5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
Mr. KELLY laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence Act - Military Forces -
Regulation Amended - (Provisional) - StatutoryRules1913, No. 215.
Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended - (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1913, Nos. 213,214.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Port Augusta, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Tweed Heads, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Leasing of certain land acquired in the Federal Territory - Approval of authority for (dated 12th August, 1913).
Leases of lands acquired in the Federal Territory - Approval granted -
A. Boreham, Ginninderra.
S. Robertson, Weetangera.
Return of land acquired and disposed of,
Federal Territory - Leased to G. A. Boreham, Canberra.
Debate resumed from 15th August (vide page 225), 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 Pleaseyour 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 -
Uponwhich 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.
.- By leave, I return to the subject which was engaging the attention of the House when we adjourned last Friday, the condition of the rural workers of Australia. I take up the argument at the stage which it had reached in my reply to the honorable member for Boothby, who referred to the condition in which he had found our rural workers, and suggested that it was necessary for the intelligent section of the community to go to the help of the less intelligent, and secure their emancipation. I am solicitous that honorable members should know the true conditions existing between our farmers and their workers. They are conditions of harmony and satisfaction. We have had it stated on unimpeachable authority that the effective wages of the Australian workers have decreased. With that statement I am in agreement, except so far as our rural workers are concerned. In my opinion, the effective wages of the rural workers of Australia are relatively better than the effective wages of any other of our workers. Farm hands, for the most part, live for the whole year round on the holdings on which they are employed, and conditions that contribute to raise the cost of living affect their employers rather than themselves. If honorable members take a survey of the conditions prevailing in our rural districts, they will see that probably 90 per cent. of our present farmers began life years ago as farm workers.
An Honorable Member. - That is as it should be.
– Yes. Whatover laws may be made for the administration of the lands of Australia - and land legislation is, of course, within the province of the State Parliaments - they should be framed to make it easy for the farm worker of to-day to become the farmer of to-morrow. I venture the suggestion that the farm worker will be better assisted to the acquirement of a farm of his own by the co-operation of his employer than by the creation of antagonism between him and his employer. The honorable member for Boothby said that he had known the farm workers’ working time to extend over sixteen hours.
– At certain periods of the year.
– On the average, the farm labourer’s hours do not exceed eight a day. I make that statement on my own authority, and base it on my practical experience. That experience has been gained by leaving the entire work on my holding to the men I employ there.
– Why are the farmers afraid of the’ Arbitration Court if the conditions of their workers are’ so good?
– I repeat what I have already said, that I think that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is. a body not well constituted to deal with the relations between farmers and their employe’s. Conditions differ greatly in various parts of Australia ; the lines of production differ, and farmers remain units throughout their enterprise. I have said that I do not object to reasonable organization by the rural workers, but the movement which is now said to come from them has not come from them. It has come from those who hope to benefit by stirring them up. At the present time there is a dearth of rural workers in Australia. I may well beasked why that is so, and I shall therefore anticipate and answer the question. It is because so many experienced rural workers have become farmers and possess farms of their own. If there be. any department of industry in which oooperation and profit-sharing can be followed with advantage, it is farming, and to a start upon those principles very many of our farmers owe the holdings that they possess. It is within my certain knowledge that men without sufficient capital to obtain effective plant have been put into possession of land and equipped with teams by landholders to enable them to enter into profitsharing agreements with them, with the result thai; many who years ago were merely rural labourers are to-day farmers possessing their own farms. I might venture the remark that for the industrial peace and welfare of Australia it would be well if this system were extended to many other avenues of industry. Some references have been made to the alleged degradation of the condition- of rural workers, but if there be one worker who more than another is brought into close relation with his employer it is the rural worker. In a great many cases he sits down to the same table, and in the farm-life of Australia to-day he is excluded from very few of the comforts of the home. I come now to deal with the question of the high cost of living, which vitally affects all and particularly the workers of Australia. The Government are censured under this heading, and I might be excused for asking why censure on this account comes from a party who, if they desired to do so, had the opportunities during the past three years to do something towards reducing the cost of living in this country. Why did they not do so? Will any honorable member opposite tell me why they did not take steps to reduce the cost of living during the time they were in power ? Failing an answer, I am led to infer that they looked to the carrying of their referenda proposals to give them the power they desired for the purpose. The Australian people declined to place in the hands of any party in this Parliament the powers then sought for, and I should like to know whether it is on that account that our opponents support this motion of censure relative to the high cost of living. Is it not a fact known to every one in the community that the increased cost of living is a matter beyond the control of political parties? Ib is a world -wid’e tendency, and in this country I should say that 90 per cent, of the people have themselves contributed to the tendency. It is not confined to Australia. We have in this country aimed at a high standard of living, and time will prove whether the standard at which we have aimed is too high to be maintained. Personally, I should hesitate to support any movement to put back the hands of the clock of national or social progress, but I say that since each individual in the community contributes to the tendency to increase the cost of living, so each individual, if he chooses, may do something to reduce that cost. The question is everybody’s question, and if every one faces it down will come the cost of living. We were told by honorable members opposite that their proposal to reduce the cost of living was to fix prices. I take one commodity, and I say that within two years the price of potatoes went up to £15 per ton, whereas the price is now down to 40s. per ton - about the bare cost of production. Might I ask in what direction the activities of our opponents in politics would be exerted to now fix the price of that commodity?
– They are going to regulate the seasons.
– Exactly. The question is one of natural production, of supply and demand. Dealing now with the question of money stringency which has its effect upon every one in the community. The greatest factor in producing the money stringency affecting Australia in common with every other country in the world is the pace of armament building, not by one, but by the whole of the nations of the world. Money is in this way taken out of production, and devoted to the building up of warships and armaments, and war chests, and human beings are removed from their proper sphere of economic activity. The national revenue of Australia is approximately £20,000,000 a year. Out of that, £5,500,000 is appropriated for defence purposes, and to that, by the way, I have no objection. Approximately, a further £3,000,000 is devoted to provision for the amelioration of the lot of the least fortunate in the community. Again, I have little objection to that expenditure, but I point out that an expenditure of over £8,000,000 out of a national income of £20,000,000 puts us up against the position that if we wish to be relieved from the condition of money stringency we must take action to extricate ourselves. I have no doubt that with common sense, energy, grit, and some sacrifices, Australians will be the first amongst the nations of the world to emerge from that condition. We have here great latent wealth and resources awaiting development. By the exercise of common sense, and by all Australians putting their shoulders to the wheel, we should have no difficulty in relieving ourselves from this undesirable position. Parliament is charged with two duties in particular - first, the making of laws, and next the administration of those laws. As one who has had little to do in the past with the making or administration of laws, I may be pardoned for saying that administration must, in my judgment, engage much more of our attention, if it is to be made effective. The cost of administration has been too high, and we should look for more economy and greater efficiency. I agree with the honorable gentleman who recently controlled the Home Affairs Department that business methods should be imported into many of our public departments. Dealing with the question of national insurance, I am pleased to be able to support the Government in this matter. I think that the scheme outlined in the memorandum placed before honorable members to make better provision for sickness, accident, maternity, widowhood, and unemployment is one which, on national grounds, is deserving of support. With my honorable friends opposite I hope we shall not in this country have any introduction of the spirit of the poor laws. If honorable members opposite be honest in their contention, and do not desire the enactment of poor laws in this country, they should assist the Government to pass a measure providing for contributory insurance which will be free from the objections urged against poor laws. They will agree to allow each person, while in the possession of good health and in the full enjoyment of all his faculties, to assist in building up a great national fund . Employer and employe making their contributions, and the State assisting, a great national fund would be established from which provision may be made to meet the cases to which I have referred. I propose now to speak of the Northern Territory, and I refer to it chiefly for the purpose of dealing with the matter of land tenure. The Northern Territory is, perhaps, the most vulnerable spot in the whole of Australia, lying as it does nearest to the coloured millions of the world. If we do not occupy and develop that country, we may take it as pretty certain that we shall find some one else in occupation of it. We stand for a White Australia. I believe in the policy for two reasons, first of all because I would not be a party to tainting the white race, and next because I think we should not encourage the introduction to Australia of people for whom we should consider it advisable to establish an inferior set of conditions. While we have one code of laws affecting every man and woman in a nation we shall be on right lines. But, if we are to govern the Northern Territory properly, common sense must prevail. I support the principle of a. grant of the freehold of such lands as are fit for occupancy alternating with the leasehold for such land as can only be held in large areas for pastoral purposes. If the Northern Territory is to be peopled from the other portions of Australia, where the privilege of freehold obtains, we must grant liberal facilities there. I do not propose to occupy more of the time of the House, but express the hope that legislation will be passed in the interests of the people of this country. I have spoken from experience of contact with both sides in politics. We have been told that there is a desire on the part of all parties to do the business of the country in this House. But I venture to say that so far the country has not obtained what was promised to it. I trust that the spirit of national co-operation will prevail, and result in good business being done in the interests of the people who have recently been put to considerable trouble and expense in determining the issues between the two parties in politics.
.- Honorable members opposite - and I refer particularly to members of the Ministry - when Parliament met in July raised a great outcry in regard to what they called electoral scandals. I remember the honorable member for Henty going out on the warpath in his electorate, and saying that he intended to move for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into these scandals.
– The honorable member has been taking an interest in me lately.
– No more interest than I have taken in any other honorable member. Perhaps the honorable member could, if he would, tell us something not about elections scandals, but about scandals in connexion with the selection of candidates.
– In the honorable member’s party ?
– No. We have nothing of the kind on this side of the House. There are no such scandals here.
– How these Victorians love each other !
– Well, it would be very interesting to hear the honorable member on some selection scandals - as, for instance, concerning persons who had more than one ballot-paper sent to them on which to vote for the selection of a certain candidate in the Henty electorate. The right honorable member for Swan and others made ah awful noise about the number of duplications which had taken place at the last election.
– I do not think I did.
– The right honorable member did so in the press.
– It is impossible to “ make a noise “ in the press.
– We heard the roar right up in Queensland.
– The right honorable member spoke of thousands of alleged duplications in Western Australia. Statements of the kind put me in mind of the story of the little boy who told his mother that there were “ thousands of cats in the garden.” When she said, “ Surely not,” he said, “Well, there are hundreds.” And when she expressed doubt as to that statement, he said, “ Well, there is our cat and another.” But would it not be well for honorable members opposite, instead of talking about our alleged misdeeds, to pay attention to some of their own ? Have they made such a great success of their administration since they came into office that they need point to alleged faults of ours? If I may judge from the Commonwealth Gazette of the 26th July, which contains an announcement of the repeal of the Sugar Excise Act, I venture to say that they have lost to the Commonwealth and handed over to the rich Colonial Sugar Refining Company and other companies or persons many thousands of pounds. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but we shall get at the truth of this matter before we have done with it. We have not all the information yet. What we know is that there . was over 5,000 tons of Australian sugar in bond in Sydney on the day of the repeal of the Act. There was also about 4,000 tons of Australian sugar in bond in Victoria, The figures for Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania are not yet available. No doubt the Minister will in due course let us know how much the Government by their maladministration and their financial incapacity -really those are fairly mild terms - have lost to the Commonwealth and handed over to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The company wants back some of its contribution to the election fund.
– Three-fourths of the Excise that ought to have been paid on that sugar has gone to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Honorable members know as well as I do that that Excise should have been paid to the Commonwealth, but through the incapacity of Ministers in proclaiming the repeal of the Act as they did, the Commonwealth lost the money.
– Is it the honorable member’s idea that we should have repealed the Bounty Act only?
– The Minister should have his own ideas as to what ought to have been done. I certainly have mine. I believe that the Government know the mistake they made by this time. They know they have made a blunder.
– It seems worse than a blunder.
– They have blundered badly. Are the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the other companies in need of assistance? We find from the evidence taken by the Sugar Commission that the company will obtain about three-fourths of this Excise. Probably the Minister knows the exact amount upon which the company should have paid£4 per ton to the Commonwealth. By the bungling of Ministers the taxpayers have been robbed of this large amount of money. To-day the Government are not paying the bounty to the growers who have earned it, simply because they neglected their duty in proclaiming these Acts. The Minister of Trade and Customs asks me if I would have proclaimed only the Sugar Bounty Abolition Act, and if I would have allowed the proclamation in regard to the Sugar Excise Repeal Act to stand over for a time. Undoubtedly I would. There was no necessity for the Government to have proclaimed the two Acts on the same day. It was within the power of the Ministry under the provisions of the Customs Act to have kept in bond the thousands of tons of sugar that were stored in Sydney, Brisbane, Millaquin, and elsewhere instead of allowing the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Millaquin Sugar Refining Company, Messrs. Gibson and Howes, John Drysdale, and Young Brothers to deprive the Treasury of not less than £50,000, and probably over £100,000, to which it was justly entitled. The Government failed to take the necessary precaution to safeguard the revenue when the Sugar Bounty Abolition Act was proclaimed. There is no honorable member opposite who can justify their action.
Colonel Ryrie. - It is nearly as bad as the action of the late Government in paying so much money to Messrs. Hughes and Company, of Botany, in the form of bounty upon wooltops.
– From the evidence given before the Sugar Commission, I find that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is making a profit of 19 per cent., Messrs. Gibson and Howes of 14 per cent., and Mr. Drysdale, of the Lower Burdekin, himself admitted he more than doubled his original capital in five years. These are the persons who have reaped the advantage from this blunder on the part of the Government.
– That cannot be so. This is very interesting information.
– It will be very interesting when honorable members opposite attempt to explain it away.
– Did the honorable member say that certain firms had made big dividends in consequence of the action of the Government?
– I did not. 1 said that the persons whom I have mentioned have benefited to the extent of thousands of pounds by the action of the Government in simultaneously proclaiming the abolition of the Sugar Bounty and Sugar Excise Acts. This Parliament repealed both of those Acts last year, and their abolition was to be proclaimed on a date to be fixed. There was nothing to compel the Ministry to simultaneously proclaim the abolition of the two Statutes. But in the Commonwealth Gazette of 26th July last, we see that they did this, and they thus allowed these rich companies to put thou sands of pounds into their pockets. It must be remembered that upon every ton of this sugar a bounty of £3 had been paid. If the quantity in bond amounted to 20,000 tons - and I do not think it was less - the amount of Excise involved would! thus be £80,000. If it were 30,000 tons the loss would be £120,000. By proclaiming the repeal of both Acts simultaneously the Government have allowed the Commonwealth to be “ taken down “ by that amount. What answer have they to make to this charge ? It was perfectly open to them to have proclaimed the repeal of the Sugar Bounty Act first. If they deemed it necessary to embody some other provision in the repeal of the Sugar Excise Act of last year, Parliament was meeting within a fortnight, aud would have been ready to meet their wishes. Every honorable member opposite must admit that this Excise should “have been paid, seeing that we had already paid bounty upon each ton of this sugar. As the Minister of Trade . fend Customs knows perfectly well, it was open to him to have kept the whole of these stocks of sugar in bond.
– But the honorable member says that it was at the instance of the late Government that the Sugar Bounty Act and the Sugar Excise Act were repealed.
– But the Acts were not to be proclaimed until a date to be fixed, and that date was dependent upon a guarantee being given by the Queensland millers that they would grant both to the growers and the workers certain conditions.
– Surely the honorable member intended that the proclamations should issue when the Acts were repealed ! Was he only bluffing?
– No ; I am not like the honorable member - a big bluff.
– The honorable member is pretty good at it.
– Not nearly as good as is the honorable member.
– I would point out that interjections are disorderly.
– The honorable member asks whether we intended to proclaim the repeal of the Sugar Bounty Act. My answer is that we did intend to do so when we were satisfied that the Queensland Government had conceded the con- ditions which were in existence, say, during the last sugar season. The Prime Minister, in speaking at Maryborough on this question, said -
The sugar industry wanted simple fiscal and economic justice, and he could only say that the party to which lie belonged would give that justice when it got the opportunity.
What is the justice which they have given ? They have allowed the rich millowners and refiners to pocket these thousands of pounds, whilst they have withheld from the growers the bounty which they have earned. Many growers are today asking for the bounty. So far, they have not got it. Yet the Government are supposed to be the friends of the farmers.
– Stop the debate on the noconfidence motion, and they will get the bounty.
– The debate on- the no-confidence motion does not prevent the payment of the bounty. Whilst the Government profess to be the friends of the farmers, they are withholding the payment of the bounty to the growers, and they have allowed the rich mill-owners to dip their hands into the Treasury to the extent of thousands of pounds.
– The honorable member thinks that the repeal of the Sugar Bounty Act should have been proclaimed first?
– Yes. The proclamation of the Sugar Excise Repeal Act might have been delayed for a few days, or a fortnight, or a month, until the Government were sure that the Commonwealth had received the whole of the money to which it was entitled. To the representatives of these sugar companies they could have said, “You have 20,000, or 30,000, or 40,000 tons of sugar in bond for the present. We will not repeal the Sugar Excise Act until you have paid into the Treasury what is your just due.” But they were in such a hurry to take away from the workers some rights which they enjoyed that they allowed these companies to dip their hands into the Treasury-
– What rights did we take away ?
– I will tell tie Minister later on. I candidly admit if we were not discussing a motion of no confidence, I would be inclined to resume my seat, and to await the reply of the Minister in explanation of this blunder, this bungle, this exhibition of financial incapacity on the part of the Ministry of all the talents.
– Is that the situation ?
– It is, and they cannot deny it.
– If that is the situation it savours of corruption.
– And bribery. Put in “ bribery.”
– We leave that to ths honorable gentleman; he has been bribed often enough.
– If our party had been in power, and had made this blunder, every one of the 800 newspapers which the Liberal party boast they have on their side would have denounced us. They would have declared that it was a case of corruption, and that we were trying to give the sugar millers something. They would have asserted that we were allowing them to dip their hands into the Treasury to the extent I have mentioned. Not one of those newspapers would have failed to denounce us - and they would have rightly denounced us - if we had been guilty of such an action. I do not say that this has been done knowingly, but I do say that the Government have no right to stay in office one minute after the action they have taken in this connexion. By their conduct in this instance they have signed their own political death warrants; and already the writing is on the wall. There could have been no mistake; the Ministry comprises five lawyers.
– They will explain it away.
– They cannot. Let me put a question to the honorable member, who knows a little of the operation of the Excise Acts. If the Excise Act relating to his products were repealed, and the import duty were allowed to remain, would he leave much in bond ? I guarantee that these companies have taken all their sugar out of bond, and there will be no chance of catching up to them. They have made this gain, and the money has gone to swell their profits.
– But we can make them disgorge.
– If they are to be made to disgorge that is an admission that the Government have done wrong.
– They will do that.
– Will they? I am anxious to see the papers. When the honorable member says that they will make the companies disgorge, he admits that the Government have been guilty of maladministration .
– If they have done what the honorable member says they have done.
– They have been guilty of maladministration or incapacity. I shall not use the word “ corruption.” References to corruption have been made both in this Parliament and outside which should never have been uttered. I leave honorable members opposite to resort to such tactics. I arn well aware of the action taken by some of them, as well as by some of the Liberal candidates who were not returned, and I do not hesitate to say that no one could justify them. I was going to speak about a person - I do not know whether he is a “ person “ - whom they sent to oppose me, but I shall leave that matter for the present. On the 13th instant the Leader of the Opposition asked in this House -
I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs-
– Order ! The honorable member cannot quote from a report of the debates during the current session on a matter not before the House.
– Then I shall not read the question. The Leader of the Opposition, on the 13th instant, asked the Minister of Trade and Customs whether bounty had been paid to the growers who were asking for it, and he received a reply that the bounty was being withheld from the farmers until certain arrangements had been made. I freely admit that I did not know that the Ministry had been guilty of this act of gross negligence until I heard the Minister’s answer. His reply caused me to look up the Gazette, and when I saw that they had proclaimed both Acts simultaneously, I realized that the Commonwealth had been taken down to the extent I have mentioned. The Excise Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs keeps a record of everything in bond, so that we shall be able later on to find out exactly how many thousand tons of sugar have been taken out of bond. I am safe in speaking of 9,000 tons - 5,000 tons, which were in bond in New South Wales, and 4,000 tons in Victoria. As crushing operations had started in Queensland, more must have been taken out there, so that I think that the amount which has been lost to the Treasury through the incapacity of the present Ministry is not less than £50,000, and will probably prove to be well over £100,000.
– But they must do something for the Sugar Company in view of the funds they have obtained from it.
– Quite so. During the referenda campaign, in 1911, the then honorable member for Indi stated at Wodonga that the Sugar Refining Company had contributed £50,000 to the fund to oppose the referenda, and that by the simple process of increasing the price of sugar it had more than recouped itself within a couple of days. The company will not have to’ resort to any such expedient on this occasion. Let the Minister bring before the House a return showing the quantities of Australian sugar in bond on 3rd April last, 31st May last - the date of the general election - the 30th June last, and on the 25th July. If that be done, I am sure we shall find that there was a larger quantity in bond on the 25th July, the day on which this marvellous Government, having in its ranks five lawyers, proclaimed the Act, and allowed-
– So there should be. They were manufacturing.
– Of course, there was more. They were piling up sugar. Notice was given that the old Act was to be repealed, and they were trusting to the blundering of the Government-
– Not blundering.
– They were trusting to my honorable friends opposite to realize that they should not have to pay all this money, and they were not disappointed. They have not had to pay it. What answer do the Ministry make to this charge? Not one has said a word. All are dumb. There is to-day no chorus of interjections. The soloist on the back row - the freelance for vaccination - the honorable member for Werriwa, interjects
– We have first to hear the Ministerial side of the case.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon; he, too, has been interjecting. But what are the supporters of the Government going to do . if the Ministerial answer is unsatisfactory?
– I do not know.
– Give the honorable member for Yarra a piece of sugar.
– Other people have obtained some very big pieces. To use a slang expression I sometimes hear in my electorate, these companies have “ got a little of the dough,” and they have got it to the extent of many thousands of pounds. As soon as I heard the Minister’s reply to the question put by the. honorable member for Wide Bay, I compared the revenue returns for July of last year with those for July of the present year, and knew that unless at least £100,000 more was paid up this year on account of the repeal of the Excise duty, they were going to the bad. I found, however, that our revenue for July, 1913, was very little different from that received in July, 1912. I have not asked one question in connexion with this matter. I have obtained my figures from the public press. The Sydney Daily Telegraph publishes from time to time the quantities in bond in New South Wales, and I obtained from the Statistical Branch the figures relating to Victoria. I trust that the Minister will lay upon the table of the House full information as to the quantities in bond on the dates I have mentioned.
– May I ask the honorable member a question?
– It all depends. If the honorable member asks me a question which I deem to be nasty, I shall, like my honorable friends opposite, ask him to give notice; but if, on the other hand, he asks a question off which I can score, I shall answer him. The honorable member may go ahead.
– As the farmer and the workman seem to have been paid, it would appear, on the honorable member’s own showing, that it is the Sugar Company that has fallen in.
– The only persons who have fallen in are those gentlemen who sit on the Treasury bench, and the taxpayer, who has suffered to the extent of many thousands of pounds. The bounty must have been paid in a great majority of cases, and I suppose that in nine-tenths of the cases it had been paid prior to this; indeed, some of the sugar may be that of last year in regard to which there had been neglect to collect the bounty. The Ministry have no right to occupy their positions five minutes after such an exhibition of incapacity, and a similar incapacity may be shown in other directions. All the time, however, the members of the present Government are look ing round and raking up the files, in order to discover mistakes which may have been made by their predecessors, though I must pay the tribute to my successor that he has not done so in regard to the Department with which I was associated for three years. In any case, however, I am indifferent whether the honorable gentleman does so or not. The Ministry are more anxious to throw discredit on the late Government than to administer the Departments aright.
– Especially the Prime Minister and “Billy” Kelly!
– There are three of the Ministers who, apparently, do nothing else than attempt to throw discredit on the honesty and straightforwardness of their predecessors. They even dragged up a trivial mistake in regard to the erection of some buildings in the Federal Capital, and also drew attention to the fact that a motor tractor purchased for the Federal Territory has occasionally gone wrong. On this latter point a carefully inspired question was asked, and a typewritten answer read. Yet at the same time they permit the great injustice to which I have referred, to be inflicted on the people of Australia, who are all interested. Will the Sugar Company reduce the price of sugar by the £4 or so per ton?
– Does the honorable member say that the Sugar Company will certainly do so ?
– I hope so.
– I Say that the Sugar Company will certainly not do so; they will no more reduce the price of sugar than the honorable member himself Would reduce the price of any commodity in which he is interested, if the Excise on that commodity were accidentally taken off.
– The honorable member is becoming quite a Free Trader.
– That is what a candidate belonging to the Liberal side said at the last election, but the electors thought so little of him that they gave him only a few votes, and myself the rest. Every honorable member will admit that a reply is required to the statements I have made. The Ministry cannot go on without replying.
– They do not intend to.
– This question is apart from the fiscal question - it has absolutely nothing to do with Protection or Free Trade.
– That -accounts for the dispassionate way in which the honorable member is treating it?
– I admit I could have used language such as that used by honorable members opposite during the election campaign, but which ought not to be used in this House.
–The honorable member has done pretty well, I think.
– I could have accused them, as honorable members opposite have accused honorable members on this side-
– The honorable member does not call his language to-day abuse ?
– I certainly do not think that it is abuse; indeed, I should be quite prepared to take a vote of even honorable members opposite as to whether I have abused my position to-day. I accuse the Government of incapacity and financial blundering and bungling.
– And from behind the honorable member charges of corruption are made.
– Does the Prime Minister father all the statements of the honorable members who sit behind him ?
– I am dealing with the Prime Minister at present. Is the honorable gentleman prepared to stand by the statements of all the honorable members behind him?
– I merely made a remark.
– And I merely made a remark back at the Prime Minister.
– We are all free on this side, and no one can be responsible for us.
– There was a gentleman, Mr. Speaker, who occupied the same honorable position as yourself in a State Parliament, and who, as a member of the Liberal party, desired to show a little of his independence. When he took the chair in that Parliament, I never knew a man who received from the press, or -from the men with whom he had been associated in Parliament, more abuse than he did on account of his display of independence. He was told that because he was independent, and would not come to heel at the crack of the whip, he would be opposed at the next election.
– Why doss the honorable member not complete the statement, and say that that was owing to contempt of the people who put him in the chair?
– If every honorable member is, as the honorable member for Werriwa says, independent, they will allow the man to whom I have referred the right to his independent action, and if they do not do that, they show that they are just as much bound as the members of any other party in politics. The Prime Minister said that some honorable members on this side had charged the Liberal party with being corrupt. He desired to put that charge into my mouth, but I naturally declined to allow it. If I thought the Liberal Government and party were corrupt, 1 should say so ; if I thought that the action to which I have referred had been done wittingly, I should go outside this House and say what I thought about them. As a matter of fact, however, I do not believe they knew what they were doing.
– -Does the honorable member mean to say that the AttorneyGeneral did not know what he was doing?
– I do not think that they understand this question ; and that is the most charitable view I can take. At any rate, they have allowed the public to bp robbed of thousands of pounds - not less than £50,000, and probably more than £100,000.
– And this is the first fruits of sound, economical government !
– If this is the first fruits, I do not wish to be here when the harvest is gathered, nor would I care to be over there.
– It was not bad over there.
– I candidly admit that in the present position of affairs, the Ministry being only one up, and dependent, as the Prime Minister has said, upon the Speaker’s vote - I shall deal with that in a moment or two - I would sooner be here than over there. I should not like to be hanging on by my eyebrows. Mr. Speaker, I consider a statement made outside the House regarding the way in which you were going to vote was a reflection upon you, and your honorable office. I have read in the press the statement of the Prime Minister, where lie has said that the Ministry are dependent upon the Speaker’s vote. I consider it a reflection upon the honesty, the integrity, and the impartiality of the Speaker.
– Would you mind reading that statement ? ‘
– I have not the statement here, but at Wangaratta, at a banquet, a “ shivoo,” or a tea party - members can fill in their own phrase, I have no objection to them putting in whatever phrase they like - the Prime Minister said that tlie Ministry could only hang on by the Speaker’s vote.
– Is that not so ?
– The statement was that the Ministry could only hang on by the Speaker’s vote.
– That they had an arrangement with the Speaker.
– What is wrong with it?
– It is admitting that the Speaker is not impartial or absolutely fair.
– It is admitting the justice of our case.
– I will ask the honorable member for Yarra not to bring the Speaker into the discussion. It is quite irregular to do so, and the honorable member’s good taste would surely show it to him.
– I had no intention of dragging you into the struggle, Mr. Speaker. I was objecting to your being dragged into it by the Prime Minister. I was endeavouring to protect you and your impartiality, and to believe that you will be fair. That is all.
– If you do not stop talking like that, I shall resign.
– 1 am not afraid of that. I have sat in this Parliament with the honorable member for twelve years, and the thought that the honorable member is going to resign, and that we are to have an election, will not cause me any loss of sleep. However, I want to know what the Ministry are going to do about the bounty to these farmers, the bounty that has been properly earned by them.
– Have you not finished with that yet?
– No. If the honorable member wishes me to finish dealing with this, I shall keep on longer, because it shows me that he is not enjoying it. Many hard things were written about me, espe cially in the Sugar Journal. They said more than the Age, which is saying a good deal. They denounced me for the attitude I took up in connexion with the industry, but that very action has been indorsed by the Queensland Parliament, who are giving these men the wages they denounced me for saying they should receive. I was denounced throughout Queensland for saying that the men should receive ls. an hour, but if I am to judge by the vote received by the party with which 1 am connected, they are nob sorry in Queensland for the decision made by the Ministry preceding the present Administration. I do not desire to refer to this again, when the Minister of Trade and Customs returns to his place in the House, but I want to know why they do not pay the bounty. The honorable member for Richmond is also out of the chamber, probably keeping his eye on the majority, because he is afraid that some of his party cannot stand this matter that has come up to-day.
– That is hardly fair tactics. All your men are not here, so why call attention to the absence of members from this side? I am surprised at you.
– When the honorable member has been here a little time he will not be surprised.
– The honorable member for Richmond stated that the bounty was not being paid because of this noconfidence motion. Will any responsible Minister make the statement that the bounty is being held up on account of this no-confidence motion ? Do Ministers mean to say that they do not collect revenue or pay other bounties? It is absurd. No responsible Minister would make such a statement. I see that the Minister of Trade and Customs has returned to the chamber.
– I thought you said you had finished with that subject.
– It is my fault. I said earlier in the debate that I wanted to know why the farmers were not being paid their bounty, and the honorable member for Richmond - the Government Whip - said, “ Finish this noconfidence motion, and it will be paid,” thus trying to mislead the farmers into thinking that the bounty was being held up on account of the no-confidence motion. Will any Minister make that statement ?
– It was not a misleading statement in any way.
– Then is it correct that you are not paying the bounty on account of this no-confidence motion ?
– Get on.
– It is an absolutely misleading statement to use. The bounty is being held up, and every member on the Government side knows it. Do Ministers mean to say they are not collecting revenue at the Customs Houses, or paying other bounties, during this debate on a no-confidence motion? The wheels of government are going round all the time, and Ministers will collect everything they are entitled to collect, and they will pay the bounty to every person who is entitled to receive one. But the reason they are not paying this bounty is because they neglected the Excise they should have collected, and are trying to make some arrangement, admitting, as the honorable member for Grampians states, they have made a blunder by not collecting the money. So they are taking it out of the farmers by not paying the bounty.
– I said that if they made a blunder I was quite certain they would make those who got the extra money disgorge.
– -They cannot make them disgorge. If they tried to do so, it would be admitting that they made a blunder. Once a duty is repealed, you cannot collect it. The lionorable member knows something about a certain class of article. Assume that he was getting in £100 worth of spirits, and that he had it in bond.
– The Customs Act was not repealed. That is the difference.
– The honorable member does not understand. If he comes outside when I have finished, I will take a couple of hours trying to explain it to him. I think I could easily explain it to him in a couple of hours.
– You might be sorry.
– I do not think the Prime Minister would be sorry if I took the honorable member out for that length of time. I am anxious to get on with my speech. I have devoted more time to this matter than I had intended to do, but no more than is necessary. More will be heard, not only here, but outside, of the action which Ministers have taken, or shall I say of their want of forethought.
– I am not anxious to wear out one word like the honorable member does in going round the electorates, and saying “ This is my majority.” He reminds me of a gramophone which has only one record. He keeps on the record no matter where he is. If he goes to Gippsland he says, “ This is my majority.” If he goes to Corio or to Wangaratta or to Riverina, he says the same thing.
– I have not been to Gippsland ?
– Did not the honorable member go to the Farmers’ Conference at Bairnsdale, and is not Bairnsdale in Gippsland ?
– That is ancient history.
– Is a visit by the honorable member to Gippsland since he has been Prime Minister ancient history? The honorable member for Echuca, who, I am very sorry to see, is not in his place, stated at a meeting in Costerfield that -
Mr. Fisher, Prime Minister, and Mr. O’Malley. Minister for Home Affairs, were robbers. He accused them of taking money out of the Commonwealth Treasury and putting it in their own pockets, and said there were men in gaol doing two or three years for lesser crimes than these Ministers had committed.
I have that statement embodied in a statutory declaration signed by four men. I have another statement made by the honorable member for Gippsland, but I will keep it back until he returns to the chamber. I desire now to refer to the statement of Ministerial policy which has been laid upon the table. First, Ministers say that they are going to have the elections pure. They made a great cry, it will be remembered, about the extensive duplication of votes. Ihave asked questions here over and over again as to what action they intend to take regarding those persons who were alleged to have voted twice. I shall not trouble to refer to the position in any electorate other than my own. Of the forty-eight alleged cases of duplication of votes in my electorate, I do not believe that there is one genuine case, but if there is, it is the duty of honorable members opposite to take action at once. I have gone carefully- through the list which has been supplied to me by my scrutineer, and I know only one person out of the forty-eight names on the list, even by sight. No person I know of in the list has been connected with the Labour movement, even in a shadowy form. It is quite possible that many of these persons may have voted Labour, just as it is quite possible they may have voted the other way, or informally. Of the forty-eight persons on the list, twentyeight are women, and twenty men. Honorable members opposite went about making the extravagant statement that this was a pre-arranged affair, and it was alleged that in one case a person had voted seventeen times. Why do they not prosecute him ? What action are . they going to take regarding any of these alleged duplications? In my electorate there are only six subdivisions and ten pollingbooths. In four subdivisions there are two polling places, and an elector can vote at either of them. In my opinion, the reason for the alleged duplication is that the persons in charge, in their hurry, probably crossed off the wrong name. There are plenty of persons with thu same name in a subdivision. In Central Richmond, where there are about 10,000 persons, and about four pages are covered with the names of persons called Smith; there are, I suppose, a dozen or more persons called John Smith, some of them following the same occupation and some of them standing to each other in the relation of father and son, where a mistake might easily have been made.
– Did any of the Smiths vote twice?
– Yes; a Mr. J. H. Smith, at North Richmond, is alleged to have voted twice. There happened to be
Bix persons of that name on the roll for the subdivision. If the Government find that five of them voted once and one twice, then it is clear that there was one case of duplication, but if one i r more of them did not vote at the election, then Ministers must admit that in all probability a mistake was made, and if they made their statement honestly they will acknowledge that they were led away by the press, and that there was not the amount of personation alleged to have taken place. It is of no advantage to give the full names of the other persons on this list, and so I will content myself with giving only the initials. Of two persons bearing the same Christian and surname, there are nineteen cases, among whom are the following: - T. F., J. F., E. H., F. J., J. C, A. R., and E. M. K. Three persons with the same Christian and surname have the initials E. S., and one of these I know by sight. From what I know of the only person who is alleged to have voted twice, I do not believe for a moment that that person could be tempted by the whole revenue of the Commonwealth to commit a breach of the Electoral Act. Honorable members on the other side have tried to make political capital out of this matter, but, as in the little incident I related, when they are bowled out, . they admit that probably there were mistakes made on their own side. In the majority of cases, the supposed instances of duplication are to be accounted for by the enrolment of two or more persons possessing the same Christian and surnames. This sort of thing occurred, too : On polling day a man came to my committee room in the morning, and said, “ Frank, they will not let me vote.” I said, “What is the matter?” He replied, “ My name has been crossed off, although I have not voted. My father has voted, and my name has been crossed off in mistake for his.” The officials stated that if the son would bring his father back to the booth, and obtain a declaration from him that he had already voted, and that his name had been crossed off by mistake, they would allow the son to vote. Had the son gone to another polling booth as an absentee voter, hia vote would have been allowed, and there would have been forty-nine instead of forty-eight alleged cases of duplicate voting in the Yarra electorate. No doubt, similar mistakes occurred in all the electorates, for which there are many persons enrolled possessing the same Christian and surnames, and in many cases following the same occupation. What is easier than to confuse mother and daughter, whose names are the same, and whose occupation in each case is “ home duties” ? If Ministers have a vestige of justification for their charges they should go further, and press them home. The VicePresident of the Executive Council, speaking at Fitzroy on the 21st July, said, as reported in the Age -
On the day the writs were issued there were 314,000 more names on the roll than persons entitled to go on. Sixty thousand more people voted in Sydney than were eligible, 60,000 more in Victoria, 30,000 more in Queensland, 17,000 more in South Australia, 11,000 more in Western
Australia, and 7,000 more in Tasmania. The worst of it was that some of these people voted twice.
I should like to know what proof there is of that statement. According to the Electoral Department, in no case did more than 80 per cent, of the electors enrolled vote at the last election.
– Eighty-three per cent, in Ballarat.
– What action does the Minister in charge of the Department intend to take in regard to the alleged personation and duplication of votes ? I admit that it is an accident that he is in office, to be accounted for largely by the fact that in Victoria polling-day was wet; but, as he is there, I should like to know what he intends to do. Has the AttorneyGeneral’s Department been instructed to take action against those at fault? If not, will the Minister admit that the statements to which I have referred are without justification, and were merely electioneering squibs ? I have so much faith in the people of Australia that I do not think that it can be proved that there was this double voting on the 31st May last, though mistakes may have been made by electoral officers in the crossing-out of names. Those who visited city booths during the busy parts of polling day know that electors were standing three or four deep waiting for their ballot papers, and possibly, in the hurry of the moment, mistakes were made by officials in the striking off of names.
– If the honorable member thinks that the Australian voting public is incapable of wrong-doing at elections, why did he and his party vote to abolish the postal vote, and why did they make so many calumnious statements regarding the electors?
– Very few members of the Fusion were returned at the General Election of 1910. Those who came back protested, against the abolition of the postal vote. But they knew that in 1909 every member of the Labour party had voted against the postal vote, and the country was aware that if returned with a majority we should abolish it.
– Not one member who voted against the postal vote in 1909 was defeated at the following election.
– That is so, though many of those who voted for it then were defeated, among them being Messrs. Tilley Brown, Jabez Coon, R. A.
Crouch, J. G. Wilson, Hume Cook, Dr. Liddell, Colonel Foxton, and others. Mr. Archer did not vote on that occasion, and perhaps he was wise in refraining from doing so, and Mr. Dugald Thomson and Sir Thomas Ewing retired.
– Has the honorable gentleman a list of those of his own party who have been wiped out since the postal voting provisions were repealed?
– The honorable member need not worry about them, because they will come back. Abraham Lincoln said, “ You can fool some of the people all the time, and all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Honorable members opposite fooled the people at the last election by misstatements, but the rural workers’ log will not cut so much ice at the next election, and the statement of an honorable member opposite that £4,000,000 had been unaccounted for by the Fisher Government will not go down next time.
– Absolutely untrue.
– The honorable member will have to withdraw that. I have here the statement he made at Swan Reach.
– The honorable member should withdraw the statement he has made.
– If I have transgressed the rules of the House, I willingly withdraw the words.
– I am prepared to quote the statement which the honorable member made at one of his own meetings, but 1 an) dealing now with the postal vote, anil I am not to be side-tracked by any misstatement or withdrawal by the honorable member. I say first of all that every member of the Labour party voted against the postal voting provisions in 1909, and that, therefore, people knew what the party would do in that connexion in 1910. I refer honorable members to the use made of the postal vote at the referendum in 1911. I quote from the Labor Call figures taken from the official returns laid on the table of this House. I find that no less than 13,000 postal votes were recorded in Victoria, whilst there were only 23,000 postal votes recorded in the whole of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Kooyong interjected the other day that the reason for this was that the system had been in operation longer in Victoria.
– Hear, hear.
– That statement is absolutely incorrect.
– It is not.
– It is incorrect, because the system was in operation in South Australia before we adopted it. We copied it from South Australia, and when the Federal Parliament adopted the system, it had, of course, to be used in all the States. The honorable member for Kooyong doubtless feels keenly upon this matter, because of the enormous number of postal votes recorded in his own electorate. In the three metropolitan electorates of Kooyong, Balaclava, and Fawkner there were more postal votes recorded than for the whole of New South Wales, and four times as many as were recorded in Western Australia.
– What does the honorable gentleman say is wrong with that?
– I will tell the honorable gentleman. I believe that persons were induced to vote by post who should not have voted in that way.
– Can the honorable gentleman give any proof of that statement?
– I can give more proof of it than any of the present Ministry can give of the alleged abuses of the absent vote. I direct your attention, sir, to the very unusual circumstance that while a vote of want of confidence in the Government is under consideration, there is not a member of the Ministry in the chamber. The Minister of External Affairs has just come in, and has saved the situation.
– I was only at the door.
– Then the honorable gentleman will probably be glad that I directed attention to the circumstance.
– I can always hear the honorable gentleman at the door.
– I thought that some of you might be listening outside, and afraid to come into the chamber.
– The honorable member should address the Chair.
– Certaiinly, but I thought I was entitled to direct attention to the absence of Ministers. The Minister of External Affairs would appear to have had some wireless communication with the chamber.
– Let the honorable gentleman come along with his proofs.
– In the “ toffy “’ electorate of Kooyong, 1,226 persons voted by post, whilst ‘in the working-class electorate of Yarra, just across the river, which is not very much wider than tha length of this chamber, only 185 postal votes were recorded. Does the honorable member for Kooyong mean to tell me that the birth-rate was higher in Kooyong than in Yarra ?
– So far as I could assist it, it certainly was.
– Did the enormous number of persons who voted by post in the Kooyong electorate adopt that means of voting for that reason ?
– My honorable friend is aware that there were reasons other than maternity which caused people to vote by post.
– Were there more people sick in Kooyong than in Yarra ?
– There may have been more business men in the Kooyong electorate who could not be present at the poll.
– Of all the lame excuses I have ever heard for the postal vote that is the lamest.
– Of all the lame evidence to substantiate a charge the honorable gentleman’s is the lamest.
– What is the honorable gentleman’s excuse ?
– My time is limited, and I am given to understand that I have only twenty minutes more in which to conclude my speech.
– The honorable gentleman’s evidence is limited.
– I do not think it is- I say that the people of Australia knew that the Labour party would abolish the postal vote, because every member of the party had previously voted against it. If honorable members opposite at the last election had said that every member of the Labour party voted against the postal vote in 1909, and in 1910 did only what might have been expected of them in ..abolishing the postal vote, they would have been more honest in the statements made to people outside. But they gave the public to understand that it was only because the postal vote was recorded against them in 1910 that they abolished it. They did not tell the people that the party voted against it in 1909. I have nodoubt that in some of the’ electorates we could look for a majority of postal votes. I take such an electorate as my own, for instance. Ithas been said that our opponents put up a man there merely in order to keep me at home. They did not even do that at the last election. I managed to squeeze in, although the Age opposed me. The only thing I was sorry for was that the Age did not keep up its opposition to me until the day of the election. Had it done so, the other chap would probably have lost his deposit.
– As my opponent did.
– He was an Age candidate also. One thing in common between the honorable member for Echuca and me is that we are both opposed by the Age, but there we part company.
– Another fusion.
– No; I would sooner go out of politics than fuse with the honorable member for Echuca.
– Let the honorable gentleman give us his proofs of the abuses of the postal vote.
– I say that one-fourth of the postal votes recorded at the election to which I have referred, were recorded in three metropolitan electorates of Victoria, and none of the reasons for this alleged by honorable members will hold good. They have told the public that the privilege of voting by post has been taken away from mothers. The birth-rate was higher in Melbourne Ports than it was in Balaclava ; it was higher in my own electorate than it was in the electorate of Kooyong. If it be said that the greater use of the postal vote in those electorates was due to a greater amount of sickness in them, I say that there is more sickness in working-class electorates than in other electorates. The honorable member for Melbourne has proved time after time that the postal vote was open to abuse. Honorable members opposite say that if the system is reintroduced, they will secure a majority of such votes. I certainly need not worry about it in my electorate, although in some cases there is reason to worTy about it seeing that the vote can be manipulated more easily. Why do honorable members opposite make the statement that certain persons were prohibited by the late Government from acting as electoral officers ? Simply because they know that the persons in whom they are interested were capable of exercising influence. We are tcld that an order was sent out that certain persons should not be allowed to act as poll clerks or deputy returning officers.
Colonel Ryrie. - A disgraceful thing! Mr. TUDOR. - The honorable member for the Sydney quarantine station should keep quiet. I wonder why the honorable member is not making such a noise about quarantine now as he did when I was the responsible Minister. Is the quarantine station matter a party one ?
Colonel Ryrie. - No, I have not had a chance yet.
– The honorable member for Werriwa found a chance. Is not the honorable member for North Sydney as good as he? I maintain that it is a perfectly right thing to prohibit a person from being in charge of a polling booth who is likely to exercise undue influence over those who come to vote.
Colonel Ryrie. - The late Government would allow a boss rabbit trapper, who could exercise influence over other rabbit trappers, to act.
– I will guarantee that there are more professed opponents of labour in charge of polling places throughout Australia than there are professed supporters of labour. Last week the honorable member for Wannon referred to voting at hospitals. I have here a clipping from the Age of 5th May, wherein the following piece of news is reported from St. Arnaud -
At the meeting of the St. Arnaud Hospital Committee last night, a communication was read from the Divisional Returning Officer for the Grampians, stating that it was decided, if practicable, to provide facilities at public hospitals for inmates to record their votes at the elections, on 31st May, provided no objections were raised by the hospital authorities, and a convenient and proper room was available for a polling booth.
The secretary read a letter, which had been sent to the committee in October last by the State Under Treasurer, to the effect that the State Cabinet did not approve of voting taking place at the hospital.
It was unanimously resolved, on the motion of Mr. Manallack, seconded by Mr. Eowe, that the application of the Returning Officer be not granted. The mover of the resolution remarked that if the system of postal voting were in vogue hospital patients would be able to exercise the franchise at Federal elections.
Here we see the attitude of the State Government, which is a Liberal Government, towards voting in hospitals. The party opposite see no objection to a hospital doctor or other authorized witness going up to a patient, and saying, “ Here is a ballot-paper for the electorate of Wannon. It contains two names, McDougall and Rodgers. If you want to vote for Rodgers, put your cross there.”
– What nonsense.
– If a doctor in a hospital does that kind of thing, it is all right. But if an electoral officer, who is in an independent position, puts the case fairly before a patient in a hospital the Victorian State Government say that it is wrong. I notice that again there is no Minister present. Of course, I do not care whether Ministers listen to me or not, but I do think that a Minister ought to be present while a no-confidence debate is in progress.
– The Prime Minister is listening to the honorable member.
– The Prime Minister is not in the chamber; he is on the other side of the bar.
– It is too bad, I admit; it is as bad as it used to be when the late Government was in office.
– The Prime Minister cannot point to a single occasion while we were in office when the House was left without a Minister in charge.
– I remember the honorable member for Maranoa sitting at the table when a complaint was made that a Minister was not present.
– It occurred scores of times.
– That is about as accurate as are many of the honorable member’s statements.
– It is a simple truth.
– It is not a simple truth.. To return to the point, the party opposite think that it is quite right that a hospital doctor should act as an authorized witness, and have an opportunity of seeing that a patient votes as he desires, but when we wanted to make every hospital a polling booth it was objected to. Something has been said about the Labour party not supporting the hospitals. A sneer has been levelled at the workers. It was said that members of the Labour party never serve on hospital committees. Personally I wish all hospitals were nationalized. But those associated with the management of hospitals are glad enough to ask honorable members on this side to deliver Hospital Sunday addresses for them. I have been up to the honorable member’s electorate, and I say that it comes with ill grace from him to sneer at the Labour party because of their failure to secure election to hospital com mittees. I venture to say that only yesterday the working classes contributed to these institutions as much in proportion to their earnings as did other classes whose members could better afford to contribute.
– All their contributions are welcome.
– They are welcome to contribute, and to be kept off the hospital committees. When the honorable member sneeringly remarks that we do not get Labour men on hospital committees-
– Why does. not the honorable member give the Liberals credit for the work which they do when they are there ?
– I give them credit for preventing the inmates of hospitals from voting. I come now to the statutory declaration of four residents of Costerfield, to which I referred earlier in the afternoon. That affidavit is signed by Edwin Theodore Hellwege, Hugh Thomas Braden, Robert Braniff, and A. Dyne, and was sworn before Mr. J. P. O’Brien, J.P. Tt sets out that -
Mr. Palmer, M.H.K.. at his meeting here, held in the public hall on the_ evening of Monday, May 2GU1, 1013, said that Mr. Fisher, Prime Minister, and Mr. O’ Malley, Minister for Home Affairs, were robbers. He accused them of taking money out of the Commonwealth Treasury and putting it in their own pockets, and said there were men in gaol doing two or three years for lesser crimes than these Ministers had committed.
– I mean to prove it in part on the floor of the House.
– Why does not the honorable member prove it altogether?
– I will prove it, so far as it applies to the ex-Prime Minister.
– I see.
– We will have him in gaol, too.
– The Prime Minister would like to, no doubt.
– Do not be silly.
– I am merely repeating the Prime Minister’s own words. If there is anything for which the ex-Prime Minister should be in gaol, by all means put him here, but if there is not, the charge against him should be withdrawn. I know that certain honorable members are in the habit of getting into little country places-
– On which side of the House ?
– On the opposite side of the House. I have heard extraordinary statements from men who have driven some of the Liberal candidates around the country in this State. I have a statement here, which is signed by six persons, regarding the utterances of the honorable member for Gippsland. He will not be here very long, so I might as well give him his full title while he is here: The statement sets out that the honorable member said -
Statement No. 2 : - “Now, I will tell you a little about the Labour Government’s financing. Prime Minister’s Department - thousands pounds. A Department never known of in any previous Government. Petty cash - thousand. Contingencies - thousand pounds. Miscellaneous - thousand pounds. Home Affairs Department - thousand pounds. When you tot these items up it amounts to two millions of money, and that amount is missing, cannot be traced, no one knows what became of it. Isn’t that a scandalous thing? Two millions of money amounts to ten shillings per head of the population of the Commonwealth. Therefore, you poor farmers have each lost ten shillings of your money, which was dragged from your pockets by heavy Customs and Excise duties. The whole countryside is shaken in the confidence of the Labour Government.”
There is another letter in this journal signed by Mr. Jas. Callinan, of Swan Reach. I have here the issues of this newspaper for the 3rd July and 7th August-
– The statements about the ?2,000,000 are reported in halfadozen newspapers.
- Mr. Callinan states-
At the close of Mr. Bennett’s meeting, I asked him the following questions : - “ Do you mean to infer that the Ministers of the Fisher Government embezzled ^’2,000,000 of money ? “ Mr. . Bennett answered, “I did not say ‘embezzled.’ “ I said, “ Well, no person could take any other meaning from your remarks.” I asked, “Did not the Auditor-General audit the accounts in the Departments you referred to ? “ Mr. Bennett answered, “ No. The Ministers locked their rooms, and would not let him in.” “Well, then, how did you get the figures you quoted ? “ Answer : “ From the Budget.”
The paper from which I have quoted is called Every Week, and I understand it is published somewhere in Gippsland.
– A second edition of the Labour Gall.
– On the 29th July the honorable member for Gippsland addressed another meeting at Swan Reach, at which the following dialogue took place -
Mr. Callinan. ; I want to reach finality regarding the?2,000,000 of money you spoke of ils missing.
– I never said?2,000,000 was missing.
Mr. Callinan. ; Do you remember me asking you the question - “ Did you mean to infer that the Fisher Government embezzled?2,000,000 ? “
Mr. Callinan. ; Did you answer, “ I did not say embezzled.” ?
Mr. Callinan. ; Did I not ask, “ Is it not a fact that the Auditor-General audited the amounts you refer to in the different Departments ? “
Mr. Callinan. ; Do you remember you answered by saying, “ No. The Ministers locked their rooms, and would not let him in.” ?
– There was a lot more-
– What was the answer given to that question ?
– I have only a minute longer to address myself to this motion.
– I will move that an extension of time be granted to the honorable member.
– I will accept it, because I am anxious to read what the honorable member himself said in reference to “ beer-sparrers “ at Avoca.
– What was the answer given by Mr. Bennett to the last question ?
– The report continues-
– Oh, no’; that’s too ridiculous. I never said that.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I move -
That the honorable member be granted an extension of a quarter of an hour.
– As the honorable member for Yarra was subjected to a good many questions, I am prepared to support that motion.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable member for Yarra be granted an extension of a quarter of an hour ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Seeing that a standing order has been passed, imposing a limitation of the time occupied in debate, I think that effect should be given to it. I will take another opportunity of placing upon record everything that I wish to say in regard to the honorable member for Gippsland. I have no intention of breaking the standing order.
– The Leader of the Opposition, who has submitted the amendment to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, has laid three charges against the Government.
Had he endeavoured to formulate three reasons why the people of Australia should have displaced his Ministry from office, he could not have worded it more aptly. During the last election campaign many statements were made by honorable members opposite in regard to the Liberal party, and even as late as last night the Leader of the Opposition attributed the defeat of his party to misrepresentation. I do not think that the right honorable gentleman has ever lost a cause in a contest where the public were concerned in which he has not put forward the plea that his defeat was due to lies and misrepresentation. That was the excuse which he urged when the referenda proposals were first defeated in 1911; it was the plea which he put forward when the Labour party were defeated at the last State elections, and it is the reason which he assigns for the failure of his followers at the recent Federal elections. As a Democrat, it is about time he should bow with grace to the decision of the people of Australia. They are quite capable of pronouncing upon the merits of both parties and of understanding the issues submitted to them. I think that we might at least pay the people of Australia the compliment of believing that they are capable of weighing the policies submitted to them by the parties seeking their suffrages. It ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition to seek to explain away his defeat by making a charge, more or less indirect, against the people of Australia. I wish, however, to refer first of all to the question that has been raised by the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs. In the first place, let me emphasize the point that if any difficulty has to be faced by the present Ministry in connexion with the sugar legislation, it arises from the bungling and incapacity of honorable members opposite who framed that legislation. According to them they realized the difficulty that would have to be feared. If they did, why is it that, in the repealing legislation, no clause was inserted to meet such a contingency? The repealing Bills were rushed through Parliament at the end of the session, and in each case consisted simply of a clause repealing the whole of the Excise taxation and the whole of the bounty as well.
– What else is wanted?
– If the honorable member will give me his attention he will learn, and he will learn also what action we have had to take because of the utter incapacity of the late Government to frame legislation suitable to the occasion. Towards the close of last session - namely, on 5th September - the Premier of Queensland wrote to the Prime Minister of Australia intimating that his Government was prepared to introduce legislation excluding coloured labour from the sugar industry, and to constitute a wages tribunal to deal with the wages and conditions of the industry. The two objects aimed at by our bounty legislation up to that date were to secure the establishment of a White Australia and the observance of White Australian conditions. This offer was made, but the Prime Minister did not reply at once. It was not until the 5th December last that he sent the following telegram to the Premier of Queensland -
Referring to subject of your letter, 5th September, 1912, I have now honour’ to inform you that the Commonwealth Government will introduce Bills during the current session of Parliament to abolish the Sugar Excise and Sugar Bounty Acts, which shall be brought into operation by proclamation upon the States concerned passing an Act to (a) Confer upon Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate in respect of the employment of coloured labour and regulation of wages and conditions of labour; or (J) Abolish coloured labour in the industry, and establish tribunals for the regulation of rates of wages and conditions of labour; such legislation, whether by Commonwealth or State, to adopt the recommendations of Royal Commission on Sugar Industry as to minimum rates of wages and conditions of labour.
The second of these proposals was accepted by the Premier of Queensland. But the point that I wish to emphasize is that it was not made until the 5th December, at the very moment when the Queensland Parliament was about to be prorogued.
– About to be?
– The telegram was received only two or three days before the State Parliament was prorogued. The Queensland Government had at that time passed a Bill providing for a Wages Board for the sugar industry. The State Parliament rose before this Legislature had done anything, and it was not until the 24th December last that the Royal assent was given to our repealing legislation. The position, therefore, is perfectly clear. The agreement made between the respective Governments is set out in the correspondence to which I have referred. The State Government was to pass an Act abolishing the employment of coloured labour in the industry, and establishing a wages tribunal in relation to the sugar industry, and on that legislation being passed the Government of the Common.wealth was to issue a proclamation bringing into force the Acts repealing our Excise and bounty legislation. That clearly was the contemplated agreement. The’ Labour Government were charged with having increased the cost of production to the sugar-growers to the extent of 40 per cent, by imposing upon the sugargrowers certain labour conditions, while at the same time giving them no relief whatever. When they were asked why, although they had seen their way clear to help the workers, they had not given any relief to the growers, their reply, in the first instance, was that they had to wait until the Royal Commission on the sugar industry had furnished its report. After Parliament had been prorogued, Labour Ministers went to the country and declared that the Excise and Bounty Acts would have been repealed long ago if the Queensland Government had only passed legislation.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member says “ Hear, hear !” Let me point out to him what this means. If the Queensland Government had passed the necessary legislation on 17lh December, then on 24th December the Commonwealth Excise and bounty legislation would have been repealed, both the bounty and the Excise would have been abolished, and tha whole of the sugar manufactured in Queensland during the following six months - the Excise value amounting, probably, roughly speaking, to about £600,000- would have been free of Excise duty.
– £600,000 ]
– I said “roughly speaking.” I am speaking from memory. The honorable member did not inform me that he was going to raise this question.
– There have never been 100,000 tons of sugar in bond, and the Minister knows that.
– The honorable member may be correct. He did not pay me the courtesy of informing me that he intended to raise this question, and, in consequence, I am speaking without the papers, but I will accept his own figures. Assuming that there had been 100,000 tons in bond, then the amount payable would have been £400,000; but, whatever the quantity, the position would have been exactly the same as that which was created when we repealed the old Acts. During all this time the Labour party were posing as the friends of the grower. They declared that they were eager to assist the primary producer, although, as a matter of fact, they never thought of the primary producer prior to the introduction of this legislation. When a deputation waited on the honorable member for Yarra, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs, he, without consulting any of the primary producers concerned, and without even waiting for the report of the Royal Commission, immediately brought into operation a schedule of higher rates of wages, which increased the cost of production, so we are told, by 40 per cent. At the same time, he never gave one penny of relief to the sugar-growers themselves. Yet we find honorable ‘ members opposite posing all over the country as the friends of the primary producers. Let us look a little further into the history of this question, which must naturally have come before the ex-Prime Minister during the election campaign. He would naturally be asked, “ When are you going to repeal the Excise and bounty?” because, as long as the Excise and bounty legislation remained unrepealed, the unfortunate primary producer was paying the increased wages and getting nothing in return. However little consideration the producer may have during the rest of the year, as soon as an election comes round he is told that he is the backbone of the nation, the pioneer who deserves to be looked after - that he is the man who has been grabbed by the trusts, and who must be fostered and coddled in every possible way. The exPrime Minister is reported to have said, in a speech delivered at Childers, on the 5th April -
He had pledged himself in Parliament that the proclamation would be issued when Mr. Denham passed a legal Statute according to his promise; and he could not set that aside.
– Hear, hear!
– Had Mr. Denham fulfilled his promise at that moment, the exPrime Minister, faithful to his word, as I believe him always to be, would undoubtedly have issued the two proclamations.
– It was not necessary.
– Of course it was not, because the Statutes had not been passed.
– It was not necessary to repeal the Excise to grant the bounty.
– The honorable member’s promise was that he would do both.
– And protect the revenue at the same time.
– Again, on the 21st May, which was getting very near to the elections, the Prime Minister is reported to have said -
The Federal Government had carried out their part of the undertaking, and were now ready to make their act of abolition operative as soon as the Queensland Premier completed his part.
There, again, was the assertion of a promise which remained up to the time we took office. What that promise was is clear and unmistakable, namely, that, as soon as the Queensland Government had fulfilled their promise, and introduced the necessary legislation, both acts would be repealed. That was the position in which we found ourselves when we took office. The Queensland Government, in the State Parliament, were proceeding to do their part of the contract. They had already passed an Act dealing with the industrial conditions, and had absolutely started to constitute a Wages Board. “ The State Government had fulfilled their statutory part of the arrangement. They then introduced and passed’ a Bill for the express purpose of excluding coloured labour from the industry. Then, another Bill was passed which is not mentioned in the original correspondence. They passed the Sugar Growers Bill, the object being to secure for the grower the benefit of the full amount of the remission of the Excise. There was, however, a point in the interest of the workers which did not appear to us to be covered. If the repeal of the bounty and the Excise took place, the labour conditions would be gone, and we thought that they ought to remain until another properly constituted tribunal could settle those conditions in the interests of the workers. That suggestion was made by us, and adopted by the Queensland Government. It will be seen, therefore, that the Queensland Government had fulfilled to the letter and the spirit the whole of their contract. They pointed out that they had provided for a White Australia policy, for industrial tribunals to settle conditions for all the workers; that they desired to secure to the grower the full amount of the Excise of £4 per ton remitted from the manufac turer and the refiner; and that, in order to preserve the rights of the workers, they passed an Act continuing those rights as an arbitration award until such an award was given. What was our part? Gould the Government repudiate the legislation of this Parliament? The legislation was passed distinctly on the strength of the agreement; and the Queensland people, through their representatives in Parliament, had fulfilled their part. What could any honorable Government do but fulfil the promise to repeal the two Acts, and hand over to the Queensland people the control of their own industry, preserving to the Commonwealth only the right of imposing its Customs taxation ? That was the position, and we honoured the promise. At the same time, the only machinery that we could bring into operation was the Acts which were drafted by our friends opposite, and which, I submit, were defective, but which this Parliament was asked to pass.
– Where were they defective ?
– Before I deal with that I wish to point out, in order that the grower may fully and completely realize what friends he has in honorable members opposite, and that he may know exactly what would have happened if they had been in power, what their proposal was. The ex-Minister of Trade and Customs this afternoon has said that had the Labour Government been in power they would have repealed the bounty forthwith, but would have kept on the Excise.
– On sugar in bond.
– There was no discretion as to that; a tax operates on everything covered by it. Parliament was in recess at the time, and we had to fulfil our contract, leaving it to Parliament, when it met, to make up any deficiency there might be in the legislation. Let us see exactly what the position of honorable members opposite is, remembering, as we are told, that all was done in the interests of the grower. Up to the time of the repeal of the Act the grower was entitled to a bounty of £3, to be paid by the Commonwealth when he delivered his cane to the mill. The Excise, however, was not paid until the sugar went into consumption. Under the proposition of the Labour Government the bounty would have completely gone, and the mills would not be in a position to pay him more than the price paid to him before for his cane, and the growers, consequently, would not have got any real benefit from the proposed action. Could the manufacturer pay the grower any more - could he make up the bounty of £3 ? No, because the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs said he would have kept on the taxation. Therefore, all the time the Excise remained unrepealed the industry would have been subject to a tax of £4 per ton. That is the statesmanlike proposal of our friends opposite to settle this matter.
– It is their old game, always throwing the worker over.
– I am glad my friend now realizes that his Administration made a mistake. I have shown here tonight exactly what the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs said was the policy he would have pursued. There is no getting away from it, and the growers should know that our friends would have continued this taxation of £4 a ton on the industry, and that they would have had no relief until the Minister thought fit to repeal the Excise. I have stated the position in which we found ourselves as a Government, with the problem set us by our predecessors - I dare say at the time they were proud of what they had done - we had to honour their agreement, and we did so; we take full responsibility for preserving the faith and honour of the Commonwealth with a State Parliament which has legislated on this matter. The honorable member for Yarra says he knew all about it, and, of course, as Minister he should have known all about it; but if he did realize the position, as now he says he did, why did he not put into the Excise Act a clause providing for the retention of the Excise on sugar for the period until it was repealed? A single clause in the Act would have done it. Yet the honorable member talked about our bungling incapacity. The late Ministers went into this matter with their eyes open, after three years of experience, and with a Prime Minister who had lived and grown up with this industry, and who ought to have been -able to give the necessary information if anybody could.
– Incapacity !
– We believe that the grower should get the benefit of the repeal of this Act from the beginning of the present season; and it is the inten tion of the Government to introduce legislation so that the grower, in addition to the bounty he has been receiving under the Act, will get the additional bounty from the beginning of this season. At any rate, so far as we are concerned, the grower is not going to suffer. Then, again, as regards the sugar, we intend to introduce legislation; and we intend to collect the money for the collection of which the honorable member failed to provide.
– You have been quick to find out your own blunder.
– The honorable member for Adelaide does not hesitate to ascertain the facts first of all. His idea is to get in something that will sting and afterwards ascertain whether he is right. The honorable member implies that it is since the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs spoke that this was ascertained. I may say that telegrams had already been despatched before the House met, notifying the persons concerned of the action the Government intended to take.
– Then it is not a “ mare’s nest “ ?
– The real position is that members opposite have only now discovered where they blundered; and because we see the difficulties and defects of their legislation, and have the courage to take action to remedy them, we have these cries opposite.
– You have lost many thousands of pounds in revenue.
– The honorable member is now trying to invent something else. As a novelist, he would have made a reputation that would have .put Australia in the front rank.
– You will hear more of this.
– I have several times called for order, and I must ask honorable members to preserve order when I call for it.
– I thought honorable members opposite would have shown some gratitude. We have tried to cover up their gross mistakes and utter incapacity. But honorable members opposite are pastmasters in the art of misrepresenation. They find out that they have committed a serious blunder, and their first dodge is to put it on to the other side. In fact, the three grounds on which the want-of-confidence amendment is based are just their own three blunders, which they are trying to foist on to us. An honorable member has interjected that there was no mention of this in the policy speech. Since we took the action of repealing the Excise and Bounty we have endeavoured to make an arrangement to try to have the matter settled, if possible, by an adjustment by means of the Customs and Excise officers, and the bounty was only withheld in order that the farmers and growers might have got, if possible at an earlier date than legislation, the full amount of the remitted Excise, that is to say, including extra 2s. 2d. However, difficulties were found in the way of bringing that about, and the bounty will be no longer withheld. The extra amount will be paid by the Commonwealth, and legislation will be brought in to secure to the growers the extra 2s. 2d.
– Why did not you give the information on that to the honorable member when he spoke to you before the meeting of the House?
– I told the honorable member what I have told the House, that we tried to make an arrangement to see if that procedure could be brought about, and that when difficulty was found in the way of it we had notified those concerned that we intended to take legislative action That is the whole position ; and what, then, becomes of the great cry of bungling incapacity ?
– How will you get that £150,000?
– When the legislation is framed, the honorable member will find that some of those persons they are so ready to malign will be prepared to act in the public interest.
– I suppose they will give it up to save your party ?
– No, it will be carried by legislation, and honorable members opposite will have an opportunity of assisting the growers they are always prating they are so ready to help. So much for the charge of the honorable member.
– Naturally, you can get money wrongly paid by legislation.
– There is no satisfying some honorable members. We carry out an arrangement they made, and are charged with bungling incapacity. I can quite understand their anxiety about anything we do to rectify that which they have done. Experience shows that a great deal that they do is exceedingly dangerous to adopt. However, in this matter an honorable compact was made by the Commonwealth with the State, and we had to honour that compact. We did so, and take the full responsibility for our action. Perhaps it is well to pay a little more attention to my honorable friends opposite, and see what they did in other matters. In the amendment to the AddressinReply it is proposed to add -
Your advisers fail to realize the urgent necessity for an immediate revision of the Tariff.
That is interesting: that comes well from honorable members opposite. What do the words “ urgent necessity,” and the words “immediate revision,” imply? If the matter is now deemed urgent, under whose rule did it become urgent? The present Government took office on the 24th June, and immediately we met Parliament, the ex-Prime Minister said, “ Oh, Tariff revision is so urgent that, although you have been in office for only a few weeks, an immediate revision of the Tariff should have taken place.” What becomes of his position? If we were asked to frame an indictment against honorable members opposite for their sins of commission and sins of omission, we could not have framed it in more apt phraseology than is contained in this amendment. It is always well to listen to the honorable member for Adelaide, because at all times he is so clear, so emphatic, so decisive, and so absolutely accurate. One thing I like about the honorable member is the absolute accuracy of his statements. There is hardly a statement lie makes which is not strictly in accord with fact. During the debate the other day, my honorable friend, the AttorneyGeneral, very properly asked why it was that during the last three years honorable members opposite did nothing with the Tariff. The honorable member for Adelaide, of course, had an answer ready. “ How could we, Mr. Speaker,” he said, “deal with the Tariff? We are honorable men bound by our election pledges. How could we, in the face of a pledge, dare to place impious hands en the Tariff.” Let us just see what his pledge was -
New Protection - -Amend ment of the Constitution to insure effective Federal legislation for new Protection and arbitration. “ In 1908,” he said, “I was bound by that pledge.” Here is his pledge -
I hereby pledge myself not to oppose the candidate selected by the recognised Political Labour organization, and, if elected, to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the Australian Labour Party’s platform, and on all questions affecting the platform to vote as a majority of the parliamentary party may decide at a duly constituted caucus meeting.
The other evening the honorable member for Franklin was disorderly enough to interject ‘ ‘ Why did the Labour Government do nothing with the Tariff? Why did they take no action?” And the honorable member for Adelaide replied -
The electors were told that if they accepted the referenda proposals-
– I rise to order.
– I apologize.
– I only want to ask a question.
– I will quote the reply from memory.
– Let the Speaker be fair.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Brisbane to withdraw his imputation upon the fairness of the Speaker. It is grossly disorderly for an honorable member to reflect upon the impartiality of the Chair.
– This afternoon, sir, you stopped an honorable member on this side when he was quoting from Hansard.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to withdraw his imputation before he proceeds any further.
– I withdraw, sir, the statement that you are unfair, but I protest against one honorable member being treated differently from another honorable member.
– Order ! The honorable member is now only aggravating his offence. I ask him to unconditionally withdraw the imputation, and afterwards he can raise any point he desires.
– I withdraw the statement, sir.
– On a point of order, sir, I wish to know whether the Minister is in order in quoting from Hansard, seeing that you have already ruled that another honorable member was not in order in so doing ?
– If the Minister is quoting from Hansard for this session, referring to other than the current debate, he is not in order.
– I am only quoting from a speech made in this debate, sir. The other speech which was attempted to be quoted was not made in this debate. Under the Standing Orders I am entitled to refer to any speech made on the amendment before the House.
– I am quite willing that you should.
– I ask the House to listen to the words of the honorable member for Adelaide -
The electors were told that if they accepted the referenda proposals the Government would give them the protection called new Protection ; but they were also told most emphatically that if the referenda proposals were not accepted the Government would not alter the Tariff.
That is the excuse which the honorable member gave, and the impression which he intended to convey was that when persons outside charged the Labour Government with not having taken some definite action in connexion with the Tariff, they could say, “ We would have taken action, but we could not do so because we were bound by our pledge to new Protection.” Is it a correct statement of the position to say that during the last three years when they were in office the whole of the party opposite took up the stand that they could not deal with the Tariff because they were bound by the policy of new Protection ?
– Try to be honest. There is nothing in my statement which justifies that remark.
– Probably the honorable member is giving expression to his own feelings at this moment, when he talks about trying to be honest.
– You are shockingly at fault so far.
– I have quoted from Hansard. Is not it correct to say that we were told most emphatically that if the referenda proposals were not accepted the Labour Government would not alter the Tariff ? Is not that fair ? The honorable member said -
Nothing could be more clear than the fact that from1910 to1913 we maintained to the letter the promises that we gave to the electors, and had the opportunity offered we should have given effect to the promise of two months ago.
Let us see if that was the attitude which the Labour party took up. Here is a hostile amendment to the AddressinReply which says that Tariff revision is urgent. When the honorable member for Adelaide was asked to state why the
Labour Government did not deal with the Tariff if a revision is urgent, he said, “ We were pledged to new Protection, and, therefore, we could not take any action.” Let us put that statement side by side with the speech of the ex-Prime Minister at Maryborough. Speaking in a Protectionist constituency, he announced that his Government was going to take up the policy of effective Protection, and, further, he said, “ The Government’s policy had largely increased the incidence of Protection for Australian industries.” The honorable member for Adelaide told us that the Labour party could do nothing with the Tariff unless the referenda proposals were carried and the policy of new Protection was adopted, but the ex-Prime Minister took up a different attitude. He boasted to his constituents that his Government’s policy had largely increased the incidence of Protection for Australian industries.
– What is the date of his statement 1
– This is a speech that he made when opening the electoral campaign this year. He was referring to the action of last Parliament.
– He could not have said that the last Government interfered with the Protective duties, because we scarcely touched the Tariff.
– I shall refer presently to the 1911 Tariff, so that honorable members may see what duties were altered, and how their Protective incidence was affected. The honorable member for Wide Bay says now that Protection is urgent. But when he went out of office, his Minister of Trade and Customs had before him 117 Tariff schedules which had been sent to the Department in pursuance of a request made to manufacturers desiring Tariff revision to communicate suggestions. I do not say that all the remedies asked should have been, or could have been, granted; but 117 schedules had been sent in, and, in addition, between 470 and 500 letters had been received appealing for an alteration of the Tariff. Further, a large number of deputations had waited on my predecessor, asking for Tariff assistance. Therefore, the members of the last Government have not the excuse that there was no material for them to work on. Of the schedules to which I refer, 89 were carried over from the year 1911; 23 were received in 1912, and 5 were received in the present year. Knowing the case for Protection to be so urgent, why did the members of the last Government take no action when in office? Why have they waited until now, in the hope of securing a vote hostile to this Ministry, which is pledged to maintain the policy of Protection, and has appointed the Inter-State Commission to enable the Tariff to be dealt with at the earliest possible date ? At the end of last year, Parliament passed an Act authorizing the creation of the InterState Commission, and empowering the Commission, when appointed, to deal with Tariff matters. If the members of the Opposition are so eager for the revision of the Tariff, why did they not, in December last, when they were in office, appoint the Inter-State Commission? They made no appointments to the Commission, and, in consequence, eight months which could have been used in Tariff investigation have been lost. Who is responsible?
– Rub it in.
– The honorable member, whose speeches are always entertaining as well as practical, pointed out to the late Government, on several occasions, that it was absolutely necessary to revise the Tariff. He was not the only member of the party supporting that Government who appealed to it in vain to take action. When the House was called together in 1912, the then member for Indi said -
I hope, however, that, at a very early stage of the session, something will be done to give the industries of Australia more effective Protection than they have enjoyed during the past two years.
He was appealing to the Labour Government to give more effective Protection than the country had been enjoying under its administration during the previous two years.
Of course, I know that the Tariff is a nonparty question, and I shall be prepared, with the assistance of honorable members on both sides, to fight to the very last ditch, in order to make our present Tariff more effective in the interests of the industries of this country.
The then member for New England made a similar appeal -
I am prepared at any time, even in the last session of a Parliament, to give additional protection to a number of items that require it ; and if the Government had chosen to bring before the House a proposal to add twenty or thirty or fifty items to the Tariff they would have had my solid support ; but I would not support, in the last session of a Parliament, a wholesale re-opening of the Tariff.
The then member for Riverina spoke to the same effect, and the honorable mem-, ber for Melbourne expressed these strong opinions -
Even in the last clays of the session I hope that the Government will see fit to .bring in a Bill to amend the Tariff, especially in regard to those industries where employers and employes agree that the conditions could be improved by Tariff amendment. Where employers are shown to be fair and just to their employe’s, I think this Government ought to say, “We will introduce an amending Bill affecting certain items, and no more,” so as to cover such cases. I am afraid that the present Tariff falls far short of what is wanted. Indeed, it is not protective. In effect it is purely a revenue Tariff. I say that as a Protectionist.
The honorable member for Capricornia put in a plea for Protection, as he did on several other occasions -
I think my friends in the Cabinet will make a mistake if they do not introduce a Bill to amend the Customs Tariff Act this session.
Quite a number of members of the Labour party urged the Labour Government to take action to improve the Tariff, but nothing was done. In 1910, a number of Labour members asked for definite action in regard to the Tariff, but their appeal was in vain. The Minister of Trade and Customs introduced a small amending measure, but declared that his Government did not propose to open the Tariff. He said that the Bill was - practically a departmental revision, for the purpose of making the interpretation of the Tariff better and clearer.
We have not dealt with any items which the Cabinet consider to involve Tariff revision.
The honorable member for Herbert was very disappointed with what was proposed. He said -
The proposals of the Minister are very unsatisfactory to me, and, I think, to a great many other honorable members, because we understood that the Tariff would be revised to some extent, and duties raised or lowered as circumstances warranted.
– Why does not the honorable member blame the Caucus?
– The honorable member knows that these proposals have not been before the Caucus. The party would not allow them to be discussed in that way
– Why not?
– Because they do not affect our political programme.
That is a different version from that given by the honorable member for Adelaide -
On fiscal matters every member of the party has a free hand. For example, my views on Tariff matters are diametrically opposed to those of the honorable member for Calare, who sils next to me
In 1911, proposals for the alteration of the Constitution were referred to thepeople, but just before the referenda thethen Minister of Trade and Customscaused this circular to be issued -
Dear Sir, - In order that due considerationmay be extended to your request of …. for further Tariff assistance to the industry in which you are interested, I am requested by the Minister for Trade and Customs to forward herewith a form which it is desired you will complete, and return to this office at your earliest convenience.
The form contains a schedule dealing with Tariff revision. The referenda proposals were defeated, but when the Government met Parliament they introduced certain Tariff proposals. I have a list of them here, indicating the intention to deal with several items in a distinctly protectiveway. There is the item of preserved fruits, for instance. In 1910 the Government were asked to amend the Tariff so as to give further protection to bananas, and refused to do so, because it was claimed that that would open up the. whole question of Tariff revision.
– The honorable gentlemanshould not mention bananas; that is. what I slipped on.
– The honorable member appears te have slipped to some purpose,, because I see that the duty on bananaswas increased from ls. to ls. 6d. per cental. Then there was the loom industry,, which received a benefit under the Tariff.. I think that the item was free before, and a Tariff of 40 and 35 per cent, was imposed. I find that dredges of 500 tons register, which were formerly free, weremade dutiable at 30 and 25 per cent. The protective incidence of the Tariff wasincreased also in connexion with harness, pianos, and other items. The only reason we hae had given why the Government did not go in for a further revision of the Tariff is that the party were bound’ to the policy of new Protection, whichmeant that there was to be no Protectionin the old sense of the term unless the referenda proposals were carried. Wefind, however, that after the proposalswere defeated the Government carried legislative provisions of a distinctly protective character. If they could do thatin 1911, what was there to prevent them doing it during the whole of the year 1912 ? There was absolutely nothing toprevent them. I suppose that the real reason they did not do so was that they intended to use the Tariff as a lever to- try to force the referenda proposals through. If the manufacturers of Australia were prepared to vote for the referenda proposals the Government would be prepared to introduce Tariff legislation, and if they would not do so they would get no Tariff assistance from the Government. However, in 1913, notwithstanding that they still adhered to the new Protection policy, the Government came along with an undertaking to adopt a policy of Protection. It is most significant that as a party honorable members opposite have declined to put Protection on their political platform. I have here a manifesto issued and signed by Andrew Fisher and David Watkins, from which I quote the following -
Protection is the settled policy of the country. The Labour party, therefore, will take such steps as are necessary to make that policy effective, and will, at an early date, bring down such amendments of the present Tariff as will protect the manufacturers and producers of the Commonwealth against unfair outside competition.
As the fiscal question is not included in the platform of the Labour party, the views of members of the party have been ascertained. It has been found that the great majority of members support the promise given by the Prime Minister at Maryborough, on March .fist, to bring down a scheme of effective Protection. That is not the attitude of the party as a whole. Effective Protection is not in the party programme, and honorable members who are condemning the present Government for not carrying out effective Protection are not bound to carry out a policy of effective Protection themselves.
– But the honorable gentleman says that we are bound.
– No, I say that honorable members are not bound to carry out such a policy.
– I heard the honorable member, from a platform at Toowoomba, say that we are bound by the Caucus.
– I say still that upon any question in the Labour party’s platform honorable members opposite are bound. They are tied up as tightly as it is possible for them to be tied. I can scarcely believe that the honorable member for Maranoa heard me from any platform in Toowoomba.
– I did.
– How long ago?
– During the last election.
– Then I am glad to hear that I had such a distinguished auditor at one of my meetings. I am glad also that the honorable member was so orderly
that, apparently, it was unnecessary to put into force the provisions of the Electoral Act to deal with him. I am sure that if the honorable member were present at any meeting that I addressed, he” heard me say only that, so far as theLabour platform is concerned, Labour members are bound by their pledge, and cannot vary it by a single iota. I say that is still the position.
– I do not deny that. I signed the platform. I am proud of it,, and I will carry it out.
– Quite so; the honorablemember will carry it out whether he believes in it or not, because he is bound to carry it out.
– Whether I believe in it or not has nothing to do with the honorable gentleman. If I sign a cheque, it will be paid.
– I am glad that my honorable friend is in so fortunate a position. I am not saying a single word against him. I simply say that when there is & party vote upon questions contained in the party platform, even if the honorable member does not believe in the action proposed by the party, he must vote for it. The honorable member says that he believes in that policy.
– The honorable gentleman is wrong again.
– The honorable gentleman is right oH the track this time.
– Are my honorable friends sure that I am off the track ? Let them listen to this -
I pledge myself on all questions affecting the platform to vote as the majority of the Parliamentary Labour party mav decide at a duly constituted caucus meeting.
Will my honorable friend say that he did not sign that pledge ?
– That is all right.
– Then I repeat what 1 said before, that on questions of this description, even although the honorable member may believe that the course of conduct proposed is absolutely injurious to his country, he is bound by this pledge to vote for it, or leave the party.
– Let the honorable gentleman tell the electors of Maranoa that, and see if they will believe him.
– I should not have the slightest hesitation in telling them that, because it is a fact. It is abundantly clear that there never was a more hollow pretence put upon parliamentary records than that which emanates from honorable members opposite suggesting that the present Government deserve condemnation for not immediately revising the Tariff. This charge is made by members of a Government who had complete control of both Houses for three years, and might have taken action at any time they pleased to revise the whole of the Tariff without violating in any way the signed pledge of the party. Yet they took no action whatever. That is the kind of party who make such a charge against a Government who took action immediately they came into office.
– Yes, they did take action, and the Tariff is buried now.
– Does the honorable member for Batman say that that was the intention of the Government in passing the Act for the appointment of the InterState Commission?
– I know what the intention of honorable members opposite is.
– The honorable member knows nothing about it. He will find that this Government will do as it has done during the last six weeks in which it has beon in office, and that is honour every pledge they have given.
– What have the Government done ? They have only sacked men, altered a stamp, and gone about the country singing that they are jolly good fellows.
– The honorable member was not game to mention the fact that we have refused preference to unionists in Government employment, no doubt because he is heartily ashamed of the policy which he was obliged to subscribe to. I want to say that, if we analyze the policy which honorable members opposite put before the constituencies at the last election, we shall find one distinctive note running through the whole of it. It characterizes all their legislation in the past; and that is, class legislation, class aims, class purposes. If you take away from the Labour party all their proposals which are distinctly of a class character, what remains?
– Let the present Government repeal our Acts; they are not game to do so.
– One very interesting thing in connexion with the last election was this: Labour members went on the platform claiming the sole credit for every single Act passed by Liberals during the whole history of the Commonwealth. They took credit for all the measures of reform which we had prepared. The first ten years of Commonwealth history was the real period of constructive statesmanship in Australia. The Liberals came into power in July, 1901, with nothing but a piece of parchment in front of them. At the end of ten years, that piece of parchment had become the life-blood of a nation. Liberals had organized the whole of the Departments of the Commonwealth, and all the leading problems awaiting solution had been dealt with in a satisfactory manner. The late Government when they came into power took up a whole series of measures which their predecessors had left ready for legislative enactment. Yet, at the last election, they went about the country proclaiming that they were entitled to the credit for these measures. Take a few instances. The agreement with reference to the Northern Territory was made by the late member for Ballarat when he was in power. The last Government took it up and marred it by introducing the leasehold principle. They spoilt our scheme. When they came into power they found the Capital site question absolutely settled. Three years after the agreement was made they thought it necessary to hold a banquet in order to induce the people to believe that they had done all that had been accomplished. Take the transcontinental railway. A survey had been authorized, and was absolutely completed before the late member for Illawarra went out of office. Everything was ready for construction to proceed. After three years and a half the late Government accomplished the splendid record of constructing 5 miles of track. During the same period the State of Queensland, with a small population, opened for traffic over 600 miles of railway. Yet this great Australian Government had the splendid record of having built only 5 miles of a line which had been completely surveyed. So it was through all their measures. But while they claimed so much as their own that was not, they were very gingerly in regard to what was really their own. We never heard them defending preference to unionists on the platform. They were particularly careful to avoid that subject in the country districts.
– The honorable gentleman told the people all about it.
– I took care to do so, because the honorable member would not.
I venture to say that at the next State election he will realize what the strength of Queensland Liberalism is. May I take the opportunity or adding this: Honorable members opposite talk of misrepresentation. I do not believe in mutual recrimination, but I do say that if ever there was any misrepresentation, honorable members from Queensland know perfectly well that there, at any rate, there was the grossest misrepresentation of Liberals.
– The lying was pretty *’ liberal.”
– I should say that it was done “with Labour.” During the election one interesting note was struck everywhere. It was said that the Labour party was in favour of industrial peace. Their candidates declared, “ We are anxious to put an end to all this strife. How necessary it is, therefore, to amend the Constitution so that we may be enabled to bring about industrial peace !” Probably some people looking upon the angelic forms of honorable members opposite, and listening to their melodious voices, thought they were in earnest, and that their policy really did entail industrial peace. Consequently there was a feeling in favour of giving them a chance. But did they mean it? Are they really apostles of the gospel of peace? If an amendment of the Constitution had been made, and they had the power to amend the Arbitration Act, as they desired, would they have brought about the industrial peace of which they talked so much ? There are brains in the Labour party which are not always represented on the front bench. There are men who are very influential in the party, apart from its official leaders. Speaking in Sydney, the honorable member for Darling, to whom I refer with the greatest respect, used the following words -
There are only two classes _in the political field, and there can be nothing but war between them.
Then he went on to say that this warfare must continue - ,,. until capitalism as a social system was thrown over altogether.
The honorable member for Darling may be taken as a very fair exponent of Labour ideals and policy. What he says comes to this - that no matter what legislation may be passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, there must continue to be warfare until the capitalist system is over thrown. I find in a telegraphed report concerning a meeting held in connexion with the formation of a union in Melbourne which was to embrace about 35,000 employes engaged in the distribution of food, one of the objects was said to be -
Finally, the overthrow of the capitalistic system.
What chance is there of attaining industrial peace in the light of those declarations? How much of a desire for peace lies behind their proposals, if such be the real intention? I suppose that their policy may be really embodied in this pronouncement - that there is to be continual warfare upon a class basis until the present system is overthrown. If that be their object, what good results can be expected to follow from their industrial legislation? It is just as well that the people should know what their true aim and object is. It may be true that thedifferences between honorable members opposite, within their own ranks, is considerable, but the motive force and ideal of their party was clearly and emphatically stated by the honorable member for Darling. He pointed out, as a fact, that the unions are political. He proposed, in Sydney, an amalgamation of 100,000 workers in one union, which, he said, would “ enormously extend the influence of labour, both industrial and political,” because “ the industrial and political movements are interwoven.” Honorable members opposite cheer that statement. They believe that the unions should be political. Yet they ask that preference in the employment of men by the Government of Australia should be given to members of these political unions. That is the position unmistakably. I wish now to make one or two observations upon unionism from the stand-point of the contribution of funds to political expenditure. From the report of the Registrar- General of Queensland for 1910 I gather that for the previous year the receipts of the unions registered under the Act amounted to £16,867. The report states -
The expenditure for 1909 amounted to ,£16,256, of which £2,532 was paid for benefits, £8,31)8 for management, and £5,326 for other payments, mainly assistance to other unions, legal and political expenses, and contributions to Labour newspapers. In view of recent legal decisions, the positions of the unions generally respecting these latter payments is doubtful, and I have advised the officials to that effect as necessity has arisen, and when considering amendments to rules submitted.
In the report of the same officer for 1911 I find the following -
The expenditure for 1910 amounted to ,£25,428, of which £4,641 was paid for benefits, £8,607 for management, and £12,180 for other payments, mainly assistance to other unions, legal and political expenses, contributions to the Labour newspapers.
These figures are distinctly interesting, especially in view of the statement of the honorable member for Boothby, who affirmed that if the rural workers were brought within the scope of the Arbitration Act the necessity for the paid agitator and secretary would disappear. As a matter of fact, now that we have more highly-organized unions there are more paid officials and secretaries connected with them than has ever been known in the history of Australia. From the figures which I have quoted it will be seen that the money paid by unionists, and which was intended to be used in times of unemployment and distress, was not devoted to that purpose. In 1910, only £4,641 was so used, because the expense of management totalled £8,607, and £12,180 was devoted to other payments, mainly assistance to other unions, legal and political expenses, and contributions to the Labour newspapers. Unfortunately, these trade union Acts prove very awkward to ray honorable friends. They require these institutions to file their returns, and the Registrar-General is unkind enough to let the public know how their funds have been expended. That officer in his report for 1912 says -
During the year some of the largest labour unions withdrew from registration, mainly on account of the necessity for closer restriction of their objects as set forth in the rules consequent on legal decisions affecting trade unions. . . . Of this total expenditure, amounting to £11,060, £3,1151 was paid for benefits, £6,677 for management, and £2,130 for other payments, the latter item, owing to the withdrawal of the unions which devoted their funds to purposes outside of the scope of trade unions as now interpreted, fell by £10,050.
– From what is the Minister of Trade and Customs quoting?
– From the report of the Registrar-General of Queensland.
– Now give us the figures relating to the Pastoralists Union ?
– I have only one or two minutes’ time at my disposal. One interesting feature in connexion with this debate is the fact that our opponents, while giving publicity to a little bit of truth, carefully suppress that which would convey a totally different impression. The honorable member for West Sydney, in speaking on preference to unionists the other day, quoted from a speech which I delivered when the first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was under consideration in this House. He affirmed that my support of the principle of preference waa unqualified. But, on that occasion, the question arose as to what should be the status of unions now that they were becoming political bodies, when they came before the Court. I stated my opinion emphatically then, and I adhere to it now. I said that if an organization which had political objects asked the Court to grant it a preference, it would practically put compulsion on all nonunionists to join it. I added -
The Prime Minister, however, promises that he will make a concession to the extent of excluding all organizations having political objects.
– Did not the honorable member endeavour to introduce an agreement when he attempted to come to terms with the Labour party ?
– I did not.
– I have the copy of it.
– If the honorable member will produce his copy, and show that I have varied from the opinion which I then expressed, I shall be surprised. Moreover, the honorable member himself voted to put my amendment upon th9 statute-book. Preference to unionists was only placed upon the statute-book in tha form in which it stood up till 1910, witu the consent of honorable members opposite.
– And with the Minister’s consent, too.
– Yes; it was my amendment which put it there.
– The Minister was in bad company then.
– I say that I rendered good service to Australia. In 1910, the Labour party took action to repeal that legislation with a view to making unconditional preference to unionists possible. My only regret is that the policy which they saw fit to adopt in the earlier days of Federation they now see fit to repeal.
– Why does the Minister object to unionists exercising their political right?
– I do not. But if a union has for one of its avowed objects the overthrow of the capitalistic system, and if I am told that I cannot obtain work unless I join that union, and contribute to its funds for the purpose of returning men to Parliament to achieve that object - an object which, I believe, is inimical to the interests of the nation - obviously I am the victim of injustice. Why should I be compelled to abandon my convictions ?
– I can understand the honorable member and his party objecting to certain kinds of political action, but they are excluding all political action.
– That is not so. The Act which the honorable member and his party repealed, and the terms of which he has apparently forgotten, preserved all the legitimate objects of unionism.
– But I am looking at the policy of the honorable member’s Government.
– I wish that the honorable member would do so. In conclusion, let me say that honorable members opposite have failed hopelessly to justify the amendment they have launched. They have failed to show in the slightest degree that the Government propose to do anything to interfere with the true social and industrial legislation which should operate in a democratic community. On the other hand, they have placed on record the fact that within the last three years, during which they were in office, there has been an increase in the cost of living, and they have emphasized by the amendment the fact that, whilst they were in office, they did not raise a finger to reduce that cost. They have placed it on record that, whilst they were in power, Tariff revision became an urgent necessity, and that, although they had behind them a working majority to enable them to revise the Tariff, and had passed a measure providing for the appointment of a Commission, which could have dealt with the Tariff question, they did nothing whatever to assist the industries that were suffering. They have rendered the Liberal party a magnificent service in thus frankly placing on record their own incapacity, incompetence, and maladministration.
Sitting suspended from 6.23 to 7J/.5 p.m.
.- The whole address of the Minister of Trade and Customs may be summed up in the old saying of “No case - abuse the other side.” He seems to have forgotten that this is a vote of want of confidence in the present Government, and not a vote of want of confidence in the Opposition. All his speech was directed to an attack on the Opposition ; and he forgot the logic of the recent event of the 31st May, which, according to his showing, meant that the country was not satisfied with the Labour party, and wished to have the Liberals in power. If this latter view is correct, it means, I suppose, that the Labour party failed, amongst other things, to bring in a Tariff measure, and that they were put out of power to be replaced by the Liberals with a mandate to deal with the Tariff, and deal with it quickly. My own idea is that the object of the Minister of Trade and Customs in directing an attack on the Opposition was to cover up in much dust and verbiage the bungle that the present Government have made in regard to the proclamation of certain measures. Here we have a Government which is supposed to be the right kind of Government, allowing the taxpayers to be robbed of a very large sum, and it finds itself in the admittedly humiliating position, as disclosed” by the Minister of Trade and Customs, of having to apply to some of its own supporters for money which ought to have been paid as taxation. That is really the position when we analyze the admitted facts. It. has not been shown that the two Acts need to have been proclaimed on the same day; the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs stated that it was not necessary, and his statement has not been denied. Liberal candidates, during the last election, indulged in much talk about the “ bungling “Labour Government, and that sort of thing, but here we have a Government which came in to do justice all round, and which is supposed to contain all the virtues and all the experience, commencing operations by placing itself in such a humiliating position that it has, as I say, to apply by circular for money which ought to have been paid as taxes. There is some talk of introducing legislation to make those people pay up, but I have yet to learn that the Government is in a position to do any such thing. Of course, the Government’s friend, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, has been spoken of as giving largely to political funds.
Colonel Ryrie. - What is the honorable member’s authority for that statement?
– The statements of the company’s manager, Mr. Knox, before the Royal Commission.. How much the Colonial Sugar Refining Company contributed
I do not know, and, therefore, I do not say; but there is sworn evidence to its being something like £50,000.
Colonel RYRIE - That is not correct.
– I am quite aware that the honorable member stands as the representative of that great monopolistic institution. No one believes that the Government would wittingly put money into the pockets of this company, but its incompetence has had that effect; and this is a part of that neglect, of which complaint is made in the amendment. The present Prime Minister, in Iiia policy speech at Parramatta, gave a very concise statement of the aims of the Liberal party in regard to the high cost of living, and he is thus reported in the Daily Telegraph, the bible of the Liberals: -
The one recipe for reducing the high cost of living is: Restoration of honest, economical, efficient government.
Yet the Government have made a start by losing to the country close on £150,000. I presume that, after this fact becomes known, everything will come down in price to-morrow, although we know that, as soon as this Government came into power, butter went up 1½d. per pound, along with other commodities, and that there was something very like a financial panic. The Liberals used to blame the Labour party for every calamity that happened in the world ; and I think we are justified in saying that this rise in prices is due to the return of the Liberals. In any case, however, this is the most serious charge of incompetence that could well be made against any Government ; and I agree with the honorable member for Yarra that, of itself, it is quite sufficient to justify “any healthy Parliament in immediately dismissing such rulers. At any rate, I fully expect that the Prime Minister will “ unload “ the present Minister of Trade and Customs, who has started with such a failure in his effort to carry out the aims and ideas of the Government. That Minister made some reference to the Tariff, but did not say why the Government are not going to carry out their policy in this respect. On the other hand, he found fault with the Opposition for not dealing with the Tariff while they were in power. I again remind the honorable gentleman, however, that the Opposition is not now under review, and that, at any rate, they have a complete answer. The Labour party put a distinct Tariff policy before the country at the election of 1910, and adhered to that policy for three years. At the last election the Labour party declared that they would deal with the Tariff whether or not the referenda were carried, so that nothing can be said against the Opposition on the score of their attitude in this connexion. Previously, the Labour Government were not pledged to deal with the Tariff, except by the way of new Protection, which, of course, would necessitate an amendment of the Constitution. Be that as it may, the Government should answer the charges of the Opposition, and as yet the Government have not done so. The Prime Minister, in his policy speech at Parramatta, also said -
Our aim is to leave the policy of the present Tariff intact, with a prompt rectification of anomalies.
The little scheme or memorandum - the Government know better than to give it a name - which has been laid before us is, so far as we can see, only the Deakin platform re-hashed, and the re-hash is even more gelatinous than the original.
– You will find there are more bones in it than you can swallow.
– I would like to call the attention of the Women’s National League, who helped the farmers to put the Government into power, to the fact that for the first time we have a distinctly class Government representing a small section of the community. When the platform of the Women’s National League was originally drawn up they were strong in having one plank inserted - ‘ ‘ Loyalty to the British Empire under the Crown.” 1 call the attention of the Liberals - the ‘ farmers ‘ ‘ of the Government benches - to the fact that this plank has now been thrown overboard. They ought to inquire whether the latent republicanism of the Prime Minister is not showing its head. I am sure the honorable member for Flinders does not agree with this ‘ ‘ gelatinous compound.” We always like to hear the honorable member and the honorable member for Parkes, because they are generally pretty straight. In my opinion the laboured effort of the honorable member for Flinders the other night to make a policy for the Government affords evidence that he does not approve of this form of political food. Before coming to some of the issues before us, I wish to call attention to a matter which I do not think has been sufficiently emphasized. Whatever differences we may have as parties - and there must be differences and bond fide ones - we should always remember that we are the National Parliament, and should endeavour to uphold the national character of Australia. Apart from speeches in which men may say things when they are excited, T have to complain of the written stuff the Liberal party put out. I wish to call attention to one or two statements that are not only most unwarranted, but are a serious reflection on the people of Australia. We all know that the Prime Minister, when he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Opposition, was a great fighter, and did not mince matters; his cry always was that nothing the Government did was good; that everything was bad. It may be a very good policy for a Leader of an Opposition to follow, to refuse to see any virtue in the Government, but when the honorable member for Parramatta went before the country he seemed to follow the same line of conduct, and even now that he has been raised to the dignity of the leadership of the Australian National Parliament I. am sorry to see that there is still in him some of that recklessness that characterized him so much as Leader of the Opposition. I do not wish to weary honorable members, but there are one or two samples I wish to lay before them. I am sorry the Prime Minister is not in the chamber, but I have with me an official document issued as a supplement to a newspaper, and signed by Archdale Parkhill, who is, I understand, general secretary to the Liberal League. This gentleman made a statement that ought to be withdrawn or proved. It is a reflection on a party. He said -
The existing era of jobbery, corruption, and maladministration will be continued in the interests of the supporters of the Labour party.
To charge any party with jobbery, corruption, and maladministration is a very serious matter.
– They did not give £100.000 to the Sugar Company.
– The Prime Minister can be held responsible for this statement, because he publicly expressed appreciation of the way Mr. Parkhill conducted the campaign. It is a slander on Australia to put such a thing in the public press. What will they think of us elsewhere, if they do think of us at all ? The statement is misleading and untrue of any political party Australia has had. Every one knows that the public life of Australia in the past has been clean.
– Why, the member for Adelaide made that very same charge this afternoon.
– I am speaking of what the Liberal party, as an organization, are responsible for through their general secretary, a very different thing from what an erratic individual may say in the country. I may instance the statements made by the honorable member for Echuca. The honorable member made most serious charges, though he says he is going to prove them. I will not stop to drag in other matters in this Liberal supplement. They make statements about the Minister of Lands in New South Wales regarding Mangoplah which are inaccurate and untrue. Then they wind up with an extraordinary statement, which I quote to show the kind of stuff they submitted, and by which they sought to influence the electors. Without any special heading, they say -
Mr. Griffith expressed strong opinions in favour of proportionate and against equal representation in the Senate, and, failing to carry an amendment to that effect, supported the following amendment : - “ That the Senate shall be composed of members representing the States in proportion to their population, but no State shall have less than three members. The Senate shall consist of not less than forty members.” That amendment, which would then give a representation in the Senate to -
was carried, and in the division in support were prominent Labour members, including Messrs. Edden, Griffith, Hughes, and Watson. - [Han sard, N.S.W., 14/7/07, p. 2007.)
Even Liberal members will be surprised to know that there is no such record in Hansard, and every one knows that neither Mr. Hughes nor Mr. Watson was in the New South Wales State Parliament in 1907. Yet this is the kind of thing authoritatively published with the approval, apparently, of the Prime Minister, because he publicly expressed his high appreciation of this gentleman’s services.
– Is it not 1897?
– You cannot get 1897 out of the figures “ 1907.”
– Is it not a misprint?
– I do not know. 1 took the trouble to look up Hansard of 1907 to see if it was there. I have no intention of referring to a personal matter, but I have here a further sample, quoting a portion of an address I made. It is in the paper called the Fighting Line, the official organ of the Liberals in the late election. They make a quotation of mine ; they pretend it is a quotation, because they put it in quotation marks. The Minister of Trade and Customs today quoted me correctly. But they interpolate words to make me say something 1 did not say, and this was circulated by the thousand. I shall read the paragraph to show how these words were put in to mislead the readers of the paper. They say-
The worker has nothing in connexion with the capitalistic institutions -
And they put in in brackets, ‘ ‘ namely, the employers,” and continue - and there can be no peace between them.
I did not speak of the employers at all. How could they be called “ capitalistic institutions “ ? The words, “ meaning the employers,” were put in by the editor of this rag, which the Liberals issued during the campaign. That is the kind of stuff with which they won the elections.
– The honorable member was so reported in two of the morning papers.
– I was not reported with that interpolation. The quotation is taken from an official report. The interpolation of these words is what I complain of as fighting tactics which are below the belt, unfair to the individual, and likely to mislead and do injury. That kind of thing was resorted to deliberately.
– I took it that you had made the statement.
– Every reader of the report would take that impression, because quotation marks were used. I am not quite a fool on economic questions, and when I speak of capitalistic institutions I do not mean individuals, but a social system. Before the Liberal Government could possibly get a grip of what the Labour Government had done, they said that there was chaos in the Departments. That statement has been circulated ever since the Liberals took office, but no evidence in support of it has been given. It is the product o’f the Conservative mind. The Conservatives think that they are the only persons who know how to govern a country. They assume that they are the only persons who know what is good for the working man. They believe that they are sent especially by the Almighty to run the world, and that other persons should feel obliged to them for taking sufficient interest to tell them what to do. Their idea is that nobody but themselves can do anything. We had a sample of their bungling in the issue of a proclamation by which the country must lose about £150,000. They do not seem to understand who are the makers and doers of things in the world. We have not a great number of persons in Australia who cannot be classed as workers, and who are doing things. Those who have sprung from the ranks of the makers and doers of things have, at least, had a practical training. It is a daring assumption for those who have just come in to think that they are the only persons who know how to do things. The Liberals expected to find everything in a state of chaos, and before they had taken steps to get a grip of the Departments, and learn what to do, they indulged in wild assertions. Whenever they indulge in this kind of conduct, they ought to support their statements with definite facts. And when they fail to take that step it is not fair fighting. At the last elections we had a sample of their unfair methods from the Honorary Minister, who, we all know, takes Parliament as a place for amusement, and indulges in what he regards as smart witticisms. An illustration of the pabulum which the Liberals submitted to the electors’ is furnished by his statement that the Worker had increased its charge for printing the rules of leagues. Needless to say, his statement was absolutely without foundation. It was made without any inquiry as to the facts by the honorable member. It is untrue to say that the Worker raised the charge for printing the rules. The central executive used to supply branch leagues with copies of their rules free; but the rules grew in number, and occupied double the space, increasing from sixteen pages to thirty-two. Every one knows, of course, that it is not possible to get thirty-two pages of matter printed at any office for the price of printing sixteen pages; even the Honorary Minister must realize that fact. The central executive made a charge to the branch leagues for printing the rules, but there was no increase in the price charged per page. That is a sample of the kind of stuff which the Liberals circulate amongst the electors. The Attorney-General referred to the question of union funds, and it was referred to again here to-day. Honorable members on the other side do not take the trouble to ascertain the facts before they speak. If they want to get at the truth, it can be easily done. They have quoted from some returns, and a quotation was made to-day from Queensland. Let me tell these honorable members that the forms which are sent to trade unions to fill up and return are of no use, except to prove the utter incompetency of Liberal Administrations. They used only two headings in the form. “ Benefits “ had to be stated under one heading, and all the other information given under the heading of “ Management.” Our honorable friends on the other side quote the figures under the second heading as if they represented the actual position. Only recently, under our very able Statistician, and under a Labour Administration, too, a start was made in Australia to get accurate information regarding the social movement, trade, unions, the cost of living, and so on. Previously, we had no statistics of any value. I have never gone to any of these sources for information. I tried to get the information direct from the organizations by means of their balance-sheets. Any one who took an interest in the subject could obtain information in the same way. For the benefit of the AttorneyGeneral and others, I have made a statement of the receipts and expenditure of the Australian Workers Union for a period covering the twenty-five years which ended en the 1st June, 1911. That Union is openly taking part in politics and social reform, and has always done Bo. It is a big union, and is growing still bigger. In my statement, I show its expenditure under twelve heads, six of them covering everything in connexion with management, including buildings and property, of which we have a good deal now.
– Then it is a capitalistic union ?
– lt will never become a capitalistic institution, though it is run on business lines. The remaining six heads cover expenditure on things in the nature of benefits, either for the members of the organization or for others. The statement is as follows: -
– Apparently, the cost of management is about 17s. in the £1, whereas business institutions are run at a cost of about 3s. in the £1.
– That is the comment of an ignorant man. The honorable member knows nothing about the objects of the union. Its aims are not commercial.
– The honorable member said that it if run on business lines.
– I have always preached to unions, whenever I had the opportunity, the doctrine that they should not hoard up money, but should spend it efficiently and well. Experience has shown that unions which hoard up money and hamper themselves with benefits become conservative, just as the farm labourers who, according to the honorable member for Wannon, ha/e become farmers have also become conservative, and are supporting the Liberal party because of the promise that while it remains in office the wages of the employes will not be raised. It seems to be human nature that, when one gets 3 acres and a cow - to use a phrase which used to be current in the Old World - one becomes conservative. Modern trade unions do not hamper themselves with benefits. Their work is active organizing. They keep paid officials, partly because, in the old days, the trade union official was certain to lose his job, and partly because these officials give their whole time to their work, and by federation and growth the work is always increasing. If every penny of the union funds was spent on what might be called management, a good return might still be got for it.
– Will the honorable member tell us about the strike in the Worker office?
– The Minister is in politics only for the fun of it. He has never taken things seriously.
– That strike is a pretty serious thing for the men in the office, who were asking for the rates of wages current in Sydney.
– Their case had been dealt with, and their wages had been increased all round ; but they did not take the trouble to ask for a reply to their complaint, and went to a body that had nothing to do with the question. What would the honorable member say to men who had behaved like that?
– I would not call them bushrangers.
– The Prime Minister has complained of the attack made upon the Government by the Opposition, but it was he who threw out a challenge which we were bound to take up. We have taken it up in what even new members must realize is the best way. What satisfactory debate could there have been had we been content to discuss the miserable rag of a programme put forward by Ministers, which contains no definite proposals? There are no bones in that programme. It is nothing but a “gelatinous compound,” “political food for infants,” as the honorable member for Flinders termed a former programme. The best way to make a straight-out attack on the Government is to do what we have done. If the supporters of the Government desire honest, efficient administration, they will withdraw their support after the disclosure that was made this afternoon’ about the way in which Ministers have allowed the country to be robbed. The Government issued a challenge to the Opposition when it proposed an amendment of the Arbitration Act to exclude rural workers from its benefits. The statement that the Labour party was to blame for bringing the rural workers within the Arbitration Act has been circulated throughout the farming community; but we are proud of what we did. We do not desire any section to be excluded from the benefits of arbitration. No section should be denied justice. There is no body of men whose members cannot bring cases before the ordinary Courts and secure justice; though, perhaps, the more money a party possesses, the more likely he is to win his action. The law was amended to give some consideration to rural workers as well as to others, and now honorable members opposite, after the matter was threshed out previously, have the impudence to come forward with a proposal to exclude the rural workers from the benefits of the law. At the elections, they told the farmers that if they were returned they would alter the law; but when they did so, they had not the remotest idea that they would occupy the Treasury bench. When honorable members left this chamber at the close of last session, they had no hope that they would be successful at the elections. They openly admitted that they believed they had no chance of success. They fluked in, and having fluked in, they said that they must keep their promise to the farmers. The honorable member who moved the adoption of the Address-in-Reply said that if the party opposite went to the country the farmers would send them back. He said that the present Government is a farmers’ Government. The Government evidently represent a class, and have entered into a compact with a particular section of the community.
Colonel Ryrie. - The Opposition tried very hard to secure the support of the farmers.
-I have never been opposed to the farmers, and am not opposed to them now. I have been trying to find a farmer on the Government side of the House, but it would take a very powerful magnifying glass to discover one. No doubt there are some Collinsstreet, York-street, and Sussex-street farmers amongst honorable members opposite, but there are very few real farmers amongst them. A bargain was made with the farmers at the general election, and the Government feel under an obligation to carry out that bargain. I give them credit for that. The honorable member for Wannon painted a picture, which, if he has knocked about much amongst farmers, or has ever worked on a farm, he must know was true of only a very limited number of farm workers. Every one knows that where men are unorganized they are poorly paid and helpless to improve their condition. No case can be mentioned where those who are unorganized are in as good a position as those who are organized.
– Is the honorable member aware that the increase in the case of the unorganized is greater than among the organized?
– I know what I am talking about, because I have taken the trouble to verify my statement. All history shows that, without organization, men are helpless to improve their condition. It is true, also, that where men are grouped together they have a much better chance of improving their condition than where they are isolated as individuals. With very few exceptions, the workers in rural industries are not grouped, and so have to Lake what is offered them or go unemployed. No one denies that many employers act fairly and as men should act, but no one will contend, on the other hand, that there is not a great number who do not act fairly by their employes, or that there is not a great number of workers employed at a miserable wage which no one should be’ permitted to work for in Australia. The charge I make against the Government in this connexion is that it is the unfortunate bottom dog, the man who is helpless by lack of organization to improve his condition, that they propose to jump upon. The president of the Farmers and Settlers Association has admitted that some farmers pay even higher wages than are asked for in the rural workers’ log. The honorable member for Wannon has told us that farm workers do not work more than eight hours per day.
– - They do not work eight hours a day all the year round.
– lt is becoming hopeful that if we succeed in having the conference for which we have asked on behalf of - the rural workers it will be possible for us to come to terms.
– These interjections will be very useful at the conference.
– They will, and I hope that a few more Collins-street farmers will make similar interjections. I am hopeful that the proposed conference may result in a settlement of the points in dispute. I say that the unions are always out to lift up the lowest-paid workers to the level of the better paid. When a union frames a log or scale of wages they take as the basis of their claim what the fair employer is paying at the time. I know of very few cases in which that course has not been followed. In this case, as on the admission of the honorable member for Hume, some farmers are paying more than the rural workers’ claim, it is clear that they have not taken the highest wages paid in the industry as a basis, and in framing their log the wages asked for might very well have been higher than they are.
– The honorable member is raising up straw bogies with the object of knocking them down again.
– Before I have done honorable members opposite will know who have been raising the straw bogies. What I condemn is the practice of denying justice to those who, owing to the conditions of their occupation, are helpless to improve their position. No one will help the rural worker, and the great National Parliament of Australia is being asked by the farmers to jump on him and keep him down. The honorable member for Hume has said that he does not object to trade unions connected with the manufacturing industries. I do not say that the whole of the farmers are opposed to any improvement of the condition of the rural worker. Many of them desire to be fair, but the attitude which some of them take up is that they should be allowed to retain the old right of . freedom of contract and individual bargaining. They say that trade unions are all right where the industries concerned have a market for their produce, since higher wages involve a higher purchasing power. The market for Australian produce is chiefly Australian. Only wool, butter, and wheat are exported.
– We have no say in fixing prices.
– That is so. I could tell honorable members something of the operations of the Wheat Ring and the Millers’ Ring. If farmers studied their own interests, arid did not leave everything to auctioneers, land agents, and others they would do much better. One of their secretaries told me that when he asked a farmer to attend a meeting, the reply given him was, “ If you attend it will be all right. I Iia ve some ploughing to do.” This secretary was a storekeeper, a distributor of farmers’ produce, and one of the men who live on the farmers. I say nothing against him, but I have told farmers that they should take an interest in matters themselves. - I have said that I believe in unionism as a principle, and that if the workers do not organize they must expect to suffer. I have always been urging them to organize; and if they looked closer into their own interests, and were not led away by middlemen, profit-makers, they would tackle the Wheat Combine, which robbed the farmers of 2d. per bushel. Do honorable members know what has been taken out of the pockets of the farmers by the Wheat Combine and the agricultural implement .makers? It amounts to £1,000,000 a year.
– The honorable member voted- for the duty on agricultural implements.
– Yes, and I would vote to keep the duty there. The 2d. per bushel taken by the Wheat Combine amounted to nearly £500,000 a year to the Australian farmer. During the last five years these increased charges meant to them a little over £3,000,000. But whilst the farmers tolerate the Wheat Ring and the Agricultural Implement Makers Combine, they are ready to jump on the poor unfortunate workman who is dependent upon his wages.
– Will the honorable member let us have a detailed statement of the charge he is making in connexion with the agricultural implement makers?
– The reports of the Royal Commission in South Australia and of the Commonwealth Royal Commission contain the facts.
– The Commonwealth Royal Commission which inquired into the agricultural-making industry made no such calculation.
– I am giving the facts.
– I was a member of the Commission, and I know that no such calculation was made.
– If the honorable member can detect me in making statements which are not in accordance with facts,
I will resign my seat. I am not so foolish as to make statements without having evidence to support them.
– The least the honorable member can do is to give an extract in support of his statement.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that the Royal Commission showed the great differencebetween the cost of construction of agricultural implements and the price charged for them. I take that difference and multiply it by the number of machines sold per annum. The price of drills was shown to be £36, whereas they can be made for £22. All that is asked by the working men is that the most downtrodden portion of the community shall be lifted up. Is not that fair? Yet honorable members opposite are prepared to vote that an opportunity shall not begiven to attain .this object peacefully. It was simple foolishness to tell thefarmers that they would escape the payment of fair wages if they put theLiberals into power. They have the Liberals in now, but are they going toescape fair wages in consequence ?
– They want to pay fair wages.
– The Fairest body todecide is one which will judge between the farmers and their workmen on evidence.
– Quite so; the Statesystem.
– lt has been said, over and over again, that the conditions in the farming industry in different parts of the country vary ; but it is forgotten that the differences are stated before the Court, and allowed for. The varyingconditions in every industry upon which an award is given are allowed for by the Court. There is no other institution than the Arbitration Court before which evidence can be given by both sides. Suppose the Government were to carry a measure exempting the farming industry - and they will certainly not be able todo so - it would simply bring moretrouble upon the farmers. It is just aswell that it should be known that the Australian Workers Union has taken up the case of the nomadic country workersof Australia. It has enrolled men wherever they can be found. In the pastoral industry matters are working peacefully and harmoniously under an award of the Court. We are now devoting our efforts to helping those whom the honorable member for Wannon says are already quite contented and happy. Perhaps it is best to laugh at the assumption of those who say that the rural workers are contented. The honorable member is a farmer and an employer. Does he expect his workmen to tell him that they are dissatisfied and discontented ? Perhaps he meets some who do say so, but there are not many who will, and that is because they are afraid, knowing that they will be liable to lose their position if they say that they are not contented. Members of the employing class do not get to know the truth about these matters. I am sorry to say that we have frequently found that men who have been proved to have stated to their employers that they were quite satisfied have shortly afterwards taken a prominent part in meetings against those employers. Those who know the conditions of employment understand that perfectly well. We are told that those who take up the case of the discontented are agitators. An agitator, in the opinion of some people, is quite a shocking person. But no man in this world ought to be ashamed of being an agitator. Wherever there is suffering and injustice, there should be agitation to remove it. It is no discredit to a man to make demands for improving conditions, and to denounce injustice wherever it is found. Unionism has been formed from a recognition of the weakness of individuals to help themselves. The Australian Workers Union has now taken up the case of those who have hitherto been unable to help themselves, and is anxious to come to an arrangement with the employers.
– Does the Australian Workers Union want an arrangement with our organization ?
– Yes; we want to arrange a conference affecting all the States excepting Western Australia, which has been left out because of its distance from this part of Australia, and because matters there can be fixed up locally. We have invited the representatives of the employers to meet the representatives of the Australian Workers Union in conference, with a view to arriving at a settlement in regard to wages and conditions of employment. We desire that an arrangement should be arrived at, if possible, before the forthcoming harvest. As an organization, the Australian Workers Union will not cease its endeavours until it has obtained fair conditions for these helpless individuals. It will not rest until reasonable wages and fair treatment are meted out to the rural workers throughout Australia. If effect be given to the proposal of the Government, any body of men could, in the middle of the harvest, when the wheat was in ear and falling to the ground, go upon strike.
– They do that now.
– They do not. Under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act strikes are illegal.
– And, therefore, never take place, I suppose.
– Towards the close of the last Parliament I wrote to the Commonwealth Statistician upon this very matter, and his reply is upon record in Hansard. He says that there is no record of any strikes kept.
– The honorable member is not a practical farmer, and does not know.
– Under the existing law strikes are illegal, and the Australian Workers Union has not had a strike since it came under the operation of our Federal Arbitration Act. For five years it has been working under an award. If its members are exempted from the operation of that Act, they will be in a position to strike legally if they choose, and strike they will.
– The award itself is unconstitutional. I do not mind advising the honorable member of that.
– The honorable member is a squatter and an employer. As a matter of fact, honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber are all farmers. They are prepared to farm out other people’s money at a good interest whenever they have the opportunity to do so. The honorable member for Werriwa knows perfectly well that it would not pay to have the award under which the members of the Australian Workers Union are working declared unconstitutional. The existing conditions are better for all parties concerned. The Australian Workers Union is powerful enough to be able to enforce its award. The operation of the Federal law relating to arbitration has been so hampered by constitutional reasons that it is a marvel how efficient it has proved. I would like the Prime Minister to tell me his authority for the statement that there have been 253 strikes during the past few years. The Commonwealth Statistician says that there is no record of strikes. It seems to me that one would have to go to the newspapers to compile a list.
– My authority is Sir John Quick, who took the figures out of the Registrar’s office, I understand.
– The Commonwealth Statistician says that there is no record of strikes.
– I should not go to Mr. Knibbs for that information, but to the Registrar of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– If one were to pick out cases in which individuals have gone on strike, no doubt he might make up a very formidable list. But that is not what we understand by the term “ strikes.” There are 341,000 unionists peacefully working under awards and agreements in the Commonwealth. Of these 120,000 are working under Commonwealth awards, and there has not been a single breach of those awards. That is a complete answer to all the wild statements which have been made for the purpose of inducing electors to vote for a party which could catch votes in no other way. Honorable members opposite have attempted to fool the farmer by telling him that if the rural workers are exempted from the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act he will experience no more bother with them. In so doing they are merely precipitating him into an extremely dangerous field. If my honorable friends wish to do away with these Courts they are playing with dangerous weapons. In Australia, as in other places, there is a very considerable element which preaches the doctrine of universal strife until the period arises when they are strong enough to take possession. We have trouble with them in our industrial organizations. Trade unionists generally are influenced a good deal by them, and some of the mischief wrought is due to these very people. If my honorable friends are going to force men into the position of having to resort to strikes, they will precipitate a conflict. It is far better that the opposing forces should come to terms in friendly conference if possible, and if that be not possible that the Court should settle their differences. If those differences are so small as has been indicated by two speakers who pretend to know, there ought to be no trouble in settling them.
– The honorable member has plenty of stuff to go on with?
– I have plenty of socalled “ stuff “ here. I have the speech of the Prime Minister - yards of it. It is very poor stuff. The Government have come down with a very miserable sort of policy. Apparently there is to be no increase in wages, no decrease of taxation; no decrease in the cost of living; and no help for new industries; but there is to be industrial warfare. Shortly put, that is the policy of the Government. I desire now to refer briefly to the question of the abolition of postal voting, which has already been well dealt with. Old members of this Parliament know that at first we thought the system would be a wise one to introduce. We thought we should learn by experience. Queensland tried the experiment, and soon found that it was dangerous. It found that the system was wrongly used.
– Why did not the Government prosecute?
– Would any of the farmers and others behind the Government dream of advocating the institution of proceedings against innocent young women of good character, and the production in Court of documents they had signed ? I am sure they would not ; and no Department would think of doing so. The Government talk of restoring the system; but when a proposal is made to pass a law to help the poor and downtrodden, they set their faces against it. They give such people no hope; they would jump on them. They think such men are mere children, and that they know what is best for them.
– If a man will not join a union, the honorable member and his party jump on him.
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me of the references that have been made to the number of men who refuse to join a union. Honorable members of the Liberal party, in this respect, have ideas which need to be corrected. Those who are not members of a union are not necessarily non-unionists. The real nonunionist is the strike breaker. In a sixteen years’ experience of a mining district where every man has to be a unionist, I have met with but a very limited number of such men. In that district, even the directors of the mining companies agreed that their employes must join a union ; and we have had officers who had authority from the employers to sack a man if he declined to join one. In my sixteen years’ experience of that district, I have known of about only three cases where men absolutely set up their backs against joining a union. An honorable member opposite has admitted that a man ought to join a union; that it is unfair that a man should take advantage of that for which unionists have fought and paid. A man who is asked to join a union has in reality nothing to pay for his membership. It is the industry, and not the man, who pays. It is a poor union that does not so improve the position of its members as to more than make good his contributions. The Australian Workers Union does not pay the cost. The Pastoralists Union really does. A man who has been a member of that union for about twenty-five years has close on £250 to his credit in return for a payment of about £14. The individual who stands out of a union makes so much mischief that no sensible employer will retain his services. He recognises that such a man humbugs Hie whole of his staff. We must, however, make allowances for human nature. I would like to know why members of trade unions, who are just as sensible as are honorable members opposite, should not be permitted to do as they please with their own money. Why do not the Government bring in legislation providing that no organization whatever shall put any money into politics ? They do not propose anything of the kind. Is it not a fact that the Farmers’ and Settlers’ Associations devote money to political purposes?
– They do not.
– They do. The Farmers’ and Settlers’ Associations of New South Wales are going to run a party, and no Labour man will be able to join such an association since their funds will be used for political purposes. In this respect the Government propose to take a backward step. Apparently they made certain promises, and are going to try to keep them. The proposed action, however, cannot be defended. We shall have more to say about it when the Bill comes before us - if it ever does come - but we have had such an exposure of the incompetence of the Government that
I expect to see them “ throw up the sponge.” I wish now to say a word or two about the story of the bangle. The Prime Minister recently went round the country retailing some gossipy yarn -
Borne silly story - that he heard about a bangle and the maternity allowance. The story is that a certain lady had a hubby in whom she trusted. Evidently he was a good sort of hubby, because she trusted him to collect the maternity allowance, and we know that every man cannot be trusted with a fiver. The husband justified his wife’s high opinion of his integrity, for he did what he was told, as all husbands ought to do, and brought home a bangle. At this point there is a gap in the story .which the Prime Minister no doubt will probably fill in, because from a national point of view it is very important. I refer to the fact that the honorable gentleman does not say whether the bangle was for the baby or the mother. This yarn gave to the Prime Minister the idea of amending the law in regard to the maternity allowance. We have not yet heard the details of hisproposal, but apparently the right of a woman to receive the maternity allowance is to be determined by her ability to buy a bangle. A. poor woman ought to know whether she is to receive the allowance before the great and important event to which it relates - an event of great importance to Australia - takes place. I am astounded that any man could have the courage to look a woman in the face after making such a proposal as this. The scheme will involve inquiry in every case as to whether the applicant is so hard up that she should be granted the allowance. The Prime Minister proposes to degrade the maternity allowance into a mere charity dole. Whoever is responsible for the proposed alteration of the law - and 1 presume that the suggestion was first made in the party caucus - ought to explain in detail whether in each case a constable is to be sent to interrogate the workman’s wife at home, or whether every applicant is to be brought before a Court and examined. The proposal is an outrageous one. It is only a new way of recouping some of the public moneys that the Government have allowed the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and other people to secure. As the result of bad management they have thrown away thousands of pounds, and they now propose to come on the poor to make good the loss. Thousands of women of independent spirit will not apply for the allowance if this alteration in the law is made. How can the Department determine whether an applicant is or is not deserving of the allowance unless some test is applied? Are we to have the bangle test?
– That is to be the test. If a woman has a bangle she is not to receive the allowance.
– Apparently that is so. Does the Prime Minister mean that a woman who can afford a bangle shall not have the maternity allowance, although, presumably, if the husband has bought the bangle previously, not a word will be said about it? The whole idea is silly and degrading, and I trust Parliament will not disgrace itself by adopting it, but that honorable members opposite, when they consider the details of that administration, will be so ashamed of it as to let it “go by the board.” The Labour party have all along stood for universal old-age pensions, irrespective of incomes, and in this, as in other ways, we do not stand for a class. On the other hand, the present Government are openly, admittedly, and barefacedly class representatives. There are many independent women who would rather starve than at such a period submit themselves for examination and investigation.
– How does the honorable member propose to pay pensions when he has abolished the rich?
– There will then be no pensions needed.
– There will be nothing to pay pensions with.
– When there are no millionaires, or any chance of people becoming millionaires, and the community is co-operative, everybody will be well off, and we shall hear less of this great desire to make the “ other fellow “ do all the work.
– The Government proposal will mean that the mother and child will be branded as paupers.
– It is in such proposals, I suppose, that Conservatism finds expression. The privileged classes like to engage in charity, and take a great deal of credit for doing so; indeed, for this reason, they would be almost sorry to see the poor disappear. So it is with Conservative Governments, and the idea is altogether a wrong one. Amongst the proposals hinted at by the Government is one to establish freehold, and thus really give away the lands of the Northern Territory. A very suggestive fact, on which we on this side must keep our eyes, is that an idea is mooted to wheedle us’ into sanctioning a land-grant railway in the Territory. It is strange that such proposals are made only when this kind of Government is in power. My own opinion is that the establishment of freehold will not attract one additional settler, but merely give rise to the operations of the speculator. There has been freehold in the Northern Territory for forty years, and, as Conservatives pay great respect to the past, the failure of the system ought to be a lesson to them. I think the Government ought to withdraw frankly the statements that have been made by their agents in regard to alleged electoral abuses. Had a trade union secretary made such remarks as those which fell from Mr. Parkhill, he would have been sacked in a minute. The whole question ought to be investigated and settled straightaway ; it ought not to be allowed to go throughout the world that the Australian Parliament is a rotten crowd. The Returning Officer in my own electorate says that, with four or five exceptions, the duplications, and so forth, are clerical errors, and that the purity of voting in Australia is unequalled anywhere in the world. I know personally of cases where fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters, of the same name and address, have given rise to the idea that there is duplication, and names have consequently been struck off. The wildest of statements have been made in this connexion, and discovered to be entirely without foundation, and yet not a Minister has had the manliness to get up and apologize. The Attorney-General was careful to say that he did not know the facts, but other Ministers have allowed these unfounded statements to go abroad. The Government, when they introduce their proposals, declare that they desire an election. Well, let an election come. If there were an election to-morrow the present Government would no longer occupy the Treasury bench. The Labour party are ready for an election, and when it comes we shall see that the farmers have found that they have been fooled. As to funds of trade unions being used for political purposes, only ls. out of the £1 a year contributed by the members of the Australian Workers
Union is devoted to those aims, and the Newcastle miners, who number 10,000, although they did contribute 3d. a year at one time, do not contribute anything now, while, like sensible men, they vote solidly for Labour. It is nonsense to say that a man is coerced in regard to his vote because he joins a union. It is a fool’s tale that people are too ready to swallow. Take the votes in the’ Cobar district, in my electorate, and see how many my opponent polled, showing whether the members of the union do not vote unanimously. And nobody coerces them; at the ballot-box they can vote as they like. That is the test. But people do not take the trouble to look at the facts, and they are grossly misled. Perhaps what I have said will clear the ground. I hear nothing now from the Government about going to the country; but I say let us go right away, and have an election. We will reverse the decision at the last fight. It will certainly clear the air. The Government realize they are not going to do much harm, if they do not do any good. They came in to secure honest and economic administration, but we have already had a sample of their foolishness. I am afraid the effect of their administration will be to make us insolvent. According to their programme, they have proposed a Bankruptcy Bill. It does them credit. They know that every one will be going bankrupt, and they have put forward legislation to meet the difficulties that are bound to arise.
– I quite agree with the honorable member for Darling that if the secretary of the Liberal League made any statements that are not correct they should be cleared up ; but while they are clearing them up, I would ask them to clear up some of those remarkable and romantic statements made by a paper called the Worker, to which every boy who goes up for a few weeks’ work in a woolshed has to contribute, whether he likes it or not. There are one or two things my friend said to which I would like to refer before I talk about our platform. For instance, there is the talk about our being all capitalists and the other side not. I have yet to learn that all on the Government side are capitalists born and bred. Some of them, for aught I know, may be self-made men; and those of us who cannot claim to be exactly that are men who have helped our fathers to be self-made men; but, as Australians, I think we have just as much sympathy with other Australians as any men on the Opposition benches. I have ho knowledge of any Public Department but the Postal Department, which the honorable member for Darwin said was “ kicking like a mule.” If that is not in a state of chaos, I should not like to run a business that was. When one gets letters from the Department saying that a post-office in a progressive agricultural district will not improve in business for the next eight years, and, therefore, cannot have telephone communication, I think it is in a state of chaos. Then one is told that if a telephone line is granted, it cannot be built, because there is other work going on. I should not like to tell a buyer that I could not sell him a sheep because I was selling to others at the same time. I do not think the statement of the honorable member for Darling quite explains the amount of money spent by the Australian Workers Union. He spoke rather quickly, and I could not take down the figures; but I got it down as £14,000 for political and parliamentary expenses.
– That covered twenty-five years.
– The exact figure.
-It is not all, and the honorable member will take fine care to see it is not all. Every organizer in the Australian Workers Union is practically a political agent, and 1 see there is a sum of £53,000 down for organizers ; so these two items bring the amount up to £67,000.
– They are industrial organizers.
– They are political organizers. Then there was a pamphlet about the land tax. The Land Tax Commissioner, in his annual report, said there had been separate transactions amounting to 18,000, and it was claimed by our friends opposite that the first year’s operations put on 18,000 settlers.
– He did not say that.
– The Commissioner did not, but the organizers of the union did. I have it in a pamphlet bearing the name ofMr. Anstey.
– Have you one of those pamphlets?
– No; but the honorable member probably has one, because they were published by the thousand. These two items I have mentioned amount to £67,000; but I, as a pastoralist, do not take exception to this if they like to spend the money. The only thing I object to, as an Australian, is that a man is compelled to pay it, whether he wants to do so or not. We on our side cannot compel employers, or any other class, farmers, settlers, or pastoralists, to pay money unless they care to do so. If we ask for a subscription they say, “ All right, we will send it along,” but we never get it.
– They get black looks if they do not pay up.
– No, they do not; and we cannot exercise what you call “moral suasion.” If we could dip them up to their necks, or, as is recorded in Forty Tears of Unionism in Australia, make back logs of them for the fire, we might get more financial assistance.
– That is merely the way the Prime Minister used to enforce preference to unionists.
– The honorable member is a barrister, and is more qualified to speak of workers than I am, and has had more connexion with them. We have heard a lot about the Wheat Ring and the Bag Ring, so much so, that I have indented my own cornsacks and woolsacks; but I never made much money at the game. Despite all the statements about the farmers being robbed, if a man goes to any railway station and gives a Jd. a bushel more than the London price, he can buy up all the wheat in Australia. The only time that price is given is when shippers are anxious to complete a shipment. So the farmers will not swallow the tale about the Wheat Ring. We have heard the Liberal platform described by our friends as not constructive; and from their point of view it is not; it is destructive. You can see the wounded all round the rural constituencies in New South Wales. There is one thing that the Labour party need to bear in mind. In the past there was a great deal of ill-feeling between squatter and selector - it was the fault of bad legislation - but that, I am glad to say, has died out. The squatter is done, the selector is done, and now all are landowners, some being larger than others, and the small ones trying to get as big as the large ones. Right down to some of the boys who a few years ago were picking up in the sheds in my district they are now land-holders. As regards the electoral law, I, for one, never thought that a number of men would go in and vote halfadozen times in the same name. I think that they would be only fools if they did. The recent inquiry does not show that some men did not get on the rolls in two different names and vote twice in two different names.
– Another insinuation.
– I am not making an insinuation. I made that statement because the recent inquiry does not show that everything is all right. Mr. McKay will deal with the honorable member next time if he will only wait patiently. In my electorate the people want the electoral law altered. I do not know anything about the Kooyong electorate, or what happened there, and I do not care either, but I do know that in the western portion of the Riverina electorate there is a number of small settlers who, if they cannot vote by post, practically cannot vote at all. The absentee vote may be as good as the postal vote, but it acted adversely to the recording of votes in my electorate, because it enabled men and women to go and vote where they were not expected to attend.
– It was the largest poll we ever had. n
– Quite so, and the voting would have been higher but for that fact. At one or two places in my electorate absentee voters came in, and the farmers had to drive away without recording their votes. There were more votes to be recorded at those places than the electoral officials could deal with. Whatever may be done with the absentee vote, the country residents wish the postal vote to be restored. As regards the rural workers, the farming community do not wish to deny justice to the men, nor was the farmer fooled about the rural worker or his claim. The Labour party’s argument for the amendment of the Constitution reads -
So early in the history of Federation as the first Parliament, it was seen that was quite wrong, and a resolution moved by Mr. Higgins (now Mr. Justice Higgins) that the Parliament ought to have full power to make laws as to wages, hours, and conditions of labour for Australia was carried unanimously. The present proposed amendment, therefore, merely seeks to do that which the first Parliament unanimously approved.
Our Labour friends on the other side now say that the rural workers’ log is only a claim. Well, is it an unfair claim? If it is, let them say so, and let Mr. Justice
Higgins inform his mind, as he terms it, of the fact, because, although the claims before the Arbitration Court have not been granted in their entirety, perhaps, as one member of the Opposition said, they have been granted so close up to that point that we ought to know whether the claims are honest or not. Once claims are put forward I take it that every member of the Opposition is in honour bound, morally and politically, to endeavour to get them granted by the Court. In the shearers’ case the men we had against us were not shearers, but members of Parliament, and one member of the House of Representatives gave evidence for the shearers. I put it to the farmer that if the proposed amendment of the Constitution were carried there was no reason why the rural workers’ claim should go before the Arbitration Court, because the Parliament could then decide the hours and rates of wages, and as the members of the Opposition thought that they would be continued in power, and as they are merely delegates from the Political Labour Conference, the farmers were frightened to trust them with the authority desired. There was no fooling of the farmers.
– You will get into trouble with the Caucus.
– So far as a Liberal Caucus is concerned, since I entered this Parliament I have not heard of a meeting. The only time that I saw all the members of our party together was on the day I arrived, whenI was introduced to my fellow members. I have not seen them all together since.
– You will soon get into trouble.
– If I do I will soon get out of it.
– You are blindly following them.
– No, I am not going to blindly follow Liberal or Labour; I claim my freedom, and that is why I am here. I do not think it is any reflection upon the intelligence or the integrity of the Arbitration Court to say that no one man - and I know it did not happen in the shearers’ case, because I prompted the counsel for ten weeks - can assimilate all the varying conditions in an industry that extends over the whole of Australia. During the fifth or sixth week of that case we were dumbfounded by a con versation we heard between the Court and the learned counsel. I have often heard of old rams in pastoral pursuits, and I might add in others, but it was not until 1 was in the body of the Arbitration Court that I ever heard of an “ adult sheep “ and “a middle-aged wether,” and that was after spending five or six weeks in trying to tell the Court what the different things meant. I think I can safely say that there is as much human nature on this side as there is on the Labour side. We do not wish to do any harm to the workers, but charity begins at home, and we have to look after ourselves. We do not want to tie up, nor can those who represent the workers in the town tie up, the rural industries of Australia with factory conditions which cannot possibly apply to the country.
– That is not suggested.
– It is. We have now to work our wool sheds almost under those conditions. At 12 o’clock if you have a few lambs belonging to ewes not cut out they have to be unmothered, because you have to knock off at the hour sharp.
– What do you do with the “ adult sheep “ ?
– We feed fools with some of them.
Coming now to the fiscal question, Liberal candidates told the electors that they wished to provide for a board to inquire into industrial conditions with a view to their amelioration by Tariff revision. That, I take if, is better than to have members of the Chamber of Manufactures log-rolling here to secure higher duties, which, I understand, is what used to occur. We do not want that. We desire an independent board for the investigation of the conditions of each industry, leaving it to Parliament to decide what Protection that industry is entitled to. I am a Protectionist, though not a Protectionist gone mad, and I hope that the Inter- State Commission will realize that the rural industries are the mainstay of Australia. As for the national insurance scheme, I think it only fair to say that I jokingly made the statement that one of my friends had bought a bangle for his wife with the maternity allowance. If I had had any idea that that statement would have been taken so seriously by the Opposition, I would not have made it. Since making it, I have heard of a man who bought a go-cart with the allowance, and of another who offered to pay the shire rates if they would give him time. In my opinion, the granting of the allowance should be looked at from a business point of view. We have no desire to pauperize any one ; but all our expenditure should be on a sound financial footing, because a time may come when we shall not have an overflowing Treasury. During the electoral campaign, my opponent drew tears from his audiences in speaking about the relief given by the allowance. I find that the State and private expenditure on the larger charities amounts to something like £2,200,000 a year, and that the Commonwealth spends £2,400,000 on old-age pensions, and £650,000 a year on the baby bonus, so that altogether Australia’s charities cost over £5,000,000. In view of the huge naval and military expenditure to which both political parties are committed, can we increase our charitable expenditure indefinitely ?
– Which would the honorable member cut down ?
– I do not suggest the cutting-down of either, but I suggest business administration. It is more cruel to give money and to suddenly stop the gift than never to give at all. As for the Northern Territory policy, I am in favour of giving freehold tenure for agricultural settlement, and leasehold tenure for pastoral purposes, reserving to the Crown the right of resumption. If this is done, leaseholders will know that after a certain period they must be prepared to make way for smaller men, and will do so without animosity, thus preventing the old squatter and selector troubles. There are 335,000,000 acres in the Northern Territory, and to settle so large an area will need the cooperation of both political parties. Merely the offer of freehold tenure to agriculturists will not take men there; they must also have the assurance that when population has increased sufficiently to enable them to reap a reward from the efforts of a lifetime, they will not be taxed out of existence.
– A freehold will be of no use in the future.
– The leasehold fetish is like the Socialism fetish with the Labour party. A race of people to whom the Labour members are opposed almost as much as we ares the Chinese, once had leasehold with reappraisement ; and whenever the Government wanted money, rents used to be raised, until the landholders got so sick of it that they forced the Government to fix rents for all time. Under Socialism the same thing would occur.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his information regarding what happened in China?
– In a book that I am astonished the honorable member has not read, The Awakening of China, by Dr. Martin. The author mentions the interesting fact that, about the time of William the Conqueror what were known as the Five Philosophers existed in China. One of them was what would now be called a theoretical Socialist, and thought that the State should own everything. He wrote a treatise embodying his views, and the Emperor was so taken with the happy picture drawn therein that he told him to put his ideas into execution. Unfortunately for the philosopher, the crowd executed him before he could do so. As to the unimproved value of land, it is, so far as country land is concerned, the invention of our nimble-witted city friends, or of the Evil One. Land is worth only what it will produce, and that depends on the exertions of the person holding it, not on what is done by any rural workers’ association, or by the Australian Workers Union .
– Does it not depend on the expenditure of the community upon railways, roads, ports, harbors, and the like ?
– That does not make land produce. Has the railway to Broken Hill made that district an agricultural one? Has the railway madu grass to grow there?
– The railway made Broken Hill a profitable mining field. Without the railway there would be no Broken Hill.
– Land is worth only what it will produce, and all the railways in the world will not make a salt bush plain produce wheat.
– A railway makes land valuable in bringing its produce nearer to market.
– Railways are a convenience to the city merchants and the city population generally just as much as to the land-owners, who pay full freight on their produce, and interest on the cost of construction. Land-owners are not benefited by railway construction any more than are city manufacturers and merchants.
– The honorable member ought to go with us for free railways.
– All we want from the honorable member is freedom to shear our sheep in peace. There is an earned income in land, which depends solely upon the skill and experience of the landholder. There is no exemption of this earned income under the present unimproved land-value taxation, and I say that, if it be taxed, we shall get no one to take up land in the Northern Territory. It is just as possible to raise the rent of land as it is to tax improvements. It will be some time before the proposed railways are constructed in the Northern Territory, and I suggest to the Minister of External Affairs, who has charge of the Territory, that in the meantime it would be wise to open up all the stock routes by providing water facilities, so that stock may be brought down from the Territory. I remind honorable members that, as rapidly as the increase of population will permit of it, what have been pastoral lands iu Victoria and New South Wales are being turned into agricultural lands, and we have to depend on the outback areas, and the pastoralists who are willing to pioneer them, for the meat supply of our towns. If there be one thing more than another in the legislation of the last Government by which harm was done to the community it was their interference with banking. The Commonwealth Bank may be labelled as harmless, because it won’t go off, but the note issue has done considerable harm. First of all, the late Government made the private banks redeem their own notes to the extent of £4,300,000. They then made them find gold for £10,000,000 of Australian notes. One would have thought that when the Treasurer got hold of half the money he would have been prepared to give the Federal Bank back the other £5,000,000, but, instead of doing so, he lent it to the State Governments, and put it all out of the reach of the trading and producing portion of the community.
– Did not the State Governments put the money into circulation?
– No, they did not. Probably they sent the whole of it to England, and even then were unable to meet their deficits. There is one statement which was made by the honorable member for West Sydney to which I should like to refer. The honorable gentleman said: -
I should like to remind honorable members that whereas, according to Mr. Braddon, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce, the private banks have now a gold reserve of only 22 per cent. of their total liabilities, we have a gold reserve of much larger extent. But no doubt there is something about a private bank in itself at once inspiring and reassuring. Our memories, of course, decline absolutely to go back to 1893.
As a matter of fact, there is something inspiring and reassuring in a private bank, and it is that the men who control such institutions are possessed of some financial experience.
– They showed it in 1893.
– I shall come to that. I was asked all these questions in going round my electorate, and know them off by heart. It is true that the private banks had only 22 per cent. of their total liabilities in gold, but their total liabilities are not payable on demand as are the Australian notes. That is the difference. So far as the private banks’ liabilities at call are concerned, and these stand in the same relation as do our Australian notes, the banks have for the last three years maintained a reserve in coin and bullion of from 49 to 59 per cent. of those liabilities. It is clear, therefore, that the statement I have quoted is entirely misleading. The Commonwealth Bank is one of the things which we are told we misled the people about, yet I find that Mr. Denison Miller, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, has said almost exactly what I said on this subject, only in slightly different terms. He said : -
The withdrawal of the note circulation from the banks, and the consequent absorption by the Government of a large sum of gold for the Australian note issue, tended torestrict the banks’ resources. They had, further, to make provision for the opening of the Commonwealth Bank, which meant the transfer to that bank of a very large amount of Government deposits early in January.
That is just what I said. Under another heading, “ Need of Capital,” I find that he said -
The Commonwealth is developing so rapidly that the capital in the country is not sufficient to carry on the many projects in hand and contemplated, and until the introduction of considerable sums of money from England is accomplished the position will not show much relief.
– Can we not get it!
– Why not?
– I will tell the honorable member in a minute. He is like a motor-car - he gets there twice as fast as possible, or not at all. According to statistics, so far from capital coming into the country, it must, to a considerable extant, be going out. That, I think, is due to Labour legislation. The Labour party, in the manifesto they issued, claimed that everything was increasing during their term of office. I think they mentioned everything but the cost of living and the death-rate. A statement I put before the electors in my constituency was taken from the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record. It showed that the manifesto referred to quoted the three years in which there was an increase, but not last year. The average yearly increase of deposits in the banks of Australia for the three years was about £11,000,000; but last year it came down to under £1,000,000, or, to be more exact, to £971,000. Those are figures which are taken from the Australasian Insurance and Banking Record. Naturally, it was impossible to see the effect of the legislation passed by the last Parliament until it had been some time in operation. I have stated its effect as regards deposits, and, as regards coin and bullion, the article from which I quoted goes on to say-
Another feature mentioned in the returns is a decrease of £i.o=n.cT,i in the amount of coin and bullion held bv the banks of Australia.
Now about this £2,500,000 of a surplus which our opponents are taking so much credit for. Surely, after having three years of income unparalleled in the history of the Federation, they have not much to blow about in having saved £2,500,000? They might have saved £12,000,000. They say that the Liberal party left them a deficit ; but what if they did? From 1901 to 1907 we had the worst seasons that probably Australia has ever known. The number of our sheep was reduced to 52,000,000 and of our cattle to 7,000,000. By 1909 we had bred np again, and when the Labour party came into power we had 11,000,000 cattle and 92,000,000 sheep; the area under wheat was up to the normal complement, and we got higher prices than had been received for years previously. So that the Labour Government were in office in a time of unexampled prosperity. We were promised that when the Labour party came into power they would cheapen land and money. They passed eighty-three Acts of Parliament, but I do not think they did one thing that they promised to do. The land tax did not cheapen land; all it did was to average up the size of estates.
– Honorable members on the Government side have been saying that it made land cheap.
– If honorable members opposite will give me time, I will deal with that. I have not lost my memory, and I know what has been said. What the honorable member for Wannon said on this subject was true. It restricted the borrowing possibilities of the land-owner, and its immediate effect was to make land dearer; because honorable members opposite played such a tune up and down the country about land monopoly, making the farmer believe that there was no land available but that which he could see over the boundary fence, that he bought on the land-owner’s terms in order to keep other people out. As to the banking crisis, my opponent told the electors that the Commonwealth Bank would lend money for long terms at a low rate of interest. It was that sort of thing that brought about the crisis of 1893. But since then the banks of Australia have been confining themselves to legitimate banking business, and neither the Commonwealth Bank nor the private banks will lend money on long terms. Lending money on mortgage is not true banking at all. As to the trust bogy, I have no doubt that the Labour party secured a great many votes by representing the imaginary evils that were coming upon the country. They certainly frightened a good many, and secured more votes than they would otherwise have done for their proposal for dealing with trusts and monopolies. But, in regard to coal and shipping, I think that our opponents are “up to their necks” in the trust business. The worst form of monopoly occurs when employers and employes combine together to “ rook “ the rest of the public.
– You will have more of it, too.
– As to the Beef Trust, I remember that the gentleman who was most prominent in calling attention to it in Victoria was the Hon. Mr. McWhae, a member of the Legislative Council of this State. Mr. McWhae may know something about cutting up commission, but I am quite certain that he knows nothing about cutting up beef. I do not think he would know the end of a cow on which to put the tail. Any monopoly which there may have been in the matter of beef has not operated against the producer. The local exporters do not enter into competition with each other. I can speak as a grower of some amount of experience, and I have no hesitation in saying that, so far, there has been no Beef Trust in Australia. As a grower, I am not afraid of the Beef Trust, whether it operates from America or anywhere else. Indeed, I should welcome a little more competition, but not in the shape of a trust. A little healthy competition would do a great deal of good at the present time. As regards sugar, we were told by our opponents that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was the greatest monopoly Australia had to contend with. Yet, on page 30 of the report of the Sugar Commission, which is signed, not by one man, but by four, three of whom, I believe, are Labour men-
– No fear! The only Labour man was Mr. Hinchcliffe.
– What about Mr. Shannon ?
– He is not a Labour man.
Colonel Ryrie. - He had the audacity to oppose me in North Sydney.
– In this report, the Commissioners say -
It is true that, for one reason or another, full advantage of high foreign prices has not been taken by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in fixing the price of refined sugar in Australia.
So that the people of this country have not to pay toll to this alleged monopoly. On page 47 of the report, reference is made to the efficiency of the refining industry as at present carried on. I quote this as against the argument of the honorable member for Darling in favour of his cooperative ideal. The Commissioners say -
In the general result we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Commonwealth Treasury would be involved in a heavy financial loss, unless it were prepared to make higher demands on the consumers than is necessary under a system of private-owned industry subject to appropriate regulation.
That brings us to the crux of the whole question. The other matters that have been introduced merely side-track the issue. The matter which we have to decide to-day is whether we are going to carry on the business of this country under a system of privately-owned industry, subject to proper regulation, which will give us full scope for our activity and aspiration, or whether we are going to be brought to the position of State servants - a state of affairs that a celebrated cleric of the Roman Catholic Church described the other day as one which would reduce us to the condition of a flock of sheep, with the State for a shepherd, and God alone knows what for fodder. As far as the rural producers are concerned, I feel confident that I can speak for them in saying that we are not going to cultivate the soil and continue our industries as officials or servants of the State. I have much pleasure in saying that the programme of the Government is one that commands my support, and, at any rate, it was good enough to put our opponents in their proper position.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Poynton) adjourned.
Naval Brigade Band, South Australia - Coloured Doctor on Mail Steamer - Naval Base, Cockburn Sound: Discharge of Men.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to call the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence to what is happening in connexion with the band attached to the Naval Brigade, at Largs Bay, South Australia. The band is a very efficient one, and is much in request for charitable purposes. It officiated on something like sixty occasions last year. An order has recently been issued giving the band a new uniform. The uniform that has hitherto been worn is one of blue serge, similar to that worn by the band on the flagship. I admit that the matter is not one of great importance, but nevertheless it appears to me that the new order is of an irritating character. There can be no earthly object in objecting to this band being clothed as it has hitherto been. The change is objected to very strongly by a body of young men who have worn their present uniforms for many years, and are proud of it. The only reason for the change that I can see is that some official lias acted in the spirit of what the Americans call “ cussedness.” I should like the Government to inquire into the reason for the new order.
– Is an entirely new uniform being issued ?
– Yes. The present uniform has been worn for many years, and I see no reason why it should be changed. Nobody sees why they should lose their serge uniform and be called upon to don an entirely different uniform. I ask the Government to inquire into this matter with a view to rescinding the order which has been issued for the alteration.
.- I should like to direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to a telegram which I have received to-day from Fremantle, and which reads -
The Orient boat Orontes passed through Fremantle to-day with a coloured doctor engaged.
It is well known that when the contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company was arranged one of the conditions which induced this Parliament to grant that company a subsidy of £170,000 a year was that white labour only should be employed on its vessels. Presumably this telegram, which comes from Mr. McCallum, the secretary of the Trades Hall, at Fremantle, is correct. I should be pleased to have an assurance from the Postmaster-General that he will inquire into this matter with a view to remedying the evil of which I complain.
– Surely the honorable member is not serious?
– I am, and if the honorable member is going to take up the attitude that the provisions of our mail contract with the Orient Steam Navigation Company may be broken with impunity, and if he intends to countenance the employment of coloured labour on board its vessels, there is likely to ‘be trouble in this House. I presume that the Postmaster-General does not share the view of his impetuous follower, and will be pleased to see effect given to the provisions of the contract.
– Does the honorable member say that a professional man is a labouring man?
– A professional man may be a coloured man just ‘as an A B may be a coloured man. If there be a coloured doctor on board the Orontes, the position is just as bad as if there were a coloured fireman. We have stipulated the conditions under which this company shall receive the Commonwealth subsidy, and I hold that those conditions shall be observed. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will ascertain whether the contents of the telegram which I have read are correct.
– I was somewhat surprised to read in the Age this morning a statement by the Prime Minister to the effect that there was “ a political game on “ in regard to the men who have been discharged from the Henderson Naval Base, at Cockburn Sound. I should like to know whether the honorable gentleman has been correctly reported, because some of the statements credited to him sound rather strange when coming from the lips of one holding his exalted position, particularly in view of the fact that as far back as 1911 Admiral Henderson presented a report which provided that certain things should be done. The Prime Minister is reported to have said - “ The late Government proceeded to spend a very large amount of money - £15,000 or £16,000, I think - in making preparations for a naval base before it had been ascertained whether the ships could get into it or not.” Mr. Cook produced the plan showing that the only way to get to the site of the proposed base was through two huge sand-banks, neither of which had yet been cut.” “ There is, therefore,” he continued, “ no certainty that the ships would be able to get in, and we have now to find out whether the money that has been spent will be of the slightest use. In spite of the fulminations of the Trades Hall, and its innuendoes against the Liberal Government, it becomes our imperative duty to see whether this money has been wasted or not. It would be very much more to the point if they themselves would undertake some of these inquiries, instead of gibing at the Government, which is doing nothing but taking ordinary business precautons.”
Is the Prime Minister correctly reported ? I ask this question, because on page 56 of Admiral Henderson’s report the statement is made that a channel for deep-draught vessels would have to be dredged through the Parmalia and Success banks. I am rather sorry the Treasurer is not present, because his knowledge of this area would have been of assistance to the Prime Minister. For years past plans and specifications relating to the dredging of these two banks have been in the possession of the State Government. If the Prime Minister is correctly reported-
– Quite correctly.
– I am rather surprised that this question should be raised after all these months. Even Admiral Henderson knew before he drafted his report that these two sandbanks would require to be dredged. More than that, the late Government ordered a dredge in order that this necessary work might be undertaken. It is very strange, therefore, that the Prime Minister should say that there is something in the nature of a political game on, as it affects the Cockburn Sound naval base. I have asked one or two questions regarding this matter, because, so far as I am concerned, it is much too serious to admit of it being designated a “ political game.” A large number of men have been discharged from their employment. They have their wives and families to maintain, and, therefore, the matter is altogether too grave to be described in the way that it has been. 1 regret that the Prime Minister has acknowledged that he has been correctly reported, because, to my mind, it shows that he did not understand Admiral Henderson’s report when it was submitted two years ago.
.- I would suggest to honorable members opposite that it would be treating them, and especially the Leader of the Opposition, with too scant courtesy if I answered any questions on the motion for adjournment while a no-confidence motion remains undisposed of.
– How very delicate the Minister is getting in his feelings.
– It is well known to every honorable member that during the debate upon a no-confidence motion it is not usual to answer questions.
– The Prime Minister evidently answered them to the press reporters.
– It is hardly fair for honorable members to use the motion for adjournment for the purpose of asking questions in a way which is not open to them during the period in which they ordinarily address questions to Ministers. I am not now -referring to the question raised by the honorable member for Fremantle, but to other matters. It is not because I am discourteous that I find it difficult to reply to the statements which have been made. It is merely because I wish to treat with exaggerated consideration the Leader of the Opposition, who has a motion of such importance before the House at the present juncture.
– I will inquire into the question which has been raised by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie.
– I am glad to answer the queries of the honorable member for Fremantle. I want to tell him a fact of which he should be perfectly aware, namely, that it was not I who first began to talk about a “ political game.” It was his friends in the Trades Hall, Perth, who commenced to talk about some “game” which the Liberals had on. My honorable friend has conveniently forgotten that fact. _ He has forgotten that it was in response to that statement that I said there appeared to be a “ political game ‘ ‘ of some sort over there. It was they who began to talk about games on the part of the Liberal Government. There are far too many of these political innuendoes being made just now. Ever since this Government took office nearly all the Trades Halls have been trying to gather up something in the shape of politics to throw at us. The other day a cry was raised about the Fitzroy Dock. Because we set out to protect the lives of the men engaged there, members of the Labour party, both in the House and outside, have been declaring that we are trying to do some injury to the men. Now we have this statement about Cockburn Sound. To what does it amount? The fact is that we cannot get one of our vessels into the harbor for the next four or five years.
– That is a question.
– I am giving the honorable member the benefit of the opinion of those best able to judge, and if the Treasurer to whom he has referred were present, he would substantiate my statement. If we spend £16,000 or £17,000 in starting to make a naval base there before we know whether our vessels can be taken into that base or not-
– Admiral Henderson recommended the site.
– I am aware of that. But he cannot say that when the passage is made it will not silt up again.
– I do not think he recommended employing these men just in time for the general election.
– Quite so.
– They were engaged long before that.
– They were put on just in time to be there for the general election. They have now to be put off. That is the sort of thing we have inherited.
– None would have been put off but for the change of Government.
– Do not talk about “ political games.” Here we have another political game - the spending of £16,000 or £17,000 to make a naval base or anchorage, before it is known whether we shall be able to get our ships in. According to the best authority I can obtain, the two sand banks in question will not be cut through and made- ready for the passage of ships for the next four or five years. It is time, therefore, to call attention to this kind of squandering of public money just on the eve of an election. The honorable member is now in possession of all the facts, as I know them. I am quite aware that Admiral Henderson recommends that we should begin to make a naval base at the point in question, and we desire to do so. I am quite aware, also, that he says that money should be provided to enable the two sand banks to be cut through; but it would take four or five years to carry out that work.
– Put on 4,000 or 5,000 men, and get the work through in a couple of months.
– Put 4,000 or f),000 men on a dredge!
– I do not care where they are put.
– I am quite sure that the honorable member does not. He ii on for any game that will suit him. We, however, have to protect the taxpayers’ money.
– Oh I
– I know that honorable members opposite regard this as a laughing matter. The spending of thousands of pounds of the taxpayers’ money is but a matter of sport to the honorable member.
– The honorable member and his party wasted £1,000,000 in eleven months when they were in office. The finances fell behind at the rate of £100,000 per month.
– That again is incorrect. According to the honorable member we wasted money in providing an additional £450,000 for the payment of old-age pensions, and we also wasted money in providing an additional £500,000 for defence. Why does not the honorable member give us all the facts? I am in an amiable .mood, and am quite ready to oblige my honorable friend. He can have it any way he chooses. But why does he not tell the House that the deficit of £400,000, to which he refers, was created into a deficit of £1,100,000, within the next six months, by the Fisher Government ? If he did so, he would tell the House and the country the whole truth, instead of keeping back half the truth, as he does by his interjection. Why does he not tell the House and the country that the Fisher Government liquidated that deficit of £1,100,000 by the end of the year by simply keeping money from the States. Returning to the question of the naval base, and the statement made by the honorable member for Fremantle, I have only to say that we have simply made some reply to the Trades Hall in Western Australia, which declared that the Liberals had some game on foot. I hope we may reply to such statements, as silly as they are untruthful, without being called to account in this way. That is all we have done. We have simply pointed out the fact that the Fisher Government expended £15,000 or £16,000 of public money on work which will be of no use whatever until some four or five years hence, when we have made a road through the two sandbanks, and have tested whether or not we can keep the roadway open.
– ls it not possible to go on with the dredging whilst the land works necessary are being carried out?
– I hope that it may be. But would the honorable member begin to build a house until he had tested the foundations? Everything depends on whether the roadway through the sandbanks, when made,’ can be kept open, and until we know whether or not we shall be able to get our ships through, it is idle to put up a huge establishment there. These are the facts, as I have heard them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.24 P-m-
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130819_reps_5_70/>.