4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m.,. and read prayers.
Mr. FISHER. - I give notice of my intention to move on Tuesday next for leave to bring in a Bill to make provision- for the maternity allowance which the Government intends to establish.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH.- I wish to know from the right honorable gentleman whether he has ascertained to his own satisfaction that the passing of a Bill to provide a maternity allowance is within the constitutional powers of the Parliament? Has he obtained any legal opinion or opinions on the subject; and, if so, will he lay them on the table for honorable members to see? If he has not done so, that coursemay be advisable to prevent disappointment.
Mr. FISHER. - I have no opinion tolay on the table in support of the constitutional right of this Parliament to provide for a maternity allowance, because I do not think that that right is in doubt. The Government intends to proceed with the measure of which I have given notice; and, when it has been passed, will pay the money according to law.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH. - Am I to understand that the Prime Minister is introducing this important measure upon the strength of his own opinion as a laymanas to its constitutionality, seeing that there is great difference of opinion amongst constitutional lawyers? Has he any objection to getting the Attorney-General toexpress an opinion, or to submit the matter, under the Act passed some time ago, to the High Court to ascertain whether or not the course proposed is constitutionally correct ?
Mr. FISHER. - The basis of ray judgment in this matter is the fact that the Attorney-General’s Department drew up the measure in question. It would not draw up a measure that was not constitutional.
Mr. DEAKIN. - The Prime Minister is reported in the press to have said that he had. been informed that a woman in the Ballarat district had died because, being without money, she could not procure the assistance of- a nurse, although .that attention was asked for. I ask the right honorable gentleman if he is aware that the people of Ballarat maintain at their own expense - one fully qualified professional nurse, who visits every case to which she is summoned ; and that other nurses lend assistance, patients being supplied with necessaries, as well as medicines, free of charge? The clear implication of his statement was-
Mr. SPEAKER.- The honorable member is not how asking a question.
Mr. DEAKIN. - I ask the question because of the implication that Ballarat has not already made provision similar to that to be found in Melbourne and other Victorian cities for the nursing of destitute mothers, though such provision is made there, and help’ is freely given.
Mr. SPEAKER. - The honorable member is not now asking a question.
Mr. FISHER. - Although I do not vouch for the whole of the press report, I made a statement on the authority of a paragraph published in a Creswick newspaper in which the harrowing details of the case in question were given in full. The reading is very painful. The honorable member may see the paragraph if he likes.
Mr. Deakin. - Creswick is a dozen miles from Ballarat.
– Is it the intention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to apply to the growers of beet-root in Victoria the conditions relating to wages and hours of labour which are imposed on the growers of sugar cane in other States?
– The conditions apply to all engaged in the sugar industry throughout Australia.
– Prior to the issue of the regulations referred to, were communications made verbally or in writing to the Minister on behalf of the Australian Workers. Association, with a view to the framing of a more equitable form of agree- - ment between the growers and the workers ?
– Several honorable mem: bers, notably the- honorable member for Herbert, forwarded communications and made personal representations as to the advisability of altering the minimum rate of wages last year, but that was not done because of the appointment of the Sugar Commission. When there appeared to be no hope of a report from the Commission in time for its consideration in relation to this year’s operations, it was decided by the Cabinet that the new regulations should take effect.
Motor Car Tyres - Sale of Intoxicants
– The Minister of Home Affairs has called for tenders for the supply of two motor cars for use in connexion with the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, and has stipulated that they shall be supplied with Continental tyres. I wish to know why Australian and British makers of tyres were not given an opportunity to compete ?
– The cars in question are for use by the engineers in remote places, and great inconvenience or delay would be caused if accidents happened to them. Care is therefore being taken that well-known and reliable brands of material are obtained.
– That is a condemnation of the Australian and British motor car tyres.
– I wish to know whether the Minister accepted Continental tyres as being the best on the recommendation of his officers, and, further, if, when goods are required by our public Departments, he will see that a very distinct pre,ference is given to those of Australian manufacture.
– That is the policy of the Government.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, whether, in -the event of his acceding to the exhortations of . the temperance societies that no intoxicating liquor shall be sold along the route of the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgooorlie, he will take steps to see that no “ poison,” or “ snake juice,” is supplied to the men working on the line, inasmuch as it would be much better to supply them with liquor of good quality than the rubbish often compounded and sold as spirits?
– We hope and trust that all the men who will be working -on the line will be good Christians and teetotallers.
– I should like to obtain from the Minister of Home Affairs a more definite answer to my question, which, perhaps, I should have put in different terms. Seeing that the Temperance party are not concerned with the sale of good or inferior liquor - their one desire being to prevent ‘ the sale of intoxicating liquor of any kind - I desire to know whether the Minister will see that, if intoxicants are made available to the men working on the line, they shall be of good quality, and not such as those prepared and sold by sly-grog shops?
– I ask my “honorable friend to give notice of his question.
– In view of the fact that the Commonwealth has no sovereign rights over the land, other than that actually used for the purposes of the line, will the Minister of Home Affairs say whether there is any power in the Commonwealth Government to prohibit the sale of intoxicants along the route, and secondly, whether the Commonwealth Government could prevent either of the State Governments concerned, selling alcoholic liquors along the line?
– We shall :ask the Attorney-General to give us an opinion on the subject.
– I call the attention of 4he Minister of External Affairs to a report in this morning’s Age of a speech by the Rev. C. E. E. Lefroy, newly-appointed rector of Woodville parish, and late general secretary of the Australian Board of Missions, in which he makes certain statements regarding the treatment of the aborigines in the Northern Territory and other States -
As to Queensland the treatment meted out to the blacks in that State had been the worst of all, only there the work of extermination by rifle, poison, and disease was done some years , earlier. Even in the settled parts of the country public opinion among a certain section of the population gave no protection whatever to the blacks. They were looked upon by that section as little more than inferior animals, who might be -worked as slaves for what they were worth, and if they got at all troublesome might be quickly put out of the way without any hesitation.
Will the Minister ask this reverend gentleman for his authority for these statements, and also for the charge that the Government of Western Australia has not dared to make known the report of Dr. Roth concerning the treatment of aborigines in the north-west of that State? I know from personal knowledge that this latter statement is incorrect.
– I shall write a letter asking the reverend gentleman if he will give his authority for the statements.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs be good enough to see that the last report of the Commissioners for the re-distribution of Queensland is printed and circulated before he takes action in regard to it?
– At the request of the Provincial Daily Press Association of Victoria, I again invite the attention of the Prime Minister to a statement which he made in this chamber a short time ago to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank had been charged three times as much for advertising as was paid for certain private advertisements ?
– I read a letter on the subject.
– The writers of the letter on which the Prime Minister relied have forwarded me a further letter, in which they explain-
– Is the honorable member asking a question? Mr. DEAKIN.- Yes.
– I think the honorable member is going beyond the scope of a question.
-The writers explain plainly under what circumstances certain advertisements -are always thrice as expensive as others. The Prime Minister’s remark as it stands is considered to be unfair to the country press.
– The Leader of the Opposition has handed me a copy of the letter to which he has referred. What I stated was read from a letter from Messrs. Gordon and Gotch, which was handed to me. Since that time, the same firm has made an explanation that what was meant was that the fact that some advertising rates were three times larger than others was due to the difference between advertisements inserted fifteen or fifty times in the course of a year and casual advertisements inserted only once. That fact should be stated.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he has seen that the Agereports him to have said yesterday, in answer to the honorable member for Batman, that -
The quarantine authorities had decided to modify temporarily the regulations in regard to the importation of potatoes until the local supply was more advanced, but the regulations must be carried out until other States were free from Irish Blight.
I should like to ask the Minister who were the quarantine authorities to whom he referred j what local supplies he meant; and what States are free from Irish blight?
– I do not know whether the honorable member was present yesterday when I replied to a question of the honorable member for Batman. I will obtain for him a copy of the question and of my answer. The quarantine authorities to whom I referred I stated distinctly to be the chief quarantine officer of the Commonwealth, Dr. Norris, who had consulted with the plant quarantine authorities of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and, I think, South Australia. They agreed that it would be perfectly safe to relax the regulations in the matter referred to. I shall be pleased if the honorable member will look at the question asked yesterday, and the answer to it.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, without notice, whether he can give the House any positive assurance that the plan of distribution for the State of New South Wales will be laid before honorable members before the close of the session ; and, if so, when ?
– The plan will be ready to-morrow. Then I suppose it will have to remain in New South Wales for a little time.
– When shall we have it her.e?
– Not until a month from to-morrow. It may be here sooner, but not much later.
– What objection is there to obtaining copies of the plan referred to, and laying them upon the table of the House, so that the New South Wales representatives may see what the scheme is like?
– I will do that. When I said that the plan would not be before the House for a month, I meant that we shall not be able to move in the matter until it has been posted in New South Wales for a month.
– Can the Prime Minister give the House any information concerning the progress of the negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New Zealand in respect to the establishment of closer trade relations ?
– Informal communications have passed between the Commonwealth Government and three Prime Ministers of New Zealand. There have been rapid changes in the Government of the Dominion since the negotiations took place. No formal governmental communications have passed on either side. I am hoping that before this year is out, or shortly after the new year begins, a conference will take place between the two Governments with respect to the important matter referred to.
– Referring to the deputation which waited upon the Minister of Trade and Customs the other day with regard lo wages in the sugar industry-
– Which deputation? I have had several.
– I am alluding to the deputation of members of the Queensland Legislature. I should like to ask the Minister whether he has had his attention directed to a statement published in the Australian Sugar Journal, in which reference is made to the workers in the industry, and if so, whether he brought it under the notice of the deputation. The date of the publication is 8th August, 1912, and this journal is placarded as the official organ of the sugar-growers of Queensland. It states -
Arrayed against the farmers is a powerful and numerous band of men who have placed themselves, body and soul, in the hands of a few firebrands. The latter, in the great majority of cases, are possessed of the brains of babes, and the brazen assurance and cheek of the devil himself. They are gifted with tongues which never cease wagging, but froth and fume like Pacific rollers striking a rockbound shore during a heavy gale.
There is a good deal more of the same kind of matter. I should like to learn from the Minister whether he is of the opinion that language of that description is likely to promote a peaceable settlement of the sugar troubles in Queensland ?
– My attention had not previously been directed to the passage which thehonorable member has quoted, though I glance through the Australian Sugar Journal every month. I do not think that such writing as has been quoted is calculated to bring peace into the sugar industry.
– In view of the distinct community of interests between New Zealand and Australia, in the matter of the Panama Canal dues, can the Prime Minister inform the House at an early date as to the value, not only of the Australian trade with the eastern States of America, as well as the San Francisco trade; but also the value of the trade between eastern America and New Zealand? In view of the similarity of interests to which I have referred, I think that probably the Prime Minister might see the advisableness of taking common action.
– The first thing to be desired in the matter referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth is to get the two countries to confer. Then they can define a course of action. All information with respect to reciprocity between the Commonwealth and the Dominion will be made available to honorable members as soon as practicable.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister, without notice, whether, in connexion with all trade treaties between parts of the Empire, he has seen a report recently published by the Dominion Govern ment in South Africe on the unequal working of these trade arrangements under recent treaties?
– I am sorry to say that I have not read the document referred to. I shall be very glad to read it.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, without notice, whether he has been approached by people in Queensland or New South Wales with a view of having the tick regulations brought under Federal control?
– I believe that the New South Wales authorities have approached the Commonwealth quarantine authorities with a view of asking us to take charge of tick regulations. If the honorable member will give notice of a question I will have the matter looked into and give him a definite answer.
– I desire to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he will make available to honorable member copies of the judgment delivered by Mr. Justice Isaacs in the recent Vend case?
– I shall be glad to do so.
– I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether it is intended to give a preference to fuel oil produced in Australia in connexion with the supply required for our war ships ?
– The preference will depend altogether on the circumstances surrounding the article generally.
Applications for Engineers - Electoral Rolls, South Australia - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway : Sale of Intoxicants
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is “Yes.”
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When will the South Australian electoral rolls be ready for distribution?
– Within one week from this date.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. I have been so informed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Are members of the Commonwealth Defence Forces (Naval or Military) entitled to any allowance, compensation, or pension on retiring from service ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
Members of the permanent sea-going Naval Forces who have joined or re-engaged since 1st July, 1911, are entitled to deferred pay, which, with accumulated interest, is paid to them at the termination of their engagement or on retirement. Particulars are given as to scale and conditions of payment in Statutory Rule No. 18 of 1912, paragraphs 42, 43, and 44.
The only other cases are those members of the Forces who, under State laws prior to Federation, are entitled to pensions.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. Communications are now passing with the State Governments with the object of ascertaining their views as to the desirableness of being represented at the exhibition. As soon as these are received the Government will consider the matter fully, and if it is decided that Australia should be represented will take steps tosecure the required space.
asked theMinister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Tenders for three new Exchanges were due on 28th August, 1912.
Conduit and cable works are proceeding in every direction, and generally every possible step is being taken wilh the means at the Department’s disposal to bring this section of the work up to a stateof full efficiency.
As indicating the steps which have been and are being taken, the following figures are given : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Strike at Mitchell’s Cement Works : Ministerial Recommendation or’ Men for Employment - Shipments of Butter.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House what quantity of butter was shipped from Australia to London in April, June, July, and August - the months in which he compared Australian and London prices?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The quantity of butter shipped from Australia to London during the months stated was as follows : -
The particulars for August will be supplied as soon as they are available.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether the Commonwealth Government have the power, under the Constitution, to enter into competition or engage in the carrying of passengers and cargo for profit by ships between, say, Melbourne and Launceston, Tasmania?
– As this is a question of law, it would not be in accordance with parliamentary practice for me to answer it.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement re Pensions for year ended 30th June, 1912.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Merredin, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
– I move -
That this House is of the opinion that the definition in the Post and Telegraph Act pf all newspapers must carry with it the necessity of all leading and special articles, commentary paragraphs, reports, and letters, being signed by the writers thereof.
It is very difficult to get much information on a question of such vital interest as this is to the profession of journalism - which has my full sympathy. One of my objects in trying to persuade the House to agree to this motion is to raise the profession to the head of other professions, because the average ability of its members is very high ; and certainly they deserve a position where they can write independently and give the best fruit of their brains, not at the behest of an employer, but as their heart pulsates. On any subject of great vital importance the public should know the names of the men who write with such nobility of thought, and who sometimes contribute such splendid articles. I want to give a quotation which I have taken from an old edition of the British Encyclopedia -
On. 16th July, 1850, the Assembly passed what is called the- “ Loi Tinguy ,” by which the author of every newspaper article on any subject - political, philosophical,, or religious - was bound to affix his name to it, on penalty of a fine of 500 francs for the first offence, and of 1,000 francs for its repetition. Every false or feigned signature was to be punished by a fine of 1,000 francs, “ together with six months’ imprisonment, both for the author and the editor.” The practical working of this law lay in the creation of a new functionary in the more important newspaper offices, who was called “ secretaire de- la redaction,” and was, in fact, the scapegoat ex officio. In February, 1852, all the press laws were incorporated, with increased stringency, into a “ Decret organique sur la presse.”
T have read somewhere, though I cannot recollect my authority, that that law has fallen into abeyance, but that the usage lias- continued’, and that is one reason why the profession of journalism ranks higher to-day in France than it does in any other European country. Repeatedly when the arguments used in leading or special articles have the weight of ability behind them, having regard to the greatness Qf the object in view, influence and power are given to the newspapers in which they appear. With very few exceptions, that is unknown wherever the English flag flies. I may mention that the Edinburgh Review, after close upon a century of anonymity, has at last followed the example of the majority of periodicals, and in the copy I hold in my hand the names of the writers of splendid articles appear. By that means a new type of journalism has sprung up in the midst of the English world. Wherever men become experts in any great question, their names are a surety that the articles to which they are appended will be read by all who take an interest in the subject. When I took some action in this matter some years ago, I was unable to compliment the journalists of Australia as I can do at the present moment. Not only in Victoria, but throughout the length and breadth of Australia, is the Australian Journalists Association. I am credibly informed that a large sum, equal, perhaps,, to ^15,000 - certainly it is more than ^10,000 - is disbursed amongst the writers who in the past were oftentimes too little paid for working a very large number of hours. One journalist in New South Wales, I believe - where he is 1 cannot say - worked on one occasion for seven consecutive weeks of seven days each, and I am afraid, if necessary, for unlimited hours. Wilh the power of this association that is almost an impossibility to-day. A journalist now is not ashamed to carry a bit of metal on his watch-chain to show that he belongs to the association, or union, which has a branch in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Bendigo, Hobart, and1 Adelaide, and sub-branches in Broken- Hill and Perth. There are agreements drawn in reference to< the metropolitan dailies, and their allied weeklies. In connexion with the suburban newspapers of Melbourne,, there are advantages which previously journalists could not claim. The Country Press Association of New. South Wales, too, has ari agreement, and so, too, has the Provincial Press of Victoria. I may say that 90 per cent, of its members are covered by one or other of these engagements, and the status of journalists is greatly improved by the- very fact of the association being so strong. I am glad to claim that it was in connexion with a great daily newspaper in Melbourne - I think it was the Argus - this effort was started and became successful. For the first time there is a limit to the hours of work, and that, roughly speaking, is eight hours. I take this opportunity of thanking very sincerely the Clerk of the House of Representatives in New Zealand,, who . has. sent me a great deal, of data. I found such a great dearth of material on this question that, had it not been for the extreme courtliness of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, Mr. Holman,, to whom I must give the credit of having introduced the first Bill, so far as 1 can learn, in any State in Australia dealing with the subject, I could not have obtained at least one valuable quotation which I purpose to give when I come to speak of signed journalism. The Newspaper Articles Bill of 1905, which was introduced by Mr. Holman on the 4th July - a great day for freedom - contained the following definition - “ Newspaper “ includes any publication printed for sale, and which consists wholly or in substantial part of political or other news, or of articles relating thereto, or other current topics with or without advertisements, and which is published in New South Wales in numbers at intervals not exceeding one week. 1 desire to call particular attention to clause 3 of that Bill-
To every article published in a newspaper, there shall be prefixed or affixed the true name of the author of the article.
If to any article in any newspaper such name is not prefixed or affixed, the proprietor of the newspaper shall be liable to a penally not ex.ceeding Ten pounds, which penalty may be recovered in a summary way before any Court of Petty Sessions.
No doubt the provision for the recovery of a penalty in any Court of petty sessions was inserted to save expenses. The mea’sure introduced in the New Zealand Legislature by Mr. Hindmarsh copies the provision which has, in some cases, given . so much satisfaction, and, in other cases, some little dissatisfaction in connexion with elections in Australia. Through the courtesy of Mr. Holman, I am able to read a quotation from one great journalist, who, amongst his brethren, stood out, like Himalaya, so high did he stand, and so revered is his memory now wherever the English tongue is spoken. I allude to the late Sir James Knowles, who created and carried to splendid success, the Nineteenth Century, which is now known as the Nineteenth Century and After. In Mr. Wilfrid Ward’s Ten Personal Studies, on page 75, there is the following -
More than a quarter of a century’s experience has sufficiently tested the practical efficacy of the principle upon which The Nineteenth Century was founded, of free public discussion by writers invariably signing their own names !
The success which has attended, and continues to attend, the faithful adherence to this principle, proves that it is not only right, but acceptable, and warrants the hope that it may extend its influence over periodical literature until unsigned contributions become quite exceptional.
No man can make an anonymous speech with his tongue, and no brave man should desire to make one with his pen ; but, having the courage of his opinions, should be ready to face personally all the consequences of all his utterances. Anonymous letters are everywhere justly discredited in private life, and the tone of public life would be raised in proportion to the disappearance of their equivalent - anonymous articles - from public controversy.
In so far as The Nineteenth Century and After has helped to further that good end, it may claim for the writers, whose names are recorded in the following catalogue, that they have rendered a public service-
Knowles considered this to be the greatest achievement of his literary life. As one who has borne the brunt and turmoil of over a score of years of political life, I may say that many a time I have seen the keen energies and brilliant brains of a member of the fourth estate sink under the pressure of long hours, and, frequently, of not too-well-paid work. I know of no profession where the stress of mental labour is so severe as in that of the ordinary literary hack on any of our great daily newspapers ; I think he would be the last to seek to have his profession severed from presentday ethics. A leader-writer of to-day is the only one, I think, who follows the sophism of writing on either side of a question at the command of another; and this is only done because journalism is under the shadow of secrecy. If a leader-writer of well-known critical powers and wide experience were to throw his whole energy and determination into his work, and to append his name to his writings, he would receive full praise and credit from the public, and would become fairly well known, even as the politician, thus making the bridge between journalism and politics much easier than it is to-day. -Ask any ordinary man in the street who writes the splendid articles that appear in the daily press of Melbourne, and he is, in all but a few cases, unable to say. Those who care to make inquiries can learn, perhaps, that a splendid article in the Age on Protection is from the pen of Mr. Benjamin Hoare, or, it may be, written by Mr. Schuler, or Mr. Pratt; and if those articles were signed by the writers they would carry much more weight than they do when cloaked with the editorial “ We.” This is one reason why the French Ministry contains more journalists than perhaps the Ministry of any other European country. There are five or six journalists in the French Ministry - M. Messiney, who is Minister of Marine ; M. Cailloux, Minister of Justice; M. Cruppi, Minister of Foreign Affairs; M. Steeg, Minister of Public Works, Post Office, and Telephones; and M. Couyba Minister of Agriculture. M. Steeg is the correspondent of four newspapers, and M. Couyba is president of the Society of Authors. Our own Parliament is not destitute of members of the fourth estate. On this side of the House we have the honorable member for New England, the honorable member for Capricornia, the honorable member for Bourke, the honorable member for Werriwa, the honorable member for Cook, and the honorable member for Macquarie. On the other side we have the honorable member for Ballarat, whose name must appeal at once to those who have read some of his splendid- works. I well remember the fine series of articles he wrote years ago on the irrigation of India ; and I may say that those articles would not hold the place they do to-day if they had not been written under or over the name of the honorable member. The honorable member for Boothby and the honorable member for Franklin have also, 1 understand, swayed the pen.
– And there is the honorable member for Angas.
– Whatever the honorable member for Angus writes I read with keen appreciation and pleasure. If newspaper articles were signed, journals with a policy would employ men of knowledge, courage, and consistency. One of the greatest qualities of a statesman or a politician is consistency ; and I am sure consistency in a writer of newspaper articles would bring him praise and credit. The public often, by the repetition of headlines, have their opinions formed and moulded. If the public read in one newspaper to-day a splendid article advocating the adoption of a Protective policy for the Commonwealth, and in the course of a few months saw in another journal an equally strong article by the same writer in favour of a Free Trade policy they would know precisely what value to place upon these contributions, and, consequently, would not be misled. In France, where a distinction is made between contributors, leader.writers, and the proprietors of newspapers, it is not singular for a journalist who has won his laurels, who has established a reputation as a man of knowledge, but who has been badly treated, to be taken up by a wealthy individual who is prepared to intrust him with the conduct of a new newspaper. Journalists are certainly the leaders of thought, but to-day the newspapers which employ them alone secure the credit attaching to their contributions. I would like to see journalists known as well as politicians and professors are known. A leader-writer of recognised consistency and character would then lend weight to the newspaper which employed him. How often when one has read a brilliant article pulverizing a Government, a politician, or an opponent, has one wished that he knew its author in order that he might clasp him by the hand? My experience of men who have won their spurs in the literary world is that they are well worth knowing. Journalists are sometimes compelled to write for newspapers which might be purchased, but in saying that I am not alluding to any of our daily journals. I know that the grim old man and stern who used to own the Age, and who passed away some time ago, could not be bought at any price. Nor do I think that anybody Could buy the young man who owns that journal to-day, and who recently exhibited such conspicuous bravery in an encounter with an armed ruffian. I have too great a respect for the Argus to imagine that it could be purchased. But in other countries newspapers have been bought and leaderwriters have been required to use their brains to further an object against which their consciences rebelled. It is, therefore, within the realm of reason that a great combine might purchase a newspaper and conduct it to further its own ends. We know, too, that the proprietors of some journals frequently adopt a policy which is dictated by their advertisement columns. In this connexion I propose to quote the remarks of the Attorney-General of New South Wales, who said -
The theatrical criticism was written to the order of the proprietors, and the proprietors were guided by the advertising columns as to what they should Say. He had to write to order. The first requirement of the public was that these men should be allowed to say what was in their own minds, and not to be subordinated to others. He never saw anything so dishonest in his life as the criticism of the Melba Opera Company.
The visit of that company is of so recent a date that it must be within the memory of all honorable members. The Jingo war scares, which are worked up in Europe today, and especially in England, are written for the purpose of increasing the sales of certain newspapers. Everybody knows that if a newspaper possesses a large circulation it is sure to attract a large number of advertisements. I recollect twenty-five years ago when the Le Petit Journal of France used to charge £2 per single line for its advertisements, which is equivalent to fifty francs. It had a circulation of just about 1,000,000 and was read by close upon 5,000,000 people. The South African war was engineered by newspapers which were pulled by the moneyed strings which dominated that country. I am glad to recall that the alien race which was imported into the Rand mines at the conclusion of that war has since been repatriated. If there is one circumstance which sheds lustre on the British flag it is the grant of selfgovernment, which has since been made by the Imperial authorities to the South’ African States. In the greater knowledge which we now possess, we know that many of the brilliant articles which were written prior to that campaign were false and wicked. The men who were publicly assailed in connexion with that war are today heard in silence and with appreciation.
Even a member of the British Cabinet - I allude to Mr. Lloyd George-
– We might never have had “ Junius “ if press articles had to bear the signatures of their authors.
– But “Junius,” had his name been known, was writing at the peril of his life. At that time the challenge was easily given by the practised duellist. Anonymity in those days was, therefore, necessary. But it is not so now. To-day we could put the practised duellist in gaol even on the slightest threat, as my honorable friend will agree. The politician takes his political life in his hands. When he stands upon the public platform he has not the shield of anonymity. But the man who writes behind that shield too frequently puts into articles pin-pricks which are a dishonour to him and to the profession which he follows. The public should know our newspaper writers, because they are the guides of popular opinion. How much grander would journalists appear if they were known to be consistent in the objects and ideals which they advocate ! The members of the parliamentary staffs of great newspapers are specialists. No politician, at all events in his early months of apprenticeship, can possibly hope to know as much as these brilliant specialists. Yet we know that many of these writers cannot give expression to their own convictions. Why? Because their bread and butter are at stake. But they would be very much more revered if their names were known to the public.
– They might receive less money.
– No. The fact that an additional ^15,000 annually is being paid to the pressmen employed in Melbourne since the establishment of the Australian Journalists Association, and that they have to work only eight hours a day instead of an unlimited number of- hours, proves that if they were known to the public they would receive an even higher wage. Do the brilliant writers who sign their articles in our periodicals to-day receive a less salary because their names are known ? If the honorable member will take the trouble to inquire^ he will find that the rates now being paid to them are much higher than they were when they wrote under the cloak of anonymity. The public are not given the honest views of journalists, but the views of the proprietors who pay them. I have already referred to the question of Protection and Free Trade, and I ask what would be thought of any man who on a public platform would advocate Free Trade to-day and Protection to-morrow.
– That is what they do.
– That is what journalists are doing to-day under the existing system, but if they had to sign their names to their articles they would gradually secure the support of the public by writing honestly what they believe, and would not be compelled as they are now to do what their consciences do not approve. The publication of the names of writers would compel consistency on their part, otherwise the public would not continue to accept their guidance. The politician’s best armour is consistency, and a contempt for sordid considerations. The lawyer who gave incorrect advice on a question of law would soon find himself in difficulties. He must not enunciate in Court what he knows to be bad law, and he dare not say to a jury, “In my opinion such a man is innocent,” or the presiding Judge would pull him up with a round turn. But the journalist is to-day at liberty to write what he really does not believe in such a way as to lead to the impression that he does believe it. If our journalists are to rise to th’e position to which their great average abilities entitle them, I know of nothing which will help them better than the adoption of the course I suggest.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that the abolition of the ballot might be advocated on the same principle.
– The honorable gentleman is aware that voting by ballot was adopted as a means of protecting the weak against the strong, and for the prevention of bribery and corruption. I should gladly welcome the time when every man and woman might register their votes openly and untrammelled by any pressure which might be exercised by wealth and power. I am, thanks to the Sydney Bulletin, in a position to make a few quotations in support of what I have said. I shall conclude with these, because I have already spoken longer than I intendeds In an article published on the 26th July, 1912, the Bulletin deals with this subject in the following cogent terms -
First of all, the Tory press claims that all its articles are virtually signed already, because the publisher puts his name to the whole paper, including the lost dog advertisement, and the announcement of Jane Smith’s marriage to Samuel Hogg, and takes the whole nominal responsibility, often for a very moderate salary. That plea is palpably unconvincing, because everybody knows that the publisher’s signature in this connexion is bogus.
I have seen a publisher standing at the Bar of this House, though every member of it knew that he had had nothing whatever to do with the writing of the article which was complained of. Although he Was fined, it was well known that he would not have to pay the fine. The writer of the article and the owner of the newspaper went scot-free, and it was pitiable to notice the futility of Parliament attempting to secure justice by the punishment of an innocent man. The Bulletin article continues -
The average publisher does not help to keep lies and misrepresentations out of the paper. He is not ashamed - nor is he expected to be ashamed - when they get in, for he probably would not know a literary lie if he saw it. . . . Then the Tory press advances a second plea, which is that papers are truthful, reliable, and accurate, even without the guarantee which would be afforded if writers had personally to carry the obloquy attaching to gross ignorance or gross misrepresentation. . Let a few cases be selected at random : How many hundreds of times have the Sydney morning papers said, or implied, that the concession of the Federal Capital to New South Wales was the only condition on which that State could be induced to join the Commonwealth?
– She would never have done so but for that.
– Perhaps the honorable member will deny this statement–
Who would imagine from that tale that New South Wales gave a majority for Federation at the first referendum, leaving the site of the Capital an open question ; that the affirmative Vote was many thousands in excess of the 50,000 which New South Wales had agreed with the other States should be a sufficient minimum, but that faith was broken, and the acceptance annulled by a gang of liars and traitors in the Legislature of the day, and that it was by this act of repudiation that the whole question was reopened, and possession of the Capital secured?
That is history. The Bulletin would not have dared to print that statement if it had not been true, because the facts were readily available -
Again, there is the question of the diverse railway systems.
South Australia and Victoria agreed to adopt the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge and, New South Wales then stood out for the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge. When South Australia and Victoria had built many miles of railway on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge, New South Wales went back to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge. It should not be forgotten that “the Sydney Bulletin depends upon the people of New
South Wales more than upon those of any other State for support. The article continues -
Then, again, who does not remember the six hatters lie?
Who can say who wrote that lie? And I ask honorable members to consider how mean and feeble the writer of it would appear if his name had been attached to it -
Then, again, there is the Petriana perjury, and the famous Ananias of the early Federation days about how the other States were living on revenue contributed by New South Wales. . . . And there appeared in a very prominent organ an impassioned article about the unbrotherliness of Victorians in levying a crushing duty on New South Wales coal.
The proprietors of that newspaper knew or should have known that there was no duty upon coal levied by Victoria. Yet that lie was sent throughout New South Wales with a certain object. How contemptible the writer of it would have appeared if he had been obliged to attach his name to it -
But a sort of remedy lies in making the literary- or the literary incapable who writes this sort of thing to put his name to it, and thus carry his own disgrace in public. This has been tried in a small way. The reason why the Labour party begins to believe in signed journalism all round is that it has made a casual experiment with the system, and has found it pay so far as things have gone. Under the existing law, all political articles published during a Federal election campaign must be signed. Straightway there disappeared out of the Tory press the free-love lie, the burstedhomeanddisruptionofthemarriage lie, the wholesaleconfiscation lie - in fact, all the best and largest and most garish anti-Labour lies.
I wish to see the journalist rise high. I have felt the misery of losing a man whom I esteemed a friend, and with whom I had eaten, drunk, and smoked. I found that when the opportunity came for some petty little paragraph, a stab in the back was given to me; but I regret the loss of the friendship. The honorable member for Balaclava stigmatised as false and untrue a paragraph in a weekly journal reflecting on the party to which I belong, and its writer would never have dared to pen it had he known that it would have to be signed with his name. If the motion is carried, it will be for the Government to prevent any newspaper, no matter how strong and powerful, from taking advantage of the benefits of our postal system, unless it complies with the conditions I have laid down. I hope that the proprietors of newspapers will recognise that the days of the “We” have passed. Many persons think that the leading article has seen its best day, and that paragraphs and shorter articles are now more suitable reading for the public. I hope that the signing of all articles will give good results, as the signing of articles connected with elections has done. When articles are signed, the people whose pennies make the- newspapers powerful will know whom they honour or blame. They will give full credit to the splendid brains and magnificent ability that has written the article that is good, and this will allow even those who are flow on the mountain tops of journalism to rise still higher. If I was in error in saying that the Australian Journalists’ Association started in the Argus office, I regret it. Whatever the office in which the brains that first conceived the idea of its formation were employed, their possessor must be glad to-day to see the benefit that has accrued to his fellow-workers. I hope that the motion will be carried, and that the Postmaster-General will see his way to frame a regulation to give effect to it.
.- I understand that our constitutional right to do what is proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne has been questioned ; but we must certainly have the right to do what he proposes, seeing that we have provided in section 180 of the Electoral Act that, in addition to bribery and undue influence, the following practices shall be illegal -
Any publication of any electoral advertisement, land-bill, or pamphlet, or any issue of any electoral notice, without at the end thereof the name and address of the person authorizing the same, and on the face of the notice the name and address of the person authorizing the notice.
For non-compliance with that provision ve have attached the penalty of a fine of £100, or imprisonment not exceeding six months. Moreover, under the Post and Telegraph Act we have empowered the Postmaster-General to declare what shall be considered a newspaper. Therefore, if the motion be carried, we must have the right to pass a measure to give effect to it.
– A regulation under the Post and Telegraph Act would be sufficient.
– The Act would have to be amended.
– I think there would have to be an amendment of the Act regarding the definition of a newspaper, and providing that newspaper articles shall be signed. 1 hope that it will not be imagined, because I found it necessary to take certain action concerning two or three journalists, which was disastrous for them, that I am actuated by spleen in regard to the journalistic profession. About seventeen years of my life was spent at the printing trade, several of them in a newspaper office, and I know what the work of journalists is. I agree with the honorable member for. Melbourne that probably the two most arduous professions are those of the busy general medical practitioner and a journalist on a morning daily newspaper. I am proud of having quite a number of friends on the press, but that does not blind me to the faults of the press of the present day. There has been an extraordinary change in the status of journalists during the past tweny-five years. I re; member the time when a newspaper proprietor was an individual who was proud of his journal, and extremely jealous of its and his reputation. He would have scorned to do some of the things that are done by the large journals which are owned, not by individuals, but by bodies of shareholders. The battles of freedom of speech, thought, and the press have been fought and won, and the time has come when we should restrict the licence that has grown out of the liberty of the press. During the past 100 years the freedom of the press has developed into license, and at that license the motion aims. I cannot, in the limited time at my disposal, deal with this matter as fully as I should like. T will give honorable members a sample of the class of literature that members of Parliament have to endure. It is the kind of writing which, if published in the press, ought to be accompanied by the name of the writer. I do not believe that if a law of the kind now advocated were established we should have anything like the number of slanderous articles and paragraphs which have been appearing. The Werriwa election, as the outcome of action taken by this Parliament in regard to the signing of articles, was the cleanest election on record. Accusations about the abolition of the marriage tie, free love, and all that kind of thing were not mentioned during the campaign.
– A great deal of “ mud was thrown at Mr. Conroy.
– I do not know what the honorable member means.
– - The “ mud “ was not thrown through the press.
– I know that certain newspaper articles were distributed, but the honorable member for Wentworth knows who was responsible for that.
– Were they signed?
– Every article was signed, and that is what we are asking for generally. Let the men who are prepared to write the sort of stuff that I am about to read sign their articles, and we are quite prepared that they shall publish them. The following appeared in The Farmer, a newspaper printed in Melbourne, on 1 8th November, 19 10 -
The Labour party Government have taken to giving garden parties. The first was a rehearsal confined strictly to Labour members and their wives. It was held at the Federal Parliament gardens, and everybody present behaved themselves, and put on their best and most genteel air. No one ate too much, and no one was drunk. After this lucky experience they launched out. Practice had made perfect, and the Dutch Fleet provided the opportunity for the display of well-practised and really pretty behaviour. Although most of the Labour party in Parliament, and many of its members from outside, were present, there was no brutality, no drunkenness, and no bad language. At least, very little. All the men had clean boots, had washed their faces, oiled their hair, used plenty of scent, and used their handkerchiefs.
It will be observed that the statement that there is no brutality, no drunkenness, no bad language, is accompanied by the qualification “at least very little.” That is, apparently, intended to indicate that there was some brutality, some drunkenness, and some bad language. Here is another sentence -
The Dutch Commodore was much impressed. His remark about the Ministers was : - “ Though they are not gentlemen, they try their best to be genuine imitations.”
I do not believe that the Dutch Commodore made any remark of the kind. But the writer of the article says that the Commodore made use of such an observation, and this journal containing the statement is circulated amongst the farmers throughout Victoria, and, possibly, in other States also. I appeal to honorable members whether it is not a fair thing that the wretched man who wrote this, and who probably accepted the hospitality of the Labour Government at the function to receive the Dutch Commodore and his officers, should not have been compelled to put his name to his statement? In my opinion, the change now advocated would be a very fine thing for the journalistic profession in Australia. At the present time even good journalists sometimes experience a difficulty in obtaining employment, for the reason that newspaper proprietors can get, for example, a town clerk in a municipality in Victoria to write leading articles at half-a-crown per thousand words.
– Or a clergyman.
– No doubt some clergymen write articles also. Certain civil servants in high positions, ;at salaries of £600 and ^700 a year, have been writing leading articles, for the morning newspapers in unfair competition with journalists, many of whom may be out of employment.
– Members of Parliament may write leading articles.
– They may, and there is no injustice in requiring that when they do they shall sign their articles. We have appearing in newspapers in various countries throughout the British Dominions leading articles that have been written by military officers, whose profession is war, and who do their best to inflame the public mind. If the public only knew the names of the writers of the articles they would be able to take them at their true worth. During the Werriwa election no articles dealing with the contest appeared in the Melbourne Age or Argus, or in the Sydney Morning Herald or Daily Telegraph. At previous elections we have had leading articles without number in those journals. There was never a by-election but the gentlemen in the editorial chairs allowed their columns to be filled with articles abusing the Labour party. I think that the time has arrived when the editor of a morning journal should be deprived of a little of the halo which surrounds him. He struts about with a fine air of thinking a great deal of himself.He is spoken of with bated breath. People approach him as a great Eastern military commander might expect a subordinate to approach, taking three steps, and then saluting, taking another three steps and saluting again, and finally retiring from the “ Royal “ presence backwards. It is time that the extraordinary reputation that the editor of a newspaper has - that reputation for wisdom which sometimes he never possesses - was known for what it is worth. It is often due to the fact that all the clever articles which go into the newspapers, written by a dozen different men, are considered by people who know nothing about the inner workings of newspaper offices to be the work of the editor. Consequently people think him a very great man indeed.
– He gets the credit for other people’s brains.
– He does. These clever journalists give the best of their work to the service of a newspaper, and it is buried in the journal’s columns. The editor and the proprietor get all the benefit from it. When the time comes for the journalist to be retired, perhaps because he is not so alert as he was, or because the editor has taken objection to him, or because the proprietor does not like some article which he has written, he has no capital in his reputation, because he is only known to the editor of the journal which he has served. Whereas, if we in Australia became acquainted with the names of the bright journalists who write these articles, not only should we have better articles written - because a man would take greater pride in his work if he put his name to it - but there would be greater competition for the services of the journalists, and their salaries would be increased without a doubt. Another important result would, I believe, be that we should have a greater number of newspapers. It is almost impossible now to start a newspaper in competition with the Melbourne Age, with its circulation of 135,000 per day, and the Argus, with a similar circulation, I suppose; because the principal journals have cornered all the talent. The names of the writers are not known to the general public, and persons who would otherwise be inclined to start newspapers see enormous difficulties in the way. But if the journalists signed the articles which they wrote, and people got to know their names, there would be a stimulus to newspaper enterprise, or the people would become so thoroughly disgusted with some of the articles published that they would say, “ We are getting tired of this.”
– If all articles were signed, the writers of some of them wouid be invited to pistols and coffee before breakfast.
– I repeat that, in criticising the Argus, I am not referring to some of its staff employed in this House. Indeed, I can give a testimonial to one of them whose name I do not know, but who made a very good condensation of a lengthy speech which I delivered in this House yesterday. My observations extended over an hour and a half, and a man who could, as he did, successfully condense such a speech into thirty lines, is something of a genius. If the writer of the leading articles in the Melbourne Argus, however, had to sign his name, the general public would very soon become tired of that journal, and would demand a new one to represent their opinions. We should soon see an advertisement inviting those favorable to the publication of a new newspaper to attend a meeting, and there wouldbe a rush of applicants for shares in a company with that object in view. That would be a very good thing for the Conservative thought of the State.
– Did the Honorable member ever know a capable editor who was also a good business man?
– No. As a rule the editorial and business departments are entirely different branches of a newspaper office. The editor usually confines his attention to the editorial department; and where one man tries to act both as editor and business manager the newspaper concerned generally fails. The editor and the business manager are usually men of entirely different temperament. I do not believe that any newspaper editor would do what Mr. Watkin Wynne, the great anti-Socialist of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and the late Mr. Samuel Cook, business manager of the Sydney Morning Herald, did some time ago, when they waited on the doorstep of the Postmaster-General’s Department with the object of securing communistic concessions for their respective newspapers. I sincerely hope that this motion will be carried. I am sure that its adoption would not only purify newspapers from writings such as those which I have quoted this afternoon, but that it would raise the standard of journalism, increase the salaries of journalists, and generally elevate the standard of newspaper literature throughout Australia.
.- If anything would justify this motion, it is the fact that journalism in Australia has considerably altered of late. Honorable members who support this proposition do so with bursts of well-meaning enthusiasm to prevent the great daily newspapers of Australia in any way animadverting upon political matters generally, as well as elections while in progress. We have already in force an Act which successfully prevents public criticism at electiontimes when public criticism of political issues is invaluable.
– It does not prevent it. It simply requires that the name of the writer shall be given.
– All that is wanted is the name of the writer ! I have here some new elements in the journalism of this country - Labour elements - elements that, I hope, have come to stay, but stay, I trust, after they have amended their methods. I find, for instance, that the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, and who spoke with great eloquence about the genius, but forgot the philanthropy, of an Argus reporter who had managed to condense into thirty lines a long speech made by him, failed to tell us that he is, in some way, I think, connected with what I would describe as the cleverest Labour weekly in Australia - the Brisbane Worker.
– - He is a genius.
– The Brisbane Worker enjoys the occasional services of my distinguished friend, and I hope that he is not going, in this respect, to hide his light under a bushel. He claims that reporters should make known their identity, and I hope that he will admit that he does some occasional correspondence work for this newspaper.
– He signs his name to it.
– Does the honorable member refer to the weekly contribution to the Brisbane Worker dealing with the work of the Federal Parliament? There is an extraordinary silence. I am anxious only to find out whether what is, perhaps, the bestwritten letter in the Brisbane Worker, dealing with the affairs of the Federal Parliament, is not contributed by my honorable friend.
– I can assure the honorable member that it is not.
– The contributor, whoever he is, is careful to disguise his identity, for the article is simply headed “ From our special correspondent.” It has not attached to it a name that we should all look up to and revere. The supporters of this motion profess an undying desire to find out the name and address - for some purpose that, is not clear to us - of all who criticise us, but they are not so anxious to proclaim their identity to the world at large when they write to the press. Let us take, for instance, an article appearing in the Brisbane Worker of 22nd inst. I asked to be supplied with the latest issue of that paper, and I presume that this is the latest procurable. In this copy of the Brisbane Worker, clever and forcible as it is, we find language that we should be astonished to discover in the daily press which my honorable friends opposite would forbid from criticising their actions. Here we have a little “ friendly “ comment !
– Will the honorable member permit me to make a personal explanation?
– If I sat down, I should not be allowed to continue my speech ; hut I should be pleased if the honorable member would make a personal explanation by interjection.
– Well, I may-
– Order !
– I invite honorable members to listen to the way in which the anonymous leader-writer of the Brisbane Worker describes, not only a member, but the whole of the Government of Queensland. I think we can safely agree that there is something a great deal worse than mere ill-mannered and unfair attempts at ridicule such as that drawn attention to by the honorable member, and published in the paper called The Farmer. I think we all deplore those manifestations, wherever they occur; but what we shall deplore ar great deal more is any attack upon the probity, honour, and reputation, not only of individual members, but of the great institutions to which we in this House belong. The anonymous writer of a leading articlein the Brisbane Worker of 22nd August writes as follows of the Queensland Government : -
The Big Bosses behind the banks, the mortgageagencies and the other institutions of Boodle, have only to haughtily indicate what they want, and* the middle-man Ministers hasten to carry out their wishes wilh all the effusiveness of political menials anxious to avoid a kick from their masters.
– Unfortunately, that is often too true.
– This is against the honorable member’s opponents - a base calumny that dishonours only the pen that writes it. This is the sort of thing whichwe are told is true, when it is written! against the opponents of honorable members opposite, but when we have a referenceby some person, without either good taste or good humour, to a garden party, it is described as something demanding, not only public execration, but the suppression of all newspaper criticism regarding the actions- of my honorable friends opposite ! The quotation I have made is fairly strong, but I have here a still stronger statement in the same newspaper concerning a Government which is enjoying the support of the majority of the people of Queensland, and therefore enjoying, presumably, the support of persons of all classes. This is what it says further -
The capitalists’ classes have been somewhat tamed by the triumphant advance of Democracy
Democracy being incarnate in the person and Presence of this anonymous writer ! The article continues -
They have drawn in their claws ; they keep their teeth out of sight as much as possible; but the Instinct of savagery that made them hunt the unionist like a wild beast a hundred years ago lurks all the time behind the white shirt-front of civilization.
Yet. as a matter of fact, it was the Liberal Administrations which made the Wages Board systems of Australia possible, and gave the Unionist movement the great impetus which I, in common with all other Liberals, am glad to see that it has received.
– With the pitchfork of Labour behind them.
– If we on this side were to speak of “ the pitchfork of Labour,” we would be held up immediately to execration, and described as persons who were using unfair methods of attack ; but, when the honorable gentleman, by interjection, refers to “ the pitchfork of Labour,” we must all accept the statement. I shall take up another great Labour newspaper - the Worker, of Sydney.
– Is it the Worker?
– I can assure the honorable member that it is. I read Labour newspapers with great interest, occasionally.
– It looks like the War Cry.
– No; this is not a religious newspaper. The methods of Labour newspapers are distinctly peculiar and new, and it would be advantageous, I am sure, to find out the names of persons who contribute this sort of stuff. The Worker - conveniently forgotten by the honorable member who raged against The Farmer - has a garden-party story, too. In its issue of the 22nd August, the contributor glories in the fact that she was present as a guest at a party which she afterwards wrote against.
– She must have been a nasty girl.
– I have nothing against the girl ; but it was a nasty newspaper to print what she wrote.
– Does her name appear there ?
– No. The column is conducted by Mary Gilmore, but that is not the person who contributes the article from which I take this extract -
A little while ago there were sent out in a certain district, in Sydney, extra-special invitation cards to well-known and supposed Liberal women to a meeting and “ tea,” under the “ patronage” (we will say) of Colonel Onslow. The ladies in receipt of their cards were notified to bring their friends. By this means I was asked to come along, too. Objecting that it was probably a meeting for Liberals only, I was told that “ friends “ included any one. So I went, glad enough (now the objection was cleared away) to see a Liberal meeting from the inside.
When my sponsor and I arrived on the scene, we found that a very busy organizer-lady occupied the ears, and a rather awkward-looking, well-dressed “ chair-madam “ the eyes, of the invitees.
It is bad enough when Labour journalists attack politicians, but when they begin to talk about ladies who happen to rake the chair on occasions of this kind as “ awkwardlooking, well-dressed chair-madams,” I think that it is about time we realized that all is not right with Labour journalism.
– I think we ought to know the name of the writer.
– The honorable member is, I dare say, ever ready to make the acquaintance of any lady, especially if she writes entertaining stuff for Labour newspapers. What I am really concerned about is to show that, when all is said and done, the acts to which honorable members opposite refer, and which every one will admit are faults inherent in journalism, are by no means peculiar to the Liberal side of politics, but are far more prevalent, and far more extreme in the new Labour journalism.
There is this to be said for Labour journalism : that it ought to be able to afford to do without this sort of spurious stuff. In the first place, these newspapers are not voluntarily contributed to by every person who takes them. Every man, for instance, who joins the Australian Workers Union, has to pay a subscription to get the Worker, whether he wants to buy it or not. If he does not subscribe to it, he cannot be a member of the union, and if he is not a member of the union, he is penalized in employment, because he cannot get work.
– Order ! Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the question before the House?
– Perhaps it is difficult to do so, sir, and, therefore, I shall not proceed any farther in that direction.
There is one thing more I would like to say in connexion with the proposition, and that is in relation to the references which have been made by my honorable friends to the recent Werriwa election. They gloried in the fact that the daily press of Australia took no part in the election. But I think that it is ideas which ought to count in coming to a conclusion in politics, and I trust the common sense of the people well enough to believe that they will properly weigh what is put before them, regardless of the source from which it comes. Honorable gentlemen opposite say that, on that occasion, the daily press was silent. So it was; but did the Act stop their press from slinging mud at our candidate ? It seems to me that this proposal to compel the signing of articles will operate to their tremendous advantage electorally, if, for this reason only, that they appear to be able to find in their own ranks persons who do not mind what they subscribe their names to; whereas it is very hard to find persons associated with this side of politics who will subscribe their names to anything which is not fair.
– The Minister makes my statement perfectly true. We know that the Labour party, in the Werriwa election, did not depend upon policy, but upon a Labour newspaper brought into existence for the time being - enjoying all the advantages which the post gave it - to sling mud, certainly over a signature, at the man representing the party with which I have the honour to be connected.
-The honorable member is now going beyond the matter before the Chair.
– I am proving conclusively, sir, by our experience in regard to electoral matters, that where this principle operates, that it does’ not prevent the slinging of mud - one of the things which honorable gentlemen opposite say they have set out to prevent. By all manner of means, if they like, prevent the slinging of mud by compelling the signing of articles reflecting upon any person in politics ; or I would go farther, and say out of politics, too, for I deplore this habit, especially in weekly newspapers, of constantly giving little offensive paragraphs about persons, always under the veil of anonymity. If my honorable friends wish to protect persons in the community, why not protect all persons from this particular abuse of the rights of journalism?
– This motion will.
– The motion will do a great deal more, because it goes to extraordinary lengths. It does not distinguish between a personal attack and a bona fide criticism of a public movement. Honorable gentlemen opposite may pretend to be very innocent. They know as well as I do that, in a small country town, where there happens to be a strong Labour majority, it is almost unsafe, in the heat of an electoral contest, for a man to express strong Liberal opinions.
– Or strong Labour opinions, either.
– If that be so, why create the engine of the boycott? Is this motion simply to help the boycotters? If honorable members opposite believe that the boycott is equal on both sides, cart they explain why they wish to arm the boycotter in this way? Honorable members on this side realize the value of the public criticism of public actions.
– The boycott’ is not equal ; the honorable member’s party have a power to boycott which the Labour party never had.
– I do not know to what the honorable member is referring. I do, know, however, that in country towns,, where there is a strong Labour vote, we often hear that a storekeeper, for instance, dare not let it be known that he votesLiberal.
– The honorable member may “ hear “ that.
– And see it, too; and thehonorable member, with his vast electoral experience, must know that it happens. It is an unfortunate state of affairs, whichwould be made even more prevalent by this motion. Do honorable members wishto win their way to Parliament over thebroken back of the liberty to criticise?
– How did the Sydney Daily Telegraph treat the honorable member?
– On occasions well, and. on occasions badly.
– Would the honorable member not like to have the name of the writers ?
– I would not allow any matter personal to myself to sway my public judgment on a question of this character. The writer of this or that criticism of our actions may possibly be perfectly sincere. It is absurd to suppose that every criticism that displeases us if necessarily dishonest in its origin or in its purpose; we must assume a certain amount of honesty and directness of method in the persons who write in the public journals.
– It might be only gross carelessness, like that of the honorable member when he accused me of sending articles and not signing them !
– I am not conscious of ever having accused the honorable member of anything.
– The honorable member did this afternoon.
– I did endeavour to draw the honorable member out of the gloom in which he has enveloped himself ; but I accused him of nothing. If I wanted to accuse him, I might accuse him of displaying a certain amount of malice in handling matters connected with the reporting of the proceedings of this Chamber.
– Such a charge would not be true.
– I cannot help thinking that if I, simply because I resented something said in the press, were to glory in the fact that I had spoiled the lives and careers of three or four men-
– It is not true that 1 “ glory “ in it.
– I say that if I did so, I should feel rather unhappy about it. The honorable member, however, was quite triumphant this afternoon. He said he had been, unfortunately, compelled to differ from a number of journalists, and that the difference had ended rather unfortunately for them ; and he gloried, I think, in the downfall, not only of one person, who wrote an article which I think every honorable member will deplore, but also of other persons who were involved in this disaster - persons who, I am quite confident, have the sympathy of every honorable member, except, perhaps, the honorable member for Capricornia - though I hope they have his sympathy also.
– The honorable member is a pretty mean chap after all, I think, when, he can express himself in that way !
– Order ! The honorable member must not interject.
– I am very anxious thatthis motion should not be “talked out;” and, as it is now close upon half-past 4. o’clock, I ask leave to continue my remarks at a future sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 2nd August (vide page 1672), “on motion by Mr. Greene -
That, in the opinion of this House, the regulation limiting the moisture contents of export butter to 15 per cent, is detrimental to the best interests of the dairying industry in the Commonwealth.
– - When I got leave to continue my remarks on the 2nd of this month I was dealing with the replies of the Minister of Trade and Customs to certain questions asked by the honorable member for Maranoa on the 16th July. 1 am particularly anxious that these questions and answers should appear together in Hansard, and for that reason I desire to quote them now. The honorable member for Maranoa asked the Minister of Trade and Customs -
Is he aware that a large proportion of Australian butter sent to London is purchased for blending purposes, and that moisture is incorporated in the process of blending?
To this the Minister replied -
If such be the case, it surely must follow : the less water in our butter, the higher the price it must realize. Further, it cannot be admitted that any such mixing or adulteration abroad is a sufficient argument for its encouragement in Australia.
It does not follow that higher prices are being received because of the dryness of the butter. I have already shown that dry butter, analyzed locally, has in some instances been graded lower than butter containing nearly the maximum percentage of moisture allowed under the Commerce Act, regulations. I now propose to show from Mr. Crowe’s report, given in the Victorian Journal of Agriculture for June last, that dry. butter does not carry better than the reasonably moist article. I have made certain extracts from that table, because 1 did not care to deal with the whole of it as it is rather a lengthy one, covering about a hundred samples. I have selected from it the samples which show the highest ».nd lowest loss of weight in transit. The table reads -
Honorable members will see that the above figures prove my contention up to the hilt that moist butter does not lose more in weight in transit than does dry butter. For example, the first sample in the table contained 14.46 per cent, of moisture, and the loss in transit was 3 ozs., whereas the last sample contained only 9.97 per cent, of moisture, and the loss in transit was 9 ozs. In other words, there was three times the loss in the butter which contained approximately 10 per cent, of moisture - which is a fairly dry butter - that there was in the butter which contained 14J per cent, of moisture. These figures conclusively prove that the loss of weight in dry butter is far more serious than it is in butters containing a greater percentage of moisture.
– That is almost incredible.
– Those are the facts which Mr. Crowe has brought out in the table from which I have quoted, and which was published in June last. . That table was not prepared for the purpose of this debate. But the fact remains that moist butters have carried better than dry butters. It might be possible, however, to show that, on certain occasions, some dry butters have carried better than others. For instance, there is one sample which tested 9.85 per cent, of moisture, and which showed a loss of only 8 ozs., as compared with another sample which contained 9.97 per cent, of moisture, and which showed a loss of 9 ozs. To describe moisture. in butter as adulteration is hardly fair, and the accusation will be regarded by those who are acquainted with butter manufacture as one emanating from persons who understand very little about it. I notice that the Commission which has been appointed to inquire into the question of the Pure Foods Act in Victoria, has, since the initiation of this debate, decided that bread shall be a substance made of wheaten meal which does not contain more than 45 per cent, of moisture.
– But in the case of butter it is “ free “ rnoisture.
– The remark of the Minister merely serves to show that he is scarcely master of the situation. It is quite possible to construe one’s observations upon this question in such a way as to lead people to believe that our butter manufacturers are purposely adulterating that article by incorporating water with it. I repudiate any suggestion of that nature. It is absolutely necessary to use water freely in the manufacture of butter. Experience teaches that 16 per cent, is a fair maximum to allow in this connexion. That is the experience of manufacturers in Australia, and it is the recognised margin allowed throughout the whole of the butter-making world. We merely ask that, in this matter, we should be placed on the same footing as others. It would be quite possible to create a scare in regard to bread by affirming that 45 per cent, of moisture should not be allowed in its manufacture. I come now to the third question which was put to the Minister of Trade and Customs by the honorable member for Maranoa, and the reply which was given to it. The honorable member asked the Minister -
Will he amend the regulations limiting moisture in export butter by altering it from 15 per cent, to 16 per cent. ?
The Minister’s reply was -
I am prepared to support any amendment of the regulations which may be proved to the advantage of the butler-making industry.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister make that reply.
– But the butter-makers must be the judges.
– Not necessarily. At the same time we want them to be heard. I am quite sure that if honorable members can only rid their minds of any prejudice in this matter, they will, after hearing the arguments upon both sides, arrive at the conclusion that we are merely asking for what is right. We are asking to be allowed to leave the same amount of moisture in our butter as do producers of the a, tide in other parts -of the world. 1 can assure honorable members that to impose upon our producers a limitation of moisture contents below the maximum allowed by the London Board of Trade must handicap them seriously without any benefit to the consumers in the Motherland or elsewhere. The distribution of our butter is in the hands of people who see that, as supplied to their customers, it contains the maximum amount of moisture permitted by the Board of Trade. In the circumstances, I do not see why we should be asked to take moisture out of our butter in order that the distributors of it may be allowed to put it in again. As one who has had vast experience of the butter industry, and a knowledge of those engaged in it, I can assure the Minister that there is no desire to increase tlie moisture contents of butter. What we ask is that we should not be penalized if, by accident or from any other reason, n few samples of our butter may exceed 15 per cent, of moisture. I am satisfied that if we were allowed to increase the maximum moisture contents to 16 per cent., that would not lead to any increase whatever in the average moisture contents of our butter. The difficulty is that if butter when manufactured contains l5i Per cent, of moisture, in order to comply with the demand of the Minister, and reduce its moisture contents by .5 per cent.., the manufacturer is put to a loss of no less than 5 per cent. It is, therefore, a very serious matter to the industry. The Minister has said that the moisture contents of butter exported years ago was lower than it is at the present time. I can quite believe that the average percentage of moisture in the samples tested until quite recently was lower than the average at the present time, but I am sure that, with the assistance of better cooling appliances, our butter is now a drier butter, on the whole, than that which was produced years ago. The conclusion arrived at that we are increasing the percentage of moisture is not a correct one. The fact is that a greater number of samples are now being tested, and that butter which shows the greater percentage of free moisture is not the most moist butter. The Minister referred to moisture as “ free moisture.” Unfortunately, even in the dairying industry, different meanings are attached to this term. What is understood in the trade as “ free moisture “ is moisture which will flow away, and may be easily observed A buyer entering a merchant’s shop to purchase a box of butter puts the trier into it, and if beads of moisture show on the back of the trier he condemns the article, because it shows free moisture. But that is no proof whatever that there is more moisture in the sample than there is in butter which does not show the moisture freely in that way. It is no indication that the butter is water- logged. Butter containing over 16 per cent, of moisture might not show it on the trier. Butter which may be said to be worked up to a putty contains quite as much moisture as butter which shows moisture freely. I have nothing further to say since the Minister has decided to leave this matter for the House to determine. I hope that honorable members will give an- unprejudiced vote on the motion, and will not be led away by any idea that this is a cry from the middleman, or that the consumer is going to be victimized. It is simply a demand from those engaged in a very important industry that they shall be given fair play and justice, and shall be put on the same mark as other butter .producers of the world. If that is allowed to us, we shall be quite satisfied. We do not ask for anything more.
– In supporting this motion, I may say that I am sure that the attitude taken up by the Minister is .not due to any desire to do anything detrimental to an industry of so much importance and offering so much scope for further development as does the dairying industry. I am satisfied that the Minister, and every responsible person in the community, is anxious to assist our primary industries as far as possible, and the dairying industry in particular, as it can claim very many advantages. One advantage is that it is practically a small man’s industry. In most cases it is carried on, not by large capitalists, but by small men. It is an industry, also, in connexion with which, so far as his holding will allow, the small man may increase his income to a very respectable extent. Honorable members are aware that the dairying industry in Australia has already grown to considerable proportions, and has materially assisted in the development of the country. It has made possible the occupation of lands all over this great country which, owing to their hilly character and other features, were a few years ago considered inaccessible or unprofitablefor general agriculture. A very large number of people are now engaged in the industry, which has been developed chiefly by the energy of farmers who, by a system of co-operative action in the manufacture o£ the article, and largely, also, in its sale and distribution, and without Government assistance, have done much to put themselves in the way of making a decent living. They have developed the country, and their success has created a demand for land which, a few years ago, would not be considered as very suitable for occupation. The dairying industry has greatly increased the value of land which before its establishment was so regarded. According to the last figures obtainable - those for 1911 show the development of the industry - we exported in that year 101,730,176 lbs. of butter, for which was received £4,637,472- the average price obtained for the butter being104/5d. per lb. This large return has greatly assisted settlement and development ; and I am sure that the Minister does not desire to handicap those who are doing so much for themselves and for the country, without assistance from any one. I thought that the recent High Court decision regarding the grading and grade-marking of butter would have rendered the motion unnecessary, it being held that the law does not authorize the Government to grade or grade-mark. But the Minister has taken up the position that that finding does not affect the legality of the regulation respecting moisture. Grading is done in accordance with a scale, under which butter obtaining from 95 to 100 points is marked “Superfine” ; that obtaining between 90 and 94 points “ First Grade”; that between 83 and 87 points, “ Pure Butter”; that between 75 and 82 points, “ Second Grade “ ; and that under 75 points, “ Pastry Butter.” The points are given in this way : For flavour and aroma, 50 ; for texture, including body, grain, and moisture, 30 ; for condition, colour, sorting, and packing, 20. It seems to me that the High Court having determined that theGovernment has no authority to fix a standard regarding moisture; but, as the Minister adheres to his regulation, the House must give a decision on the question. It is understood that the requirement that butter shall not contain more than 15 per cent. of moisture is a limitation, not a standard ; but we object to a regulation which places us at a disadvantage in our competition with the butter-makers of other countries. I have shown that the success of our dairying industry depends upon the sale of the butter in foreign markets. The local consumption of butter is, comparatively speaking, so small that, if we had only the local market, the industry would be crippled. In sending abroad, we have to compete with the butter-makers of America, Germany, Denmark, England, New Zealand, the Argentine, Siberia, and other countries; and we object to being handicapped in that competition. If the London consumers of butter are satisfied to buy from foreign producers an article containing 16 per cent. of moisture, Australian butter-makers ought to be allowed to export to Great Britain butter of that standard. I understand the Minister to say that he is prepared to allow a limitation to 15½ per cent. of moisture; that was allowed last season.
– No. While the buttermakers were getting used to the regulation, we did not fine those whose butter contained 15½ per cent. of moisture, as we did not wish to be too hard on them.
– I believe that the reason for the regulation is that Mr. Lockyer, in his report, spoke of the moisture in butter as adulteration ; but the honorable member for Moreton, and others who are experts, say that water is not introduced to adulterate the butter in any way, or to give short weight. It is used to get rid of the casein, or butter-milk. I have been informed that to adhere to the standard set by the Minister means a considerable increase in the cost of manufacture, because it requires the butter to be worked over a second time. Not only is the cost of manufacture increased, but the butter is exposed for a longer time than is nownecessary to a comparatively high temperature. The butter-makers desire that they shall not be placed at a disadvantage in their competition with foreign butter-makers, and that their costs of manufacture shall not be increased. A good deal of difficulty has been experienced in ascertaining the quantity of moisture in butter. I shall be able to show, from correspondence, that even the experts differ in opinion as to the quantity of moisture contained in a given sample. The first letter which I shall quote deals with an examination made by the Manning River Cooperative Dairy Company Limited, Jones Island, New South Wales. I addressed the following letter to the Minister of Trade and Customs on 19th January, 1911 -
I am requested by the manager of Manning River Co-operative Dairying Company Limited, Jones Island, New South Wales, to draw your attention to the laxity in testing the moisture percentage of butter, as shown by the following :-
About 19th November last, two boxes of butter were taken from the same worker and tested by Mr. Hampshire, Dairy Instructor of State, New South Wales, showing, according to his analysis at the factory, 13.3 per cent, of moisture. They were then specially marked, one being sent to Foley Brothers, the other to J. Mackay, butter exporters, with a request to have an analysis taken. This was done, first by Foley Brothers themselves, afterwards by Mr. Watt, analytical chemist, then by the Customs Department, Foley Brothers taking sample each from side and centre of box. Mr. Mackay also had his tested by Mr. Watt. The results were as follows : -
So that, out of five tests made, no two agree -
I attach certificates and correspondence for verification, which I will be glad if you will return for purposes of audit.
From above it will be seen how almost impossible it is for a factory manager to tell what state his butter will reach the market, for, while in this case advantage was taken of the attendance of a Government officer at the factory, a discrepancy is shown of not less than 1.62 per cent, of increased moisture.
Sincerely yours, (Sgd.) John Thomson.
To that letter, I attached certificates from different persons, who analyzed the butter. I need not read them, but they confirm a statement made by the manager of the Manning River Company on whose behalf I wrote. Following upon that letter, I submitted another to the Minister on nth March, 1911, from the manager himself. It was as follows -
Manning River, nth March, 1911.
From Manning River Co-operative Dairy Company Limited, Jones Island, to Mr. John Thomson, M.P., Taree.
I received your letter some days ago, with the reply from the Minister of Customs to our complaint in reference to the big variations in the moisture tests of butter taken by Mr. Hampshire and those taken by the Customs, and also by our agents in Sydney. The Minister states that he was advised by the Dairy Supervisor of New South Wales that the instructor who tested the samples of butter supplied to him at our factory by me, did not make the test with a view to an accurate analysis. If that is so, I would like to know why the instructor visits the factories at all. He further says that the result of the samples taken by Foley Brothers, Mr. Watt, and the Department, are extremely close. This statement is very hard to understand, seeing that the tests varied from 14.3 per cent, to 15 per cent., and Mr. Hampshire’s test 13.3 per cent. The whole of these samples were taken from one worker full of butter, after being worked six minutes. From a practical point of view, I must say that the Dairy Supervisor’s statement is very unsatisfactory, and it goes to show how unfair it is to fine any company on this kind of testing.
I am, yours faithfully, (Sgd.) L. M. Stanley,
The tests made by departmental officers are not so reliable that butter should be thrown back on the hands of the producers on account of them. But, to provide against having their butter rejected, the factory managers have had to reduce their moisture percentage to a much lower grade than was absolutely necessary. The butter industry ought not to be thrown out of gear by a provision brought in by officers who have not been conversant with the trade, and which goes to show how difficult it is to fix a hard-and-fast rule. The arbitrary position taken up by the Department on Mr. Lockyer’s report Ls certainly unfair to the trade.
– What was the standard before? ‘*
– Fourteen and. sixteen.
– But the Minister knows that, owing to the conditions under which the butter trade is conducted in Australia, the scattered nature of the dairying districts, and the impossibility of collecting cream every day, it is not possible to compete with the best makers of butter, except, perhaps, in favoured localities. Some butter is made in the State of Victoria in closely-settled districts where the cream can be collected every day, and is, perhaps, separated at a given centre. But, to admit that, does not give any idea of the general way in which the trade is carried on. In some cases, dairies in the out-back places are situated great distances apart. It is not possible to get the cream to the factories more than two or three times a week. Consequently, they are not able to produce butter in competition with the superfine grades.
– And if we interfere with the producers in the scattered parts of Australia, we shall do great injury to the industry.
– We shall; because they are the people who are the backbone of the butter industry. The men who are settled in the closely-populated districts have all the conveniences at their disposal ; and if it does not suit them to produce butter, they can turn, out something else. But we must be watchful of the interests of those who are working out their living in the scattered parts of the country - in some cases, in districts which were considered a few years ago to be of no value.
– Would the honorable member sooner go back to the old standards than have the 15 per cent, standard?
– And have two standards instead of the new single standard?
– Much rather. I am satisfied that the Minister does not want to do the butter industry an injury.
– I have certainly never done that.
– The Minister has assured every deputation that has waited upon him - and there have been several - that he has retained an open mind on the question. I am hopeful that the result of this debate will be that the Minister’s mind will be seized of the fairness of these requests, and that he will believe that the people who are urging them do not want to score an advantage over the consumers, but merely to conduct their industry under as fair conditions as other industries are conducted. I trust that we shall soon go to a vote on this matter, and, in so doing, assist the Minister in coming to a decision which will benefit an industry that has done so much for the development of this country, providing a means of living for large and desirable classes of the community. These men have been pioneering in our back-country, and it remains for us to assist them in furthering their own interests, and, consequently, in furthering the interests of the land in which they live.
– Whilst the honorable member for Cowper was speaking, I asked him, by way of interjection, to state what standards were in existence prior to the action taken by us in determining that the moisture contents of butter for export should not exceed 15 per cent. The position is, that in 1905, when the Commerce Act was passed, neither the Department nor those engaged in the industry had the experience that they possess to-day, and that when the first regulations were issued it was then determined that the moisture contents of superfine butter should not exceed 14 per cent., whilst the moisture contents of all other butter should not exceed” 16 per cent. I speak from memory, but I think that that differentiation was made between superfine and all other classes of butter. The honorable member for Kooyong, when Minister of Trade and Customs, obtained from the present ComptrollerGeneral of Customs reports dealing with, not only butter, but other exports, including frozen meat, and, I think, fruit.
– Butter was the subject of a separate report.
– Each subject was dealt with separately, and the report with regard: to the butter industry was presented to my predecessor about the time of the last Federal elections. I believe that, had the honorable gentleman remained in office, hewould have taken some action similar lr> that taken by me. In fixing the standard as I have done, I have been moved by a desire, not to injure the industry, but toconserve its interests, and I feel confident that if my honorable friend had remained in office he would have taken action with the same object in view. I believe that many of those engaged, not only in the butter industry, but in industries of variouskinds, are not able to recognise as well a* are people outside the damaging effect” which certain practices or actions may have upon their enterprise ; and I can certainly say that the action I have taken has been with a desire to do that which I believe to be in the best interests of this industry. As to the matter of analysis, to which reference was made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I may say that I directed a year or more ago that when samples of butter were taken by the departmental officers for testing purposes, the consignors should be permitted to take check samples; and I think that the system then inaugurated has met with the general approval of the trade. No one would be prepared to say that every” analysis is absolutely correct, but I think that those made by the Department are fairly accurate. The difficulty in regard to this question is that butter which does not appear to contain a great deal of free moisture is often found, on analysis, to contain more than that which seems to have a very heavy percentage of moisture. When a certain- make of combined churn and butter worker was placed on the market some time ago, one of the reasons urged for its general use was that it left more moisture in the butter, although that moisture would not be so apparent as in the case of butter made by other means.
– That is what the agents said.
– In trying to sell the machine.
– But the honorable member does not believe such a statement?
– I do not believe everything that an agent or a commercial traveller says when he is trying to dispose of his goods; but it is significant that the greatest degree of trouble has occurred in connexion with the moisture contents of butter since that particular machine was placed on the market.
– That is only a coincidence.
– It may be; but it can be proved that since the machine in question was placed on the market there has been a heavier percentage of moisture in the butter made, not only here, but elsewhere.
– The particular kind of churn to which the honorable member refers has been much improved.
– Doubtless it has been. The machines used in various industries to-day are far superior to those used twenty years ago.
– This only goes to show that the agents in question were telling untruths.
– I should not accuse any one of untruthfulness, but these men were out to sell a particular kind of machine. Twenty years or more ago - soon after Victoria started to export butter - the free moisture contents of some samples taken were found to be as low as 8 per cent. That is rather significant. Butter made in very warm districts - in either Kerang or Swan Hill - contained less than 8 per cent. of moisture.
– I have received a letter from the manager of the factory in question, stating that the reduction in the moisture percentage allowed would have a serious effect upon the future of that factory.
– What I am stating is an absolute fact.
– I am not disputing the honorable member’s statement.
– Water is cheaper than butter, I understand.
– The water is not put in the butter, as the honorable gentleman would have us believe.
– It is not taken out of the butter.
– Water has to be used to wash the butter.
– It has to be used for cleansing purposes, and in some cases it has not been taken out. I have here the report of the Local Government Board of Great Britain for 1910-11, which arrived only a fortnight ago. In it we have the statement -
Twenty thousand seven hundred and forty-two samples of butter were examined during the year, and 1,048, or 5.1 per cent., were condemned. In London and the eighteen largest provincial towns, taken together, the percentage was 6.5, and, in the rest of the country, 4.0. By the Sale of Butter Regulations1902, it is provided that “ where the proportion of water in a sample of butter exceeds 16 per cent., it shall be presumed for the purposes of the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts 1875 to 1899, until the contrary is proved, that the butter is not genuine, by reason of the excessive amount of water therein.” It is well known that good butter can be manufactured with 10 or 12 per cent, of water, and, therefore, the regulations do nol press heavily on manufacturers.
– They allow 16 per cent.
– Yes; the report continues -
Public analysts, however, constantly represent that the percentage of water found in butter is steadily rising. The analyst for Denbighshire writes : - “ Formerly the amount seldom exceeded 12 per cent., and was frequently less; but now a large number of the samples are only just within the limit of 16 per cent.” The analyst for the County of Northampton reports that the number of samples of butter closely approximating to the maximum quantity allowed by the regulations is decidedly on the increase. This tendency of working to the limit is not confined to English-made butter, for the report of the Government Chemist for the year ended 31st March,1910, states : - “ Four samples of butter from France, threefrom Australia, two from Holland, and one from Belgium were found to contain water in excess of the legal limit, and proceedings were taken against the importers. These figures, compared with previous results, show an improvement in Dutch butter, but emphasize the fact that, since the fixing of the limit of 16 per cent., the quantity of water in colonial butter, formerly exceptionally lo”w, is now nearer the limit, and occasionally exceeds it.”
– Can the honorable member tell us whether those samples were taken from wholesale consignments or from butter retailed to the public?
– I am quoting from an official document published in Great Britain, and have no knowledge of the circumstances dealt with, save that which is afforded by the document itself -
– It was probably retail.
– It is all very well to throw the blame upon the other fellow, and to say that the retailer is the man who puts the water in the butter.
– If your limit is 15 per cent., how can Australian butter have had 16 per cent. ?
– These cases occurred before the limit of 15 per cent, came into operation on the 1st July, 1911. This extract is taken from the report of the Government Chemist for the year ending 31st March, .1910.
– Does the Minister notice that these reports are from the inspectors for the local authority?
– I mentioned that fact. Practically the whole of the samples of food which are taken to ascertain whether adulteration has been practised are obtained from retail shops. I think it is correct to say that even in Australia for one sample taken from a warehouse or factory hundreds are taken from retail shops.
– It is a fair thing, too.
– Yes, because the sample is taken at a time when the stuff is offered for sale to the public. I believe that my legal friend opposite would be delighted to defend a man, if the sample were taken from the warehouse. The warehouseman could plead that a certain stuff was not in the state in which it was intended to be sold, and I believe that that rule applies to butter, too. The quotation continues -
Some local authorities appear not to realize the seriousness of the offence of introducing into butter a quantity of unnecessary water, and charging the price of butter for it. A sample taken in Canterbury was found to contain 23.87 per cent, of water, 7.87 per cent, in excess of the limit, and about twice as much as that found in well-made butter. No proceedings were taken in this case, the town council stating that the quantity of water in excess was too small to warrant proceedings. This is not the case, for we have observed that successful proceedings have been taken in regard to samples where the limit of 16 per cent, has been exceeded by 1 or 2 per cent.
That extract is taken from the latest publication of the Board which deals with cases of adulteration in Great Britain. They say that good butter can be made down to a limit of 10 or 12 per cent, of water. Of course, if the House should decide that a wrong step has been taken in trying to insure that our butter shall be superior to . that of any other country, because they consider it penalizes our producers, the Minister can do nothing but bow to its will,: or make way for a Minister who is prepared to amend the regulation in that direction.
– Do I understand that the Minister’s purpose in insisting upon this standard is to get ahead of the rest of the world in point of quality?
– I believe that the regulation will improve the quality of Australian butter, and thereby increase the price of it on the English market. The great argument of those who oppose the fixing of the limit at 15 per cent, is that if we compel Australian producers to make a dry butter - that is to work up to within z per cent, of the limit - it will enable adulteration to take place. It goes without saying, I presume, that buyers if they were adulterators would pay a higher price for the drier butter than they would pay for butter which was more moist. It stands to reason, I think, that they would be prepared to pay a better price for the better article.
– Does the honorable member proceed on the assumption, that if we could put a better quality of butter on the London market we would always get a better price?
– I believe that, as a rule, we would get a better price for the better article.
– It would depend upon the market.
– As my honorable friend says it would depend upon the market. If there was a glut the price would be reduced, but if we are to judge by the figures I gave yesterday apparently there is never a glut here. If there is a surplus of butter the holders put it in cool stores, and keep it off the market in order to make people pay the highest possible price. I presume that those who sell butter in London do precisely the same thing. I suppose that if there were only 1,000 cases likely to be bought at a particular time they would not rush 2,000 cases on to the market for the purpose of bringing down the price.
– They regulate the price twice a year.
– I would not be surprised to find that they regulate the price twice a week.
– The Minister does not allege that butter containing 16 per’ cent, of water is in any way unwholesome?
– No, not for a moment. I invite the honorable member to listen to the following quotation, which gives valuable information -
Dr. Thorpe is an eminent chemist, whose expert opinion is entitled to great weight. He was a member of a committee appointed by the British Government to inquire into the proper quantity of moisture which might be permitted in butter sold in the United Kingdom. He says : - “ The Committee came to the conclusion, after hearing a vast amount of evidence, that the amount of water which might be present in a properly-made butter neednot exceed 8 per cent. . . .
– A real laboratory man.
– The quotation continues - “ I think that every member of the Committee was prepared to consider a report fixing the amount of 8 per cent. as being the fair and proper amount.”
Proceeding, Dr. Thorpe states that formerlv the average moisture of butter imported into the United Kingdom did not exceed 1 1 per cent. ; that, in considering the fixing of a maximum of 8 per cent., the question arose as to whether some margin or working allowance should not be provided for. Lastly, special consideration was given to the trade in Irish firkin butter, “ which is made by comparatively poor farmers, often with very small herds, one or two cows at most, and which was heavily charged with water.”
He concludes : - “ We ended up by putting it at 16 per cent. The effect has been unfortunate. New Zealand and Australia had prided themselves in sending us butter very dry ; they do not wish to carry water all the way from Australia or New Zealand to England. The Danes had seldom exceeded11 per cent. Those great butter-producing countries, when the law stepped in and made 16 per cent. the legal limit, said there was no obligation on them to furnish dry buller; the law would condone an amount ef water upto the extent of 16 per cent. I am sure that the amount of water in butter now is larger than it was when we took up the question, and the consumer would have been better If ifwe had never handled the queslion of water in butter at all.”
That is the opinion of a man who is entirely independent, and is an authority on the subject. We may take it that, apart from the fact that he is, as an honorable member has said, a “ real laboratory man,” he is independent, and looks at the matter fairly.
– He thought that, in fairness to the farmer, the moisture ought to be 16 per cent.
– He did not ; he said that a mistake had been made in fixing 16 per cent.
– That is only his opinionas to butter in general?
– Why does the honorable member leave out the question of our competition with other butters?
– I grant the reasonableness of what is said in regard to competition, but I dealt with the matter in my reply to the question of the honorable member for Maranoa. There were previously two standards; and when the report was written it was suggested that the standard for Australia should be 14 per cent. I did not agree with that, but fixed 15 per cent., for the reason that no butter is allowed to be sold in Victoria or New South Wales that contains more than 15 per cent.
– Who controls that matter ?
– The State Government Health bodies. In 1905 or 1906 a regulation was made in Victoria fixing 15 per cent., and New South Wales subsequently followed the example. In Queensland butter containing 16 per cent. of moisture may be sold ; and some sent from Victoria last year to the northern State for consumption there contained 23 per cent.
– What is the percentage in the Old Country?
– It is 16 per cent. I suppose that about one-half of the butter produced in Australia is consumed in Australia.
– About one-third.
– I thought it was about one-half ; at any rate, I presume that in New South Wales and Victoria more than half of the butter produced is consumed locally. Manufacturers in Victoria and New South Wales have to keep to 15 per cent. in the case of butter for the local market; and honorable members interested in the question know that large quantities are made to sell either locally or abroad, according to the market. If it is possible to keep up the local price by exporting, that is done; and, with two standards, they would not know which was the butter to be sold locally and which was to be sold oversea.
– The manufacturers do that in order to get the best market.
– But they are compelled to keep under 15 per cent. in order to sell locally.
– That proves that the regulation is unnecessary.
– No, it does not.
– But there is a standard to which they must subscribe.
– That is only for local consumption.
– The Minister says that the manufacturers must make the butter as if it were all going into local consumption.
– That shows that the motion is absurd, because, if they have to make the butter under 15 per cent, for local consumption, they must keep it under 15 per cent, in any case.
– By the same token, the Minister admits that this regulation is useless.
– I do not.
– The Minister has forgotten that Victoria is not Australia.
– Neither Victoria r nor New South Wales is Australia, but both States have adopted 15 per cent.
– Has there ever been a prosecution under the State Acts?
– I do not know. I should not like to reflect on State Departments by saying that they had failed to prosecute when there was reason to do so, but whether I believe that to be the case or not is another question.
– Do not “ give the show away.”
– If the Minister believed it he would say so.
– It all depends on the circumstances. Late in 1910 there was a Conference of the Health Officers of the Commonwealth and the States, held in New South Wales, and they passed a unanimous recommendation to be sent on to the Health Departments that no butter be allowed to be sold which contained more than 14 per cent, of moisture.
– Because it was injurious?
– I am simply telling honorable members what this Conference did. I presume that those Health Officers knew what they were doing; but, at any rate, their recommendation was not acted on. We have the opinion of one member of the British Committee, who dealt with this question, that one of the worst mistakes made was when the standard was fixed at r6 per cent. The High Court has dealt with the regulation that no butter shall be exported unless there is marked on the box the fact that it is superfine or first grade ; and it is stated in the press that an injunction has been granted against the officers of the Customs Department.
– There is a motion on the notice-paper dealing with that subject.
– I merely wish to point out that I have not received that injunction, although I have asked for it at the Crown Law Department.
– I think the officers have gone to absurd lengths.
– I think I met the honorable member very fairly in the matter of the Commerce Act ; and I can only say that I have endeavoured to treat this question in a common-sense way.
– And I think the Minister, in doing that, has had to go against the advice of his officers.
– Some honorable members consider that this injunction will prohibit the taking of samples from the boxes in order to ascertain the quality.
– That it will prevent the testing of the truth of the statement on the boxes?
– So it is said, but there seems to be some doubt on the point. It appears to be thought by some that butter can be sent away with as much moisture as the exporter chooses, and that, in view of the injunction, there can be no interference by the Commonwealth.
– We are not taking up that attitude.
– I do not think that the honorable member is. So far as I can gather from the press reports, the injunction does not apply to this question of moisture ; and I believe we shall be able to apply the test for moisture contents. However, as I say, I have not seen the injunction.
– It applies only to grading.
– That is what I was going to point out - that I understand from the press reports that it applies to grading and grade marking only.
– The moisture contents affect the grading.
– I am not going to enter into a legal discussion with the honorable member, for the simple reason that, as we are both laymen, we might speedily come to an understanding apart from any technicalities. The question has been asked by honorable members : “ Has the” Customs Department, under the Commerce Act, power to fix the standard of moisture in butter at 15 per cent, when butter containing 16 per cent, of moisture is admitted into Great . Britain ?” My reply to that is, that I think we have the power, and I believe that if we sanction the presence of 16 per cent, of moisture in butter exported to the Old Country, and if a successful prosecution were launched there against the Australian article on account of excessive moisture in it, the injury that would be done to our trade would not be compensated for by the advantage which our manufacturers would derive from being permitted to put the increased percentage of moisture into our butter. That is the consideration which influenced me in the action which I took, and, if the honorable member for Kooyong had remained in office, he would probably have taken a similar view.
– Does the Minister suggest that our butter picks up an additional 1 per cent, of moisture on its way to England?
– Then he must assume that the departmental officers do not properly inspect the shipments.
– No Australian butter, upon being landed in Great Britain, contains a bigger percentage of moisture than it contained on leaving here. In ninetynine cases out of a hundred it is lighter when it reaches the Mother Country.
– There is a slight loss of weight.
– If our inspection were effective, a margin of 16 per cent, of moisture would render our Australian butter secure from prosecutions in England?
– Yes. But it is impossible to analyze every box of butter which is despatched to Great Britain. In busy months of the year, such as December and Jaiuary, 14,000,000 lbs. or 15,000,000 lbs. of butter are despatched thither. That being so, it is obviously impassible to analyze every box, unless we are prepared to hold up the shipments. It is quite possible that there is not even a sample taken out of every churning for analysis, although an endeavour is made to do that. But honorable members who are in the business know that when the rush comes along, the vessels cannot wait, and, consequently, some shipments or churnings may slip through without inspection. As a matter of fact, butter is. on the ship, although it may not have left port, before its analysis is made known. I do not think that can be avoided, although we endeavour to avoid it. If our butter manufacturers lay themselves out to manufacture an article containing the maximum amount of moisture permitted under the Act, it is quite possible that some consignments may slip through which contain more than that maximum, and that a prosecution may be instituted in England which will injure the name of our Australian butter. If such a prosecution were successful, our competitors would use that fact for all it was worth to the detriment and serious injury of our industry. That is the reason why I fixed the maximum amount of moisture permitted in Australian butter intended for export at 1 per cent, lower than the maximum amount allowed in England. Our 15 per cent, standard was that which was in vogue in Victoria at the time. New South Waleshas since adopted the same standard. The average moisture in Victorian butter exported in 1906-7 was 13.9, in 1907-8 it was 13.6, and in 1908-9 it was 13.7. Practically, therefore, it ranged between 13.6 and 13.9.
– Do not those figures show that there is no need for the Minister to interfere at all ?
– What conclusion does the Minister draw from those figures ?
– That some . persons exceeded the limit of 16 per cent., which was then allowed, because prosecutions were instituted in respect of Australian butter for being what was termed “ water-logged.”
– Those prosecutions were in respect of butter which contained more than 16 per cent. of moisture?
– Yes. The persons responsible for that excessive moisture in our butter would influence the price that would be paid for Australian butter.
– There were only two prosecutions altogether.
– No; there were three. But in the case of Denmark, which sends three or four times this quantity of butter to Great Britain that Australia does, there was not a single prosecution.
– Denmark is a closely- settled country.
-Exactly. The samples which are tested are taken from the butters, which, apparently, contain the most moisture. I presume that if the boxes are opened in the presence of analysts, the latter will be more likely to test samples which look wet than they will samples which look dry.
– Did not the Minister say just now that the butter which looked the wettest was often the driest?
– Yes. But those who are in the business understand that quite as well as does the honorable member, and better than I do. The average moisture contained in the butter exported from New South Wales during 1909-10 was 13.3 per cent., during 1910-11 it was 13.8 per cent., and during 1911-12, in the case of salted butter, it was 13.3 per cent., and in that of unsalted butter it was 14.3 percent. The average, moisture present in butter exported from Victoria during 1909-10* was T3-97 Per cent., during T910-11 it was 13.8 per cent., and during 1911-12, in the case of salted butter, it was 13.7 per cent., and in that of unsalted butter 14.1 per cent. The average moisture contained in the butter exported from Queensland during 1909-10 was 13.5 per cent., during 1910-11 it was 13.6 per cent., and during 1911-12, in the case of salted butter, it was 14.4 per cent., and in that of unsalted butter, 15.3 per cent. There were only thirteen samples of unsalted butter tested. No figures are available in respect to the export from South Australia during 1909-10; but during 1910-n the average moisture contained in the butter exported from that State was 11.85 Per cent.; in 1911-12 it was 12.6 per cent., in the case of salted butter, and 13.2 per cent, in that of unsalted butter. The average moisture present in the butter exported from NewZealand during 1909-10 was 13.27 per cent., and during 1910-11 it was 14.2 per cent. No figures are available regarding the export during 1911-12.
– So that New Zealand appears in a worse position than does Australia ?
– Yes. The butter which she exported contained a higher percentage of moisture, namely, 14.2 per cent., as against 13.8 per cent, in the case of Victoria.
– Has New Zealand any local standard?
– So far as I know, she has not. Very few countries have established standards in connexion with butter sold within their own borders. Victoria and New South Wales are the only countries which have adopted the 15 per cent, standard. The standard fixed in Germany is, I think, 14 per cent., and the butter must be free from preservatives. In Denmark the quantity of moisture allowed in butter intended for home consumption, as well as for export, has been fixed at 16 per cent.
– The difference between the moisture allowed in salted and unsalted butter is a reasonable one.
– The salt, I understand, frees the moisture from the butter fat, so that it will come away more easily in the case of salted butter than it will in that of unsalted butter.
– What is the standard of moisture permitted in Denmark ?
– It is 16 per cent.
– What ! In the case of the celebrated Danish butter?
– Yes. Danish butter arriving in England contains from 11 per cent, to 13.5 per cent, of moisture, which is about the same as that which is contained in Australian butter.
– The question is not one of averages, but of a maximum. The averages do not touch the matter which is in dispute.
– Mr. Crowe, the Victorian dairy expert, who has been quoted by the honorable member for Moreton, points out that the effect of the new standard is gain and not loss to the industry. His reasons for saying this are -
The average moisture contents of butter from Victoria has .never reached 14 per cent., even when the maximum allowed was 16 per cent.
The effect of the new regulations, which have been in operation from 1st July last, has been to prevent a few manufacturers from submitting butter for export close up to the 16 per cent, limit, and making all manufacturers keep in closer touch with the composition of their products.
The lower temperature necessary in order to get the moisture in butter within the standard assists in recovering more butter-fat in the churning, and this compensates for the extra trouble taken.
High churning temperatures allow a loss of butter-fat in churning. The average moisture contents of all butter analyzed during 1910-11 season was 13.8 per cent.
The average of all butters analyzed this year was 13.9 per cent.
So that, instead of the average moisture content being lower, it is .1, or one-tenth, per cent, higher under this regulation than it was the year before, and, instead of the dairy farmers suffering in consequence an enormous loss, it has meant no loss to them at all. Some of the manufacturers have admitted that its effect has been to make them more careful in the manufacture of butter. Speaking at the Butter Factories Conference held at Sydney recently, Mr. Searl, the manager of the Dungog Factory, made the following statement -
The 15 per cent, standard has educated me. I have avoided fines - got as near the limit as possible, and the factory has benefited to a very large extent.
That is an important admission from the manager of a butter factory, that the standard we fixed has led to improvement in the manufacture of butter.
– What did the Victorian representative at that Conference say?
– I do not know.
– He said it had cost their factory ^2,000.
– The people interested have said a great many things that it would be very difficult to prove. Mr. Crowe is a thoroughly independent man, and it will be admitted that he knows a little about this business. He probably knows quite as much about it as does any honorable member of this House, and is in an impartial position. He is not angling for the votes of any of these people.
– Does the honorable gentleman insinuate that we are?
– No; but Mr. Crowe is not influenced by the views of these people, and can consider the question fairly. He says that the result of the regulation has been, not only to improve the quality of the butter, but to enable the manufacturers to recover more butter-fat.
– Who are enabled to recover more butter-fat?
– The factory managers. The honorable member for Moreton can either indorse or contradict Mr. Crowe’s statement.
– Does the Minister say that Mr. Crowe proves the regulation to be an advantage to the dairy farmer?
– Then, is not the dairy farmer a fool not to take advantage f it?
– Some of them are not wise in their own interests. Some would export butter with an undue percentage of moisture for a temporary gain, although to do so might lead to the ruin of the industry. There are many people who would adulterate butter consumed in Australia if they could do so.
– That is an argument for some maximum, but not necessarily for a 15 per cent, maximum.
– Does the Minister say that butter containing 16 per cent, of moisture is not wholesome?
– Then, where is the adulteration?
– Neither the honorable member for Moreton nor the honorable member for Cowper would contend that butter containing 23, or even 25, per cent, of moisture is not wholesome ; but it would not be pure butter.
– lt would be waterlogged with that percentage of moisture.
- Mr. O’Callaghan, Dairy Expert of New South Wales, says -
Looking at it from a monetary point of view, we find that export butters, which showed between 15 and 16 per cent, of water, averaged 15.4 per cent, of moisture, and represented in all 111,888 lbs. of butter. This increase of .4 per cent, of water over, say, 15 per cent, standard, when worked out at rod. per lb. nett, comes to £i& I 2S. nd.; and this is the reason why I ask - Is it worth it that New South Wales should run the risk of prosecution in England when the use- of what we might call a “buffer area” of 1 per cent, would practically insure us, with anything like careful supervision of exports, against prosecution in England of the kind which has been given considerable prominence of late? We should bear in mind, with regard to these prosecutions, that all competitors throughout the world will not forget to remind the British grocers that they run a risk of being prosecuted if they sell Australian butter, whereas, if they sell their own particular goods, they run no risk whatever. It is because of these facts, and also because of the undoubted improvement which a low percentage of water in butter gives over a high one, that I make the suggestion to the managers of our factories that it would be advisable, in their interests, to have a “buffer area” of, say, 1 per cent, between them and the Customs officials in England, especially when it is considered that New South Wales managers are not taking the advantage of using the high standard at present in existence ; or, in other words, when the loss in money comes to only £1% 12s. nd. per year.
Mr. O’Callaghan asks, very fairly, whether it is worth while, for the sake of the small amount referred to. to run the risk of prosecution and have competitors in the Tooley-street market saying, “ Do not buy Australian butter, because you will run the risk of prosecution in the way in which a man was prosecuted not long ago for selling water-logged butter.”
– Still, Mr. O’Callaghan offered no opinion of his own. He merely asked certain questions.
– I feel confident that, if he were asked his opinion as to whether butter for export should contain 15 or 16 per cent. of moisture, he would unhesitatingly declare for the lower maximum standard. I believe that if the honorable member for Moreton were asked whether he would prefer to send butter for sale to the London market containing 14.5 per cent. of moisture, or butter containing 15.5 per cent., he would admit his preference for the butter of the lower standard of moisture. The following excerpts from the evidence given before the recent British Parliamentary Committee on the Irish butter industry show the average low-moisture contents of butters sold in the United Kingdom, and the injurious effects of a high percentage of moisture -
Witness- Mr. S. H. Perry, of the firm of S. H. Perry and Company, representing Liverpool Chamber of Commerce and Liverpool Provision Trade Association.
One point as to the moisture. Dr. Otto Hehner, you are aware, is a very well-known analyst? - Yes.
In his evidence before the Select Committee on the butter trade in 1896, he gave it in evidence that he examined into the samples of butter he received for two years. His analysis shows the following result as to the percentages of water: - Russian, 10.1 ; New Zealand,10.8 ; New South Wales, 11.3; Irish, 12.8; and Danish, 12.8.
Witness- Mr. J. K. Collett, of Collett and Co., Cardiff.
You say that New Zealand butter is very different to what it has been in past years? - Yes.
Would you attribute that to our Butter Act now allowing 16 per cent. of water, and so water is left in which should be kept out? - Yes; it tends to make an inferior quality altogether.
And you think that when the moisture is left in it up to 15½ per cent. ? - It takes away from the quality of the butler, and does the butter injury.
Witness- Mr. C. W. Oakey, of Spear Brothers and Clarke Limited, Bristol.
Do you find an improvement or otherwise in the New Zealand and the Danish butters of late years? - No, I do not think New Zealand is quite as good this season as in some seasons.
Do you test at all for moisture? - Yes.
And do you find that New Zealand is quite ns dry now? - No.
Witness - Mr. John Inglis, of Chisholm, Lillico, and Ingles, Leith.
There is no necessity for 16 per cent. of moisture being in any butter. Some friends of mine make butter in the old-fashioned way from milk, and they can get from1s. 6d. to1s.10d. per lb. all the year round. The whole secret is taking the milk and the water entirely out of the butter, and I am sure if the butter can be made from the smallest percentage of water possible, it will keep three or four weeks. If you make a butter with from 10 to 12 per cent., it will keep much longer than with a large percentage of water.
And you would probably agree that the recent shipments of colonial butter - of Australasian butters - have been deteriorated by leaving in up to 16 per cent. ? - There has been more moisture in New Zealand and Australian butter than ever I saw.
Witness - Mr. H. C. Cameron, Produce Commissioner for the New Zealand Government..
From my experience here for a great many years, I certainly hold that butter which contains a large amount of moisture does not keep as well as the drier butter.
Witness- Mr. G. Brownlee, B.Sc, Agricultural Chemist, Dublin.
You examined a large number of samples of Irish butter for water? - Yes.
What was the result of this analysis? - That the average percentage of moisture was 13.04.
What was the lowest percentage you found ? - 9.65 was the lowest, and 16 was the highest. Only one was as high as 16.
These are representative men, and they all say that moisture in butter injures its quality.
– They are butter-buyers.
– Buyers and sellers. Are they, not to have a “ say “ in the matter?
– We are rather doubtful about the evidence of the middlemen.
– Does the honorable member think that our butter is adulterated in Great Britain?
– We know that it is.
– We offer temptation to adulteration.
– During the past three years no case of the kind has been exposed, although we have asked the High Commissioner to ascertain how Australian butter is dealt with in Great Britain.
– Has he made a report on the subject?
-I have not seen one. When Mr. Cherry was appointed to look after our meat industry in Great Britain, I said that the time might arrive when we would have to appoint some one to look after the butter industry there. It would be better to have one independent man than a dozen representatives of companies. If the honorable member for Moreton knows of instances of adulteration, and will inform the Department, we shall have the matter looked into. We have Customs representatives in Great Britain who, if they discovered a case, could have those responsible dealt with, which would be a good thing in the interests of Australia. If any evidence is put before me, I shall have the matter inquired into.
– Does the honorable member say that our butter is sold as Australian butter ?
– I believe that it is sold wholesale as Australian butter, but that the retailers sell it and other produce under the descriptions that they consider most likely to attract customers.
– A lot of it is sold as “ French rolls.”
– Was not :i6 per cent, fixed for Irish butter?
– Dr. Thorpe said that, had it not been for the Irish firkin butter, the limitation would not have been as high as 16 per cent. I am not averse to a vote being taken on the motion, but I think that honorable members will make a mistake in determining not to have a margin of 1 per cent., as Mr. O’Callaghan has suggested. It will be taking a step backward from the point of view of the interest of the Australian producer. If, however, the standard be left as it is, I believe that it will give to Australian butter upon British markets a better name. These results cannot be obtained in any one season, but the conditions prescribed will have the effect of improving the price of butter. So far from wanting to do an injury to any person engaged in the industry, 1 personally believe that I have adopted a course which will have the effect, not only of improving the quality of Australian butter, but of increasing the price realized by the producer.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is to be congratulated on the way in which he has looked into this matter. But what strikes me, after listening to him, is this : While he quotes opinions from eminent scientists, he has given us very little practical evidence to prove that what he is seeking to do is for the best. As against the declarations of the chemists must be placed the hard, patent, every-day fact that the butter which is now commanding the highest price in the world is butter produced in a country permitting a higher moisture test than is proposed here. Denmark, which leads the world, has a 16 per cent, standard. Do we need to go any further than that ? Why should we have more stringent standards than the country which to-day is leading the world? It cannot be the standard which is making all that difference to us. I should like to point out that, given wholesomeness, given a good, honest butter - and the Minister would not say that a butter carrying 16 per cent, of moisture is not that”- then we have to consider the market relations of the whole question. They are these : The Minister is fixing our standard of moisture at 15 per cent., whilst the
Dane fixes his standard at 16 per cent., and we are thus giving him an advantage over us of about Jd. to Jd. a lb. Our buttermakers have a further handicap that, while our freight is over id., the Danish and Argentine butter-makers, who compete with us so severely in the London market, can land their butter there at id. at the very outside, probably £d. So- that my honorable friend is statutorily imposing a disability upon our butter-makers to the extent of at least 1 1/4d. per lb.
– Oh, no.
– Yes, if we reckon freight and the difference in moisture combined1.
– We do not fix the freight.
– But I say that we must take that into account in dealing with our farmers, who have to compete with other butter producers in the markets of the world.
– Compete with those who have cheaper land and cheaper labour.
-They have cheaper land, cheaper labour, and cheaper freight.
– I kept off the labour question.
– In Siberia labour is certainly cheaper, as it is also, I fancy, in Argentine. The Minister is to be commended for his efforts to promote the sale of pure food. It is true that efforts in that direction, here and elsewhere, may lead to some tremendous consequences upon a world-wide scale, because it is said by leading authorities that one element in the increased cost of food is due to the severe restrictive regulations which are being prescribed by various countries. Insistence on the production of pure food means, also, they say, the production of dearer food. I do not quarrel with the policy, however. I am for pure food all the time. But this is not a question of pure food at all. That question does not arise here. It is mostly a commercial question, a question of competition with the rest of the world. Moreover, the facts and figures which the Minister quoted are a clear indication of the non-necessity of prescribing this severe standard. He stated that our butter rules under the 15 per cent, standard, lt rules at about 13 per cent, in actual practice. If we are producing 2 per cent, below the standard, why should we want to increase the standard? That would seem to indicate the non-necessity of interfering in any way.
– Where is the hardship, then?
– Does my honorable friend mean to suggest that he should interfere with people’s business before he proves the necessity for doing so? You cannot interfere with a huge industry of the country because a few idealists say you ought. There must be some more prominent necessity than that. These gentlemen are well enough in their way, and I am not saying a word against them. They do right in keeping ideals high and pure. But it is another thing when you have to meet the open competition of the world with our products oversea. Then your ideals must go as far as you can take them without destroying your industry and enterprise.
– Notwithstanding New South Wales and Victoria fixed 15 per cent.
– My honorable friend points to our internal consumption, which is a very small modicum of the whole production of butter. He should look at the competition which has to be met abroad, and at the disabilities which are being imposed upon our farmers as to more than two-thirds of their product. I have already pointed out that in Denmark, whose butter realizes the highest price in the world, the standard is lower than ours.
– The average in Denmark is about 11 or 12 per cent.
-Does not the honorable member see that all that that means is that these standards are not necessary ? That is what the argument amounts to, if you push it home.
It is, I think, a fact - I have seen it demonstrated more than once - that a cheap inferior will always work to the disadvantage of a dearer better. That can be seen in the coal trade. One of the greatest troubles is to deal with the inferior coal that is produced cheaply, and is sold in competition with dearer and better coal. The great problem is to get hold of the producers of the inferior coal, and get them into the Vend, so as to stop the crippling competition. Here my honorable friend suggests that we should make our standard higher and stricter in London, without in any way being able to control, by so much as a hair’s breadth, the competition of other parts of the world, where producers do not have to subscribe to our standards. If it be necessary for the public health, make your standards up to the point where the requirements of the public health have been satisfied. But when you have done that, I see no necessity for deliberately crippling our farmers in competition with other butter producers in the markets of the world. We already labour under disabilities. We have higher wages and freights to pay than have our competitors, and we have disadvantages of many kinds. It is true that we enjoy some advantages in the matter of climate and in other directions. The dairy farmers in Denmark, for instance, have to hand-feed their stock for half the year, but our great distance from the markets of the- Old World and the expensive freights we have to pay are in themselves a sufficient handicap, without the imposition of these disabilities as to standard which the Minister is introducing. The last word upon this subject, therefore, has not been uttered when the Minister quotes the laboratory experts. Without undervaluing in any way the expert’s opinions-
– I quoted only one laboratory expert.
– The honorable gentleman has quoted a number of experts of one sort or other; but he must take a reasonable business and practical view of this matter. When he has satisfied the requirements of public health, he must give the business instinct of the community its fair and full valuation. If our farmers could be made to believe that by reducing the moisture contents of butter they would secure bigger prices oversea, I am sure they would reduce the percentage if it were possible to do so on a commercial basis. That being so, the Government, having satisfied themselves on the other and higher ground, as they had a perfect right to do, should listen to the plea of business men who have to face world-wide competition under adverse conditions, and listen to them to the fullest possible extent. Would it be a good thing if, for instance, we did not export any of our fruit, save that of first quality? But what should we do with the fruit of second grade - wholesome and cheaper fruit which appeals to people who cannot buy the best? The Government step in, and say, “ You must keep this fruit clean; you must not let diseases spread, and you must take care that the consumer obtains what he purports to buy.” The same reason would apply to an attempt to prescribe the size, taste, and quality of apples in the case as applies to the fixation of the standard of moisture in butter. In view of the competition they have to face our farmers are entitled to some consideration. The Minister inquired, “ Is not the consumer to be considered?” But how can he, fixing the standard here, consider the consumer in other parts of the world? The butter has to pass through all sorts of manipulations before it reaches the consumer at the other end of the world. Having satisfied health requirements, all that the Minister has to do, it seems to me, is to adopt what is practically to-day the world-wide standard, leaving the consumer to do just a little in the way of protecting himself.
– We do not want our butter producers to suffer in competition with those of other countries.
– But the Government are imposing upon them unnecessary disabilities without offering any compensating advantage. The Minister has a right (o see that nothing but pure, healthy food leaves the country, but, having done that, he must give the fullest possible consideration to the claims of the commercial interests of the farmers and others who depend for their living upon the prices which they can obtain for their produce in competition at the other end of the world.
. -This motion, which declares that the standard fixed by the Minister is detrimental to the best interests of the dairying industry of the Commonwealth, and which is supported, I think, by most honorable members who are intimately acquainted with the practical work of the dairying industry, will, I feel sure, receive the full consideration of the House before a division is taken upon it. The greater part of the Minister’s speech, so far as I could follow him, was directed to an attempt to prove that it was necessary to fix a maximum in reference to the free moisture contents of butter. I do not suppose that any of us will deny that the adoption of some maximum was necessary, but that is not the question which we have to consider. The question is, whether, having regard to the fact that the Governments of Denmark and other countries whose butter is placed upon the European market have adopted a 16 per cent. maximum, we ought to handicap our butter producers in competition with these persons on the same market, and place upon them an additional embargo. One argument used by the Minister seemed to me to be a remarkable one. It was based upon the fact that in some of the States a 15 per cent. standard has been adopted. The honorable gentleman asserted that since the butter factories found it necessary to manufacture all their butter for export, as well as for localconsumption, without any distinction, it was therefore necessary for them, in fact, to observe the regulation as to moisture contents prescribed by the State Governments. Was not that the honorable gentleman’s argument?
– My contention was that, if the standard were increased to 16 per cent., the Victorian Government would immediately be asked to increase its standard from 15 per cent. to 16 per cent. We should have the same demand as was made in regard to the use of boric acid.
– In determining the right course for this House to adopt we are not concerned with what some Parliamentarians in a State House may do. The Minister’s argument falls to the ground. If it be true that the output of our butter factories, whether for local consumption or export, must all be of the one grade-
– Surely the honorable member did not say that?
– He did.
– I said that the standard in Victoria was 15 per cent.
– As the time allotted to the consideration of private members’ business has almost expired, I ask leave to continue my remarks on a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
Strike at Mitchell’s Cement Works. - Subsidies to Shipping Companies. - Cost of Living. - Panama Canal Dues. - Military College.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I take this opportunity of calling the attention of the House to what I regard as the very unsatisfactory position in which we are placed in consequence of the refusal of the Government to give any information with regard to the enormous expenditure proposed in the Estimates.
On a recent occasion, I placed before honorable members, so far as I was able, what I conceived to be a statement of the actual position of the finances from the stand-point of an outsider labouring under the difficulty of discovering the facts in the voluminous papers laid before Parliament in such an unceremonious fashion. I tried on that occasion to inform the House, as far as possible, of the actual position, and sought for explanations with regard to it. I dealt with the past and the present, and to-night I propose to say a few words about the future.
I must call attention to the very extraordinary position in which we are placed by the fact that enormous undertakings, involving great expenditure, have been entered into by the Government without consulting Parliament, either before they incurred the obligations or after they had done so.
I specially wish to deal with what is, perhaps, the greatest single undertaking which the Commonwealth may have in hand tor a long time, and certainly the biggest thing we have yet had to deal with, and that is the establishment of a Fleet for naval defence. ‘Let honorable members cast their minds back to the history of this business. In 1907 there was a Conference in England, and, as a result of the Conference, in 1909 a Fleet Unit was arranged to be supplied. Ships were ordered, and a very eminent Admiral was invited to come to this country to advise the Government generally as to a scheme of complete defence which would enable us Australians to feel that we were in a safe position, so far as we could be, from naval attack.
That gentleman came here, and remained for a considerable number of months. It is nearly two years since he began his duties. He departed after submitting a report to the Government, but in no way, except incidentally, have the Government, at any rate to this House, made an explanation of their attitude towards his report. They have accepted it, they say, and, so far, the ships have been ordered, and have come. They have accepted the scheme, and have led the country to believe this to be the case. I think it was their duty to have brought the report before Parliament, to explain what they meant to do regarding it, and say whether they intended to carry it out in its integrity, or in any respect to depart from it. They ought to have done that, I think, out of consideration for the House. Much has happened in Europe since this Fleet Unit was agreed upon to make people anxious, and surely it was a question of supreme importance for this Parliament to have had the opportunity of deciding whether they would have a Fleet earlier than was projected and provided for according to the report of Admiral Henderson. Because, so far as its financial and general arrangements are concerned, it is clearly based upon the instructions which he must have received from the Government that they meant to contribute from the revenue for the cost of construction, that they did not mean to create a Fleet at once, but to create it over a period of years. He drew the report in accordance with the evident request that had been made to him that he should adopt that principle. I do not intend to discuss the matter now, because I may have an opportunity to make some remarks when the item in the Estimates comes before us. But it does seem to me that it is, to say the least of it, signally disrespectful to Parliament that the Government have never laid before it. in a fair and reasonable and comprehensive way, a huge transaction involving possibly the very preservation of the Commonwealth. The position which they have taken up is that they have accepted the scheme, but I hold that they cannot accept the scheme and omit fulfilling the most important part of it. I think, sir, that you will agree with me that rinding the money according to the scheme is as important as any other part of it could possibly be.
I wish to draw the attention of the House to-night to the fact that the Government are not so finding the money according to the scheme. Admiral Henderson drafted a. scheme which was to extend over twenty years. If honorable members will read his report attentively, they will find that positively, until after 1918, we will not have anything beyond this Unit, which is only a very small portion of the complete Fleet which he says is necessary for our defence. We shall have only that up to 1918, nothing more ; and the people of this country may imagine that we shall have an effective Fleet in accordance with Admiral Henderson’s scheme when we will really not have anything of the kind. On page 8 of his report, he says -
In order to obtain the necessary efficiency with a minimum of cost, continuity of policy is essential, and the development of the Commonwealth Naval Force must proceed on definite lines, with a definite goal in view, so that each step taken will advance the completion of the whole.
That is a reasonable proposition, and the report is constructed on that plan. Although it will take a long time to complete 4he Fleet - much longer than 1 imagined we should be in a partially defenceless position - still, we have the announcement that the Government have adopted the report.
I shall show, however, that, so far as the finances are concerned, the Government “have not fulfilled that part of their obligation. Under the scheme, an annual sum was to be apportioned according to a schedule which is shown in appendix G of the report. If we look through this schedule, we see that it has been carefully considered to meet the conditions imposed on Admiral Henderson by the Government’s scheme for contributing from the revenue for the construction of a Fleet. He groups the expenditure in four separate periods; the first of seven years, and three of five years each. For the first period, £3,000,000 a year has to be provided to meet expenditure as it arises; ,£4,000,000 a year for the second period; ,£4,500,000 a year for the third period; and £5, 000,000 a year for the fourth period. One cannot fail to see that, unless these financial conditions are fulfilled, we shall drift into a position which may be exceedingly dangerous. This money ought to be taken out of revenue and put aside in the Trust Fund, as provided by law ; and, as the Government have shown their eagerness to put other sums into Trust Accounts, they might be expected to do so in the case of the Navy.
The scheme begins with the year 1911-12, for which there should have been put aside ,£3,000,000. Inasmuch, however, as Parliament, out of the savings made before, had put aside more than £3,000,000, it was not necessary to raise that question in the year 1911-12; but for the current year 1 912-13, there ought to be a similar amount of £3,000,000 put aside; and that has not been done. Certain votes have been passed, mainly for ships, with a certain amount for works. These, however, total a sum considerably short of the provision that should have been made. When I was speaking on the Budget, I mentioned that apparently this provision had not been made, and that something like £2,500,000 was required. I made that statement, basing it merely on what I saw had been provided for ships and works; but, since then, I have had an opportunity to look into the expenditure for manning and ordinary expenses, and I find that the amount short for this year is not £2,500,000, but £1,114,407. I may here read, for the information of honorable members, a short table showing the naval expenditure since this new scheme was started -
It may be that some of the expenditure on manning and ordinary charges should not have gone into the account; but, in order to put the position as clearly as I could, I have taken in the whole of the naval expenditure so far as I can make it out. The increase in the cost of manning is owing to the additional ships. Towards the expenditure for 1912-13 there is a sum of £1,196,829 applicable from the Trust Fund, and £997,428 to be provided from revenue. According to Admiral Henderson’s naval defence scheme, ,£3, 000,000 for 1911-12, and £3,000,000 for 1912-13, should have been set apart. These sums have not been set apart ; but the expenditure to date, as shown in the table, including the estimate for 1912-13, is £4,885,883, which leaves a sum of £1,114,407 which should have been provided in this year’s appropriations for the Trust Fund, in order to comply with the condition that £?6, 000,000 should be made available in the years 1911-12 and 1912-13.
I think that honorable members on both sides of the House ought to give their attention to this matter, because, as Admiral Henderson points out, harbor works are as necessary as ships. If we had no docks and harbors, with means of repairing ships when required, the ships would be of little use to us if we were attacked. Consequently, the Admiral points out more than once in his report, the absolute necessity for pushing on with the land works in the early years, as he says, in order that accommodation may be provided for the ships as they come into being and aTe added to the Fleet.
– What about the extravagance of the Government?
– This is not extravagance; I am pointing out facts to which honorable members ought to give their attention. For the year 1911-12, in which £3,000,000 was to have been put aside, one half, or £1,500,000, was evidently intended by Admiral Henderson to be provided for works, and for the present year, £669,000. But although the Government have the ships - only about ,£1,000,000 is required to complete the purchase of the Unit - they have done almost nothing to provide the necessary land works.
We are told that it is necessary to have two squadrons to protect Australia, one stationed at Fremantle, where an immense amount of work is required to provide the necessary accommodation for the vessels, and the other at Sydney and Westernport. Barracks are needed for the men, and all sorts of works require to be undertaken. If we get the ships without this necessary accommodation, they will be of very little use when occasion arises, and the people may wake up one day and find that they have been living in a fool’s paradise.
– The honorable member thinks that we ought to provide the works first?
– That is practically what Admiral Henderson says; and it is only a reasonable thing. If the honorable member had a horse, he would require a stable to put him in. The honorable member must see that to provide warships costing about £5,000,000 without furnishing the necessary accommodation for them, is not a prudent procedure. Yet that is what is being done. The total amount which has been expended, and is intended to be spent this year, upon naval works is, approximately, about £270,000. These great works ought to have been pushed on long ere this. As a matter of fact, less than £65,000 has already been expended, and a further sum of £208,000 is to be spent during the current financial year. But, unless greater expedition is exhibited than has been displayed hitherto, we shall find, at the end of the year, that this money has not been appropriated, and thus we shall get still further behind. The position, I think, is a very serious one. In any case, the Government should have put this money aside. But they have not done that.
Had they done so, this year, instead of having a balanced ledger - they balance the ledger in a somewhat peculiar way, because if they have an excess of, say, £500,000, and there is nothing upon which to spend it, they place it to the credit of the Trust Fund - they would have had a deficit of £1,114,407. What will happen when, instead of an excess, they have a shortage of revenue, as they will some day, we can easily imagine.
– Who said that the Government had accepted the whole of Admiral Henderson’s scheme?
– The Prime Minister. It is easy to talk about accepting a scheme, and to put in a little word or two qualifying that acceptance. But the public believe that the scheme recommended by Admiral Henderson is being carried out. However, I will meet the honorable member for Bass on that point. It is a curious thing that one has to dig through Hansard to discover anything in regard to this great scheme, which is to cost the country nearly £100,000,000. One has to dig through Hansard, in order to get any allusion to it at all. However, I have obtained several references to it. The first was the statement by the Minister of Defence, which I read on a former occasion. Then, on the 16th July of the present year, the honorable member for Cowper asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
These were very plain questions, to which the Prime Minister replied -
The answers to the honorable members questions are -
The Government have accepted the general lines of the scheme-
– Ah !
– I knew exactly what my honorable friends opposite would say. The answer of the Prime Minister reads -
– What more does the honorable member want?
– I am delighted to have this opportunity of letting the public know exactly where we stand in regard to this matter. The Government have led everybody, including the Admiralty authorities, to believe - and we are receiving great credit in the British press for the magnificent patriotism we are exhibiting in establishing a Navy and paying for it out of revenue - that we are carrying out Admiral Henderson’s scheme in its entirety. Yet we are not providing the works along with the ships, and1 the reason is that the Government are apparently not prepared to put aside the money necessary for the purpose, and have not done so. Honorable members opposite may interject as much as they please, but they will not succeed in making me lose time to-night. I am keeping my eye on the clock.
– If we do not get the money we shall not borrow it.
– If we do not get the money, and we therefore do not get, the works, where will be our naval defence ?
– But they will take the credit.
– Our friends opposite will take the credit, but, as I say, we shall be living in a fool’s paradise. This matter will certainly come up another time. It is possible that at the end of the year the Government may be able to balance the accounts again, because they may not spend, during the financial year, all the money which has been appropriated. But I advise honorable members, when the next Budget is being delivered, to insist upon a list of the unexpended votes, and see to what extent the estimates of expenditure have been realized. It may be discovered that so-called savings are not savings at all, but money not expended for the purposes for which it was appropriated. I put that caveat in now, because some honorable members may later on say, “ The honorable member said there would be a deficiency, and there is no deficiency.” Everything depends upon how the money appropriated by Parliament is spent. So far as I can make out, every shilling that could be spent last year was spent, in the Post and Telegraph Department particularly. I think that about £1,000,000 was appropriated for that Department, and the whole of the amount appropriated was expended, and About £12 in addition.
– It was very necessary that it should be expended.
– I am not now discussing the necessity for the expenditure. To meet the expenditure this year, 19 12-13, to which I have referred, every shilling put aside in the Trust Fund for the Navy, oldage pensions, and for other purposes, will be absorbed. Next year, instead of having over £2,000,000 in the Trust Fund to fall back upon, as we have this year, we shall have nothing, and we shall have to find £3,000,000 for the Navy, if we are -going to carry out the scheme. If we are not going to carry out the scheme, of course we shall not need to find the money. If we are going to carry it out, it must be agreed that the most necessary part of it is the finding of the money. Without the money we cannot have the Fleet or the works. The finding of the money is a part of the scheme, and it is the primary duty of the Government, and of Parliament, to say how we are to get the money.
– What about a tax on millionaires ?
– For the satisfaction of the honorable member for Capricornia, I may say that, so far, the whole of the money that has been put into the Fleet has come from the land tax, and not a shilling from any other source. I do not know where to find the millionaires the honorable member talks of, but those whom he probably refers to as millionaires have done pretty well in paying for the Fleet up to date. No doubt they will continue to contribute their quota.
I ask honorable members, in all seriousness, whether they consider that Parliament and the Government are justified in going on in this way, without any plan of finance, looking only to the moment, and bringing up a vote as occasion requires. We have got some ships, they make a brave show, and we are invited to believe that the works can wait.
I have compiled a pro forma estimate of what I think will be the position next year. Although a section of the press has described the honorable members for Ballarat, Flinders, and myself as a set of pessimists, there is no pessimism about me. I believe in this country, if it be only properly governed. Government is largely a matter of finance, and if we have reckless finance we shall have disaster brought upon the country, no matter how productive it may be. There may be a loss of prestige to the country, and enormous individual loss to great masses of the people. Unwise expenditure, reckless finance, and ignorant procedure may bring the fairest and greatest country into a very parlous condition indeed. I am taking the scheme as the Government imposed it upon Admiral Henderson. I do not believe they had any right to do that without consulting Parliament, but they did it, and it is not a borrowing scheme. What I am contending is that having caused a scheme to be devised based upon annual payments of fixed sumsfrom the Treasury, on the plea that they are not going to borrow, they do not provide the money that will be necessary to carry it out. Taking the scheme as it is, I ask why they do not comply with its conditions? Next year we shall have got rid of the nest-eggs of the Trust Fund, and I submit a pro formâestimate of the revenue and expenditure for 1913-14. Honorable members opposite may laugh ; we know that to provide for the day is sufficient for them. I have prepared this pro formâ estimate on an assumption which cannot be regarded as pessimistic.
– Order ! The honorable member for Merndadesires to deliver his speech insilence. He is entitled to do so, and I hope that honorable members will also be silent when other honorable members are speaking.
– My estimate is based upon the assumption thatthe revenue will be the same as for the present year, 1912-13, though it may be, and is much more likely to be less than more, than that revenue. It is based also on the assumption that the expenditure will be on the same scale as that estimated for 1912-13, which, I think, is a rather sanguine assumption. I take the figures of the present year of prosperity, on both sides of the account, and I make out the revenue, according to the Estimates, to be £20,422,000, and the expenditure, as per Estimates, is £22,683,541. I deduct£2,174,257 for the naval expenditure of 191 2-13 provided for from the Trust Fund and revenue, which leaves £20,509,284. Then I charge the expenditure with a transfer to the Trust Fund–£3,000,000, the amount to be applied annually under Admiral Henderson’s scheme - which brings the expenditure up to £23,509,284, without this year’s deficit of £1,114,407, which makes £24,623,691, and at the end of 1914 creates a deficit of £4,200,000. Honorable members will see that I have not stretched my calculations. It is not an extravagant supposition that the abnormally high figure which our revenue has reached will not be maintained, and if we receive in1913-14 only as much as we got two years ago - that is, in 1910-11 - another £1,500,000 would have to be added to the deficit. Even though some of the items of expenditure of this year may not be repeated, there are other commitments. There is the prospective increase of expenditure in the Northern Territory, on the Federal Capital, on quarantine, lighthouses, and the Western Australian railway. In 1913-14, the Western
Australian railway will be under construction, but unfinished, and we shall have borrowed, at least, £1,000,000, on which the interest chargeand sinking fund will be about £50,000 a year. Within about two years,the additional expenditure will probably come to £1,000, 000,” and it is quite within the bounds, of possibility that, in 1913-14, . the Treasurer of the day will be faced with a deficit of from£5,000,000 to £7,000,000. The following are the details of this pro formâ estimate -
If the Labour party is returned to power, it will then have to answer the question that it declines to answer now, “ Where are you going to get the money ? “ I think that when the country has these facts brought before it, every candidate will be asked whether he is in favour of increasing taxation or reducing expenditure. I asked the Ministerial supporters the question which they are always asking us, “ What items of expenditure will you do without in order to square the ledger and meet the deficit of which I have spoken? “
– It is a good thing that this is all assumption.
– If I replied to the honorable member’s remark as presumption, it would be as apposite as his interjection. This is assumption that is exceedingly likely to prove true. The banker, the merchant, or any one having financial transactions, must, in dealing with his affairs, see what he is committing himself to, and find out where he can get money wherewith to meet his obligations. The conduct of the Treasurer is that of. the man who showed a magnificent balance-sheet, and got a large credit. When he subsequentlv went insolvent, his creditors asked, “ How did this happen ? You showed a magnificent credit balance?” “Yes,” he replied, “but I left out all these liabilities.” A splendid balance can be shown by leaving out liabilities. Although members of Parliament are spoken of as the custodians of the public purse, we, on this side, at all events, have little opportunity of learning what is to be done with the public money. Honorable members opposite are apparently interested in nothing but expenditure; after them, the deluge, they say, and we on this side can pull the machine out of the gutter where they will have left it. When the time for that comes, they will say, “ When we were in office, the country flourished ; every one had a fowl in the pot, and every woman £1 in her pocket. Now these Liberals are in, things are very different.”
I put these facts on record as a sort of caveat against that. It is . easy enough to get into debt or to get the country into debt, but it is not so easy to straighten things again, and those who get the country into debt must bear the blame. The matter is too serious to be treated with laughter and chaffing interjections. The legislation and extraordinary want of financial management on the part of the Government, to put it mildly, have created distrust and unrest throughout Australia, which is causing an arrest of prosperity. The effects of their policy are not seen at first; they appear slowly, just as creeping paralysis produces its effect on the human system. Those occupying the Ministerial bench have a tremendous responsibility. They will not be allowed to run away from the results and say they did not do it, like the naughty boy who breaks a window. They will be brought to book for it. But there is very little satisfaction in that after the mischief is done. Every bit of their legislation dealing with finance has been a mistake. Their land tax was a mistake. Not that a land tax might not have been imposed, but the manner of its imposition was a mistake.
– How would the honorable member change it?
– I am not going to lose my time to-night.
– It will not be a case of “ borrow, boom, and burst, this time.”
– This Government will neither borrow, boom, nor burst, perhaps; but they will not provide money to pay for the obligations they incur. I am going to read a few lines from a London journal, in which the action of the Government, and especially the Prime Minister, was commented upon very severely. Mr. Fisher, when in London, was invited to meet a number of representatives of financial institutions ; and he did not, I think, do either himself or this country credit by his action on that occasion. The following passage from the Economist was copied into the Argus concerning the interview -
Mr. Williamson stated that the representations of the deputation were not received by the Prime Minister in the same spirit in which they were presented to him. Indeed, instead of dealing frankly with the grievances submitted, his -reply was evasive, and seemed to be more of the nature of a manifesto to his own supporters in Australia than of any genuine attempt either to disprove the indictment of the Act or to explain why it was necessary to single out one small section of the community to bear the burden of this oppressive tax. Further, although; the Prime Minister promised that he would1 report the matter fully to his colleagues, and if any anomalies existed that could be altered, they would chave attention, nothing whatever has been done to remove any of the grievances.
As a matter of fact, we could have got quite as much money from the Act by shaping it on totally different lines, and still have attained the object in view. It has done us, in a financial sense, untold harm. All the money that we get out of the obnoxious sections amounts only to about £60,000 a year, and for that we have incurred the hostility and the active feeling of antagonism of a very influential section in England, who are in the habit of lending us money when we want it. And we shall have to go to them again. We are a borrowing country. We have a heavy debt. We cannot afford to act towards our creditors in that way, and cause them to distrust us, and to disbelieve in our honesty of purpose.
I pointed out the evil effects of the note tax on a previous occasion, and I am not going to deal with it again. It is a miserable thing. The Commonwealth makes about £40,000 or £50,000 a year by taking money away from the States and investing money which really belongs to the banks. I pointed out that it had a much wider effect, in my opinion, than the mere taking of the money, because it restricted the ability of credit issue bv the banks. My words - although honorable members doubted me when they were uttered - have since been confirmed by the chairman of one of the Australian banks, who, at the half-yearly meeting in Sydney a few weeks ago, stated distinctly that the bank had been compelled to raise the rate by i per cent, in consequence of the absorption of the coin by the Federal Government. He said, that in consequence of - the contraction of lending power, brought about by the withdrawal by the Commonwealth Government of the right to issue notes, which necessitated the redemption of bank notes in circulation and payment in sovereigns to the Federal Treasury for till-money, the bank had been compelled to increase the rates charged to borrowing customers. This had been done with reluctance, because the bank’s policy had always been to make charges to producers as light as possible, for the welfare of the country at large.
These matters are important, because this country cannot afford to play ducks and drakes with our financial position. We cannot afford to go on spending money as we are doing. I say that, as prudent men, we should look the position in the face, making provision for contingencies. Otherwise, as we are going on, some day we shall fmd ourselves in a very difficult position. We shall probably find that we have to reduce public works, and stop our defence expenditure, which may be very disastrous, as well as throwing thousands of people out of work. That has happened before. We have seen the same sort of thing in my time on more than one occasion.
– Not as the result of Labour rule.
– That is always the attitude of the boomster. He is never going to do anything wrong. I remember talking to a friend of mine about a man who had made a large amount of money, and occupied an important position. My friend amused me very much by saying, “ Oh, yes, he is a big man now ; he went into the boom when he was not worth a shilling, and in a short time he won’t be worth a shilling again.” The booming habit is easily acquired. I am afraid our friends have acquired it, and they may find that the usual results will follow.
I want to say a word or two before I sit down in regard to the Trust Fund. The way this Trust Fund is established and worked in some instances tends to the deception of Parliament. I do not say that that is done intentionally, but it has that effect. I will give an instance from last year. In addition to the expenditure in the Post and Telegraph Department of nearly ,£1,000,000, £600,000 was put into the Trust Fund for future expenditure. There was a schedule to the Act. The Act was general in its terms, and the £600,000 passed from the purview of Parliament. What happened? In the same year in which that sum was passed into the Trust Fund ,£187,000 was spent, and ^£430,000 was left for expenditure, which is intended to be spent this year, in addition to £1,000,000 voted by Parliament. Consequently, whilst we have before us Estimates showing an expenditure of £1,000,000, we are really spending, for the year 1912-13, £1,400,000. Whilst we must have the Trust Fund, I consider that it should be carefully watched, and that the Treasurer should submit to the House, in reference to every one of the Trust Accounts, a full statement showing how the money has been spent. Honorable members will recollect that in the “ course of my speech on the Address-in-Reply I referred to a certain transaction, which led to the extraordinary statement that the Auditor-General had made a mistake. I went into the matter carefully, believing that it was a most serious thing that the Auditor-General, to whom we must all look, and in whom we must all have confidence - and I, personally, have confidence in him - should make a mistake of the kind. I find, on looking into the matter, that there is very great reason for mistakes occurring, because, since this Government have been in office, the papers in respect of each financial year have not reached the Auditor-General until ten months after the close of the year. The mistake made by the Auditor- General was the result of his anxiety to try to bring certain figures up to date, and so to make up for the stale character of the report which he was to furnish. I find that, in his ninth report, issued on 30th June, 19 10, the Auditor-General states -
The statement of the Honorable the Treasurer relating to the accounts for the year 1909-10 was received by me, complete, this 10th day of March, 191 1.
The late receipt of the statement and accounts made it impossible for my report to be prepared and presented to Parliament prior to the close of the recent session-
As had previously been done -
My previous eight annual reports had been submitted for the information of Parliament in the first instance.
On this occasion, however, the report had to be sent by him to the Treasurer, and was published as a supplement to the Government Gazette. The Auditor-General’s last report, to which I referred in the course of my speech on the Address-in-
Reply, and in which the mistake was made, contains this pregnant paragraph -
The Right Honorable the Treasurer’s Statement of Accounts for the year 1910-11 was not received by me, complete, until this day, the 30th of April, 1912-
Or ten months after the close of the financial year - when the statement of the Treasury balances was signed by the Treasurer. . . .
The late receipt of the Treasury accounts, and the consequent delay in the presentation of this report, has rendered much of the subject-matter of the latter of less public interest than it might otherwise have possessed. Information as to various accounts has, therefore, been brought up to a later date than 30th June, 191 1, the end of the period with which the report is required to deal.
It was in bringing this report up to date that the mistake to which I called attention was made.
– I wish now to ventilate, as a grievance, a matter arising out of a question which I put to the Minister of Trade and Customs this afternoon, and the answer which he gave. The question is of considerable importance, because it affects the relations and the actions of the Minister in regard to certain men who were on strike. The answer given by the honorable gentleman was most unsatisfactory, because, whilst the question was specific, the reply was entirely general. In the first place, I asked the Minister -
Is it a fact that he, under dale of 14th August, gave to some twenty or more men, who are on strike at Mitchell’s cement works, special letters of recommendation to provide them with employment at the Westernport naval base, such recommendations being handed to the men and addressed to the Secretary, Navy Office, Lonsdalestreet, Melbourne?
The question could not have been more specific. The answer given to it was -
It is true I have given many letters of recommendation to deserving men wanting employment, and these, very probably, include the men referred to.
The Minister knows very well that the letters to which I referred did relate to those men, and, that being so, there was no need for him to make the evasive statement that “ these very probably include the men referred to.” He asserted that he had given letters of recommendation to “ deserving men wanting employment.” Were these deserving men wanting employment?
– They were on strike, and their positions were available to them if they chose to return to work. The master who was employing them was quite prepared to reinstate them on terms that would have been honorable to themselves, and would have taken them out of the ranks of the unemployed. Let me state the facts of the case. There are fifty men on strike at Mitchell’s cement works, and about onehalf of these received letters from the. Minister.
– Did the Minister know” them all personally?
– He gave such a general answer to my question that it is impossible for me to say, but it would be a very questionable practice for the Minister to have letters of this kind drafted in blank. I give him credit, however, for not issuing recommendations to men whom he does not know. Mr. Mitchell has agreed to abide by the decision of a Wages Board, and, during this week, two meetings of the strikers have been held to decide if steps should be taken for the creation of such a Board. Its establishment would mean their immediate return to work. There would be no occasion for them to lose a penny in respect of wages if they had a Wages Board. Two meetings were held to decide if they would ask for a Wages Board, but at each meeting those who wanted to go back to work were out- voted. There was a majority of one against having a Wages Board on each occasion. Why was this? It leads me to challenge the answer given by the Minister to my last question, which was -
Are the said recommendations conducing to the continuance of the stoppage of the local manufacture of cement, in the interest of the imported article?
The reply of the Minister was, “ Certainly not.” As a number of these fifty men were each provided with a written recommendation from a Minister of the Crown to employes in another Government Department, they had an implied promise that they would be employed in that Department at 9s. a day, and when they met with their fellow workmen, and the question was put, “ Shall we agree to the establishment, of a Wages Board?” they were not prepared to vote in the affirmative, because they desired to get into Government employment. I put that as a reasonable outcome of the action of the Minister in giving these letters of recommendation. At the present time, in Melbourne, there are vast building operations in progress, involving a very large consumption of cement. The stoppage of the local industry means that those who are engaged in the building trade will be unable to obtain the local manufacture, and, for that reason, they will be compelled to use the imported article. The answer which the Minister returned to my question - “Certainly not” - is one which will not bear investigation, because the facts of the case disclose that the recipients of the letters of recommendation, anticipating Government employment, were not prepared to agree to the creation of a Wages Board, and return to their old occupation, and, consequently, the local industry is suffering. The whole question is a most important one. If the Minister is prepared to back up men who are on strike, and give them letters of recommendation for employment in public Departments, assuming that they are good men, it will simply undermine the whole of our working conditions, and_ will be a long step in the direction at which I know my honorable friends are aiming, namely, Government employment, which, I venture to say, would not be a good thing for the community. I have stated the position very clearly. I venture to say that the action of the Minister in creating the conditions which led men to anticipate employment under Government was the very thing which prevented them from doing as they should have done, agreeing to the constitution of a Wages Board, which would have resulted in them returning to work in their own industry. There is another important aspect of the matter. I believe that every one of these men is a really good man in the cement line. They are all practical men, who understand the business, but the Minister, by his action, would induce them to go out of this work, for which they are well qualified, and, so far as his influence would go, he would give them positions under the Government for which, in all probability, they are ill-fitted. The whole position appears to me to be most unsatisfactory from every point of view.
– I gave letters of recommendation to these men. I have given such letters, as I stated in my reply to the question, to plenty of other deserving men whom I know. The honorable member forgot, I suppose, that the men had been out on strike for six weeks before they came to me. They had been receiving 7s. 6d. a day at Mitchell’s, and they went out on strike for 9s. The honorable member stated that fifty men were out on strike,, and, apparently, he cannot find that I gave letters of recommendation to more than twenty-four. One thing I regret about the matter is that, so far as I am aware, not one of them has been employed. .1 am very sorry that they did not get work at Westernport. It is only labouring work that they were doing prior to the strike. If it were skilled work, does the honorable member say that it is worth only 7s. 6d. per day ? If the men are skilled workers, as he says, surely the work is worth 9s. per day ? The whole of these men, I believe, are constituents of mine. The honorable member for Perth asked if I knew the lot. We all know a lot of people casually, but they know us probably much better than we know them. Most of these men. I had seen and spoken to before. I have held many meetings at the cement works, and, possibly, I received a good few votes there.
– Did you get them on?
– So far as I know, not one of them was taken on. Unfortunately, all cannot be employed at the naval base. It was only labouring work which the men were doing at the cement works, and I re-, commended them for a labouring job in’ the same way as I have recommended plenty of other men. I wrote the recommendation on the same paper as that on which I address a communication to any honorable, member. The honorable member for Echuca asked if I signed each letter as Minister for Trade and Customs. I signed my name. I did not put the title of my. office tinder my name, but I think that ninety-nine out of every hundred would know where the letter came from.
.. - I do not propose, on this question, to weary honorable members about the troubles of bank managers and syndicators who have’ lost control of the note issue, or the advantages of it, or those worthy moneyed men over the sea who have to contribute a little towards the revenue of this country, and to give something to defend their property. There is a very real grievance from which’ the masses of the working people of this country are suffering, and if it is possible in any way to get at the causes, and to apply a remedy, it behoves the Government to move in the matter. What I refer to is the steady and mysterious increase in the general cost of living to the masses of the people, particularly during the last twelve months. If this great Commonwealth had been visited by a famine, or by flood, or by some far-reaching catastrophe which had devastated it and destroyed its wealth, we might very rightly look there for the causes. But, instead of that, the statistics, which are supplied by our competent authorities, go to show that the general production of wealth for the past three years has never been excelled in the history of the Commonwealth, which, in this regard, surpasses any civilized community of modern times. Whilst it is true that there have been losses from drought in some parts of the Commonwealth, those losses and the drought conditions .have not been nearly so serious as was the case in 1902-3. At that time the drought was general throughout the Commonwealth, and the loss of stock and crops was very severe indeed, but the result, in the matter of increased prices and increased cost of living, did not reach anything near .the high point which is being experienced at the present time. Thus we have the extraordinary position that, with a vast and rapidly increasing production of wealth, excelling any previous experience, we have house rents, and the general cost of living, steadily mounting, sky-wards every day. There is no effect without a cause ; and certainly the effect, as seen in the general life of our community, is that of a scarcity. I am not, I think, making an undue demand on the belief of honorable members when I say that that scarcity, .viewed in the light of our very large production,, is not a real, but an artificial scarcity, created by some means or other; and that, when we come to look for the cause, we are certainly justified in assuming that it is in the monopolistic control over the great forces which are intermediary between the producer and the .consumer. 1 It will be generally admitted by all thoughtful students of modern tendencies, that America is far excellence the great home of the trust; and the combine.
– It is not half as bad as Australia.
– I beg to disagree with the honorable gentleman. America is a very much bigger country than
Australia, and all things there are on a> very big. scale; and the trust is one of the’ biggest now dominating the community. . America naturally lends itself to these great.. combinations. It is the home of the practical application of the Protectionist’s policy, which secures to its great wealthy people, in the persons of their manufac- ‘turers and commercial men, the homemarket; and there is a lack of legislation’ to regulate the Protection. There are no means by which the benefits enjoyed by the commercial and manufacturing interests can be extended to the worker or to the consumer; and, unlike Australia, America has not engaged in State enterprises to anything like the extent we have. Transport and other means of communication are great necessities of modern civilization ; and in. America . the railways.- telegraphs, tele-: phones, and so forth, instead of being in the hands of the Government to be conducted for the benefit of the people, are farmed out, and, under franchises, become the property of private persons who are “ out “ for gain. To such an extent have trusts grown in America, and so baneful are their effects on the community generally, and particularly on the poorer people, that they are engaging the attention of leadingeconomic thinkers, and legislators, and pro,minent men in the church. The pronouncements that are being made are clear and. definite in the condemnation of the operations of these combinations. I regret to say that, in Australia, our Church folk,, who should be the leaders 6f the higher thought and better living, do not seem to give that serious attention to this phase of modern development that it warrants. .1 find, from a recent publication, that, in America, the Bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church,, in their quadriennial address to the General Conference, touch on the social injustices noticeable in that country. They say -
We live in an age in which the vast enterprises essential to the progress of the world require the association of men of large means under corporate management. . - Out of this necessity have grown serious charges and consequent resistance. Organized capital stands indicted at the bar of public judgment for the gravest crimes against the common welfare… Among the counts in that -indictment are: such as these:’ - “ 1. Conspiring to advance prices on the staple commodities indispensable to the life, well-being, and progress of the people a: Resorting’ to adulteration of foods, fabrics, and materials in order to increase profits already excessive. 3. Destroying the competition in trade through which-: relief, might be expected under normal conditions. 4. Suborning legislation, and thus robbing the people of the first orderly recourse of the weak against the strong. These are sins against humanity. If God hates any sin above another, it must be the robbery of the poor and defenceless. Otherwise His love fails when it is most needed, and might find its largest opportunity. There is no betrayal more base than that which uses the hospitality of a house to plunder its inmates, unless it be that form of treason which so perverts the purpose and machinery of popular government as to turn its power against the people who trust and support it. This is not saying that all corporations deal treacherously with the people. There are honorable exceptions. But enough is known of the heartless greed that fattens off of the hunger-driven millions to warrant the strongest protective associations on the part of the people.”
That is a deliberate pronouncement on the part of a body of Christian men, who have given modern tendencies their closest observation ; and they feel themselves compelled, in the name of humanity, and of Christianity, to speak in terms so strong. On every hand are to be found evidences to support the stand that is thus being taken by that particular church, in common with others, in opposition to the large combines which operate so extensively. In fact, the position in America is rapidly approaching the stage when those who are engaged in the large combines, and who make the “almighty dollar” their God, are casting morals and ethics to the winds. From their position of advantage and power that wealth gives, they are creating a kind of imperium in imperio, and becoming a law unto themselves. They are setting at defiance the laws of their country ; and, instead of being on the side of order and good government, they are the instigators of crime and corrupters of justice. Instead of being the buttresses of that law, they are becoming its enemies, and the means of its destruction.
I find that Mr. C. Armstrong, a sheepowner of Montreal, Canada, in a recent interview, expressed himself in respect of the operations of the Meat Trust as follows : -
Beef and mutton are 6d. a lb. in Montreal, and is. per lb. in New York. These high prices are paid in New York because the Trust controls the market.
That information was contained in a cablegram published in the Age a little time ago. Then Mr. Fleming, a grazier, who recently returned from a visit abroad, says -
The meat rings of America buy at a ridiculously low price, corner the market, and reap a golden, harvest. The price of meat is 100 per cent, higher than in Australia.
The Age, in another article, says -
The profits of the Trust every year run into* millions. It is little wonder that the anger of” the United States consumers is aroused, and’ that they are urging their Government to control the malignity of these monopolies.
The Sydney Morning Herald, in a recent article, expressed itself thus -
It only remains for the Beef Trust to gain control of all the meat in the world by acquiring; predominant interests in the Australian and New Zealand meat industry.
I would also like to direct attention to another phase of the operations of this Trust. I refer to the extent to which it has secured control of the London meat market, and is operating there, to the detriment of. the consumers of the Old World. A Mr, Hain, who visited the Old Country not long ago, has set forth the result of hisinquiries in the Slock and Station Journal of 25th June last. He says -
The Meat Trust is a serious thing, for it absolutely rules the prices of beef and muttonall over the United Kingdom, the prices being: fixed every morning and communicated to their various centres of interest, wherever they may be, in Great Britain and Ireland.
In describing a visit to Smithfield, hee says -
I was informed that close upon 50 per cent.. of the best shops in Smithfield were in the hands; of the American Meat Trust. Of course, they do not advertise the Trust over the shops, but. the names of the good old firms who have been, bought from time to time remain. The unwary might, therefore, think that they were still doingbusiness with the former tenants. The Trust has taken good care to secure the businesses of people who had the most extensive connexion, all oyer London and England, and have not stood at a few thousand pounds to accomplish* their object.
His testimony shows the extent to which, the Trust has spread out its tentacles over the great consuming centres of the Old World, and how, octopus-like, it has thegreat masses of the population in its grip. It is no wonder that, as the result of suein operations, unguided by any social ethics,, dire results are being experienced far and” wide throughout Europe. Mr. Hain further says -
Already the Trusts have captured practically the whole of the South American English trade,, and if we do not act with extreme foresight theywill cut us out of what should prove to be thebest market we shall have the opportunity of securing……
He fears that we shall be eliminated from, our large and profitable London market..
– Not eliminated. We shall have to put up the prices.
– If it were a question of fair competition, there would not be so much objection to the operations of the Trust. But the monopoly is of such a character that the intermediate men are not allowed to deal with us. This is not merely a question of our status in the English market, and of the unfair opposition that we have to meet. It has now become a question of the extent to which Australia is to be menaced in her home market by these great trusts. In this connexion, I would invite the attention of honorable members to ah article which was published in the Agc a little while ago. That article reads -
Evidence is available which proves that for years Messrs. Swift and Company, one of the leading firms in the Trust, have had representatives at Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne, who have made trial purchases of Australian beef and mutton. Further, it is known that representatives of the Trust have three times travelled through all the known Australian cattle and sheep country, examining the principal freezing works, selecting sites for new freezing works, and even negotiating with some of the biggest exporters and retailers in the trade, for the transfer of their business to the Trust.
So that, according to this, I presume, wellinformed authority, the Trust has cast its eyes upon Australia as a possible field for its operations, and developments to secure a footing here are taking place at the present time.
I should like to direct attention to an intimation that recently appeared in the press of the formation of a company in Queensland. We were informed that an Australian Meat Export Company Limited, with a capital of £200,000, divided into 200,000 shares of £1 each, was in course of formation. We were further informed that the objects of the company, briefly stated, were the purchase, sale, exchange, import, export, grow, prepare for market or export, and turn to account, cattle, sheep, pigs, and live stock of every kind, and to carry on the business of butchers generally. Then we had given to us the following list of directors for the time being: - Andrew J. Thynne, solicitor; William E. Lalor, solicitor; David J. Hickey, accountant; George H. Britain, law clerk; Michael R. Becher, law clerk; Bernard T. McShea, law clerk; and Thomas Goodall, law clerk. The majority of the persons who are at the head of the company would appear to be law clerks.
– And they all belong to the one office.
– The honorable member, who knows Brisbane well, says that they all find their habitation in the one office. It must be a remarkable office to furnish so many law clerks possessed of sufficient wealth to enable them to successfully float a company of this kind.
– That is the American system.
– I am reminded by the honorable member for New England that this is in accordance with the American system of doing this kind of business. The people of Australia have substantial reasons for supposing this is the work of one of the great American trusts. Instead of having to fight the Meat Trust in the London consuming market, we have it in our midst, and must fight it in our own* land in the very near future. I notice that recently there were some negotiations with the Melbourne ‘Harbor Trust by a combination supposed to represent this foreignMeat Trust. The purpose of the negotiations was to secure here a site for carrying on a business on a very large scale. Public alarm was created to such an extent that the State Premier intimated that he would! look into the matter,- and see that no facilities were afforded the Trust in the direction referred to. But it is not a question of acquiring a particular site controlled by the Melbourne Harbor Trust. There are plenty of sites available, and if the representatives of the Trust do not succeed in. getting the site for which they are looking, they will get some other.
I noticed that this home competition of the Trust has already assumed such seriousproportions that it was brought under the notice of the Commonwealth AttorneyGeneral. The honorable gentleman, in am interview with the press, put the position in> this way. He said -
Although it is known perfectly well that theorganization is there, and is beginning operations, still nothing can be done in the present state of the law. We are like, men who see a> fire in its early stages, but are prevented by. some municipal regulation from interfering with it, until it reaches a stage when probably no> effort can extinguish it.
I do not wish to question this legal interpretation of the position by the honorable and learned Attorney-General, but, if he has properly described the position, the sooner the people who will have to suffer, as the American and British people are suffering, from the operations of these unprincipled trusts, realize it, and apply the remedy, the better it will be for them. It. is not merely a question of a rise in the price of meat that has to be faced, but a rise in other lines of consumption not touched by the Meat Trusts of America, so far as I know,
– They touch about sixty articles used in the household.
– I am aware that they deal with a large number of articles. One remarkable effect of the operation of trusts and combines in America is that they gradually close in upon competition outside their own sphere. They gradually eliminate competition, so that, according to Ripley and other eminent authorities, in connexion with some lines in America from 60 per cent, to 95 per cent, of. the consumption is controlled by the trusts to the detriment of the consuming public, as indicated by this pronouncement on the part of the representatives of the Churches, in the matter of cost, and also in the matter of adulteration and the sale of an inferior article.
I should like to point to the increase which is taking place in the cost of living in the Commonwealth. It is a matter, of very serious complaint that in all the great centres of population house rents have gone up at an alarming rate. This has been more particularly noticeable as affecting houses in the slum areas, occupied by the poorer classes of people. The toiling men and women of the community; who are living on the verge of subsistence, are being penalized in this way. Houses which heretofore were considered amply paid for by a rental of 7s. 6d. or 10s. per week have had their rentals increased to 10s., 12s., and 15s. per week. It is also noticeable that the rentals of the houses occupied by the wealthier portion of the community have not risen in anything like the same ratio as those of houses in the slum area. This in the land of ample spaces, not in a country where the areas available for habitation are limited and overcrowded, as in the Old World.
Not long since, there was a controversy in New South Wales respecting the’ cost of living, and the Secretary of Public Works made a> comparison based on the tenders of firms of contractors. The manager of Messrs. Mcllwraith and Company Limited, however, said that the Minister’s list of current prices was twelve months behind the times, and that since it was issued, there had been a general rise. In an article appearing in the Worker, of 30th May, a writer estimates what this had cost the country. In regard to oatmeal, of which 75,000 cwt. had been imported, the increase amounted to £125,000. On 225,000 tons of sugar, the increase was £785,000; on 485,000 cwt. of rice, £48,500; on 79,420,000 lbs. of jam, £55,125; on 2,392,000 lbs. of coffee, £19,950 ; on 20,886,000 lbs. of condensed milk. £65,100; on 12,309,000 lbs. of raisins and sultanas, £51,200; and on 8,390,000 lbs. of sago and tapioca, £7,500 ; the increases totalling £1,157,400. Those increases were on the wholesale prices; and no one engaged in business would think it unreasonable to say that the retail prices were at least 25 per cent, more, making the cost of the general rise in prices to the community ^1,460,000; and this, not in a time of scarcity, or with causes at work to justify the increase. The marvellous thing is that. the increase began just after the referenda. It is said that £100,000 was spent in New South Wales in defeating the Government’s proposals. I know that, in my district, every weakkneed Labour man who was prepared to actively canvass against the proposals found work and pay ; and if the campaign cost our wealthy syndicates, and importers £100,000, the figures which I have given show that it was a good investment. This is the policy of America ; and, in connexion with the Sugar Commission’s inquiry, we see another repetition of the American methods. The price of sugar, it must be remembered, rose £3 a ton after the referenda. Mr. Ripley, in his great book on Trusts and Combines, shows that it is a common thing in America for cute men who could not hold their positions and carry out their great business transactions if they were not brainy men, to suddenly suffer from paralysis of the memory when brought before, investigating tribunals. They then find themselves unable to remember anything. They cannot give any information on points which, as managers, should be at their fingers’ ends. We find the same thing in the sugar business. When the Commissioners called as witnesses-
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss the Sugar Commission.
– That question is sub judice, and I think you are quite right, Mr. Speaker, in not permitting it to be discussed at this stage; but it is a splendid illustration of the operation of trusts. What we have been getting here so recently, and seems so strange a thing to» us, is simply a repetition of what the American people have experienced. Therefore, there is all the greater necessity why we should have the power, if we have it not already ; and if we have it, I maintain that we are committing a criminal act against the people who sent us here if we do not use it in gripping these great trusts and combines at this early stage of their career, in order that we may prevent the people of Australia from experiencing the pains and penalties ‘ that are being inflicted upon people elsewhere.
What I would suggest to the Government is this : I know that we have Commissions investigating other subjects, but this question of the increase of prices during the last twelve months, the increase of rent, and the operation of trusts, and their attempts to get a footing in Australia, ought to be inquired into. I suggest that the Government should appoint some competent person to investigate them. Either they should appoint Mr. Knibbs, our very able Statistician, or the head of the Customs and Excise Department, . to get out the data, so as. to inform the House to what extent the rise in the cost of living is due to natural causes, and to what extent it is due to, monopolies operating against the best interests of the people. The Government should then devise some means of protecting the people against these com.bines, that seem to have ho soul, and are practically established for the purpose of acting outside of the region of law, of ethics, of right feeling, and of right action between man and man.
.- I heartily congratulate the honorable member who has just resumed his seat on having travelled far- afield in search of grievances. He went out to sea, and for a considerable time stayed there. He went to America for precedents, and came back to suggest in most eloquent terms the need for expert inquiry. I agree, after listen:ina carefully to his remarks, that it would be well if we did get some expert adviser, to help us in this matter. The honorable member talked of the operation of trusts in America, and he very properly divided the history of their peculiar operations under the headings of law and profits. The profits went to the trusts, and the law went for the trusts; and I think that the trusts “ got at “ both just as much as they wanted to do. But as far as Australia is concerned we are in a somewhat happier position than the United States, because if you care to look at the history of trusts in the United States you will find that almost every great trust depends for its enormous income upon some right over transportation, some pull that it has over the means of transport. For instance, the Standard Oil Trust controls the oilways and the carriage of oil, and controls interests in railway companies also, whereby it has managed to secure to itself a monopoly of freight which has broken up all competition. In Australia I am thankful to say that no person can have any monopoly in transportation, unless indeed the Government of any State gives a right of monopoly in transportation to, some particular competitor in a particular” business ; just as at the present, time it seems to me that the Government is prepared to give a monopoly of labour to one type of labour in the Australian Commonwealth.
I do not want to deal as comprehensively as my honorable friend did with one phase of the subject, but what he has said has given me almost a feverish interest in it. I rose more particularly to deal with a few instances of Government mismanagement, but have been led away by my honorable friend, and must deal with the increased cost of living. It seems to me that this increased cost of living iri Australia is a matter that calls for the closest and most competent investigation that we can give it. I trust that that investigation will be of an all-round character; that it will apply every test to the subject, and also that it will not invidiously single out some industries that are not for the time being popular with my honorable friends opposite, whilst leaving- untouched some other great colossal interests that they are not in a position to attack for the time being. Further, I trust that when my honorable friends’ appointees go into this question of the increased cost of living, they will face it squarely, and ascertain how much of the increase is due to the operation of Tariffs, how much of it is due to the operations of trusts and combines, how much again is due to the lack of confidence in this community at present, and how much is due to the artificial raising of the wages of the community. Take the last subject first : It is worthy of consideration. Wages are raised in a particular industry. That means that the employer passes on the increased cost of his industry to the general consumer. Let us assume that a man whose wages are increased a few shillings a week is engaged in the making of boots. When he starts to buy the necessaries of life he finds that similar increases of wages have been granted to every other person who has been making other articles which he has to wear and eat, and everything else, even to the house in which he lives. The result of all these various increases in the cost of labour is that the unfortunate maker of boots finds first that the house in which he lives, owing to the cost of building having gone up, is a great deal more expensive than it used to be, and he finds the same thing in regard to all the necessaries of life.
– What about houses that have been built twenty years or more?.
Mr.KELLY. - The general rise applies to them also.
Mr.Fenton. - We know when a Conservative deals with a thing how he will deal with it.
– My honorable friend was a “ Conservative “ himself once. He remembers the time when he applied for a position as candidate in the Liberal party. This man who was making boots, I say, and whose wages had been put up, not by competition for his labour, but by a Wages Board or Arbitration Court, finds that Wages Boards have been similarly operating with regard to every other labourer employed in producing all the articles which he has to eat and to clothe himself with. The result is that his wagesare of less value to him than they were before they were increased. When all is said and done, wages are only valuable for what they will buy, and if a mangets an increase of a few shillings a week in wages, and finds that their purchasing, power is a great many shillings less than was the case previously, he is worse off than he was before this all-round rise in the cost of living took place.
– According to that argument, it would appear that the higher the wages the worse it is for the working man.
– Not in the least. In the old days, when the honorable member used to talk Free Trade, he would have known that competition was the one thing that actually assessed value. If you increase the competition for labour, you actually increase its rewards without increasing the cost of living. Unfortunately, in this country to-day we have not the competition for labour that used to exist. In South America some of the richest countries in the world, potentially, have been held back for centuries because of the lawless nature of their inhabitants. In this country competition for labour is not what it ought tobe, not because there are bandits in the country, but because, rightly or wrongly, Capital, in the abstract, imagines that alfc the bandits in the country are banded together in Parliament.
I wish to deal now with the question of rent, to which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has referred. The all-round increase in rentals is undoubtedly due to the fact that there are more persons applying for houses in our big cities than there are houses to give them, and that the new houses that are being erected to cope with this demand haveto be supplied at an immensely increased cost of building. Owners of existing housesare thus in the happy position of being able to raise their rents without suffering thedisadvantage of their new competitors. It is a law of human nature that is operating; in the control of this particular type of property.
– Then the honorable member agrees with the principle of raising rents, whether there is, or is not, justification for doing so?
– Ethically I do not; but it is the result of a law of human nature. I do not agree with everything that the honorable member does, but I cannot help recognising that he is ruled by human nature quite as much as is any other honorable member in this Chamber, and I make allowances.
– But I would not cheat people in that way.
– The honorable member would not describe this raising of rents, if he were doing it himself, as cheating the people. He would say that he was taking advantage of his reasonable opportunities.
– But this is daylight robbery.
– The honorable member talks of the raising of rents that is going on all over the place as daylight robbery. What beneficent name would he apply to an eviction without the process of law? That is the sort of thing which, I suppose, becomes immediately laudable when it is done by those in high places, who are allied to the particular party to which he has the honour at present to belong. It is not a question of whether this raising of rents is ethically right or wrong. We know that human nature will make almost every man seize an opportunity that presents itself to him, and the opportunity is given to certain persons to perpetrate this “ daylight robbery,” if the honorable member chooses so to term it, by the wages that have to be paid, properly, no doubt, in the building trade. That is only one side of this question of the rise in rents and the increase in the cost of living.
The cost of living is also increased to a certain extent undoubtedly by the Tariff, although it is held by a vast majority of the House and the country that the cost resulting in that direction is one that it well behoves the country to near, in view of the results it yields. I shall not discuss that matter any further at present, but I would say to the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that when his expert goes into this question he ought not to be given a general, a 11- round commission to travel over the whole gamut of human industry in Australia. The honorable member might well appoint a number of separate Commissioners of the standing of the gentleman to whom he referred, and give each one a phase of the subject to inquire into. Let Mr. Knibbs, for the sake of argument, go into the subject of how the increase of the cost of living is affected by Wages Boards, plus a decrease in public confidence with regard to industrial enterprises.
I do not desire any one to think that this is in any sense an argument against Wages Boards in the abstract. A Wages Board in the abstract is the finest thing of which I know to prevent the economic loss resulting from strikes. But unless the Wages Board is put to its best use, that of preventing unrest, and not to its worst use, that of fomenting unrest, I do not think it can be giving the value which was expected of it, and which may confidently be expected if we can only get away from the tirade of class hatred and abuse in which my honorable friends opposite indulge in this Chamber and outside, as if that were the only method by which they could seek a return to this place.
I have one, if not two, grievances, and the first relates to the Department of External Affairs.
Mi. Higgs. - The honorable member’s grievances are as nothing compared with our grievance in having to listen to his orations.
– That is one of the privileges of supporting Governments. I have a grievance with regard to the Department of External Affairs that is worthy of the consideration of honorable members. I do not know whether they have ever dug deep into African lore. In Africa, you will find occasionally what is known as the Ju Ju. The bigger the Ju Ju, the more profound is the impression it creates, and the greater is the reverence with which .it is regarded. A very great Imperial Ju Ju has, I am afraid, just been exploded. The Prime
Minister, a year ago in England, told us with bated breath that all the Prime Ministers of the Empire had recently been taken into .the confidence of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and that a step had thus been taken that could never be retraced.
– He spoke of their being admitted to the inner councils of the Empire.
– The inner councils of the Empire, he said, had been thrown open to the Prime Ministers of the Australian Commonwealth and her sister Dominions. The great Ju Ju was raised on high for all the people of our Empire to behold. I believe that, in this inner council, Sir Edward Grey, with almost touching candour, told these gentlemen everything that had happened in the foreign affairs of the Empire from the days of Queen Anne until some six months before the date of that holy Conference.
– Why did he begin with Queen Anne?
– He desired, perhaps, to give the subject proper impressiveness, and to show that it was really dead. Since then this Ju Ju has been tested. We have had a first class international complication, in which the sister Dominions of Australia and New Zealand were, are, and will be, vitally interested. I refer to the question of the Panama Canal tolls. The Commission which was appointed by the American Congress to inquire into the question of tolls, reported that the maximum toll which could be enforced would be i dollar per ton on al! net tonnage coming from Australia and New Zealand, if the Canal was to be used by Australasian trade. Owing to the discrimination which the American Parliament has recently enacted against foreign shipping - contrary to Treaty obligations - Australia is, I understand, to be asked to pay i ^ dollars per ton; that is, more than the maximum which the Commission said that Australasian commerce could afford to pay. This is a matter of vital interest to us in Australia. We had a right to know, not the whole conduct of the secret negotiations, but how the matter stood and stands. Yet the Minister of External Affairs can tell us absolutely nothing. Full of the happy confidence which these inner councils had given to my right honorable and honorable and distinguished friends, they approached this earnest historian- in England, Sir Edward Grey, and ; asked him as early as last May, and on’ several- occasions recently, exactly how matters stood. There was . a silence - a silence sp profound that nothing came from that’ source.- We know nothing. Sir Edward Grey was prepared to take them into his confidence as to things whichhad passed, but he did not’ seem to be any more ready to trust them as to things which were actually occurring than he was before the great Ju-ju which was held in London last year. I do not wish to use this ns an opportunity for either harassing the Government or criticising Sir Edward Grey in the choice which he has taken of divulging nothing.
– I am sure that Sir Edward Grey will thank you for that.
– I am quite positive he will. I think that he will pay as much attention to it as he did to the despatches of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. My point is that it is not the fault of either the Australian Prime Minister or the British Minister of Foreign Affairs that we cannot have a free and frank community of expression, as we undoubtedly have a community of interest ; for, when all is said and done, the Australian Government are not responsible to the same authority as that to which Sir Edward Grey is responsible. If he divulges anything of a confidential nature to a member of the House of Commons, and that confidence is broken, the member can be held responsible at the bar of English public opinion ; but if one of our Ministers breaks a confidence, Sir Edward Grey cannot follow him to the bar of Australian public opinion.
– He would not trust him again.
– He will not trust him now, because he does not want to be put in the position of never being able to trust him again ! It is an unfortunate position that the free people in the white Dominions and in the Mother Country, who have community of” interest, cannot have some machinery which will enable them to participate equally in the Empire’s foreign affairs, which affect them equally. I take this opportunity, not so much of grieving, as of drawing attention to, and asking the honorable member for Capricornia to help me to bury that great Imperial Ju-ju which attained to such enormous proportions only a year ago.
I have one more grievance. Last -Saturday I paid a short visit to the Federal- area, and I do not think that the money which is being expended there is being put to its full use. I think that a great many of the objections which are .urged to the establishment of a Capital of Australia in its own Territory will disappear so soon as it is realized that an act of economy may be effected, by utilizing that Capital, through the saving of ground rent, which must be paid for Government offices in this city in competition with the big population here gathered. But in the Federal area, undoubtedly mistakes are occurring, undoubtedly there is a lack of organization, in fact, there seems to be no general organization, such as would be initiated under private control if anything on so big a scale were being established. I think that, for a time, the whole show was under the control of a clerk of works - an excellent man, but overloaded with too many responsibilities, with too many conflicting authorities cast upon him, without an opportunity of honouring anything. They have improved that lately, but the result of a lack of organization, the result of not having some person directly responsible, and living constantly on the spot, is to be found in the curious mistakes which constantly occur, and which, in their rectification, entail a considerable amount of unnecessary expense. There is a sight to make even a sad man smile in the stables which they have recently put up in connexion with the Military College. It was not as if they had not object-lessons to go by, because Anthony Hordern and Sons, in Sydney, had recently put up big stables on the most up-to-date lines, and I believe that another firm had done the same thing.
– Why is not the business Minister here to hear this?
– He will read it in Hansard. I am sure that when he sees this work he will blush for the mistake. Whether it is the mistake of his Department or of the Military Department, I will not express an opinion at present.
– Do you mean to say that the Minister has not seen the stables yet?, I saw them twelve months ago.
– The honorable member has not seen the building as it is now. All the flooring boards have been taken up since his visit.
– Are they pulling it to pieces?
– They will pull it all down before it is properly finished. . It will have to be reconstructed, except the outer shell. .
– You do not understand business like the Minister does.
– I confess that I cannot follow my distinguished friend into the intricacies of his business experience; but I do say that, in this particular case, enough horses will perish to satisfy the sardonic humour of even the honorable member for Capricornia. The building is made entirely of unpainted galvanized iron. It is well ventilated, it is true; but there is practically no drainage. The stalls are put together very much on the same lines as the stalls on board a ship, where the fear is felt that if a horse once gets down it will never rise again. I do not know whether the Remount Department is so arranged that a similar fear exists in regard to the horses supplied to the Military College. I do not think so, by the look of them. The stalls remind one more of battleships than anything else, they are so firmly put in.
– I thought that the DirectorGeneral of Works was a capable officer.
– I believe that he is. But how can he know everything about the construction of everything, from stables to forts, if he is given no time to be on the spot?
– How would you expect the Minister to know?
– I ask the Minister to organize the Department in such a way as to put an efficient officer in charge of the whole of these works. Every one knows that Colonel Owen is a very capable officer ; but for about 350 days in the year he is in Melbourne I do not know who designed those stables.
– Does the honorable member think that there should’ be some more officers at £750 a year?
– I desire that there should be a competent officer and organization on the spot to save many thousands a year. The Department of Home Affairs seems to be inclined to “ spoil the ship for a haporth of tar “ in some directions, while unnecessarily spending money in other directions. I went from the stables to the general’s house, which is a magnificent structure; and I was very much impressed by an array of half-a-dozen concrete pillars in front of the building, though I could not see what they were for, unless to cause more expense. The inside of the houses could have been made much more up-to-date, with a hot-water service and so forth, and the whole additional work carried out for half the cost of the pillars, which are neither ornamental nor useful. I have no desire to prevent other honorable members addressing the House; and I should not have occupied so long a time had I not been led away into the question of the cost of living by the transpontine excursions of the honorable member for Calare.
– We have spent a considerable time in the consideration of the Budget; but there are other questions worthy our attention on “grievance day.” When Federation became an accomplished fact, it was understood that it would create, or have a tendency to create, a united Australia. Prior to that time, there had been a certain amount of what may be called cut-throat competition amongst the States; and it was hoped by those who saw no advantage in this, that the competition would disappear. We have freedom of trade in theory between State and State ; but, if we look into the railway freights and rates, I think that we shall come to the conclusion that there is something to be done in the way of removing what I must describe as unfair competition. I am grateful to the AttorneyGeneral for being kind enough to be present for a few moments this evening, whenI desire to bring under the notice of the House, and the Government, some matters of interest. My attention has been called to the subsidies given by various States to the shipping companies, and the detrimental effect of those subsidies in some States. Speaking off-hand, I am inclined to’ think that these subsidies are unconstitutional; and it is just as well to devote a little time to their consideration, putting aside the question whether we are to have a one year’s Budget, or a ten years’ Budget. Rightly or wrongly, Adelaide flour for many years held a very high value, not only in the Australian markets, but in the markets abroad. I do not say that other States are not to compete, or that the quality of their flour may not have improved ; but when we find that the South Australian flour is ceasing to have the hold that it had in the past, it is fair to inquire as to the cause. My attention has been called to this matter in my own State by the following newspaper extract -
I refer now to the flour export trade of Australia, in which our own State has, until recent years, held the premier position, but from which it is now rapidly falling, mainly through the unfair and unfederal tactics of her companions in the Federal Union. Subsidies are now being paid by a number of the States, and if these are not checked by Commonwealth intervention, or by the’ adoption of a State policy here, similar to those existing elsewhere, disaster must inevitably overtake an industry in which employment is found for a great number of our people, and in which, also, the interests of agriculturists and others are seriously involved, quite apart from the question of manufacture. The subsidy system was inaugurated by Victoria in 1907, when an arrangement was made with the Currie line of steamers for a five-weekly service to Java and Singapore, for which the company was paid £2,000 per annum. In the following year New South Wales followed Victoria’s lead by subsidizing Burns, Philp, and Company’s boatsfor a service to the East, at a higher sum than was paid by her neighbouring State to the Currie line; and, later on, Queensland took a hand in the business by granting a subsidy to steamers trading to Manila and Hongkong. Encouraged by the action of the eastern States, Western Australia has gone one better, by the purchase of three large steamers, the first of which is now in commission, and the others on passage to Fremantle. These boats are to carry Western Australian produce exclusively, and Premier Scaddan last week definitely stated that he intended to br’ng the trade of Singapore down to Fremantle, and was determined that the State’s products, particularly flour, should be carried to Java with advantage to the manufacturer through the facilities in possession of the Government by their State-owned vessels. On the day following this announcement, a deputation of millers and merchants waited on the Premier, asking for a further concession in regard to other markets, particularly South African, and the promise was obtained that in this direction also the Government would afford assistance by subsidizing a service, if the ordinary means of communication were insufficient for the proper development of the trade of Western Australia. Within the past few weeks, New South Wales has made a further move by granting a subsidy of £2,995per annum to the E. and A. line for a service to Shanghai ; and this is the most objectionable arrangement of all, being distinctly preferential, as it discriminates between the shipper from New South Wales and those from any other State. This, briefly, is the history of the subsidy system in Australia, and it is interesting to note the effect it has had upon the trade of this State, for, when the figures submitted below are carefully examined, one can come to no other conclusion than that our flour export trade is being ] rapidly filched from us by the unfair competition of our neighbours. In the Java trade, we find that in 1906 the total shipment of flour from Australia waa 30,508 tons, of which South Australia shipped 24,544 tons, equivalent to 77 per cent, of the whole. It was in 1907 that Victoria began the subsidy system, and, in the five years which have elapsed, the trade has grown rapidly, owing to a large increase in consumption, but in this expansion South Australia’s share has considerably diminished, and the following figures will show the direction in which ihe trade has moved, for it will be seen that our exports during 1911-12 are nearly 6,000 tons short of the quantity we shipped in 1906, when the total requirements of Java were Over one-third less than they are to-day : -
I am not so much concerned with the action of the Premier of Western Australia, because I think it is perfectly fair and aboveboard. The Government of that State have chartered three steamers, one of which is already in commission, and the other two, I understand, will be placed in commission within a few days. The Government of Western Australia are quite within their rights in doing what they can to develop the resources of their own State, although 1 do not doubt that they will refuse to accept freights from any neighbouring State. But the position of Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, is quite different. New South Wales is granting a subsidy, which is practically a bonus, to enable flour to be carried to Java at a considerably cheaper rate than it can be carried from South Australia.
– There is no export of flour from Queensland.
– I am quite aware of that. In my opinion, this granting of subsidies by, a State is unconstitutional, in that it interferes with freedom of trade. Queensland has been guilty of subsidizing lines of steamers to the East.
– Does the honorable member think that the Commonwealth Government should take up the question on behalf of Australia as a whole?
– I am of opinion that the granting of bounties or subsidies should be undertaken only by the Commonwealth. .There should be no possibility of any State, by means of a sub let] sidy, securing a benefit for its -traders, to the detriment of the traders of a neighbouring State. ,
– The subsidy is used for opening up markets abroad.
– If the honorable member will look at the figures’, be will find that South Australia has been robbed of her trade by subsidies granted by Victoria and New South Wales. In the very nature of things, those subsidies must affect freight, and, therefore, must constitute unfair competition. Of course, I may be told that this is a matter for my own State to deal with. It may be urged that South . Australia has no grievance, because she can subsidize a line of steamers for the purpose of despatching her flour to Java and the East. But, under a Federation, why should any State be compelled to protect its own established trade? I do not dispute the right of any State to open up markets in a constitutional manner ; but surely the honorable member for Darling Downs must recognise that the ports which are nearer to the East possess an advantage in this matter over Port Adelaide. I do not want the State Governments, by means of subsidies, to more heavily handicap the traders of South Australia. I ask the Government to look into this question, with a view to seeing what can be done. . The third -matter upon which this Parliament is empowered to legislate, under section 51 of the Constitution, is -
Bounties on the production or export of goods, but so that such bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth.
I take it that that means that the granting of a bounty is a Federal matter.
– The honorable member wishes to know whether it is constitutional for a State to enter into these agreements?
– That is my point. But, assuming that it is lawful for New South Wales and Queensland to subsidize a line of steamers to the East, the question arises: “What is. the nature of the agreement under which that subsidy is paid?” Doubtless, if we were to attempt to inquire into that, we should be politely told to mind our own business.
– If the honorable member will give me the information he has at his disposal, I will make inquiries into the matter.
– I thank the AttorneyGeneral for his kindness.
– Section 90 of the Constitution provides for an absolute prohibition.
– That section reads -
On the imposition of uniform duties of Customs, the power of the Parliament to impose duties of Customs and of Excise, and to grant bounties on the production or export of goods, . shall become exclusive.
That is my contention. I contend, rightly or wrongly, that it was in virtue of the production of a superior article by South Australia - owing, doubtless, to climatic reasons, as wheat production is largely affected by climatic conditions - that we were able to secure,’ and hold, a very strong market in the East. We held i* under fair conditions ; but we are losing the market because of the subsidies paid by our two eastern neighbours. The Government of South Australia have not approached me in connexion with this matter at all. I have taken it up because 1 have noticed how it has been working for a considerable time in that State. I do not think it is fair, that this Parliament should say that all the relief it can give to South. Australia is to suggest that she should herself subsidize a line df- steamers and retaliate upon her neighbours. That certainly was not one of the objects of the Federal compact.. Under existing conditions, my State is not getting a fair deal. I” direct the attention of the Government to the matter, to which there may be an opportunity later to refer. I am very- grateful, in the meantime, to the Attorney-General for bis promise to look into it.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Thomas) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120829_reps_4_65/>.