does. Two members of the five disappear at the next election in Laanecoorie and Mernda, and that will leave three. Had it not been that the honorable member for Kooyong obtained a seat in this Chamber after he had been defeated at the Senate elections, there would have been only three Liberals left, just the same number on that side of the House as the three of us on this side. The attempt of this minority to boss the show is an exceedingly surprising one, and I am not astonished that the Conservative section, both in the Argus and their most powerful body, the Women’s League, strongly resent it. The Argus puts the position very clearly. On 5th June, it says -
Mr. Deakin had nineteen supporters from Victoria in the first Parliament ; to-day his “ wing “ consists of only five, including himself. The Liberal party of to-day is for the most part composed of those whom we choose to call Constitutional Liberals. Surely it cannot be contended that the remnant of the party, which was decimated by the Socialists and ultimately spurned by them, should now attempt to dominate the whole Liberal party as if all along they had been its main source of strength.
On the 10th June, it published the following
It is now eight years since Sir George Turner and the late Mr. Allan McLean ranged themselves on the Constitutional side, and since then the movement across has been steady, though slow. Of the old Barton and Deakin following, the stronger men, have associated themselves with the Constitutionalists and have survived.
I like the revival of that word “ Constitutionalist,” and I wish the party opposite would drop the term “ Liberal “ for the sake of the old Liberal party. I hate to hear them masquerading under the name of Liberals. Let them adopt the term “ Constitutionalists,” which would bring back memories of the time of the Darling Grant, some forty years ago, when the Conservatives called themselves “ Constitutionalists.” The Argus continues -
The others - the good as Labour men- have nearly all been submerged. … In circumstances like these it is surely unwarrantable in the last degree to expect the Constitutional Liberals to surrender the fruits of a struggle extending over a decade and to submit absolutely to a section which (but for the fight they have fought and the example they have furnished), would not to-day be in existence. Such a dog cannot possibly allow itself to be wagged by such a tail. The sheer cynicism of the claim is bad enough.
Then comes the demand for a change of leaders. At one of the party elocution competitions, which was recently held at Caulfield, there were four candidates present, whom the Age called “ The Women’s Four.” One of them, Mr. Clarke, said -
I wish we had leaders who could lead. (Applause.) May Heaven send them.
Then Mr. Boyd, is thus reported -
Referring to Mr. Clarke’s remarks he would say that they had not got a great leader in the Liberal party. The reason was that the leaders they had had in the past tried to run first with one party and then another. People lost confidence in them and the debacle of 1910 was the result.
That is very rough. It is not merely rough on the present leader, but on the whole of the party. I think the trouble with my honorable friends opposite is that they are of opinion that there are too many great leaders. In fact, there is political chaos all round. They are no better now than they were one 10th September, when, at a political tea, at which the farmers were entertained by the Women’s League, and the honorable member for Swan was present to instruct them, he said -
The party to which he belonged had begun by pandering in the hope of securing votes; but it had pandered and pandered until at last it did not know where it was. (Laughter.) The giant “Don’t care” must be destroyed. The league needed organizers at high salaries.
They have not even carried out that recommendation, because their league organizer, who followed me round at the last election, was finally brought up on a fraud summons for not paying his debts. When he was asked to state the salary which he had been receiving for undertaking the great work of instructing the people of Gippsland in the enormities that would flow from voting for me, he said, “ I was expected to keep up an automobile appearance on a wheelbarrow salary.” As he made that statement on oath, we have a right to believe it. I would like to know how the ‘Liberal section of that party expect to get any portion of their Liberal programme carried out. Has not the Conservative section of it persistently endeavoured to work out the old Liberal party in this House? We know perfectly welt that that party stood between the Labourites and the Conservatives. We know, . too, that the great majority of the people in this country are Liberal and progressive. However, they are very easily frightened, and when presented with some of the objectives of the Labour party become afraid, and vote Conservative. The Conservatives know that if they could get the Liberals out of the way, they would have to choose between Labour and Conservatism. They first of all wrecked them by joining with the Labour party to put the DeakinLyne Ministry out of office. Having succeeded in that, they expected that we would join them. We did not do that, our leader taking the right position when he went to a seat on the corner benches, and made his position clear on one Friday forenoon. Unfortunately, through the weakness which has been his curse on many occasions, he was induced to enter into the wretched Fusion which defeated the Labour party, but at the following election the people of Australia showed that they were Liberal and progressive by casting their votes for the Labour party rather than for the Conservative party. The Age put the position to a nicety in the following statement -
Naturally, men’s minds are various, and they need party organization in order to make effective the varying views they hold. They cannot without violence be squeezed into two moulds. The progressive Liberal who believes in most of the Labour platform, but dissents from Labour methods, has been robbed by Fusion of his political inheritance, and he will continue to vote with Labour, even against his grain, until some Liberal organization shall re-appear. When we had four parties in the Commonwealth Parliament, men found themselves much more correctly classed than they do now, and in the clash of opinions the country was better represented than now.
That was published in July of last year, but in May of this year the newspaper printed a similar statement -
It is as certain as that the sun will rise tomorrow that these old Liberal Protectionists will never vote for Conservative candidates without a very definite understanding as to the platform. They will rather stand in again with Labour, with all its broken pledges and party and strike violence, than go to the poll and vote for men who have been lifelong enemies to everything they hold dear.
The Conservatives think that if they say “ There is Labour, with all its horrors, its violence, its strikes, its refusal to call out the military at Brisbane - though we do not say that it should have been called out - and you must vote for us or submit to it.”
– The electors might vote for the honorable member’s party.
– Unfortunately, that party is too small to make it possible to talk about organization yet. The most significant proof that this is the object of the
Fusion lies in the fact that it would not accept preferential voting in the programme prepared by the leagues the other day. According to the Age, preferential voting was defeated by the six Western Australian votes cast by the honorable member for Perth.
– We have preferential voting in Western Australia.
– Yes. That makes it the more surprising that a Western Australian representative should use Western Australian votes to defeat a proposal to apply it to Commonwealth elections.
– Last year I proposed its application to Commonwealth elections, and the honorable member voted against the proposal.
– I do not say that the honorable member is telling a deliberate lie; it would be unparliamentary to make such a statement, and I would not make it in any case ; but his interjection reminds me of the saying of Dr. Johnson, that it is “ more from carelessness of truth than intentional lying that so much falsehood abounds in this world.” I leave the honorable member to look at the record in Hansard. I have always been a strong supporter of preferential voting, and have said repeatedly that it is a wrong and a shame that a minority should elect a representative, no matter what party may benefit. Preferential voting will put an end to the trouble in the selection of candidates, leaving that to the only persons who have the right to make a selection - the electors of Australia. The honorable member for Parkes asked me what I called the third party, and I said that I called them the Conservatives. A few years ago the honorable member for Ballarat, in describing the three parties in this Chamber, said -
Against the Liberals is ranked a party less easy to describe or define, because, as a rule it has no positive programme of its own, adopting instead an attitude of denial and negation. This mixed body, which may fairly be termed the party of anti-Liberalism, justifies its existence, not by proposing its own solution of problems, but by politically blocking all proposals of a progressive character, and putting the brake on those it cannot block. . . You will also find the main principle of that party as Gladstone said, is fear of the people and a distrust of the extension of self-government. They are to be found without exception rallied in the defence of every vested interest as if its privileges were absolute and not conditional, and as if these privileges had never been and would not be abused. While the Liberal party stands for all classes of the community, the anti-Liberal party stands for the privileged classes in defence of vested interests. Now we are confronted by
third party - a Labour party, which is not distinguished from the Liberal party in regard to its main principle of seeking social justice. It is not divided from the Liberals when we trust the people with the powers of self-government. It is not divided from us in our use of the powers of the State ; but it has associated with it those who desire to press on at once with an extension of the powers of the State which would threaten to absorb many of the great industrial functions of the community. They go farther and faster than we do, though the bulk of their party blends with our own.
Those statements are’ as true to-day as they were when uttered in 1906. I ask the Liberals on the Opposition side why they remain there, and what they expect. Do they remain because the election fund is there? That fund in the hands of the Constitutional Union Committee, invested in three trustees, Mr. E. E. .Smith, whom no Victorian would dream of calling a Liberal, Mr. William Riggall, and the honorable member for Fawkner. The last-named at times expresses very fair Liberal views, and if we could get him and the honorable member for Wimmera away from their social environment, they might soon be made good Liberals ; but the true Liberals will not receive much from the fund so long as it is controlled by the present committee, and has Mr. West for secretary. If there is anything genuine in the Liberalism of these honorable gentlemen, let them re-organize their party. It will be a small party at first. They had the ball at their feet when they sat in this corner, and were described by the honorable member for Darling Downs as the party of the centre ; but they kicked the ball from them, and joined their wreckage to that of other parties. Now they must pay the penalty of starting all over again if they wish to succeed. They may say that they will not have the assistance of the fund. Never mind that. Let them have what is better, namely, enthusiasm. The best organization we ever have in politics is the organization of enthusiasm. What was it that raised the Labour party to power? It was the fight they put up when backed only by the enthusiasm of the men in their ranks, who did the work for nothing. When the power and influence of money get into parties, they begin to go to pieces. The Labour party, from being a small body, were lifted into power by the enthusiasm of those who believed in their principles and helped to carry out those principles without expectation of reward. Let the Liberals go out and reorganize their party ; let any members on that side who belonged to the old Liberal party in this State come out and begin again at the place at which the party stood when they scattered everything, and I am satisfied that they will find the Liberals throughout Australia, and certainly in Victoria, responding to their appeal. Another thing which we shall have to do when we come into this House is to get rid of the party system of government. I have supported the elective system of government because I am thoroughly dissatisfied with the present system. The elective system may not be better, but I am desirous of trying it. If we do adopt it, we shall get rid of the cursed position which we are now in. I do not mind party organizations at elections; they are right enough, but when we come into this House we ought to be actuated by the one idea of perfecting every measure that is brought forward in the interests of our own constituents, as well as of those who support the party for the time being in power. Instead of that, we find measures criticised and voted against by men in Opposition - and these remarks refer to Oppositions generally - simply because they are proposed by the Government of the day, and in the endeavour to take a fall out of the Government. Could there be a stronger instance of the necessity for a change than the following striking remarks made by the honorable member for Flinders when discussing a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, either last year or the year before -
I have sometimes wished that in dealing with a subject of this kind, we could, for a few hours, throw aside our party clothes and endeavour in a reasonable spirit to deal with what is undoubtedly one of the most difficult problems that could come before any body of men. I know, however, that that is impossible.
Why is it impossible? Practically every problem with which the Federal Parliament has to deal is a difficult one, requiring the united efforts of all the brains that can be commanded in this House to make the resultant measure perfect. When the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Angas criticised the Land Tax Bill, their criticisms were most attentively listened to by members of the Government party, and on many occasions led to valuable amendments in the Bill. Why cannot that be done on every occasion? Why should we always be actuated by the idea that if we are sitting on one side of the House we have to cover up all the faults of the Government, and support them whether we believe in all they do or not, and, if we are sitting on the Opposition side, that it is our duty to tear down everything the Government do, whether we are actually opposed to them or not? That sort of thing must come to an end. I have shown tonight that no inducement is offered to me, or the two members who act with me, to join either party in this House. We are asked why we do not join the Opposition, but I have shown that there is no more freedom among the Opposition party than there is among those on this side. I have shown, as Sir Josiah Symon said, that they are bound by as many shackles as any other party have ever had riveted upon them. I am not going to submit the question of whether I shall be allowed to stand or not to any league or body of men whatever. I have been returned by the people of my constituency, and they only will be allowed to decide when it is my duty to retire from public life.
.- The honorable member for Gippsland has the unique distinction, I believe, of being a party of one in this House. He is his own leader, his own whip, and his own caucus. The speech which he has just delivered is very remarkable. He began by saying that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition was divided into four very important parts. He said the first was of comparatively small importance, because it referred only to a passing matter, but that the three others were important, because they related to matters which would go on for all time. He devoted the first hour or more of his speech to the first part of the motion. He. spoke for exactly ten minutes on the three other parts which he said were of the greatest importance, and the rest and longest part of his speech he devoted to explaining his position. I presume he finds that by far the most important thing to debate at this juncture in this Parliament. He took up no less than one hour and twenty minutes of the time of the House in explaining his position to the country, and how very independent he is, when we all know perfectly well, as has been proved over and over again to-night by the applause that has met his remarks, that he is absolutely dependent on honorable members opposite, and their supporters in his electorate, for his seat in this House. What is the use of the honorable member making this sham and pretence in a matter of this sort? We all know where he is, and what exceeding difficulty he has had to-night in making his position clear, and why it was absolutely necessary for him to devote the greatest part of his speech to explaining his position to the country. I shall not deal further with the honorable member for Gippsland, but I desire to answer one or two of the questions that he directed to the House prior to the dinner adjournment. He asked what all the turmoil and row were about in regard to the Brisbane strike. I shall endeavour to answer that question in a few words. Why has the first part of the indictment moved by the Leader of the Opposition been brought against the Government? Is it because there was a strike in Brisbane? Not at all. Is it because at that particular time troops were not sent to Brisbane? I venture to say that that is not the reason. The reason is that at that particular period an irresponsible body had taken the reins of government out of the hands of the duly-constituted authority in Queensland, and honorable members opposite, speaking through their Prime Minister, took up a position against constituted authority. The Prime -Minister by the most direct method showed entirely that his sympathies were with those who had for the time being wrested the reins of constitutional rule from the Queensland Government. That is why the first part of the amendment was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition. I wish to quote a few remarks, which the Prime Minister made during the recent campaign in Queensland. Not only were his sympathies with the strikers at that time, not only did he at the very moment when, to use the words of the honorable member for Brisbane, the people of that city were living on the edge of a volcano, take up a determined stand against the duly-constituted Government of Queensland, but afterwards, when the elections were proceeding in that State, we find the right honorable gentleman, if he is correctly reported in the press, taking up exactly the same attitude, and that is the attitude for which this indictment has been brought against him by the Opposition. Speaking in Brisbane on the 16th April last, as reported in the Daily Mail, he said -
They had been slandered as “ strikers, mobrulers, and red ribboners.” He was here as one of them.
I take it that, as I have read these words in the hearing of the Prime Minister, he is prepared to say, at all events, that this is an accurate report of what he said at that time - that is, that he was there as one of those who were the strikers, the mob rulers, and the red-ribboners. Again, speaking at Rockhampton, he is reported in the Morning Bulletin of the 20th April last to have said -
In his opinion -
I do not wish to have these reports go into Hansard if they are not correct.
– What is the trouble with the honorable member?
– I am quoting several reported speeches of the right honorable member in Queensland.
– The honorable member can quote away to his heart’s content.
– I want to make sure that the reports are correct. The right honorable gentleman is reported to have said at Rockhampton -
In his opinion the strike was absolutely justified. If the country wanted to know his opinion about the strike it was this - it was absolutely justified.
Speaking in Brisbane, at the Albion Hotel, as reported in the Daily Telegraph of the 17th February, the right honorable gentleman said -
He made no apology for the attitude he took towards the strike. The strike was necessary. It was well that the great body of unionists rose like one man in support of the tramway men.
The right honorable gentleman stated in this House, when the honorable member for Darling Downs was speaking, that he did not support the general strike, that he only supported the strike of the tramway men. Yet here he is reported to have said in Brisbane -
It was well that the great body of unionists rose like one man in support of the tramway men.
There we have a. frank acknowledgment from the right honorable gentleman that he was in complete sympathy with the general strike, that, in his opinion, it was absolutely justified. For the man who is charged with a high responsibility as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth to take up an attitude of that sort is a most serious thing.
– The idea of him praising the workers is preposterous.
– It is not a question of the Prime Minister praising the workers. No one would object to the right honorable gentleman at any time, or in any way he saw fit, taking rp the cudgels on behalf of the working men of Australia. He has done that often. What we do object to, and what the Opposition charge him and his Government with, is that he took up a definite attitude, though he is intrusted with the high responsibility of administering the affairs of the Commonwealth, on the side of those who were out in open rebellion against the duly constituted Government of Queensland. It is deplorable, I think, that such a state of affairs should exist in Australia, where every man has the franchise, where every class in the community has an opportunity, at all events, of making it felt in the government of the country. When, under these conditions, we have an insurrection, for it was an insurrection at Brisbane at that time, and we find the Prime Minister taking up the attitude which he did, there is only one thing which a believer in constitutional government can do, and that is to absolutely condemn his action.
– He ought to resign.
– He ought, indeed. I have noticed with the greatest regret during this debate that there has been a deliberate attempt by honorable members opposite to charge those who sit on this side with the desire to shed the blood of their fellow men. Over and over again, we have had questions directed from that side to this side in the endeavour to trap honorable members into an admission of some sort which could be twisted and turned into something else when they were on the platforms of the country.
– Would the honorable member have sent the military up?
– There we get the same old parrot cry.
– What do we have soldiers for?
– I know well enough that when the caucus met upstairs a little time ago these tactics were definitely decided on. «
– Oh, oh !
– The honorable member can laugh, but he knows that what 1 say is true.
– We know that it is false.
– We have had the Honorary Minister, who sits at the end of the Treasury bench, leading the gang, leading the cry for a box of parrots. The Minister of External Affairs said -
But in a few months the conflict will be transferred from the circumscribed area of this Chamber to the whole field of Australia. We shall not then be speaking merely from the floor of this House, but the public platforms will be our sounding boards. From every one of our platforms, I can assure the Opposition, there will be emblazoned this motion and the natural corollary to it.
Prior to that, in the same speech, he had said -
The gravamen of the charge against us has been that we have refused to unsheath the sword, to fix the bayonet, to put ball into the rifle, in order to overawe and shoot down our kith and kin.
Honorable members opposite have already told us what they intend to do. All I have to say is that if the Labour party go to the country with the cry of which, the Minister of External Affairs has told us, every man of them will go on the platform and utter what they know to be a deliberate lie. They will be guilty of an action which is dishonorable, unmanly, and unworthy of any one who claims to be a man. 1 do not say that the Labour party are going to do this ; but, if they do, that is what they will be guilty of. I now wish to pass away altogether from the Brisbane strike to deal with one or two other points raised in the course of this debate. I desire particularly to refer to the industrial unrest, and to one or two suggestions that have come from honorable members opposite as to what they propose to do in the near future. In Australia, there has been, perhaps, more done than in any other part of the world to deal with this question ; but I am sorry to say that, as time goes on, we seem to be getting further and further away from a solution. We know the terrible conditions under which people have been asked to work, with long hours and sweating wages. We know how some men have used their wealth to grind out from those who do not happen to be as fortunate as themselves the last ounce of work for the most miserable pittance possible. No one with a scrap of humanity can contemplate such a state of things without desiring to alter it; and, to the credit of Australia he it said, there has been a genuine effort to better the conditions of the working man here - an effort in which the party I am associated with has led the way. Before honorable members opposite were born as a political party, this movement was inaugurated, and has been growing in strength and in public favour all along the line.
– The trade unions are the leaders in every movement for improvement.
– I am going to give to trade unions their full and just due for what they have done in assisting this move ment, for, without unionism, the movement would have been impossible. I do not think it possible to better the conditions of the working men and women of Australia apart from unionism ; and, ever since I was able to form an opinion, unionism has had my full support and co-operation. To-day, however, there are amalgamations of unions going on, with a growing feeling against the methods which have been employed in the past, and by which so much has been done. Honorable members have only to cast their eyes over a certain period to see what has been done for the workers ; but there is now a distinct movement to depart from past methods. We learn from a newspaper report that only a little while ago, at a meeting of the United Labourers Union Federation in Sydney, the secretary stated that they were “ sick “ of Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, and that meeting or conference put as their aim the “ ultimate emancipation of labour by the abolition of the wages system.”
– The secretary was speaking only for himself.
– The honorable member is not quitecorrect. The secretary was speaking for himself when he said he was “ sick “ of Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, but the union has adopted as the very front of its platform and its organization
– It has not adopted it.
– As the ultimate aim of this particular amalgamation of labour-
– It has not adopted it.
– It has adopted it to the extent that-
– The matter has to go to a ballot yet.
– The question of amalgamation has to go to a ballot of the several unions.
– Why not say so?
– But the Conference that met at this particular time did adopt as their platform and aim the “ ultimate emancipation of labour by the abolition of the wages system.” Though the secretary spoke only for himself, the action taken clearly shows that the Conference shared his opinion ; they declare that they are going to make a departure, which I venture to say is a new departure so far as honorable members opposite are concerned. It is going a long way further than honorable members have ever attempted to go before.,
– It is nothing new. The Independent Workers of the World have proposed it before.
– I understand that honorable members opposite do not agree with what the Independent Workers of the World did.
– We do not agree with them.
– I think I shall be able to show from different speeches that have been made in this House, that honorable members opposite are prepared to follow as fast as they can along that particular line.
– The honorable member was talking just now about fairness. I do not think he is fair now. He has had an absolute denial, and does not accept it.
– I have accepted the denial, but I think I shall be able to show pretty conclusively that my honorable friends are preparing to follow the lead of these unions, upon which they are absolutely dependent for place and power. That very amalgamation will have a membership of some 60,000 men.
– The amalgamation has not taken place.
– But it will.
– Ninety thousand men.
– I am obliged to the honorable member for the correction. My honorable friends cannot afford, as no one knows better than they do, to act contrary to the wishes of these unions, if they are to stay where they are. The honorable member for Brisbane at the conclusion of his very fine speech a few nights ago said that-
One thing is certain, namely, that the people, as the result of education and experience, have decided that there must be a change in the existing state of affairs. The rich are going to become poorer in order that the poor may become richer.
The Attorney-General said -
Industrial unrest is innate in the present condition of affairs, and it will not cease until present conditions are completely changed. We are moving along lines to change them fundamentally. We do not believe in profit sharing.
Again he said -
It is very clear that the question with which we are faced to-day is not so much a question of production as of consumption.
I do not know that we can altogether afford to’ separate the questions of production and consumption. I always understood that they were part of one process. The honorable gentleman went on to say -
It is by the regulation of profits and the regulation of prices alone that we can hope for any solution of this problem.
Again he said -
We come forward with a scheme or plan of no cut-and-dried character. There is no such plan. We say that by a process of evolution the people must come to their own.
If honorable members take those different quotations together, I think they will see very clearly that my honorable friends opposite are moving along a line. They think that the wages system must be abolished. They think that that is the line of least resistance, and they intend to swim with the stream. I think I may say this - that if I believed that a great fundamental change were necessary, and that the whole basis and superstructure of society, as we know it to-day, must be swept away ; if I believed that it was only thus possible to better the condition of the workers and give to every man and woman a living wage, I should be prepared to have my honorable friends opposite remain in power for ever if the object could not be obtained in any other way. It has become rather fashionable in this debate to quote poetry. I will quote four lines which perhaps put into better words than any which I could devise exactly what I mean -
Ah Love ! could you and I with fate conspire
To change this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would we not shatter it to bits - and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire !
Undoubtedly if we could remodel society “nearer tothe heart’s desire” in the way honorable members opposite favour, we should be prepared to assist them. If, by the advent- of Socialism, in which my honorable friends believe, it were possible to make the sum of human happiness far greater, and the sum of human misery far less ; if it were possible to get rid of a condition of affairs under which it is perhaps necessary for some men to debauch their manhood, and some women to sell their honour for bread; in which many children are born in infamy, reared in misery, and nurtured among surroundings which it would not be desirable to mention here; if it were possible by Socialism to get rid of such a condition of affairs as that, thenI for one would not raise my little finger to prevent its accomplishment. But, Mr. Speaker, I do not believe that it is possible by Socialism to secure these ends. Indeed, although I do not desire to enter at length into the subject to-night, I think it can be demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Socialism would not distribute wealth on a more equitable basis. It would simply destroy wealth, and no one would be a bit the better off, whilst a great many would be a great deal worse off than they are to-day. There is one point to which I wish to allude particularly. The Attorney-General said, as I have already quoted -
It is by the regulation of profits and the regulation of prices alone that we can hope for any solution of this problem.
According to the Attorney-General, then, by no other means is it possible to solve the different problems which perplex mankind, and to get rid of the great industrial unrest, the existence of which we all admit. In my opinion, however, of all the fatuous futilities that have ever addled the brain of man, the idea of fixing prices is the most fatuous of all j and it is also the one that would work the greatest amount of mischief and do the least amount of good.
– The honorable member knows that it is possible to fix the price of butter.
– It was once said that it was impossible to fix wages.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong is alluding to another matter altogether.
– The honorable member can slip easily on butter.
– The fixing of prices to which he refers is merely a matter of market arrangement from time to time, and has nothing whatever to do with the general fixing of prices to which the AttorneyGeneral alluded. The reason why any such scheme must fail lies in this consideration, that value is not an intrinsic quality residing in any particular thing. It is not an intrinsic, but a relative, quality, and we can have only one measure’ of value at a time.
– Is the honorable member quite sure of that ?
– Quite sure. We cannot have more than one measure of value any more than we can have more than one yard stick or one pint measure. I do not wish to go into this matter to-night, although I should like to discuss it with the honorable member for Hindmarsh, but the reason why bimetallism has failed, and always will fail, is because it sets up two measures of value in the same country. For the same reason, the fixing of prices has failed. I wish now to deal very briefly with co-opera tive effort, which, I believe, will go a long way to assist the worker in getting better conditions and better wages than he is obtaining at present. My complaint against honorable members opposite is that they always want some “ quack “ remedy that will suit every class ; they must have some “ quack “ remedy to be given in “ quack “ doses that will effect a wholesale cure. And so we have the Attorney-General saying that they are going to depart, so to speak, from Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards, and to resort to the fixing of profits and prices. That, they believe, isgoing to cure all the ills that afflict man-, kind. I do not think there is such a remedy. I do not think that even cooperative effort will have that effect, but it is one of the systems that will help very materially to improve the conditions of the people. I have here a short quotation concerning certain statements at the Fortyfifth Congress of the Co-operative Societies of England, which I should like to read, since it shows the rapid advances of cooperative effort, in one line only, in the Old Country. The statement is as follows -
Some of the figures quoted by its president, Mr. W. Openshaw, are very interesting. He announced that in the course of the last twelve months the membership of the societies had increased by nearly [00,000. The share capital of members had increased by £1,750,000, the reserve fund by £420,000, the sales by £4,500.000, and the net profit by nearly £1,000,000, while the societies had invested nearly £8,500,000 iD house property, and in advances to members to enable them lo purchase or build their own houses.
That approaches very nearly to co-operative banking.
– To what society do those figures refer ?
– The reference is to a recent congress of co-operative societies in England. The paragraph continues -
At all points there had been a gradual and sure strengthening of the bonds which united them.
Honorable members will surely admit that notwithstanding the serious industrial unrest at Home, which we all deplore - despite the wretched conditions prevailing there, a large number of workmen and workwomen in many parts of the Old Country are banding themselves together in a. united effort to benefit their conditions.
– We have the same thing in Australia.
– And I desire to see the system extending. I am interested in four or five co-operative concerns, and from them I have reaped immense benefit; I have secured from them results that I could not have obtained from my own individual efforts. lt is only by co-operative effort that many of us in the north-east of New South Wales have succeeded. We have made co-operation a. grand success, and what we have done, and done absolutely unaided, can be done by others in connexion with their own particular lines of business. We have not received assistance to the extent of a penny from any Government. As a matter of fact, we have been discouraged by some Governments, but we have succeeded, and most of those engaged in these co-operative concerns of which I speak were originally very poor men.
– Why not have a cooperative Commonwealth ?
– That is a very big question, and one that I would not attempt to answer to-night. There are several answers that could be given if time would permit.
– The honorable member would like to have 3d. worth of the medicine, but he will not take a bob’s worth.
– My honorable friends opposite all earnestly profess to believe in the distribution of wealth, yet we find them as busy as they possibly could be in living down their professions. I do not blame them, but if a man honestly believes in certain principles, and in certain ways of doing business, he ought to practise them. Now, I do believe in co-operation, and I have practised it; I believe, also, in profitsharing, and I have practised it. Those who are working for me at the present time are sharing my profits.
– The honorable member knows that co-operation is a phase of Socialism ?
– It may be, but it is a phase in which I believe.
– The honorable member would call it safe Socialism.
– And sane Socialism. I desire now to refer to the referenda proposals of the Government in connexion with a very significant statement by the AttorneyGeneral as to the new belief of the Labour party. He has told us that they believe in the fixing of profits and prices. This statement is a significant one, because, so far as I am aware, we have never had from the Labour party an authoritative statement of their intentions in this regard. I always thought that they had such an idea at the back of their minds, and that in bringing their referenda proposals before the country they intended, if they were successful, to give effect to them. It seemed to me that they desired to carry the referenda proposals for that reason above all others. At the Conference of the Australian Labour party, held in Hobart on 8th January last, Mr. Cornell moved -
That the proposed amendments of the Commonwealth Constitution be clearly denned in the direction of making clear to the electors the intention of the Federal Government if granted the powers sought, and that they be re-submitted to the referendum of the electors at the earliest possible suitable date.
I think that was a fair motion. What the mover asked for was that the referenda proposals, when put to the country, should be in such a form that the people would be able to understand exactly what powers were sought, and what those powers were to be used for, if granted. I quote further from the official pamphlet. Mr. Hannan opposed the resolution on the ground that -
The Federal Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, and other authorities, had stated that nothing less than the proposals ‘submitted to the last referendum would be sufficient to enable the people of Australia to do what they intended to do.
What did they intend to do? It was to fix profits and prices. During the discussion on this motion I find that Mr. Barnes hoped that the Conference would knock out the resolution, and the reasons he gave were these -
In trying to make things clear there was the possibility of restriction creeping in -
And then follows the most extraordinary sentence of all - and the people opposing the referendums would endeavour to bind the Parliament down to only those matters that were specified.
He was afraid it would be stated exactly, what the powers were for, and that the people, having granted a certain modicum of powers to the Parliament, would then endeavour, as would naturally be the case, to see that the powers that they granted were not exceeded. I find that the honorable member for Adelaide, the Honorary Minister, was present at the Conference, and he said -
He trusted the Conference would not pass the resolution. There was a desire seemingly to have the constitutional amendments more clearly defined, but what was really meant was that the intentions of the Government should be set out. A proposition of that kind would tie the Government down to what was specified.
Of course it would, and that is exactly what our honorable friends opposite do not want. I do not know whether they intend to re-submit their proposals in the same form as before, or they are going to cover the same ground, but I do know that the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have said that nothing, less than the whole of the powers asked for will enable the party to do what they intend to do. I am inclined to think it would not be possible for the Government to fix profits and prices without having the whole of the powers asked for, and absolutely in the form in which they were previously asked for. The Honorary Minister said, further -
The resolution, if carried, would stultify the Conference, and be a reflection on the Labour Government.
I do not intend to take up any more time on the matter, but 1 desire to have what I have quoted placed on record in Hansard.
– The AttorneyGeneral asked for the same liberty in the letter which he read.
– Yes. I have not read the Attorney-General’s letter, which appears in the same pamphlet asking for exactly the same liberty, that is to say, that the Conference should not tie the hands of the Government in regard to their referenda proposals, because the Government wanted to have an absolutely free hand to be able to do what was specified or was not specified. They did not wish to take the electors into their confidence at all by telling them what the powers were for. They wanted a grant of absolute unlimited power to cover the whole scope of a great many important questions, and to have an automatic power to veto every State Parliament in regard to the whole of those powers, and, at the same time, be in a position to hide from the electors of the Commonwealth what were their real and true intentions. I tell my honorable friends opposite that that is what defeated the last referenda proposals, and that is what will defeat them again if they are submitted to the country in the same way. There is one other matter to which I ought to refer in connexion with the Labour Conference. At page 30 of this pamphlet, which is not the report of the capitalistic press, but the official report of the Labour party, I find a resolution which was carried unanimously, or at least was carried without any comment, and while the Prime Minister was present at the Conference. It is in these terms : -
That, in the event of the Constitutional power being obtained by the Federal Parliament, this Conference urges the establishment of a Commonwealth sugar refinery, and urges a reconsideration of the w.hole question of encouraging sugar production as an Australian industry.
That appears to me to be a most extraordinary resolution, and for this reason : The present Government are responsible for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the whole of the industry. It is a Commission which has cost, and will cost, this country a very large amount of money. It was appointed to inquire into the whole of the circumstances surrounding the sugar industry, and to advise the present Government as to the best steps to take in regard to it, not only for the benefit of the industry itself, but of the community as a whole. Yet while the Commission is sitting, and its inquiry is still under way, we have a. Labour Conference laying its commands upon the Government to take certain definite action in regard to this particular industry- - an action which I venture to say would, if given effect to, cost this country a very large sum of money. We had the Prime Minister sitting in the Conference with a knowledge of what he had done, and judging from the official report of the Conference he never raised a single word of protest against that resolution, though he knew that the moment it was carried there was a party obligation upon him to give, it effect. That resolution has now been embodied in the fighting platform of the Labour party.
– Our fighting platform is a better one than that which the honorable member took part in framing.
– That has nothing whatever to do with what I am saying. I think that the Minister of Trade and Customs, when he sees the fighting platform of the Liberal party, will be perfectly satisfied.
– I hope so.
– I put it on record that it is most extraordinary that a Prime Minister of the Commonwealth should appoint a Commission, charge it with certain duties, and, before it has reported, accept orders from a conference of this description- to do a certain- thing which, for all he knows, may be diametrically opposed - as I believe it will be found to be - to the advice of the Commission he has appointed, without offering a single word in protest. I had intended to deal with the question of administration in the Post Office and Defence Department, but 1 shall not take up the time of the House to-night, because the debate is already old, and we shall have an opportunity to deal with those matters extensively when the 1 Estimates come on for consideration. But I do wish to say a little about the financial arrangements of the present Government. I will be as brief as possible, because a number of other honorable members desire to address themselves to this motion. I do not propose to read the figures which were used by the honorable member for Mernda last night.
– Did he steal the honorable member’s thunder ?
– He traversed some of the ground that I had intended to cover. The position which he put was that the Government are committed to an enormous expenditure in the immediate future, and that, so far, they have given us no indication - and I would specially commend this fact to the notice of the honorable member for Gippsland - as to how that money is to be raised. Surely, when a great political party claims to have a policy all its own, it ought at least to possess a financial policy. So far, however, I have failed to discover it. It is true that on two occasions I heard the Treasurer read a long statement of figures which appears in the Budget papers, but he has never given us the slightest hint as to how he intends to raise the money with which to meet our huge commitments in the immediate future.
– “ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– The honorable member for Grey has told us exactly what is the financial policy of the Government.
– What is the honorable member’s policy ?
– My policy is to extract from the Government a statement as to how they intend to meet the obligations with which we will be confronted during the next seven years. We have enjoyed in Australia during the past few years an unprecedented period of prosperity. Our exports have been very large, but our imports have been still larger. In other words, the * proportionate increase in our imports has been very much greater than the proportionate increase in our exports. I do not suggest that this is a necessary indication of the state of Exchange, but I do intend to quote a few figures with a view to showing l>5j honorable members that we have reached atime in our financial history when those; who are responsible for the administration’ of our affairs require to give this mattertheir closest attention. Otherwise they will: find it absolutely necessary to adopt a.-. policy of retrenchment, to cut down expenditure, to stop necessary public works, and to do what is perhaps still more dangerous, curtail our defence expenditure.
– Do not worry.
– The first word of warning that is raised in this Chamber is al-! ways regarded by my honorable friends opposite - whose policy has been so admirably! described by the honorable member tor Grey - as pessimism of the worst type. But’ I think I can show that there is very serious reason why we ought to consider our financial position if we wish to avoid running the ship of State upon the rocks.,1 Anybody who studies our imports and exports during the past year must conclude that we have been expending our capital upon our imports. In other words, we have been living above our national income. If honorable members will turn to the figures relating to the gold production of the pre-! sent year, they will see that during the first five months of it we produced 935,983 ozs.; The value of the gold shipped during the same period was £5)392,957. We imported1 into this country during the same period- £605,817 worth of gold. These figures show that during the first five months of this year we exported £1,142,739 worth of gold more than we produced, together with our imports, or at the rate of £2,752,573 for the twelve months. But these figures, do not reveal the whole position. I find that the Bank of New South Wales alone, has had to reduce-the money which it. held at short call in London during the past .few months to the extent of £1,365,000. The other banks have had to reduce money similarly held, and there is an amount ofl £4,000,000 or £[5,000,000 over and above, that which has been called upon in London during the last two months to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth. This state of things cannot continue. If honorable members will compare the prices whichwe received for our exports during 1912, with the prices which we obtained for them during 1901, they will see that if we had received the latter prices during this year, the value of our exports would have been £20,000,000 less than it was. That is a very significant fact. At thattime, money was dearer than in subsequent years. . We have now an upward move in the local money market, due to local conditions, and in the money markets of the world. The honorable member for Denison, and others who have studied this question, will agree that it is a well-known phenomenon that dear money means low prices, and cheap money means high prices. We are approaching a period of dear money, which may last for a considerable time, and the value of our production during the next twelve months will probably decrease a good deal.
– Will not that depend on developments in the East?
– There may be many disturbing factors, but we have been spending upon imports more than our national income. To meet our obligations we have had to ship more gold than we have produced - I have referred to our imports of gold - and our great financial institutions have had to draw extensively upon the large balances which they accumulated in London during the recent period of prosperity.
– The general exports have been reduced by one-half during the last six years.
– I think that the honorable member is incorrect. I believe that the exports of last year were a little less in value than those of the preceding year. Speaking generally, our exports have increased in value steadily during the past few years. The honorable member for Denison informs me that the exports in 1906 were valued at £69,737,763, and, in 191 1, at ,£79,482,285, an increase of £10,000,000 nearly.
– But what about the excess of the exports over the imports?
– I am not dealing with that. It must be evident to all who try to look ahead that this year our wool production will not be as large as it has been; our wheat yield, notwithstanding the recent rains, will be less than that of last year, and there will be a falling off in prices in the markets of the world. This will make it necessary for us to reduce our expenditure on imports, which will mean a diminution of revenue. In view of these facts, and the figures cited last night by the honorable member “for Mernda, the Treasurer in making his Budget speech should give us an exact statement of policy. If he intends to meet our huge and constantly growing expenditure by borrowing, he should tell us how much he intends to borrow, and, if by extra taxation, what form of tax he intends to apply. I have a few words to say regarding the note issue and the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member for Hindmarsh will agree with me that a note issue should never be divorced from banking. The Prime Minister could have obtained the revenue which has been obtained from the issue of Commonwealth notes without pledging the credit of the country for a single sixpence. But, in addition to pledging the credit of the Commonwealth by the issue of these notes, he has further pledged it by establishing the Commonwealth Bank. Remembering the enormous commitments of the future and the undeveloped state of the country, it must be admitted that we shall need every scrap of credit to meet the enormous obligations that will be forced upon us. I personally was prepared to support a Commonwealth Bank, but not to support the Bank that honorable members opposite introduced. First of all, I did not believe in the Savings Bank part of the business. The great cry at the time from honorable members opposite was that if the Bank was established, it would give far greater facilities to the general public than they could obtain at present. The arguments of the Prime Minister and of others opposite were that the Bank, being a Commonwealth institution, would be able to offer better terms and conditions. They said that was practically the reason they were establishing it. Now, however, that the regulations for the government 0? the Savings Bank portion of the Bank have been published, can honorable members opposite point to a single provision giving any greater facility of any appreciable character than the present Savings Banks now give to the people? So far as the rate of interest is concerned, the conditions are not as good as they are in some of the States. I do not think they are better than the existing conditions in any of the States, particularly so far as the small depositor is concerned. One regulation is really too funny in the light of what went before. It provides -
The Governor may debit any depositors account with a sum equal to the current bank rate of exchange when a withdrawal is made at any branch other than that at which the deposit was lodged.
Here we have the Commonwealth Bank, which was supposed to down the capitalistic institutions that were said to be fleecing the public, adopting the current *bank rate of exchange on remittances. When the Bill was going through the House, I remember honorable members opposite one after another exclaiming against the exchange charged by the banks. According to them, it was an iniquitous charge, and the existing vampire bloodsucking institutions were doing an awful thing in drawing in that way upon the money in the pockets of the public.
– The honorable member is now drawing upon his imagination.
– I “am only quoting from- those organs which support my hon- ora bie friends. Over and over again those honorable members declaimed against the bank rate of exchange. I pointed out in a speech on one occasion that the bank rate of exchange was a fair charge for services rendered, and I have no complaint to make against this regulation ; but it is an extraordinary thing that this institution, which was started by my honorable friends opposite to show the other banks how to conduct their business, and which was not going to fleece the public, actually adopts the current bank rate of exchange for any remittances which its customers happen to make. The Governor of the bank has done only what is fair and just, but this simply shows how wild were the promises made by honorable members opposite when the institution was started. I have not the slightest doubt that Mr. Miller will conduct it on as fair and sound lines as possible under the conditions which have been laid down for him, but honorable members opposite will be badly disappointed if they expect the bank to do any of those things which they so glibly promised the electors when they were upon the hustings. I believe that’ the indictment of the Government by the Leader of the Opposition has been fully justified, particularly in regard to the action taken by the Prime Minister during the Brisbane strike, the appointments made by the Government, and the policy of financial drift which they have allowed to go on. The honorable member for Grey says “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,” but any Government who adopt that as their financial motto will inevitably drive the ship of State upon the rocks. I ask the Government to take the question into serious consideration, and lay before the House a policy showing exactly how they intend to control the finances of this country during the next few years. If a policy of finance different from that which the Government have adopted up to the present is brought before us, I am sure that every member of this House will cooperate to make it as sound as ‘possible. Although the motion, as we know, has not the slightest chance of being carried here, I am sure it will be carried when an appeal is made next year to the electors of the Commonwealth to pronounce upon the shortcomings of the present Government.
.- May I be allowed to move the adjournment of the debate?
– I should like the honorable member to go on until 11 o’clock.
– In the government: of the country there are two essential arms : One is the civil arm, and the other the military arm. The civil arm can succeed admirably when all men are at peace. When there is a condition of satisfaction in the minds of all sections of the community, the civil arm can continue to exert its proper functions without the aid of the military. But when under more or less unfortunate circumstances conditions are evolved which make the general feeling electrical, then it is essentially necessary that for the sake of successful government and the control of the people all sections should know that there is a power behind the civil authority which is there to be exercised in order to enforce its demands and to uphold the law. It appears to me that there is in the minds of many honorable members on the Government side of the House a somewhat unworthy ideal, and. that is that, in addition to the government by the Parliament elected by and for the people with the aid of military authority, you can set up an independent form of government - that is, a government by a section of the community in the interests of the section and at the expense of all the other members of the community. One of the charges against the Labour Government is that, though they exist by virtue of the powers conferred by this Parliament, nevertheless they failed to call into exercise those functions of the military which are necessary to enforce their authority. Emboldened by this position, there have been quite a number of evidences under the Commonwealth that this Government is prepared to recognise to a certain extent, not in a constitutional, but in an unconstitutional and unwritten way, these other people who seek to govern without constitutional authority.We have had evidences of this in South-
Australia. We have only to peruse the records of the carriers’ strike, in Adelaide, and the Renmark strike to discover that there have been very serious inroads made upon the authority of the State Parliament. The same thing can also be said in respect of the Lithgow riots in New South Wales. There the condition of things became one of extreme danger to the citizens of the Commonwealth engaged in that conflict. I hold, from the facts which have been published, that it was essential on the part of the constitutional Government of the people to have asserted themselves more vigorously at that stage than they did, in order to show those who are desirous of setting up a second controlling factor in the land that the military were behind the constituted authority, and to maintain the rights of the Parliament and the rights of the whole community as against the faction. In connexion with the Lithgow strike, certain men were cited to appear before the Courts. I believe they were subject to arrest. They were tried in the Criminal Court, and sentenced to varying terms of imprisonment. But, no sooner were they sentenced, than a strong agitation was originated by those who seek to establish a government superior to the Government of the people to secure the release of the men. New South Wales has a Labour Socialist Government. Although they are backed up by the military arm, they are not sufficiently strong to exert that constitutional power which they possess, and they weakly yield to the clamour and the demands of those who seek to override the law. These people made demands for the release of the imprisoned men, and the Government yielded. That is to their eternal disgrace, because they have shown that they are prepared to flout the law and the constitutional authority in order to appease the almost insatiable appetite of those who seek to govern the people without constitutional authority. Some of these men have been liberated. One of them is still detained in custody, and now the clamour is such that the Government are being condemned by this section because he was not released with the others. I do not wish to prolong my speech by reading quotations, but I can produce evidence to show that the people who are setting’ up this unconstitutional form of government are prepared to challenge and condemn the constitutional authority because, for the time being, they have stiffened their backs, and said, “ No, we have released some, but we are not prepared to release all.”
– You have no evidence to produce.
– I have.
– Produce it.
– In answer to the challenge, I produce a clipping from the Argus of the 6th January last, which reads as follows -
At a large gathering of unionists and socialists at the Protestant Hall last night, to welcome Messrs. Scully and Williams, two of the Lithgow strikers who were released from gaol on Monday, Mr. J. O. Moroney (Tobacco Workers’. Union) said that it was a dastardly thing for the Labour Government to sit still and allow men to suffer - men who in the first place had never deserved punishment.
Mr. F. J. Riley (United Labourers Union) stigmatized the Government as cowardly. Mr. Scully, in reply, condemned the Labour Government for the attitude they had taken in the matter. The Government should no longer be regarded as representatives of the workers.
– Oh, shame !
– I say “ shame,” too. It is to the degradation of this country that men are prepared to flout the constituted authority in the. interests of those who are representative of nobody but their own selfish inconsiderate demands. This, also, goes to illustrate the more important fact that our own Government have failed. There was a serious disturbance at Brisbane. The Government were asked to furnish the necessary military force to maintain law and order.
– The Commonwealth took the military away fromthe States.
– That is the crux of the position. When Federation was initiated, the States relinquished control of the military, on the specific understanding that, if it became necessary to enforce the law by military force or display, that force or display would be provided by the Federal Government. But the Federal Government failed lamentably, and we have the further fact that the Prime Minister, so far from doing anything to aid the State which was for the time being in distress, was prepared to subsidize the strikers: It has now been stated by the Prime Minister that he gave a contribution in order to feed the women and children, but he did not take the necessary precaution to see that the money was devoted to that purpose. He sent the money to the strike fund, as is shown by a paragraph in the Hobart Mercury of 17th February, 191 2, to the effect that he handed the money to Mr. Adamson for the fund.
– He patted the revolutionists on the back!
-Yes ;and a more serious position or attitude for a Prime Minister to take up I cannot conceive. Then we have the statement made in regard to the Postmaster-General. I do not know whether that honorable gentleman is prepared to deny this or otherwise, but he is credited With having said that he was prepared to give those strikers who could not find work positions in the Post Office.
– In preference to law-abiding people !
– In preference to lawabiding people, if the honorable member likes. I charge the Government with having failed in their duty when the Queensland Government applied for assistance.. Even if the Federal Government thoughtit unwise at that stage to make a military display, it was their bounden obligation to send a more or less diplomatic reply. Instead, however, they sent a blunt and absolute refusal. They’ should at least have sent a reply which would have shown that, as a last resource, they were behind the State to maintain the law and the Constitution which, as Ministers of the Crown, they are sworn to administer. The real reason, I apprehend, why the Government refused to send assistance or a diplomatic reply was that they could not do so because they are under . the control of the trade unions, and the Hobart Conference had determined that such assistance should not be given. Further, during last session there was moved in another place, by Senator Rae, a motion which was not carried, but which is clear evidence of the determination and mind of the trade unions outside. I think that Senator Rae fairly represents what is the ultimate demand of the unions, and he moved -
That, in the opinion of the Senate -
The Defence Act should be so amended as to clearly set forth that the object of creating a Citizen Defence Voice based upon universal compulsory military training and service is for the purpose cf defending the Commonwealth against possible foreign aggression, and, therefore, under no circumstances should any person so enrolled be compelled to bear arms against any fellow Australian citizen, notwithstanding anything contained in the oath of allegiance Or in any other conditions of compulsory service.
That motion, coupled with the resolution of the Hobart Conference, is quite sufficient to bind the hands of the Government, and prevent them from carrying out their constitu tional obligations. It is, now11 o’clock, and I ask leave to continue my speech tomorrow.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Reception toright Hon. Jamesbryce.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I beg to suggest that the Speaker should, if agreeable to himself, leave the chamber abouta quarter past 3 o’clock to-morrow, and resume the Chair about 5 o’clock, so that honorable members may attend the reception to ourdistinguished visitor, the Right Hon. JamesBryce. I should like to add that it is proposed, inaccordance with an arrangement with the Leader of the Opposition, to bring this debate to a close on Friday, and it may be necessary to continue our sitting to-morrow later than usual.
Mr.poynton.-There are a number of honorable members yet to speak.
-We shall do our best.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11. 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 July 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120710_reps_4_64/>.