4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Defence if he has had any word from New South Wales regarding the prosecution of certain compulsory trainees about which I asked a question nearly a fortnight ago.
– The absence of the Minister of Defence in Sydney on public matters has resulted in some little delay, and the replies have not yet come to hand.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister of Defence observed in the newspapers a report to the effect that an alleged deserter from the war-ship has been kept in prison for about ten days, the reason being that the Naval authorities refuse to take him ? Is the honorable gentleman aware that it is the practice in the Old Country for the Naval and Military authorities to take over deserters immediately they are apprised of their arrest? Is it not advisable that the same rule should apply in Australia, so that men may not be practically branded as criminals ?
– I have not seen the newspaper report, but I think that the honorable member is under a misapprehension as to the practice in England. There the particular “circumstances of every case are given consideration, and action is taken accordingly. Deserters are not taken immediately from the civil gaols in every case. I shall call the attention of the Minister to this case, with a view to an inquiry.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Illawarra made a statement about me to which I should like to reply. I have not the Hansard report of his speech, and shall ‘ therefore quote the report published in the Age, according to which the honorable member said -
There was a great deal of make-believe about the Labour Ministry’s attitude towards trusts. The only investigation carried through since it took office were those started, not by the Labour Government, but by the Attorney-General of the Deakin Government.
Why had not Ministers investigated the Tobacco Trust? Why, too, was not there ait inquiry into some of the insurance companies,, whose profits amounted in one case to 28 per cent. ?
They did not investigate these, because they, knew that some of their friends were interested; in them. (Oh ! Oh !)
Labour Members. - Name them.
Mr. Fuller did not w; sh to mention names,, but as he was challenged, he would say that he found, in the list of shareholders of the company to which he was referred, the name of theFederal Attorney-General, Mr. Hughes.
The honorable gentleman stated that thecompany which he mentioned paid a dividend of 28 per cent., that I was a shareholder in the company, and that the reason, why the Government has not introduced legislation to deal with insurance is that I was drawing a 28 per cent, dividend.
– I did’ not say anything: of the kind.
– The Government is bringing in legislation to deal with insurance which will, I hope, satisfy the honorable gentleman, and we shall ask him tohelp us with it. I did hold thirtyfiveshares in the company which he hasnamed, but the interest which I received never exceeded 5 per cent. According tothe Sydney Morning Herald of 23rd November, the yield on the shares now is 4$; per cent. At the price I paid for my shares, the yield was never more than 5: per cent. I have recently sold the shares.
– I did not say that theAttorneyGeneral was drawing a dividend’ of 28 per cent. What I said was that theprofits of the company on its paid-up capital of ^84,000 came to about ^24,000 - speaking from memory - or about 28 per cent. That is shown by the balance-sheet.. The company paid a dividend of 10 per cent., and in addition a bonus of 2
– Is this an arrangement togive the company an advertisement?
– I am not giving thecompany an advertisement, but no one can. deny that it has helped the people of Australia.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question?
– I said that, if the investigation of the operations of the Sugar Company was necessary, the investigation of the affairs of the company to which I referred - which, by an arrangement with the other companies of the same kind in Australia, fixes the prices charged to those who do business with it, and thus is able to make such great profits - should also be made.
– The honorable member has a motion on the business-paper relating to the disallowance of a Crown Lands Ordinance. In regard to it I wish to ask him, through you, Mr. Speaker, whether in making his speech he will give the House a list of his tenant farmers, and state the number of farms that he has leased in the Berry district?
– It is most unusual to answer such a question, but so far as the Lands Ordinance is concerned, I intend to put the true position before the Committee to the best of my ability. As to the farmers whom it is my privilege to have as tenants for my property in New South Wales, I invite the honorable member for Capricornia to visit them. If he finds that any one of them expresses the least dissatisfaction with my treatment of them, I shall be very much surprised.
– I did not for a moment suggest that any of the honorable member’s tenant farmers are ill-treated. The point I wish to make is that, although the honorable member is opposed to the Government granting leaseholds, he himself will not give freeholds.
– My tenants can buy the freehold of their farms to-morrow if they wish to do so.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs request the Government of Western Australia to furnish a return showing the holders of jarrah and karri country in that State?
– Y - Yes.
District Allowance, Narrandera - Insulators
– On Wednesday last the honorable member for Riverina asked the following questions: -
In reply to inquiries whichwere then being made, the following answers have been received : -
On the 8th inst. the honorable member for Wentworth asked the following questions : -
In reply to inquiries which were then being made, the following information has been furnished: -
The conditions of contract provide for -
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he state what were the wholesale prices of sugar at the following periods : - January, 1910, 1911, 1912; April, 1910, 1911, 1912; July, 1910, 1911, 1912; October,1910, 1911, 1912?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s1a Sugar.
Melbourne Prices,per ton.
January, 1910,£222s. 6d.
January, 1911,£20 12s. 6d.
January, 1912,£24 2s. 6d.
April,1910, £23 2s. 6d.
April, 1912,£24 2s. 6d.
July,1910,£23 2s. 6d.
July, 191 1,£20 12s. 6d.
July, 1912,£242s. 6d.
October, 1910,£22 2s. 6d.
October,1911,£23 12s. 6d.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
He (the Minister) believed that large quantities of goods were being imported to Australasia which were made by prisoners in America. An officer had already been sent to the Old World to And out which classes of foreign sweated-labour goods were coming to New Zealand after re-exportation from Great Britain.
He hoped, also, to pass a Bill insisting that every importer should declare on the invoice the country of origin of the goods?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– The honorable member for Riverina yesterday asked the following questions : -
The answers are : -
asked the Prime Minister,. upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Is it true that certain banking corporations prevent their employes marrying unless they are in receipt of £200 per annum ; also that the said corporations inquire into the social position of the girl’s parents before giving their consent to the marriage of any clerk in the service?
I regret the inadvertence, and desire now to add that our practice is to require that the consent of the bank be obtained prior to the marriage of any officer drawing less than a certain salary, the amount of which varies, according to the State, from £150 to £175 per annum, and not £200.” 2 and 3. I am unable to say.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will take into consideration the national importance of Commonwealth and States arriving at an agreement respecting a uniform railway gauge, and whether he will arrange for experts to represent the Commonwealth to meet experts representing the States in conference, in order that the subject may be discussed, in the hope that finality may be reached and the peace and progress of the people of Australia promoted ?
– The Engineers-in-Chief of the Commonwealth and State Railways are to meet in Melbourne next week, and will confer on this question.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– T - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Mr. ROBERTS laid upon the table the following paper : -
Defence Act. - Regulations amended (Provisional) -
Debate resumed from 28th November (vide page 6162), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The honorable member for Brisbane, when concluding his speech last night, paid a very high compliment to the State Legislatures of Australia, and declared that, as a result of their work for the Commonwealth, they were the envy and admiration of the world. The honorable member went on to say that the people of Australia would be satisfied with nothing short of the best instrument of government that had ever been devised ; and I entirely agree with him. The Australian Legislatures, in pre-Federal days, were, as every one will admit, the best in the Empire. Under them marvellous developments had taken place in Australia, and a higher form of democratic government obtained than in any other part of the world. Australia blazed the track for political and social reform ; and the various State Parliaments are well able to stand on their record.
– I think New Zealand blazed the track.
– I might have said Australasia; but sometimes,in New Zealand, the blaze has been superabundant, and the effects not of the happiest. It is not surprising that Australia, blessed as it has been, should demand the best of Constitutions, and that such a Constitution should be provided by the very cream of our public men, whose work has been so much eulogized by honorable members opposite. I desire to quote a statement by one of those men whose names will be long remembered, not only within the Commonwealth, but throughout the Empire, but who is not with us now. I refer to the late Charles Cameron Kingston; and I suppose that he was then speaking in Committee, because he was President of the Convention, and therefore had not the opportunity to do work of which he was so eminently capable on the floor of the House. Mr. Kingston said -
No doubt, every power which is proposed to be given to the Federal Parliament will be closely scrutinized before being parted with. I
*im sanguine that the American plan of preserving the residue of power to the local Legislatures will be followed, as proposed in the Commonwealth Bill, rather than the Canadian plan of giving everything not specially reserved to the Federal Parliament. While recognising the interests of the Federation for national purposes, we should cherish with equal importance the principle of Home Rule in all local affairs. The Provinces must maintain, as far as possible, consistently with true Federation, the glorious privilege of managing their own affairs.
Here we have the very kernel of the form of government which the people of Australia accepted ; and no other form, in my opinion, would have brought us together an Federal union. The demand for Federation was not for the purposes of larger powers of government, because, a free governing country in the Empire, our powers were abundant, and practically unlimited. The desire was for a division of powers so as to discharge the responsibilities of nationhood; and to that end the grouping of the six States in one national Parliament was essential ; indeed, even then it had been too long delayed. The people, through their Convention, which was elected on the broadest democratic basis of the time, determined on a Federal and not a unitary form of government. No other form would have won the consent and approval of the people, and no instrument of government ever received more flattering eulogy from statesmen and thinkers of the world than our own, of which we are justly proud. Where has the Constitution failed? That is a per.tinent question which cannot be easily answered by honorable members opposite. Who are the people who are asking for larger powers, the granting of which will not perfect the Federal system, but make it one-sided, or, at least, lopsided - will centralize in the opposite direction from that in which the world’s Legislatures are moving to-day, and practically make a nonentity of every State in the Union ? I have always believed that the greatness of the Australian National Parliament would be in proportion to the success of the States, and that the growth and prosperity of the States would always be reflected in the strength and influence of the central authorities. The Honorary Minister referred the other day. with considerable emphasis, to the necessity for respecting the democratic ideal of majority rule; and in order to prove my proposition that there is only a sectional party demand for an alteration of the Constitution, I must point out that we on this side are following, absolutely and completely, majority rule. To begin with, the Government and their followers are here not by the vote of a majority of the people, and, according to an article in the Age, not by the votes of a majority of those who exercised their franchise at the ballot-box.
– Then how are we here?
– I shall tell the honorable member. The Government and their followers secured, in the aggregate, 686,842 votes, while the Liberal members represented on this side secured 689,104 votes. It will be seen, therefore, that forty-two honorable members on the Government side represent, not a majority, but a minority by 2,262 votes.
– The Liberals have no right to all the votes they claim.
– I have no doubt that, if there were a strict revision and recount on fair lines, though it is rather late in the day to talk of that, we, on this side, might possibly add to our majority. If the Government and their followers had come here with an overwhelming verdict in favour of what they claim to be their democratic policy, there might have been some justification for their demand for a second reference to the people. Twelve months ago the unbounded confidence of honorable members opposite, and their expectations of complete victory right up to the morning of the voting, were abundant evidence of their belief that the people of Australia were behind them. The result of the poll meant turning down the proposals of the Fisher Government for an alteration of the Constitution by no less than 260,000 votes. That was an overwhelming defeat - a defeat which suggested in every country but Australia, the probability of the Government sending in their resignations on the following day. But the people of Australia, knowing a little more of human nature as displayed in this country, were not surprised that nothing of the kind occurred. Members of the Government were in perfect safety. Some of them were on the high seas and elsewhere at the time - some of them were so far from Australia that resignation of office, and the surrender of the attendant benefits were out of the question. The demand for an amendment of the Constitution on the previous occasion came almost exclusively, if not wholly, from the other side of the House.
The last referenda show that only an inconsiderable few outside the Labour ranks desired any alteration ; and I propose to show whether or not this second attempt has behind it any more justification than had the first. It seems strange that those who believed in Federation during the Convention days - those who, after scrutinizing the form of government presented to the people by that Convention, who did not rush blindly into its acceptance, but had twelve months in which to consider it, and exercised the greatest caution before definitely accepting the Constitution Bill, have in only a few instances throughout Australia changed their minds in regard to it. On the other hand, an enormous body of people who were not only cautious, but doubtful, as to the wisdom of accepting the Constitution - men who declined to accept Federation under it - are now behind the Constitution up to the hilt, so to speak, and are making no formal demand for any radical change. This Constitution of ours did not represent the last word that was to be said by the people of Australia. It was drafted for us by the most trusted and capable leaders of the people. Every line of it shows foresight and statesmanship. Every part of it shows that it was not an instrument of government for a year or a few years, but one that anticipated the necessities of the people for a long time ahead. In many directions in which the Government are seeking an alteration of the Constitution of Australia, the people of the United States of America did not obtain one for 80 years. And yet we have no sooner passed through the first decade of our Federal history than there is an organized and determined effort practically to smash up the Constitution, and to substitute for it an amended one that would, to all intents and purposes, be the very reverse of that which the people accepted. There is a determined attempt on the part of honorable members opposite to substitute for it a system of Government that would give us Unification in everything but name. It is a remarkable fact that our honorable friends opposite, who are so determined to cripple and to render impotent this magnificent form of government, were almost without exception Anti-Federalists. They fought with the greatest determination to induce the people not to enter ‘into a union under the Constitution. One of their strongest reasons for doing so was that they did not believe in the provision for equal representation of the States in the Senate. They objected to the protection of the States, and particularly the smaller States, by the principle of equality of representation in that Chamber. They could not see far enough ahead; they believed there was little chance of the Labour party in Australia ever capturing that House, and obtaining any really effective power in the National Parliament, at all events, for a very long time to come. They were prepared then to stand by their local Legislatures - with the Legislative Councils thrown in - but when ultimately contrary to their expectations, and possibly contrary to the expectation of the people generally, the Senate, which was expressly provided for the protection of the States, became a party House -
– A Democratic House.
– When the Senate became a party House of an even more pronounced type than is that pronounced party man, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, they changed their views. As soon as the Labour party captured the Senate, then their reflections on that Chamber were diverted” to the Legislative Councils of the States, and they declared the National Parliament to be all that could be desired. The only demand for a radical alteration of our Constitution comesthen from the very men who, in the beginning, would not accept any part of it. It does not come from those who were responsible for it, nor from troops of people in* Australia who, under the domination of the National Parliament, have been won over to our Federal form of government, and are perfectly satisfied with it. I make these observations only by the way. The present position is that the Government want more power. For what reason?
– Combines are increasing in number.
– But for these “ glorious combines,” honorable members of the Labour party would have no stock-in-trade at all at the coming general election. The cry in regard to trusts and combines is very like that blessed word “Mesopotamia” - it has a marvellous charm for the Labour party. I do not think the Prime Minister and his associates ought tobe dissatisfied with the progress that has been achieved by them, according to their own statements, under the present form of government. One of their party - I think it was the Attorney-General - said some time ago, “ We have worked out our programme. We have nothing left, and unless the people give us the increased powers for which we ask, we shall be, in effect, in a blind alley. We must obtain more power or we cannot give our people anything more.” The Attorney-General is not the only member of the Labour party who has made that statement, lt is becoming with them a parrot cry all over Australia. When deputations prefer requests to Ministers, they are frequently met with the reply,
We cannot do anything for you. The people must give us more power. Unless our proposals for the amendment of the Constitution are carried we must remain helpless.”
– Who has said that?
– I dare say the honorable member himself has said so. Nearly every member of his party has made that statement. The Labour party has said again and again, in effect, “ Give us more power : give us these amendments of the Constitution, and everything in the garden will be lovely.” How much power do they desire? When the AttorneyGeneral by letter approached the Labour Conference in Hobart, he wrote, “ We are asking for more power; we are asking for tremendous power.” What has happened since the beginning of Federation to render necessary the grant of the increased and “ tremendous power “ which the Attorney-General, in a moment of frankness, when communicating with his own people at a conference which gives this country, through the Labour Government, its national policy, admitted they were seeking to obtain ? What has happened to render necessary the grant of these additional and tremendous powers? The answer is simplicity itself. The Labour party in the Federal Parliament have reached the limit of their programme consistent with our Federal form of government. They now wish to start afresh, and to fill in the fullest measure of advanced, and even revolutionary Socialism, provided for them, through an irresponsible conference outside, by the various wings of Socialism throughout the Commonwealth. That fact probably had a good deal to do with the overwhelming majority by which the people of Australia turned down their proposals last year. The people did not allow themselves to be influenced by the platform utterances of the Labour party.
They refused to allow themselves to be influenced by their assurances of safety, and by such statements as “ We are undoubtedly asking for very large powers, but we are not going to use them.”
– Of course, they would never dream of using them !
– They would never think of using them. The people of Australia, however, have learned to fear not only what is sometimes on the Labour platform, but, what is more, what is not on the platform. They have had daylight thrown on the matter, and they understand why certain proposals do not appear on the platform of the Labour party, or appear on it for a time, and then disappear, because they are ahead of public opinion, even ‘ in their own ranks. If the people were fearful of trusting the Government and their followers on the occasion of the last referenda, what has happened in the meantime to minimize their fear? Has anything since transpired to inspire them with confidence? Since the electors were asked to vote upon the last referenda, preference to unionists has been made absolute in this Parliament and in every State where a Labour Government is in power.
– With one striking exception. Brother Chinn is not a member of a union.
– If he was not a member of a union when he was appointed to his present position, doubtless he is a member now. If he is not, he is a most ungrateful man. Since the last referenda were taken, preference to unionists has been obtained through the power of the bosses of the political unions outside of Parliament, and honorable members know the fashion in which they make their demands to the Prime Minister behind closed doors.
– Under what heading do the honorable member’s remarks come?
– Under the heading of monopolies - the most destructive monopoly that Australia has ever known. This principle of preference to unionists is to obtain, not only among the rank and file of the employes of the Commonwealth, but right through our Public Service, except that portion of it which is controlled by the Public Service Commissioner. According to the latest reports, more than twice as many persons have been independently engaged by Ministers under this principle as have been engaged by the Public Service
Commissioner. This principle of preference, too, has found its way into the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court, thus giving one man more power than is vested in this Parliament. Preference to unionists is really not an industrial, but a political, principle. I predict that, mischievous as the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court has been since its inception, if ever this principle is adopted by the President of that tribunal, its days will be numbered, because no British community will ever stand it. Honorable members opposite propose to appeal to the electors to give them more power, and profess to enjoy their confidence in an increasing degree when they make our Public Service available only to men who bear the union brand.
– T - The honorable member was a unionist when he was connected with the church.
– I am a good unionist. What has happened since the electors of Australia refused to express confidence in the Government in so overwhelming a fashion eighteen months ago? I say that the Ministry have shown an absolute incapacity for administration. They are incompetent to control our public expenditure, because the powers of these political unions, whose forces are being strengthened every day, are greater than their own, and greater than those of this Parliament. This question is not a technical one which it would be difficult for the electors to decide. It is a bread-and-butter question, as everybody knows, and the people do not want any explanation of it. They have living evidences of it in every State where public expenditure is being incurred. The fact is that the outside authority which controls national affairs through this Parliament, has increased its powers as the days have gone by. For the first time in the history of the British Empire we had a surrender of responsible Government in this House when the present Government submitted a policy which came, not from themselves or from the caucus within the Parliament, but from an outside irresponsible body - the Brisbane Labour Conference - and still later the Hobart Labour Conference. This irresponsibility to the whole people is showing its evil effects in the welfare of the citizenship of Australia. This sectional driving power in regard to public administration is subjecting the large public expenditure of the Commonwealth to the dictates of the camp followers of a political caucus.
– Do not the Liberals meet in conference ?
– I will give the honorable member one illustration. When a Liberal Government succeeded a Labour Government in South Australia, the first thing that those members of it who were connected with the Liberal Uniondid was to resign their connexion with that organization. Thus the policy of the Liberal party in that State was given direct to the people through the Parliament, and was not submitted for approval to the Liberal union.
– What did that union do with Sir Josiah Symon?
– It did with him what it would do with the honorable member if it had to deal with him under similar circumstances.
– What are the Liberals doing with Senator Cameron in Tasmania ?
– I would like to reply to the interjections of honorable members opposite, but I have only a few minutes at my disposal, and there are a good many points that I wish to put before the people of this country. There never was a Government in Australia which had a bigger load to carry in appealing to the electors to sanction this revolutionary change of the Constitution than has the Government which now occupies the Treasury bench.
– That ought to please the honorable member.
– I am delighted. At the same time I sympathize with its members exceedingly, and I hope that they will get out of their difficulties as well as it is possible to do so. In our public administration greater incapacity in many directions has never been exhibited than has been exhibited by the Ministry. There has never been an Administration which has failed more lamentably than has the Government to satisfy even its own constitutents, and to fulfil the promises which it made to the mothers and the women of this country.
– Order. Will the honorable member confine his remarks to the Bill ?
– I wish to show that the monopoly of political unionism is more destructive to the progress of Australia than are all the other monopolies combined.
– What has that to do with the proposed amendment of the Constitution ?
– I submit that it has to do with the increased cost 01 living which has been the key note of many of the addresses delivered by honorable members opposite. They have attributed the increased cost of living to anybody but themselves. I say that the administration of the Government is as much responsible for the increase of living, for arresting development, and for seeking to injure the industries of Australia about which we have heard so much, especially from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, as anything else could be. The Government are asking the people to grant them larger industrial powers. I have only time to indicate that during their tenure of office there has been more industrial unrest throughout Australia than was ever known before. I wish to draw the attention of honorable members to the opinions expressed by visitors to Australia, particularly by the American land seekers, who for some time were the guests of the Government. Upon their return to America they told their own people that Australia is a grand country with great possibilities, and that the manufacturers of the United States will have a magnificent market in it so long as the Australian workmen continue to get the highest possible wage for the least amount of labour, and so long as strikes are promoted in every direction to engage the attention of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, which is already working overtime.
– The country has been very good to the honorable member.
– It has been, and will continue to be, a good country if the destructive forces of Socialism are crippled and circumscribed by a Constitution such as we have to-day. The reason why the people will negative these proposals for the amendment of the Constitution is that they desire that Australia, which has been so prosperous, shall continue to conduct its affairs on sane commonsense business lines. The Labour party by many acts of its administration, by the repeal of the postal vote, disfranchising women, by establishing a Savings Bank to compete with those of the States, and in other ways, have directly interfered with the progress of the. community, and have thus indirectly added to the cost of production and increased the cost of living. In addition to evidence of incapacity for the management of public affairs, we find them, when the money market is tighter than it has been for twenty years, throwing away ,£400,000 a year by means of a baby bonus, the most wicked act of indiscriminate charity that Australia has ever known. This is an attempt to bribe women who do not need help, many of whom are better off than those who find the money. No attempt’ is being made to secure the ends professed to be aimed at, and to provide for the proper application of the ‘ money. Ridiculous statements have been made by honorable members opposite regarding the existence of trusts and combines in our midst. No one on this side would support a combine that was injurious to the community. But we have had all sorts of cock-and-bull stories retailed to gull the unthinking, and in this art the Honorary Minister is a past master. He has spoken of the shocking wheat ring of South Australia, which has robbed the farmers of that State of ^170,000. His statements were based on a myth, and were made purely for political purposes. The Farmers’ Union was a member of the so-called ring, and every penny of the capital of the union is supplied by farmers on the co-operative principle. By means of this union the farmers have been transacting their own business for about twenty years.
– The Co-operative Society was not in the ring.
– The interjection is an instance of the recklessness of the statements of the Honorary Minister. I have been a shareholder of the Farmers’ Union for twenty years.
– What dividend does it pay?
– Until two years ago it had not paid a penny in dividends. There was an understanding arrived at between the Farmers’ Union and others to protect those concerned from complete annihilation in carrying on such a risky business as wheat buying is in South Australia. I wish that there were influences operating to create better prices for wheat in Australia. No doubt sellers are human like every one else, but for the information of the farmers the South Australian Government publishes in the newspapers every day of the year the Mark Lane wheat quotations.
– Mark Lane fixes the prices of wheat.
– Yes. Does the honorable member think that he could fix them?
– Honorable members opposite say that the Labour party fixes prices.
– I have not said that. The honorable understanding in the wheat business, to which I have just referred, came to an end last year, not because pf the investigations of a Royal Commission, nor because of any outside pressure, but because the members could not agree among themselves any longer; some of those possessing unlimited capital, and being able to afford to speculate, wishing to be free. The capital of the Farmers’ Union is limited and it cannot speculate beyond the point of safety. But we are not a whit better off to-day, and I know what I am talking of, for I sell a great deal of wheat every year. References to this wheat ring will not influence the farmers in favour of the Government proposals, because they know more about their own concerns and transactions than do ‘honorable members opposite, who must get a fresh piece of gilt to their hook before they can induce any one to take the :bait. Many of their threadbare statements will not be accepted. In reply to a question, the Attorney-General said yesterday that since this Government came into office the only combines whose affairs had been constitutionally investigated were the shipping and sugar businesses. Those investigations, however, were instigated by the preceding Liberal Government. The Labour party, notwithstanding its talk about trusts and combines, has not in two and a half years of office raised even its little finger to control them, although they have the assurance of the High Court that our anti-trust laws are thoroughly sound and sufficient to deal with these organizations. But our friends opposite know that if these trusts were dealt with, they would have nothing to appeal to the people about. The Vend case showed that our powers were sufficient. I am no apologist for the Sugar Company. If we can get sugar more cheaply, by all means ‘let us do so, but let us be honorable in our statements, not confining our remarks to the setting out of a portion of the truth only. The price of sugar in Australia is determined by its price in the world’s markets.
– Oh !
– The honorable member’s explanation shows the hollowness of his knowledge on this subject. No doubt those interested in sugar are as human as any one else. The members of the Labour party are not whollyforgetful of self-interest. But the reply of the Minister of Trade and Customs to questions asked concerning the prices of sugar shows that there is a fluctuation here which corresponds with the fluctuation in the world’s market, making allowance for the effect of the protective duty. Of course, every manufacturer who is protected by a duty takes the full advantage of that duty if he can, and if we do not like the way in which the Sugar Company takes advantage of the duty on sugar, the remedy is a very simple one. But there are the interests of the cane-growers to be remembered. The Government of Queensland wishes to protect the growers, but the Commonwealth Labour Government delays making any arrangement.
– It will be all right after the referenda.
– It does not suit the book of honorable members opposite to have these matters arranged until they have made political capital out of the situation for use at the forthcoming election. The Commonwealth Labour Government has delayed too long in co-operating with the Governments of the States for the protection of the sugar-growers. When they have been protected we can deal with the sugar refining business very easily. There are several matters on which I wish to speak, but as my time has almost expired I shall take another opportunity to do so.
– It is not my intention to deal with the whole of the questions raised by the proposed amendments of the Constitution, most of which have been referred to by previous speakers, but I have a few remarks to make regarding the effect of Protection on the volume of production in Australia, and its incidence in the matter of prices. I take it that no country has ever been truly great that relies solely for its progress on agriculture and grazing. There has recently been an inquiry made by a Royal Commission in New Zealand as to the high cost of living, and a report has been issued.
– Is the cost of living high in New Zealand as well as in Australia?
– Is there a Labour party in power in New Zealand?
– No; As a matter of fact the increase in the cost of living is world-wide, and is quite irrespective of fiscal policy or the political character of the Governments in power. A similar inquiry has been held in the United States, and, though not even a progress report has yet been published, it is evident from the reviews that the question is there causing much concern. We are told that the Protectionist policy in the United States hinged on the life of one man - that but for a certain death there would have been a majority of one for a revised Tariff. I mention this fact to show that even in the greatest Protectionist country in the world the fiscal policy may depend on one vote:
– That shows that the Free Trade- sentiment is growing there.
– Nothing of the sort; it shows that so-called Protectionists have been the enemies of Protection, which is necessary to the industrial life of the people. The report of the New Zealand Commission is in the main condemnatory of the policy of Protection. I am addressing myself to the subject now because this is the last opportunity afforded for doing so before the close of the session, and before the people, by means of the referenda, will be asked to declare whether or not they are Protectionists. The only hope for Protection is legislation which will enable us, not only to impose duties at the seaboard, but to regulate wages and prices - without these additional powers Protection must go by the board. I am asking the people of Australia to save Protection from the wolves which are trying to kill it, not only in New Zealand, but throughout the world. It is true that, confined to the imposition of duties, Protection must be baneful, instead of beneficial. I may be told that I am expressing merely my own individual opinion, but I claim to be as conversant as any one with the industrial life of Australia. I am specially addressing myself to the worker who cares not what profits his employer may make so long as he gets high wages, and also the employer who may have thousands of pounds invested in buildings and plant; and I urge upon them that if they desire to> preserve the industries of Australia for themselves they must adopt some other system of Protection than that in vogue today. The referenda present an opportunity to clothe this Parliament with power to apply Protection all round - not merely to a section of the community. Such a workman as the one to whom I have just referred is not only selfish but silly, as he would find if many other workers talked in the same way. Such a view and application, of Protection must have the result of justifying the argument of Free Traders that Protection means increased prices ; and I ask the Protectionists of Australia to assist in saving the industrial life of the country by proving that Protection is the best policy to adopt. New Zealand is much, akin to Australia in its conditions generally, and the population there is not smaller in proportion to that of Australia than the population of Australia is to that of the United States. The Royal Commissioners in New Zealand were certainly not Labour- men, as the following list will’ show -
Mr. Edward Tregear, I.S.O., ex-Secretary of Labour, Wellington.
Mr. Andrew Fairbairn, merchant, Christchurch.
Mr. Edwain Hall, Auckland Agricultural and Pastoral Association, Auckland.
Mr. James Hight, M.A., Litt.D., F.R.E.S., Professor of History and Economics, Canterbury College, Christchurch.
Mr. George William Leadley, farmer, Ashburton.
Mr. William George Macdonald, Solicitor, Westport.
Mr. Hon. Robertson, M.P., Levin.
Mr. William Andrew Veitch, M.P., Wanganui.
They report that they examined 270 witnesses, and endeavoured to examine more.-; and the one point that stands out is that the members of the Merchants’ Association point-blank, refused to supply any information.
– These are the men whofix prices.
– They are the menwho have the handling of commodities and they were afraid of convicting themselves. There were others that refused to give evidence; and I suppose there were no means of compelling them to do so. The report of the Commission contains the following : -
An isolated, highly protected, and sparsely populated country like New Zealand, so far distant from the world’s markets, especially lends itself to the manipulations of trusts and combines. It is a comparatively easy matter for a few wealthy individuals in any given industry or business, to secure control of the output, and, by slightly raising prices, to levy secret taxation on the whole community.
The Commission, after close inquiry, is of the opinion that highly-protected industries have increased the cost of living to 95 per cent, of the people, and that the duties, especially on the common necessaries of life, should be abolished. They recognise, however, that the encouragement given by the Government has induced many of these industries to operate in New Zealand, and that it would almost amount to confiscation if the protection afforded were suddenly abolished, but they believe it is in the best interests of the community as a whole that no further encouragement be given in the form of protective duties. It is their opinion that a system of bounties is more satisfactory in every way, which would give all the encouragement necessary to help any useful industry into active being.
– Does the honorable member agree with that?
– I do not agree with the whole of it. But it is because I believe that Protection, as we have it now, will bring about a condition of affairs such as that to which the Commission has referred, that I am appealing to the Protectionists to get away from the old order of things and to seek power to provide for a form of scientific Protection that will render the publication of such a report as this impossible in respect of Australia.
– I believe that the honorable member will yet be a Free Trader.
– No, I am satisfied that the industrial life of Australia is our only hope, and that is why I am fighting as I am for the new Protection. If we are to avoid a state of affairs such as has arisen in America, where a high Tariff was saved by only one vote, this Parliament must be given power not only to protect the manufacturers, but to provide for reasonable wages and conditions of labour, and for the protection of the consumer.
– It must not be forgotten that in New Zealand there are duties upon tea and kerosene. We have no such duties here.
– Quite so, but I am dealing with the question generally. This Commission reported, further, that one of the chief causes of rising prices was -
The operation of trade combinations that secure the control of certain commodities and regulate the price in their own interests.
Trade combines to-day are spoiling Protection. That is another reason why this
Parliament should have power to control them, and to prevent trade associations from exploiting the people. No one objects to the manufacturers receiving fair returns from their investments, but we do say that this Parliament should have power to prevent manufacturers and others making abnormal profits, and thereby endangering the whole policy of Protection. We have always claimed that Protection means better wages, and we desire to prove that our contention is absolutely true. The New Zealand Commission on the Cost of High Living, considered the question of wages in the boot industry, amongst others, and reported that -
The cost of wages in production is one-third of the total cost of a pair of boots, and the Commission have evidence showing that a pair of boots locally made and retailed at from 28s. to 30s., only cost to produce 12s. gd. (wages 5s. id.).
The position in Australia is the same. Boot manufacturers in Victoria are demanding more Protection, and complaining of the increase of imports. While these enormous profits are being made, is it any wonder if the people say, “ As long as such high prices prevail, no more Protection is necessary?” I am appealing now not to Free Traders, but to Protectionists, whom I ask to be true to themselves and to put a stop to this sort of thing. Manufacturers should not be demanding more Protection if at the same time they are paying as little wages as possible and wringing from the people enormous profits. That sort of thing will mean the damnation of Protection if it is allowed to go on. How can we hope to stop the importation of boots if, as in New Zealand, those locally manufactured at a cost of 12s. 9d. - the wages costing only 5s. id. - are retailed at from 28s. to 30s. If such boots were sold at £1, a fair profit would be secured, yet, according to this report, in New Zealand they are sold up to 30s. a pair. We have the same thing in Victoria. Many of our boot manufacturers are also retailers. Theymake these enormous profits in their retail shops, and they are practically robbing the people by charging nigh prices. By their action they are really encouraging the importation of boots. If our industrial life is to be preserved, then we must look to this matter. If Australia is to be something more than such a country as Servia, which relies only on its agricultural and pastoral production - if we are to take our place, as we ought to be able to do, among the manufacturing nations of the world - then we must take some further action. Australians are undoubtedly good tradesmen and mechanics. I have no desire to 9–1:..1- the imported tradesmen who have >been coming here during the last thirty years, but, man for man, the Australian has shown himself quite as adept as, if not superior to, the vast majority of tradesmen from other parts of the world. What is more, the Australian mechanic can do in eight hours as much as a mechanic in England does in ten hours. There is absolutely no reason, therefore, why we should not become a great manufacturing nation, and we certainly shall if this Parliament is empowered to pass the legislation necessary. Free Traders who can produce such evidence as is contained in the report of the Commission to which I have referred, are the enemies of Protection, but they are not such enemies of it as are professed Protectionists who continue to advocate out-of-date methods, instead of a scientific form of Protection. 1 am directing my remarks, mot to the Free Traders, but to the Protectionists of Australia. There are very few protectionists on the Opposition side of this House, and the few that there are over there think it quite sufficient to impose a protective duty without any conditions. But I ask the Labour Protectionists to fight for the power to frame a scientific Protective Tariff. I ask the Labour Protectionists, the worker who, though not a Labour man, is a Protectionist, and the manufacturers of Australia, who have hundreds of thousands of pounds invested in property, as well as the newspapers who advocate Protection, to give us a chance of proving that Protection is beneficial, and not, as <the Free Traders say - not as this New Zealand Commission has endeavoured to prove - detrimental to the country, ‘ and a policy which must go “by the board. If we obtain the powers for which we are seeking, we shall be able to provide for the new Protection. We shall “be able to pass beneficial legislation, preserving to the manufacturers and the workers -of Australia the production of all that we require and all that we have the means of ^producing. I wish now’ to refer to the -position of the railway workers in Australia. Some years ago we had a very serious position on the Victorian railwaysThe honorable member for Flinders at that time was one of the rulers of the State, and the ruled it with an iron hand. For a few days the Victorian railways were almost tied up. If the railway men had remained true to each other, as they ought to have done, since they had gone out on strike, there is no doubt that we should have had one of the most terrible industrial troubles ever known in Australia. Nothing has a more important bearing on the welfare of the country than has its means of transport. If all those engaged in carrying our commodities, both on land and sea, were to cease work for a week all industry would be paralyzed. The suspension of our transport services would bring about quicker than anything else a complete industrial paralysis, and would rapidly affect even human life. To my mind, our railways are our first line of transport. What would be the result of a railway strike in Victoria ? Would not its effects be felt over the whole of Australia ? That being so, why should not the rest of Australia have a voice in preventing such a strike? I recognise that where there is industrial strife neither side is prepared to listen to reason. Consequently I say that we should create an independent body which would be empowered to say to the contestants. “ You are injuring Australia by your strife, and as it is impossible for you to settle your differences we are going to settle them for you.” Seeing that the Government of Victoria is the employer of the railway officials of this State, it could not settle a strike upon its own railways because it would not be unbiased. We ask, therefore, for power to prevent strikes upon our railways. We do not seek to unify the railway systems of Australia. While I am in favour of a closer association between the States upon most matters, I ‘ would not consent to the unification of our railways. I believe that such a course would be detrimental to the interests of the people of Victoria. I merely desire to create some independent tribunal which shall be empowered to settle industrial strife upon our State railways. I am of opinion that this Parliament should be authorized to legislate in the direction of preventing railway troubles in common with other industrial troubles which are detrimental to the interests of the whole people.
– How would the honorable member make a State Government obey the award of any such tribunal ?
– How do we make the members of any organization obey an award? If we can make a private corporation obey an award, surely we can make a State Government obey it.
– Men will not always obey awards.
– It is essential that we should have some power to make them.
– How would the honorable member make them? Would he put them in gaol?
– What does the honorable member wish me to say? What takes place in case of international troubles ? Suppose that one of the South American Republics refuses to pay interest upon its loans. What happens? The American, British, and French moneylenders, who would be chiefly interested, would send somebody to take possession of their Customs, and would pay themselves.
– Does the honorable member advocate that?
– If any section of the community breaks the law it ought to be made to conform to it.
– What would the honorable member do if 2,000 or 3,000 men refused to obey an award?
– How can I go into details? If this Parliament enacted a certain law I assume that it would be strong enough to insist that that law should be obeyed. How do we make individuals and corporations obey the law?
– What do we do with merchants who break the law?
– Exactly. What takes place in a municipality when people do not comply with the provisions of the Local Government Act?
– That is not a parallel case.
– Of course not. The honorable member knows that there are means by which people can be made to obey the law. I believe it is necessary that the Commonwealth should have power to prevent industrial trouble upon our State railways, because the effect of any such trouble would be felt all over Australia. If a railway were built between Western Australia and the Eastern States, and a strike occurred on the South Australian portion of it, would it not affect the remainder of Australia badly?
– So long as the honorable member admits that, I am satisfied. We have no power to interfere with a view to settling disputes upon State railways.
– We have, if they extend beyond the limits of one State.
– I have endeavoured to show the honorable member that the effect of a railway strike in one State is felt in another State.
– The honorablemember’s contention is that dissatisfied employes will obey the edict of a foreign. Court, but will not obey the award of their own State Court.
– The Commonwealth Court would notbe a foreign Court. In conclusion, I say that Protectionists in this Parliament should beware of the Free Traders who, if they are not careful, will have them in their grasp within a very short time. If we wish to perpetuate a Protective policy with a view to encouraging Australian industries, we can do so effectively only by means of the proposed amendments of the Constitution.
.- The concluding appeal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to the prejudices of Protectionists is about as pathetic as it is useless at the end of a three years Parliament. The honorable member hasbeen here for three years, and during that period the present Government have been in. power. The Government includes the PrimeMinister, who used to be a Free Trader, and the Attorney-General, who used to be a Free Trader. And now, at the end of three years the honorable member for Melbourne Ports puts forward a plea to his Protectionist constituents to return him and his party to power, on the ground that if they do not their fiscal principles will be in danger !
We have heard a good deal during this debate to the effect that these proposals are tantamount to Unification. That charge has been hotly denied by honorable members opposite, and especially by the honorable member for Capricornia. But in my judgment, these proposals are far worse than honest straight-out proposals for Unification. After all, there is some virtue, at any rate, in Unification, because under a Unification, as contrasted with a Federation, the people gain in economy of administration what is lost in Democratic initiative. In my judgment, the Federal principle is the ideal one for the wide culture of the flower of Democratic initiative; but it is not the most economic form of government that the world knows to-day. These proposals enjoy the advantages of neither system; for they are designed to deprive the State Parliaments practically of all the functions which they now possess, and to leave their members occupying sinecures - engaged in the expensive work of framing laws, but unable to be worthy of the position to which they have been elected. Only the other day the honorable member for East Sydney, whose judgment on constitutional questions is admitted to be sound, told us that if these proposals were accepted there would remain to the States the control of education and the criminal law. Let us add, to that, half the control of their railway services. If it is proposed to take from the States all their powers, with the exception of their power to control education and the criminal law, and to half control their railway services, would it not be more economical and better to take away all their powers? With a homogeneous people, education might as well be administered from one centre as from several. In Victoria, for instance, it was proposed, some months ago, to adopt a new system of spelling, which would have placed at a disadvantage any Victorian who, in after years, might go to some other State to earn his living. Then, again, why make an exception in favour of the criminal law ? Is it because honorable members opposite desire to give preference to criminals ? Uniformity in the criminal law would prevent criminals from evading justice at times by moving from one State to another. Why, too, should not the Commonwealth control the police? If it is going to provide for the settlement of all industrial disturbances, why should it not have the control of the police, whose aid it may have to invoke?
Let me deal now, briefly, with the various Bills. There is a great deal of bluff in these proposals, and very little earnestness. Take the two Bills which deal with monopolies. The first gives the Government power to inquire into the operations of monopolies of all kinds. We know that that is bluff, because this Government has been in power for nearly three years, and how many inquiries has it made? When the honorable anember for Richmond asked for an in quiry into the operations of the Tobacco Trust, did not the Minister of Trade and Customs, when refusing it, reply that inquiry would be unconstitutional?
– I said that an inquiry had been made, but that every AttorneyGeneral, from the honorable member’s leader down to the present Attorney-General, had ruled in the way suggested.
– The honorable member for Richmond showed that the Minister’s colleagues on that ancient inquiry had reported that the Tobacco Trust was the most iniquitous in the Commonwealth. Yet the Labour party has allowed it to flourish during its whole term of office; and Ministers now tell us that they will not inquire into its operations, because an inquiry has already been made ! From this attitude towards the Tobacco Trust, which they seem to regard as standing on sacred ground, we can see that they do not ask for these powers seriously, except to cover up their real purpose of nationalization. On that subject let me say a word or two. The powers to nationalize will undoubtedly be a useful weapon with which to negotiate with trusts. Is it proposed to use it in that way?
The fear of hell’s the hangman’s whip,
To keep a wretch in order.
– Is the fear of nationalization intended to keep the trusts in order ? It is. Then let us inquire further. How will nationalization under these powers be brought about? On the passing of a resolution by the two Houses of this Parliament. ‘Who will move the Parliament? The Government. Such being the case, the negotiating may not be all on one side. It may be begun by the trusts. In America, where you have Tammany in full swing - God forbid that any party in this House should ever adopt its tactics - a similar power is used, not to keep the trusts in order, but to demand from them vast subscriptions as a permit to continue their nefarious practices. If these powers are granted, it will be interesting to see whether all the trusts will be nationalized, or whether all will be found prospering on sacred ground. We are legislating for all time. Once a provision is put into the Constitution it cannot easily be amended or removed.
– Why not?
– If a party in power with the large majority that the Labour party have had cannot get its proposals carried, what chance will there be when parties are nearly equal ?
– Those who put a provision into the Constitution can alter it later.
– Why, in 1910 the party to which the honorable member belongs was objecting to the placing in the Constitution pf a provision for the payment of 25s. per capita to the States - which they have been paying since - on the ground that once a provision was put into the Constitution it could never be amended ! I think I’ have sufficiently ‘ indicated the corruption that may spring up if this power is given. Honorable members constantly declaim from the public platform against these gigantic octopi whose tentacles encircle the community, and if. their statements are true these organizations could afford to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds annually to be free from legislative control and surveillance. Parliament is to be put into the miserable position of having to decide what is a monoply. It must say what industry must be nationalized. However much faith we may have in our own honesty, it is not fair to subject future Parliaments to such a temptation. The proposition is a bad one, and a foolish one.
It seems to me very strange, too, that if there is some crime inherent in successful industry, if it is a great wrong to the community for any business to become a large and important one, it should not be a greater crime to substitute for a temporary private monopoly, which may at any moment be crushed and broken down by the ordinary laws of competition, an inefficient Government monopoly which must last for all time. If you change the present system of Government supervision of industries to a system of Government monopoly, you will have inefficiency unbridled by any possibility of comparison between its products and those of other producers. The public will be compelled to buy the Government article, and no other. That being the case, to increase the profit and to provide more revenue, what would be easier than to depreciate the quality of the article supplied, its price remaining the same? Consequently, the public will have to pay unwittingly a vast sum in taxation to which they never have consented. That happens in every country where there are Government monopolies.
It happens in France under the Regie system. The French tobacco was in the first instance of high quality, but it has beer* gradually depreciated until to-day, like that of Italy and Japan - from which* country, by the way, my honorable friendsopposite get their Democratic inspirations- - it is among the worst in the world:
– That is an assertion - give us proof.
– I have produced theproof in the shape of branded packets of” the tobacco.
– But, as in cigars, thereare different qualities; one man may smokea 6d. cigar, ‘ and another a penny one.
– I am not bothering in the least about the rich man, who, in Paris,.. can always get the cigars he desires; it isthe poor man for whom there is no escape;, and who has to smoke the French tobaccos Good tobacco in France, owing to prohibitive import duties, is infinitely more expensive than in any other country in the world,, but the rich man can, and does, afford to> pay the price, while the poor man has toput up with the inferior article. As I say,, the Government thus extracts from the pockets of the poor in France, by means of. taxation, money which they have not the courage to ask for through the ordinarychannels. The Government manufacture of tobacco was proposed years ago in Germany, where, as we know, there are agreat number of good Democrats andSocialists. But what was the name of theGerman “ Democrat” who made this proposal? It was Bismarck; and the reason he gave was its value for raising revenue, which is identically the same reason that started Government manufactories in Turkey and Japan. These inspirations comefrom all quarters of the world 5 and wherever the idea has been put into practicethe Government factories have invariably been used for the purpose of .increasing-, taxation, and not for the purpose of supplying the consumer with a good article at a reasonable price.
There is another side to the question-, which I desire to submit, especially to the public servants of the country. We know the dissatisfaction that i’sraging at present throughout the PublicService of Australia owing to the inefficiency of the Federal administration. TheMinister of Trade and Customs yawns but is the dissatisfaction in his Department a matter of no concern to him ? Doesthe Postmaster-General not care, although) his Department is seething with discontent?
– Does the honorable mem”ber say that there is dissatisfaction in the -Customs Department?
– Yes, though not to the same extent as in other Departments. In the Postal Department dissatisfaction is rife, and is growing worse, instead of better, every day. Is not this trouble largely due to the fact that these great undertakings -cannot be dealt with from one centre in a business-like way?
– Has not the Public Service Commissioner something to do with the matter?
– Has not” the Minister something to do with the matter? Are Ministers to be always trying to evade the little responsibility they are allowed under this Caucus-ridden system? This dissatisfaction, exists because this Parliament is unable to properly run the Public Service of the country j and shall we be in any better position if we take over, for instance, the sugar and other industries? Do not honorable members opposite see that, the more of these undertakings we bring under Government control, the less chance there is of properly and efficiently conducting those we already have? I submit this aspect of the question to the public servants of Australia as one worthy of their most careful consideration. If we create a few Government trading Departments it will mean that we shall have less satisfaction every year, though it will be “ good for jobs “ for our friends in the meanwhile. The new Departments will be those which will receive and monopolize the attention of this Parliament ; and the public servants of Australia may rot in their dissatisfaction for all the Parliament will care. I ask honorable members opposite, in common fairness, to put this aspect of the question whenever they pretend to put the issues impartially before the electors.
There is another and more general point <of view from which this nationalization question may be regarded. What are the monopolies in Australia likely to be nationalized first? We have all heard of the sugar monopoly and its nationalization.
– That is on the Labour -platform.
– And shipping.
– Not shipping surely? Only a week or two ago we had the frenzied efforts of the Attorney-General to serve that great octopus known as the ship ping ring with additional meats at the hands of Parliament; and I cannot think that he could consistently take part in the nationalization of that industry. But, outside one or two propositions that are Federal in character, what sort of industries are likely to be nationalized first if the public had a choice? Are they not industries which use public avenues for the supply of their goods. For instance, if the public of Melbourne or Sydney were faced with the necessity of nationalizing either shipping or gas, which would they choose? I think they would undoubtedly choose to nationalize the gas monopoly. In quite a number of cities there are municipal gas works; and we see an illustration of the same principle in the municipal electric lighting of Melbourne. I do not say that municipal gas works are necessarily good, but I am sure that they represent invariably one of the first steps in the extension of what may be called public enterprises.
– What makes gas shares so good an investment?
– Just !at present, it is the Labour Government in New South Wales, who are responsible for the most astonishing deal on the stock exchange that I ever heard of. They introduced a Bill to control the Sydney Gas Company, and this brought down the shares from £17 to ;£io or £11.
– Were the Government “ specking “ these shares?
– 1 do not speak of what I am not sure. In Committee, in the State Parliament, the Bill was altered, and up went the shares again, enabling farsighted people to make a great deal pf money. Knowledgeable people felt that the Government could not possibly be guilty of all the iniquities contained in the original Bill, and keen people of wealth bought on the falling market shares which poor investors could not afford to hold. If we ask any stockbroker in Sydney we shall be told that there was not a rich man who did not hold on to his gas shares ; and the speculator from outside, whoever he was, bought “ on the slump.” At the present time the shares have gone back, not to their original value, but to a figure that means a handsome profit on what I may term, in parliamentary language, the foresight of the purchasers.
– The suggestion of the honorable member is beneath the dignity of a member of this House. Why does not the honorable member say straight out what he means?
– I appeal to honorable members on. this side as to whether I did not, in the plainest English, speak of the foresight of those who purchased the shares. Now, if the power of nationalization be given to the Federal Parliament, we shall find in the future, whenever a small municipality desires to take over its gas works, that all the agitation will take place in the Federal arena instead of in its proper local sphere. Who, under the circumstances, ought to control the gas supply of a municipality? Should it be the citizens of the district themselves, or should the Commonwealth Parliament run the gas works of Dead Dog Flat? Surely we have not reached the stage at which it is desirable to overload the National Parliament with all these details of social extension, to the detriment of the great national work we were sent here to perform ?
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.30p.m.
– In my humble judgment, the Government in their propaganda work erroneously give more prominence to the. question of trusts than they do to the question of combines. The essential nature of a trust is to economize in means of production, and if a trust asks only a legitimate profit on its manufactures, then it follows that it can supply the consumer for less than would be possible without that consolidation of interest and economy of administration. On the other hand, a combine is anti-social in its whole nature and structure. Take a combine of independent companies - independent both in organization and management- and see how it works. The insurance companies, for instance, agree to fix prices. All charge the same rates, but each retains its own machinery and its own canvassers. The result is that under such an arrangement, there is no decrease in the cost of management. There is only an arrangement, without the public knowledge, to keep up prices - a pretence at competition where no competition really exists. That strikes me as more serious, because it is more insidious, than is the operation of a trust. Every one watches a big trust to see if it gives a fair deal, but where we have a number of independent insurance companies, each advertising that It gives the lowest rates in Australia - which is the truth, since there is only one rate - and all competing for business, then the public, to that extent, is defrauded. A combine of independent companies is anti-social, and is essentially more dangerous to the public well-being than is a trust which is conducted on bona fide lines. I do not find honorable members of the Labour party taking any interest in combines. The honorable member for Illawarra showed yesterday that the Labour party do not regard such a combine as the Insurance Ring in Australia as detrimental to the public interest, but that they even think it is a fair thing for them to be personally interested in ! I do not attack them on that ground, but their attitude seems to show an extraordinary lack of appreciation of the iniquity underlying this pretence at competition where no competition exists.
– The Attorney-General told us this morning that he has now no interest in the insurance company referred to.
– I did not wish to mention the Attorney-General’s name, but since it has been mentioned, let me say that I understand that the honorable member for Illawarra proved yesterday that the company in which the Attorney-General is interested has declared a dividend of 28 per cent., and has accumulated profits much larger, proportionately, than have other companies that are the subject of attack. The Attorney-General told the House this morning, I understand, that he bought into this company at a price that yielded hint only 4½ per cent, on his investment.
– Never more than 5 percent.
Mr.KELLY. - Is not that what has happened in regard to shareholders in all other companies? Do honorable members opposite suggest that all the shareholders in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, for instance, are original’ shareholders ? I venture to say that 99 per cent, of them bought in for investment purposes, and have never received more than the yield upon the stock exchange value of their shares. That in most of these enterprises is usually about 5 per cent.
– That does not alter the facts.
– The point is that what the Attorney-General thinks is a perfectly legitimate position for him personally to occupy is not thought by him or his party to be a legitimate position for every other investor to occupy. He does not care what happens to shareholders in companies that are nationalized, not for the value of their enterprise, but for the value of the “machinery “ of their undertaking. He does not care whether a man who has invested in a company on a 5 per cent, basis loses three-fourths of his capital through the action of the Government, but where he, personally, is concerned it is a good and sufficient excuse for his having been a shareholder in a company carrying on a class of operations more iniquitous 1?han that of trusts that he only got 4J per cent, or 5 per cent, out of it, because he bought in at the ordinary stock value ! This fact shows honorable members opposite in two lights - the one in which they are personally affected, the other where the interests of persons with whom they are not brought into contact are vitally affected.
I desire now to deal with what seems to me to he the “ milk in the cocoanut “ of all these proposals. I refer to the proposed amendment of the Constitution in regard to labour and employment. It is proposed that the Federal Parliament should take over the whole control and conduct of industrial management. That is a popular form of government. It is a form of government that will have a keen personal interest for honorable members opposite. It is a form of government, therefore, that will take them away from the real responsibility of this Parliament, which lies in safeguarding the national security and well-being of the Commonwealth. It will place domestic blinkers on the national outlook. Let us see how these proposals will affect men outside who are most vitally concerned. Let us take the unionists themselves, whose unions will be brought over and converted into Federal organizations, if the Federal Courts have to deal with the whole of the industrial affairs of Australia. In such circumstances they will be federalized, and will lose their State organization. The change in the basis of organization, from State to Federal, will mean the abolition of the State union secretaries. It will mean the abolition of the power of each union to control its own business in the light of its local conditions. It will mean the passing to the Seat of Government - Melbourne, for the time being - of the control, of all industrial disputes. Those disputes will have to be handled, not by the men on the spot - not by the unions themselves, or by their local secretaries - but by some person who’ will have to reside permanently ii* Melbourne, and who most certainly will’ be a member of the Labour party in the Federal Parliament. The patronage of employment under the present system, of union organization in Australia, and the political influence vested in the secretary of a union, is enormous. Honorable members opposite are now deliberately seeking to take away from their own brothers in their own cause in the State Capitals - although, of course, they are cloaking that desire with a pretence of constitutional amendments in other directions - the control of this great movement because they want the control of the purse, and of the unions vested in their own hands, and for their own selfish purposes as members of the Federal party.
There is, however, something very much bigger than this element of mere human nature underlying the Government proposition. About the first action taken by the Labour Administration when it assumed office was to strike at the very -root of the greatest heritage any Australian workman has to-day, .and that is his liberty of political conscience. They did so under the pretence that they were giving “ preference to unionists. “ . By an amending Conciliation and Arbitration Act passed in 1910 they struck out certain provisions in the original Act which’ gave preference to unionists provided no union compelled its members to do anything of a political character, or to contribute against their will from their own private funds to any political party. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act of 1904 which was amended, as I have said, by the Act of 1 9 10, provided that -
In any case in which the Court directs that preference shall be given it may subsequently suspend or qualify the direction for such time or subject to such conditions as it thinks fit if, in the opinion of the Court, the rules of the organization are burdensome or oppressive or do not provide reasonable conditions for admission to or continuance in membership, or that the organization has acted unfairly or unjustly to any of its members in the matter of preference.
That provision was repealed.- In section 55, which was also ‘ repealed, there .appeared the following proviso : -
Provided that no such organization shall bc entitled to any declaration of preference by the- Court when _ and so long as its rules or other binding decisions permit the application of ito funds to political purposes, or require its members to do anything of a political character.
This further provision safeguarding the political liberty “ of ‘ the’ electors of
Australia was also repealed by the Labour Government -
And further provided that no organization shall be entitled to appear before the Court to oppose an application for preference by any organization so long as its rulesor other binding decisions permit the application of its funds to political purposes, or require its members to do anything of a political character.
In order to safeguard the right of the unionists and of every union, as an organized body, to engage in legitimate union politics, that is to say, in matters dealing with industrial affairs, this further provision was inserted in the original Bill, but was also repealed by the Labour Government - “Political purposes” in this section does not include obtaining or maintaining provisions applying to all persons in any particular industry, without discrimination as between those who are and those who are not members of an organization, with respect to the regulation of the following matters : - (i.) Preservation of life and limb. (ii.) Compensation for injuries or death. (iii.) Sanitation. (iv.) The sex and age of employes. (v.) The hours of labour. (vi.) The remuneration of labour. (vii.) Protection of salaries and wages. (viii.) Other conditions similarly affecting employment.
Now, the reason why these provisions were inserted in the original Bill was that men under the pref erence provisions of the New South Wales Act had been forced to join the Australian Workers Union at the peril of losing their means of livelihood, and that having so joined that union they had found that there were in existence rules which actually fined a member £3 for working or voting against a selected Labour candidate. The matter had been then tested in the New South Wales Courts, and it had been held to be a gross invasion of the rights of the individual that such political tyranny should be exercised. This Parliament, therefore, when the question first came before it, decided that these safeguards of political liberty must go into the Federal law. They were inserted, and remained in force until the Labour Administration of 1910, having for the first time a majority in this Parliament, repealed them. Since 19 10 honorable members opposite have found, however, that although they now have, in the Commonwealth sphere, the right to compel any member of a union registered under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, to pay whatever levy the party requires from it, and to support any party newspaper it pleases, the power thus gained is notof much value to them, because very few unions are so organized as to come under the Federal Act. They prefer the State Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards. Wherefore, along come our honorablefriends opposite with a perfect vision of Mr. Justice Higgins in philanthropic robes, and say to the workers, “ Come under Mr. Justice Higgins, and we will give you all you want.” The correct statement to make would be, “Come under a number of Federal Justices only one of whom will be Mr. Justice Higgins, and we will rob you of what past Governments have given you, namely, the liberty to think and act as you please in the political sphere.”
Not only does this proposal vitally affect the working man in the matter of his political liberty, but it affects the very essence and structure of unionism. Upon what doesa great organization like a union depend, if not upon the loyal co-operation and voluntary enthusiasm of every member of it? Will that enthusiasm be forthcoming if unions are deprived of their very heart - in other words, of the principle of home rule? Take away from a number of men who are engaged in the same industry the right to think as they may choose industrially and politically, and place them in the hands of a political machine in this Parliament, and what chance will there be of the union movement in Australia continuing to exist? In every sphere of industry I regard the union movement as a very valuable one. Upon that ground, and upon the ground of individual liberty, I strongly resist the proposal to vest in the Commonwealth the whole conduct and control of industrialism in Australia.
Honorable members opposite are seeking to invade this right to political liberty by less direct methods - the only methods which are open to them at the present time. I read in the newspapers yesterday a report of a little excursion which certain members of the Trades Hall recently took to the neighbourhood of Bendigo. They went there for the purpose of invading the rights of two men who were not anti-unionists. Indeed, one of them had been a member of a union for a long time before his political liberties were threatened and went on strike with his. mates after he had had to refuse to pay the political levy. Certain members of the Trades Hall visited the neighbourhood of Bendigo for the express purpose of driving. these men away from their jobs, simply because they would not pay a levy to assist in sending back to power honorable members opposite.
– Where did the honorable member get that information ?
– It is published in both the Age and Argus.
– The honorable member did not seem to have much faith in the Age the other day.
– I have no faith in it. But on this occasion it has no axe to grind, and its statement of the case is supported by the Argus.
– Had it an axe to grind in the honorable member’s case?
– Yes. It has conducted a vendetta against me because of my statements in this House. I find that Mr. T. Jude and Mr. Little, the president and secretary of the Federated Miners’ Association, accompanied by Mr. Dunstan, president of the local union, visited the New Red, White, and Blue Consolidated Mine, near Bendigo. A man named Neville, who is a member of the Liberal Association in Bendigo - surely that fact does not disentitle him to earn his living - was there asked before his comrades to pay the levy. He refused to do so. Thereupon Mr. Little made a speech to the men in which he said -
They should let him go and work on his own and rot there.
Then there were some interruptions, apparently by persons who were not members of the Union. Mr. Little continued -
What I meant to convey was that if a man tried to take the bread out of the mouth of a number of others he was not a man.
Here was Mr. Little, a parasite on the Labour movement- a man who is engaged to foment discord for political purposes - declaring that Mr. Neville was not a man, for wanting to take the bread out of the mouths of others. Yet Mr. Little himself visited Bendigo for the sole purpose of driving from his work an honest man, simply because the latter could not see eye to eye with him in politics; - because this man would not subscribe to send honorable members opposite back to power ! After this speech by Mr. Little, a show of hands was taken, and the men decided that they would not work with Mr. Neville.
– The honorable member’s party would have sent up the military.
– I would guarantee to every man in Australia the right to work for the right to live. Only those who live by these sort of practices would do otherwise - those who for years have been advocating the abolition of wealth, and growing richin the process !
– The honorable member’s party would give men the right to live under damnable conditions.
– This man Neville votes Liberal, and, therefore, he has been denied the right to work. That was his only offence.
– Order ! Does the honorable member think that his remarks are relevant to the proposed amendment of the Constitution? I have allowed him ample latitude.
– I have no desire to take any advantage of the latitude which you, sir, have afforded me. But this is a matter of vital importance, and intimately affecting the Government’s proposals. When this deputation had induced the men to say that they would not work with Mr. Neville, what did that individual do? He simply said -
Very well, I’ll pull out; but you are shoving me out of a job.
Those words - the dignified words of a victimised man - ought to ring through Australia for months to come.
– He tried to shove other men out of a job.
– He did nothing of the kind. The deputation next visited the New Moon Mine, at Eaglehawk, where a man named Richard Perry was employed. He refused to pay the levy. He stated that, on principle, he must stand out for his political liberty. Upon arrival at the mine, the following dialogue ensued -
Mr. Little. ; How long were you in the Miners’ Association ?
Mr. Perry. ; Twenty three years.
Mr. Little. ; How long is it since you pulled out?
Mr. Perry. ; Three years ago.
Mr. Little.; When the trouble was at fire South Moon did you not cease work with the others?
Mr. Perry.; Yes, but I did not join the Association.
This man - no blackleg this ! - was also hunted from his job. A man, who had stood by the union for twenty-three years, and stuck to his mates even after having, to preserve his political liberty, to leave his union, has been denied the right to live, simplybecause he will not support bona fide “ unionists,” like the Honorary Minister, in their occupation of the Treasury bench. I never heard of such a despicable distortion of the rights of individuals^ as was exhibited on the occasion in question. To my mind, one of the most important phases of this constitutional re-arrangement lies in the fact that under it this Parliament will inevitably cease to be the National Parliament of Australia. The great powers that we should exercise are powers in regard to the defence and the security of the Australian people. This Federation has been in existence for ten years, and yet defence cannot be said to be on an effective basis to-day. And why? Because for nine out of those ten years our national eyes have been blinkered with domestic troubles. We have been reaching out to the States for popular forms of government. We have been thinking of what will catch votes instead of focussing our attention upon insuring the security or the people. I have witnessed all sorts of posturing here upon the great subject of national defence. I have seen honorable members opposite decide that not more than ^600,000 a year should be spent on defence; and I have seen them since sailing before the fair wind of popular defence enthusiasm. At the present time, in short, this Parliament does not look at the national needs as well as it might, because its eyes are chiefly focussed on the possibility of catching votes. And yet no country in the world was ever in a more precarious international position than is the Commonwealth in the present year of grace. Up in the .Northern Pacific there is a great country which has recently waged two wars of firstclass importance to possess itself of a territory which would provide a further outlet for the breeding of its own race. Japan has possessed herself of Manchuria at’ a loss of millions of money and much blood. She now finds that that country has an alien labour trouble all its own, and that the Manchurian and Korean can undercut the Japanese. Thus Manchuria cannot be used as a breeding ground for the Japanese race, but only as a country in which Japanese money may he invested. Japan is therefore faced with the necessity for obtaining further room for expansion. Where can she look but to Australasia? Are we looking to ourselves? Have we done anything to watch what that great country is doing?
– What was the honorable member’s party going to do? Give a Dreadnought to the Mother Country !
– I saw more than a year ago at the works of Vickers, in the north of England, the Japanese answer to the yet uncompleted Australian naval unit.
– The honorable member considers that Japan is a great country.
– I -consider the Japanese as one of the greatest peoples on earth, and that admission will not help the honorable member on the stump. Japan is a great country, and is making great preparations ; and this National Parliament should he looking after its own responsibilities instead of seeking to invade the popular powers of the States. Upon the grounds of nationalism, of good government, and of individual liberty, it is essential in the interests of every Australian citizen that the Bill which is now before us, as well as the other proposals of the Government, should be rejected here, and if not rejected here, should be rejected by the electors.
– I am grateful to the honorable member for Wentworth for his remarks concerning trade unions. In my State they will be invaluable, and I trust that they will be read by every trade unionist in Australia. If they are, some trade unionists will not, as in the past, again vote for Liberals. _ If we were assured of the entire trade union vote, the honorable member for Wentworth would not ‘have spoken so disparagingly of those who have formed combinations to look after their own interests, and have thus obtained a higher standard of living and fair and reasonable wages. By their negotiations with associations of employers, they have often prevented disastrous strikes. Why should such men be cruelly and bitterly criticised by one who has never attended a union meeting, and knows nothing about trade unionism? The man who stepped out of the cage at the Mount Lyell Mine to give place to a married comrade, and thus met his death, was a trade unionist, and the unions are composed of such men. It is no disgrace to the ‘Labour party to have risen from their ranks, but it ill-befits the honorable member for Wentworth to make unjust statements about them. I was glad to hear him say that the Labour party are not now trying to secure Unification, and that he would prefer Unification to the system of government that we shall have if our proposals are given effect. The honorable member for Wakefield, on the contrary, occupied most of his time in trying to prove that we are bringing about Unification, and the leading Tory newspaper in my electorate is trying to get its readers to believe that we are driving Australia into Unification. The honorable member for Parramatta has attempted to show that I am a Unificationist, but I have never pronounced myself in favour of Unification. I have said that I am opposed to Unification, but that I wish to give effect to what were the desires of the people in- adopting Federation. I worked hard to bring about Federation, thinking, as many others did, that it would reduce the powers and strength of the State Parliaments, and. thus diminish expense. Nine-tenths of the people of Australia believed that after Federation the State Parliaments would consist of one House only, and would deal only with local questions. This Australian Parliament has not the powers of the Canadian Parliament, nor has it the powers that some of the framers of the Constitution thought that it would have. Fourteen Houses of Parliament are not needed to govern a little over 4,000,000 people, at a cost of ^600,000 a year. The cost of the State Parliaments has increased instead of diminishing since Federation, and the people are crying out against it. Those bodies- are struggling to retain their powers so that the people may be convinced that they should remain at their present strength. It is, however, absurd to have one Chamber elected on an extended franchise passing democratic measures only to have them rejected by another Chamber in which .the people are not represented. I know a man in Tasmania, whose property is worth over £300, who yet has not a vote for the Upper House of that State. Measures which he would like to see placed on the statute-book are rejected time and again. The honorable member for Wentworth and many other Opposition members seem to think that there is not a capable man among the 30,000 persons in our public service. We have, however, excellent engineers, capable of holding their own with any others. Compare the work of the Newport shops with that of any other engineering establishment in the world, and you will find that the engines turned out are equal, if not superior, to all others, and do their work effectively. Our public servants, many of whom left private employment to take service with the Government, are as capable as any others. Is it fair and just to speak of them for poli tical purposes as if they were not? All the Labour party asks for- is that this Parliament shall have power to deal with great national questions. We do not ask to be empowered to say how many members are to constitute the State Parliaments, or to deal with other State questions. We ask for less power than the Government of Canada has. Much has been made of the argument that the powers for which we ask are so great, that very little will be left to the States. Let us see if that is so. In the first place, the States will be left with the control of education, primary and secondary. This will necessitate a Minister of Education in each State, because it is. to education that we look for the forming of the character of the future generation. Germany is making great progress because of her grand system of education. Last year at Neufchatel, in Switzerland, I met an Australian who was spending his holidays there, and he told me that he was- pursuing his studies in Germany because of the splendid educational system of the country. The German arrangements for original research are not to- be surpassed in any other part in the- world, and as a result Germany is now one of the leading nations. The progress of a country depends greatly on the education of its people. Then we have left to the States the control of lands. The classification and settlement of land by proper systems of alienation, and the making of roads and railways, schemes of afforestation, and other work of that kind will require the energies of a large Department in each State. A few years ago we were sending wattle seeds to South Africa, but now that country is successfully competing against us in the wattle bark trade. In Australia hundreds of acres of valuable timber have been destroyed. An immense amount of timber has been wasted in Queensland, New South Wales, and Tasmania. The timber-getters have been allowed to leave the debris lying about, with the result that bush fires have swept away acres of valuable timber.
– Why did you not stop it?
– Because our Ministers have been incapable, or have had too much to do In Tasmania, speaking from memory, the administration of forests is controlled by a Minister who is at the head of the Lands Department, the Mines Department, and several minor Departments. How could a Minister attend to ail- these Departments, and do the work effectively? As a matter of fact, the Labour party have stopped a good many things since they came into power ; and we are going on doing so. If we get the power, in Tasmania, at any rate, we shall see that there is a Minister to preserve the forests. It has been said by great authorities that the control of transport means the control of commerce and the people ; and that is why the trusts of the United States have been enabled to carry on their nefarious practices. In Australia, railway transport is in the hands of the various State Governments; and, as one who had nineteen years’ experience on railways,. I may say, after travelling in Great Britain, France, Italy, and Switzerland, that the railways of Victoria and New South Wales are equal to those I Saw in any part of the world. The roads are good, and the Sydney express train, for instance, is equal, if not superior, to many in the Old Country, where the directors pay more attention to earning dividends than to the rolling-stock.
– Then, why are we importing so many locomotives?
– The reason is supplied in the fact that, since the advent of the Commonwealth Labour Government, there has been such a great development in trade that it has been found impossible to overtake the demand locally. There is not a Labour Government in power in the State ot Victoria ; but if there had been their supporters would have insisted on the locomotives, carriages, and other rolling-stock all being made within the country.
– What about New South Wales ?
– In New South Wales the Government railway shops are kept working night and day to supply the demand for locomotives and carriages. The tramway service of New South Wales, for which the Government build their own cars, is equal, if not superior, to any tramways elsewhere, and they carry the people more cheaply than in any other country. This great Socialistic industry returns about 7 per cent., or a revenue of ^1,300,000 annually. Further, we must not forget that the municipal councils will still retain all the powers they now possess, and, of course, the criminal law will remain in the hands of the States. In the face of these facts, how can honorable members opposite expect to be taken seriously when they tell cock-and-bull stories about the States being deprived of their rights. I speak with the greatest respect of the gentlemen who framed pur Constitution. They were able men, who had been trained politically along certain lines, and, of course, very few of them would have been willing to submit themselves as Labour candidates for this Parliament. They were simply Liberals and Conservatives, and they looked after the interests of their own class. No doubt they read deeply concerning the Constitutions of Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States, and they arrived at the conclusion that the United States model was the best adapted to the needs of this country. We know, however, what influences were brought to bear in the building up of the United States Constitution. There was the Sir John Forrest of the day, in the person of Governor Clinton, of New York, who was an antiFederalist and a State Righter, and who could see nothing good beyond the limits of his own State, lt was not the Constitution that Alexander Hamilton brought down that was adopted; Aaron Burr, Madison and others exerted their pressure, and the result was that with the States was left the power to cripple the National Government at any time. How could we expect such a Constitution to be suited to Australia, which is the most progressive country in the world, and, politically, twenty years ahead of any other. It would have been much better if the Canadian model had been adopted, for that would have been found much more adaptable to our conditions. As to the trade and commerce proposal, the Commonwealth must, in my opinion, have power to deal with commerce within a State, because trouble may arise and create disaster in a neighbouring State, although apparently there is., no. connexion between the two. Prentice, in his excellent work, tells us -
It is obvious, then, that the line between State and Federal powers with reference to commerce is an arbitrary one. There is no economic or commercial distinction which even roughly corresponds with State boundaries. Commerce is a whole, and a power to regulate commerce, if complete and unlimited by an arbitrary line cf divisions, must extend to all commerce wherever conducted.
Quite sufficient authorities have been quoted to show that the Commonwealth Government are unable to perform their duties in the absence of the powers asked for in the Bills before us. It is admitted that there are trusts and combines in various parts of the world, and as this Parliament has no more power over them than has the United
States Parliament, we are in no better position than the people of America to stop their operations. I know of no greater authority on these matters than the honorable member for Flinders, whose speeches of last year I have read over and over again with the greatest pleasure. Then he was fearless and outspoken ; and why the great change we have witnessed should have taken place I do not know. I cannot say what pressure has been brought to bear on him; and I can only express my regret that I am no longer able to quote him with approval. I shall not be so insulting as was the honorable member for Wentworth, and suggest that any honorable member here is a mere machine, because I think that there is no machine in existence that could run that ironstrong man, the honorable member for Flinders. I would not be so unkind as to suggest that the Women’s National League is pushing him; and, therefore, as I cannot understand his attitude I shall quote, not His remarks of this year, but his remarks of last year. The honorable member for Swan is one who holds the opinion that the States should control trusts and combines; and last year, when speaking in the House on the subject, he said -
– But the States can deal with these trusts?
– The States cannot; that is the whole point.
– Not with the operations of a trust within a State?
– No ; the whole evil of the position in the United States is that the individual States are quite powerless. Nothing is better known than is that fact to any one who has given any consideration to the question. In Eddy’s book on Combinations, Judson’s work on Inter-State Trade, and many common text-books, which some of us have had to study, hundreds of cases are given showing that the State machinery is absolutely inefficient to deal with these great commercial octopuses which carry on their operations over a large territory.
– That is quite as true now.
– The honorable member went on to point out how to deal effectively with this problem, and I quite agree with what he said.
The only power that can effectively deal with them is the central authority, and the sole question is, “What authority ought the central power to possess to enable it to deal with these injurious combines?”
I would earnestly remind my honorable friends on this side of the House that these combines are but stepping-stones to Socialism. And why? Because no civilized community can long permit the power of its own organized government to pass into the hands of an irresponsible dominant plutocracy. These irresponsible combinations of wealth which govern the interests of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and which govern, to a large extent, the very interests that should govern them, must, in a comparatively short time, be brought under the control of the legislature. From control to management, and thence to a complete taking over by the State is but one short step.
So that the honorable member agreed with those of us who are supporting the policy of the Government, that the only way to deal effectively with the trusts is to nationalize them.
– The honorable member is perfectly at liberty to quote that passage on any platform he pleases.
– The honorable member went on to deal with the difficulty experienced in the United States in coping with trusts and combines. Let us see the reason given by him as to why the American Constitution has not been amended to make it more effective in this respect. The honorable member for Parkes asked why the American people did not amend their Constitution. The honorable member for Flinders replied -
I have already pointed out the reasons why. I have shown that the people of the United States do not amend their Constitution, because the Senate in later years - I cited well-known writers to prove the statement - has secured such a position under the Constitution as has enabled it to become the representative of ‘the great interests against which such an amendment would be directed. It has, therefore, been found impossible to get the Senate to move in that direction.
– Great authorities say that the Senate contains the brains of the United States Legislature.
– The honorable member will see that the great authorities - if he studies them - do not say so.
– Bryce does.
– Bryce as an authority is now pretty old. It is true that he speaks highly of the Senate, and there is no question that it contains a number of very able men. Even the writer whom I have quoted, Professor Haynes, in a review of the whole history of the Senate under the Constitution, points out that for a long time in American history - in fact, for nearly the first hundred years of its lifethe Senate stood very high, and commanded the admiration and respect of all sides. But since that time it has been sinking continually in public estimation. Why? Because, Professor Haynes says, it has since then taken the great commercial interests under its care to such an enormous extent that it has steadily lost weight, and has become an insuperable bar to any amendment of the Constitution.
That passage shows why Congress has never been able to place effective legislation on the statute-book of the United
States to deal effectively with trusts and combines. The writer of Frenzied Finance points out that when the oil trust was supposed to be dissolved nothing of the kind had taken place. The trust simply split up. into- sections, kept no books, and ran matters as usual. I know on the authority of the honorable member for Maribyrnong that after the oil trust was fined, kerosene was put up in price 3d. per case. That shows that these American trusts simply pass on their fines to the people. What the honorable member for Wentworth said to-day supports what I am about to assert concerning, the manner in which the Japanese Government have dealt with this problem. They had to face- the American tobacco trust. At page 202 of Russell’s Uprising of the People, it is shown that the Japanese Government imposed a duty of 250 per cent. on. tobacco. Then they said to th« trust, “ We will take over your monopoly.” Now, says Russell, in Japanese shops, whose shelves were formerly laden with American cigarettes, only the productions of the Japanese Government’s tobacco factory are to be seen. The same authority gives similar particulars with regard to the Japanese- Government monopoly in salt, camphor, and matches, and their large interests in the silk and cotton industries, all of which are being run under the control of the Japanese Government. We are alt mindful of the success of Japan in Manchuria. We remember the result of the war with Russia. Before the Japanese secured possession of the country the Russians, recognising the value of the farming land there, cut it up into suitable areas, and made it fit for the plough. But what has Japan done with Manchuria? She has erected State flour mills throughout the country. She sends the flour over Stateowned railways, puts it into Statecontrolled ships, and has it carried to China, where Japanese agents play the same game as the American trusts have played. That is to say, Japan sells that flour at a lower price than that for which it can be bought in the home market. That is done for the purpose of capturing the market. Japan has secured the greater part of the Eastern trade now. According to this authority they are doing the same in regard to tobacco and camphor. Does this not show that monopolies can be effectively dealt with? And if they can be dealt with in Japan by means of nationalization, they can be effectively dealt with in Australia in the same way. I invite honorable members to look at what ha* happened recently in New South Wales. There was in that State a Brick Combinewhich forced the people to pay from £2 58. to j£2 15s. a thousand.
– 5s. per 1,000.
– I wish to be on. the safe side, and I am simply quoting, figures that have been given to me. In view of the operations of this Combine, the State Government determined to establish, a Government brick-yard, with the result, that it is now getting its bricks for 25s. per 1,000. The State brick-works are selfsupporting. When in New South Wales,, quite recently, I perused its balance-sheet, and I venture to say that no company in> Australia presents a fairer one. The balance-sheet even showed a sum written off’ in respect of depreciation of machinery,, although I think that machinery will doservice, not for one year, but for many years.
– I do not think that the State brick-works are producing a brick that is fit for “ face “ work.
– The informationI have obtained from a man in authority, and also from a bricklayer, is that the bricks are equal to any that can be obtained anywhere. My informant visited the works,, and saw the men, by means of an ingenious device, taking up a full dray load of bricks at one operation, whereas in private brick-yards one finds men throwingbricks a couple at a time to the drivers of the drays. The Government, by establishing their own brick-works and using uptodate appliances, have achieved this fine result.
– And they are getting, bricks 100 per cent, cheaper than before.
– The honorable member is able to give us practical information on this subject, and I thank him for the interest he has taken in the Government products of his State. It has been said that we have had no Brick Combines in Australia. As a matter of fact, we have had them here since 1907.
– We had them long before that.
– My reading demonstrates that they have been effective only since 1907. I ask honorable members opposite, when next they are telling the people that the Labour party is responsible for the increase in the cost of living, to bear in mind the following facts take* from a return by the Victorian Government Statist, and published in the Worker -
A couple of years ago the Victorian Government Statist made an inquiry into the increase of prices, and prepared a table “ showing the purchasing power of£1 sterling, expended on household commodities, clothing, and rent, in 1910 compared with the six preceding years.”
Here it is, for your careful consideration -
Putting these figures into plain words, they show that in the course of the six years from 1904 to 1910 the cost of living went up 3s.9d. in the pound. Or, to state it another way, necessaries of life which you could purchase for 16s. 3d. in 1904, by 1910 were costing you a sovereign.
The’ writer goes on to show that the increased cost was brought about by a combination on the part of importers and others, and he quotes the following details supplied by Messrs. McIlrath, grocers, of Sydney, showing the increase in the wholesale price of the following necessaries of life since the last referenda vote -
The Worker comments as follows -
On those few lines alone, even if you could buy at wholesale rates, you would be paying a long way over a million more since that unfortunate Referendum vote. . . .
According to Messrs. McIlrath’s list retailers are paying to the wholesale monopolists £1,157,000a year more on the lines enumerated than at referendum time last year. That the retailers in turn recover that sum from the consumers, with profits in addition, is as absolutely certain as anything on this earth. . . On the few articles mentioned above, monopoly has raised the wholesale prices by a total amount £1, 1 57,000 per year. Add 25 per cent, for the retailers’ profits, and you have a grand total of£1,460,000, taken out of your pockets annually by unwarranted increases in the prices of only eight articles of daily consumption in the homes of the people.
That enormous sum represents what it cost you to accept the advice of the Liberal party and vote “ No “ at the Referendum.
I hope that the people of Australia will realize that fact. If they do, they will rise to the occasion at the next referenda and vote “ Yes.”
– What is the honorable member’s authority for these statements ?
– The Government Statist of Victoria in the one case, whilst the other details were supplied by a Sydney firm and published in the Worker. I think that deals very effectively with the tale we have heard to the effect that the increased cost of living is due to the advent of the Labour party to office. If the referenda proposals of the Government are adopted, I venture to say that the time is not far distant when the cost of living will be considerably reduced. I hope, too, that rents will fall. I know that during the past few years the rent of a workman’s cottage has been raised from 12s. to 25s. per week, and that quite recently agents were offered a bonus to secure increased rents. I am in receipt of a letter from a friend of mine in Hobart, who states that his rent has just been increased, notwithstanding that he was previously rack-rented. I feel sure that the consumer will rise to the occasion, and give us the powers which we seek. What interest can ninetenths of the members of the Opposition have with the workers ? Their object is to look after the welfare of those who sent them here - the big capitalists and those who form Meat Trusts, Bread Trusts, Oil Trusts, Tobacco Trusts, Fruit Trusts, and Shipping Trusts. Is it not nearly time that we dealt with these combinations? Honorable members opposite say that they intended to deal with them. Surely they had ample opportunity to do so? Yet they did nothing at all. I wish now to deal briefly with the question of conciliation and arbitration. Having taken great interest in the industrial movement in my own State, where I have the honour to represent the Waterside Workers on one of the biggest Conciliation Boards in Australia, I listened with great amusement to the re marks of some honorable members opposite. They have never been in a union, and they have seldom done any manual work at all. To me it is amusing to hear them dwelling upon the ineffectiveness of arbitration in industrial matters. Let me tell them that the waterside workers of Australia recently sent representatives to confer with representatives of the ship-owners, with the result that an agreement was arrived at, which, though not a perfect one, was much better than the agreement which previously obtained in Tasmania. Thanks to the AttorneyGeneral, we were able to secure as much as 25 per cent, more for the waterside workers under that arrangement. They were not obliged to resort to the Arbitration Court. Their representatives met the representatives of the ship-owners, and an agreement was arrived at which has since been registered. The honorable member for Darling has been to Tasmania, and has rendered valuable service in connexion with that matter. An agreement has also been arrived at between the pastoralists and the shearers of Tasmania. The former sent along as their representative one of the ablest barristers in the island State.’ The honorable member for Darling, whose name will live in industrial circles long after the names of members of the Opposition are forgotten, was chiefly instrumental in securing an agreement which saved both parties a considerable sum of money. Tasmania has had demonstrated to her that we have brainy men upon the Labour side of the House - men who are desirous of preventing strikes. We are frequently asked, “ What are the Wages Boards doing throughout the various States? Why are unions prepared to incur a big expenditure in order to bring their cases before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court ?” My reply is that they can obtain better conditions from that Court than can be obtained from any Wages Board. I intend to support these proposals, because I believe they will not prove disastrous to Tasmania, and because they will enable us to build up a great nation. When I was in England I found that the Canadians there had a knowledge of only one country, namely, Canada. But what do we find in the Australian States? The people there hardly know Australia. What we want is to become a great nation - one great people. One would imagine, in listening to the arguments of honorable members opposite, that this Parliament represented a foreign country. Do we not represent the same people as the State Parliaments? Let us pass these measures, and we shall have an effective system of Home Rule. We shall not have the power to take from the Parliaments of the States even one member, nor to deprive the States of any of the functions which I have enumerated.
Debate (on motion by Mr. W. Elliot
– While the honorable member for Wakefield was speaking, several interjections were made, and two by myself - one relating to the South Australian Wheat Ring, and the other to the connexion of the South Australian Farmers Cooperative Society with that Ring.
– Do I understand that the honorable member is making a personal explanation in regard to something that occurred in consequence of disorderly interjections ?
– I wish to refer to an emphatic statement made by the honorable member for Wakefield, and I am making, an explanation by way of introduction. The honorable member for Wakefield said that the South Australian Farmers Cooperative Society had not paid dividends until two years ago. But, according to the evidence taken by a Royal Commission on the marketing of wheat, of which for some time I was a member, that is not so. Mr. Walter Wylde Hutton, wheat manager for the South Australian Farmers Co-operative Society .Limited, Franklin-street, Adelaide,, was asked this question - 2322 -
Has the Union paid any dividends?
His reply was, “ Three or four, and also; a bonus.” Therefore, the honorable member’s statement was incorrect. He alsomade the assertion-
– I do not think- that thehonorable member is making a personal explanation.
– I wish to ascertainwhat it is that he desires to say.
– The honorable member for Wakefield asserted that the Farmers.Cooperative Society was in the South Australian Wheat Ring. When I interjected’ that that was not so, he replied that my statement was grossly incorrect, and wa’stherefore characteristic.
– I would point out tothe honorable member that I prevented thehonorable member for Parramatta from making a personal explanation under exactlysimilar circumstances.
– Then I will reservethe rest of my remarks until the adjournment of the House has been moved.
Motion (by Mr. Thomas) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill : for an Act to amend the Immigration Restriction Act 1901-1910.
Bill presented, and read a first time .
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– The honorable member for Wakefield, in characteristic fashion, accused me this morning of making inaccurate statements. Parliamentary usage will not permit me to point out that he knew when he did so that be was saying what was not correct. He asserted that the Farmers Co-operative Society of South Australia was in the Wheat Ring understanding of that State. Having been a member of the Royal Commission which inquired into the affair, I contradicted him, and he immediately replied that my statement was incorrect, and therefore characteristic. I shall now show from the evidence of Mr. Walter Wylde Hutton, who at the time was General Manager of the Co-opera- tive Society, and had held the position for a number of years, that I was correct. This is an extract from the evidence - 2340. Does your Union take part in the fellowship meetings of the wheat merchants? - No. 2341. You are outside the combination? - Yes; we stand on our own bottom.
That sworn evidence shows clearly that my statement was correct, and that the contrary assertion of the honorable member for Wakefield was incorrect. Moreover, his statement that it was characteristic of me to make incorrect statements is a reflection on himself. I regret that he should be compelled to resort to such despicable tactics.
– I would remind the Honorary Minister that that language is not parliamentary. I ask him to withdraw it.
– In deference to what you say, sir, I withdraw the word “ despicable.”
Mr. RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) orable member for Adelaide, that the Farmers Union was in what was known as the honorable understanding. I met a director of the union to-day, and asked him if what I had stated in the House was not correct, and he replied that it was absolutely correct.
.- In the heat of argument last night I understood the honorable member for Richmond to laugh at a statement that I was making about butter, and I retorted with a personal allusion, for which I take this opportunity to express regret.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 November 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121129_reps_4_68/>.