5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KELLY laid upon the table the following paper -
Elections1913 - Duplicate Voting - Memorandum by the Chief Electoral Officer for the Common wealth.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 13th August (vide page 125), on motion by Mr. Ahern -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House : -
May itplease Your Excellency-
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - “ But regret your Advisers-
propose to destroy the beneficial character of our social and industrial laws;
indicate no intention of taking such steps as will reduce the high cost of living ; and
fail to realize the urgent necessity of an immediate revision of the Tariff.”
– It is, perhaps, as well that the atmosphere should be cleared a little at the commencement of this Parliament. I presume that that is one reason why we have been greeted with the amendment as the first salutation of our friends opposite. It is almost without precedent, at any rate in the history of the Commonwealth, that the members of a Government, immediately after resigning, as the result of an election, and indicating by their resignation their inability to govern the country, should try to make it impossible for the . succeeding Administration to do so. What honorable members opposite are doing is a little scheme of their own ; in this, as in many other respects, they are making precedents in our political history. I make no complaint - this is a free country, in which all may do as they please - I merely draw attention to the facts of the position, which are that honorable members opposite announced themselves to be absolutely unable to conduct the affairs of the country. If their position had been otherwise, why did the late Ministers resign? Was their resignation a sham? What else could it mean? They resigned a little less than two months ago, declaring themselves unable to carry on the government; but their first salutation to their successors is a motion of want of confidence, which means, of course, that they do not deem any other Government capable of conducting the public business. The Leader of the Opposition said yesterday - and I entirely agree with him - that the composition of the House makes it difficult to transact business. It is difficult, and it appears as though it was to be made impossible.
– Hear, hear!
– If that is the intention of honorable members opposite, they should let us know it plainly. They should let the country know that they do not intend to permit any one else to do business, and I hope that the electors will take due note that we have these indications of obstruction so early in our career, and of the statement of my honorable Friends that they will not allow any one else to transact the business of the country. The position was apparent before the honorable member interjected.
The bald statement of the Leader of the Opposition last night, that it would be difficult to transact business in this Parliament, did not need any support. Its truth is apparent from what has occurred during the last two days.. Again my honorable friends have set precedents. During the whole of my parliamentary experience I have not known a Government to be assailed as we have been throughout the last two days. My honorable friends opposite were always bad losers. They never could take a defeat like men ; they are still the “ screaming urchins dragged from the tart shop.” We have heard them in full cry during the last two days. Let us recount some of our experiences : We have had the ex-Speaker taking every point he could, and making it difficult for the present Speaker to conduct the business of the Chamber.
– That is not true.
– We have had other honorable members abusing the forms of the House.
– That is a deliberate untruth.
– A contemptible remark for an ex-Speaker!
– The honorable member for Kennedy has stated that the Prime Minister has uttered a deliberate untruth.
– His remark was an untruth ; I will not stand such statements.
– The honorable member for Kennedy knows - better perhaps than any other member of the House - that the expression which he has used is unparliamentary, and must be withdrawn and apologized for.
– I desire to withdraw the wicked and deliberate falsehood uttered by the Prime Minister.
– I remind the honorable member for Kennedy of the promise he made on the first day of this Parliament that he would assist the Chair. He, before all other members, should set a good example. I ask him to withdraw the expression unreservedly.
– If the Prime Minister is going to make a deliberate misstatement
– The honorable member for Kennedy knows that he must withdraw his expression without qualifications.
– If the Prime Minister is going to make these misstatements about me, I must denounce them.
– The honorable member for Kennedy must withdraw his expression, having been requested to do so. He knows the forms of the House, and I ask him to observe them.
– I desire to humbly withdraw it, and apologize to the Prime Minister for the untruth he has uttered.
– The Prime Minister.
– I rise to order.
– Let it pass.
– Why should you let it pass? It is an insult to the House, and to the Chair.
– There is no more insulting man than the honorable member.
– Order ! Order! Order ! I have already called order three times, and I must insist upon the business of the House being conducted in accordance with our Standing Orders. That can be done only with the co-operation of honorable members. Therefore, when Mr. Speaker calls the House to order the House should at once come to order, and honorable members should cease interjecting. I must ask honorable members to assist me in maintaining the rules of the House.
– I regret these interruptions, but I am bound to point out the facts of the situation.
– Name them.
– And I hope that I may do so without persistent interruption on the part of the ex-Speaker.
– That is good, especially coming from an ex-Labour man.
– During the past two days we have seen honorable members opposite abusing the forms of the House for the purpose of making personal attacks under the guise of asking questions. To crown all, yesterday we had even the ex-Prime Minister - the present Leader of the Opposition - descending to vulgar and splenetic language in his address-
– I rise to a point of order. I ask whether such language is in order as applied to the leader of our party ?
– What is the expression to which the honorable member takes exception ?
– The Prime Minister stated that only yesterday the leader of our party descended to “ vulgar and splenetic language.”
– If the Prime Minister used an expression towards any other honorable member which that honorable member regards as offensive, he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw.
– I take yet another point.
– Order. Does the honorable member rise to a point of order ?
– Yes. If I understand your ruling aright, unless the honorable member who is attacked by another honorable member takes exception to the language which is used, no other honorable member is entitled to do so. I submit that any honorable member can take exception to language which is of an objectionable character.
– Any expressions used in a general sense, and which are not distinctly unparliamentary in their character, cannot be taken exception to in the way that the honorable member claims. If any honorable member feels that he himself or another honorable member is the subject of improper attack, or that he has been referred to in an unbecoming or offensive manner, he has a right to object.
– As I was the honorable member referred to by the Prime Minister, I take no exception to his statement, . because I do not think that anything which he may say will carry any weight.
– In addition to that, during the course of yesterday, honorable members opposite accused us of deliberately turning men out of their work, of employing agents to go about the works to stir up, mischief with a view to injuring the workers and cutting down wages. In fact, it seems as if my honorable friends have gone out of their way to make themselves as splenetic and - well, I will not use the term - as it is possible to be. For two days we have sat here quietly listening to the vials of wrath and vituperation which they have poured upon our heads. All this constitutes a peculiar commentary upon their statements in the country that they intend to help the Government to transact the business of the country. I hope that next Sunday night the honorable member for Ballarat will detail all that has gone on here-
– To whom is the Prime Minister referring?
– To the honorable member amongst others. Let him tell his hearers all the wicked lies which have been circulated during the past two days and add the comment that his party are here to help the Government to do business in an amicable way.
The position briefly is this: The Government are here to try to transact the business of the country. They are here to ask for no favours. They are here to do their best in very difficult circumstances.
– Why, the Prime Minister asked a favour yesterday.
– I hope that I shall not continue to be interrupted, especially as I am limited in the matter of time.
– The Prime Minister has asked that he should be permitted to make his speech without interruption. Once more I appeal to honorable members not to interrupt.
– Then he ought not to interrupt others.
– I have already called the House to order, and it is distinctly out of order for any honorable member to make an interjection immediately afterwards.
– We are here simply because the people have decided, after three years of the rule of honorable members opposite, that it was time to make a change in the government of the country. In obedience to that mandate we are here under admittedly difficult circumstances to endeavour to transact the business of the country. I say frankly that we are largely in the hands of honorable members opposite. They can make it impossible for us to proceed, and they can do so within the forms of the House. Judging by their conduct during the past two days it is becoming abundantly clear that within the rules and orders of the House they are determined that no business shall proceed if they can prevent it.
Now I come to the indictment which has been launched against the Government - an indictment which has not even been explained. Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition wandered aimlessly - it seemed to me as if he did not relish his job - over the entire field sketched in the Ministerial manifesto, and concluded his speech by launching this motion of censure. He says, first of all, that we are out “ to destroy the beneficial character of our social and industrial laws.” Secondly, he affirms that we “ indicate no intention of taking such steps as will reduce the high cost of living,” and he concludes by declaring that we “fail to realize the urgent necessity of an immediate revision of the Tariff.” After three years of office by my honorable friends we are told that urgent steps need to be taken to reduce the high cost of living and to restore the effective wage of the worker. We are also informed that the Tariff is in need of urgent revision as the result of their three years’ conduct of the business of this country. Every one of my honorable friends opposite now says that he is a Protectionist - a pure water Protectionist. Every one of them, after three years of undisputed power, places it on record that the Tariff is urgently in need of revision. They say that there are thousands of men out of employment in Victoria.
– No, they do not.
– Before I was well in my seat as Prime Minister I received a deputation which was introduced by a member of the party opposite - Senator Barker - who deliberately told me in my office that in Victoria alone there were from 3,000 to 4,000 men out of employment. All these artisans are out of employment, and the Labour party now place it on record, as a result of their term of office extending over three years, that effective wages to-day are suffering because of the high cost of living, and that people are out of employment for want of rectification of the Tariff. Let us take, in their order, the complaints made against us by the Opposition.
First of all, it would be interesting to know what industrial and social legislation we are attempting to destroy. The Leader of the Opposition made some reference yesterday to the question of the abolition of preference to unionists in Government employment, and to the further proposal contained in the memorandum with respect to that matter. So far as I am aware, our action simply reverts to the traditional attitude of the Liberal party on this question. Ever since we have been in Parliament we have fought this question of unconditional preference. There is no mistake in our attitude, nor has there ever been. In this House in 1904, when the first Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed, the question came up. It was then decided by the House - and I think that we displaced the Government in so deciding - that the President of the Court should have the discretion to grant preference only under certain conditions, those conditions being that there must be no suspicion of politics connected with the union concerned, and that preference should be granted only if a majority of those interested, not in the union, but in the business which the union represented, should ask for that preference at the hands of the Judge. That has been our attitude, and that is the proposal outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech.
– I suppose the honorable gentleman learned that lesson at Lithgow 1
– I learned that lesson at Lithgow. I learned there the lesson to do things for myself if I wanted them done, and not rely upon the Government for everything.
Here I should like to explain a misrepresentation which has been spread throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. I have been accused of being in favour of this preference, and a quotation has been made from a speech of mine delivered in this House in 1904, when I was opposing the granting of unconditional preference in connexion with the Bill to which I have just referred. The fact that I was at the time opposing the granting of unconditional preference if never told by honorable members opposite when they quote my remarks. They never tell the people that I was in opposition to the proposals they made at the time. They never tell them that I helped to displace a Government which insisted upon absolute and unconditional preference. They forget to mention that fact, but lay hold of this statement of mine which had reference only to one union - a union of which I know something - the Coalminers’ Union at Lithgow. Let me state the facts. I wish to put this matter right, and I hope that when next the Opposition talk of it in the country, they will give the whole setting. If they do that I shall not mind. The fact is that this union was a purely industrial one, having nothing to do with politics. Moreover, for 200 years, I dare say, there had been nothing but unionism connected with the coal-mining industry in Australia and Great Britain. The coalminers did their own business. They did not want any one to give them preference.
– When did Burt, Abraham, Macdonald, and Fenwick-
– My honorable friend, when he speaks of Burt, Fenwick, and Abraham, is referring to men who were Liberals, and are Liberals to-day. They have persistently declined to join the Labour party at Home. They hold their seats to-day as Liberals, and have done more for the working men of Northumberland than all these gentlemen, who are making politics out of the question, will ever do for the workers of Australia, even if they live for a hundred years.
– The nien mentioned by the Prime Minister are Radicals. He knows that.
– I know a good many things. I desire to say that the reference of mine which has been quoted by honorable members of the Opposition was to a voluntary union. It had nothing to do with a grant of preference by any Government. It had nothing to do with any grant of preference even by a Court. It related solely to a voluntary organization outside winning its own triumphs, and not troubling the Governmnent in any way about its concerns. With regard to preference generally, I am here to say that no Judge, no Court, and no Parliament has a right to grant preference to any political party. That, however, is the position we have reached to-day. What is sought is not preference to industrial unions, but preference to political parties, and to political propaganda. Have we not seen gentlemen castigated lately, because they did not furnish political funds at the recent general election ? Only lately certain gentlemen were castigated in the Trades Hall, Sydney, and told that the general election would have been won by the Labour party if they had paid up better. “ The election was lost through want of money,” they were told. “If it had not been for your action in keep:ng your money in your pockets, we should have had the Labour party in power to-day.” That statement was made by Mr. Grant, one of the men who ran as a candidate for the Senate at the last election.
But I must pass on. While I am in favour to-day of trades unions on an industrial basis - while I wish to see them winning every triumph that is legitimate and within the law; while I want to see the principle of collective bargaining applied, unalloyed and untinctured by pure politics, I am against any distinction being made between the various taxpayers of the country. This is the attitude which ought to be taken up by every Government of a civilized country which believes in simple, even-handed justice being meted out to the taxpayers generally. The attitude which every Government should take up is that no Administration has a. right to permit any distinctions between the various taxpayers of the country. It is not right to grant them any preference even at the hands of the Government. Our attitude has been well sketched for us by President Roosevelt. It was, I think, when Samuel Gompers, president of the Miners Federation, went to him with a request for preference to unionists in public employment - the same thing that is agitating our politics at the present time - that President Roosevelt replied emphatically - 1 am the President of all the people in the United States. My aim is to do an equal and exact justice as among them all. In the employment and dismissal of men in the Public Service I can no more recognise the fact that a man does or does not belong to a union, as being for or against him, than I can recognise the fact that he is a Protestant or a Catholic, a Jew or a Gentile, as being for or against him.
And that is our attitude as set out in the memorandum issued the other day. I may as well put it on record. We say-
In the expenditure on the service of the State of public moneys contributed by all the people, discrimination against any class or section is repugnant to that principle of equal citizenship, which is the true basis of constitutional liberty and democratic government. Every citizen who seeks public employment has an inalienable right to have his application decided solely on its merits.
My friends opposite talk about preference to unionists, and about the triumphs that anion ism has won. May I point out that every taxpayer in this community is in the Government union ? They are not asked to join, because they are already in it, and every man and woman is compelled to contribute to the funds for its upkeep. Therefore, every man and woman has a right to an equal “ look in “ when favours and employment are going about; and that, I presume, is one of the matters referred to when my honorable friends opposite say that we are destroying social and industrial laws.
The Leader of the Opposition last night made some reference to the maternity bonus, which, I may say, is becoming a serious matter on the financial side. The latest estimate is that the cost this year will be £650,000. Of course, we feel gratified at any increase in the population; but this, so far as I know, is not a question of increasing the population. It is a question of “ paying up “ under certain circumstances. The attitude of this Government has always been that necessitous cases should receive sympathetic consideration.
– And thus make it a charity !
– That, I suppose, is what the Leader of the Opposition referred to last night when he said that, in proposing to revise the scheme, and confine it to necessitous cases, the Government would pauperise those who receive the bonus. If that be so, then, by implication, those gentlemen opposite, when in office, pauperised every one of the old-age pensioners; that is a stigma that attaches to every old-age pensioner iti the country, who has to set forth his need, and establish it by proof, before he can get a penny.
– The Liberals claim old-age pensions as their scheme.
– Is it ours, or is it that of honorable gentlemen opposite?
– The Liberals claim it.
– It is our scheme, and the present Prime Minister opposed it.
– Not so. If an individual is pauperised when it is said that he is in need of a gift or bonus from the Government - a payment from the Government - then, according to the Leader of the Opposition, every old-age pensioner is a pauper. There is no escape from that position. Every pensioner has to set out his need in black and white, and he cannot get a fraction from the Government until he has proved - and it is sometimes difficult to do so - that he cannot get along without the money.
– The poor people would have got nothing from the honorable gentleman’s crowd if the latter could have helped it.
– I have yet to learn that any just principle, or any good social law, is violated; I simply say that we decline to tax the poor people of this country to pour money into the laps of rich people. I have yet to learn that this is a contravention of any democratic principle. To do so would be the height of undemocracy, besides being the height of foolishness. Why pay money to those who do not require it? Does anybody in the country believe that 90 per cent, of the mothers of Australia need this money? If so, what a commentary on the three years of Labour government! What a commentary on all the good things the late Government claim to have done - on the wonderful way in which, to quote the Leader of the Opposition, they claim to have made this country a good place to live in. Nobody believes that 90 per cent, of the mothers of Australia are applying for this bonus because they are in need; it would be a libel on the country to say so. And if the mothers do not need the assistance, I recognise no obligation on the part of the Government to pay them £5 each.
– Why do they claim the money if they do not need it?
– Because the Labour Government passed a law, and invited them to claim it; and, according to the Leader’ of the Opposition, if all did not claim it, then, for instance, Mrs. Jones, who does, is a pauper.
Another matter on which I was attacked yesterday was that of oldage pensions. This Government already, during their brief existence, have, I hope, laid to rest the lie which was circulated by those gentlemen throughout the whole of the last election - the lie that if the constituents dared to vote for the Liberal party they would lose the old-age pension. I hope we have heard the last of that lie. People are getting their pensions, and will continue to get them so long as this Government remain in office.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister has said that a lie was circulated by “those gentlemen.” To whom does the Prime Minister refer when he says “ those gentlemen “ ?
– There is no point of order.
– It was the whole party and the whole party organization I had in mind; that is what I mean.
– The Prime Minister charges our party with lying. It is a most objectionable utterance and should be withdrawn.
– There is no point of order involved; it is -a statement of a very wide and general character.
– Then I would ask-
– Order ! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I rise to order again. As a member of this House I take exception to the utterance falling from the Prime Minister, reflecting on me as a member of a party, and accusing me of going through the country lying on any issue that may have been before the country.
– I listened to what the honorable member was saying very carefully, and he made no reflection on the honorable member for Dalley.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I respectfully ask-
– Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– I will.
– “Until the honorable member has a new and legitimate point of order he must not traverse my ruling. He must obey my decision or take the proper course to dispute it.
– Then the position is that the Prime Minister may call us all liars, and not be called upon to withdraw.
Several Ministerial Members. - Chair I Disgraceful !
– Order ! The honorable member for Adelaide must maintain order.
– I will maintain it, and I hope nobody will get excited.
– I am referring to facts which are notorious. My friends in Opposition know that these statements were circulated - the press teemed with them - that we were represented as laying hands on the citadel of the old-age pension advantages which had been erected for the defence and shelter of these old people. We were pictured as men who were going to despoil these old people of their competences, and as uttering threats of dire consequences upon them.
– Your own AttorneyGeneral said so.
– The answer is that the old people are getting their oldage pensions. The logic of hard facts has shown that these - I will not say lies, but misrepresentations - have not a tittle of justification behind them.
– Your majority is not big enough to take them away.
– We have the statement now. Here, again, is the lie. Here we have a repetition of the statement, by implication, on the floor of the House, and by a responsible member.
– Your own AttorneyGeneral said so.
– No, he did not.
– My own AttorneyGeneral has never said that he would rob these old people of their pensions, and no member on the Ministerial side has ever said that he will do anything to injure these old people; but what he has said is that he would do something to better their conditions.
– Did not your AttorneyGeneral vote te reduce the pension to 7s. a week ?
– Order !
– The only effect of the three years’ administration of my friends opposite on the old-age pensioners has been - I will not say it is solely the effect of their administration, but it has been concurrent with their administration - that the value of the old people’s pension has materially and substantially declined.
– Hear, hear, all over the world, owing to the cost of living.
– In spite of all the power gentlemen opposite possessed they have not been able to do anything to stop it, and the value of the pension has steadily declined during the three years of socialistic administration. That is a fact that needs emphasis if members are going to drag out this question and make party politics of it.
As to my statement on the matter, which the right honorable gentleman quoted, I adhere to it. 1 hope we shall evolve a system which in time will be a much better one than our present system, but that time is not yet. The right honorable gentleman quoted the word “ ultimate,” but he did not stop to emphasize it. I was speaking of what I hoped to be the ultimate evolution of our social laws in that direction, and I say so now. I want to see the taint of charity taken from our old-age pensioners. I do not want to see them having to establish the fact that they are penniless before they can get this assistance. I want them, in the working years of their lives, to make provision for their old age, so that they may come and claim, not a dole from the Government, not a gift from the Government, and not a grant from the Government, but something that is their own, and so that they can keep their own self-respect in a way I am sure some of them cannot now. There are people to-day - and my friends opposite know it - who will not take the old-age pension because they think that taint is there, people who need it perhaps more than some of those who are getting it.
– That will apply to the alteration to the maternity bonus.
– It is the inevitable result of our system, and I hope by-and-by we shall evolve a better one; but because we say we hope for something better in the future the trick of my friends is to go and persuade the old people that we want to destroy what they have. It is a wicked thing to do on the part of any set of men, no matter to what party they belong.
– I have only repeated what your Attorney-General has said.
– My AttorneyGeneral has said that he will not interfere with the present system until a better one has been brought into existence.
I have to interpret the first part of the amendment for myself. I am now running over one or two things which are supposed to represent the destruction of beneficial social laws. I suppose another thing coming under this category is the restoration of the postal vote. If that be so, we are going to destroy that social law which prevents sick people from voting, which prevents mothers from voting, the mothers my right honorable friend has taken under his own special wing to succour, the mothers to whom he would not give a vote. Under certain conditions we are going to restore that. As to this matter of consistency, which was made so much of by honorable members opposite last night, they got hold of some interjection of mine to the effect that they were granting further facilities to the people of Queensland to vote, that, while they were taking away the postal vote, they were giving them the absent vote. What is there in this to cause hilarity on the part of my friends opposite?
– Was there nothing more ?
– No; the absent vote is as good as the postal vote, so far as facilities go. No one will question that. Every one will admit that the absent vote gives more facilities than the postal vote, but that has nothing whatever to do with the abuses that take place under a system of voting. It is the abuses we propose to attack, and not the facilities themselves. We want to purify the facilities, to multiply them as we may, but to take care that the facilities do not generate fraud. Honorable members on the other side have been making a mouthful about the way in which the electoral inquiry has turned out. But at any rate it has shown that there are nearly 6,000 cases of apparent duplicate voting.
– Yes, I said “apparent.” Honorable members opposite abolished the postal voting without finding sixty cases of fraud. They did not hesitate to do that without instituting prosecutions. There may have been one or two, and only one or two, prosecutions, but for less than sixty cases of fraud they abolished that system instantly, and here we have evidence of 5,000 odd cases of apparent duplication.
– Apparent duplication is not fraud.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that there are 5,000 cases of fraud ?
– I do not know.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that there are fifty cases of fraud ?
– It is impossible at present to say.
– Why does not the honorable gentleman prosecute some of those guilty of fraud?
– My honorable friends opposite seem to be very confident. They say there is no fraud. How do they know ? Are they in the inside of this machinery, that they are able to tell what has occurred? How do they know? We do not know, and we say that we do not know; but they are quite confident about the whole thing. They appear to know all about it. I hope that, for our honour and reputation, they do not.
– Why accuse them ?
– Why talk about the matter as if the honorable gentleman knew all about it? I want to say that we are going to try to prosecute where we think there are evident cases of fraud. Let my honorable friends be under no misapprehension. The inquiry so far made has proved nothing regarding fraud. There will have to be further inquiries before personation can be proved. I do not wish to pursue that matter further than to say that-, when the Leader of the Opposition accuses me of slandering Australia in an alleged interview with the Morning Fast, I did not make the statements there attributed to me. I have said that before.
– That is the usual thing with the honorable gentleman. When he said that at Port Pirie, he said that the press reported him wrongly.
– I think that I can recall instances when the word of the right honorable Leader of the Opposition has been accepted when he has given his denial of a statement attributed to him. He has been in the same boat on many an occasion, and it must be the fate oi any man occupying either of the positions which he and I at present hold. It, therefore, comes with a very ill grace from the honorable member for Grey to make that taunt to me.
– Did the honorable gentleman, not quote the honorable member for Adelaide there, and state that he was wrongly reported?
– I did quote the honorable gentleman, and I quoted him absolutely correctly. I quoted from the report of the Hobart Conference. I hope the honorable gentleman will deal with that again to-day, because I say that he made a deliberate misrepresentation in that case, and if we can get the evidence out in this House I will show who was guilty of the misrepresentation there. I let him go, but he made all his capital out of it, and he did so by deliberate misrepresentation of the facts as contained in the record.
– I am sorry to intervene, but the Prime Minister has just stated, regarding the honorable member for Adelaide, that he did a certain thing by deliberate misrepresentation. I think that honorable members must see-
– I will withdraw.
– Honorable members must see that if we go on in that way there will be no end to the recriminations that may take place.
– I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the statement objected to.
– Certainly, I will withdraw it. I think that after the honorable gentleman’s treatment of myself during the past two days-
– I always accept an honorable member’s denial of a statement attributed to him.
– Yes, but unfortunately the honorable gentleman’s colleagues do not. I want to say that there nas been no slandering of Australia, so far as I know, on this side. If there has been any slandering of Australia here is a specimen, if my honorable friends want one, from the honorable member for West Sydney in a speech delivered in the Sydney Town Hall this year -
The abolition of Hie postal vote lie described us an attack on the cajolery and undue influence which money had hitherto been able to bring upon many voters.
– Quite true.
– What does the honorable member think of that as a slander of Australia - that the mothers of Australia can be bought, cajoled, and influenced by money ? Therefore they had to abolish the postal vote -
By its system of compulsory enrolment the Government had for the first lime got something like a complete roll- “A complete roll” - the right honorable Leader of the Opposition repeated that statement yesterday - 150,000 more names on the roll at the time of the election than there were adults in the Commonwealth qualified to vote! That is the honorable gentleman’s idea of a fairly clean roll. having put on tens of thousands of voters who had never been on before, but they had denied to wealth, and the influence which wealth had, the power, which it freely exercised before, of manipulating votes.
When next my honorable friends are talking about the slandering of Australia, here is a slander for them if there be any.
– Absolutely true.
– Is it true?
– Yes, absolutely true.
– My honorable friend then says that it is true that women’s votes can be purchased and manipulated.
– Not in the way the honorable gentleman suggests. I shall tell him all about it by and by.
– I wish to say that, so far as I am aware, we have destroyed nothing that is good in our social system. All that we are aiming at is to destroy abuse, danger, inefficiency, and administrative chaos. We wish to destroy favoritism in the Public Service, and to put our social institutions upon a more enduring basis.
Now to deal with the second point-
– May I ask the Prime Minister, before he passes from the question of the rolls, whether it must not be so, that there are more names on the rolls than there are adults entitled to vote, since there must be duplication whilst transfers are being made from one district to another? Is that not inevitable?
– No doubt.
– It is inevitable even with a clean roll giving full representation.
– The whole difficulty, I believe, is owing to the fact that the enrolment does not take place until a time when it is too late to clean the rolls. Is it not a fact that my honorable friends fixed the date of the elections so late - against the advice of the Chief Electoral Officer - that it was impossible to clean the rolls?
– I believe that to be the fact.
– That is not so.
– The papers show it to be true, I think. What is the use of my honorable friend talking like that?
– W - We fixed the date of the elections as early as we could get the rolls printed.
– My honorable friends fixed the elections at a later date than the Returning Officer told him would be wise.
– N - No ; he said that he could not have his rolls ready before.
– I do not believe that that is the fact.
– Let me geton to my next point, please. I am only stating the facts as they appear on the official papers.
– B - Bring them down here.
– Order !
- Mr. Speaker, may I appeal to you for protection ?
– Order ! There have been several interjections in succession, and I did not like to ask the Prime Minister to resume his seat, because his time is limited; but if an honorable member asks to be protected from interjections or interruptions to his speech, he should certainly not invite interjections or interruptions by direct questions to other members while he is ‘ speaking. Every honorable member will have an opportunity to speak, and, therefore, should recognise the limits which are put upon the duration of a speech. I ask honorable members to assist the Chair to see that every honorable member gets a proper hearing.
– The second point in this indictment is that our programme indicates no intention of taking such steps as will reduce the high cost of living. As I have already said, there is a problem as to the cost of living. That is a fact, as Mr. Knibbs makes quite clear. During the last three years the effective wage of the workers has decreased, notwithstanding three years of Socialistic rule. I know that it is a worldwide movement. I take exception to the statement of my honorable friends that they are able by any process of legislation, and within their own programme, to touch it at all.
– And the wealth of your crowd has increased.
– Which is our crowd ?
– The crowd whom you represent - the Conservative party.
– What are the proposals of my honorable friends to decrease the cost of living? First of all, they say they are going to regulate prices and profits. They say, “ If the proposed amendments are carried we shall pass legislation to control trusts and combines in the public interest.” Trusts and combines are the bodies they say that are sending up prices. What are the trusts and combines, and where are they ? My honorable friends were in office for three years grappling with these so-called evil and malign combinations, but what was the result of it all? The so-called Sugar Trust was inquired into by a partisan Commission, containing three men on their own side, and only one Liberal, and they reported that the Sugar Trust at present is not injuring the community to any extent. They simply said that if you were to nationalize the sugar industry to-morrow you could not run the machinery as the present company does. They said more. They said that the cost of sugar would go up if that were done, and not down. They said, too, that if you bought this machinery you might have to scrap it, and you would be risking good money in making any such attempt. That is what the Sugar Commission said as to the sugar monopoly, which is supposed to be doing such damage in Australia. As to the coal and shipping monopolies, about which so much has been heard, the last word for the present has been heard of them, and what my honorable friends are going to do next I do not know. They will have to be quick, for all their props are being knocked from under them, one after the other, by the hard logic of facts. The shipping and coal monopolies have both gone. The highest tribunal in this land, the highest tribunal in the Empire, has said that that combination is not injuring the public at all, that it is a lawful and logical thing to do.
– So much the worse for the law.
– -All I have to say about that combination is that the honorable member had better not go to Newcastle and advocate the cutting down of the price of coal there. If he does the miners will soon give him a short shrift. They have insisted upon that price being fixed where it is, and they have done their best to fix it higher.
– The miners are not getting the profit, and you know it.
– All that 1 know is that the result; of the Vend’s operations has been to give the miners an increase of ls. per ton in the hewing rate, and they appreciate that very much, and will not have it interfered with.
An Honorable Member. - And the selling rate has gone up 10s.
– Order ! Honorable members must not interject.
– Three years ago honorable members on the other side were going to bring rents down, but they have put them up. Rents are higher to-day than ever they have been.
– Will you bring them down ?
– We do not profess any such quackery.
– Order ! I have called for order several times, but immediately afterwards honorable members have interjected to one another across the chamber, which is one of the grossest forms of disorder. This must be discontinued.
– Then there is the Beef Trust, about which we have been hearing so much. We can find no trace of any action having been taken by my honorable friends to grapple Witthis ogre, which is supposed .to be throwing its shadow over Australia. What action did the late Government take with regard to the Beef Trust? We can find little trace of any action to deal with the malign combinations which have been depicted all over the country as holding within their grip innocent victims.
– Why did they not try to deal with them ?
– I have not heard an answer to that question. The fact is that my honorable friends did not find them, and did not even attempt to deal with them, except in one case, with consequences that we already know. The result of all their attempts to bring down rents and prices and deal with trusts and combines has been an unemployed problem, acute in Victoria, and very substantial indeed as affecting the whole of Australia.
As regards the cost of living, Mr. Knibbs tells us that it has gone up 15 per cent, during the past three years. To an average wage-earner that means, I suppose, that 10s. a week has been added to the cost of his living. It is more than that, but we will take the official figures. What are the proposals of my honorable friends to mitigate this condition of affairs? They are going to deal with the trusts, they say. Take the four trusts which have been made so much of - sugar, coal, shipping, and tobacco. These four trusts, it has been ascertained, are making profits in this country aggregating about £1,500,000 a year. If my honorable friends were to nationalize to-morrow the whole of those industries, and put every copper of the profits in the hands of the working men, they would give each man an amount which would represent about 7Jd. per week per family to meet a weekly increase of 10s. in the cost of his living. Their own inquirers have said that the machinery is being run more efficiently than the Government could run it. Suppose, therefore, that we nationalized the industry, and ran it as efficiently as at present; and suppose that we say that for running this machinery efficiently we are entitled to make a fair profit. Put it at 5 per cent. What advantage do they allege is going to accrue to the worker? It would be jd. per head per week for the community. A d. policy to meet an increase of cost of living of 10s. per week ! Take another view of this matter. Mr.’ Knibbs has said that if you divide all there is to divide in Australia over £200 a year, it would only give the whole population 6s. 2d. per week each extra.
– Who proposes to divide it?
– I say, suppose you do.
– Why put a supposition?
– I am quoting from figures the getting out of which my honorable friend’s party insisted on.
– And which the Prime Minister is manipulating.
– What is the average income of the worker in Australia?
– I am telling the House what Mr. Knibbs said. Does my honorable friend deny it? Mr. Knibbs says that the whole of the wealth of Australia enjoyed within the year by persons receiving over £200 a year would, if divided up, give 6s. 2d. per week extra. The cost of living of the ra?.n who is get ting £200 a year to-day has gone up from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a week; and, as Mr. Knibbs points out, if he got his equal share of the whole of the wealth, it would give him 6s. 2d. How far would that go to meet the increase in the cost of his living from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a week?
– That sounds more like Cook than Knibbs.
– That is Knibbs. What is the immediate proposition of the party opposite? All that they propose in this direction is to nationalize the shipping to Tasmania. They are going to bring down the cost of living over all Australia by nationalizing Tasmanian shipping. That is the whole extent of their immediate proposals within the sphere of nationalization - to nationalize just this little ferry-boat service across the straits; and that is supposed to be sufficient to influence the whole economic condition of Australia, and to better the condition of the worker. When, therefore, my honorable friends place this statement seriously before the public, I say that they should either substantiate it by going into details and furnishing the figures on which they rely, or they should not try to impose upon the credulity of the working man of Australia in the manner that this statement so evidently makes manifest. There are many matters to consider in connexion with the increase in the cost of living; and I do not pretend - no man on this side pretends - that we can compass them all by any legislative measure, or by any species of social or economic reform of a practical nature. The fact outstanding is that prices have risen all over the world. That may be accounted for in many ways which it boots not to inquire into just now. There are many causes leading to the world’s high prices, but they all express themselves in the condition that the supply is not meeting the demand. That is why prices have increased. What has the party opposite done to increase the supply of the world’s good things? They set out to do many things. With regard to the lands of Australia and their cultivation, has the legislation of the party opposite resulted in any marked impetus being given ? I venture to say that during the past three years there has been no more than a normal development as compared with any other previous three years. What have they done of a practical nature to deal with this question of the cost of living ? We say that an effort ought to have been made to get more capital and get more people in this country to cultivate our lands, which are lying vacant, and which might produce more food than we are producing to-day, thereby increasing the supply of those things the greater production of which would lead to a decrease in prices, and, consequently, a decrease in the cost of living of the people of Australia. That is one of the practical steps we can take. It is the only method of doing any real good that I can think of. But, in addition to that, there are many ways in which the result desired can be influenced. Tt can be influenced by good government, and by stimulating those factors in the community which lead to production and prosperity. We want capital; we want people; we want security; we want confidence; we want industrial peace if we can get it; we want more co-operation between Labour and Capital to attack the natural problems which are here to be attacked and to be solved; we want a cessation of this fratricidal strife by both parties joining together and providing social standards such as this country ought easily to be able to afford to establish. We want to tackle this problem of increasing production, and so bring down the price of commodities. We want good, economical government.
– W - We want righteousness.
– As my honorable friend over there says, we want righteous government. I agree with him entirely.
There is one other point which I wish to touch in this indictment. It refers to our failure to recognise the urgent necessity of an immediate revision of the Tariff. Was not the Tariff urgently in need of revision during their three years of administration? One naturally inquires what they did do in those three years to alleviate this urgency, so far as Australia is concerned. They set out to bring about the policy of new Protection. But they were not able to do it. They admit that they were not. They said that they would not have anything more to do with the old Protection until they got the new. That has been their statement of policy repeated over and over again. But to-day they have it thrown overboard. In the space of about two weeks they have adopted a new policy. After declaring that they would not have anything more to do with amending the old Tariff until they found means of securing more Protection for the workers, they have turned round - turned right over - and now say, “If we cannot get the new Protection we will have the old.”
– What did the Leader of the Opposition say to the country?
– It is what he said at the Hobart Conference that is more to the point. I will tell the House what he said there. A motion was moved that a plank of the Labour party’s platform, “ new Protection,” should be amended to read “effective Protection.” After several had spoken, Mr. Watson said -
He spoke as one who had advocated Protection all along, and he did not think they were justified in disturbing the present planks. The plank of “new Protection” was adopted, and, personally, he did not want much of the old idea of protection for the manufacturer only.
They are saying now that the question cannot wait. What do they really mean ?
– What Protection shall we get from Cook and Kelly?
– Cook and Kelly, on this matter, have been plain and straightforward. My honorable friend need not bother about them, but he might trouble about Hughes and Pearce.
– What about Thomas ?
– Yes, and a few others. Mr. Watson also said -
To ask the people of Australia to make sacrifices to encourage industries that did not pay fair wages did not appeal to him. If the constitutional amendments were carried, they would be able to scientifically adjust the relations of the workers to the manufacturing industries.
The honorable member for Wide Bay went on to explain the difference between new Protection and old Protection. He said -
Victoria, before Federation, had the effective Protection, but it did not affect the workers as did the new Protection which was advocated by the Labour party. Labour stood for a fair and reasonable wage, and an industry that would not pay that did not deserve to stand. If the referendums were carried, effect would be given to fair and reasonable wages in industry.
Mr. Lamond, another leader, said that it was rather late in the day to discuss the old Protection, and that they stood by the new. The motion and amendment were defeated. The old Protection, effective Protection - the Protection spoken of in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition last night - was heaved overboard at the Hobart Conference. It is before us now in spite of that Conference, and the electors will understand the true reason for all this bother about it now. This Government has not been in office very long, but what has it done?
– Will you tell us what you are going to do about the Tariff?
– We have already set the Inter-State Commission to work on the Tariff.
– An indecent thing to do the day before the meeting of Parliament.
– Does my honorable friend object to the appointments?
– No; but the appointments having been left over so long, they might have been deferred until after the meeting of Parliament.
– This Government does not consult Parliament about such matters.
– There is no Caucus rule on this side.
– We made the best appointments we could, and accept responsibility for them, though we are glad that they have been well received. Are honorable members troubled because we have made these appointments, and set the Inter-State Commission to work? Is that why they say that the Tariff question is not being regarded as of sufficient urgency? What would my honorable friend have done had he been in office? Would he have acted differently?
In their programme for 1912, the last programme submitted to this House by the Labour party, there was no reference to the subject of Protection, which was not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. Protection could not have been regarded as urgent by them then. Further, the Inter-State Commission Bill was passed in December last, but the Labour Administration failed to appoint the Commission, although it remained in office for five months after the Act had become law. The Tariff was so terrifically urgent when the Labour party was in office that the Labour Administration did not attempt even to set going machinery devised for its effective consideration. That is not to be wondered at, because, a little before, prominent members of the Labour party had been denouncing this machinery for dealing with the Tariff. The late Minister of Trade and Customs, and some of his colleagues, had poured ridicule on the proposal to create the Inter-State Commission. They had stated that Parliament should be responsible for the Tariff changes; that it should not be left to the Inter-State Commission to adjust the Tariff. Yet, a little later, they introduced and passed a Bill to create the Inter-State Commission. This Government has appointed the Commission so authorized, and the Commission has begun its labours by preparing for the rectification of the Tariff. The sooner it can get ahead with its work the sooner will a revision of the Tariff be proposed in this House. Not only did the late Government not appoint the Inter-State Commission, but it practically stopped sending out circulars to manufacturers asking for information. The late Minister said, in effect, “ We do not want to know what your profits are, or what are the conditions under which your industry is carried on.” Let me read one or two statements to show where honorable members opposite really stand, so far as the urgency of effective Protection is concerned. The Leader of the Opposition, in his Maryborough speech, said -
The protection of the workers in protected industries cannot be assured while protection of the consumer, i.e., of the community generally, is quite impossible. We therefore most strongly urge that the amendment of the Constitution now before us should be approved, in which case we shall take immediate steps to put the policy of new Protection into force, and give such protection to the) community and the workers as may be necessary. “ The protection of the workers in protected industries cannot be assured “ ! “ The interests of the community cannot be looked after”! “That,” the honorable member said, “is quite impossible.” “But,” he added, “should the people decide not to take to themselves through the Federal Parliament the powers that are asked for, the Government pledges itself to take an early opportunity to amend the Tariff to give effective Protection to Australian industries.” What does that mean ? It means this : ‘ ‘ We say to the country deliberately that the workers can get nothing from the old Protection; but, if we cannot obtain the powers necessary to get the new Protection, we shall throw the workers overboard, and protect the manufacturers.” That is the meaning of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition, if his language has any meaning. “ The protection of the workers cannot be assured; the protection of the community is impossible ‘ ‘ ; those are the statements of the Leader of the Opposition.
– Does the honorable member believe them ?
– I am dealing with what has been said by the honorable member’s leader. Two sentences further on he said, in effect, “If we cannot look after the worker, if we cannot look after the community, we shall stay in office, and devote ourselves to looking after the interests of the bosses.” The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is reported to have said, regarding the Maryborough speech, that-
The Ministry had decided if the people did not carry the referendum proposals to revise the Tariff under the old Protectionist system. He would not agree with the Ministry on that point. He would not help large manufacturers to swell already abnormal profits at the expense of the public.
Already abnormal profits are being made at the expense of the public, so these champions of the workers say, yet they are declaring now that it is urgent that the manufacturers shall get more.
– It is urgent in a lot of cases.
– They say that it is urgent that they should get more without reference to the interests of the workers or of the consumers. The report continues -
He would say to them, “ Unless you give us a chance to regulate prices and wages, I will not give you further protective duties.”
– That is, in cases where they were getting abnormal profits.
– Is the honorable member going to vote for the amendment?
– Then he means to make the manufacturers’ profits still more abnormal ?
– That is the meaning of what he says.
– I can be consistent, at any rate. I am not, like the Prime Minister, an Age Protectionist.
– The honorable member for West Sydney admitted the correctness of the honorable member’s attitude. He said -
Mr. Mathews could do as he liked on the fiscal question. He was not bound in any way to support the Government on the matter of Protection. The policy speech in this regard bound the Ministry, but not the individual members of the party.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports kept returning to the attack. He said -
When Mr Fisher, in his policy speech at Maryborough, pledged the Government to effective Protection, whether the referenda was carried or not, it was explained that this was merely a Government, and not a party, proposal. He joined issue with the Prime Minister and the Government. He would not give one vote in Parliament on the old Protection if the referendum was not carried.
– That is a newspaper report.
– The Labour party had advocated the new Protection, and the Ministry had gone back upon it. The honorable member would not follow the Prime Minister in that matter. Today, however, he tells us that he is going to follow him in that very matter.
– And yet he is consistent.
– I am not a halfandhalf Protectionist like the honorable member for Kooyong.
– One can understand the dilatoriness of these gentlemen in putting this machinery into operation. They had no faith in it. They said so. The honorable member for Yarra, who, if my honorable friends opposite had been returned to power, would have been administering this machinery, in criticising the Liberal platform, picked out for review the plank that promises that the Tariff should be administered by a non-political Board which should suggest amendments to Parliament. What did he say? He said -
I think Parliament should be responsible for this work. Members should not be placed in the position of being able to shelter themselves behind any Board on the question of what duties should be imposed. I believe that the Department should be able to obtain all the information necessary for Tariff revision.
They knew that the Tariff needed revision, and therefore they stand convicted of having done nothing to rectify a Tariff which they knew was in need of urgent revision. The honorable member for Yarra proceeded -
I regret to say that many manufacturers, while desiring high protection for their own goods, arc very anxious to get their own raw material free of duty, irrespective of the interests of the Australian manufacturers of those raw materials. I should like to hear something more about the powers that would be given to this proposed Board.
Then there is a statement by Senator Pearce on this very subject. He said -
As a party they (the Labour party) have deliberately refused to place Protection upon their official platform, unless it be accompanied by Hie new Protection. To that plank every member of the party is pledged.
There are many more statements to the same purport, all of them meaning that the party opposite had deliberately thrown the question of Protection overboard - heaved it right overboard. They did so at the Hobart Conference. They said so in all their speeches, and yet they now declare that there is nothing in the world so urgent as an immediate revision of this old Tariff. They say, in effect, “ Never mind the worker or the new Protection. They have gone by the board. Since we cannot get our principles carried out, we will put other principles in their place.” They said to the people of this country, “ Only let us remain in office, and if we cannot get the new Protection, we will immediately proceed to give you the old.”
– Will the Prime Minister tell us whether the Government intend to increase duties on manufactures?
– We have appointed an Inter-State Commission, and set it to work on the Tariff. The results of its inquiry will come here for consideration, and I hope and believe that its deliberations will guide this Parliament, and enable it to treat the matter of the Tariff in a better way than it has ever been treated before.
– There are two Free Traders on it.
– There are more than two Free Traders upon my honorable friend’s side of the Chamber. His party has said, after throwing overboard the new Protection, “ We have not power to do what we would like for the workers, therefore they must go overboard, and we must devote ourselves to the interests of the manufacturers who are already making abnormal profits.” In other words, my honorable friends are going to give the manufacturers more profits, notwithstanding their assertion that the workers cannot get a look in at all. That is the statement which is made in the speech delivered at Maryborough by the Prime Minister. When one sees facts like these, one can only conclude that this amendment is a piece of political “flapdoodle.” There is no other description which will fit it. It is a piece of the merest politics, and is unworthy of a great party.
– That is blooming strong.
– I think that the honorable member is a good judge of what is “ blooming strong “ on this matter of the Tariff. Do we not all remember the valiant service which he rendered upon this question many years ago when he was in our Liberal room and in our Liberal party.
– The Prime Minister will see similar service rendered again.
– Is the honorable member going to vote for the plank in the motion which states that the Tariff is in need of urgent revision ? To think that my honorable friend should interject on this matter of all others. I have recollections of those old valiant times when there was not a man of us who stood in the breach, as he did, always to fight for his principles.
– Do not give a “ pal “ away.
– I regret to say that he is hot my “ pal “ now. He has gone over to the enemy, and nobody on this side has ever called him a renegade for having done so. We do not personally attack and vilify him for having gone over. That is the distinction - a vital distinction - between a true Liberal and one of those persons who calls himself the genuine article. There are many more things that I would have liked to touch upon, but my time has expired owing to the limitations imposed upon us by our Standing Orders. I merely wish to say that this Government will deal with the Tariff as it has promised the people it will deal with it. It will not destroy social and industrial laws, but will improve them. It will strike at all abuses - come they from the individual or from the combination. It will strike at them, whenever and wherever they rear their ugly heads.
We are against privilege, against favoritism, and against preference. We are for freedom, square dealing, and just relations between all the members of this community.
– The Prime Minister has put his side of the case with that assurance, and I was going to say in that inimitable manner, that has always distinguished him in this House. If one did not know him very well, one might have fancied that it was the great Statue of Liberty at the entrance to New York harbor speaking, so many were his references to liberty and freedom, and so complete was his evasion of the gravamen of the attack made by the Opposition. But let us look at things a little closely. In considering the Government programme we must have regard to the men from whom it sprang. The Ministry has claimed the right to an ancestry. During the campaign the present Prime Minister asserted with much fer.vour, and with maddening iteration, that his party stood in the line of a great succession and inherited the traditions of the great Liberal party. People in England might have been given the idea that this claim was justified, and that the present Ministerial party was in some way the lineal descendant of the great Liberal party of England. Nothing could be further from the fact. The party that we see opposite is a direct result of a fusion betwen two parties that for many years in this country achieved whatever notoriety they had by violently, consistently, and persistently abusing each other, and denouncing each other’s policy. For years I listened in this House to denunciations of the leader of the other section of the party by the honorable member for Parramatta. For many years I listened with very great pleasure to denunciations of the honorable member for Parramatta by the leader of that section. I fail utterly to see how a party, with the political record of honorable members opposite, can claim for itself that it “stands in the line of a great succession,” that it is a lineal descendant of the Liberal party. That is just what it is not. It has no claim whatever to a legitimate ancestry. It sprang into being animated with but one, solitary idea, and that was to defeat the Labour party - to defeat that intolerable upstart - that hewer of wood, and drawer of water - which ventured at last to push aside the master of the house, and to do its own work in its own house on behalf of and in the interests of the people. For doing that we have earned the undying enmity of those who sit opposite, and, in particular, the enmity of those for whom they stand, and those privileged classes whom they represent in this Parliament. We must remember all these things. We must never forget, when we view the programme put before us by the Government, that we have to look not merely at the paper itself and what is printed on it, but behind the paper, and even behind the Government immediately responsible for it. This document is redolent of the great conflict between privilege and the people. We must not forget what has been and is to be. The echoes of the battle have yet hardly died away. The smoke is not yet cleared from the battlefield. Are we to forget them because we are spoken to in soft tones by the honorable gentleman, who has recently cultivated an urbanity of manner which befits him very indifferently. The Prime Minister smiles in the most ingratiating way, and would have us believe that it is in the spirit of Christian brotherhood that he approaches us. He says, “ Come let us reason together. Here is our programme; it is a most excellent thing; let us pass it into law.” He would try to persuade the people of this country that he desires to do so. But nothing was further from the thoughts of the honorable gentleman who framed that programme than that it should be passed into law. It is the gage of battle, and is thrown down here for one purpose, and one alone. It is a mere posturing to the gallery. There are in it four or five shibboleths, to placate those who must be appeased here and outside, for the party on the other side is made up of all sorts and conditions of men. It comprises men whose ideas are almost on all fours with our own, and others who stand at the very antipodes from us. It is a party which is bound together by no common set of principles - a party which, if it had its own way, would regard the programme put before us as the last on God’s earth for which it should vote. The Prime Minister spoke of, and read from a report of the Hobart Conference. That is one thing in which no doubt we have erred. We conduct our business in the open. Any man may come in and hear us confer. Any man may come in and hear our conferences, but no man from outside the party has ever yet been allowed to attend a Liberal conference, and no report of a Liberal conference is ever published, except that which is handed to the reporter. We, however, conduct our business in the open, because our movement, as it springs from the people, gathers strength from publicity. What has it to lose by giving publicity to its doings ? Have we not gained everything that we have by that very publicity which our friends opposite shun ?
But now let us take their programme by and large. It starts with proposals for electoral reform, and speaks of purification of the rolls. Its note, when it reaches that particular point, is almost pathetic. Reading it, one can imagine Jove stepping down from Olympus, with tears in his eyes, regretting the intolerable state of corruption in which he finds himself. The idea is, of course, to persuade the electors that the rolls were in a very shocking state. Yet it is all a sham. For the Government, who talk of purification of the rolls, caused an inquiry to be made, and that inquiry, unhappily for them, has proved abortive. They have found nothing. The Prime Minister said there were nearly 6,000 cases of fraud.
– He did not.
– That was a most unjust statement.
– He amended it, and spoke of duplication.
– He may have amended his first statement, but the fact remains that he uttered it. Fraud is a charge that ought not to be made if it is going to be withdrawn shortly afterwards.
– But the Prime Minister did not make it.
– Then I accept the honorable member’s assurance. There has been no case of fraud, nor any suggestion of such a thing. So far as I can gather from the Chief Electoral Officer, nearly every one of these cases can be explained in a legitimate way. But this outcry about the rolls is very suggestive. During all the years honorable members opposite were in the majority there was no suggestion of fraud. There was then no questioning of the electoral machinery. There was then not even a breath of suspicion about the means that had put them where they were. Now, because the gods have placed them in such an unhappy position that it is only by your benign presence in the chair, Mr. Speaker, that they are where they are at all, they rail like hysterical women against the fates. They say, “ Look where we are ! There must be a swindle somewhere, or else we should be safe on the other side of Jordan.” And so they declare that 5,000 or 6,000 people in this country have been guilty of duplicate voting. The Prime Minister said that I had made a charge against the people of this country in regard to postal voting. He quoted some remarks from a speech I made at the Town Hall; and I do not withdraw one word of that speech. My remarks were based upon extracts from speeches delivered by members of the Queensland Parliament when the postal vote in that State was abolished. Here is what the leading men of Queensland thought of the postal vote -
Mr. Kidston, Premier, said : “ Every one of us knows quite well that the way postal voting was carried out in many cases made it to all intents and purposes open voting, under the eye of some one who probably had some power over the person voting….. “
Mr. Hawthorn, Home Secretary. “ The postal vote is of such a nature that fraud is made easy owing to a considerable amount of abuse of the postal vote….. “
Mr. Thos. Mowbray, P.M., Toowoomba. “ The general tendency of the voting by post certainly impairs the secrecy of the ballot in more ways than one. The freedom of the elector is forestalled. Hundreds obtain postal votes through misstatements….. “
M. J. McGill, returning officer, Ipswich. - “ Scores of postal certificates went to one address, and were taken out to the several electors by the justice of the peace, collected, and posted by him. I am of opinion that postal voting was not secret voting, and is open to very great abuse.”
Postal voting was abolished in Queensland because it led to grave abuse. It was abolished here for the same reason. The Prime Minister is now very enthusiastic about the postal vote, but he was not always in favour of it. When he and I were in the State Parliament of New South Wales, I was of the opinion that the postal vote was the only way in which nomadic workers could exercise the franchise; and a measure was introduced by Sir George Reid providing for the postal vote. However, in that citadel of privilege, the Legislative Council, the provision was removed; and when the Bill was returned to the Legislative Assembly, I sought to have it reinstated. Owing to the Chairman putting the question hurriedly, it was necessary to move for the recommittal of the Bill in order to reinstate the clause. In the New South Wales Hansard of 28th October, 1896, page 4453, the division list can be found; and from this it will be seen that the present Prime Minister was amongst those who voted against the proposal to recommit the Bill in order to provide for the postal vote. Of course, that fact will create neither excitement nor astonishment in the mind of anybody. Not a smile ripples the faces of honorable members opposite. If there is a smile it is one of annoyance, and not of astonishment; everybody is perfectly satisfied that that was just what the honorable gentleman was likely to do in the circumstances.
– And the honorable member has done the same.
-The proposal to purify the rolls, of which wehear something now, and to introduce the postal vote in the place of the absentee vote, would lead the public to believe that the franchise has been denied to a large number of people. But what are the facts ? At the last general election a larger percentage of votes was recorded than ever before. In 1903, when the Liberal Government was returned with an overwhelming majority, it was on a vote of 46.86 per cent. of the electors. There was no suggestion then that the electoral system was insufficient; in fact, it was regarded as the last word on electoral systems. In 1906, when the Liberal party again got a majority, the percentage of voters who exercised the franchise was 50.21. In 1910, when labour was first returned, the percentage was 62.16; and at the last election it was 73.66 - the highest ever recorded. I venture to say that a system of voting under which 73.66 per cent. of the electors record their votes is not a system which disfranchises the electors. On the other hand, ours is the freest and best franchise enjoyed in any country in the world - any adult can vote anywhere.
– No patient in a hospital can vote.
– The honorable member is quite right; and I should be glad, indeed, if facilities could be given for people in hospitals to vote.
– The hospital committees - the Liberal party - in Victoria refused to give facilities.
– I am informed that in New South Wales patients in hospitals were allowed to vote, as they should be, and did vote.
– But not in Victoria.
– I hope the honorable member will use his influence to give hospital patients the vote in this State.
– Hospitals were refused polling booths in Victoria.
– Conversations across the chamber, and the continued interjections to which I have already referred, must cease.
– Personally I feel perfectly sure that any suggestion to improve the franchise will be welcomed by honorable members on this side of the House. The more people that can be got to vote the better ; and increased facilities are what we desire. The ballots, however, must be conducted in a proper way, and must hot be open to abuse. The postal vote certainly did open the door to abuse, and the result shows that much use was made of the opportunity. I leave this question of electoral reform and come to another.
The Government programme next deals with the question of preference to unionists. The views of the Administration are thrown into a paragraph which deals with the subject in this way -
Ministers are opposed to any preference or favoritism in the Public Service, and have already taken steps to provide that competency and merit shall be the sole basis of employment and preferment on thepublic works and in the services of the Commonwealth.
It is proposed to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration in such a way as to prohibit preference being granted by the Court to members of any organization, any part of whose funds are directly or indirectly applicable to political purposes; and also to restore the exemption of rural workers from the operation of the Act, believing that the conditions of their employment ought to be left to the States.
We here touch one of the main features of the programme. During the whole of the elections, the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, and other Ministers, declared themselves to be opposed to preference to unionists. But so far as I can gather from the reports in the press, that opposition to preference to unionists was at that time confined, with the exception of the Attorney-General, to the preference of employment of persons engaged in casual labour in the Public Service. Here, however, we have the principle carried to its uttermost limits. It is proposed now to destroy preference not only to casual labour in the Public Service, but to all industries. The proposal, it is true, is confined to cases where the funds of unions are used for political purposes. But in plain words that means that it is proposed to destroy preference in every case, or, at any rate, in nine cases out of ten - certainly in every union registered under the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– They all subscribe to your funds.
– They do not subscribe to our funds. The honorable member’s idea of humour is such that I venture to suggest to him that he rehearses it thoroughly and systematically before bringing it out in public. I was dealing with this matter in a serious way.
– I was serious.
– If the honorable member is not able to restrain himself in the chamber, possibly he can find some duties in the Whip’s room that will keep him occupied. I conceive this to be a very serious matter indeed. The Prime Minister occupies a different position from most, if not all, of his colleagues, in that he is, or was, a unionist himself; and while I can understand the AttorneyGeneral taking up this stand, I am bound to say I cannot understand the Prime Minister doing so, for it is inconceivable to me that a man who has been a unionist can take up the attitude that preference should not be granted to a unionist. Why should a unionist not have preference, ail other things being equal ? So far as I can gather, the present attitude of the Prime Minister is that he will allow preference unsanctioned by law in any case in which the union can enforce it for itself. The strong unions, the virile, powerful unions that manage to get preference by force majeure, let them have it ; to the victors the spoils ; to the strong what they can get. To those who have might on their side the Prime Minister wouldgive it, but to those who have merely right on their side he would give nothing. This attitude is not only illogical, but is quite opposed to every principle of civilized government. For preference is right or wrong. If it is wrong, no man, whether he gets it by his own strong arm or by the force of law, should have it; but, if it is right, then the law should sanction it. Nothing should exist in this country unless the law approves or tolerates it. I am connected with a union that had preference long before the law granted it. And how was it got ? By virtue of lex talionis, by virtue of their strength. They were strong, they wanted preference, they simply took it. But that is not civilization; it is not the method of a civilized community; no man can justify such methods save where the voice of law is silent. If preference to unionists is right, the law should sanction it, and regulate it. If it is wrong, it should not be permitted at all.
– Hear, hear !
– I know the honorable member takes up a logical attitude, and I approve it. Let us now consider the question whether a unionist has the right to preference. The basic principle of all industrial legislation is that strikes and industrial disputes are bad for the community. It substitutes law for force, it offers a means of settling strikes, and so securing industrial peace. No one knows better than the AttorneyGeneral how ineffective legislation has been, nor does any one. know better the reason for it. Yet handicapped as the Federal Court has been, it has been a power for good. To prevent strikes then is the aim of this class oflegislation. Now, strikes occur through bodies of workmen banded together in an organization stopping work. Whether Jones or Smith stops work is a matter of indifference to the community. But it is quite a different matter when 10,000 or 100,000 men cease work by concert, throwing the whole industrial machinery out of gear. Second to war, industrial strife is the greatest problem confronting civilized society to-day. If anything can promote industrial peace we ought to stretch out our hands and gather it in without hesitation.
– Stamp out the right to strike, and you make the workers slaves.
– Men banded themselves in unions in order to get better conditions. They did not band themselves in unions before there was need for it. The conditions of the workers all over the world were wretched. The wages paid were just the price of existence and no more, so men came together and formed themselves into unions, and they secured better wages.
– Under threats of strikes. Leave them that power; do not interfere with it.
– What the worker of the world has to-day he owes to himself.
– Hear, hear ! 1 thoroughly agree with you.
– I was saying that whatever benefits the worker has to-day he owes to himself, and himself alone, as a unit of an industrial organization, and seconded by his efforts as a unit in a political organization or as a citizen in a free country. He owes it to nobody else. Now, one of the rights that every free man has is to cease work whenever he likes. If there is any fundamental right a man has, that surely is one - to cease work. Very well; now the industrial law comes along and says, “ You shall not cease work; it is an offence to cease work. Come to the Arbitration Court and settle your dispute there. If the Judge thinks proper he can give you preference of employment under the new conditions whatever they are.” Well, what is the position, if that contingent right is taken away ? Here we say to a man, “ Do not cease work, because it is bad for the community; the community asks you not to cease work ‘ ‘ ; but we give him nothing in return. If we do not give preference, what is the unionist to get for his abandonment of his fundamental right to cease work ? Absolutely nothing. The Prime Minister says that the unionist is to get preference when he can get it; that is to say, there is to be anarchy over the industrial field. And, in any case, if the unionist is only to get preference when he can enforce it by numbers, what is the good of the Court ? Why should he go to it at all ? Nothing can be surer than that the right of a unionist to preference is the absolute corollary of industrial arbitration or the settlement of industrial disputes by legal tribunal.
Honorable members on the Ministerial side say a great deal about the non-unionist and his rights. But what are the rights of the non-unionist?
He has the same right as the unionist as a citizen, and no more. The unionist owes his bettered conditions, not to his being a citizen, but to his being a unionist. He pays his money into his union, and spends his time in his union, and incurs odium and obloquy to get nothing in return. Is the man who stops outside, takes no chances, incurs no risks, who smoodges and does everything necessary to stand well with the employers, and who never has done a solitary day’s work to lift up his fellow-creatures since he was born, to be preferred to the unionist who has fought the battle and borne the heat and burden of the day? That would be most unjust. The non-unionist lias a’ right, as a citizen, to everything he can get; but he has no right to take the fruits of the toil of the unionist. Preference is the just return to the unionist for his organized effort to improve the conditions of labour. These improved conditions are due to his efforts. By what right can the non-unionist claim to sweep him aside ? Preference to unionists is the necessary corollary to compulsory settlement of disputes by legal tribunals. If preference is to be abolished, then let us abolish this law and go back to the “ good old weapon of the strike.” Let us see where the nonunionist will be then. The non-unionist is to-day in an infinitely better position because of unionism than he ever was before. Unionism has lifted the industrial fabric bodily up, and has made the base of the pyramid broader and stronger. All the industrial classes have benefited by the work of unionists. Preference to unionists is not only the right of the unionist, it is absolutely fair. One of two things must be true - either there are enough unionists to do all the work of the country, or there are not. If there are enough, they have as much right to be considered, man for man, as have the non-unionists. If there are not enough unionists to do the work of the country, then non-unionists must get the work that the unionists cannot do. Man for man, what greater right has the non-unionist for the consideration of the community than the unionist? Society says to the unionist, “ Do not strike,” and makes a law to punish him for striking. Surely it must give him something in return. Preference is the unionist’s quid pro quo for not exercising his right to strike. Preference is a world-wide principle. Let honorable members look around at society, and tell me where this principle of preference to unionists does not obtain? Is it not to be found in any of the privileged classes or professions? Ask the doctor if he will work with a non-B.M.A. man. He will decline to go to the bedside of the sick with a non-B.M.A. man. We know that doctors have boycotted hospitals rather than work with non-B.M.A. men. Take my own profession. Is it not guarded securely and hedged about, not only by law, but by the custom and tradition of the profession?
– Why does not the honorable gentleman abolish it all?
– All I have to say is that all classes of men, those who work with their brains in common with those who work with their hands, seek to protect themselves, and to secure some sort of preference or protection. It is a natural instinct of mankind. It is so deeply and firmly enshrined in the hearts and minds of men that nothing can remove it. It is said that preference is to be abolished in the case of unions that devote their funds to political purposes. Why should they not do so? Surely to obtain benefits by legal means is not a crime in this country? How can it be? What are they seeking to do? They are seeking to obtain some benefit for themselves as unionists in a legal way through the Legislature of the country. Is that a crime? I should think that, on the contrary, it was one of the most laudable things that any men could direct their attention to. Why should they not? What is there wrong with it? Why do the Government supporters object to this? There is nothing wrong with the thing itself, but the difficulty is that unionists for the most part look with a cold and indifferent eye on the gentlemen on the other side. Unionists who are not fools know for whom they ought to vote. Generally they vote for us. Otherwise we should never hear one solitary word about the iniquity of unions who devote their funds to political purposes. It is said that unions are tyrannical. Sometimes they are. Show me an organization whose history may stretch back to the dawn of the antiquity of man that has done anything and that has not been tyrannical. Let honorable members look on the other side. Any one would imagine that combinations of capitalists act with a regard for their fellowcreatures’ welfare that is almost maudlin in its sympathy; that philanthrophy stands ashamed when it considers the extent of their generosity. I ask honorable members to read, if in these stormy days they can find the time, the methods by which the Standard Oil Trust achieved what it has got. It certainly was not by handing round the plate on Sunday, although Mr. Rockefeller did that, too, but by ruthlessly crushing out all competitors. Our honorable friends opposite are going to abolish preference to unionists - to abolish it utterly. For that is what their proposal amounts to. We are to fight once more the battle that we fought in 1904. Lest some of our friends should forget it, let me read what the honorable member for Toowoomba said on that occasion. The honorable gentleman was referring to a statement made by the right honorable member for Swan during the debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and I take this from Hansard of 11th August, 1904, page 4193 -
– I never intended to give preference to unionists.
– I am sorry to hear it. There is no doubt that the clause, as introduced by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, contained provision for preference without any modification whatever, and, further, the honorable and learned member recommended the Bill to the House on two occasions.
That was an unqualified preference.
– That is correct.
– The honorable gentleman remembers the circumstances very well, I have no doubt. I am pleased to recall the fact that he stood behind the Labour party in all the divisions. We fought this battle once before. We heard then all the arguments that could be urged against preference to unionists. We are hearing the same arguments again now. They are advanced for the same reason. I venture to say that there is only one way by which industrial peace can be maintained in this country, and that is by a tribunal having the power to settle disputes whenever they occur, and from whatever circumstances they arise, and by taking whatever steps may be necessary for the purpose, and I know of no step more absolutely necessary to insure peace in very many cases than that the Court should have power to grant the preference to unionists which it is proposed to take away. The Prime Minister wants industrial peace; yet he throws down the gage of industrial war. One word more on this point. The Prime Minister says that he prefers Wages Boards. He says that he knows nothing better than the Victorian system of Wages Boards. All that I have to say is that Wages Boards, first of all, do not attempt to deal with industrial disputes.
– No; they prevent them.
– In the very nature of the thing, Wages Boards are limited in their scope. And Wages Boards in Victoria, judged by their fruits, have not been very successful. A statement was made by Sir Alexander Peacock during the campaign that the greatest relative increase in wages in any State had occurred in Victoria, where Wages Boards existed, and arbitration courts did not exist. I believe that that is true; but the reason why it took place was because wages were lower in Victoria than they had been in any other State. Here are the figures, which show the actual state of things in 1911, the latest year for which we have statistics. The average wage paid in the manufacturing industries in New South Wales was £92 10s.; in South Australia, £94 ls.; in Western Australia, £125 10s.; in Tasmania, £80 7s. ; m Queensland, £83 16s. ; and in Victoria, £78 14s., being the lowest rate in the group - lower even than the rate in Tasmania.. Judged from that standpoint, there is very little to recommend the Wages Board system, and that they assured good wages is the only thing which can recommend it. In all other respects it must fail; it has failed. In its very nature it has not the power to deal with the causes of disputes, and, therefore, is quite unsuited to deal with the great industrial problem that faces civilization in this as in every other country. I come now to another point of great importance. The Prime Minister, in his speech, said something about trusts, and the high cost of living. But during the campaign we heard a very great deal about these things. The high cost of living was the pivotal point round which the members of the Government gyrated. They declared that the high cost of living was owing to the legislation of the Labour party. They said that the dearness of money was caused by the Labour party; and that, from one cause or other, the people of this country were very much worse off as the result of Labour legislation and Labour rule. In these circumstances, one would naturally imagine that the first point to which my honorable friends would direct attention, after effecting electoral reform, if they thought electoral reform necessary, would be some measure for affording relief to the people. The Prime Minister stated that taxation had increased from £10 to £12 per head - I do not know whether he meant per family. The people were told that this increased taxation was entirely due to the Labour party. Of course, sir, as you know very well, the Labour Government did not impose one penny piece of taxation except by the tax on the unimproved value of land. It imposed a tax on the great estates of this country, and it was time that it did. But it can surely never be contended that the Federal land tax caused the increase in the cost of living, when 230 persons paid nearly half of the taxation.
An Honorable Member. - And reduced the value of the land of the small man at the same time.
– Apart from the land tax, not one penny piece of extra taxation did the Labour party impose. There were two or three alterations in rectifying some anomalies in the Tariff, but they were quite negligible. It cannot, therefore, be too often stated that the assertion frequently made during the campaign by our honorable friends on the other side, that the Labour party had increased the burden of taxation upon the shoulders of the people, was absolutely without foundation. All that we did was to impose a tax upon the unimproved value of land in the case of great estates, and we derived £1,400,000 per annum from that source. It was money that was absolutely necessary; it is necessary now, and the proof of that is that it is not proposed for a moment to repeal one penny of the taxation.
– If the majority of the Labour party had taken your advice, there would not be the taxation on the people to-day that there is.
– That taxation was not imposed during the last Parliament, but previously. During the late campaign, the country was flooded with literature stating that the Labour party had increased the cost of living. The Prime Minister said, “ it towers up to 30 per cent.” The cost of living did not go up by 30 per cent. It only went up by 14.2 per cent., I think, according to the Statistician.
– Roughly, by about 12 per cent.
– The Prime Minister was never quite sure in his mind what the increase was, but sometimes he said it was 30 per cent., and the impression given to the electors was that the cost of living had gone up here, and nowhere else. Everybody knows that it is a worldwide phenomenon, that it is the great question which is engaging the attention of every civilized nation. The cost oi living has gone up in England, America, and Germany. Everybody knows, or ought to know, that the Labour party did not increase the taxation on the shoulders of the people here. Everybody knows, or should know, that the increased cost of living was not due to the Labour party, but to causes worldwide in their operation. And we did not increase the taxation of the people. It is true that more money was gathered at the Customs House, but that was because the people spent more money; more goods came into the country. We were told that the increased cost of living was more than a setoff against the increase in wages. I ask the Prime Minister what he proposes to do for the people of the country. He certainly does not propose to increase their wages. He does not propose to remit their taxation, not by a penny piece. Why sir, the honorable member for Werriwa stumped his electorate upon practically the one thing.
– I do not deny. it.
– Of course, my honorable friend does not.
– I am proud to admit that I advocated a reduction of taxation.
– Naturally, the honorable member does not deny my statement. I ask him, as one man to another, to show me in this document one new avenue of employment, one additional opportunity for any business, one hope of relief for one human being in the country, one indication of the reduction of taxation, or one benefit for any man, woman, or child in it.
– I am told that the gross extravagance of the Labour party renders it impossible.
– Well, here is a Government which the honorable member supports. Is it going to sin by virtue of the fact that other siuners preceded it?
– An evil falls upon the third and fourth generations.
– So honorable members opposite say that they will do nothing. They have already begun to excuse themselves for doing nothing. On all sides they say there is suffering and distress, yet nothing is to be attempted to alleviate these grievous afflictions. Not one penny piece of taxation is to be remitted ; the cost of living is not to be reduced by one penny piece. If honorable members opposite were in earnest, they would reduce taxation. They would do something for the people. The late Government left them two and a half millions of money. When we came into office we had a deficit of nearly half-a-million. The present Government had a surplus of £2.500,000. The honorable member for Werriwa may shake his head, but what I have stated is a fact, is it not?
– I am afraid that the money is already pledged.
– At all events, there was a surplus when the Fusion came in.
– The previous Govern- ment spent the surplus which they found, and left a deficit.
– We came in with a large deficit to make up, and we left them £2,500,000. Yet, in spite of that fact, and in spite of the assertion of every honorable member opposite that the cost of living has towered up beyond the increase of wages., that the taxation is inordinate, and that the burdens upon the shoulders of the people are grievous, there is not the slightest indication of any intention to remedy these evils. Now, I commend this exposure of inexcusable inaction to honorable members opposite, and to the honorable member for Werriwa in particular. It is the sort of thing to prevent a man with a conscience like his from sleeping soundly o’ nights.
I come now to a matter to which I would direct the attention of the Attorney-General in particular. On 31st May there was not only an election of members to this Parliament, but a referendum on certain proposed laws to amend the Constitution. 1 venture to say that there is not one man sitting on this side of the House who was not very much surprised to see the huge vote polled in favour of the proposed laws.
– I thought they would be carried.
– The honorable mem.ber may not have been surprised at the result. Every one else was. I wish to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that in regard to the trusts amendment, the affirmative votes were less than 8,000 behind. And there were 87,000 informal votes ! I put this to the Government as a matter of supreme importance, - that with all the enormous power and influence which, as they know very well, were directed against our proposals, we came within 8,000 votes - less than half of 1 per cent, of the total number of votes recorded - of success. There is a writing on the wall to which none but the very blindest will shut their eyes. What is the Government going to do about that? Are they going to do anything to amend the Constitution ? Are they going to listen to the voice of the people? When our first referendum proposals were before Parliament in 1910, the Attorney-General strongly advocated four out of six of them . What does he propose to do now ? In 1910, he said that it did not matter which side of the House proposed the amendments; if they were right, they ought to be supported. In 1912, lie said that he had altered his opinion, and that as long as we remained in office he would not do anything to advocate them. Now, the last barrier is removed. He is in office. The people have shown in the most unmistakable way that they desire an amendment of the Constitution. What does he propose to do about it ? The honorable and learned gentleman knows, even if the Prime Minister does not, that there is no other way by which trusts, combines, and monopolies can be dealt with. He knows perfectly the ineptitude of the Constitution as it stands. The Prime Minister said that the Sugar Commission and the Courts have found that there are no harmful monopolies in this country. It is perfectly true that the Courts have so ruled. I do not for a moment admit that the Sugar Commission did anything of the sort. It established the fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had a monopoly. I hold in my hand a copy of the judgment of the Court of Appeal of New Zealand in the case of The Merchants Association of New Zealand v. The King, and shall quote from the remarks of Mr. Justice Williams, who delivered the judgment of the Court. He declared -
In the present case, the Sugar Company had clearly a monopoly in the manufacture of refined sugar in New Zealand, and practically a complete monopoly in the sale of it, as the amount of imported refined sugar, so far as regards competition, was negligible. The company wished to preserve that monopoly, and to exclude foreign competition. It also wished to secure the co-operation of the merchants as a distributing agency. The object of the merchants was to secure the exclusive control of the sugar trade, to keep the distribution of sugar in their own hands, and to prevent competition.
The charges against the company, and against the Merchants Association, were fully established, and the conviction was upheld. If there were power under our Constitution to make a law by which trusts, combines, and monopolies could be effectively dealt with, I say without hesitation that it would not be difficult to secure a similar decision in the Courts of the Commonwealth. But until the Constitution is amended, it is, in my opinion, waste of time to proceed against them. In regard to trusts, combines, and monopolies, and in regard to company law, and industrial matters generally, nothing can be done effectively unless there is an amendment of the Constitution. Here is an opportunity for the Attorney-General. Let him, now that he is in office, when we have fought this battle for the amendment of the Constitution, and have, though not achieving victory, come within an ace of it - let him do the statesmanlike and proper thing, that which he himself declared to be right in the last session of the last Parliament. Let him come out and declare for these amendments of the Constitution, and let them become the law of the land, so that whatever Government is in office, the people may be amply protected ; protected from trusts and monopolies and from industrial strife. We may then have that industrial peace which the Prime Minister told us so insistently he was so anxious to insure. Unless we get an amendment of the Constitution, we cannot protect the community against trusts and monopolies we cannot insure industrial peace. The Attorney-General himself, on 19th October, 1910, said -
We cannot, unless we give - the central Parliament the final and super-eminent control, deal effectually with all the cases which may arise. We should amend paragraph XXXV. of section 51 of the Constitution to give this Parliament a wider and more general power than it has to deal with conditions of employment. I do not see what we have to be afraid of. We on this side should not be afraid to give this Parliament a wider power, because the governing political party is strongly opposed to us on these matters.
– What does the honorable member mean by giving this Parliament supereminent control ?
– I mean the ultimate legislative power, so that the laws of the States shall be subordinate to its laws.
Now that the honorable member is in office, and the Labour party, which stood in his way, displaced, let him do that which is right for himself, for the House, and for the country.
I have omitted to refer in its proper order to the proposal to exempt rural workers from the provisions of the Act. I shall do so now. The Labour party fought the battle of the rural workers in 1904, and are ready to fight it again. It is a strange commentary upon the professed desire of the Liberal party for justice and freedom that its members propose to exclude from the benefits of legislation thought to be good for the nation at large a numerous body of reputable and honorable citizens. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act, if a good measure, should apply to all sorts and conditions of men. Why should the agricultural labourer, who has been God’s most lowly creature from the beginning, having been ground down throughout the ages, be denied benefits which are enjoyed by the city dweller, whose lot in hundreds of ways is better than his? By what process of reasoning, or by what twisting of words, can this be justified ? There is no logic in it: there is no justification for it. Why do they propose it? Let me state the reason. Honorable members opposite owe their position to their appeal to the prejudices of the farmers, whom they misinformed, by making statements for which there was not the least foundation. They declared, amongst other things, that if the Labour party were returned to power, effect would certainly be given to the rural workers’ log, although they knew that the return of the Labour party to power would have no more to do with the rural workers’ log than would -the rising of the sun. If the rural workers’ log is on the list, it is in the same position now as it would have occupied had the Labour party been returned to power ; and it is there because the law permits rural workers to form themselves into an industrial organization for the obtaining of better conditions. Honorable members opposite told the farmers that if effect were given to the rural workers’ log, their sons and daughters could no longer work for them. That statement was made in defiance of the fact that the Act expressly exempts the children of farmers from its operation.
– Whom does the honorable member accuse of having made the statement?
– Almost every man on that side who stood in the country interest.
– I have here a leaflet addressed “To the farmers of Australia,” and issued by “ Helen Morton, general organizer, Australian Women’s National League,” in which it is said that -
The unfair and illogical condition of preference to unionists would prohibit a farmer from employing his own sons unless they were unionists.
– For what electoral division is Helen Morton a member?
– The statement is quite true.
– If the honorable member for Grampians will look at section 40 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, he will find the words, “ not being sons or daughters of employers “ ; so that what I stated in regard to the children of farmers being expressly exempted is absolutely correct.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement.
– The honorable member should know that it is untrue. I was in charge of the measure in this Chamber, and agreed to an amendment exempting the children of farmers.
– The honorable member has accused members of this House of making the statement.
– They did make it. The honorable member made it.
– I did not. The honorable member for Yarra cannot substantiate that charge.
– There is not a vestige of truth in the statement that I have read, which got the widest circulation. I read it in dozens of country newspapers and replied to it hundreds of times. Honorable members opposite pose as the friends and champions of the farmers, and this causes them to wobble on their pedestals as champions of justice, because they cannot exempt the rural worker from the Act without treating him unfairly. The rural worker is a human being just as much as is the farmer or the town worker. He ought to get a fair and square deal. Now, I want to tell the farmers of Australia that the exemption of the rural worker from the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is not worth to them a grain of chaff. It will not put a thousandth part of Id. into their pockets. At the best, all that it will accomplish will be to put the rural workers to the necessity of organizing under a State law, or under the shelter of some great organization which will compel fair and equitable conditions to be granted to them outside the law. The farmer of Australia has been led to believe that the Labour party is his enemy. The rural workers’ log has been held up before him in terrorem. I want to say that I know nothing about the merits of the rural workers’ log. But I certainly do know that it does not matter what the men ask for. What is material is the award which the Court grants, and I want to say to every farmer in Australia that it is not what workmen have asked for that matters, but what the Court grants. And they will get what the Court thinks fair and equitable to both parties. But this they are fairly entitled to. To deprive them of it is most unjust. If the rural workers are exempted from the operation of the Act a great injustice will be done to them, while at the same time the farmer will not benefit to the extent of a thousandth part of Id.
– The honorable member for Hume says that the rural workers are getting more than they are asking for.
– I have not read the log. I repeat that what the men are asking is not material. What is material is what they get. If the farmers think that the rural workers are his enemies, he is sadly deceived. Who are the enemies of the farmer to-day? Who! is it that has kept him off the best lands of this country? Who is it that has erected a ring fence round every big town in New South Wales so that from towns like Bathurst one may look out over miles and miles of country, and say, “ This belongs to soandso “ ? Who are the 230 individuals who are paying half the taxation that is collected under the Federal Land Tax Act ? Are they the rural workers ? Who is it that has made it necessary for the farmer to work upon the “ halves “ system, when there is enough land in Australia for millions more settlers-? Is it the rural worker ? Who is it that squeezes him in the prices of machinery? Who are the men who squeeze the man on the land through freight rings ? Are they the rural workers? That the. farmer should for a moment listen to such “blither” fills me with” despair. What he has to fear is not the rural worker, but those great monopolies which, in America, in England, and elsewhere oppress, sweat, and rob the farmer.
– It is the men who are following the rural worker.
– -Let any man who poses as the friend of the farmer strike a blow at the middleman; let him endeavour to abolish freight rings; let him assist the farmer to get his produce te market. Then, in very truth, he will be able to say that he is a friend of the farmer. I come now to the question of the maternity allowance and the proposal of the Government to ultimately merge it into a national insurance scheme on a’ contributory basis, embracing sickness, accidents, maternity, widowhood, and unemployment. The maternity allowance, if some honorable members had their way, would be abolished to-morrow. I think that one of the most truly humorous, and at the same time sad, features of the recent election campaign, was the attitude of the Prime Minister on this matter. He realized that there was something about this Maternity Allowance Act that had got a very firm hold of the people, and therefore dared not declare for its abolition. “ He supposed that it would have to stop.” But he has now so far managed to screw his courage to the sticking-point as to suggest that the allowance shall be given only to those who need it. To. the objection that to do that would be to make the grant a class allowance and to stigmatize those who accepted it as paupers, he replies, “ The same thing may be said about old-age pensions.” But what does this argument amount to? So far as the Labour party is concerned, the ideal of its old-age pension scheme is that to every citizen, without any condition whatsoever except that of age, there should be paid a pension. That is its ideal, and, therefore, it is no argument to say that the maternity allowance ought to be put upon the present footing of the old-age pensions. What we want is to put oldage pensions on the same footing as the maternity allowance. We are sorry that we assumed office when the finances were comparatively embarrassed, and that, as a result, we were unable to do that which we would like to have done. But we have done something to extend and liberalize the operations of the old-age and invalid pension; and I do most emphatically protest against the Government proposal to make the maternity grant a class grant. Any one would imagine that the allowance as it now stands was an insult to the community, and that it represented an entirely novel proposal. Why, our education system is based upon the very same foundation. Education is free to all sorts and conditions of people, irrespective of whether they have money or not. Is it suggested that the education system of the Commonwealth is an insult to the community because it is free to all ? Any mother in this country who wants the maternity allowance merely has to ask for it. When she does so, she is asked no questions. That is our ideal. It is one of which no men need be ashamed. The Prime Minister gave us his ideal. It was a distant one, and appeared to lie in a cold, repellent, frozen atmosphere. He wishes to wipe out this stigma of charity which, he says, now clings to the old-age pension scheme. He says that men and women who claim it are asked a number of questions, and that the grant takes the form of a charity. Charity? The Attorney-General in one of his campaign speeches said a great deal about this matter. He spoke of “ this pauperising of the people,” this “ sapping of their independence,” bv these “ doles out of the Treasury.” The honorable and learned gentleman poses as the guardian of our national spirit. He is very much concerned lest the manhood of the nation should be sapped by receiving 10s. a week in its declining years ! When pensions were confined to the illegitimate sons of kings, when they were given to the aristocracy, when they were confined to the Judges, they never sapped the independence of the people. But when they were given to the poor and the needy, then “these doles out of the Treasury “ threaten to eat up their very manhood. Curious that that which iu a king is the height of virtue becomes in a peasant the means of his own degradation and undoing. I hope we shall never live to see the day when the present system of old-age pensions will be amended other than by extending it to every person in the community who reaches a certain age, and paying it to him without inquiry of any kind. That is the only amendment which we favour.
I come now to this ‘ ‘ comprehensive scheme of national insurance “ about which we have heard so much, and into which the maternity allowance and oldage pension scheme are to be ultimately merged. I should like to hear the Attorney-General discuss it, because he is fitted to speak with authority upon it. Here we are promised a national insurance scheme on a broader basis, embracing insurance against sickness, accident, maternity, widowhood and unemployment. That is a very wide and comprehensive scheme. With one or two additions, no doubt, it would cover every conceivable evil that befalls mankind. But how much of it can be passed into law under the Constitution as it stands ? The Attorney-General, no doubt, will tell us, or perhaps he will reserve his decision. I shall be very much surprised to learn that we can enforce a contributory scheme of insurance against unemployment, or that we can enforce such a scheme with regard to widowhood, maternity, accident, or sickness. I do not wish to be misunderstood. If it is proposed to bring the whole nation under this scheme - if it is proposed to say “ All men must pay “ - then I am bound to say that, to the best of my knowledge and belief, the Constitution will not enable any such scheme to be established. If, on the other hand, the proposal is merely to bring into operation a scheme that any one can come under or stay out of, and that those who come in are to be given some benefit, just as is given by an insurance society to-day, then, probably, such a scheme can be carried out.
If, however, the Government propose a national contributory scheme - a scheme to be applied to the whole community, and make it compulsory - I think that that cannot be done; and I believe that the Attorney-General, will support my view.
And now I must draw to a conclusion. There is in this programme a great deal more with which I might deal, but I have covered the main points. That which remains is comparatively unimportant. There is in it a reference to a Postal Commission, but of its nature and scope we are not precisely informed. Whether it will be acceptable to this House or not remains to be seen when the measure providing for it is brought down . I shall express no opinion about it any more than I shall say anything in regard to paragraph 5 of the policy statement, from which it appears that there is some prospect of a gentleman being sent Home to take part in a Conference. That, no doubt, is quite an agreeable prospect for the gentleman who is going. I wish him God-speed, and if he is amongst honorable members opposite, then I say that the sooner he goes the better. Paragraph 8 deals with the development of the Northern Territory. It is one of those gentle, inoffensive paragraphs that find their way into documents of this sort - of the kind which you could take home and show to your family without any danger of offending, annoying, or exciting them in any way. The Government follows very serenely in the tracks laid down by my colleague, the honorable member for Barrier, when he held office as Minister of External Affairs, and although it does take to itself some credit for doing something, we know very well that it has done nothing more than merely carry out the suggestions of the late Administration. That criticism applies also to paragraph 9. The only point that requires mention at all, so far as the proposals of the Government in regard to the Northern Territory are concerned, is their declared intention to substitute the freehold for the leasehold system.’ We shall see to what extent the change goes. Meantime sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. There is in paragraph 11 a prospect of a sort of happy land - a resting place or haven - for some unfortunate, in a General Works Department. It is not yet too near, nor is it yet too clear what it fs that is proposed. But there are prospects in it, and no doubt it is one of those things that are not without their influence upon honorable members on the other side. We are told that in carrying out public works it is the intention of the Government to resort, as far as possible, to the contract system. That, of course, is another sop to Cerberus. Doubtless those enthusiastic patriots who earn their living by carrying out public work, entirely, of course, from a philanthropic stand-point, will appreciate most sincerely this announcement. There is, too, in the policy statement a reference to the gold reserve which will no doubt restore public confidence, and reassure those timid ones that all is well. But lest there should go abroad the idea that the present gold reserve behind the Commonwealth note-issue is insufficient, I should like to remind honorable members that, whereas, according to Mr. Braddon, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, the private banks have now a gold reserve of only 22 per cent, of their total liabilities, we have a gold reserve of much larger extent. But no doubt there is something about a private bank in itself at once inspiring and reassuring. Our memories, of course, decline absolutely to go back to 1893. We remember nothing at all about such a dreadful time. And so we will not introduce here any of those disturbing and unpleasant matters. When the measure dealing with the gold reserve comes before the House, however, we shall have something to say about it.
And now, sir, taking the programme by and large, and looking at it as the programme of a Government that has come in to inaugurate a new era - to restore honest, sound, economical government, to put an end to an orgy of extravagance, to remit or lighten the burdens of taxation which press so heavily on the shoulders of the people, to reduce the cost of living - in short, a Government that has come into power to give freedom, happiness, and plenty where we had slavery and restriction, depression and despair, I ask any man in this House, and any citizen in the country, what prospect of satisfaction, what single ray of hope, they get from this programme ? Whose burden does it lighten? What taxation does it remit? What avenue closed by monopoly or privilege does it open? Does it make it easier for the working man to get a living ? Does it propose to do anything for the farmer beyond taking the rural worker out of the log? Does it propose to do anything in the direction of putting the farmer on better land, or of checking the evil of land monopoly? It does not. Does it propose to aim a blow at the middlemen and rings ? It does not. All that it does is to take that preference from the unionists of this country which is rightly theirs, and to emasculate the maternity allowance to the mothers of Australia. This programme is not for the people of Australia. It does nothing for them. If it means anything at all, it is a recognition by the Liberal party, and the Liberal Government, of those powers to whom they owe their existence. It means the restoration of the contract system in public works, and the destruction of preference to unionists. That is to say, it is for the employers as against the worker. It means the restoration of the postal vote, to allow money to have freer play, and the substitution of a contributory national insurance scheme for the present system of old-age pensions. In short, with its complete absence of any proposals to combat hints of a struggle with those great forces against which the civilized world has arraigned itself to-day, it is a recognition of the fact that the Government owe their existence to those very forces, those powerful aggregations of capital, which stood behind them in the electoral campaign. That the programme has given satisfaction to those powers we may assume. In practically every daily paper in the Commonwealth, through the columns of which those great powers find expression, we find nothing but eulogies and murmurs of satisfaction. Even the Age, of this city, after advocating Protection, the initiative and referendum, and ‘ preferential voting - after denouncing the Labour party, and endeavouring to secure a small and independent coterie in this Parliament that should stand for those things first, and for everything else second - has lived to see the day when there is not a mention of one of them in the Government programme. Yet that paper bows the knee to Baal, and says, “Hear, hear ! “ to the programme. It is the programme of the great powers that be in this country, and against which the Labour party has been, and is now, arrayed. In the battle that has been fought, but not yet won - the battle of which the first engagement was yesterday, and the next one be to-morrow - the battle between capital and labour - this is the programme of those who stand behind honorable members on the other side. It is a programme that pleases and helps those powers, and does nothing else for any human being in the country.
– The attack made on the Government rests on three grounds. It is declared that the purpose of the Government is to destroy the beneficial character of social and industrial laws; secondly, that the programme indicates no intention of taking any steps to reduce the high cost of living; and, thirdly, that the Government fail to recognise the urgent necessity for an immediate revision of the Tariff. I observe that the honorable member for West Sydney devoted a great deal of his energy and time to the two first grounds, but that, when he came to the third, he, like the Pharisee, passed by on the other side. Yet this particular attack receives the honorable member’s sanction, as well as the sanction of every other member of the Labour party. Many of us would like to ask the honorable member for West Sydney, the honorable member for Barrier, the honorable member for Grey, or a number of other honorable members opposite, what are the particular directions in which they see urgent necessity for a revision of the Tariff. Will they inform the Minister of Trade and Customs precisely what are the duties they desire to be raised? I am afraid that we cannot look for much assistance from those honorable members; but it does seem a little peculiar that, when a Labour Government have been in power for three years, with a large majority in this House, and an overwhelming majority in the other House, the party should now for the very first time be awakened to the fact that there is urgent necessity for revision of the Tariff. The honorable member for West Sydney referred, with a sweep of his arm, to the party on this side as being composed of all sorts and conditions of men. Why, so we are. We represent all sorts and conditions of interests in the country. We are not all cast on the same model - we are not all forced to lie on exactly the same political bed. We are not sent into the House told that, literally, we have no power to cross a “ t “ or dot an “ i “ of the programme with which we have to deal. Honorable members on the other side, whatever features Nature may have endowed them with originally, when they come into this House have to wear one political mask, and have all to dance to one political tune, which, for the time being, is piped by those outside, who dictate to them the conditions of their existence, if they desire to exist politically. The honorable member for West Sydney has attempted to justify what, I think, he, in his heart, knows, as well as honorable members on this side know, to be one of the most abandoned acts of political audacity that ever was performed. I refer to the deprivation of the weak and infirm people of this country of the right to vote. That was the act perpetrated by the late Government, and the honorable member attempted to justify it by stating that the privilege was fraudulently abused. What evidence has he brought forward in support of that statement? Not one single conviction - not a single case alleged against any man or woman who exercised the vote. The honorable member gave us one or two general statements made by one or two persons in different parts of Australia that, in their opinion, the postal vote gave an opening for fraudulent practices. Yet the late Attorney-General and the Leader of the Opposition rise in righteous indignation if it is suggested on this side that the provision for absent voting introduced by them has been used for any fraudulent purpose whatever. Our Government are determined, so soon as the conditions of the political arena will permit it, to restore to .those people who were deprived of the postal vote the right to exercise their franchise as citizens.
– Not in this Parliament.
– We must recognise the political conditions, the fact that for the present we can only carry on administrative duties, and that as long as there is an overwhelming majority against us in another place, the legislative functions and responsibilities that rest on a Government cannot be carried out. To pretend otherwise would be to pretend something that every one knows is not a fact.
– There is such a thing as a double dissolution.
– There are, however, possibilities under the Constitution which may render any action we put forward not entirely futile.
I can say without the slightest hesitation that the Government are determined to exhaust every constitutional method of putting an end to the position which renders it impossible for us to carry the legislation we desire. The Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney, especially the latter, dwelt at considerable length on the portion of our programme dealing with preference to unionists, and the honorable member for West Sydney, with that ingenuity of which he is a past-master, has endeavoured to show that the aim and object of the present Government are an attack upon unionism or industrial unionism.
– There is no doubt about it.
– The Leader of the Opposition said that the “ toiling masses struggling for liberty and protection “ have brought about this claim for preference to unionists. Who are the toiling masses now struggling for liberty ? Are they the political unionists, who say to all these people, “If you do not join our unions, and sign our political pledges and contribute to our political funds, you shall be outcast on the face of the earth ; you shall starve, you and your families “ ? Are those the toiling masses struggling for liberty? The honorable member for West Sydney has attempted to justify the claim for preference to unionists on the ground that it is essential to the existence of unionism. No one in this Chamber will dispute the main proposition with which the honorable member started, that owing to the efforts of associated labour and of association in all branches of human activity, not merely manual labour, but all forms of human activity, a great deal of the progress of the world is due. I will not dispute that for a moment. As I have said repeatedly on the floor of the House, we must look for greater and greater organization on both sides - on the side of Labour and on the side of Capital - and in_ all forms of industry before we can arrive at any ultimate solution of the great industrial problems through which we are now endeavouring to find some way. Every association existing for the legitimate purpose by ordinary methods, by legal methods of persuasion and legal methods of political action, of bringing about such changes as will inure to the benefit of the associated, is a thing we not only do not resist, but which no man with any knowledge of history or of modern conditions can resist. But what is the claim that is now made, and which is supported in such violent terms by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat ? It is not that persons should have the right to associate or organize themselves for industrial purposes, or even for political purposes. It is a claim that associations which rest merely on the voluntary action of people who are responsible to no one but their own members should use the machinery of the law to endow them with the legal right to receive preference in employment over those who do not choose, in the exercise of their liberty, to join their associations. Let us investigate this for a minute or two. Who are the people who make this claim ? What is the character of the unions putting forward this extraordinary proposition ? There was a time in the history of modern Europe when there were associations connected with industries of many kinds which were recognised by the law, which assumed responsibilities with respect to the community, and fulfilled duties towards the community, duties to train the young to take the place of those who went away or died, to bring up apprentices to be efficient workmen, and to protect in the enjoyment of their rights all those who were members of them - I refer, I need hardly say, to the mediaeval guilds - also to bring about a condition of efficiency by the inducements they held out to enable the apprentices to become journeymen, and the journeymen tobecome master workmen. By the ambitions in their various spheres which they held out to all, they encouraged a high standard of efficiency, and thus fulfilled a service to the whole community. And they had, in effect, a form of preference to unionists, because no one could carry on the businesses- unless they joined the guilds. But are the conditions and duties which those guilds acknowledged and fulfilled to the community fulfilled by the modern militant trade unions? Do these trade unions exist for the purpose, among other things, of encouraging apprentices?
– Have not all the activities in that direction been with the view of limiting apprentices?
– The honorable member is making a statement that is wrong.
– If so, the honorable member will have abundant opportunity of correcting it. Meantime, it is my statement. Have the modern trade unions always insisted upon the full exercise of individual effort by their members? Do they tend towards efficiency? We know it is common knowledge that it is by no means an uncommon thing to impose a limit upon the output of their members. Do these unions exist for the purpose purely of the protection of their members, and to enable their members to get the benefit of the best market, and the best price for their labour ? Are they not in reality political bodies of an aggressive character ? The greater portion of their funds is contributed to political purposes.
– I am unable to bring forward evidence to prove that statement up to the hilt with regard to all parts of Australia, but it happens that the laws of New South Wales and of Western Australia require industrial unions to make a return of their expenditure under different heads. In New South Wales the last returns show that the total income of trade unions in 1911 was £163,448 and the total expenditure £146,959.
– Not political expenditure, but for all purposes.
– What are these various purposes if they are not political ?
– Legal expenses.
– If this represents legal expenses, what excellent litigants the trade unions must be.
– The greatest amount of the money is spent to meet claims on the accident fund.
– I have said that the total expenditure amounted to £146,959, and I find that of this the total amount returned to members in connexion with death claims, accident, sick and other benefits, was only 19,65 per cent, of the whole expenditure, or about £28,000.
– Does the honorable gentleman know that the biggest union in Australia pays £1 per week in case of accident to a member?
– There are a great many things I do not know and about which 1 shall be glad to be informed, but I am telling my honorable friend now a few things which he may know, but which he does not desire to hear. When I ask where all the expenditure goes, my honorable friends tell me that the bulk goes in accident payments, yet I have shown that the whole amount spent on death claims, accident and sick benefits was under 20 per cent, of the total expenditure.
– How many members?
– I can assure the honorable member that I am not accustomed to be submitted to crossexamination. He can obtain the information he seeks from any source he pleases. I have not got it for him, but I am giving him some interesting information, which may be of use to him. Where does all the money go? I find that management and other expenses amounted to no less than 73.33 per cent. In Western Australia the figures given are - Total amount of expenditure £54,905, and the amount returned to members for death claims, accident, and sick benefits was 27 per cent., whilst the amount spent upon management and other expenses was 69.33 per cent., so that the figures for Western Australia are a little better than are those for New South Wales. In both cases, apparently, the amount paid for “ management and other expenses “ is immensely greater than the expenditure upon everything else.
– What is the honorable gentleman quoting from?
– From official returns published under Acts of Parliament in New South Wales and Western Australia. I want to say, with regard to preference to unionists-
– I should like to see what the honorable gentleman has quoted from. He has used his figures publicly, and it is only fair that he should let us see what he has quoted from.
– Perhaps the honorable gentleman would like to see all the notes I have, too?
– That is grossly unfair.
– Am I not to read from my own notes without submitting them for the inspection of honorable members opposite?
– The honorable gentleman should withdraw his statement. The honorable member for Adelaide did not wish to see the honorable gentleman’s private notes.
– The honorable gentleman may ask me for anything he pleases, when I have concluded my speech, and I shall consider whether he shall have it or not; but I prefer not to be interrupted in the middle of my speech by demands for anything. The honorable member for West Sydney contends that the claim for preference to unionists is merely a claim for the right of associated unionists to exist. All that we say in our proposal is that we shall impose as a condition upon legal preference to unionists that those who claim it shall not be purely militant political organizations. That is all. If I am asked for my personal views upon the matter, I shall say that I think we cannot logically or properly stop there. I say that no law, and no agency of a law, has the right to say to any man whoever he may be, and who obeys the law, that he shall be deprived of an equal chance of earning his livelihood *it every other man.
– Then, why not throw the honorable gentleman’s profession open?
– The honorable member for West Sydney referred to my profession in the same way as those who now interject, and let me say that I am tired of the perpetual reiteration of the statement. The law gives no preference to members of the legal profession. The law requires in the legal profession, as it requires in the case of a doctor, a chemist, a dentist, or a cabman, that a member of it shall obtain a certain licence before he deals with the rights and liberties intrusted to his care. I say that it is against every principle of right, and against the fundamental principle of British justice, that the law should say to any man who is guilty of no offence against the law, and who is merely desirous to retain his right to live according to his own ideas, while obeying the law of the land, that he shall only do so under the condition that, unless he joins an irresponsible political union, he and his family will probably be deprived of the means of livelihood. We must do one of two things. The State may say that, under proper conditions, every man who works shall be a unionist. I could understand that. I could understand a rationalman saying that, in the interests of the whole community, no man should be allowed to practise a profession unless he has complied with such conditions as we know are now imposed on the members of certain professions - that he should comply with certain conditions, and show his efficiency; and if you had then unions, associations, or callings created under the law responsible to the community as a whole, and obedient to the regulations imposed by Parliament for their guidance, you might say, “ We will impose upon every person who desires to be a mason, or a carpenter, or a bricklayer, the obligation of complying with those conditions, and becoming a member of that calling.” But what you are doing now is to claim the right to say that a union shall retain to itself the privilege to say who its members shall be.
– That is the plain position. If I had my own way, I would say that Parliament should wipe off the statute-book as the ugliest blot ever put upon it, a provision which enables a legal tribunal to grant a legal preference to unionists in any shape. This proposal is only one short step. It may be an important step. The honorable member for West Sydney has said that it is an important step, that it will affect practically nine-tenths of the existing unions. I hope that it is so; but it should always commend itself to the approval of every one, een on the lowest ground of political justice, that a union which exists as an element in a political party has no right to ask Parliament to intervene and act as a recruiting sergeant for itself.
– Does not the law at present provide that before you can get the advantage of arbitration you must be a unionist ?
– No, and that is where the honorable member shows that he has not read the law. It says that you must form an organization under the Act.
– And is not that a union ?
– No; it is left entirely to the people who form this organization to say whom they shall consist of.
– But is it not a union ?
– I have explained my views on that subject, and do not intend to take up any more of my limited time in dealing with it. I shall conclude that part of my speech by saying that, in my opinion, to the feeling of opposition to this aggressive claim for preference to a section - to a political party - is due more than to anything else the uprising in the community that cost the party on the other side their seats on the Treasury bench. The honorable member for West Sydney dwelt considerably, too, on the second ground that the Government policy indicates no intention of taking steps to reduce the high cost of living. What steps did the late Government take in that direction?
– We tried to get the referenda carried, and you know it.
– In what direction does the honorable member for West Sydney say that he could, if he had been allowed to remain in office, reduce the cost of living? He did not say so in his speech; but he said from the platform, as did nearly every member of the Labour party during the campaign, that the high cost of living is due to the action of trusts, combines, and monopolies.
– I believe that; I will stand to that.
– Of course, the honorable member will stand to it as the best political capital he has. He has to stand to it. The honorable member for West Sydney, I might mention, occupied for three years the position of AttorneyGeneral, charged with the special duty of putting the Anti-Trust Act into operation. He, although he launched one prosecution
– No; it was launched for- him.
– Well, he did not launch a prosecution, but he carried one to an unsuccessful issue. There were a great many other allegations of the existence of horrible combines that were sucking the people’s blood. From every platform, during the campaign, our honorable friends talked to the people about trusts and combines. They said, “ Only give us the constitutional powers and we will abolish trusts and combines. We will reduce your cost of living; we will make your wages buy you things which you never bought before, if you will only return us with the necessary industrial powers.” That cannot be denied. It is about time that this bubble was pricked. A statement was made, on the authority of my honorable friend the Minister of External Affairs, that there were thirty or forty trusts, spread all over the country.
An Honorable Member. - No, thirtythree.
– I do not know the exact number. My honorable friend denies that he ever made the statement that there were these trusts. He says that an allegation was made by some people that there were trusts which had not yet been investigated. At all events, the late Attorney-General spent three years in office with all these terrible trusts in existence, and during that period his party and his Government were armed with the most drastic and complete antitrust law that existed in any part of the world. They were always improving it, too, feeling its point and grinding the point from time to time on the legislative grindstone. But what use did they make of the law? I am going to point out what they did. It so happens that, at the beginning-
– Where are you going to start ?
– I am going to tell the House now. Almost all the inquiries into these matters - they have mostly been made public property at one time or other - originated either through statements in newspapers or through complaints in the House. They were all submitted - I think every one of them - to the Attorney- General’s office for investigation. I have not yet had time, although I propose to go over the evidence in regard to every case to satisfy myself fully. I am having a synopsis of all the facts prepared with that view. That is a matter which will take a good many months to complete. But I think it is right that I should now put the House in possession of the opinions which have already been formed in the Department concerning those matters which have been investigated. I find that there had been twenty-six cases up to the 21st September, 1911. It is a curious thing that the activities of the Department, which seem to have been very great through the earlier part of that period, went to sleep about the end of 1911, though they woke up again in the most violent condition immediately before the elections.
– What is the honorable gentleman quoting from?
– I am going to place these papers in the honorable member’s hands. Every one of the opinions was given by the Crown Solicitor after investigation. The gentleman who was Crown Solicitor at the time is now occupying the exalted position of a Justice of the High Court. Therefore, his opinions, arrived at after an examination of the facts, are entitled to be regarded with particular weight by the members of this House. I make no apology for referring to the names, because the matters investigated have become notorious, and it is indeed fair that they should be known. The first case is that of the Colonial Oil Company, which was no less than six times brought before Mr. Powers for his opinion. Fresh facts were being continually brought forward, and he was asked to give fresh opinions. They commence from the year 1906 - that is, from the initiation of the Anti-Trust Act.
– Before we came in.
– Oh, yes. About half of the opinions, I think, relate to that period. They range from 1906 to the 21st September, 1911. To read the whole of the opinions would take more time than I have, and would exhaust the patience of the House. I propose to leave this book for the examination of honorable members on the Library table for a time. First of all, it had to be proved that the Colonial Oil Company was a combination with intent injuriously to affect an Australian industry to the detriment of the public. But the evidence showed that there was no Australian industry affected. Afterwards, however, it was discovered that there was an Australian industry that might possibly be affected, namely, a tin can-making industry; because it was alleged that if these people were allowed to import oil in great quantities they would interfere with an industry making tins into which oil might be put.
– It would also interfere with the tin mining industry.
– No doubt. Ultimately the decision was “ Cannot advise prosecution.” It was the great stock-in-trade of my honorable friends opposite, at the last election, that the Commonwealth was full of blood-sucking combines, but that the Government could not cope with them because the Constitution stood in the way. I shall give my honorable friends the full benefit of the evidence they were able to procure to support their contention. The next case is that of the Metropolitan Brick Company of Sydney Limited. In this instance it was pointed out by Mr. Powers that there was no jurisdiction, and, therefore, the investigation appears to have stopped. Mr. Powers did not express an opinion as to whether, if there had been jurisdiction, there was an injurious combination or anything to the detriment of the public. Nothing of the kind was established. What is the basis for the argument that these combines would have been convicted if the late Government could have got at them ? I do not know, and there is nothing in the official re.port to show. The nest case is that of the Tobacco Combine. This is rather interesting.
– What is the date of that?
– It is dated 19th September, 1907.
– That was before the deluge.
– In this case Mr. Powers came to the conclusion that the Tobacco Combine was a good and useful combine, and no detriment to the public.
– Where was that list prepared ?
– It was presented to me as a complete list of all the cases which have been investigated in the Department.
– I think that that was a list which the Minister of External Affairs had before him, and upon which he made a recommendation.
– I know nothing whatever about that.
– I only know of one list.
– I am dealing with this as a question of fact. I do not wish, at present, to allege that the late Government either did or did not do their duty, because to do that I should have myself to express an opinion as to whether a prosecution ought to have been launched. I say nothing about that. I merely intend to show that all the talk about trusts and combines comes down to one very small matter, to which I shall allude. The Tobacco Combine, as I have said, was shown to be no detriment to the public. That was the ultimate result arrived at by Mr. Powers. However, we now come to a serious case. That is the Confectionery Combine. This is actually one of the cases in which a prosecution was recommended.
– But the Beef Trust got a report like that, too.
– I do not know about that, because the Beef Trust has not been investigated yet. The Beef Trust was the great political capital of the other side during the elections. In order to get a good workable political “ combine,” you must have a very new one. The cry about the sugar monopoly was killed by the report of the other side’s own Commission. A few years ago the tobacco monopoly was the stalking horse. But that is now found to be a good and useful combination. Now we come to the Confectionery Combine, which was regarded as a very serious one. It was a case in which a prosecution was actually recommended.
– I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will read the report of the previous Attorney-General as to what he proposed to do in that matter.
– I do not know anything about the views of another AttorneyGeneral. I am reading the result of an examination by the permanent head of this particular Department which had authorized an investigation into this case. A very long opinion was given with regard to the Confectionery Combine. It was found that a combine existed, and that it was an Inter-State combine. At first Mr. Powers was of opinion that it did not affect trade to the detriment of the public. It was, however, discovered that in one case there had been an increase of prices. It was actually found that the price of almond rock was increased by one farthing per oz. ! Honorable members will find that fact on page 54 of this book of opinions.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45p.m.
– Before proceeding further with the interesting history of the Almond Rock prosecution, I wish to revert for a moment to the figures relating to the expenditure of trade unions which I have cited. I took them from a political excerpt made by an authority that I have no reason to doubt, but I should like to give the official figures themselves in the case of New South Wales. These figures are interesting because it has been said by one honorable member opposite that a very large sum under the heading “ Other Expenses “ was legal expenditure. In the report of the New South Wales Registrar of Friendly Societies, Trade Unions, &c, published in 1912 under the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1910, it is mentioned, in paragraph 5 of page 19, that a statement of the receipts and expenditure under various headings appears in the ap pendix, and reference to the appendix shows that the receipts amounted to £163,448, made up in round figures of “contributions by members” £134,000, “interest” £1,133, and “other receipts “ £27,000. The expenditure was £146,959, made up of “benefits” £28,743, “ legal charges and expenses before Wages Boards “ £10,443, ‘” management and other expenses” £107,773.
– How much of the last item was political expenditure?
– I leave that to the honorable member, but I imagine that the bulk of it was political expenditure. If not, the management of these unions is not of a kind which should recommend itself to those who are interested in the unions as subscribers. Speaking of the Tobacco Combination, I said that Mr. Justice Powers, when Crown Solicitor, had found it to be a good and useful combine. That was my short statement of his finding; but the Combination has been so often mentioned as an instance of an injurious combine that I think I ought to give the actual language used by him regarding it. It is to be found on pages 49 and 50 of these opinions. He said -
Considering the papers previously submitted, with the report referred to and the evidence taken by the Commission -
The Commission appointed to inquire into the alleged combine -
I am of opinion that, although there is undoubtedly a combination of individuals and companies, it is not a combination contrary to the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906.
He gives a number of reasons for that opinion, and sums up in this way -
The Combine has secured the greater part of the tobacco trade for the reasons set out both in the majority and minority report of the Commission. From the majority report, signed by Senators Pearce, Findley, Stewart, and Story, I take the following extracts : - “ (1) The amalgamation of interests, the centralization of factories, and the concentration of distributing agencies have resulted in great economy of production, and must have consequently largely increased profits to those firms comprising the Combine.”
The conclusion arrived at by Mr. Powers was -
I am of opinion that evidence submitted is not sufficient to justify proceedings against the combination known as the Tobacco Combine for entering into or continuing in a combination in contravention of the Australian Industries Preservation Act IQ06, or for any breach of the provisions of that Act.
To return to the Almond Rock case which honorable members are inclined to treat lightly, I would mention that it seemed likely to lead to a most serious constitutional question. It was found that there was a combination extending over Victoria and New South Wales, and some pages are devoted to a learned discussion as to whether its action in raising the price of almond rock in Victoria by Jd. an ounce, and not doing so in New South Wales, brought it under the Act. Ultimately a prosecution was recommended, though with considerable doubt. What came of the recommendation I do not know. Mr. Powers says -
If detriment to the public as a fact is to be proved, the only staled detriment to the public is the rise in prices.
It is only fair to say that he deprecated a prosecution based on a mere difference of so small an amount in the price of almond rock and other lollies; but he pointed out that there was the grave constitutional question to be determined whether, in the absence of detriment to the public, the existence of a monopoly would not itself be a subject of prosecution, and he recommended a prosecution. Let me now hurry over the cases dealt with on this file. The United Shoe Machinery Company’s case had nothing to do with combination, and arose under a provision of the Patents Act which enables the Government to annul a patent in cases where the thing patented is not manufactured in Australia. Then there was the Coal and Shipping Combine. Honorable members are pretty familiar with what was done in that case. It is the only case which was ever brought to a prosecution. That prosecution was not initiated by the late Government, but by the Government which preceded it. In that case, after lengthy investigation, Mr. Justice Isaacs found that there was a combination. But the fact that there was a combination was never disputed. The only question in dispute was whether it was to. the detriment of the public. A majority of the High Court, after reviewing the evidence at great length, came to the conclusion that this combination was not to the detriment of the public - that the freights were not raised to a greater degree than they would have been had there been full and free competition without any combination at all.
– They have raised the freights 20 per cent. within the last eight months.
– It does not follow, because prices are raised by a combination, that it must therefore be to the detriment of the public. No section ought to be more ready than my honorable friends opposite to admit that a combination to get the full value, either of goods or services, is a legal combination. The High Court acted on that principle. It acted on the principle that if a combination does not use illegal or coercive methods, but merely endeavours to prevent cut-throat competition, it is not to the detriment of the public. Then the matter went to the Privy Council, whose judgment has only been received by cable recently; and that judgment supports the view of the majority of the High Court. If we can trust the cable reports, the Privy Council laid it down that to hold otherwise would be to condemn the whole basic principle of trades unionism. The basic principle of trades unionism is identical with the principle which many of these combines are putting into operation for their own protection. The next case was the Artificial Manures Combine. In that case, it was held that there was no evidence of the existence of a combine; but, even if there had been, it would not have been an Inter-State combine. Then there was a Railway Trucks Combine. It was alleged that a corner had been made in trucks in New South Wales. The matter was investigated by the Department; but we know nothing about it, because it proved to be purely an Intra-State affair. Then it was alleged there was a combine in photographic materials. In that case, Mr. Powers found that there was no offence and no detriment to the public. Then there was the case of the Proprietary Articles Trade Association, in which he found that there was no offence and no detriment to the public. Further, there was the Flour Combine in the Victorian Mill-owners Association. Honorable members will recollect that amongst the terrible cases brought forward by the honorable member for West Sydney on the eve of the last election was that of the devouring combine which existed in flour.
– I did not mention it specially.
– It was mentioned amongst three or four others, and was put in the very forefront of the honorable member’s statements. Where did he get the evidence on which he made those statements? He may have obtained it from some other source, but certainly he did not get it from the materials here.
– The Attorney-General had better ask the Minister of External Affairs who reported upon it.
– The facts show that their operations were limited to several particular States, and that there was nothing in the nature of an injurious combine to the detriment of the public. Then there was the case of the Union Meat Company of Australia. There it was held by Mr. Powers that that organization was a very proper business arrangement on the part of those who engaged in it. Now I come to the great Raspberry Bucket case. I cannot lay my hands on the paper at the present moment; but in regard to this it was alleged that a gentleman named Hay had suddenly, by some means or other known only to himself, bought up all the raspberry buckets in New South Wales. The matter was solemnly investigated by the Crown Law Department, and without pronouncing a final judgment as to whether he had got all or only some of the raspberry buckets, Mr. Powers found that it was an Intra-State matter. Accordingly, Mr. Hay was allowed to sell his raspberry buckets in peace, without being prosecuted by the Crown Law Department of the Commonwealth.
– What was the report of the Crown Solicitor in that case ? I hope that he did not act alone.
– I think he took the responsibility of dealing with it himself. Then there was the combination of wheat-traders in South Australia. If any such combination existed, it certainly was one with which the Commonwealth could not deal for lack of constitutional power; but there is no evidence to show that a combination did exist.
– It seems to be a case of there being no evidence about anything.
– Precisely. That is the very case I am making.
And it is about cases concerning which there is no evidence that the most outrageous statements have been made on the platform. There was also the Queensland Farm and Dairy Produce Merchants and Agents Association. In that case the inquiries, for some reason or other, were stopped. Then it was alleged that a combine existed for dumping mantles and costumes in Australia. That was even worse than the raspberrybucket case. Mr. Powers inquired into
– It only shows what they used to do before we came into power. The Crown Law Office might have been better occupied than in investigating cases of that kind.
– It happens that this fearful case of a combine in mantles was investigated and reported upon during the time the honorable .member for West Sydney was Attorney-General.
– Be sure.
– I want to be quite sure about this important matter. Then there was the case of Clarke and Company, in Western Australia - “ No sufficient grounds.” There were also three opinions upon, and great investigation into, the case of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, in which Mr. Powers came to the conclusion that there was no detriment to the public. There was, further, the case of the Merchants Association of Sydney. There it was held that it was a purely local affair, and that the Commonwealth had no power to deal with it. That being so, the matter rested there, and no inquiries- were made. Then there were three other cases which were investigated, though I am not quite sure whether those investigations were concluded. They comprise the Nugget Polish Company, the Australian Nestles Anglo-Swiss Milk Company of Sydney, and the Michelin Tyre Company. What has happened, or will happen to these, I am unable to tell the House. But this is the whole record of all those matters which the late Government, having on the statute-book the most powerful and drastic legislation to secure investigation of all these things - having behind it all the machinery and all the officers of the Department, as well as a willing band of assistants to give information - have been able to rake up in regard to trusts and com bines in Australia. I invite .honorable members opposite, if they have any reliable evidence of any combine or trust in Australia, to bring it before me. If they do, I will see that it is investigated. I can promise honorable members that, if they can find any breach of the law existing in Australia at the present time, whether I agree with that law or not, the persons responsible for that breach of the law will be prosecuted. But, until such matters are brought before the Government by honorable members opposite - until they can give us something reliable - it would be wiser, and certainly fairer, for them to cease ranting on all the platforms of Australia about trusts and combines, of the existence of which they have no knowledge. The honorable member for West Sydney spoke also of the late Government being financially embarrassed during their term of office. He repeated the old, old statement, made by the exPrime Minister during the last general election, confuted, made once more, confuted over and over again, and repeated as often as confuted, namely, that they had come into office with a great deficit, and had converted that deficit into a great surplus. That statement was repeated again to-night by the honorable member for West Sydney. We were told that, when they came into office, they were met with a deficit of £500,000, but that they left a surplus of about £2,500,000, which they handed over to us. What are the facts? The chief source of revenue of the Commonwealth has always been that of Customs and Excise; and the fact is that, until the late Labour Government came into power, the Braddon section was in operation, and that under it their predecessors had to return to the States three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue collected by the Commonwealth. No sooner did the Labour Government come into office, however, than they introduced and passed the Surplus Revenue Bill, which enabled them to fulfil their obligations to the States by paying them 25s. per head of the population. The payments so made amounted to much less than three-fourths of the Customs and Excise collected. Thus, whilst the Customs revenue continued to increase rapidly, the payments to the States decreased, and the Labour Government had a very large sum of money to play with over and above that which was at the disposal of the preceding Administration.
The figures show - and this is a fact that has never been stated by honorable members opposite - that the late Labour Administration, during the very first financial year of their administration, had over £4,000,000 of revenue in excess of that at the disposal of the preceding Government. During the second year they had nearly £5,000,000, and during their third year of office they had nearly £6,000,000 in excess of the sum available to their predecessors. The result of the abolition of the Braddon section was that they were endowed, during their three years of office, with a revenue of over £16,000,000 over and above the money which would have come to them if the conditions under which the previous Government carried on had continued.
– To say nothing of the revenue derived from the land tax.
– I was just about to point out that, in addition to this increased revenue, the Labour Government imposed one of the heaviest direct taxes that has ever been put on in any country. I refer to the land tax, from which they received, during their term of office, a little over £4,000,000. They pose as financial geniuses who saved the country; but, during their three years of office, when, they say, they were financially embarrassed, they received about £21,000,000 over and above that which was available to their predecessors, and out of that surplus of £21,000,000 they have managed to leave behind £2,500,000.
– Every one knows that.
– If every one knows it, then why do the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for West Sydney carefully conceal the fact? The late Government have to account for that. Instead of being financially embarrassed, no Government in Australia, or in any part of Australia - indeed, having regard to the population, I do not think any Government in the world - has been endowed with such magnificent revenues as was the late Government during the whole of its term of office.
– Every school boy knows of these things.
– There are many things which every school boy knows, but which a good many school boys seem particularly anxious to keep quiet. The con cealment of this fact during the general election had its advantages for the party opposite, but the ex-Prime Minister, in making in this House, before honorable members who are thoroughly familiar with the facts, such a statement as that his Government was financially embarrassed, seems to me to achieve a pitch of political audacity that has never before been reached. I am not going to contribute anything more to this debate, although I feel very strongly upon some of the subjects upon which previous speakers have touched. I feel that on the issue of the claim for legal preference to unionists which was put forward, and on which rests, as the honorable member for West Sydney has said, the whole fabric of the political and industrial organizations that support his party, will turn the great conflict between these parties in the future. The Labour party is the party of privilege, preference, exclusion, and coercion. We, on the other hand, are the party which desires to secure to every man the full fruits of his labour, toil, and energy. They constitute the party which desires to create a privileged class, and for those who do not belong, or are unable to belong, to that privileged class they have no responsibility. So far as the Labour party are concerned, they may starve. They care nothing for them, and make no provision for them. “ Let them get off the earth “ is the view of many who support them. But once this issue is thoroughly grasped by the people of Australia, I feel sure that they will stand true to the traditions of the race from which they have sprung, and will resist and condemn utterly the principle of sectional and partial administration of justice. If there is one thing which distinguishes our people in every part of the world, it is their appreciation of liberty in these matters, and their determination that every man, no matter what his natural advantages or disadvantages may be, shall stand equal with all others before the law.
– There can be little doubt that if every honorable member is true to the pledges which he gave to his constituents the motion of no-confidence submitted by the Leader of the Opposition will be carried. But whether he will be remains to be seen when the divisionis taken. If, for reasons not yet made public, or if be cause of the influence of the Caucus, which was sufficiently strong a little while ago to bring even the honorable member for Flinders himself to heel, honorable gentlemen on the other side do not remain true to their pledges, then possibly the Ministry may be safe. I should like to offer my sincere congratulations to the honorable member for Flinders on, at any rate, the tone in which he submitted his remarks to the House. Those remarks came pleasant to the ear after the very heavy and loud tones of the Prime Minister. Although I cannot offer my congratulations to the honorable member for Flinders on the terms he used, or his method of procedure, there is, nevertheless, some small blessing left to us in that he did not roar at members of the Opposition. I ask the honorable member to cast his mind back to a little while ago when he started his address. His opening words were really a gibe, or rather an attempted gibe, at the honorable member for West Sydney, inasmuch as it was inferred, or stated, that that honorable member had not dealt too lengthily, at any rate with the Tariff question. This raised a laugh from honorable members opposite; and the honorable member for Flinders ventured, in addition, to suggest that there were other members of the Opposition who would not deal too lengthily with that proposition. The honorable member for Flinders resumed his seat just about twenty minutes before there was any real necessity, so far as the Standing Orders are concerned; and I am sure he will not object to my reminding him that he adroitly left out all reference to the Tariff. Had the honorable member intended to deal with the subjects alphabetically, I might suggest to him that “ Tariff “ would come before “ Trusts.” Nevertheless, as is characteristic of honorable members opposite, who allege certain things against us, and taunt us with refraining from certain other things, they themselves do that which they regard as wrong in us. If it was wrong for the honorable member for West Sydney to refrain from any lengthy reference to the Tariff, what, then, is the degree of crime with which the honorable member for Flinders himself is branded, in view of the fact that he abstained altogether from any mention of the subject ? I venture to use words similar to his own, and ask him what will he say, or what will the
Prime Minister say, or what will several other members opposite, of more or less importance, who need not be named, say on the Tariff question? I suggest, again, that if every honorable member remains true to his pledges to his constituents, the motion before us will be carried. If there be in this Chamber honorable members who went before the electors and distinctly and determinedly declared they were Protectionists first and Fusionists afterwards, they ought to vote in accordance with their pledge. If, however, when they are put to the crucial test - and actions speak louder than mere promises to the electors - they refrain from so voting, shall we not be justified in accusing them of deliberately deceiving the electors? Shall we not be justified in saying that they are where they are, behind the Ministry, because they have misrepresented themselves to the electors, who were deliberately deceived into supporting them ? I remind honorable members opposite that, had their opponents been returned to power, an effective Tariff would have been submitted for the consideration of Parliament during this session.
– Why did the late Government not deal with the Tariff during the three years they were in office ?
– Let us clear the situation. Three years ago the Labour party went to the country unmistakably pledged to new Protection. That pledge was as clear as it was possible for the English language to make it. The electors were told that if they accepted the referenda proposals the Government would give them the Protection called new Protection ; but they were also told most emphatically that if the referenda proposals were not accepted, the Government would not alter the Tariff. Nothing could have been more clear or honorable, and everything was understood by the electors. Two months ago, we went before the electors again, and submitted referenda proposals. We told the electors clearly that we preferred they should accept those proposals; but that if, on this the second occasion, they disapproved of them, we should feel it our bounden duty to accept the political situation, and allow the majority of the people to have their way, as they ought to have it - that we as a Government, would submit for the consideration of Parliament an effective Tariff based on the protection of our produce, our manufactures, and our people. Nothing could be more clear than the fact that, from 1910 to 1913, we maintained to the letter the promises that we gave to the electors; and had the opportunity been offered, we should have given effect to the promise of two months ago. Further, nothing can be more clear than that, if every honorable member remains quite true to his pledges, we shall be able to give effect to that promise in a very short space of time. I shall deal briefly with the subject of finance, which the honorable member for Flinders practically reserved for his peroration. The honorable member sought to convey the impression that our statements to the effect that, when we took office three years ago, there was a deficit of nearly £500,000, and that when we left office two months ago there was a surplus of nearly £2,500,000, are incorrect. The honorable member was careful not to make the assertion, but merely to leave that impression on the minds of those who do not give detailed attention to politics. If the honorable member will give me a reply by way of interjection, I ask him whether it is not true that, in April 1910, when the Fisher Government took office, there was a deficit of £450,000 ?
– Perfectly true.
– And is it not true that, when we left office two months ago, there was a surplus of nearly £2,500,000 ?
– Perfectly true.
– Then why seek to convey the impression, to citizens who do not give any detailed attention to such matters, that the statements to that effect were not correct? Why drag in the reference to the Braddon section and the extra amount of money received during the last three years? The AttorneyGeneral quoted the words “ financially embarrassed, ‘ ‘ but those, words were never used on this side of the House. They are a supposition of the honorable member. There was never the slightest attempt to conceal the fact that the revenue was greater in the last three years than in any previous period of the Federation; there was never the slightest attempt to conceal the fact that the revenue was correspondingly larger; there was never the slightest attempt to conceal the fact that the Braddon section ended a little over three years ago. Every candidate on the platform spoke clearly on that particular point. Each year the Budget speech was submitted to Parliament giving the total receipts and expenditure; each year it was criticised as ably as was possible by honorable members then in opposition; each year they sought for, and obtained, all the information they required, notwithstanding the wretched and infamous statement of one member, who asserted that over a million pounds had been done away with, that there was no record of it obtained in any way whatever; that we refused to give the information, and that we had passed the Budget in spite of the Opposition; and, even you, Mr. Speaker, will be astounded when I remind you that it was asserted that we had locked the doors, and not allowed the Audit Commissioner to enter and see the accounts.
– By that statement, you cast a slur on every member of this side. Who was the honorable member?
– It was a statement made by an honorable member on the other side of the House; it was made by the honorable member for Gippsland.
– I rise to a point of order. ‘ 1 absolutely deny it. I never said anything of the kind.
– I ask the member for Maribyrnong to hand me the newspapers to prove my case. There was no attempt to conceal the fact that the revenue and expenditure were greater. Each year the Budget speech was put forward; each year the Estimates were considered. My attention has just been directed to the fact that when an honorable member denies having made a statement, I must accept his denial. Therefore, I do not now require the honorable member for Maribyrnong to give me the paper wherein the statement was reported. The finances did come in at a greater rate; it is a fact that the revenue and expenditure were larger, the Budgets proving the statement that there was a deficit when we came in and a surplus when we went out. Why, then, the statement of the Attorney-General ? What is wrong in having more revenue? Does the honorable member disagree with the alteration made to the Braddon section by which this Parliament secured a greater revenue than otherwise would have been the case ? Will the honorable member answer that? No. It is unruly now for the honorable member to give me the opportunity of clearly exposing him to the public gaze as having attempted to misrepresent the situation. Of course, he has already spoken. But he does not disagree with the alteration of the Braddon section that gave to this Parliament a greater amount of money than otherwise would have been the case. Why not? For the reason that his present leader, in conjunction with other gentlemen on the Ministerial side of the House, the Treasurer, and Mr. Deakin, fixed up that precise agreement, the only alteration we made being in accordance with the decision of the community that the agreement should not go into the Federal Constitution. We gave it to them by an Act of Parliament.
– You made another alteration.
– I ask the honorable member not to make a noise. I can see him. He is as prominent as a wayside marigold in a patch of Bathurst burr. Honorable members opposite do not disagree, because they happened to fix up that particular agreement. In the circumstances, I ask, where comes in the strength of the charge of the AttorneyGeneral ? He retained this particular titbit until the last moment, as the sting in the serpent’s tail, a thing that was going to whip the Opposition into some form of obedience, and, possibly, fear, but when once it is touched the bubble is pricked. The honorable member sits in guilty silence, convicted of having attempted to mislead the community. In the circumstances, I may as well touch another point to which the honorable member directed his attention for the major portion of the time he occupied - that of the trusts and combines. He alleged that certain statements had been made depicting the trusts as bloodsucking vampires. I am not quite sure what word-pictures were drawn in respect of the trusts that exist in Australia according to the Minister of External Affairs.
– What did I say?
– I shall quote you in a moment, and quote you exactly. I am not quite sure what statements were made in respect thereto, but no doubt each member on the platform spoke in accordance with his knowledge and, perhaps, his scholastic attainments; though on this side of the House we have not been fortunate enough to have papas to keep us at school when we ought to be earning a living, and our scholastic attainments do not reach the height of those gentlemen who are hurling obloquy at us because the language we used in depicting these particular trusts differed from that they used. Are there no trusts? Ought not these trusts to be brought under Government control, and subjected to some sort of Government supervision ? Ought not we to take them in hand ? The remarks made by the Attorney-General a few moments ago were in the direction of subjecting all references to trusts to ridicule. They were an effort to make the public believe that there are no trusts in Australia, and that, if there are, they are merely trusts dealing with raspberry buckets and lollies. I regret very much that the Attorney-General, in using the stuff he did in the manner he did, should seek to bring a Judge of the High Court of Australia into ridicule. But if the Attorney-General suggests that there are no trusts, and that they must not be brought under control, I ask him to listen for a moment or two to the words he himself used when he was free to speak in the House, and when there was no Caucus domination to whip him into the obedience that now seems to be a leading feature with him. I shall quote from Hansard, page 75 of the special publication of the report of the speeches from the 29th September, 1910, to the 16th November, 1910, on the Constitution Alteration (Legislative Powers) Bill. This is what the honorable member himself said -
These irresponsible combinations of wealth which govern the interests of hundreds of thousands of human beings.
There is no quarter of an ounce of almond rock about that.
– You asked me a few moments ago to interject. I ask you now to whom I referred?
– You were referring to the trusts of Australia.
– Absolutely untrue.
– You were referring to the trusts. Here is your speech -
These irresponsible combinations of wealth which govern the interests of hundreds of thousands of human beings.
Is there any raspberry-bucket business about institutions that govern the lives of hundreds of thousands of human beings ?
– Do you say I used those words about Australia?
– The honorable member is misrepresenting.
– It is clear, by the numbers mentioned, it could not apply to Australia.
– The AttorneyGeneral asks me a question, and certain persons behind him say I am misrepresenting. Let them be clear. They shall not escape. Here are the words of the Attorney-General -
There are others which, by the powers they have come to wield, and the methods by which they use these powers, are visibly becoming - Although not so much in this country- thereby clearly instancing the fact that he was referring to some in this country a menace to liberty-
In conjunction with his remarks upon American trusts, the honorable gentleman referred to Australian trusts; and, while acknowledging that they were ruinous in America, he said they were not quite so ruinous in this country. He said -
These irresponsible combinations of wealth which govern the interests of hundreds of thousands of human beings, and which govern, to a very large extent, the very interests which should govern them, must, in a comparatively short time, be brought under the control of the Legislature.
– If the honorable gentleman were moderately honest in debate he would admit-
– A moment or two ago, when the Attorney-General felt that he was in one of those difficult situations in which the party with whom he is now associated so often place him, he said that interjections are unruly and rude, and he would not adopt them. Now, when he happens to be caught by his own words, his coldness and iciness disappear, and he becomes, according to himself, rude and unruly. I regret very much to have to refer to him so frequently, but the honorable gentleman has brought it upon himself. Statements were prepared by the then Crown Solicitor, Mr. Powers. The honorable gentleman referred to them in detail, evidently with the object of bringing the question of trusts into ridicule. He desired to create the impression that the alleged evils of trusts were trivial; and that, in connexion with all the researches into the evils of trusts, honorable members on this side of the House were to blame. Will honorable members believe me when I say that during the whole of the time the Attorney-
General was quoting from the recommendations and reports of the Crown Solicitor, he was dealing with the period when the party with which he is himself associated was in power. Then the strawberry bucket and almond rock references are evidence of the capacity and statesmanship of the honorable gentleman’s own side. Whilst he was directing attention to these points, we heard laughter repeated over and over again from honorable members opposite at what they conceived to be gibes cast upon this side of the House; when, as a matter of fact, the reports with which the Attorney-General was dealing at the time referred to what had been done by his own party. Nothing could be more outrageous or abandoned than the course adopted by the honorable gentleman in his effort to bring honorable members on this side into ridicule because of something which was done years ago by his own party. One trust, in particular, dealt with by the honorable gentleman was the Confectionery Combine. He knew that the way in which he proposed to refer to that Combine would draw the laughter and buffoonery of those behind him. I suppose that the inane laughter which followed his remarks was music to his ears when he said that the investigations into the Confectionery Trust had proved that, as a result of the operations of that trust there had been an increase in the price of almond rock to the extent of¼d. per oz. The laughter that followed from the other side nearly shook the building. Honorable members opposite were evidently glad to learn that the price of the lollies loved by the children had been increased by a rapacious trust. That was an instance of a cunning form of putting forward a statement which might be of use on the platform in the Werriwa, or any other, electoral district, but is not of much use here, where honorable members have an opportunity of reply. What does an increase of¼d. per oz. mean in the price of the particular article referred to?I can understand the Ministerial Whip interjecting when sticks of almond rock are on the board. What does it mean? It means that there was an increase in the price of this particular article of 50 per cent. If the AttorneyGeneral had desired to put the matter fairly before the country, he would not, merely to raise laughter from those behind him, have said that the increase was ¼d. per oz., but he would have made it plain that it was an increase of 50 per cent. in the price of the particular article referred to.
– As a matter of fact, it was not an increase in price to the public at all. It was the wholesale price that was raised. .
– I accept the honorable gentleman’s statement that there was an increase in the wholesale price; but I have never yet heard of an increase in the wholesale price of an article without a corresponding increase in the retail price of that article. The statement of the AttorneyGeneral secured the approval of laughter from honorable members opposite, and apparently they approve of an increase of 50 per cent. in the price of an article to the public. Almond rock is now being sold at1s. per lb. It was then sold at 8d. per lb. The increase was from 8d. to1s. per lb. ; but the AttorneyGeneral produced the inane laughter of his followers by saying that the increase amounted to¼d. per oz., instead of saying, in plain terms, that it amounted to 50 per cent. on the price of the article. The price of the lollies which the children of the poor sometimes enjoy has been increased, and the fact evokes hilarity from honorable gentlemen on the other side of the House. They are welcome to it; and, if I may use this as an illustration, whatever may be said to the contrary in general terms, that is the attitude invariably adopted by that political party. For did we not have, even yesterday, an attempt on the part of the Prime Minister to discount any reference to trusts? Did he not attempt to have us believe that, in Australia, there were no trusts inimical to the interests of the community? Why, sir, even he made a reference to the Meat Trust, and he alleged, by implication - that is a word of which he is very fond - that the Meat Trust was not a danger to the community. It seems to me that I am justified in quoting once again a paragraph from a book by Mr. Russell, one of America’s greatest economic writers, in reference to this particular Meat Trust, which is now receiving, I am pleased to say, attention from the Imperial Parliament, and from the Argentine Parliament, but which for years has been able to defy the United States Parliament, because, constitutionally, that Parliament is as weak as we are.
– No ; that Parliament has attacked the Meat Trust.
– Here is what Mr. Russell says in his book about the greatest trust in the world -
Here is a great criminal organization, utterly illegal in its inception, utterly illegal in its operation, defying the Courts, an active and pestilent public enemy. The works of this organization are to increase to every household the cost of living, to decrease to a very large number of producers the normal income from their toil.
Yet the Prime Minister yesterday made a reference to the Meat Trust in terms and tones which sought to indicate that it was not inimical to the interests of this country. The Attorney- General referred to the question of trusts in a somewhat lengthy manner. I ask him, in the circumstances, are there any trusts ? When he was on this side of the House, he said, in effect, “ Put me in the Ministry and 1 will then urge the people to give to this Parliament power to deal with these combinations of capital.” But as AttorneyGeneral, what did we have from him today ? We had a sorry spectacle, and a lamentable display of weakness, of ineptitude, when he said, “ Please, gentlemen of the Opposition, come and give me evidence, and, if you do, I will prosecute.”
– It is a fair offer.
– At the same time, the honorable gentleman knows - and no one knows better, for I highly respect his legal attainments - that there is no use in prosecuting, because we have not the power to effectively prosecute.
– There is a great use politically in not prosecuting.
– My honorable friend will consequently not prosecute, but he knows that he cannot successfully do so, and the reason why some of the combinations in this community have not been prosecuted by the Federal Parliament is because, as is pointed out in the very reports which he brought forward with so much hilarity, we have no constitutional power. In other cases, he said, there are combinations, but they are not acting detrimentally to the public. What is “ detriment to the public “ in the legal sense? Only what some Parliament has made illegal ; and if there be a Parliament here to-day which has not constitutional power to make some wicked thing illegal, how, then, I ask, can we prosecute these individuals? Certainly, in many instances, they are not acting illegally according to the Federal Constitution, but even though not illegal, their existence is detrimental. For, if to increase the price of a national commodity from 14s. to 24s. per ton is not detrimental to the public, then I ask the public to consider for themselves what is detrimental ? If an increase of from 75 to 80 per cent, in the cost of a commodity is not of concern to the public, then heaven help them in their unconcern. That is what I say to the AttorneyGeneral in the circumstances. We proved that the Coal Vend monopolized and had control over 90 per cent, of the coal ; that they had acted in collusion with the Shipping Combine, which controls 90 per cent, of the shipping. We proved that they raised the price of coal from 14s. to 24s. per ton, and the Court came along - I am not questioning its decision - and said, “ Yes, you have proved that, yes, they have done that; yes, they act in collusion; but we say that, according to the law, that is not detrimental to the public.” What we asked in our referenda proposals was that the public, in their own interests, should give their Parliament power to protect them, and power to enable the Court to say that such ruinous rises in the prices of commodities are detrimental to themselves. Take any individual separately - not individuals collectively - and ask him from a platform whether an increase to-morrow morning of 75 per cent, in the price of a necessary of life will not be detrimental to him, and I venture to say that he will answer “Yes,” despite the fact that he may vote for men who say “ No.” I come now to the question of these trusts in another sense.
– The word “ detriment “ is not in the Act now, you must remember; it was taken out.
– A little while ago, the honorable member asked me to quote the reference I made to him in respect of these matters. After all these investigations, after all the almond-rock business, after all the strawberry-bucket ridicule-
– Raspberry bucket.
– At any rate it has proved somewhat rasping to the honorable member for Flinders, because he was attempting to draw a straw across the trail. After all these investigations, made when Liberals of some brand or other were in office, the Attorney-General of the day - the honorable member for Angas - prepared a memorandum. With these reports in his hands, if there was any refusal to prosecute the almond-rock combine, it was he who refused to prosecute it in the circumstances.
– I got two independent counsel to advise.
– I assure the honorable gentleman that 1 am not complaining about him.
– Bub you are kicking up such a fuss about it.
– What I am drawing attention to is that the present AttorneyGeneral - the nian who would be AttorneyGeneral or nothing - sought to convey the impression that the party on this side of the House had rerrained from prosecuting. 1 am fair. It was the honorable member for Angas who, after all these reports were submitted for his careful perusal and inquiry, refused to prosecute. He said, “The almond-rock combine shall go on.” He said, “ The raspberrybucket combine is of no consequence “ - and I am not complaining, I do not say that he was wrong.
– But the evidence was before the previous Ministry.
– The previous Ministry was a Liberal one.
– My honorable friend refers to the fact that for four months and a half there was a Ministry in power, and that they did not, in that period, undo the mischief which had been completed by our friends on the other side in eight or nine years. After all these investigations, the honorable member for Angas came along, and made a statement, not on the platform, not in a hurry or in the heat of debate, but carefully in his own office, with the aid of a number of legal men.
– I do not know what legal men the honorable gentleman refers to.
– The honorable gentleman’s officers.
– I did that myself. Where did I say anything about the thirty-three trusts?
– I am alluding to a memorandum, “ By the Hon. P. McM. Glynn, Attorney-General; presented by command ; ordered to be printed, 21st October, 1910.” In paragraph 10 it is stated -
The majority - in fact, 29 or 30 out of 33 - of the cases that have been considered by this Department -
– The cases “ considered “ : I did not say whether they were trusts or not.
– No one has said that the honorable gentleman called them trusts. He spoke of 29 or 30 out of 33 cases which had been considered by his Department, and which were -
According to the judgment referred to in the titleto this memorandum.
The title relating to the Australian Industries Preservation Act - within the jurisdiction of the States only; but the most important areInter-State; and none (affecting more than one State) can be completely dealt with without the co-operation of the States or an amendment of the Constitution int hedirection suggested.
– I never said there were thirty-three trusts;I only said that I had examined the evidence submitted to me.
– I quite acknowledge the care of the honorable gentleman. In view of these considerations, he recommended -
That section51 of the Constitution might be amended by adding the following article : - “ Trusts, combinations, and monopoliesin restraintof tradeinany State or part of the Commonwealth.”
– What did he do that for if there are no trusts?
– I am reminded that the party opposite offered a similar amendment to us, but that we did not accent it. We do not accept kite-flying advertisements.It is now shown by the decision of the High Court and of the Privy Council thai it is practically impossible to prove restraint of trade.
– That statement is not correct.
-It is practically impossible to prove restraint of trade, because the High Court and the Privy Council have both ruled that the words mean not merely restraint of trade, but restraint of trade which is detrimental to the public. That is what the Courts have read into the words. One other reference, and I have done with this question of trusts. Had our referenda proposals been approved we could have dealt with trusts, irrespective of whether they were of an Inter-State character. In South Australia we were subjected to the depredations of a wheat ring. View the farmers’ friends opposite - lawyers, auctioneers, stock and station agents, retired gentlemen ! We were, I say, subjected to the viciousness of a wheat ring, which robbed the farmers of South Australia of 2d. on every bushel of wheat they sold to these persons in one given season. In other words, they stole from the farmers - those supporters of Liberalisrn to-day - in one season about £165,000, because of the illegal combination that they had in operation at the time. I have before me the report of a Commission composed of four Labour men and five Liberals, which unanimously agreed that this ring did exist, and that by reason of its operations it had decreased the price of wheat to the farmer, and had acted inimically to the wheat-growers of the State.
– Although there was a Labour Government in South Australia at the time.
– The honorable member is radically wrong, as is customary with him. I come now to this precious document, which has been submitted for the consideration of the House, and as to which we have proposed an amendment. I do not desire to traverse the ground which has already been covered, but I feel justified in calling attention to one or two points. What is there in this document which proposes to make for progress in Australia? What is there that proposes to improve the lot of any honest and useful worker, whether he be a primary or secondary producer? What is there in it of benefit even to the higher commercial community, other than that the Government propose to take up a measure which we had no time to carry, namely, the Bankruptcy Bill ? Not one line, not one letter, not one proposal here, deals with anything of a progressive character. Not one thing is original. There is not a sign of the slightest initiative, nor even a particle of patriotism. There is a desire to pull down. There is a desire to destroy. There are many men who can pull down palaces, but the same individuals are unable to build pig-styes. There is a desire to obey the behests of the Employers’ Federation, and to become subservient to institutions which reap practically the whole of the benefits of the work performed in Australia. But i3 there a single desire evident here to benefit those who do the work ? Are the farmers to receive any benefit out of this thing ?
– Yes; the Agricultural Bureau Bill is before the House.
– I will be lenient with my honorable friend ; he is new here. But he will learn. Is there one thins; in this statement that touches the question of industry, and which will make for improvement or progress ? Nota line ; not a letter. But there have been denunciations - hot, strong, in every direction - of the legislation which we carried through during the past three years, leaving, as my respected leader said, the statute-book replete with measures of a statesman-like character. We passed the Progressive Land Tax. My honorable friends opposite railed against it. Are there any indications in this document that they will repeal it? We passed the Commonwealth Bank Act. My honorable friends railed against it.
– Oh, no; we did not.
– The honorable member does not know enough to even rail at that. They said it was going to interfere with the financial balances of the country. It was going to affect Wall-street, in New York, and other places of a like character the world over. It was going; to bring chaos and min upon the country. But is there a line or a letter here to indicate that they intend to touch the Act? We had a grumbling, uncalled-for, unwarrantable reference the other day from the Treasurer when he growled out his real opinion in a forgetful moment, namely, that the Governor of the bank had too mil rh power. When we were putting the Bill through, the cry was, “ Give the Governor all power ; do not have political control.” Now my honorable friends wish to diminish the power of the Governor and to increase their own political power now that they are in office. The Labour party introduced the Australian Notes Act; but there is not a line or letter in the memo randum indicating that those now in power intend to- amend it. All that is said is that the reserve will be kept at the present standard. That reserve is far higher than is found necessary in Canada, where a similar Act is in operation ; and higher than any of our private institutions maintain. In regard to all the measures I have mentioned, honorable members opposite are silent ; but, when it comes to a question of social legislation, affecting those who work for wages - the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, those honest and useful workmen without whose labour this nation would be as nothing - honorable members opposite are strong and aggressive. They intend to alter certain things that were done in the past three years. They will thrust in their knives to the hilt, and turn them in the wound, when dealing with the useful people of this country. Some little benefit was given to the industrial community in the past three years ; but my honorable friends opposite declare that they will undo it. The honorable member for Flinders said that he stood for equality, waving his hand as though, ,the words were emblazoned on an oriflamme floating over his head. If I, John Jones, a carpenter in the metropolitan area, have the right to submit mv disputes to arbitration, why should not John Giles, a farmer’s assistant living in the country, have the same right? Shall we brand the man in the country as a pariah ? Shall we say that the men who go into country districts to do the work of pioneering, and suffer greater hardships than fall to the lot of city dwellers, shall not be permitted to submit, their differences to. and have their conditions of living determined bv, a Justice of the High Court of Australia, when the right to do these things is enjoyed bv the toilers in our cities and towns ? Would that be just and equitable? There is no desire for either justice or equality in the breast of any honorable member opposite. Their desire is to pander to and to deceive the farming community; to make the farmers believe that, while they are in office, labour will be obtained for ls. a day, or ls. a week. less, though they intend to allow the trusts to continue their depredations and robbery, stealing, perhaps, 10s. from the farmers. For many years it was my privilege to represent a farming constituency in the South Australian Assembly. I ask my farming friends which is better - that they should know precisely what they must pay to their employes, and receive a just return for what they give, or that a farmer here and there, if he were inclined, should have the right to sweat his men, while the whole farming community was sweated by soulless and bowelless trusts ? We ask that there shall be justice for the industrial workers, and we say to the farmers, “We shall protect you from the criminal operations of the rings that rob you daily.” Despite the warmth and heat which political differences sometimes engender between men conscientiously believing themselves before God and Heaven to be right, T ask honorable members opposite to pause before saying that the rural workers shall not be permitted to submit their wrongs to any Court in the country. My honorable friends opposite seem to object to preference to unionists. The preference to unionists which obtained under the last Government came under two heads : First, there was the preference given to casual labour employed in the Public Service. It must never be forgotten that there was no preference to unionists so far as the permanent Public Service was concerned. All employed under the control of the Public Service Commissioner obtained their positions through competitive examinations. Preference was given only in the case of casual labourers - the men put on to-day and dismissed to-morrow - those who do the heaviest toil, whose old age in the past had nigh always been spent in destitute asvlums, where some of them had passed recognition as images of Christ because of the toil and suffering to which they had been subjected. What was the preference that we gave to such men? We said, “When there are two men applying for a position and, by every known test, they stand on a perfect equality of ability, as a last and final distinction we shall ask each. “Are you a unionist?” Should both be unionists, things would have to go on as in the past ; but should one be a unionist and the other not, then, and then only, should preference be given. Honorable members opposite do not like to hear the truth spoken in unmistakable terms. Preference to unionists, so far as the late Government was concerned, meant that when two men applied for the one billet, being to all intents and purposes equal, if one was a unionist and the other not, the unionist should have preference. The other form of preference to unionists was that given by a Justice of the High Court, after investigating all the surrounding circumstances. That preference is provided for by Act of Parliament, and is the law of the country. Law is only what men make it. Our Statutes and Common Law are not divine : they fire the creation of men It is law which created private property in land, which, according to the Prime Minister, is an accursed thing. Law is precisely what a majority of the active people of any particular country determine. In different countries there are differentlaws. The laws that obtain in some other countries might not be tolerated for onn moment in this country. The laws which obtain here possibly would not be tolerated for one moment in more highlycivilized co mm unities. We made preference to unionists the law. My honorable friends opposite say that it is wrong that a majority of the people should make a law. Here is another attack on the principle of democracy, namely, that the majority should not rule. Honorable members opposite say that we have no right, even when in a majority, to frame a. law in accordance with the desires of the community. Why did we make preference to unionists the law of the land ? ‘ Simply because the unionist has risen to a certain condition by virtue of his manhood, his honesty, his straightforwardness, and all those qualifications which go to make a strong nation, and in the moment of trial it will not be the non-unionists, the cowards, the weak-kneed, the cringing, crawling, creeping brand of human being, who will fa.ce the enemy. It will be the man, the unionist, who has dared to do in his own interests and in those of his wife and children - the man who has had the backbone to stand up for justice, and has combined to prevent the perpetuation of those abuses which curse the older countries which are governed by these very Liberals to-day. I have here signed articles by public men of ability. One of them is written by Mr. Chiozza Money Liberal M.P., England. L”“t honorable members listen to the conditions which obtain under Liberal rule in a country where there has never been a Labour Darby in power, and where that party has never been strong enough to wield much influence. He says -
I have ascertained and established (see my Riches and Poverty) that the great wealth of this country is so ill-distributed that about one-half of the entire income of the country is drawn by only about one-ninth of its population. T know that among the 30,000,000 persons, or eight-ninths of our population, who draw only one-half the contents of the national purse, there exists such a mass of degradation and misery as is a dishonour and disgrace to nur civilization.
I am assured that there never was so much poverty as now, because poverty is a relative term and because the chief part of the fruits of progress, science, and invention is garnered bv the favoured few, to accentuate the want and despair of the many.
T invite honorable members to look at the other side of the picture which is presented in an equally terse way by Sir William Bull, Conservative M.P. in England, who writes -
We all know Hint the researches of investigators of Bril;.1, social problems have revealed the appalling fact, brought forward by the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman on n famous occasion, that about 10 per cent of the population of the country live on the verge of destitution, and T nm bound to add (hat nearly seven years of much-advertised Liberal legislation have not changed this intolerable slate of affairs. T do not believe that nostrums will ever change it.
And my honorable friends will doubtless like to hear this from a belted knight -
T am bound to add that nearly seven years nf much-advertised Liberal legislation have not. changed this intolerable state of affairs.
So we say, “ Let us give preference to unionists, because in their manhood and courage they have prevented this country from sinking to a condition of social degradation which is a disgrace to the community.” They have won a certain position by their combined efforts, by spending their money, by braving the displeasure of that element in the Employers Association which dares them to call their souls their own. They have succeeded in raising their social and industrial conditions. The moment they have done so, there steps into the ranks an individual who has not had the courage to do and dare, to take from them the- proceeds of their labour. I ask my honorable friends what would be their position if, when they had worked up to a certain standard which gave them a return for their labour, another person stepped in and took from them the whole proceeds of their efforts ? I can scarcely describe their anger in such circumstances. Hence we declared that if men have fought their way up to a particular condition, and if, after inquiry, a Justice of the High Court says that they are entitled to a preference, they shall have it. My honorable friends do not approve of that. I propose now to direct attention to a statement which ap”peared in a newspaper called Liberty and
Progress on -22nd March, 1913. Mr. R. 0. Blackwood, who is now the president of the Employers Federation, there explains how, being unable to fight the unions by ordinary honorable means, the employers had given their countenance and assistance to an organization which they had named the Independent Workers Union. In the first instance, this body had been called the Free Labourers Union, but that name becoming objectionable, it had been altered to the Independent Workers Union. Th, employers subscribed to it, they coddled and nursed it, they gave its members employment whenever they wanted it, and Mr. Blackwood states in the newspaper I have mentioned ‘that before persons coming to them for employment are given it they must join the Independent Workers Union.
– Preference to “scabs.”
– It seems that they are dragging some of the traditions of Britishers into the mud of the gutter when we find that there exists a Federation of Employers who will cuddle, who will assist with their money and their time, the weak-kneed and cowardly, while rejecting the men of courage upon whom they will have to rely whenever their property is menaced by an outside foe. On another occasion, when there is more time at my disposal, I shall quote the article in question in full. I hope that it will help to quieten my honorable friends opposite when they come to deal with the question of preference to unionists. It is patent, therefore, that the very Federation of Employers which stands behind them is granting preference to a kind of unionists. Why ? Because it knows that when once they have been able to use the Independent Workers Union to break down the trade unions of this country, that very moment they will have the industrial worker helpless in their maw. That very moment, too, down will go the wages, not only of the unionists, but of the independent workers themselves, while the latter will be laughed at and scorned by those who have used them. I wish now to make a brief reference to the postal vote. The
Attorney-General, I observe, has left the Chamber. He does not care to remain to listen to the reply that is being offered to bis peculiar utterance. He stated that there had not been one prosecution for n breach of the postal voting provisions of the old Electoral Act. In these circumstances he inquired, “ Why abolish the postal vote?” But, so far, not one case of duplication of voting at the recent general election has been proved. There has not been one case of fraud proved. There has not been proved one case of an illegal act of any description whatever. Yet my honorable friends are going to alter the Electoral Act. Their proposal is contained in these words -
The existing electoral law has not been found to work satisfactorily.
That is the first sentence in the Ministerial memorandum. No doubt the electoral law has not been found to work satisfactorily from the point of view of honorable members opposite; nor will it work satisfactorily until they can obtain a majority in both branches of the Legislature. Then, according to them, it will be entirely satisfactory. The electoral laws of the States are wholly satisfactory to honorable members opposite, because they give the Liberal party a majority in both branches of the State Legislatures. That being so, they do not propose any material alteration of the State electoral laws. The very moment, however, that they obtain temporary power in this House, they propose an alteration of the law which will be satisfactory to themselves, regardless of whether or not it will be satisfactory to the general community. May I suggest, with all diffidence, that they first prove that the Act, as it stands, permits of fraud, or the manipulation of votes, before they seek to amend it in the direction suggested ? I have a list of the names of seventy-five persons who are alleged to have duplicated their votes in the electorate of Adelaide - seventy-five out of a total of over 25,000 who went to the poll. I shall reserve my remarks with regard to that list until the question of the proposed amendment of the electoral law is brought before us. I think I am justified in stating now, however, that I do not see amongst the names . in that list that of one person who I can say is associated with the Labour party. I have no doubt that some of these persons, if I may judge by their occupations, did honour Labour with their votes; and. there are also some who, if we may judge by their occupations’, did not honour us with their support. Let me say that I do not believe that any one of the seventy-five indulged in any malpractice. If the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs desires any proof, that his investigation was of little, if any, use, let me state one fact. Honorable members opposite have spoken of thousands of cases of duplicate voting, and there have been allegations of gross electoral irregularities in their subservient press - subservient where the financial interests are concerned, but masterly with honorable members opposite. Among the names given in this list is that of one of the most popular and eloquent preachers of the Gospel in South Australia. I refuse to believe that he voted twice. If he voted, I am certain that he voted for the Liberal party; but I am confident that it would be a slander to say that he was guilty of duplicate voting. The fact that his name appears in the list of those who are alleged to have voted twice is a proof that the scrutiny indulged in was mere kiteflying, a mere attempt to appease the outcry, and to satisfy those who had suggested wholesale duplicate voting because they had not been as successful as they might have been. I am not going to read quotations from the speeches of prominent politicians in Queensland who denounced the postal-voting system which was in operation in that State because of the malpractice which prevailed, and the awful possibilities of fraud in .connexion with it; but I am going to remind the Attorney-General, who has returned to the chamber, that, notwithstanding his denial, there was a prosecution for fraud under the postal-voting provisions of the Commonwealth Act. I do not wish to bring prominently before the community again the name of the justice of the peace in the Hamilton district who was prosecuted. A number of women were dragged up before the Court in connexion with that case. I say that they were “ dragged up “ because, in my opinion, the women who were subjected to the cajolery, the fraud, and the wickedness of this justice, were dragged before the Court. I believe that they were entirely innocent. I believe the situation was misrepresented to them, and that they were knowingly and wickedly misled and induced to make use of the postal-voting provisions of the Act. Why speak about those provisions being for the benefit of the injured? Why not make the position clear ? We know that the postal-voting system was provided for the benefit of those who were about to become mothers. And yet it is shown that this person actually cajoled single women into . signing before him, as a justice of the peace, declarations that they were married, and that their condition prevented them from going to the poll to record their votes. Do honorable members want further proof of a more ex- tensive fraud, or of the possibilities of fraud, under the provisions of an Act which permitted of these soulless and conscienceless individuals deceiving women aud inducing them to sign statements of that description? Honorable members opposite know that the postalvoting provisions of the Commonwealth Act were abused at the general elections which took place three years ago. Are they prepared to say that in one electorate in Victoria there were more women ill than there were in practically the whole of some of the other States ? They certainly say that they were if they allege that the postal-voting system was not abused at the general election of 1910. The re-enactment of the postal-voting system will not give greater facilities for honest voting, but it will increase the facilities for fraud. It will enable the unscrupulous to take advantage of the innocent. The system certainly does enable a certain class of individual to stuff the ballot-box. When canvassing in districts outside my own electorate - and we do this work ourselves; we do not pay other people to do it for us - I have been astounded, on going from door to door and reminding the lady inmates who responded to my knocking that it was election-day, to have the statement made to me, “ Oh, we voted before Mr. Soandso two weeks ago. Mr. So-and-so is the paid agent of the Liberal side.” In the circumstances, we felt justified in removing from the Electoral Act the provision for postal voting, and in giving to the electors greater facilities for the exercise of the franchise. Our conduct has been justified by the fact that at the recent elections there was a higher percentage of votes than at any previous election during the Federal life. Surely, no exception can be taken to giving facilities for the exercise of the franchise? Are honorable members opposite prepared to say that they do not want the electors to cast their votes? Do they desire a small vote ? During the last elections the Government, with a desire to assist those who were, unfortunately, laid aside in the hospitals, asked the authorities of those institutions for permission to establish booths there, so that a responsible official might be sent to take in secret the votes of all who desired to record them. In New South Wales that offer was availed of, but in that State, I am sorry to say, the percentage of voters was weak, and somehow the Labour party seem to have failed for a time. In Victoria, the voting strength was stronger, but the hospital authorities did not take advantage of the suggestion. Why? Because those who control those institutions are supporters of my honorable friends on the Government side, and did not like the idea of polling booths in public hospitals, where possibly the numbers of the sick in support of the Labour party would be greater than those in support of the Liberal party. In my own constituency, the Adelaide Hospital is situated, and application was made to the State Liberal Government for permission to have a booth there. That Government, in order to hide behind a hospital board, referred the request to the latter body, which, after consultation with the medical men, recommended that a booth should be permitted. Then, however, this beautiful State Liberal Government, which says that it believes in justice, in equality, and in giving facilities for voters, point-blank refused the sick, and maimed and infirm, in this and other hospitals the opportunity to record their votes. A striking illustration of the fairness and impartiality of the Fisher Government is shown in the fact that the request for booths was made not only in connexion with the larger public hospitals. In the aristocratic suburb of North Adelaide there is a hospital; and that institution took advantage of the opportunity offered, and the patients there recorded their votes at the rate of five to one against the Labour party. Actions speak louder than words ; and here we have a concrete illustration of the fact that our friends opposite, and their supporters all over the Commonwealth, were not prepared to grant voting facilities to the sick and infirm . I understand that the Government propose to interfere in some way with the maternity allowance, but I do not know what the outcome of that proposal will be. I understand that the estimated expenditure under this head for next year is £650,000, representing some 125,000 mothers. This proves that 125,000 of the best of Australia’s population - those who bring to us the immigrants through the cradle, honour us as men, and elevate us as a nation - approve of and believe in this measure. The Liberal party and Government, under the guise of preventing that class of people who indulge in gold bangles from accepting the allowance, say that it must be granted only to those who declare that dire necessity demands it, and thus seek to interfere with this beneficent piece of legislation. In other words, they will not pay £5 from the Public Exchequer to, in the first place, protect the mother in her greatest hour of need, irrespective of whether she is in dire necessity or not, and, in the second place, to give the new arrival a reasonable opportunity of a healthy and vigorous infancy, and a strong manhood or womanhood. But in conjunction with the State Parliaments they will readily give £5 or £10 per head to bring strangers into our midst from other shores, when, as a matter of fact, we have an unemployed difficulty ourselves at the present time. I sincerely hope they will pause before they interfere with this legislation. Those who afford the Liberal Government the strongest support do not, apparently, mix with that section of the community which is the real base and foundation of the social pyramid, and without which the apex could not be gilded as it is in one or two instances. If there were no men working, no man would be able to live on an income. Whether the Government will pause or not I do not know; but if, as I have already said, every honorable member will vote in accordance with his promises to the electors - than which no promises on earth ought to be more sacred - the Government will not be given an opportunity, even in this Chamber, of interfering with this beneficent legislation. I now come to the general remarks of the Prime Minister yesterday. I had expected a dignified utterance and some explanation of proposals of a progressive and statesmanlike character. At any rate, I had expected that the honorable gentleman would refrain, so far as he could, from personalities, and from drawing red herrings across the trail. I had hoped for an utterance of which, re- gardless of all political differences, we might all have been proud, and which might have gone forth as a reflex of the stamp and standard of those who have the honour to represent the intelligence of Australia in the National Parliament. But what we had were personal references to honorable members on this side. We were told that, although the Labour party had been three years in office, the millennium had not arrived and Utopia had not been realized. There were references to the unemployed, and we had the insinuation that their presence is due to the fact that a Labour Government had been in power three years. There were no utterances of a constructive character - all were destructive - and the Prime Minister is welcome to the speech with which he favoured us. It is not my province to offer advice to the honorable gentleman after the many years he has. been in politics, the many sides he has taken, and the many directions he has faced. I sincerely hope, however, that if, by the breaking of pledges to constituents, the Prime Minister continues on the Treasury bench there will emanate from him something of a different character of which, in the circumstances, we may feel more proud. We could not, of course, in three years undo all the wrong that other gentlemen had subjected the country to in fifty years; we could not remove every evil that the body politic suffered from. We are proud of the work we have accomplished, and we find from the statements of Ministers themselves that there is no big measure of great national importance they intend to interfere with other than social and industrial legislation, with which they are forced to interfere because of the power and influence behind them. However, I feel justified in taking exception to one statement, and one only, in the limited time at my disposal. The Prime Minister said that we had charged them with reducing wages. A statement to that effect was made by two or three honorable members, and I expected that the Prime Minister would have been able to refute it, and disprove the charge, but he was not able to do it any more than he was able to disprove the references made to his administration which has thrown a number of men out of work in New South Wales without a scintilla of justification.
– Do you say that?
– A number of men were thrown out of work in the dockyards, and the Prime Minister sought to make out that it was due to the lax administration of the Fisher Ministry. As a matter of fact, if there were any defects in the boilers, they could have been repaired one at a time; had necessity arisen those boilers could have been overhauled one at a time, as is the practice in private life, and if necessity arose for dismissing a few men connected with a particular boiler no blame could be found; but to peremptorily, on the spot, so to speak, suddenly dismiss a large number of men from their employment on the statement that there were certain boilers that were not safe was certainly wrong. When we took over the yard we knew that some of the plant was not up-to-date, and might be defective, but what did we do ? According to the Minister for Works in New South Wales all these boilers were subjected to a practical test and examination last Christmas.
– That is not so.
– Directly we took over the yard we employed the services of an outside professional gentleman in private practice, a qualified civil engineer, to make an examination and report to us, but his report did not come in until we were out of office. The statement goes that some of the boilers were defective.
– Not defective, but dangerous.
– And that statement was intended to convey the impression that the past Government were knowingly working dangerous boilers, and subjecting certain men to the danger of death. The Prime Minister said there were a number of men who had one-sixteenth of an inch of iron between them and heaven. The innuendo was murderous in its inference. If our Administration left only onesixteenth of an inch of iron between certain men and heaven, the Administration of the honorable gentleman will leave nothing between these self -same men and hell, because it is hell to an honest workman to be thrown out of employment. My last words are these: That if every member of this House remains true to his pledges to his constituents there will not be even Mr. Speaker between the honorable’ gentleman and what to him is political hell - Opposition.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Kelly) adjourned.
Personal Explanation - Small-pox in Sydney : Quarantine Regulations - Questions.
Motion (by Mr. Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I do not often desire to make a personal explanation, but the honorable member for Adelaide just now quoted a passage from a speech of mine dealing with irresponsible combinations of wealth, and he inferred that that statement was made with regard to combinations and trusts in Australia. When I asked him whether it was so, he said, “ Yes, in Australia “ ; but I find that immediately before the passage he cited, it appears, quite plainly that the reference was to combinations in America. I also find that the passage the honorable member cited is marked off with brackets in ink, and that immediately after the passage where he stopped these words appear -
We have but very little of that sort of thing in Australia. I am not going to follow the Attorney-General into the If st of combines which, without any evidence, so far as I know, lie alleged to exist.
.- I wish to claim the attention of the House on a matter of privilege. I made a statement in the chamber with reference to quarantining an area of 30 miles in Sydney, and I made certain remarks honestly believing them to be true. I still maintain them. Dr. Paton has been good enough to make some reply, and he says that he would like to get me in the quarantine ground; but I can assure him that I have been vaccinated, and have an exemption ticket, so that I do not fear going to Sydney. Dr. Paton says that there is small-pox in Sydney. When I first brought this matter under the attention of the House, and the Minister of Trade and Customs, in an endeavour to urge the Minister to take a different course in the interests of three-quarters of a million of people and thousands of the travelling public, no notice was taken of my request but this is one of the grounds on which I appealed, and Dr. Paton’s own statement is -
If the proclamation is to be strictly enforced, it will cause a great deal of inconvenience to the public of New South Wales, which I am forced to say is, in my opinion, unnecessary.
That is one reply I wish to make to Dr. Paton. I have never said anything either for or against vaccination, and I have not put myself up as an authority on vaccination; but I still maintain that, owing to the scare created by this proclamation unnecessarily issued by the Minister of Trade and Customs, a large number of people in Sydney have been vaccinated, and a large number have been taken away from their homes by medical men because of this mild attack of small-pox in Sydney. Dr. Robertson, of Melbourne, said -
There are so few medical men in this State who have had an opportunity of seeing secondary vaccination on a large scale. Probably it is better to use lymph that is six weeks old. As Dr. Cumpston explains, these troubles have been due to extra potency ; instead of one vaccine mark, you get it all over your body.
That is what we have maintained. I believe that the press have been misinformed in this matter, and have been led to believe that all these people have been suffering from small-pox. I refer honorable members to what Dr. Paton has said in connexion with the Mongolia case -
It is an extremely suspicious case. Probably it is small-pox. The man is to be examined tomorrow. I am sending down my senior officer, and a Federal officer is also going. I do not know yet whether there has been a previous successful vaccination. If he was successfully vaccinated, he should not have small-pox. And as to whether it is actually small-pox - the Federal quarantine officers have diagnosed it as small-pox, but the State (Board of Health) officer has diagnosed it as an extremely suspicious case.
Here we have two medical officers, one acting for the State and the other a Federal officer, and while one says that the case is one of small-pox, the other considers that it is a case of chicken-pox. I invite honorable members to listen now to this statement -
One of the medical men connected with the case says that it appears to be a very mild one. The man has been vaccinated, but his vaccination did not appear to have been successful. “ He may,” this doctor said, “ have had the disease on him when he was vaccinated ; or perhaps he rubbed his arm after vaccination, in order to avoid a 1 take.’ “ Some of them do things like that, you know.
That is an intimation to the public that persons who have been vaccinated have removed the lymph from their arms, and have by some means infected other parts, and, an eruption showing, they have been held to be suffering from small-pox. It is time the Minister of Trade and Customs made some inquiries into this mat-
ter, and dropped his habit of disregarding all that people have to say on the subject. The matter is a serious one, in view of the number of people who are suffering, and in view also of the stigma cast upon Australia. We are shortly to have a number of members of the British Parliament visiting Australia, and we find that the Ministerial Whip has had to send telegrams to the ports at which these visitors will touch to warn them, because of what is occurring in Australia, to have themselves vaccinated. What a fine opinion they will have of this great country, and what an opinion they will form of the incapacity of those charged with the administration of public affairs in Australia when they are told that there has been no true case of small-pox within a radius of 15 or 30 miles from the Sydney Post Office. I would ask the Minister of Trade and Customs not to regard the fact that I have been the person to bring this matter under the consideration of the House. Let me inform the honorable gentleman that I am as much a representative of the people as is any other member of the House. When no other honorable member from New South Wales or from a Sydney constituency had the courage to stand up and say something in the interests of the people of that city, I took it upon myself to do so. I am not in this matter relying on my own knowledge. Drs. Mackellar, MacLaurin, Paton, and Foreman issued a report on the 9th August, which appeared in the Daily Telegraph of 11th August, with a view to induce people to undergo vaccination, but in the report they maintain that the disease which has broken out in Sydney is only a mild form of small-pox, if it be small-pox at all. An error has been made by the Federal authorities, and it may be that the excitement of coming new to office is the cause of the lack of judgment displayed by the Minister of Trade and Customs. I think the time has now arrived when he should realize the true position. Dr. Reid and other doctors have tried to impress upon the public the seriousness of small-pox, with a view to make them realize the necessity of vaccination. I have not a word to say against the medical profession on this account. Dr. Paton, in his reply to me, says there is hardly a medical man in New South Wales who is not in favour of vaccination, but I might as well send a letter to all the bookmakers in Australia, to ask them if betting is a good thing. They would, no doubt, reply, “ Betting is a good thing, dear boy.” Medical men are not going to say that vaccination is DOt a good thing, and they may honestly believe that it is. One medical man told me that he considered it so necessary that he had vaccinated his wife and all his children, and that, to be quite safe, he had vaccinated the cat. My chief desire in this matter is to consider the interests of the vast population amongst whom I live, and, if possible, to have the restrictions imposed upon them removed. In his reply to-day, Dr. Paton referred to the statement I made in the House about an elector. I can assure him that what I said about the elector was true. I can assure him that no death from smallpox in Sydney has been reported; but there has been a death from vaccination, and I pray to God that there will not be a death from small-pox. It was reported in the press one day, with big headlines, that there was the possibility of a death taking place. I was shocked when I read the report, but I do not think that the writer intended the report to read as it did. In fact, I consider that it should not have been published. I wish to impress upon the Minister of Trade and Customs the urgent necessity for taking some action to remove this restriction, which, I repeat, is wholly unjustifiable. Nothing lias happened so far to warrant such a large section of the people of New South Wales being put under the stigma that they are not fit to travel to other portions of Australia. If quarantine has to be carried out, it should be carried out properly; but if quarantine is not necessary in Sydney, the area in question should be released, and people allowed to move about in the ordinary way. I consider that the Minister of Trade and Customs was somewhat elated at the position he had attained, and therefore did not give adequate attention to the question of issuing a proclamation. He says that he relied upon the advice of his officers. Unfortunately, he had not been in office long, and perhaps he may be excused for being anxious to serve the Government. His officers may have great technical knowledge, but they do not possess that practical knowledge which experienced men of the world acquire. Officers of the Government have told me that they were not aware that so much importance was attached by Dr. Cumpston to the cases at Sydney, or that he went away from Melbourne with the idea that quarantining would be necessary. He recommended the issue of a proclamation on the 5th July, but Dr. Reid and Dr. Hull had known from the 30th May that chickenpox was raging in the neighbourhood of Sydney, as their report to the State Government shows. A most remarkable thing is that, under the State Act chickenpox is not one of the notifiable diseases. Why it was omitted from the list I do not know, because, at every spring, climatic changes cause eruptions of the skin. Even a boil is an eruption of the skin, and I suppose that if the honorable member for Wentworth developed a boil, the health officers would want to put him in quarantine.
.- Yesterday afternoon, I handed in to the Clerk a question to be put to the Prime Minister, in these terms -
Whether it is a fact that the honorable member has stated that “ the trend of economic thought, and even of popular thought, realizes the iniquity of the recognition of private property in land. It is the one thing above all others that has cursed this country, and has cursed every other country of which we have any knowledge, and, unless it be abolished, it will curse these countries in the future ns they have never yet been cursed?”
That question did not appear on the notice-paper, to my great amazement, and I wrote a letter to the Clerk, from whom I received this reply -
Dear Sir. - I am in receipt of your letter of yesterday’s date. The question you refer to seemed to me one that I should submit to Mr. Speaker. I did so, and he decided that it was not a proper question to appear on the noticepaper. For that reason it was omitted.
I am quite sure, sir, that the Prime Minister uttered these words; but I am not so sure that he has not abandoned that idea, because I believe that if ever there was a champion political acrobat and political sword-swallower, it is the honorable gentleman. I think that he could swallow any political opinion. He may have swallowed this one; but it might possibly be that he still holds that view, and would be prepared to do something in the matter. Being a loyal Australian, and anxious about the welfare of our country, I was extremely desirous of ascertaining what particular proposal he had in his mind for doing away with private property in land. With considerable sympathy for you, sir, as a new occupant of the
Chair, it seems to me that you have established a new precedent. I am well aware that Speakers have undertaken, and rightly undertaken, to suppress questions which were not couched in parliamentary language; but I would like you to let me know in what respect my question regarding the Prime Minister is not in order ? If I ask a question of the Prime Minister, or another Minister, and he decides not to answer it, and you instruct the official reporter not to give the question in Hansard, or further, if I submit a question to you and you will not allow it to appear on the notice-paper, what answer am I to give to my constituents about carrying out my duties in the House?
– You held these views twenty years ago.
– I have never uttered language of that kind in my life.
– I have heard you speak on Free Trade very strongly indeed.
– There are only four letters, sir, with which to describe that statement of the honorable member.
– You know that it is true.
– I know that what the honorable member says is absolutely untrue.
– Order !
– I have been a Protectionist ever since I could think about politics.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I accept the honorable member’s denial.
– I withdraw the statement, sir, and ask that the honorable member shall withdraw his statement, which is quite incorrect.
– I accept the honorable member’s denial, and must express my regret that my memory misled me.
– The honorable member was asked to withdraw the statement.
– I do withdraw it, and express my regret that I misunderstood the honorable member when I was listening to him.
– The honorable member for Werriwa no doubt thought that such a statement might do me some political damage in the country. But for many years past I have figured at Protectionists’ Conferences and other similar gatherings, and people who know me are well aware that the statement is incorrect.
The honorable member for Werriwa will forgive me if I pay no more attention to him at the present time. I regret to find it necessary to take exception to the action which you, Mr. Speaker, have taken in regard to questions. I do not wish at this stage to make any announcement as to what I shall find it necessary to do to protect what I deem to be the privileges of honorable members; but in order that I may not have to take such steps, I sincerely hope that when a question is framed in decent parliamentary language it may be allowed to appear on the business-paper.
– I hope that the honorable member for Capricornia will not proceed precipitately to take any action in this case. I remember being placed in a somewhat similar position in reference to a question which I wished to address to the late Government relating to a very important issue of the day, when the late Speaker claimed to be the absolute arbiter as to the manner in which a question should be framed, and as to . whether it was one which should be asked in the House.
– What was the honorable member’s question?
– A matter came before the public which struck me at the time as being rather amusing, and I endeavoured to elicit some information in connexion with it. A really serious crisis occurred in Australia owing to the action of the Defence authorities in putting off some men who were engaged as markers at a rifle range. As a result of what occurred a new regulation was framed by the Minister of Defence, to the effect that in all cases where there was a dispute on a labour question, that dispute must not be settled by the responsible military officer on the spot, but must be referred to the Minister for his consideration. I was anxious to know how that regulation would work in time of war - whether possible invaders were to be expected to place themselves on terms of equality with our own Defence Forces, and to act in a spirit of consideration for them under the Minister’s new regulation. Accordingly, I asked a series of questions. Some of them were struck out. I felt strongly on the matter, and raised the question in the House next day, exactly as the honorable member for Capricornia has now raised an issue which I think ought to have been buried many, many years ago. In common decency, such a matter ought not to be allowed to bother Australian politics to-day. I intended, at the time to which I refer, to raise the issue as to the right of Mr. Speaker to disallow questions, but having thought over it, I came to the conclusion that although I myself felt strongly about the matter, nevertheless, the dignity of this House, and the necessity of supporting the Chair were of greater moment than my own feelings. I commend that aspect to the consideration of the honorable member.
– I expect that there was argument in the honorable member’s question, but there was no argument in mine.
– I can assure my honorable friend that the regulation referred to admitted of no argument, for it was too absurd. I merely wished to find out the full amplitude of its absurdity. I am afraid that the questions which the honorable member wished to put to-day had no other purpose than to be offensive to the Prime Minister. No matter on which side of the House we may sit, I do say that we ought at any rate to try to act fairly. Do not let us try to dig up dead issues, because there is not one of us who is entirely free from blame.
– It is quite true that while I was Speaker the honorable member for Wentworth did submit certain questions which I ruled out of order. Some of the honorable member’s questions were so impertinent that I had to take exception to them, and insist on their being put in parliamentary form.
– It occurred to me while the honorable member for Capricornia was speaking that, if a question which an honorable member desires to put is prevented by Mr. Speaker from appearing on the notice-paper, he can nevertheless put it on the motion for the adjournment. The honorable member for Capricornia is entitled to repeat this very question on the motion for the adjournment, and to ask for an answer from the Prime Minister. That shows the utter futility of the proceeding taken by you, Mr. Speaker, in preventing the question being asked.
– The honorable member must not reflect on the Chair.
– I have no intention of reflecting on the Chair, but merely wish to point out that if you prevent a question from going upon the notice-paper there is nothing to prevent it from being put on the motion for the adjournment. It is quite obvious that, though you can stop a question from going on the noticepaper, you have no power to interfere when an honorable member chooses to put a question at the adjournment stage. I submit, therefore, that the censoring of questions is utterly futile, and cannot contribute to the dignity and decorum of the House.
– With regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Cook, the discretionary powers of the Speaker to disallow questions which, in his judgment, are not proper to be asked is not confined to questions handed to the Clerk at the table, or asked without notice. The power of intervention by the Speaker applies to any stage of the proceedings of the House, and the indulgence in the present case is not to be taken as a precedent. In answer to the question put by the honorable member for Capricornia, I have to say that the questions referred to were brought under my notice by the Clerk. I desired to see the honorable member last night in reference to them, but I had no opportunity of speaking to him. In any case, Ministers were not to answer questions to-day. I therefore directed the Clerk not to put the notice of the question on the business-paper. The wording was more or less vague, and, so far as I could see, the question had no reference to any business of the Parliament, to any matter before the House, or to any public business at all; but related merely to an apparently abstract expression of opinion on an economic question. I could not see that it had any purpose other than that of annoying the Minister to whom it was addressed. Such questions have been declared not to be permissible by high parliamentary authorities.
– Of course, if you, sir, desire to protect the Prime Minister-
– I may have been mistaken, and I hope that I was, but if such questions were allowed to appear on the notice-paper, no honorable member occupying a position of Ministerial responsibility, or in charge of any business of the House, would be safe from constant improper attacks on matters and subjects entirely foreign to the recognised purpose of the privilege under which questions are allowed to be asked, and there is no knowing where the practice would end. The Standing Orders provide that “after notices have been given, questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs.” I could not see that the honorable member’s question related to public affairs within the cognizance of the House. I am indebted to a previous Speaker - I do not know whether my immediate predecessor or not - for a series of quotations on the point from standard authorities, left by accident or by design, in the Speaker’s copy of May’s Parliamentary Practice. These references have saved me a lot of trouble and time. I find that, according to May, page 248 -
Questions addressed to Ministers should relate to public affairs with which they are officially connected, to proceedings pending in Parliament, or to any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible.
May also says, pages 250-1 -
Nor can any question be asked regarding character or conduct, except of persons in their official or public capacity.
Then there is this extract from Brand’s Decisions, page 173 -
– I think it right to state to the House that the question of which the honorable member has given notice refers to matters which passed outside the walls of this House, and does not relate to any Bill or motion before the House, and that, therefore, it is a question which, according to the Rules of this House, cannot , be put.
That decision was given on the 27th April, 1876. Then Blackmore, page 126, says -
Questions relative to matters outside the House, and not bearing upon any matter before the House . . . questions adverting to matters beyond the cognizance of the House, are improper to be asked.
In Brand’s Decisions, page 174, there is another ruling given on the 17th June, 1880-
A question adverting to a matter beyond the cognizance of the House, or of Her Majesty’s Government, cannot be put.
With regard to the right of the Speaker to interfere in a matter of this kind, I would point out that interference is justified for more reasons than that the question is not couched in parliamentary language. That is shown by the rulings which I have cited, and also by rulings given by my distinguished predecessors. On the 6th September, 1911, Hansard, page 105; 19th September, page 572; and 20th September, page 633, Mr. Speaker McDonald ruled that the Speaker, until the House orders otherwise, is the sole judge as to whether a question is improper, and should be disallowed. Questions addressed to Ministers should relate to public affairs with which they are officially connected, to proceedings in Parliament, or to any matter of administration for which a Minister is responsible. There are other decisions on the subject, supporting those which I have already quoted, but I think I have quoted sufficient to show that I had proper authority for the action I took, and Ican assure the House that I took that action for the protection of every honorable member. I am reminded by the Clerk that the question of which the honorable member for Capricornia gave notice was asked without notice, and that the Minister to whom it was’ addressed declined to answer it. That was an additional reason why it should not appear on the notice-paper.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The honorable member has already spoken.
– I hesitated because I expected to be interrupted by the Minister. I wish to make a personal explanation. Amongst my reasons for asking the question
– The honorable member may not give his reasons now.
– I am trying to explain
– The honorable member is not entitled to do that at the present time; he could have done it when speaking before. Any personal explanation that he makes now must be in regard to some misrepresentation to which he has been subjected. Unless he can show that he has been misrepresented, he is not entitled to speak again.
– The misrepresentation under which I am suffering is your suggestion, sir, that my question had nothing to do with any matter of public policy. I wish to explain that I had in my mind the public policy with regard to land in the Northern Territory and in the Federal Capital area.
– That is not apparent from the wording of the question.
– I was wondering whether the Prime Minister proposes to abolish private property in land, and I wished to be assured on the point.
.- Twenty years ago I heard the honorable member for Capricornia give utterance to very strong views similar to those expressed in the quotation about which he wishes to ask a question. If, with the lapse of time, he has changed his opinions, I hope he will accept that explanation.
– The honorable member said that I was a Free Trader.
– I am under the impression that I heard the honorable member speak at South Sydney, and that afterwards he and I spoke to one another on the subject. I should be sorry if my recollection is at fault.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.33p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130814_reps_5_70/>.