5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. Last evening, the honorable member for Werriwa made a statement, apparently in a magnanimous way, without desire to do an injury to me or to reflect on me. He said, “ My impression is that I stood on the same platform as the honorable member twenty-two years ago, when he was a Free Trader.” Those who know me are aware that I have always claimed to be a Protectionist, and the statement of the .honorable member, made in that manner, may misrepresent me before the public. Z produce evidence that the statement was incorrect. Last night I characterized it as untrue, and had to withdraw the expression ; but the honorable member accepted my denial, though he afterwards repeated his statement. In the Sydney Evening Newt of 9th June, 1891, that is twenty -two years ago, there is a report of an election meeting addressed by me and by Mr. Frederick Flower 3, : now a member of the Legislative Council of New South Wales and Chief Secretary in the Holman Ministry. That report states that -
Messrs. Higgs and Flowers, the candidates selected by the South Sydney Labour Electoral League, addressed a large meeting last night from the balcony of the City View Hotel, Randlestreet. . .’ He (Mr. Higgs) was a Protectionist, but sided with neither Mr. Dibbs nor Sir Henry Parkes, and if elected he would sit on the cross benches. Mr. Flowers spoke of the various issues now before the people, and concluded by saying that he was also a Protectionist, but from a working man’s point of view.
The report in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the same date, and of the same meeting, says -
He (Mr. Higgs) did not wish to trios. He was a Protectionist.
The report in the Australian Star of the same date, and of the same meeting, says -
Both the candidates. Messrs. Higgs and Flowers, in reply to a question on the fiscal policy, which it appears it is impossible to sink, declared that they were in favour of Protection, an announcement which was received with ringing cheers.
The ringing cheers did not amount to much, because we did not win the seat. Had I announced myself a Free Trader twenty-two years ago, I should, without doubt, have been elected ‘ to the New South Wales Parliament. If the honorable member for Werriwa can produce a report of a speech made by me twentytwo years ago, or at any other time, in favour of Free Trade, I shall resign my seat forthwith.
.- In dealing last evening with the rural workers’ log and its effect on the farming community, the honorable member for West Sydney - according to the report of to-day’s newspapers - charged me with having stated that under it farmers’ sons would be prevented from being employed on their fathers’ farms. The honorable member is not now present, but I direct your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the report of his remarks, so that he may have an opportunity to withdraw them, or, if he can, to repeat them and furnish proof of their correctness. I deny absolutely that I made the statement attributed to me.
Debate resumed from 14th August (vide page 186), 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 it please 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.
.- I think that it will be generally admitted that the House never heard the honorable member for Adelaide to better advantage than last night, when his speech recalled the well-remembered dictum of the honorable member for Darwin, that the members of his party were all workers, with but one exception; that they had only one talker, and that was “ Brother Roberts.” We never heard the talker of the Labour party to greater advantage than last night, nor were his flights of fancy ever before quite so untrammelled. He objected to the way in which the Prime Minister had roared, and congratulated the Attorney-General on not having roared. But he himself occupied an hour and thirty-five minutes in either roaring or squealing, to the immense enlightenment of those behind him, and to the secret amusement of every member on this side of the House.
He said that he, his friends, and his colleagues had been building up palaces. Is it because they have been dragged from those palaces that there has been all this squealing during the past three days? What palaces did the Labour Government build for the working man during its three years of office ? What good have the members of the Labour party done for any body in the community except themselves? In a letter which I have received from the Common wealth Statistician, this statement appears -
Effective wages, which take account of the change in the wage-index and change in the price-index, show thai either for working full time or allowing for lost time there has been a falling off in effective wages in 1912.
In other words, the culminating year of the Labour party’s tenure of office showed an actual decrease in the effective wage-earning power of the community. Yet the members of the party would have us believe that some persons other than themselves have lost something because they had to be scraped from office after the popular verdict given on the 31st May last.
The honorable member for Adelaide., in the effort to be unduly offensive, spoke of the members on this side as having come to heel. This Government have come to heal - to heal the demoralization and chaos that have existed in the public Departments. And they are going to stay. We are going “ to heal “ before we leave our offices.
– It is a bad thing to prophesy. You have to depend on one vote, and if Johnson gets sick-
– Is that the reason why so many efforts have been made to embarrass the Chair during the last two days? Is there an effort to break down the health of Mr. Speaker? Is that the reason why we are having this sort of thing day after day, sitting after sitting? I do hope my honorable friends opposite will endeavour to carry out their views by the enunciation of principles, and not by the wearing down of the health of the members of this Chamber.
I could not help feeling last night that there may be something after all in the statement of the Prime Minister that where a man has changed his views he occasionally becomes all the more bitter for it. I wondered - upon my soul, I could not help wondering - time after time whether this was the same Mr. Roberts who, only a few years ago in Adelaide, put it on actual record in a letter to the Register that he “ was not, never was, and never would’ be a member of a Labour organization.” Sir, it is the same Mr. Roberts; but his attitude now only shows us what bitterness can lay behind these sudden changes of view, of which honorable members on this side of the House do not complain, though when they appear for the benefit of this side, those who have seen fit to change their views are denounced as renegades, as traitors, as scabs, and as black-legs, and their lives are made as intolerable as honorable members opposite can make them.
We hear these gentlemen opposite actually talking to us as if they had some peculiar right to represent the working community. I ask my honorable friends, without any desire to be offensive, are they any more personally allied with the industrial community by virtue of their daily occupation than are members on this side of the House? I take my honorable friend, the member for Darwin, for whom I have an intense admiration, because he is at any rate candid. That honorable member, in Sydney during the progress of the last election, told us - and I believe him - that he had never done an honest day’s work in his life. Yet these gentlemen would have us believe that they differ from their colleagues in this House, and that they areall workers ! Sir, “ They toil not, neither do they spin “ - except they spin the sort of yarns that we heard here last night. “I believe these gentlemen opposite owed their transient popularity in Australia to the fact that they had pirated and lived upon the noble name of labour for the last decade ; and it is because the public have now begun to recognise that, while they call themselves a Labour party, they are merely a party that lives on labour, that they have been ejected from office, and a new party has been put into the Departments of this country to endeavour to set to rights the state of chaos that has resulted from the converse of business method and prudent application that has disfigured their administration during the past few years.
An opportunity is now presented of checking their administrative methods, and the time has come when Australia should take some stock as to the cost of her public undertakings under the system introduced by the preceding Government. As far as lay within them, they did everything by day labour. If we take one means of comparison we find very serious grounds for disquietude. As the honorable member for Darwin knows, at Jervis Bay the first three houses erected were built by contract. They were wooden cottages, consisting of five rooms and offices. Those cottages cost, according to the contract price, £336. The actual cost, I think, amounted to about £385, because the contractor failed. I turn from Jervis Bay to Canberra, where I find that the average cost of houses consisting of six rooms and offices - that is one room more than at Jervis Bay - ranges from £700 to £900 under the daylabour system.
– Is there any difference in the size of the rooms?
– I will give the best analysis I can with regard to that. If you cube out the value, you find that the actual cost of construction of the cottages at Jervis Bay was something under 4½d., while the cube value at Canberra was 7½d. - an increase of nearly 100 per cent.
– Material was dearer there. If the Minister knew anything about the matter he would know that.
– Is there anything that the honorable member for East Sydney does not know about, from small-pox onwards ? I am willing to admit that all these houses were not built from the same specifications. But the cottages at Jervis Bay are serviceable buildings. In the Canberra cottages there are certain differences - there is some lath and plaster which does not exist in the other places. A third means of comparison in this matter lies between the cottages at Jervis Bay and the captain’s quarters at Duntroon, which are also wooden houses. They consist of seven rooms and offices - two more rooms than at Jervis Bay. The cost of them is £1,136. That is a good deal for a small wooden cottage.
– Is the honorable member going to sack the responsible officers?
– I am not going to sack any one. Honorable members opposite talk as if the livelihood of an officer were of no moment to him. We must protect the public servants from these attempts to drive them from their livelihood. If these figures prove to be correct, making allowance for the slight difference in the cost of material and construction, it is the system that will have to be sacked.
– Those buildings at Duntroon had to be put up very quickly.
– They have only just been completed, and I find that the plaster is already so discolored that it will have to be covered over again within a few months.
– How can the honorable gentleman blame the Minister for that?
– I have not mentioned the Minister.
– The Assistant Minister is good at slinging mud.
– When we merely offer a means of comparison between the cost of houses erected under the contract system and the cost of houses constructed by means of day labour, we are at once accused by the honorable member for East Sydney of “slinging mud”! The honorable member for Capricornia, too, from the ambuscade of a coat of great fashion, suggests that it is not a fair thing that I should make such statements.
– What is the Assistant Minister going to do with the officers who are responsible for such a scandalous waste of public money?
– The public have taken the first step towards curing this evil by throwing out of office the Ministry which was responsible for the system. The introduction of the day-labour system cannot be charged against the officers of the Department, who are there merely to carry out their duties.
– Is not the trouble due to the incapacity of the officers who have been charged with the erection of these buildings?
– Is not that an extraordinary suggestion? For three years my honorable friends have watched the officers “ spending the money like toffs,” while ex-Ministers were fond of proclaiming that they were not “ rubber stamps.” The honorable member for Darwin himself accepted all responsibility, and now my honorable friends wish us to “ sack “ the officers because the country has already “ sacked “ the chief.
– Say that again, now that the honorable member for Darwin has entered the Chamber.
– I have merely been defending the honorable member, let me tell him, from the suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke, that while administering the Department of Home Affairs he occupied the position of a mere animated rubber stamp !
On the subject of preference to unionists, to which the honorable member for Adelaide referred last night with such heat-
– I would prefer to have said “squealed.” Let us examine this question of preference to unionists. What is it that unionists will have lost if effect be given to the proposal that we intend to submit? They will not have lost any power to obtain a preference at the hands of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court - they will merely have thrown off the incubus which my honorable friends opposite placed on their shoulders in 1910, when Labour members allowed union funds to be depleted for the noble purpose of sending those gentlemen back to this Parliament !
– What nobler purpose could there be?
– Exactly. I need say no more. That is the whole explanation.
– I wish that the unions would put some of their funds at my disposal when I am fighting.
– Why, the honorable member ought to share his wealth with the other members of the party.
-That interjection brings me to a very serious subject, namely, as to what constitutes a “ rooster,” and what a “ Christian brother.” The honorable member for Darwin is a “ Christian brother,” who is so rich that the honorable member for Bourke is asking that he should share his “ boodle “ with him. Here is a man admittedly possessed of great “ boodle,” and I congratulate him upon its possession. Like a number of his colleagues, he is now - perhaps as the result of advocating the abolition of wealth - a rich roan. But how is it possible for a man to be wealthy on that side of politics and still remain a “ Christian brother,” while some stationmanager, on a salary perhaps of £250 a year, is of necessity a “rooster”?
– We are only common roosters when it comes to the question of the distribution of wealth.
– The honorable member means that he will fight for what he has got.
– I have not much. I will fight for what the other fellow has.
– In view of this, it does seem to me that we ought to throw aside all this nonsense about “ capitalists “ and” labour men.” Before me I see a party of capitalists - almost every one of them - with the exception of the new members. They have not had time to become capitalists yet. All of them, according to the dictum of the honorable member for Darwin, are really “ roosters,” although they call themselves “ Christian brothers.” I think the public has begun to realize that this question of Labour versus Capital is all nonsense in the way in which it is talked of by my honorable friends. Undoubtedly there is in one sense a dividing line between the administrators of capital and those who are serving capital in the various activities which it creates, but it is ridiculous to suggest that honorable members opposite, who, according to the honorable- member for Adelaide, have been busy building palaces during the last three years, are good Labour men allthe time, whilstno man on this side of the chamber has any claim to be considered other than a “ rooster.”
– There are no poor men over there.
– I think that the difference between the two parties is that upon this side of the chamber the poorest men are those who have been longest in politics, whereas on the other side the only poor men are those who have just entered political life.
– I do not know what is the Assistant Minister’s idea of poverty. I know that I have been a long time in politics, and that I have not” scraped” much.
– No doubt the honorable member is living in hopes.
I come now to the question of trusts. We have been told by the honorable member for Adelaide that trusts and combines are responsible for all the increased cost of living. Is that opinion honestly held by my honorable friends opposite?
– There is not much honesty in politics; the Assistant Minister knows that.
– Is that an admission that there is no honesty in these protests regarding . the trusts ? Is it really seriously contended that trusts and combines are responsible for all the increases in the cost of living?
– Do not look at me, Kelly.
– Then do not be suspicious) brother. If the honorable member believes it let him say so; if he does not believe it, let him remain silent.
– Do not set mouse-traps like that.
– Failing an answer, let me ask - what represents the biggest increase in the cost of living in the great metropolitan areas during recent years? In Sydney, undoubtedly, it is house rents. Can it be claimed that there is a trust or combine which regulates house rents? Even the honorable member for East Sydney remains silent.
– What is the question?
– I am asking whether there is any combination amongst landlords to increase rents?
– Then the honorable member for Darwin is in it up to his neck. So also is the ex- Attorney-General and all the other Labour landlords upon the opposite side of the chamber who are out with this gang for exploiting the tenants of Australia.
– The Assistant Minister himself is doing very well out of rents, so that he cannot speak too loudly.
– For the moment I cannot think of any house from which I derive a rental.
– It is the capitalistic policy of immigration which is responsible for the high rents.
– Then, in Sydney, where there has been the greatest increase in rents, it must be the capitalistic policy of the State Labour Government which is responsible for the high rents?
– And in Western Australia, too.
– Yes. The Governments of both of those States must have been busy helping the capitalists to increase rents. If I could offer any solution of this question of the increase in rentals in cities like Sydney, I should say that it is because the demand for houses is overstepping all chance of supply. And the Labour party have deliberately prevented the supply from catching up to the demand by threatening all sorts of rental courts, with the result that new investors have been dissuaded from building houses throughout the metropolitan area.
Talking of the sweets of office, I could not help laughing last night at the real sincerity which the honorable member for Adelaide introduced into his bitter complaints that almond-rock had gone up from 8d. to1s. per lb. - actually an increase of 33 per cent. The honorable member wasfor the moment almost speechless with indignation. Can you not remember him last night, Mr. Speaker, with his hand over his heart, tears in his voice, and his tongue in his cheek, telling us about this vast increase in the cost of living in connexion with the price of almond-rock?
– The sweets of the poor.
– Yes, the sweets of the poor; the almond-rock of the gentlemen opposite. There have been other increases in the cost of living. I can, for instance, remember an increase in the printing trade. Any one who happens to be engaged in that trade - and I see the honorable member for Franklin present
– Unfortunately, I am not engaged in it.
-But the honorable member knows a good deal of what happened in this connexion, and he and others who do will recognise that if there has been an increase in the cost of printing it has not been anything like 100 per cent., or even 30 per cent. Yet we find that one establishment has actually had the temerity, and the indecency, I think, to increase by 250 per cent. the cost of turning out identical circulars in the course of the last five years.
– The honorable member knows the cause - the combination of master printers.
– Now we are getting to the root of the trouble! It is the combination of master printers, we are told, that makes the Sydney Worker office put up the cost of issuing the rules of Political Labour Leagues in New South Wales from 2s. per 100 to 5s. per 100, cash on delivery ! There never has been an increase, in legitimate trade, to so alarming an extent. The Sydney Worker has put up the cost to this extent because, we are told, of the master printers’ combination.
– I did not pay that increase.
– The honorable member did not pay, and that is why they now insist on “ payment on delivery.”
There is one other matter in connexion with these trusts to which the honorable member for Adelaide drew the most pathetic attention. He quoted the Beef Trust-
Here isa 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 organisation 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.
I asked, last night, after that statement had been made, whether the Beef Trust was operating in Australia, and was informed, I think by the honorable member for Yarra, that it had begun operations in South Australia.
-I did not say South Australia.
– The honorable member does not now commit himself to any particular place. Honorable members opposite are not prepared to do so. During the last general election, this Beef Trust seemed to be in operation in every part of Australia save the particular place where the people were being addressed by the Labour orator for the time being! We had it in Sydney for a moment. We had the honorable member for West Sydney gyrating in the Sydney Town Hall about the question of the Beef Trust.
– Perhaps he, like Mr. Trefle, too, had had lunch with the Beef Trust.
– And I can show how Mr. Trefle blew out the Beef Trust in one act so far as New South Wales is concerned. The Labour party talk a lot about the Trust. They tell us that they will not bow the knee to Baal. That is the phrase used by the exAttorneyGeneral, and explains, perhaps, why they will take off their boots when they come into the presence. However that may be, we know that Mr. Trefle, in Sydney, made a speech in which he admitted that he and the Beef Trust had had some conversation upon this very question of setting up business in New South Wales. Do not let us do any injustice to Mr. Trefle. Let us see how the Beef Trust - this frightful octopus - was “ scotched “ there -
Speaking at Waverley on Saturday -
I am quoting from a report published in the Sydney Sun of 19th and 20th Mayand, as the report wag verbatim, the same in two different issues, I think we can take it for granted that some one acting for Mr. Trefle had seen to its insertion - Mr. Trefle said -
Some time back a. prominent representative of the Meat Trust came and saw me.
They always know to whom to go. In the last Parliament, when we were dealing with that other “octopus” - the Shipping Ring - members of the Liberal party were never bothered by the directors of that great enterprise. No. The lion laid down with the lambs, and the Shipping Ring, by means of their Navigation Bill, got a monopoly such as they never would have dreamed of getting from any Liberal Government in Australia.
– -And they are making the best use of it.
– Exactly. The report continues -
The Trust had certain intentions with regard to New South Wales, and desired to know my feelings on the matter before going to the Cabinet.
Were they not good judges?
My visitor was a clever and courteous gentleman. I knew that he could read me through like a book.
At any rate, he went to see him -
Perhaps I could read him through, too. He was undoubtedly a very intelligent and wellspoken gentleman. We got on very well together. We went and had a very pleasant luncheon - says Mr. Trefle. They got on very well together, the Labour Minister and the octopus - over a bottle of champagne, perhaps -
I enjoyed his company immensely. Afterwards we got to business. You know, ladies and gentlemen, that under the law no one can start killing works within fourteen miles of abattoirs. Well, my visitor put this straight question to me : ‘’ If we were to build beyond the fourteen-mile limit, would your Government amend the law to prevent us?” And I gave him this answer : “ Mr. So-and-So, the whole spirit of the Labour movement is dead against the operations of such a combination as you represent ; we would take action. and because the State Government of New South Wales - and any other State Government is in the same position - could prevent the slaughtering within its jurisdiction of a single beast, the celebrated octopus vanished into thin air, and they did not even take the trouble to bury it with flowers. On the day following this statement the honorable member for West Sydney had another dash at the Meat Trust. This time, however, it had gone to Townsville. It had gone to a State where there was a Liberal Government in power ! Last night, I thought I heard from the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs that this evasive corporation had actually started operations in Adelaide.
– I never said any such thing; I said it had erected a building on the Brisbane River; and that cannot be denied.
– Is it true that this trust has erected the building 1
– At any rate, the plans are out - -I would not say that the building is erected.
– Oh, the plans are out? The building was up a moment ago !
– For an eight-story building on the Brisbane River.
– The flights of imagination that have seized honorable members opposite in regard to the Beef Trust are amongst the most amusing things we have heard in this connexion. I have to say that the present Government will not dally with the trusts - we will not accept of their hospitality and discuss with them how we may do business with them. And we shall undoubtedly see that no trust in Australia exploits the people of Australia in an illegitimate way.
– What roti
– But the Liberal party will take the trusts’ money for election expenses I
– The honorable member knows that that statement is absolutely without foundation - no one knows it better than himself. The Labour party professes to be the enemy of trusts, but it has shown itself willing to foster trusts in the National Parliament. Only a few years ago, we had members of that party talking from end to end of the continent about that allegedly iniquitous institution, the Tobacco Trust ; and we remember how that enterprise was described as the most malignant and dangerous octopus that had ever appeared in the life of any country.
– The trusts do not subscribe to our funds, though they do to the funds of the Liberal party.
– They do not.
– They subscribe to the socalled Liberal organizations.
– Those gentlemen opposite, who will not bow the knee to Baal, are now called upon, in the most natural way in the world, by magnates, and take off their “boots when they go into the sacred presence of the Tobacco Trust. I can only say that this Government will put into operation the law as we have it with regard to trusts and combines whenever occasion demands.
– The law is quite harmless.
– Is it? At any rate, the Government propose to do a great deal more than the Labour Government were prepared to do. In 1910, the AntiTrust Act was amended, because it was said that, as handed down to the Labour Government by their predecessors, it was harmless.
– So it was. Any AntiTrust Act is harmless.
– Then why should the Labour Government ask for further powers - ask for an amendment of the Constitution? Let us see exactly what the ex -Attorney- General thought about the Act of 1910. In that year, the honorable gentleman said -
Before we can deal with any trust, monopoly, or combine under the Act, it is necessary to prove intent to restrain trade, and detriment to the public.
It is something which, in the very nature of the case, is practically incapable of proof, and when we have to prove intent and detriment the matter becomes doubly difficult.
The legislation, as it now exists, does not give the people an opportunity to deal with combines, owing to the fact that it is necessary to prove intent to restrain trade and detriment to the public, both of which are extremely difficult, if not almost impossible, of proof.
All that we are asking for is that we may not be placed in a ridiculous and farcical position when confronted with a combine that is exploiting thepublic by being asked to prove that which, on the face of it, no individual can prove.
That speech having been made by the ex-Attorney-General, this House practically without discussion passed an amending Bill on the same day. What happened ? The ex-Attorney-General proceeded against the Coal Vend, not of his own origination, but because he could not help himself, his predecessor having originated the action. But, when forced to proceed, surely the honorable gentleman could have used the Act of 1910, which he said was absolutely essential unless the Government was to be placed in a humiliating and ridiculous position? None the less, he did not use the Act of 1910, but, I think, the Act of 1906 as amended in 1909. There were a few procedure sections in the Act of 1910, and, so far as these were con cerned, the honorable gentleman used that Act, but, as to the proof of detriment to the public, he proceeded under the Act of 1906. Now, why did the action fail in Australia? Because we did not prove “ detriment to the public.” Consequently, if the ex-Attorney-General had proceeded under the Act of 1910, he might, possibly, have been in a very different position.
– Was the case not before the Court when the Act of 1910 was passed?
– The case was filed, at any rate; but surely we do not accept in all cases the course of procedure laid down by our predecessors? It was admitted in this Parliament that the Act of 1906 would expose the Commonwealth to humiliation and ridicule if we attempted, under that Act, to prove detriment to the public; and yet the late Government deliberately proceeded to the very humiliation they knew they were courting.
The ex-Attorney-General was quick to realize that this was a very vulnerable point; and, in the Sydney Town Hall, he deliberately stated that it was not true that the Government had not used the Act of 1910. Let me do the honorable gentleman the justice of quoting his exact language.
– That was stated by all the Labour press of Australia.
– Quite so. The Sydney Morning Herald of 1st May quotes the ex-Attorney-General as follows - it is true the 1910 Act was used. It is not true that it was not used. while the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the same date reports the honorable gentleman as saying -
It is clear from those two reports what the honorable gentleman said at that meeting. On the 29th April, reported on the 30th, the following statement was made by the ex-Attorney-General in the Sydney Town Hall -
I now come to a particular point on which he (Mr. Cook) dwells, namely, that the Commonwealth has a power in the1910 AntiTrust Act amply sufficient to deal with trusts; that the Labour Government had deliberately refrained from using this Act…..; Not one of these assertions is true. The1910 Act was used in the Vend case. The Crown relied very strongly on. that Act all through the Vend case. We not only did not refrain from using the 1910 Act, but having instructed the
Crown Solicitor to prosecute within a few days of our taking office, under the 1906-7 Anti-Trust Act, and finding that the evidence at our disposal could not, or might not, be made available under that Act as it stood, we immediately introduced an amending Act to remedy this defect, and, having passed the law, we used it. This is something quite beyond the comprehension of the Fusion - to pass an Act and then actually put it in force is for them an unthinkable thing. We used the 1910 Act. We passed it for that purpose. But it is nottruethat it effected any material alteration in the substantive law. It was essentially a procedure Act.
But it was soon proved conclusively in the eyes of the public of New South Wales that there was something wrong with the statement of the ex- Attorney-General - something very wrong, and consequently, in a letter which the honorable gentleman wrote to the Daily Telegraph of Sydney on the 7th May, he said -
I am now charged with having stated that the Vend prosecution was brought under the 1910 Act, and not under the 1906-9 Act. My own words are misquoted, and carefully selected extracts from the judgment of the Court are published to support this infamous charge…. I call the charge infamous. It is so. I will deal with the whole matter from A to Z, and prove it to be so. I will prove that I never made such a statement as that attributed to me.
And so on over two columns. He continued -
No man lawyer or layman, could say that I said at that meeting that the prosecution was made under the1910 Act, and not under the 1906-9 Act ! That I said the contrary is so clear that only the venom of wilful misrepresentation could cloud it.
Now, let us see what the venom of wilful misrepresentation is. The honorable member must have meant that he was misreported by the Sydney press.
– They would not do it.
– Do my friends wish me to believe that the member for West Sydney, as he infers, was misreported in the statement I have read from the Sydney press of the 30th April ? The only possible conclusion one can derive from the remarks of the honorable member is that he was misreported by those newspapers, but I would like to draw attention to the fact that this report of the honorable member’s remarks is identically word for word, and comma for comma, the same in both newspapers. In other words, it was supplied in manuscript to the press reporters by the honorable member himself at that meeting in the Sydney Town Hall ! Let us have done with this sort of method of conducting an election, which strikes me as the very re verse of that simple, honest, and open candour the electors have a right to expect at the hands of the elected. If members of Parliament are going to deliberately deceive, delude, and defraud the people who trust them, what is to become of that institution of representative government of which these gentlemen prate so much, and for which they do so little ?
– You ought to have attended the meetings of the honorable member for Wilmot.
– At any rate, here I have proof of the meetings of the honorable member for West Sydney, even if the truth as given by my friend the honorable member for Wilmot was not so cleverly presented and dished up as the untruth presented by the honorable member for West Sydney.
I think honorable members opposite might well put their discretion in front of them in this matter, and cease prating about trusts in Australia. We have seen the way in which they have helped the trusts; we have seen the way in which they have deliberately fostered trusts in Australia ; we have seen, in relation to the one proposal they instituted, that the shipping project spoken of in Tasmania by the honorable member for Darwin, and for which, I dare say, he was the sponsor, was carefully selected to be established in a place where it could not come into competition with that alleged octopus, the Shipping Ring, because the only ships it could compete with were those of the Union Company, not connected with the ring.
– They are up to their necks in it.
– If that is so, it is a recent addition. It is very difficult in these matters of shipping to have possession of all the facts. The honorable member for Darwin made a statement in Tasmania which, no doubt, was true, that we were going to have a faster service from Tasmania to the mainland.
– A 30-knot boat.
– A 30-mile boat.
– That was the length of it, I suppose?
– They are running 35 -mile boats f romNewYork to Boston. Australia ought to be as clever as America in these things, and not be a laughing-stock; but, of course, you are all antiquated here.
– If we may have on this side a few differences of temporary opinion - because I have no doubt the honorable member for Franklin is right, for he has studied the question - is that not much better than having differences of opinion among Ministers voiced in the public press immediately prior to an election ? I ask whether the honorable member for Darwin was properly treated by his colleagues when they denounced this project of his as one that was utterly and eminently silly ? Was it not opposed to all the principles of loyalty supposed to exist among Ministers, that other Ministers whose electorates were nothing like so difficult as that of the honorable member for Darwin - even though he had control of the electoral machinery - exposed him to difficulties of that kind in his electorate ? I venture to say it was not fair, and my sympathies have been with my friend entirely through this business. I do not wish to say much more upon the trust question.
– You had better put the honorable member for Franklin right in his statement.
– No, I accept his statement. I was under the impression from the hearsay evidence I had that the Union Company were not in the Australian Shipping Ring. I have no recollection of that steamship company coming up to interview the late AttorneyGeneral, but I can remember almost all the other shipping companies coming up to interview him from day to day.
– I think there is an honorable understanding between them.
– Does the honorable member say. there was an honorable understanding between the Shipping Ring and the ex-Attorney-General?
– Are you prepared to repeal the Navigation Act, which is a protectionist measure?
– This is an intensely amusing thing. Is it because members opposite talk Protection that they gave the Shipping Ring a complete monopoly of the Australian passenger trade ? People cannot travel on any steamers except the ships of the Australian Shipping Ring, and all, forsooth because they had to make it aProtectionist measure ! When the honorable member for Capricornia was speaking with the honorable member for Werriwa twenty-two years ago-
– I never spoke on the same platform as the honorable member for Werriwa, and you know it.
– I would not put anything past the honorable member for Capricornia.
– You are an impudent impostor in saying that after hearing my explanation.
– I do not think it matters what the honorable member says.
– Nothing would matter to a man with a hide like yours.
– The honorable member is quite right, but I do not have to cover it so effectively as the honorable member. This extraordinary explanation is now given by the honorable member for Capricornia, that it was necessary to give the Shipping Ring a complete monopoly of the passenger traffic because, he says, they had to, as they were Protectionists. Then why did they make the one exemption in that measure in the interests of black-labour steamers owned by a Dutch company, running to Papua?
– You have a chance to alter the Act.
– From present appearances, we are not likely to have the opportunity. I believe the people of Australia like a fair deal, and they will not consider it is a fair deal that the Government to which they have given a majority should be held up by a party that no longer possesses the confidence of the country, although it enjoyed three years of office during most prosperous seasons.
– We are going to watch your particular game.
– On the matter of the Tariff ? I am delighted to follow my friends into that sphere. We know the cleverness of our honorable friends opposite in misrepresenting our position from time to time. Let me say that our policy in this matter has been given effect to in the firstinstance by the appointments already made to the Inter-State Commission. I refer to the policy of constituting a Board to consider, impartially and judicially, the Tariff interests of the country. That policy was denounced during the elections by the honorable member for West Sydney as a fraud and a delusion. The honorable gentleman made fun of it. He said that this Government proposed to hand over everything to Boards. He said it was going to give the postal employes what they wanted, namely, a Board, and it was going to settle the Tariff by a Board. Everything was to be done by a Board. But we find that the honorable gentleman was himself in favour of a Board, as late as only the 10th October last. He was at the time attending a manufacturers’ dinner. It is a glorious spectacle to find the Honorable William Hughes, archangel and advance agent to the new Protection, sitting down to a manufacturers’ banquet.
– The members of the present Government have done nothing else but attend banquets since the elections.
– I think it is right that honorable members should hear something about the dining habit of our predecessors in office. They should hear something of the grand plate-laying in connexion with the trans-continental railway. We know that thousands of plates were laid at both ends of that line, at two great banquets, and not a single thing was done afterwards. This is what the honorable member for West Sydney said at the manufacturers’ banquet -
He hoped to see some comprehensive review and revision of the Tariff on a scientific and business basis. The Tariff was not a question to be treated as if it were one of party politics. True, Protection and Freetrade were party questions, but once they established a fiscal policy for Australia, than the giving effect to that policy should not be a party matter at all. The adjustment of the Tariff was a matter for investigation and adjustment on the merits of each particular item.
– Did the honorable gentleman say that it was not a party question ?
– Then, what is the meaning of the censure motion ?
– The Prime Minister might very well ask that question, but I am quoting the honorable member for West Sydney without comment. He said further -
He admitted that Parliament was not the best instrument to arrive at that information. Whether the Inter-State Commission or seme other body should do so was a matter foi consideration ; but the question should be settled on those lines, having regard to the requirements of the manufacturers, workmen, and consumers, and the public generally.
From this, honorable members will see that the honorable gentleman was advocating our policy when he spoke before the manufacturers on the 10th October last. Now, the policy of the Labour party used to be new Protection. Quoting from Hansard of 14th November, 1911, I find that the honorable member for West Sydney said -
Here on this side is a party, homogeneous and pledged to the policy of new Protection, lock, stock, and barrel ; here is a party pledged to that policy to such an extent that it is prepared to act solidly as one man regarding the Tariff.
Let me further remind honorable members that at the Hobart Conference a Western Australian delegate moved that ‘ New Protection 1 ‘ be amended to read “Effective Protection;” and I quote the following from the report of the proceedings: -
Mr. Watson opposed the amendment, saying: “ that the plank of new Protection was adopted, and personally he did not want much of the old idea of Protection for the manufacturer only. To ask the people of Australia to make sacrifices to encourage industries that did not pay fair wages, did not appeal to him.”
Mr. Fisher pointed out the difference between new Protection and effective Protection. Victoria, before Federation, had effective Protection, but it did not affect the workers as did the new Protection which was advocated by the Labour party. Labour stood for fair and reasonable wage, and an industry that would not pay that did not deserve to stand.
Thus, through the opposition of Messrs. Fisher and Watson, the proposed plank of effective Protection was destroyed, and, in my humble judgment, by misrepresentation. But in time, the Labour party found that, in spite of the fact that they were spending money like princes, and arranged banquets for every work that was started, and never afterwards proceeded with; in spite of their efforts also to placate the manufacturing interest, they were losing ground as the time for the elections approached. They found that even the supreme bribe to the motherhood of Australia, the maternity bonus, was not bringing them the support which they hoped from it, and it was necessary that they should look to something else for support. We then had the following statement, made in the Maryborough speech by the same Mr. Fisher whose utterances I have just quoted. Referring to the powers asked for by the referenda, he said -
Should the people, however, decide not to take to themselves, through their Federal Parliament, these powers, the Government pledges itself to take an early opportunity to amend the Tariff to give effective Protection to Australian industry.
Now, what was the real reason for that? They were trying to fix up a deal. There is a great journal published in this State that stands for the principle of effective Protection. The Labour party, through the mouth of the ex -Prime Minister, was trying its level best to arrive at a bargain with the Melbourne Age in order that its Victorian candidates should receive the support of that great journal. If that were not the purpose of his remarks at Maryborough, then the Mr. Fisher who spoke at the Hobart Conference was forsworn for no purpose whatever. We have the spectacle of the leaders of Labour democracy grovelling before a “ capitalistic “ organ.
– We fought them from every platform, and beat them out of sight.
– That was later, when my honorable friends found the deal was off.
– I have walloped them for twelve years.
– When the fugue is finished, I propose to show how my honorable friends opposite did fight this proposal of the ex-Prime Minister in his Maryborough speech. We were told that the Labour party were “ lock, stock, and barrel” united on the question of the Tariff.
– Honorable members opposite were never told that.
– I read that just now; but I shall read it again for the honorable member. The statement was made by the honorable member for West Sydney, a fairly honorable man - I mean as honorable members opposite go - and I assume that he would not tell a deliberate falsehood.
– The honorable gentleman need not read it again.
– The honorable gentleman said -
Here, on this side, is a party, homogeneous and pledged to the policy of new Protection, lock, stock, and barrel.
– Hear, Hear! “New Protection.”
– The honorable gentleman went on to say -
Here is a party pledged to that policy to such an extent that it is prepared to act solidly as one man regarding ‘the Tariff.
What does my honorable friend think of that statement? That should be enough to quote for the moment. This conspiracy between the honorable member for Wide Bay and his supporters to secure the support of the Melbourne Age was saved by a somewhat fortuitous circumstance. Students of history are aware that at one time the cackling of geese saved Rome, and the speech of Mathews saved the Australian Protectionist party ! I quote the following from a newspaper report of the 4th April of a speech made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports at the Port Melbourne Town Hall, on 3rd April, 1913.
– Is not that rather rough on the geese?
– I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports can claim that he woke up the people quite as effectively as did the geese, and for just as good a reason.
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. The Labour party had advocated new Protection, and the Ministry had gone back on it. He would not follow the Prime Minister in that matter.
They were now “ lock, stock, and barrel “ disunited ! But the honorable member for West Sydney came down to Melbourne and gave an interview to a representative of the Argus on the 9th April. Referring to the attitude of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, he said -
Mr. Mathews could do what he liked on the fiscal question.
So that it will be seen that our honorable friends are free, after all, in spite of what the honorable member for West Sydney said.
An Honorable Member. - Only on that question.
– We will see. Even the honorable member for Grey is going to give us no end of a trouncing with his vote on this very question of effective Protection.
An Honorable Member. - You are giving us very good platform matter.
– I am; indeed, I found it most valuable during the recent campaign.
– Do you not think that you ought to postpone your remarks about the matter until you have heard what I said ?
– Does my honorable friend expect the Minister to be fair?
– It is not a question of being fair. I do not want to do any injustice to my honorable friend - I never have, I take it - but we were given to understand last night by the honorable member for Adelaide that everybody on the other side was as solid as a rock. I hope it is not so. I hope, as the honorable member did say, men will vote in accordance with their election pledges, and then we shall have the privilege of having the honorable member for Grey with us on this occasion.
– I will vote according to ny election pledges, and that is what you have never done yet.
– It seems that my honorable friend is going to vote with us, but he does not like it ! The honorable member for West Sydney continued -
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
This is a funny thing about a policy speech. but not the individual members of the party. The manifesto which was to be issued later would bind the candidates. “ The Labour party is not bound in any shape or form on the fiscal question,” added Mr. Hughes. “ Any member can vote how he likes on the subject.”
Then the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who I am glad to see is in the chamber, must have a dash. The honorable member for West Sydney spoke on the 9th April. The honorable member for Maribyrnong apparently had not read the newspaper when he spoke on the same evening, because he is reported on the 10th as follows -
He had announced himself as a Tariff man, and a Protectionist from head to heels.
No head-over-heels, as with the honorable member for West Sydney ! -
He had said there were no Free Traders in the Labour party from Andrew Fisher downwards. That was more than could be said for the other party. …
Mr. Fisher had pledged the Government in his Maryborough speech to amend the Tariff and give effective Protection.
A voice interjected here “ Mathews spoiled that; he ought to be thrown out of the party.” The little conspiracy had miscarried owing to the honesty of one man, and for his honesty he ought to be slung out of the party ! Beating himself on the breast, the member for Maribyrnong continued -
The very fact that Mr. Mathews had taken a free, independent action rang the death-knell of the statement that the Labour party was dragged at the heels of a few.
He had said himself only a minute before that, lock, stock, and barrel, the whole of them, from head to heels, were Protectionists, and. when one man cried out that somebody had spoiled it, he said, “ It only shows that we are not united, after all.”
– Was that said when he was wearing Protectionist trousers ?
– This was said when my honorable friends were crying for the support of the Melbourne Age, which they tried to make us believe a few moments ago they were all bitterly denouncing throughout the campaign.
– He was wearing imported trousers that night.
– You cannot find a word in the Age which favoured me, or one word of mine in favour of the Age.
– I never saw one word from the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs whilst there was still a chance of catching the Age, and the fact that the Age afterwards had not a word in favour of the honorable member is, I think, somewhat of a mitigating circumstance in favour of that journal.
– For thirteen years the Age has opposed me.
– I should not have imagined that they would have thought it worth while !
– They have done that, and I have beaten them every time.
– It seems to be a pretty good influence for increasing our majority.
– Let us see what the honorable member for West Sydney had to ‘say on the subject of the Tariff. One would have thought that he had done pretty well already. He had advocated three policies in the space of a year so far as we have gone, but he has beaten all records. He has destroyed a record which has endured for 2,000 years. It is really too bad to take away the halo of a dead man. Poor old Ananias would, I believe, turn in his grave if he saw these two statements on the same day. The honorable member for West Sydney is reported in the Age, of the 12th April, as having said at Prahran -
The Government would bring in a policy of effective Protection wherever that was not now in existence. There had been statements in the press that the Labour party’s pledges in this respect were of no value, because they did not bind the party.
He, himself, had once said that they were of no value in that regard, and that they only bound the Ministry ! I have read the speech to honorable members -
It was perfectly true they did not bind the party. They bound the Government, and thai was all any Government’s pledges could do. But Mr. Fisher’s pledge was the best assurance in the world on the matter.
That was after new Protection was going overboard, and effective Protection was coming in its stead.
– The workers and consumers were going overboard ?
– Yes; they are thrown to the sharks. In the very same date’s issue of the Argus we find the following statement by the honorable member for West Sydney: -
The statement that Mr. Fisher had promised anything in the way of Protection other than the new Protection was a deliberate lie.
– Why do not honorable members laugh when the Minister is looking for it?
– Does the honorable member honestly think it is a laughing matter that a Minister of the Crown should show so little regard for the obligation of his office that he should give two separate conflicting statements on the same day, obviously with his tongue in his cheek on each occasion ?
– I would sooner believe Billy Hughes than I would believe you.
– A clown cannot always make people laugh.
– I believe that my honorable friend, quite unintentionally, can do more in that direction than any humourist could do in his life. He is usually most funny when he is most in earnest. It is a matter of some misfortune to himself, but it is a matter of great joy, I am sure, to every honorable member in the House. However, I really do not want to annoy honorable members. I am only putting this thing in its proper perspective. I think I have read enough to show that a conspiracy was afoot at the beginning of the last campaign to catch the support of the Melbourne Age, and that it was only defeated because there was one honest man in the Labour movement who, for his honesty, another Labour man said ought to be chucked out of the party.
Let us pass away from the Tariff. Last night the honorable member for Adelaide spoke a good deal about the way in which we had robbed the working men at Cockatoo Island Dock of the right to be blown to atoms by defective and dangerous boilers. I am rather astounded that he should have adopted such a line of argument.
– He said we had sent them to the hell of unemployment.
– It was said that we had sent the working man to the hell of unemployment, and had prevented him from going suddenly, and without warning, to the other place, to which we, no doubt, being politicians, will be eventually translated. Now, these are the facts concerning the Cockatoo Island Dock: The dock was taken over this year. Soon after, the Electrical Engineer of the City of Sydney wrote pointing out that increased power would shortly be required at the dock. The Minister referred this to the Naval Board, which replied that the position at Cockatoo Island was a very serious one, as the power plant was running with a heavy overload and might at any time break down. The Board recommended the calling in of an independent engineer, and suggested the engineer of the Melbourne City Council. That officer being unable to accept the work, the Minister approved of a consulting engineer in Sydney being appointed, and Mr. G. A. Julius was appointed. These are extracts from his report -
The whole of the boilers, of which there are six, are practically worn out.
Have honorable members opposite so little regard for the wives and families of the men working at the Dock that they would have us continue to use boilers that are worn out? The honorable member for Ballarat suggested that the boilers should have been withdrawn one at a time. What does he care for the lives of the men who have to work at the Dock ? It is the life of this Government that honorable members opposite are concerned about ! Any stick is good enough to beat us with, even though the lives of workers in the Government dockyard may be at stake.
– What pressure will the boilers carry?
– Let me continue the report -
Considerable repairs have to be effected every week-end to keep them running for another week. The pressure at which they are working, namely,. 100 lbs. per square inch, is altogether too low for economic operation-
The pressure on the boilers had been reduced to save them from blowing up, but they were still dangerous - and the maximum quantity of steam available from the whole of the boilers, pressed to their utmost, is quite insufficient to run the engine plant at its full output, and, in fact, at the present time, it is difficult to reach 65 per cent, of this figure. The plant as a whole is in such a condition as may lead to a complete breakdown at any time, and this condition in the past has frequently caused serious interruptions in the dockyard work.
The power plant is almost wholly composed of ‘ obsolete and worn-out units, and practically none of it is worth a moment’s serious consideration in determining a suitable plant for the future operation of the dockyard.
For the above reasons, therefore, I have put the whole of this plant entirely to one side in considering the question of a proper power supply for the island.
The total amount of electrical energy which the plant can supply is quite inadequate to meet the requirements of machines already installed on the island, and results in a very poor output of work from these machines.
The continued overloading of the power plant and nature of the units constituting that plant results in great voltage variations, which militates against a satisfactory running of the machine tools.
Then follows matter which is wholly technical-, and which honorable members may read for themselves. I shall not overload my speech by quoting it now. Let me come to the description of the boilers -
Boiler No. 1, age twenty-nine years; when supplied, igo6 ; report condemned.
That boiler was a secondhand one when supplied, and has been condemned, yet the honorable member for Adelaide desires that men shall be kept at work in its vicinity.
Boiler No. 2, age twenty-two years; when supplied, 1909; report condemned.
Boiler No. 3, age twenty-eight years; when supplied 1906; report condemned.
Boiler No. 4, taken from the Countess of Hopetoun, age twenty-nine years; when supplied, 1910 ; report condemned.
Boiler No. 9, ex Protector, age thirty years; when supplied, 1910; report condemned.
Do honorable members think that Australian workmen should be employed at the peril of their lives alongside condemned boilers?
– Is there not an inspection, of these boilers ?
– There should have been. Had the boilers been the property of a private person they would have been inspected, but they are boilers used in a Government dockyard, and their con dition is evidence of the inefficiency of Socialism. I shall read now a communication from the Naval Board, sent from the Navy Office, Melbourne, to the Acting General Manager of the dockyard -
The Naval Board having received the report of the Board of Survey on the boilers under your charge at Cockatoo Island, is of opinion that obvious and necessary precautions which common experience has shown to be absolutely necessary to the safe working of steam boilers would appear to have been neglected.
The Board of Survey found thick deposits of slime and scale on tubes, stays, and plates, and in the case of the locomotive type boilers Nos. t to 4, the lower tubes were buried in sludge.
The examination of the thickness of plates, and the condition of the tubes of Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and q, points to the fact that these boilers have been working for years in an extremely dangerous condition.
Yet the honorable member for Adelaide would still have men working near those boilers, despite the peril.
– Some one ought to be sent to gaol for this.
– Ministers would be worthy of punishment if they had continued what the previous Administration was quite ready to continue so long as it was able to cover up its tracks.
The Naval Board, after consideration of the report, are of opinion that if the condemned boilers had been worked much longer under the conditions disclosed an explosion would have been inevitable.
The Naval Board desires to receive any explanation 3’ou have to offer regarding these matters.
YOU are directed not to light fires again in Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and g, and bolt shop boilers. They are to be condemned as unfit for further service.
We are all agreed that no private employer should be allowed to use condemned boilers, and Ministers consider that it is their duty to set an example to the private employers of Australia. They therefore refuse to do what the honorable member for Adelaide and other honorable members opposite wish them to do. We shall not risk the lives- of men by employing them near boilers which, according to the experts, are liable to explode at any moment. To continue the Naval Board’s letter -
Nos. jj and 6 may be worked at a pressure of no lbs. per square inch-
We have not sacked men who can be employed at the boilers which have, not been condemned -
No. 7 boiler may be worked at a pressure of 60 lbs.
No. 8 boiler may be worked at a pressure of 40 lbs. for a period not exceeding three months.
Nos.10 and11 boilers may be worked at a pressure of 75 lbs.
No. 12 boiler may be worked at a pressure of 70 lbs.
No. 13 boiler may be worked at a pressure of 20 lbs.
No. 14 boiler may be worked at a pressure of 50 lbs.
The remainder of the boilers on hand, and at present not in use, are not on any account to have fires lighted in them.
– Were they leaking?
– One-sixteenth of an inch was all that the men had between them and eternity.
– Has there been no inspection of these boilers?
– Apparently, as the dockyard is a Government establishment, under the management of a Labour Government, there was no inspection for years. To continue my quotation -
In view of the above, the Naval Board recognises that the power resources of the dockyard are partially crippled. You are, therefore, to submit proposals for installation of temporary boiler plant.
In other words, we are keen to go ahead and to give employment. There is nothing in the slander that we are taking away employment.
– Were there not inspectors before the Labour Government took charge ?
– If so, they must have been specially appointed, as otherwise they would have seen the defects of the boilers -
You are to bear in mind that a new scheme of power supply is under consideration, and that when this is adopted all machinery in the dockyard will be driven by electricity. in the case of all working boilers, steps must be taken to have them cleaned out thoroughly once a week, and they are to be blown down and scummed at frequent intervals. Pressure gauges of all working boilers are to be examined and tested, and the working pressure clearly marked in red on their dials’.
This Government have taken such steps to safeguard its employes as a decent private employer would take. Are Ministers censurable because they have placed the lives of Australian workmen at a higher value than did their’ predecessors, who only sought to cover up the facts?
– Was not the engineer who made the report which the honorable member has read appointed by the last Government to inspect this dockyard?
– Yes. It is a fact, I understand, and I ask honorable members - if for that very reason - to accept the report. If they do that, they will scout this infamous contention that we ought to continue to work these dangerous boilers.
– That is the point.
– No private employer would be allowed to work them.
– Certainly not. Any man who would work boilers in this condition ought to hang on a gallows as high as Haman’s; and for any man who, for party reasons, wants us to work them, words fail me to express my contempt. The honorable member for Adelaide talked about sending men to the hell of unemployment. On 30th July, when work was stopped at the boilers, there were 1,281 men employed at the dock. On the 13th August, only the day before yesterday, there were 1,325 employed at the dock. In other words, the number of men employed has been increased by forty-four. We have not reduced employment; all that we have done is to safeguard the lives of the men who are serving the Commonwealth of Australia.
The honorable ex-Minister tells us that unemployment is a hell. I could read the truth of that in every word that he uttered. It is bis present unemployment that is a hell to him, that makes him take such wild liberties with the truth, that induces him to give such strange counsel at the expense of the lives of Australian citizens. All that I can say is that the Government that is now carrying on the business of Australia as well as an unruly Opposition will permit will continue with its work, unswayed by the sort of appeals to prejudice that we heard from the honorable member last night. He thrilled with his eloquence and with his feeling every person who did not know the facts, and disgusted every one who did. We will go on with our work utterly regardless of that sort of thing. We will do our duty; and one of the highest responsibilities resting upon us is to see that every man in the employment of the Commonwealth of Australia is paid the best wages, and is employed under the best conditions we can prudently give, and which, I submit, every honest employer ought to give to those to whom he intrusts his work.
.- I must admit that previous to the 31st May - the dayof the election - I was living in hopes that I should be returned to this
Parliament to support on the Ministerial side a national, truly progressive, and common-sense policy, such as was submitted to the people of Australia by the present Leader of the Opposition. I was not only living in hopes, but felt certain, of my own election. But I was also satisfied in my own mind - as we say in common parlance, I was cocksure - that the Labour Government would be returned. Indeed, I felt as sure of that as I was of securing a seat in this House. But, unfortunately, what I hoped was not to be, and I find myself sitting on the Opposition benches. I have listened very carefully indeed to the various speeches delivered by honorable members during the course of the debate, from that of the mover and seconder of the Address to the oration just delivered by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs. The last speaker, at the commencement of his address, in alluding to the speech of the honorable member for Adelaide last night, said that it had caused amusement in the ranks of the Ministerial party. If the speech amused honorable members opposite, they certainly did not betray their amusement in any way. Judging by the expression on their features last night, it seemed to cause them very much discomfort, and at the same time some amount of admiration. They were compelled to admire so magnificent an oration. The last speaker declared that the Opposition party had during the present session indulged in obstructive tactics. Well, I was not a member of the last Parliament, but I have always made it my business to follow carefully the Hansard reports of the proceedings of the Federal Legislature. All that I can say is that if the honorable member calls the attitude of the present Opposition obstructive, I should like to know what he would call his own attitude and. that of the Prime Minister during the last Parliament. If Hansard gives us a correct report of the proceedings of this Parliament - and I have no doubt that it does - no one can come to any other conclusion than that the Prime Minister and the honorable gentleman who has just resumed his seat indulged frequently in obstructive tactics with a vengeance. The honorable gentleman also said that we on this side are posing as the champions of labour and inferentially as the opponents of capitalism. I was never foolish enough, even in my younger days, to rail against the capitalist as such, either as an individual or in connexion with the system with which he is connected - unless, of course, an individual capitalist did something wrong. It is , in my opinion, nonsense to do anything of the kind. We must always take into consideration two main factors in dealing with political problems. One is human nature, which is very much alike in all of us, and the other is the force of circumstances. It is nonsense to rail against capitalism or the capitalists from a class point of view. No, sir; what this party is here for, and what it- with the intelligence of the Australian people behind it - is going to achieve in the course of time, is that equality of opportunity shall be secured for the whole of the people of this country. The day is coming when that policy will succeed. Honorable members opposite know as well as I do that the time is not far distant when the great mass of the people of Australia will permanently take that stand in political life to which they are entitled on account of their numbers. I am quite satisfied that honorable members opposite of the calibre of the Attorney-General must agree with me. Speaking of that honorable gentleman I must acknowledge that I am under a debt of gratitude to him. I wish to tell him that he is in no inconsiderable degree responsible for my occupying a seat in this House. He may be surprised to hear that statement, but it a fact, nevertheless. The reason is this: On the 31st May, 1912, the honorable gentleman delivered a speech at a place called Aspendale, in Victoria. That speech was responsible in a very marked degree for securing me’ a seat in the House of Representatives. The honorable gentleman may have forgotten the occasion, and I will venture to remind him of it. In that speech he stigmatized the Liberal policy which had recently been laid before the country as a “ gelatinous compound of vague generalities,” and asked whether it was possible for the Liberal party to secure the goodwill of the people of Australia on the strength of such a programme.
– He was almost as bad as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
– And he had afterwards to recant at the penitent form. I know that he is one of those gentlemen who has been endowed by nature with talents which would enable him to become a shining light in any Parliament in the world. His mental abilities are beyond the ordinary, and the people naturally attach more importance to his utterances than they do to those of men of smaller mental calibre. According to the newspaper reports, he devoted more than two hours to hi3 denunciation of the Fusion policy. While the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs was speaking upon the question of trusts, he invited us to prove that there is in existence in Australia such a thing as a Beef Trust. I admit that it is extremely difficult to prove the existence here of the American Beef Trust, because the gentlemen interested in it would not be so foolish as to proclaim from the house-tops that they wanted to establish such a trust. But I have not the -shadow of a doubt that if the trust be not in existence in Australia, steps have already been taken with that end in view.
– Mr. Angliss admits it.
– I have had conversations with persons in the wholesale meat trade on more than one occasion, who have proved to my satisfaction that that octopus, the American Beef Trust, is spreading out its tentacles with a view to controlling the meat trade of this Commonwealth. What a beautiful opportunity there is to control that trade, and thus to largely increase the profits which are already being reaped in various parts of America. As a matter of fact, the American Beef Trust is reaching out its tentacles all over the world. It is endeavouring to establish itself, in the European countries. Most people are aware of the enormous profits which it has made since it became established in the United States, and we all know how detrimental its operations have been to the well-being of the people of that great country. During the course of his speech the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs affirmed that no money had been contributed to the coffers of the Liberal Union - as it is called in South Australia - or to those of the Fusion party - as it is known elsewhere - by trusts or combines. I do not know that money was paid directly into its coffers, but I should like to know who defrayed the enormous expenditure which, was incurred during the last referenda campaign.
– Incurred on which side ?
– It could not be incurred by the Labour party, because that party has not the wherewithal with which to pay. I know full well that on the other side money was poured out like water. I have undeniable evidence of that. That money was provided, not solely in support of the candidature of honorable members opposite, but in order to insure that the people of Australia should once more vote “ No “ to the referenda proposals. Unfortunately they did so, although with a very much decreased majority. On the first occasion that those proposals were submitted to the electors the majority against them was great indeed, but at the recent general election, in respect of some of the proposals, it dwindled down to something less than a thousand votes. The position reminds me of a hawk or a vulture hovering over one’s head. One takes aim and fires at it without result. The second shot badly cripples the bird, whilst the third brings it to the ground. I may as well take this opportunity of congratulating the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply upon the very creditable way in which they acquitted themselves in their opening speeches. I refer particularly to the mover, whose effort was all the more praiseworthy when we consider what very sorry material he had to work upon. All he had was the Ministerial manifesto which has been submitted to honorable members. In his opening remarks he mentioned the unfortunate fact that the country districts of Australia were responsible for the majority which is to be found on the other side of the chamber. Why is that so ? One reason is that country residents, being necessarily more scattered than dwellers in our cities, have not the same opportunity for the interchange of political thought and ideas. Another reason is that almost every one of the provincial journals throughout the Commonwealth are . opposed to the policy of the Labour party, and in favour of that of any Conservative party which may be either on the Treasury Benches or in the shades of Opposition. Further, the Labour party, not having the enormous sums at its disposal which are at the disposal of the other side, cannot organize so efficiently. Only the other day I was in the district which is represented by the honorable member for Grey, and what did I find there ? I found that even now the Fusion party is energetically at work, and that men and women are going from farm to farm in motor-cars, thus taking their side of politics to the very homes of people. Whilst that sort of thing is permitted by the law of the land, the Labour party will stand very little chance of capturing the country districts of Australia.
– Was there no canvassing done in Boothby?
– I will deal with that matter presently. The Labour party can never hope to fight the political battle in the country districts of the Commonwealth so effectively as can the party opposite, because it’ has not the necessary funds. The one reason above all others is that they have not the necessary money to do so. The Attorney-General spoke last night of the uses to which union funds were put, but I would remind him’ that even clever men make the mistake of talking of what they know nothing. He spoke of a sum of £107,000, union funds which he sought to infer was used mainly for political purposes. It may be news to some honorable members opposite to learn that the position is not as stated by the honorable gentleman, and that union funds, in South Australia at all events, are not largely used for political purposes. I am extremely well conversant with the working of unions in South Australia, and the fact is, so far as that State is concerned, that on the average each unionist contributes sixpence per week towards the upkeep of his union. ‘ In some cases the contribution is less, in others it may be a little more; but the average is about sixpence per week. These contributions are devoted to the management of unions. Their management necessarily entails a certain amount of expenditure, and out of each contribution of sixpence per week, or twenty-six shillings per year, the unionists give one shilling per year to the funds of the United Labour party. That is a contribution of 4 per cent, towards the funds of the United La.bour party of South Australia. I have been the president of a union, which, in twelve months, increased its membership from 120 to over 2,000, and yet paid a sustentation fee of only 600s. per year to the United Labour party of South Australia.
– Why is it that 80 per cent, of the funds of the unions go to management expenses?
– Having regard to the habits of people as we find them* in this world to-day, it is absolutely necessary to have a man at the head of a union and to employ a permanent secretary. No union could maintain its existence without some one to manage its affairs, and part of the money devoted to management expenses goes to the salary of a permanent head.
– How is it that the A.M. P. Society can carry on with a working expenditure of 15 per cent. ?
– I invite honorable members opposite to compare the expenditure of unions with that of charitable organizations, the cost of which in some cases amounts to as much as 30 per cent, on the amount collected by them for charitable purposes. Honorable members opposite are making a great mistake if they imagine that the unions contribute very largely towards the political expenditure of the Labour party.
– They do not believe that they do.
– I suppose not. Still I think that the Attorney-General is an honest man, and that he meant what he said in this connexion last night; but he made a mistake.
– He signally failed to prove that one penny of the funds of the unions was devoted to political labour purposes.
– In the policy memorandum issued by the Ministry, twenty proposals are outlined. We are told in the first place that the existing electoral laws had been found unsatisfactory, and that an alteration of the law is proposed. I am convinced that no common-sense man or woman in Australia believes that impersonation or a duplication of votes was carried on by any considerable number of people at the last general election. It is really childish to suggest that it was. Such a thing is unthinkable. Honorable members opposite who know as much as I do of electioneering - perhaps more than I do - must be aware that it is as much as one can do to induce the electors to take the trouble to vote once, let alone twice. The Attorney-General, last night, devoted a good deal of attention to the question of plural voting and the electoral irregularities which are alleged to have taken place. Does he think that even his dearest personal or political friends would risk the loss of their liberty by indulging in duplicate voting, and so running contrary to the law, even if they _ had ‘ the most ardent desire to see him returned as one of the shining lights of this Parliament? I am sure that he does not. What incentive is there for people to break the law in this respect? I do not say that it is not possible for fraud to take place under the Commonwealth or any other electoral law. We all know that laws are made and laws are broken. There are laws against stealing, yet some people will persist in thieving. I am sure, however, that no sane man believes that impersonation was indulged in to any great extent at the last general election, and I hope that this talk about the duplication of votes will cease. No level-headed man or woman could possibly believe the twaddle which has been published in some of the daily papers concerning this question. As to the postal-voting system, I, for one, shall never be a party to its restoration. The honorable member for Perth inquired, by way of interjection, a few moments ago, about the canvassing that took place in the electorate of Boothby. I know very well to what he was referring, and I do not deny it. I am glad to say that’ I devoted eight months of my time to a house-to-house canvass in that electorate. It may be said that my one incentive was to secure a seat in this Parliament. There was, however, another incentive. Honorable members opposite may believe it or not, as they please, but I felt that I was conferring a benefit on the electors in that part of Australia by doing what I did to secure their enrolment. I found that many men and women had but a slight conception of politics, but throughout my canvass I never asked a man or woman to vote for me. I never inquired how any of them, proposed to vote, nor did I ask them to vote for the Labour party. I never sought, even inferentially, to bring them into line with any particular phase of political thought. I gave them tuition in elementary politics, which should be of assistance to them, and I myself, as the result of my experience, gained tuition, which will stand me in good stead, and will, I believe, be of assistance to my party in the days to come. My experience was varied. When I was defeated for the electorate of Tor rens in the State Parliament, a thousand postal votes were cast. I was elected on the votes of those who went to the poll, but was defeated as the result of the postal votes. Honorable members may say that I am speaking feelingly, and that I am prejudiced against postal voting because of that experience. Possibly I may have an unconscious bias against the postal voting, but in my’ peregrination of the district I have proved to my satisfaction that, while there might not be the direct intention to fraudulently vote to any degree - though there must be some such cases under any system - the party which has the most money, and can afford to send agents from door to door, has the way made open to it to get the women, particularly, to make use of the postal vote, and practically to do away with the secrecy of the ballot. We have been told that the country districts support the present party in power; but if the Labour party had the opportunity to send agents throughout the country, and if the country journals were on the Labour side instead of the Conservative side, very few honorable members opposite would adorn this place in the future ; they would be relegated once more to their private avocations. Any party or candidate which has the money to send agents from house to house has, under the postal voting system, an advantage representing three votes to one; and, as a strong believer in the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot, I shall always oppose that system in the future. I could give honorable members the reasons for my attitude in this respect did time permit, and I can only hope that in the future I may have another opportunity to deal with the subject in detail. The second proposal of the Government practically deals with preference to unionists. There is so much misconception, not only on the part of honorable members opposite, but of the general public in this regard, that there is a certain amount of opposition even on the part of those who should not object to it at all. This, as I say, simply arises from the fact that the question is not properly understood, as I noticed during my eight or nine months’ peregrination of my constituency. Personally, I have for many years past advocated compulsory unionism, which I firmly believe would make for the welfare of Australia. If honorable members opposite are desirous to bring about industrial peace - desirous to do away with industrial strife and turmoil - they could find no more effective means than the institution of compulsory unionism, so far as all wage-earners are concerned. To say that a man or woman is a wageearner should be equivalent to saying that he or she is a unionist. One objection that has been raised is that at the present time unions, to some degree at any rate, contribute towards the funds of the united Labour party, though I may say that that is not done to the extent that some imagine. The objection is that under compulsory unionism every wageearner would be compelled to give a certain amount of his earnings, if only a shilling a year, to a definite political party. Nothing of the kind need happen. Every law means compulsion; but, if we have compulsory unionism, perfect liberty of political thought ought to be given to all.
– The honorable member may know that there was compulsory unionism in medieval Europe.
– That was under the guild system, which is different from presentday unionism. In all humility, I submit to the House that compulsory unionism could be successfully established. I happened to be president for a good many years of the Drivers’ Union in Adelaide, of which there are some 2,000 members. In such a union as that, under compulsory unionism, a secret ballot might be taken amongst the members as to whether they were willing to contribute to the Conservative party, the Labour party, or any other party; and if there should prove to be 800 who did not wish to contribute to any party, well and good. The remaining 1,200 or so might be willing, some of them to contribute to the Conservative party, and some to the Labour party; and so the matter could be arranged. I shall oppose compulsory unionism unless it were made certain that those concerned would retain freedom of political conscience; I should no more dream of compelling people to contribute towards an organization the objects of which they did not approve than I should believe in coercing them in regard to their religious opinions.
– What about levies?
– Levies are very often made now. Of course, this is a subject which would take hours to exhaust, and it is possible that there may be an opportunity to deal with it on a future occasion. But look at the advantages of compulsory unionism. What brings about most of the strikes, or, at any rate, a great many of them at the present time? The very fact that some people are unionists and some are not; and, therefore, we have people indulging in the use of that very unpleasant word “ scab.” When some workers are unionists and other refuse or refrain from joining, there is, and rightly, dissatisfaction on the part of unionists; and we have a prolific source of industrial strife. If every wage-earner- were a unionist, there could be no “ scabs,” and, as I say, a most fertile cause of industrial upheavals would be a thing of the past. Of course, some people might object to compulsion being used in this connexion; but what do we see proposed in this memorandum issued by the Government? It is proposed to have a scheme of national contributory insurance, such as there is in the United Kingdom, and such as has been in existence in Germany for nearly thirty years. In those countries, the very fact of a man being a wageearner makes it necessary for him to insure; there is no question of whether he likes to do so or not.
– It is under State control.
– Quite so. But you simply have to insure; and if it is right to compel people to insure against all kinds of contingencies, what can be wrong in compelling people to belong to some union ?
– What would be your object? How would you treat them after they joined?
– It would do away with a great deal of the industrial strife that exists. We have compulsory education, although some people object to it. I knew a very learned gentleman in South Australia who did not believe in compulsory education. He believed in the laissez faire principle as far as that was concerned. He would permit his boys to remain away from school if they pleased. Yet we know how beneficial compulsory education is to the community at large, how absolutely necessary it is to have it; and if it is right and just to compel people to send their youngsters to school, what is wrong in compelling people to belong to trade unions, so long as they are wage-earners? Then there is our Defence system. I have seen the horrors of war in my young days. They will live in my memory as long as I live; I can picture the awful scenes I have witnessed in the early days of my life, and I am essentially a man of peace, but I strongly believe in the defence of this great continent of ours, and have always been in favour of it since I have made any public utterance. If it is right to compel people to bear arms and to go through a certain amount of drilling, if it is right to put implements of warfare in their hands to enable them to kill their fellowcreatures - and from my point of view it is right - what can there be wrong in compelling people, for their own benefit, to join trade unions ?
– It is only right to compel people to bear arms to resist attack.
– What can be wrong in compelling people to belong to trade unions? If there is any difference, the argument is much more in favour of compulsory unionism than of compulsory defence, because some people have religious objections to compulsory defence. I hesitate very strongly indeed before interfering with the religious objections of any individual. We know the Quakers - the Society of Friends - have religious objections to the handling of arms in any way, that they object to defending themselves individually and as a body corporate, yet, by Act of Parliament, we say they must do so, whether they have religious objections or not. Whatever religious objection a person may have to military service, we compel him to endanger his immortal soul, and bear arms in the defence of his native country. Then, why cannot the law say - and the law ought to say - that the fact of a man being a wage-earner should also compel him to join a union?
– No scheme of compulsory unionism has been submitted here.
– I know that. This is quite an idea of my own.
– No one has objected to it yet.
– It is very old, I can assure the honorable member.
– I know it is old. I have always made it one of my duties in life to read history very carefully, and in all my thoughts and conclusions I am guided by the teachings of history.
– Your idea would lead to the castes of Egypt and India; they were established by law.
– Before leaving the question of preference to unionists I wish to deal with a section of workers that has come up for discussion very prominently during the Address-in-Reply. I allude to the rural workers. The honorable member foi” Hume, in seconding the AddressinReply, said that any member of the Opposition who would be insane enough to think that ever the time would come when there would be unionism among the rural workers, should get his bumps read. The honorable member, if he had lived fifty years ago, or people of his ilk fifty years ago, would have said the same thing about the city workers, or, in fact, any workers. We know that the fight for unionism was a great fight, we know what a long time it took before there was any recognition of industrial organization by the law of the land, we know how at all times the law was partial to the employer; but why should not the rural workers have the protection of the law the same as other workers ?
– Are they clamouring for it?
– I am glad the honorable member has said that. I ask him did a slave ever liberate himself? Has it not been the more fair-minded, the more educated, the more intelligent, and the more intellectual portion of the community who have at all times sacrificed themselves in the interest and for the benefit pf those not sufficiently intellectually advanced to help themselves ? Another reason why it is difficult to form organizations among the rural workers is that they are not like the city workers, who come together in their factories and their buildings. Population lives en masse in the cities, but in the country districts it is different; the farmers are scattered broadcast over the land, and the rural workers, working for the farmers, horticulturists, and viticulturists, are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Australia, so that it is difficult for them to form the organizations that exist in other undertakings and callings. But honorable . members on the Government side are extremely foolish, the Conservative party are extremely foolish in their shortsightedness.
– They always were.
– Was it not Disraeli who said that the Conservative party were the stupid party? Honorable members take up just the same position now. in their attitude towards the rural workers. I am sure that if the Attorney-General were at liberty to give expression to his innermost thoughts concerning the rural workers he would see absolutely eye to eye the view I have put forward.
– Caucus will not let him.
– How foolish it is to oppose the legitimate demands of the rural workers ! We do not want turmoil, industrial strife and strikes, &c, and the best way to prevent that is to permit all portions of workers to come under the beneficial effects of labour legislation. It is said that the rural workers do not want it, and that they were quite satisfied with their lot if the agitator had not come along. It is not the agitator, the political or industrial agitator, who is to be blamed. Put the blame on the shoulders of the schoolmaster. It is the compulsory education system which has been in vogue for years that has brought about this persistent and continuous dissatisfaction of the rural workers with their most miserable conditions, and the avocation of the industrial agitator would be gone if the rural workers also received the benefits of industrial legislation. It would be futile for the agitator to go on with his agitating. It is said sometimes, by some of our opponents, that the rural workers should not come under Workmen’s Compensation Acts, because there are no risks in their calling. Any individual who says so, after due thought, must be very shortsighted, or devoid of the quantity of brains he should have, if he is a fit person to represent other people on the floor of Parliament. The risks incurred by rural workers are much greater than are those incurred by many workers who come under Workmen’s Compensation Acts. Will any one say that there is more danger in the employment of a tailor, a draper, or a grocer in a city shop than in the work of a man handling a plough with perhaps eight or nine unruly horses attached to it?
– Would not the national insurance scheme cover that risk?
– Unfortunately, in most parts of Australia, workers do not receive the benefits intended to be conferred upon them by Workmen’s Compensation Acts. If I am compelled to insure a man who works for me in the butchering business, why should not an employer in the country Tse compelled to insure a rural worker so that in case of his death some provision may be made for his wife and family ? What is fair for one should be fair for all. The honorable member for Hume used the old stock argument which we hear from time to time - that this kind of legislation should not apply to rural workers, because rural employers are not the same as city employers, since a farmer is not in a position to add to the price of the wheat or other commodity he produces the extra wages which under such legislation he might be called upon to pay his workmen. But does not that argument apply to persons engaged in other pursuits than farming? What about the great mining industry? What control has the individual mine-owner or mining company over the markets of the world for the products of a mine? What control have the squatters of Australia over the price to be paid for the wool clip of the world ? To carry this argument to its logical conclusion the honorable member should contend that rural workers should be given no wages at all. Many of my own relatives and friends are farmers. Their fathers before them arrived in Australia seventy years ago, and they have assisted to build up this country. Unfortunately they are all strong Conservatives. The German farmer is, perhaps, the greatest asset of the National League. In dealing with this matter I know what I am talking about, for I have lived upon farms for a good portion of the time I have spent in Australia.
– Does the honorable member think that his confreres know what they are talking about?
– Many of them do not; but there are a few thinkers amongst them who are beginning to see the error of their ways. Estimable citizens as the German farmers are in many respects, from the political point of view, I have no time for them at all, as they are amongst the most Conservative people in Australia. They have complained to me that they have difficulty in securing suitable labour, and are obliged to take the riff-raff that other people will not employ. They say that they cannot get intelligent workers, but men who get along in a bullocking sort of way. I am aware that in farm work as well as in other avocations to secure satisfactory results, brains and intelligence must be combined with muscle. But is it any wonder that farmers are unable to get intelligent people to work for them ? An intelligent man will take almost any other work before he will work for a farmer under existing industrial conditions. What about the wages paid in rural industries ? Some time ago, the statement was put forth to the world that in Australia farm labourers are paid £2 per week with board and lodging. That is a deliberate misstatement; it is an absolute lie. There is no £2 per week with board and lodging paid to farm hands in this country. In some rare instances, men employed upon farms may receive £2, or even £2 10s., per week, but what are their hours of labour?’ They do not work for eight hours a day, but more like sixteen hours a day. I have known men to work for farmers for a mere trifle in wages. I do not wish to discuss this subject at extreme length, because I am aware that the time I may occupy in this Parliament is limited. I ask honorable members whether they can wonder £hat the farmer should be unable to secure the labour of intelligent men. If a man is intelligent, his very intelligence will prevent him from applying for farm work. The intelligent man wants to be put on the same footing as other workmen. If it is right that a Workman’s Compensation Act should apply to city workers, it cannot be wrong to apply similar legislation to rural workers.
– Were not most of the farmers to whom the honorable member has referred at one time employed as farm labourers?
– I have several times called honorable members to order for interjecting. It should not be necessary for me to do so. When I have called for order two or three times, it is clear that there is disorder, which ought to be stopped at once. When a new member is making his maiden speech, honorable members should extend to him the courtesy of listening to him in silence.
– I thank you, sir, for your intervention; but, so far as I am personally concerned, I do not object to interjections. In answer to the honorable member for Wimmera I may say that I know that many men who now have farms of “their own worked for farmers before they secured their own holdings. But human nature comes in here again, and we must always consider human nature in dealing with these questions. I might be told that I am foolish to rail against capitalists, when, if I had an opportunity to make a million pounds or two, I would take advantage of it. Of course I should, and so would every one else. That would be only human nature, but knowing human nature as we do, there is all the more reason why we should have legislation on our statute-book which will make it possible for people to earn a decent and clean livelihood, which many of our rural workers are unable to do at the present time. But even our rural workers will wake up in the course of time. They are waking up in the United Kingdom to-day. They are not now the miserable beasts of burden their fathers were in centuries gone by. Owing to the general advance of education, they are not the beasts of burden they used to be. They are waking up, and are beginning to realize the degradation of the conditions under which they have been living for so long. I feel certain that, in the course- of time, they will band themselves together to improve their condition. Is it not far better that we should endeavour to bring about the peaceful settlement of industrial disagreements and disputes? Do honorable members opposite desire for all time to be considered of the party of anarchists? Honorable members may smile, but the party of anarchy is not on this side, but on the Government side. We on this side desire to give people an opportunity to peacefully settle their industrial differences, in the interests of the whole community.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– When we adjourned for lunch I was referring to the attitude of the Liberal party to the rural workers, and deploring their short-sighted policy in not allowing equal justice to be meted out to that very deserving section of our citizens. I hope that they will soon realize that it is indeed a short-sighted policy to treat the city differently from the country, and vice versa. I believe that many honorable members on the other side will, in the course of time, if they have not come to that opinion already, see that it is a mistaken policy. I’ sincerely hope that the time is not far distant when this portion of our population will receive that justice which is their due, and which they should enjoy in common with all other workers in this continent. Of course much more could be said on this question, but time does not permit me to dwell upon it. Paragraph 3 of the Ministerial programme deals with the Inter-State Commission, which we are told has been appointed. I know but one of the three Commissioners personally, and him only slightly. I know that he is a very’ clever man, and I hope that his colleagues are equally gifted from the mental point of view. I trust that the Commissioners will employ their natural gifts simply and solely for the benefit of the people of this country, and will not be influenced in their actions by any consideration other than that of promoting the welfare of Australia. In paragraph 4 of the programme we are told among other things -
It is intended to take advantage of the approaching visit of the High Commissioner to discuss proposals for the opening of new, and the greater development of existing, oversea markets for our primary products.
I thoroughly agree with that intention on the part of the Government, because the departure is highly necessary. We know that in respect of the fruit industry the time is not far distant when there may be a glut in the market, especially in a good season. I trust that more oversea markets will soon be made available for the products of Australia. While I am on this topic I wish to point out a matter to the Government, and that is in respect to the exportation of meat. It cannot be said, for a moment, that the Labour party is by any means a selfish party, because it was the party in Australian politics which first made it possible for people to export meat through State export departments. The members of the Labour party have been at all times the true helpers and friends of the farming community. I remember well when the people of this country could buy their meat for a mere trifle. I remember the time when I was able to go to the Adelaide market and buy 40-lb. lambs for 5s. each. Those were happy times for the butchers and for the workers of the city, when meat could be purchased at a low figure. The profits are now going into the pockets of the primary producers. I do not regret that fact for a moment. We must look after the interests of the primary producers, who, we know, are the backbone of this country, but at the same time we must not forget the interests of other people. The Labour party has at all times gone out of its way, even on occasions to the direct detriment of its supporters in the city, to help its friends in the country districts.
– Were they not proposing to put an export duty on primary products 1
– Perhaps some irresponsible individuals may have made that suggestion, but there never has been a serious proposition of that kind made, so far as I am aware. Certainly it has not appeared on our platform. The only thing we have to deal with is our platform. The honorable member for Hume might hold an outrageous idea in respect to a certain matter, but it does not follow that in expressing his opinion he would pledge the whole of his party. I want to say a few words about the desire of the Government to secure new oversea markets for meat. I do not know whether honorable members opposite, or even on this side, are aware of a somewhat serious obstacle to introducing our meat to the teeming millions on the Continent of Europe. Up to very recently in most of the European countries - in all of them, to a degree, even now - there has been a considerable duty levied upon imported meat. The duty has been reduced, at any rate in portions of the Continent. The duty levied in the German Empire at present is, I think, 2£d. per lb., whereas it used to be over 4d. per lb. That is a considerable reduction ; but there is still a margin of profit left to capitalists and others who export beef, mutton and lamb from Australia. Of late quite a number of persons in that part of the world have cast longing eyes upon Australia. They want to exploit our export business, so far as Continental countries are concerned; but we have a certain regulation in respect to the exportation of meat, and I fail to see why it should be continued, because it practically prevents the exportation of beef to European countries and to the German Empire in particular. The regulation relates to a certain disease in cattle, though we do not look upon it as a disease, which does not exist in any other part of the world, and to which the English authorities object. Honorable members who come from country districts are aware that in briskets of beef there are certain nodules - little wormy things which are fairly hard. The English authorities have disqualified beef of that description, and we can only send beef to the United Kingdom at present from which the nodules on the stifle joint have been cut out - in other words, the briskets of our bullocks cannot be exported to the Old Country. Unfortunately, the authorities on the Continent of Europe, Ger? many, to wit, object to have the briskets removed. The Commonwealth regulation makes it impossible for anybody to engage in the exportation of beef to the Continent of Europe. That is a very serious hindrance, because there is more beef available at present than the people of this country can consume. Now would be the time to work up some of the export trade which the Government say they are desirous of extending. That is all I wish to say about paragraph 4, because time does not permit me to enter into any details. I desire now to refer to the maternity allowance, or what some honorable members call the baby bonus. In my opinion, this is the most humane piece of legislation which has ever found a place on the statute-book of this or any other country. I am not a very old man, but I have lived long enough, and travelled about the world sufficiently, to realize that even in sunny Australia there are thousands of poor mothers to whom the allowance of £5 is a perfect god-send. It is made available at the very time when a woman wants to be freest from care. That is the very time when many women have to endure great anxiety, because extra expenditure is bound to be incurred at that period of their existence. Honorable members say that the allowance should not be given to those who do not need it, but should be confined to persons in necessitous circumstances. I would point out, however, that no one is compelled to take the money. Those who are above want are not compelled by law to accept the allowance. It has been reported in the newspapers that in South Australia several women who could afford to withgo the allowance have drawn £5, and contributed the money to the funds of the Liberal party.
– Similar contributions have been made to the funds of the trade unions.
– I do not think so, because the women of the working classes need the allowance. It is the bounden duty of Parliament to do what it can for the protection and development of the infant life of the community. If anything can be done to encourage an increase of the birth rate, it should be done, but it is still more our duty to see that the infants of the community ‘ are properly looked after from the beginning. Comforts are needed chiefly in the first stages of life. It is the treatment given in the early years of a child’s existence that most affects its physical and mental development. Those who have engaged in farming pursuits know that a calf which is not properly looked after when young will never grow to be a good cow or bullock. It is so with human beings. I remember that, posted up in a gymnasium which I was in the habit of attending as a boy, was the motto: Mens tana in cor pore saito. You cannot have a sound mind in a sickly body. While we rightly boast of our resources, we must not forget that their development calls for a strong and virile nation, and such a nation cannot be created unless care is given to infant life. Neglect of infant life now will be bitterly revenged on the country in years to come. It is asked by honorable members opposite why, if there should be no discrimination in the granting of the maternity allowance, there is differentiation between rich and poor in the granting of old-age pensions. The time may come when pensions will be available to all, even to those who are well off, should they be mean enough to apply. At. the present time, however, financial considerations render universal old-age pensions impossible. These financial considerations are not of so much importance so far as the maternity allowance is concerned. The present Government would never dream of going to the country with a proposal for the discontinuance of the maternity allowance. Ministers are too clever to think of doing such a thing. But if discrimination is proposed, where will the line be drawn 1 .It is easy to draw a line in the matter of old-age pensions, and, at present, this is needful, because a pensioner receives £26 a year until the time of his death. Are applicants for the maternity allowance to be submitted to an inquisitorial examination ? The Liberal party claims to have introduced the old-age pension system, but were that system administered under regulations drawn up by the Conservatives, the community would be horrified, and many deserving persons would not be able to get pensions. Of course, now that the old-age pension system is established, honorable members opposite declare their willingness to liberalize it still further. In paragraph 8 of the Prime Minister’s memorandum, we are told that important proposals for the development of the Northern Territory will be made. This question is of particular importance to South Australia, but it would be futile to attempt to deal with it in the time now at my disposal. When definite proposals come before us for discussion, I shall be only too happy ,to give my views, with some of which, I think, even my friends on this side disagree. The utilization of the waters of the Murray River is a subject that has been mentioned in this Chamber before, and this is not the last time that it will be heard of. The utilization of those waters is” urgent, because of the need for both navigation and irrigation, which are of equal importance, and must go hand in hand. We hear a great deal of the untold possibilities of this country, and undoubtedly the potentialities of the River Murray are beyond dispute. Any one who has travelled in other parts of the world and has seen what navigation and irrigation have done there, would realize, by taking a trip down the Nile of Australia - as I have done on more than one occasion - how immense its potentialities are. The time will come when millions of people will be settled on the banks of the Murray, not eking out a miserable existence as some do now, but living in affluence and plenty. We are told, in paragraph 12, that action will be taken to secure greater publicity with respect to all combinations in restraint of trade. It is a pity that honorable gentlemen opposite did not see their way to advise the electors to give this Parliament the power necessary to deal effectively with trusts and combines. Even the Attorney-General has admitted that the powers of the Constitution are now altogether inadequate in that respect. As to the amendment of the Notes Act of 1910 to restore the provisions of the original Act with respect to the amount of gold to be held in reserve in the Treasury, I have no objection to it, because we cannot be in too safe a position, though I think that we are on quite safe lines with a gold reserve of 25 per cent. It is a reserve as good as that of any private or State bank in any part of the world. Still, I have no objection to this proposal if it is considered desirable to increase the gold reserve in order to make the position still safer. Now I come to a very important portion of the programme submitted by the Government. I allude to paragraph 18, dealing with the question of the Savings Banks. The wording of it is very ambiguous indeed. It simply mentions the duplication of Savings Banks as being an evil that should be remedied. I do not know in what way the Government propose to proceed. Honorable members opposite may know, but we have not been informed. If it be the intention of the Government to do anything to harm the Commonwealth Savings Bank, I shall strenuously oppose it. The Labour party have established an Australian Bank for the benefit of the Australian people - one of the best and most progressive pieces of legislation ever placed upon the statute-book of this country. It is a step in the right direction. I regard the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank as one of the foundation stones in that structure which will ultimately free the people of this country from the manacles of the money lords of the world.
– The whole world !
– Yes, the world. We have it on the evidence of the present Premier of South Australia, Mr. Peake -who is a Liberal, although he was in days of yore a kind of semi-Labour man - that financiers in the Old Country have not only South Australia, but the whole of the people of this country, under their financial thumb at the present time. We learn from Mr. Peake that there is a gentleman in London by the name of Mr. Nevinson who practically controls all the loans required by the Australian States. It depends practically upon his will as to whether an Australian State shall or shall not obtain the money which is thoroughly needed for the development of this great country. When Mr. Peake came back from London, he let the cat out of the bag, and enabled us to know that we could not obtain money independently of the financial coterie. These are his words -
When their time came - he was alluding to the States of Australia - to borrow money in London, they would have to begin with Mr. Nevinson and his group, and they would find that no Australian State has ever succeeded in borrowing without their assistance.
Here we have it on the authority of a man who has just returned from London, and who spent some months there on financial business - who was trying to raise a loan of £6,000,000 for South Australia - that it is impossible for any Australian State to get a loan without beginning to deal with Mr. Nevinson and his group. What is this group? It may consist of a lot of German Jews, for all we know. At any rate, it is a financial coterie. I appeal to the good sense and the thoughtfulness of honorable members and to the people of this country when I ask - Are we for ever going to carry the burden of these financial magnates on our backs ? Is the progress of this country to be retarded or subjected to the sweet will of a coterie of financial experts in London ? Is it not about time that we took the financial problem into consideration? The first step towards the solution of it was the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank, which we owe to the Labour Government. I shall strenuously at all times oppose the idea of interfering with the present Commonwealth Savings Bank or doing anything in favour of the private or semi-private banks now carrying on business in this country. Why? Because the financial members of this Parliament know full well that it is absolutely necessary for the success of Australia that we should be independent of this London group. But how can we expect a policy of that kind to be carried out by the other side? Some of them would be only too pleased if the Commonwealth Bank were a failure. They would then be able to say to the people, ‘ We told you that the Bank would not be a success.” Some of them, I am satisfied, would rejoice in their hearts if it came to an ignominious end. It is only natural that that should be their attitude. They opposed the establishment of the Bank, and would be glad of the opportunity to say, “ I told you so.” If, therefore, paragraph 18 in the Ministerial statement implies a step in that direction, I shall strenuously oppose it. We are not told in what way an alteration is to be brought about. I am informed that my time is nearly up. Consequently I cannot deal with any other of the score of paragraphs in this statement of so-called policy which is submitted to us. I wish to say, in conclusion, that, in my opinion, the thinking portion of the people of this country, whether they be Liberals, Conservatives, Labour men, or anything else - the democratic and progressive portion - look to the Commonwealth Parliament for a policy of justice and progress, because this is the only Parliament where the will of the people can be clearly expressed. It is the only Parliament which, during the Labour regime, at any rate, has been able to translate the will of the people into law; the only Parliament, not only, in Australia, but in the world, where the will of the whole people is represented, because here every man and woman has a vote for both Houses. Therefore, I say that it is to this Parliament pre-eminently that the people look. If some honorable members opposite are foolish enough to imagine that the time will ever come when Conservatives will reign for any lengthy period in Australia they are grievously mistaken. The tendency of this age of evolution is against that probability. What do we find as we move amongst the people? We find that, although persons who are fifty or sixty years of age cannot break away from their preconceived ideas, their children are supporters of Labour every time. Why? Because the policy of the Labour party is recognised by them as a sane policy for this country, and I am glad to know that the people realize that fact more and more every day.
– I am glad to follow the honorable member for Boothby, whose opening remarks were a source of pleasure to me. He declared that his mission in entering this House was to secure equality of opportunity to all. That is one of the objects which brings me here - one of the aims which prompted me to attempt to enter the service of my country. Naturally, the first subject which claims my attention as a new arrival in the field of politics is the need for altering our electoral laws. It was with very great pleasure that I listened to the Leader of the Opposition on the first day this Parliament met, affirming his faith in the straightforwardness of our Australian electors, and announcing his deep-rooted conviction that their integrity was beyond all doubt. I was in perfect accord with him in that utterance, and at the declaration of the poll in my own constituency I made a similar statement. I regret having to part company with him when by innuendo he declares that the electors of Kooyong cannot be trusteeto the same extent as can other electors. I was glad indeed to hear the honorable member for Boothby say that for some time he had been busily engaged in organizing the electors in his own constituency without any regard to their political faith. If his statement be correct - and I have no reason to doubt it - I have only one regret, and that is that he sits alone on the Opposition benches from the stand-point of the attitude which he took up.
– The honorable member certainly did not organize for more than one political party.
– I have never been a paid organizer - I have never drawn a shilling from organizing work.
– The honorable member had others paid to do it.
– I have never drawn a penny of the expenses which I incurred to reach this Chamber. I am pleased to know that as the result of organization the vote cast throughout the Commonwealth at the last election exceeded that registered at any previous election. In particular, I mav be pardoned for pointing to the splendid vote which was recorded in the division of Wannon, where 82 per cent, of the eligible electors exercised the franchise. Organization is essential to the enlightenment of the Democracy, and I wish it to be clearly recorded that I do not think any honorable member upon this side of the Chamber entertains the slightest objection to organization on the part of our opponents in politics. I believe that the workers of Australia have a perfect right to band themselves together to secure the fulfilment of their industrial aims; but I part company with the honorable member for Boothby when he claims for unionists a preference in the matter of employment in the Public Service of the Commonwealth as against those who do not deem it wise to so organize. In reference to the conduct of the last election, many statements have been made in which, I am pleased to say, I did not join.
– That shows the honorable member’s good sense.
– Reference was made by an honorable member yesterday to the fact that a request for the establishment of polling booths in some of the hospitals throughout Victoria had been denied. I regret that refusal, but I have yet to learn that the hospitals of this State are conducted by the Liberal party. I am pleased to know, however, that many good Liberals have identified themselves in a very effective manner with these charitable institutions, which have done so much to save the lives of many people throughout Australia. Reference has been made to the fact that on the directorates of these institutions very few names of the friends of the Labour party are to be found.
– We never have the chance to get there.
– My honorable friends have all the chance that is possible.
– The shearers have contributed thousands of pounds to charitable institutions.
– I am pleased to hear that statement, and I hope that they will continue to do so. It has been stated, chiefly in relation to the fiscal question, that, although the referenda proposals had been put to the people and defeated, there was no good reason why they should not be put again. As a matter of fact, they were put again with the same result. The Leader of the Opposition evidently accepted their defeat on the first occasion as the final word in this matter, because he at once hauled down his flag, and said, “If we cannot get the power to give effect to the new Protection, we shall at least preserve the Australian market to the Australian manufacturer.” The honorable member for Boothby apparently takes a different view, because he is hoping for victory on the third occasion that the proposals are put to the electors. Personally, I have yet to learn that it is necessary to submit a question to the people three times before we can accept their decision as final. I take it that the defeat of the referenda proposals on two occasions implies that the Australian people recognise that Federation was consummated to deal with big broad national questions. Now the two questions which ‘to my mind stand in the very forefront of all others demanding our consideration are those of population and defence. These two questions are inseparably inter-related, each being dependent for its effectiveness on the other. Both are questions in respect of which we can well afford to get off our party stools, and to come together as good Australians, for the purpose of devising a sound, practical, and lasting scheme by which we can effectively people and defend this country from aggression. I think that all parties in politics are agreed that Australia cannot be populated from the cradle in a sufficiently quick time to enable us to meet all possible emergencies. The natural cradle increase in our population will never overtake the needs of this country, and will not place Australia as expeditiously as is necessary among the nations of the world. It behoves us, therefore, to look at the world’s system. And what do we find ? We find a world containing nearly 1,700,000,000 souls, the population in some of the islands and continents being pressed in too tightly, often underfed, and, as the honorable member for Adelaide men’tioned last night, often underpaid. We have need of population. ‘ We have in our country, as we were told a few weeks ago by an eminent statesman visiting our shores, latent resources capable of absorbing a population of 50,000,000. Let us get to work then, and get to work in earnest to absorb these people. I shall make this statement - and make it with full recognition of one Of the claims that have been well made from the other side of the House - that it is an incumbent duty resting upon the statesmen of Australia to make provision first of all for the profitable absorption of our own people. I believe it to be our duty to open up every possible and profitable avenue of employment, for Australia can never become a great nation without a big population. To point merely to what I believe to be the inadequate condition of affairs would be, in my judgment, to do only half my duty. I should consider that I had no constructive ability if I were not able to point in a direction which I conceive would remedy the condition of affairs under which we suffer at present.
– The honorable member had better come over here.
– I hope I shall never be found on that side of the House unless my party are in opposition. Looking at the world’s system we find, not one, but every nation taxing its people up to the hilt to provide for armaments of war. And why ? To me, at all events, the outlook is not the most peace-assuring. Other nations are working to maintain a state of preparedness in which we do not find ourselves. We have amongst the community, I regret to say, some who think that Australia should not be preparing for her defence - that she should not, by a compulsory system of training, place her young people at the service of the nation. I am not to be found with those people. On the contrary, I believe that a nation’s best defence can be secured only by putting the best material at its service. I, therefore, commend my opponents in politics for a good deal of the work they have done in the matter of defence. I do not give them credit for the conception of the Australian Naval Unit and the Citizen Army, but I dp think that, during their term of office, they did good work in quickening the effectiveness and usefulness of the two, systems. When I was interrupted a few moments ago I was referring to the necessity for some common-sense constructive action being taken to people Australia. Australia cannot populate itself with sufficient quickness from within. We have, therefore, to turn to the other alternative of peopling her from without. If there be times of financial or industrial depression - times when we are unable to absorb our own people - it is then that we should use our common sense and relax, but not give up, the immigration system. So far as population is concerned, however, it will have to be for many years the continuous policy of the country. I would suggest the creation of an Empire Board in connexion with the solution of this problem. After all, we are one, and a growing and important, part of the Empire. Let us establish an Empire Board consisting of representatives of Great Britain and every one of the Dominions or outposts of the Empire. We should allot to that Board the duty of perpetually watching over the annual surplus populations of the nations. In our search for population, we cannot confine our attention to Great Britain alone, for Great Britain even now is beginning to feel the drain that has been made upon its people. The honorable member for Adelaide, in one. of the highest flights of his oratory, last night referred to the conditions under which the workers of Great Britain were labouring. But what sincere member of the Labour party can object to people coming from Great Britain to develop Australia - to better their conditions here, and at the same time to better the conditions of the workers at Home, to whom they leave a greater margin, and consequently a better reward for their labour. The Honorary Minister has already told honorable members opposite how their actions have led to an increase in rents, to which an honorable member refers by interjection. The Labour party has interfered with the building of more houses by talking of the establishment of restrictive rent courts.
– The honorable member might cut up a few hundred acres in the Wannon electorate, and so provide for the absorption of some of the people coming here.
– No honorable member would be more pleased than I should be to see estates cut up there.
– The honorable member for “ Young “ is “ on the job.”
– No, the honorable member for Wannon, speaking with deep conviction, is “on the job.” To return to my proposition for the establishment of an Empire Council or Board, I think it the duty of the entire Empire system to investigate the conditions prevailing in every part of the Empire. Let us place at the disposal of that Board, when created, nothing but accurate and dependable information regarding’ the requirements of the outposts of the Empire, and the manner in which each outpost is able to profitably absorb an increase in population. Then let us extend to every one of the white intelligent nations of the world an invitation to send people to our shores to do their part in the development of this country, and to take their share of the rewards of their toil and industry. Here I should like to say to our opponents in politics, both inside and outside the House, that when men and women are prepared to travel 12,000 or 13,000 miles over the sea - to leave their homes and their old associations in order to come here and play a part in the development of this new country - they should cease to treat them with disrespect merely because they are immigrants. They should treat them rather as our forefathers were treated, as good, honest Australian citizens. Coming to the question of defence, while I think the Labour party are entitled to credit for the good work they have done in the direction of defence, I wish no one to imagine that I agree with them in the two great fundamental principles upon which alone permanent and effective defence can be maintained. On those two great principles I am diametrically opposed to the Labour party; and, in so far as they have resolutely set their face against immigration, I say that they have, to use a colloquialism, badly “missed the ‘bus” in regard to Australia’s first need. I now come to the financial side of defence, and this necessitates my quoting from the Federal platform of the Labour party. Plank 13 of the general platform, as is well known to honorable members, sets out that naval and military expenditure is to be allotted from the proceeds of direct taxation. Honorable members opposite say “ Hear, hear,” to that, and they are perfectly right, if it is done in the proper way. If I understand English, and rightly interpret that plank, it means nothing less than that the defence of Australia shall be set up and maintained by means of direct taxation. If that be so, let us pursue the matter to its logical conclusion. We may take it that our opponents claim that they have given effect to the plank by the imposition of the Federal Land Tax. Am I right in that?
– We have made a start.
– That is the only direct tax imposed by the Commonwealth, and I take it that I am right in saying that it was imposed with the object of defending Australia. If times be normal - if there be no imminent danger pressing on Australia, and the usual revenue of the country is insufficient for the governmental developments and defence purposes of the country - there is nothing wrong, in my judgment, in finding the balance required by direct taxation. I take special exception, however, to direct taxation being levied, as has been admitted, for the purpose of defending Australia. Let us look at the tax in operation. The Land Tax Commissioner in his report tells us that in the first year there were close on 14,000 taxpayers, and the revenue obtained was approximately £1,400,000. About the same amount was received in the second year; and the estimate of the ex-Prime Minister in his last Budget statement of the revenue for the year just passed was £1,300,000. We all recognise that the needs of the defence of Australia are daily on the increase, and yet the tax imposed to provide the means is already on the decrease. Further, if the other object of the tax, which, as is a matter of common knowledge, is to burst up large estates, is achieved, the tax will altogether disappear unless the exemption is reduced, and the farmers brought within its range. Honorable members opposite told the farmers during the election campaign that they had not the slightest intention of doing anything of that kind; on the contrary, they posed as the farmers’ friends, and declared that they would not on ‘any consideration bring the farmers within the operation of the tax.
– It was the honorable member’s party who talked about bringing down the exemption.
– My party has not yet handled the question, and we can take responsibility only for what happens in the Chamber.
– Is that all the honorable member holds us responsible for - what happens in this chamber ?
– I am dealing with the measure as it was passed by the Parliament.
– I suppose the honorable member knows that the Labour party has said that the land tax is only the “ thin end of the wedge.”
– Yes, and I believe it is the “thin end of the wedge.” If the revenue under this tax does, as I have indicated, disappear, the very principle on which our opponents stand also disappears. I do not for a moment think our friends opposite intend to depart from the principle of a graduated tax, but I think that, as the revenue diminishes, they intend to lower the exemption, and reach the small landholder. What I said yesterday, by way of interjection, I now repeat with all the emphasis that practical experience has placed at my disposal. Any tax which aims at hitting large holdings and reducing their value cannot achieve its object without first hitting the small holdings - we cannot hit the large landholder except through the small holder. There may be a large land-holder on one side of the road, and on the other side a number of small holders who, by industry and saving, have built their homes on their little farm3. If. the value of the large holding is reduced, down goes also the value of every one of the small holdings. Under the law of the survival of the fittest the last man to go is the big man - we cannot “ burst up “ the big man until the little man is gone. The world revolves on public credit, nation borrowing from nation, and individual from individual. The greater proportion of the people on the lands of Australia are there by means of assistance given to them under bonds and mortgages. If the value of land is reduced by reason of the tax on land-holders, and they go, as most of them must, to ask for a renewal, what will happen?
– They will go to the “ sharks.”
– And they will get a shock to find that the financier who has lent them money recognises that the value of the security has decreased, and is not prepared to renew. It will be seen, therefore, that the little man whom honorable members opposite declare they wish to see exempt, is one of the hardest hit by the land tax.
– Has any land sale disclosed a reduction in the price of land?
– Yes; and, what is more, the tax has depleted the market of buyers.
– You can get land in Flinders-street for £900 a foot.
– I am talking, in particular, of farm land. Yesterday, in answer to the member for Adelaide, when he picked up the memorandum issued by the Government, and said, “ What have they done for the farmer? Not a thing,” I interjected that they had circulated a Bill for the establishment of an agricultural bureau; but, as is general with members of the Opposition dealing with a matter designed to assist the farmers, there were chuckles and sneers from honorable members, an attitude quite different from that which they assume when they come to court the farmers in my electorate at election time. For six years the electors of Wannon had, what I may say without any disrespect at all, six years of dumb representation.
– The honorable member is not in order.
– I withdraw, and say that, notwithstanding the attitude iu the past with regard to the farmers of Wannon, it is no news to honorable members of the House to know that, from the Leader of the Opposition right through the late Ministry, including the member for Adelaide, I had most of the late Ministers of the Crown, and very many other members, in my division helping the farmers, giving them at election time their usual lip service. They cannoned north, south, east, and west, with the result that it is my good fortune to be here to-day - with their assistance. With all the earnestness it is possible for me to muster, I compliment and congratulate the Cook Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, who is responsible for it, on the fact that the first measure leaving the hands of the Government is one to lighten the lot of the farmer and increase the production of this great continent. In the establishment of an agricultural bureau the Commonwealth has supplied a long-needed requirement.
– That is a bit of Socialism. Mr. RODGERS. - If so, it is a class of Socialism of which we can stand a lot. As far as the Federal sphere is concerned, there is no laboratory work going on in Australia for the benefit of the Australian producer. I know I am not permitted to discuss the Bill in detail but I have every confidence the Cook Government will leave no stone unturned to get the best scientific knowledge the world has to offer for the use of the primary producers of Australia, and to enable them, metaphorically speaking, to take advantage of it in the direction of growing two blades of grass where one is growing now. Next we come to the trading policy of the nation, and I am pleased to note the definiteness of the language employed by the Government in dealing with this question. It is the intention of the Government to maintain the accepted Protection policy. I believe I am in accord with the view of the majority of honorable members when I declare my faith in the national policy of Protection, believing it to be the best policy for the development of a young nation.
– Hear, hear! The only policy.
– Credit must be given to the Government, as an earnest of its intention, for the establishment and choice of the personnel of the Inter-State Commission. If the duty of that Commission is done rightly, there should cease to exist in the Commonwealth the differences of opinion that have so long kept the people divided in reference to this great national policy. The country for too long has been subjected to a pulldevilpullbaker system, with two interested sec tions keeping this great national policy of Australia perpetually burning. I have no interest, directly or indirectly, in any manufacturing enterprise, nor am I likely to have any, so that, as to the increasing of my personal balance-sheet by secondary industries, I am not concerned.
– As a farmer, you have nothing to gain from it.
– I may inform my friends opposite, who have had something to say to-day in regard to the attitude of the Age, that if they are sincere in their Protectionist beliefs, which I have no reason to doubt, they must admit that the strong advocacy by that journal has kept this policy in its proper place in Australia - namely, in the forefront.
– It has reversed any opinion it ever offered on public questions.
– The Age has survived every attack the honorable member’s party has made upon it.
– It will slime you over and swallow you just as it has always done with others.
– In the matter of the industrial life in Australia we reach the storm centre. On whatever side of politics he may be, no one anxious for the welfare and progress of Australia can be satisfied with the present industrial unrest prevailing in this country. We have practically three legislative means of dealing with the industrial life of Australia. The States, in their wisdom, have adopted the Wages Board system of settling with disputes. The Arbitration Court was established as a result of Federation, and recently we have had created the Inter-State Commission, one of theduties of which is to equalize and, as far as possible, co-ordinate the industrial relationships between the various States. I give way to no one on the other side in the sincerity of my conviction that the honest Australian workman ranks amongst the best of the citizens of the Commonwealth. As artificial gulf has been created between the employer and employe, and I hope it will not be taken with a bad grace when I say that I believe that a great deal of effort on the part of my honorable friends opposite, and the outside organization with which they are associated, is devoted to an attempt to widen that artificial gulf between employers and employes which they have created. I am not with them in that course of action. I believe that much better results may be achieved for Australia, andfor workers and employers in this country by bringing about a more harmonious cooperation between them than we can hope to achieve by adopting the course proposed by our opponents in politics. On the subject of preference in employment, let me say that every fair-minded person in the community must agree with the declaration of the Prime Minister that, in view of the fact that the. whole of the people contribute to the expense of the Public Service of the nation, there shall in that service be equality of opportunity for all and preference to none. The honorable member who preceded me reached the limit, in my judgment, in saying that he would advocate compulsory unionism. Does the honorable member not recognise the fact that compulsory unionism amongst workers would be followed as a natural corollary by compulsory unionism amongst employers?
– We have that now. Look at what they are doing in Tasmania.
– Then my honorable friends opposite want a monopoly of organization?
– No we do not.
– They object to combination of employers on one side, but desire that there should be increased combination of workers on the other side.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it. Fancy an auctioneer talking to men who have been all over the world.
– I am gradually coming to know more about the honorable member for East Sydney. I recognise that throughout the world combination is a modern tendency. Whether it be combination of thought, of capital, or of labour, no one can object to it if the result is toincrease production, to develop the country, and to better the lot of all the people. But when I find combination for the purpose of creating a monopoly of employment for one section of the workers of Australia, I am up against it.
– Would the honorable member prevent the rural workers having a union of their own?
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection, as, but for it, I might have overlooked the matter to which he refers. In my judg ment, the rural workers of Australia have the same right to organize as have any other workers in the Commonwealth.
– Would the. honorable member deny them the right to go to the Arbitration Court?
– I would grant to the rural workers the same right to organize for the betterment of their conditions that I would grant to other workers, but with regard to the proposal that they should be at liberty to appeal to the Arbitration Court, I support the Government in the attitude they have taken, because I believe that the Federal Arbitration Court is so constituted as not to be able to effectively deal with separate units such as the farmers’ are at present throughout Australia. Again, in place of the Arbitration Court, I recommend that employers and employes in rural industries should agree amongst themselves to the establishment of Country Wages Boards, by means of which the conditions of the rural workers of Australia may be thoroughly investigated, and they may secure full value for their services. I ask leave at this stage to continue my speech on the next day of sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 3.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130815_reps_5_70/>.