5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- The Speaker of the Victorian Legislative Assembly is paying us a visit, and I should like to move, with the permission of the House, that he be shown the courtesy of a seat on the floor of the Chamber. By leave, I therefore move -
That a seat be provided on the floor of the House for the Honorable Sir Frank Madden, the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Victoria.
.- I gladly support the motion. We are pleased to have the honour of the visit.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– As a matter of privilege, I desire to call attention to the revision of the Hansard record of an occurence in this Chamber in which I was interested last week. A number of questions were asked by me, and replied to by you, Mr. Speaker, but the alteration of the proof report of your remarks has put mine out of gear, so to speak. Considerable alteration has been made in the report of your rulings.
– What is the question of privilege ?
– That apparently you, sir, have revised the Hansard record of the debate, and, as it was in the nature of a dialogue, questions being asked by me to which you replied, and further questions put based on your replies, my remarks have, in some degree, lost their sense. I ask whether my privileges, as a member, are not infringed by an alteration of the records of the House which causes them to convey a wrong impression.
– To what extent has Mr. Speaker corrected the proof of his rulings?
– That I shall proceed to show. On page 113 is to be found a ruling, the original report of which read as follows -
– I shall not allow the honorable member to attempt to raise this question again. I have already given one or two warnings; and if another honorable member offends against my ruling I shall ask the Prime Minister to take the ordinary course. Honorable members must understand that they will not be allowed to go beyond or question the authority of the Chair, except in a regular way. If any attempt is made to defy the Chair - which is being done at the present time - I shall very reluctantly have to proceed to other measures.
In the published report that passage, reduced to about one-third, appears as follows -
– If the honorable member is referring to a matter just dealt with, I shall not allow him to attempt to evade my ruling. I have already given one or two warnings, and if an honorable member persists in flouting the Chair, I shall ask the Prime Minister to take the ordinary course.
The alteration there made is considerable. Another ruling, according to the original report, was in these words -
– If the honorable member for Melbourne Ports offends again, I shall have to name him. 1 have ruled that he was not in order in referring to the mace.
The published report on page 114 reads -
– If the honorable member foi Melbourne Ports offends again, I shall have to name him. I have already more than once cautioned him.
The referep.ee to the mace has been cut out, and another sentence introduced. The original report of another ruling was this -
– The honorable member would be in order in asking a question relating to the expenditure of money by the Department over which, as Speaker, I have control ; but he must not touch upon those matters which 1 have ruled must not be referred to.
That appears in the number in this way -
– The honorable member would be in order in asking a question relating to the expenditure of money bv the Department over which, as Speaker, I have control ; but he must do so in a regular and proper manner.
Dealing with a further ruling by Mr. Speaker, I asked whether I was entitled to place on the notice-paper a question addressed to the Speaker. The original report of the reply was -
No, but the honorable member may make inquiries from the officers of the House in regard to any such expenditure.
The published report of the ruling is -
– No, but the honorable member may make inquiries from the Ministers of the House in regard to any such expenditure.
That, of course, throws my next question altogether out of gear, and makes it look ridiculous. Again, at the bottom of the same page of the original report appears -
– With regard to all matters of expenditure of the kind referred to by the honorable member, I shall refer him to the Treasurer for information. I have not in my possession information as to such items. If he desires particulars in regard to them he had better address himself to the Treasurer.
This is how it appears in Hansard, page 114-
– No ; what I wish the honorable member to understand is that with regard to all matters of expenditure of the kind referred to by the honorable member, I refer him to the Treasurer for information. I have not in my possession information as to all such items. If he desires particulars in regard to them, he had better address his question to the Treasurer.
If that report is read as it appears in Hansard, as you, Mr. Speaker, have apparently corrected it, my questions do not have that relevancy to the matter under discussion that they would have had if the report had not been interfered with in that way. If you had desired that the matter should be put in the permanent record in a different way from what actually occurred, I should have raised no objection had I also had the opportunity of correspondingly altering my questions so as to make some of them not irrelevant to the issues being considered.
– In answer to the honorable member’s question, I would point out that the right of revision of Hansard proofs is conceded to every member, to set right matters which, owing to various causes, sometimes interruptions, and momentary confusion arising therefrom, have altered the sense of what was in an honorable member’s mind at the time he spoke. Of course, the Speaker has to be particularly careful in the revision of his proofs, because his rulings go down for future reference, and I have learned from the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that it has always been the practice of Speakers to very carefully revise their proofs for that reason. But what happened was mainly due to the confusion which existed owing to disturbing noises in the Chamber, to which I have frequently drawn attention. Members conversing across the Chamber, and others interjecting, disturb the Speaker’s attention from what actually is goingon, and are partly responsible for a lapsus linguoe in one case which has been set right. The reference to the officers was certainly not intended to refer to officers but to responsible Ministers. The other alterations are only made to convey the sense it was intended to convey at the time. Every honorable member has that privilege, and the Speaker, in doing so, is only exercising the same privilege that all honorable members possess. I may assure the honorable member that I did not intend in any way to put him in a false position.
– Will you permit me to refer for a moment to the point raised by the honorable member. Do I understand that you, Mr. Speaker, claim the right to revise honorable members’ speeches before they go into Hansard? As I understood the honorable member for Cook, either you or some person revised a portion of his speech before it was permitted to go into the official records of the House.
– No; the matter that the Speaker revised was altered so as to throw my question out of gear.
– I understood that the word “officers” was altered to *’ Ministers.”
– The honorable member has misunderstood me. That was not done except in the proof of my own remarks, as already explained. The proof of the honorable member for Cook was not interfered with in any way.
– Last evening, before the adjournment, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie drew my attention to a telegram he had received from Western Australia with reference to a doctor on board an Orient mail steamer. The Postal Department also received a telegram from the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Perth, in connexion with the same matter, and we at once took the opinion of Mr. Garran, of the Crown Law Department, who drew attention to section 16 of the Post and Telegraph Act 1901, which is as follows -
No contract or arrangement for the carriage of mails shall be entered into on behalf of the Commonwealth unless it contains a condition that only white labour shall be employed in such carriage. This condition shall not apply to the coaling and loading of ships at places beyond the limits of the Commonwealth.
Clause 13 of the contract shows the following conditions -
The contractors bind themselves to employ only white labour on vessels used or employed for the purposes of this agreement, but this condition shall not apply to the coaling or loading of the mail ships at places beyond the limits of the Commonwealth, and in employing such labour no preference shall be shown or discrimination of any kind whatsoever made by the contractors between unionists and non-unionists.
Neither I nor any other member of the Government approves of what has been done. Our consent was not asked for. but Mr. Garran has given the opinion that the employment of a doctor on board the ship to attend the passengers does not come within the meaning of our Act or of the contract. I have had no opportunity of discussing this opinion with Mr. Garran, and I cannot say whether I agree with it or otherwise.
– We have nothing to do with Mr. Garran. What has the AttorneyGeneral to say on the question?
– The matter has not yet been brought before the AttorneyGeneral, but, as soon as I have an opportunity, I shall consult him. We have written to the Orient Steam Navigation Company drawing their attention to what has happened, and, unofficially - not officially - I have it that the English doctor on board the steamer was taken seriously ill, and had to be put on shore at Colombo, and, at the last moment, the company took this doctor on to fill his place. The steamer is due in at Melbourne on Monday, and I trust we shall have a satisfactory explanation from the company, because it was clearly the intention of Parliament when they paid the subsidy to this company that all the employes on their boats should be white.
– During the speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs yesterday, I ventured to make an interjection which is reported in to-day’s Argus in a way that does not convey my idea at all. The Argus says -
– It was not necessary to repeal both the Excise Act and the Bounty Act at the same time.
I shall, by the permission of Mr. Speaker, read what the Minister was saying at the time I made the interjection, but not in the words in which I am reported. I understand the Minister of Trade and Customs has no objection to my doing so?
– Not at all.
– This is what the Minister said -
The ex-Prime 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 ex-Prime 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 Statute 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.
The only point I wished to put is that it was not necessary to repeal the Excise to grant the bounty. The Hansard report I have quoted conveys exactly what I meant. The last sugar season was a comparatively poor one, and if the Australian sugar made had been put on the market, it would all have been sold and consumed before the end of March or the beginning of April. There is no new sugar before the end of June, so that there should not have then been any sugar in bond at all.
– Do you know it had all been sold?
– It should have been.
MINISTERS laid on the table the fol lowing papers : -
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at Congwarra, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital Purposes.
Return of land acquired and disposed of, Federal Territory - Leased to I. Cameron and W. P. Bluett.
Public Service Act -
Appointments, Department of Home Affairs, as Surveyors, Lands and Surveys Branch, Federal Territory -
D. Reid, Class C.
J. Rain, Class D.
Percival, Class D.
M. Johnston, Class D.
Mount, Class D.
Promotions, &c. - Department of Trade and
Customs, Central Staff - L. F. East - To new position of Senior Clerk, 2nd Class, Lighthouse Branch.
F. Parkes, to new position of Clerk, 3rd Class, Lighthouse Branch.
A. Marx and H. Thomson, as Clerks, 4th Class.
Debate resumed from 19th August (vide page 273), 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 : -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament -
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : -
But regret your advisers -
.- It is not my intention to occupy much time in referring to the great loss of revenue through the ineptitude of those who ought to have protected the revenues, but it is most brazen effrontery on the part of Ministers to charge the loss and the bungling that has happened to their predecessors. I find that the proclamation was made on the 26th July, and to-day we are informed in the press that the telegrams sent out to those people who have been plundering the revenue of the country to try to induce them to reimburse the Crown were sent out yesterday.
– What is that ?
– The proclamation took place on the 26th July, and the telegrams that were sent out to induce these people to reimburse the Crown - because the Minister made it clear in his speech yesterday, when he said that we might find these gentlemen more patriotic than we gave them credit for - were sent out yesterday.
– That is not so.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs said so.
– Allow me to say that he did not.
– Again it is the unfortunate press that is in error, because it is stated distinctly in the morning papers that the telegrams were sent yesterday.
– And the Minister said so, too.
– It may be a coincidence that they should have gone out at the same time as yesterday’s episode. It is not in accordance with the speech of the Minister of Trade and Customs. The Minister tried to lead the House to believe yesterday that he discovered this mistake even before the proclamation was issued, but that in consequence of a promise made by the Leader of the Opposition, when Prime Minister, that certain things would be done in Queensland, he had no alternative but to issue the proclamation and allow this revenue to be lost to the Commonwealth. I hope that this question will not be allowed to remain as it is. A most careful inquiry ought to be made. It is a serious matter, involving from £130,000 to £150,000. The colossal blunder that has been made should be sheeted home to somebody. I notice that the press, as is usual, has not dealt with this matter fairly. The morning journals of Melbourne did not wait for an inquiry to be made, but, knowing nothing of the facts, have put down what has occurred to the mistake of the Government that has just gone out of power. Whoever has made the mistake should not be allowed to be shielded by the bluffing speech which we heard yesterday from the Minister. Much has been said during the debate about the pledge of the Labour party. The Minister of Trade and Customs had something to say about it yesterday. He caused considerable amusement on the Ministerial benches. If I may be permitted to use the elegant language of the Prime Minister, I should say that it is about time that this cant and humbug was brought to an end. Is it not a fact that ex-Senator Sir Josiah Symon was relegated to the rubbish heap, so to speak, because he would not sign the Liberal pledge? Is it not a fact that rule 39 in the programme of the Liberal party of South Australia was taken holusbolus, even to the dotting of an i and the crossing of a t, from the Labour party’s platform ? Is it not a fact that exSenator Cameron, of Tasmania, was relegated to private life because he would not sign the Liberal pledge? In this very morning’s newspapers we find that certain aspirants for positions under the Liberal banner in New South Wales have not been selected because they would not sign the pledge. Surely, I say again, it is about time that the cant and humbug in reference to the pledge of the Labour party was dropped, since the Liberal party has practically copied our method. During the speeches which we have heard from the other side, certain memories have been brought to my mind. Reminiscences of old times, when there were no Labour agitators, and practically nothing was done to help those who were down-trodden, have been revived. In those days there were no paid agitators to take up the cudgels on behalf of the working men of this country. There was no Australian Workers Union or rural workers’ organizations then. They were grand times indeed . I speak of some forty odd years ago. I have had experience, and, perhaps, a little of my experience would be interesting to some of our friends opposite, and might throw a new light upon their ideas. In those grand old days in the Eumeralla district in the western part of Victoria, the squatters used to get their shearing done for 10s. per hundred. I have myself shorn sheep for 12s. 6d. per 100. The law of the survival of the fittest was in force in those good old times, as it would be now if some persons could bring it into operation again. It was my misfortune to have to go out into the world and battle for a living under the conditions prevailing in those times. My father met with an accident which left him crippled for the remainder of his life, and. as the eldest of the family, I was obliged, with the brother next me, to go out and seek for work. I refer to those good old times again when Graham Berry - he was not Sir Graham Berry then - was trying to bring about some reform of social conditions in Victoria. After travelling hundreds of miles with my swag, seeking honestly and earnestly for work, I discovered that there was a conspiracy on foot to prevent the employment of any but those whose services could not actually be done without. Throughout the different districts of the State, the municipal and shire councils, who were dominated by the squatting interests of those days, had shut down on every class of work that could be avoided or postponed. I was told, not once, but quite a number of times, “Go to Berry and get work “ and I was even told to go to Berry and get a feed. I remember that when I came to Carramballac station, owned by Mr. Chirnside, he wanted a carriage-drive made. After meting out to my brother and myself our evening supply, consisting of a flap of raw mutton and a pannikin of flour, Mr. Chirnside asked us whether we had any knowledge of roadconstruction. It so happened that we had, and he then said, “ I want some one to make a carriage-drive into the place.” We got to work, and can honorable members say how much a week we got for our labour? We received 10s. a week. Those were the wages given in those grand old times. I can remember also travelling later when there was some rising of country workers, and I called at one very large station which employed something like sixty shearers. I discovered that at this station there was not a bunk provided for a man to lie on. There were no mattresses, and the men had to lis on the flagged floor. If a man took a woolpack - and honorable members may know that a woolpack is not a very soft bed to lie upon - or a dried sheep’s pelt to lie upon, he was fined 2s. 6d. In those grand old times the manager of this station flashed a gold watch before a number of men and said, “ I got this out of fines last year.” Judging from some of the speeches to which we have listened, there are some persons who would like to get back to those good old times, but let me tell them that they are living now in a different age. As some of our honorable friends seem anxious to know where I arn on this amendment, I may say, in order to relieve their anxiety, that, despite the reference to the revision of the Tariff, I am going to vote for it. I shall be glad to have an opportunity to revise the Tariff. I should like very much to reduce the Tariff duties on harvesters, for instance, and on some other classes of agricultural machinery. I should like an opportunity to assist in placing upon the free list quite a number of items of raw material, the duties now imposed upon which hinder and hamper the manufacturer. I should also like an opportunity to revise the duties now imposed upon many of the requirements of the people. When the honorable member for Darling referred to the Harvester Commission, the prices he quoted were questioned, but I have here the report of the Commission, and let me tell honorable members that, at the time the Commission sat, harvesters were being sold in Melbourne at from £70 to £73 ; in Adelaide up to £81 ; in Brisbane at £80; in Sydney at from £73 to £74 ; and in Perth at £82. The Commission secured an examination of these machines by no less an authority than Mr. Woodroffe, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Newport Workshops. As some honorable members may be aware, we secured some of these machines, which were taken to pieces, and the cost of manufacture and value of each piece carefully worked out. We procured one of Mr. McKay’s stripper harvesters, one of Deering’s, and one of the International Harvester Company’s. We also secured an imported drill, and a locally-made drill. We asked Mr. Woodroffe to give us the prices at which these instruments could be turned out at the Newport Workshops.
– Under union conditions?
– I am going to explain that. We submitted two propositions to Mr. Woodroffe. We asked that he should give us the prices, allowing for the wages then paid by the manufacturers, and the prices allowing for wages on the scale which had, just prior to that time, been drawn up by Mr. Justice Higgins. Allowing for wages in accordance with Mr. Justice Higgins’ award, Mr. Woodroffe estimated the cost of a Sunshine harvester at £45, and for the imported machine £35. The cost of manufacture of seed drills, based on the award of Mr. Justice Higgins, was £18 6s. for the International and £20 4s. for the Mitchell.
– Does that include duty ?
– These figures represent the cost at which these implements could be manufactured. The prices then being charged for them ranged up to £39 in the case of seed drills, and from £70 to £85 in the case of harvesters. The alternative cost of production in the case of harvesters, based on the award of the Wages Board, was £42 15s. lid. for the Sunshine machine, and £33 9s. 7d. for the International Harvester Company, whereas that of seed drills was £17 6s. 7d. and £19 3s. lid. respectively.
– Were they subject to patent rights ?
– No. The patent rights had long expired.
– The honorable member will recognise that those prices are independent of the factory burden, which is estimated at 23$ per cent.
– What is the factory burden ?
– The Commissioners set down the factory burden at 10 per cent. The Commission inquired into the exorbitant interest charges levied by implement manufacturers upon goods sold under the time-payment system. In the case of the International Harvester Company these charges ranged from 15J to 23 per cent. ; in that of the Massey-Harris Company, from 13 to 27 per cent. ; and in that of the Sunshine Harvester Works, from 16 to 23 per cent. In some of the States as much as 53 per cent, interest was exacted from customers who purchased agricultural implements on the time-payment system. I understand that since that report was presented the price of harvesters has been increased. To-day one of these machines cannot be purchased for £70. Prices have been increased all round. Yet it is a notorious fact that at the time the Commission made its investigations wages were very low indeed. The members of that body found it absolutely necessary to protect the good employer by recommending the adoption of some uniform method of dealing with implements which were exported to other States, because there was a margin between the wages paid in some of the States of no less than 37 per cent. We recommended an alteration of the Constitution in order that the honest employer who was willing to extend fair treatment to his employes might be protected. During the course of this debate we have heard a good deal about responsible government. At the close of the recent election there was great jubilation amongst the ranks of the Liberals, avowedly because they had been successful in restoring to this country responsible government. We were told that for the first time in the history of the Federation we had obtained responsible government. But have we? One of the first acts of a responsible Government is to elect its own officers in Parliament. Have the Government done that? What was the position in the Senate, where the Liberal seven are supposed to exist? There the Government sat back, whilst the Labour party elected its own officers. What is the position in this Chamber ? The Government have submitted a printed paper setting out what they are pleased to call their policy. It is about time that they had a policy. This is the fourth attempt that they have made to get one. Their first attempt failed miserably after an attack upon it by the AttorneyGeneral, who declared that it was fit food only for invalids and infants. Their second policy was one of two planks, and was announced by the Prime Minister himself. The first plank in that platform was the displacement of the Fisher Ministry, and the second was alleged to be the great consolidation of the Liberal party. The Bulletin is responsible for saying that “ its chief aim was to get Andy out and Joe in.” As a matter of fact to-day we have not responsible government. The obvious and patriotic duty of Ministers is to at once declare themselves and go to the country.
– We will go to the country to-morrow if the honorable member’s party will come with their Senate.
– Ministers know very well that they cannot put upon the statute-book even one of the alterations which they have outlined. They cannot pass a single measure in this House without the assistance of Mr. Speaker’s vote. I notice that in the press, s’“r, it has been stated that you were elected as a party man, and that as a party man you must vote with the Government.
– The ex-Speaker was not a party man, I suppose.
– I remember an occasion not a great many years ago when one of the present Ministers declared publicly that lie had eaten sufficient dirt, and that he would eat no more.
– That was the Treasurer.
– Yes. He then deserted a sick colleague, and under the pretence of being a friend, he sat in the Opposition corner, and harassed that Government until the day of its death. Yet he is not above occupying a seat on the Ministerial benches and eating dirt now. He will continue to eat dirt until the end of the term of office of the present Ministry. I repeat that it is the obvious duty of Ministers to appeal to the country. They know perfectly well that they cannot carry one of their proposals. We are accused of wasting time by discussing this no-confidence motion.
– Does the honorable member want to go to the country ?
– Yes, I do. Ministers know well enough that they can_ do nothing with their programme, excepting, perhaps, the proposed creation of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture, in which my young friend, the Minister of Trade and Customs, finds so much consolation for the farmer. Surely there is much useful legislation which the Government could have promised to bring down, knowing that there was a possibility of its being carried into law. But they have thrown down the gauntlet. They have foreshadowed legislation which will be introduced clearly with the object of securing its rejection. And yet they accuse us of wasting the time of the House. I wish now to refer to the methods of the Liberal party during the recent election campaign. The policy they pursued may well be described as that of the tar brush. They charged us with every crime in the Decalogue. We were subjected to slander, vituperation, and calumny by their hirelings on every platform in the Commonwealth. Our very wives and daughters were not free from their abuse. Over the signature of the Secretary of the Liberal Union of South Australia there was published, iu March last, a pamphlet entitled the Liberal Record, and in it insults were hurled at every woman attached to us. The policy of the muckrake - the policy of the sewer - was resorted to. They scoured the country with the object of obtaining filthy quotations which might be used against us, and they at last discovered what they desired in a book entitled A Week and a Bay. In quoting from that work, they were not even honest in their treatment of the author. The quotation was given as “ A Woman’s Views,” and was published under the general heading of “ Socialism.” As a matter of fact, in this quotation the writer was referring to an Atheists’ Socialistic club, but these men of liberty - these men who profess to be fair - eliminated the words “Atheist” and “ Club,” and published the paragraph as pure Socialism. The press branded the Labour party as Socialists, and filthy quotations were printed with the idea that the mud thus thrown would stick to us. They spoke of our mothers and daughters as mere breeding cows. They declared that we had for them no other use than to make them breeding cows, and that our desire was to father their offspring on to the State, instead of on to the animals who bred them. These were the tactics of members of the Liberal party. The people were told that in talking with Socialists one was astounded to find the low estimation which they placed on their women folk, and they accused us of having done more to dishonour women than any other class had done. These were the lines they followed. Statements of this character were issued by the secretary of the Liberal organization of South Australia. They were printed in the office of the president, and circulated among all the branches. I repeat that not even our wives and daughters could be left free from insult by these gentlemen who talk of chivalry and fair play. Then, again, they accused the Labour Government of having spent every penny of Commonwealth revenue. Their paid organizers, as well as their press supporters, asserted that we had not left a penny in the Treasury, and that if the Liberal party were returned to office it would find empty coffers because we had spent all the revenue. Let me show how the press have treated us in this respect. It is little more than a week ago since we had from the Treasury bench a straight-out acknowledgment that when the Labour party went out of office they left a surplus of £2,500,000, in addition to £291,000 accumulated interest on the notes fund. The Argus reported the Leader of the Opposition as follows -
– Does the Prime Minister say now, before the people of Australia, that there was not an actual surplus of ^500,000, and an accumulated surplus of ^291,000?
The Age did not refer to any particular amount. Its report was as follows -
Mr. Fisher said that in the Government statement there was not a single reference to the finances, notwithstanding the attacks that had been made on the financing of the Labour Government. The Prime Minister had said many times that the Labour Government was in debt instead of having a surplus, and many people believed the Prime Minister, because he had the reputation for veracity. The Labour Government had not, as was alleged, “ spent every penny it could lay hands on.” It had, in the first_ instance, paid off the indebtedness of the previous Fusion Government. Whatever were the faults of the Labour Government, it paid its way.
These newspapers told their readers, during the election campaign, that we had spent every penny on which we could lay our hands. Is it not a strange coincidence that in reporting the Leader of the Opposition’s correction of that allegation one newspaper understated by £2,000,000 the surplus actually left by the Labour Government, whilst the other made no reference whatever to the amount? This is another illustration of the boasted fairness of the press. These newspapers did not like to acknowledge that the Labour Government had left a surplus, hence they sent out these mutilated reports of the debate in this House. Any outsider reading the Argus report would say, “This is .ill bunkum, about Fisher’s £2,500,000 surplus. The truth is that he left a surplus of only £500,000.”
– What inference does the honorable member wish to draw from that statement ?
– That the Liberal party is no good.
– The honorable member is trying to infer that which he is not prepared to say straight out, namely, that the Prime Minister made these statements to the press.
– I have no doubt as to what was said by the paid organizers of the Liberal party. Some of them were candidates for the representation of South Australia in the Senate. My own opponent was a paid organizer of the Liberal party, and stated throughout the electorate that we had not only spent all the revenue, but had actually expended the gold received for Commonwealth notes. Is that true? Another statement made by the Liberal party was - that we had made money dearer. Sometimes they spoke with two voices, and one of their arguments destroyed the other. It was said that the Labour Government had made money scarcer and dearer by building up so large a gold reserve on the note issue. This is somewhat amusing in view of the fact that the Liberal Government propose to prevent any reduction of the gold reserve. The Labour Government never held less than 40 or 41 per cent, of gold, whereas the Act provide* for only 25 per cent. ; and it would appear, according to the Government programme, that it is proposed to alter theAct so as to keep more gold out of circulation, thus making it even scarcer and dearer. The Labour Government werealso accused of wholesale extravagance. This charge was made in connexion with the Northern Territory ; yet the other day the present Minister of External Affairs, when he was asked whether he thought the number of officers there was in excessof requirements, replied that he did not think so, if due regard were paid toa progressive development policy. Then it was said that at the Port Augusta works there were more bosses than men - not that there were as many bosses as men, but more. When the Honorary Ministerwas at Port Augusta, his utterances were- reported in the public press; and the only loop-hole he left for himself was that whatever faults there might be were those of the Federal Parliament, for which he accepted a portion of the blame; he did not say that the works were overmanned. On this point, I have had a comparison made with the practice of the Melbourne Stevedore Company, which is regarded as one of the best balanced in Australia ; and I find that there are fewer bosses at Port Augusta than there are in the employ of that company, in proportion to the men. During the election campaign, the Labour party were regarded by the Liberal side as being social lepers, and to such an extent was that idea carried that Liberal supporters were not allowed to attend the labour meetings. It was evidently held to be a disgrace to mix with labour people, who are, as I say, social outcasts in the eyes of those who now occupy the Treasury bench. The Liberal party have no policy but a policy of abuse. Directly after the elections, they singled out the Boothby, Ballarat, Fremantle, and Oxley constituencies, and made wholesale charges of fraud, corruption, and double voting. A Minister of the Crown, who occupies a seat in another place, in a speech he delivered, said -
They have even resurrected the dead to vote. (Laughter.) The Ministry was trying to get to the bottom of it, but it was found that, while the parties who passed the Electoral Act, and were responsible for the conduct of the elections, had left as many doors open as possible for wrong-doing, they had practically shut every door which would enable the mischief to be traced to its source. Now they were saying that they were all anxious for an examination, and desirous of putting down wrong-doing. Very well, it would be seen a little later on whether these people would help an investigation.
Well, there was an investigation for which the Government made their own arrangements. Fortunately for the Labour party, that investigation had to be carried out by the present Government. Had it been by the Labour Government, it would certainly have been described by the Liberals as a partisan affair. What was the result of the investigation? The Attorney-General, in consequence of the questions that were asked, got the Chief Electoral Officer to furnish a report, in which it is stated -
A review of the Ballarat lists disclosed that many names which had been marked twice were followed on the rolls by identical or similar names, which had not been marked. There was reasonable ground in cases of this kind for assuming that there had been errors in marking.
In divisions in which the elections had been keenly contested and the polling was exceptionally heavy, it might be expected, Mr. Oldham continued, that more names would be inadvertently marked in error than in other divisions, but much would, of course, depend upon the care with which individual officers performed their duties. While a margin of between two and three errors per thousand voters would not appear to be excessive, having regard to the number of similar names appearing on the rolls, it could not, of course, be assumed that where the average was either above or below fraud either had or had not entered into the elections.
In some divisions, the report concluded, the whole of the apparent duplications could probably be cleared up without disclosing any fraud. In other cases, a prolonged investigation, involving the tracing of the movements on polling day of the persons concerned, would be necessary before an official pronouncement could be made.
The Chief Electoral Officer here says quite clearly that a margin of between two and three errors per 1,000 voters does not appear to be excessive, and also that there was an average of less than three per 1,000 of apparent discrepancies. The Treasurer, however, never waited for evidence; and it must be observed that all these allegations were directd against Labour seats - not a word was said about constituencies where the Liberals were, in a majority by thousands. In Western Australia, the Treasurer roared like a bull - so loudly that we heard him over here - about the thousands and thousands of cases of duplicate voting.
– Where did I say that ?
– In Western Australia.
– Why not quote me?
– When the right honorable gentleman arrived in South Australia the same thing occurred there. As soon as he reached Melbourne he talked about the terrible doings of the Labour people, our rotten electoral methods, and so forth.
– So they were.
– But there was no reference to the possibility of any rotten method in the electorates where Liberals had won seats.
– Oh, yes, there was.
– This attack was only directed at constituencies where Labour had gained a majority. As a result of the recent examination, I have a list of those persons who are supposed to have duplicated their votes in the electorate of Grey. I do not propose to mention any names, but the first two persons whose names appear on this list happen to be Liberals, although I do not accuse them of voting twice. When I glance down the list I find the name of a lady who is supposed to have voted at Hergott Springs, and then made her way up to Murnepowie, a distance of about 100 miles. In another case the voter is supposed to have voted in Adelaide on election day as an absent elector, and, forsooth, he is accused of having voted at Tum by Bay on the same day. I ask the honorable member for Wakefield if that was possible?
Mr.Foster. - Of course it was not.
– This man could not have voted at the two places on the same day unless he had a flying machine.
– No doubt somebody else voted for him.
– Nothing of the kind. In this case I have no hesitation in using the gentleman’s name. He is a retired farmer who lives in Adelaide, and came over about a month before the date of the election. He voted as an absent elector in Adelaide, and his nephew, with exactly the same name - a farmer who lives at White’s River - voted at.Tumby Bay. Both voted, but the name of only one of them was marked off on the roll. In another case of two men bearing the same surname, the initials of one man are O. A., while the initials of the other man are A. O. The former is accused of having voted at Port Lincoln and Cummings. One of them lives at Cummings, and voted there, while the other voted at Port Lincoln. Again, a pastoralist in the north-east has two sons, whose initials are A. D. and E. D., and according to this document one of them is accused of having voted twice. As a matter of fact, one of them voted as an absent elector at Petersburg, and the other voted farther out. The checkers mixed up the two names. They checked off one name instead of checking off the two names. You can go right through the list and find similar cases. There is the case of a man who is supposed to have voted at Iron Knob, and then to have passed two polling places, and gone to a place 100 miles distant, and voted there too. I do not think that in this list there is one case of personation or duplicate voting. On many occasions I have acted as a scrutineer, and know that he is a smart man indeed who can check off names the whole of the day without making a mistake in the process. and very often it is not the fault of a scrutineer that an error occurs. Take, for instance, one of the subdivisions in the Grey electorate. On the roll there appear the names of sixteen Dalwoods. There are no fewer than three Georges, one being George, junior, and two Alexanders, one being Alexander J. If Alexander J. Dalwood goes into a polling booth and, when he is asked his name, says it is Alexander Dalwood, the papers are handed to him, and the name of Alexander Dalwood which appears on the roll is marked off. But the real Alexander Dalwood may go into another polling booth and get his papers there. When the scrutineers’ roll, or the polling clerk’s roll, is examined, it will be found that Alexander Dalwood has voted twice, and that Alexander J. Dalwood has not voted at all. So it is right through the list. My complaint is that Ministers did not wait till they had a chance to make an inquiry, but rushed straight into print and accused us, as they have done in recent speeches, of corruption and other offences. In the paper which has been circulated, we have what is known as the Ministerial policy. Its proper description is a policy of freedom of contract. Will they accept that as the proper definition of their policy ? They are carrying out the instructions of their masters, the Federated Employers Union. When we were dealing with the Arbitration Bill, a meeting of the Federated Employers Union was held in Melbourne. I do not know whether all the States were represented at the meeting, but South Australia was. The delegates made certain requests in connexion with the Arbitration law. Of course, they do not believe in an Arbitration Act. On the contrary, they believe in freedom of contract and the old law of the survival of the fittest. It is right for them to have organizations to fleece the public with high prices, but it is a crime for the workers to organize. On the occasion I refer to, the delegates took up a strong stand against preference to unionists. In the Ministerial policy, we find a proposal to abolish that principle.
– It will be carried into law, too.
– Freedom of contract means freedom to starve, freedom to victimize, freedom to subscribe to bogus unions to break up other unions. It was freedom of contract when
I had to accept 10s. a week at a time when I could honestly earn £2 10s. a week at a reasonably fair price.
– Yet you took 10s. a week I
– 1 had a crippled father at home, and the 10s. a week was the means of keeping the wolf from my younger brothers and sisters at home. There was no option on my part; I had to take the money. That is an example of freedom of contract. That is what some honorable members opposite want to establish in this country.
– How old was the honorable member then ?
– About twenty years of age. I used to do a chain a day at that class of work.
– I have worked for 2s. 6d. per week.
– The honorable member must have been just off the bottle then. The Liberal policy is a policy tending to pauperization. That is the meaning of the proposal for the alteration of the conditions under which the maternity allowance is given. We pay £14 per head to bring immigrants here, but the mothers of the country receive only £5 for the baby immigrant. It is proposed that in the future applicants for the bounty shall be subjected to an inquisitorial examination. As it was put yesterday, they must not dare to have a bangle. I look at this question from the economic point of view. There is an economic value in every mother and in every child. Under the provision determining the distribution of the revenues of the Commonwealth every child is worth to the State Governments alone 25s. a year. Surely this Ministry of all the talents could have made a proposal more in accordance with the abilities of Ministers than one tending to the pauperization of the mothers of the community. The alteration of the law which is proposed will accomplish in a side way what honorable members opposite dare not do directly. No mother will subject herself to an inquisitorial examination merely to get an allowance of £5. A woman will not put herself in a position which will allow her neighbours to sneer at her.
Coming now to another matter, the granting of preference to unionists, let me mention facts that may not have occurred to the new members of the House, although well known to older members. At the time of the great strike, in 1890, the employers in Australia said to their men, “ Why do you not adopt constitutional methods to obtain the redress of your grievances?” We accepted the challenge, and a few Labour members were elected to Parliament in 1891, and more in 1893. Ever since, the party with which I am associated has been pledged to prevent strikes, lt has been our object to put on the statute-book a law which would leave the determination of differences between employer and employed to an independent Judge with no interest at stake. Under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, 100 men are necessary to the formation of an industrial union. The members of such a union, collectively and individually, with every possession they have, are pledged to obey the awards of the Court. To the honour of the men let it be said that, while there are 120,000 working under awards, in no instance has an award been disobeyed. It was a big advance when Labourites agreed to give up the weapon of the strike, and have their disputes settled by a Court. Our Act allows the Judge to give preference to unionists at his discretion. In doing so he deals, not with units, but with organized bodies. We hear that there have been over 300 strikes, but it is the Liberals who encourage striking. They say : Is not the Wages Board system as good as the arbitration system ? Our great objection to
Wages Boards is this-
– That they prevent strikes.
– Every strike that has occurred has been under a Wages Board decision, or where there has been no Wages Board decision applicable. There has not been one strike under the Commonwealth Arbitration Act. Why have not the workers confidence in ths Wages Boards? Simply because they have no “ say “ in the election of the members of the Legislative Councils of the States. As a rule, in Australia the voting strength of the Legislative Council compares with that of the Assembly as two to seven.
– It is not so in Victoria.
– In Victoria a candidate for the Legislative Council must be possessed of property worth £2,500.
– One thousand pounds now, but only ratepayers may vote at the elections of Legislative Councillors.
– In South Australia the workers of the country districts have really no “ say “ in the election of the Upper House. The House of Assembly there has time and again passed Bills voicing the will of the Democracy, but when these Bills have returned from the Upper House they have been hardly recognisable even by their framers. And our friends will never get the Democracy of the country to agree to Wages Boards in general, or to have the same confidence in them as they have in the Commonwealth Arbitration Act, until they are prepared to grant the people votes for the Legislative Council. When I was in Canada two years ago, I inquired about the Constitution there. We know the great bogy of “Property, property! You must have a vote to protect property.” There are nine Provinces in Canada, and only seven of them have Second Chambers, yet property is quite safe in Canada. When I told them that we had two Ch ambers in our States, they laughed at me and said, ‘ You do not tell us that you elect one body on one franchise, and elect another body on another franchise to reject the legislation which the people’s representatives pass.” I said that unfortunately it was so. If one suggested in Canada, in the Provinces where they have only one Chamber, that they should have a Legislative Council, and have a property vote to protect property, they would laugh. Property is just as safe under the Commonwealth as it is under the States, and the working classes of this country will never have confidence in a law, or pay that respect to a law they ought to, unless they have some say in electing the representatives who make that law. I notice that the first paragraph of the Prime Minister’s memorandum says -
The existing electoral law has not been found to work satisfactorily. The rolls have been unduly inflated, so much so that the Commonwealth Statistician has reported that, on 31st May last, the number of persons on the electoral rolls was largely in excess of the whole number of persons eligible for enrolment in the Commonwealth.
I wish to know where that report is. Is there a Minister who can produce that report from Mr. Knibbs? Surely they ought to start out with the truth in the first statement in their manifesto, but to the best of my knowledge there is no such report in existence.
– Then why bring the officer’s name into it?
– That is what I wish to know. J ask the Prime Minister where that report is. Does he know of his own knowledge that such a report is in existence ?
– Will the honorable member place it on the table, because I am under the impression that there is no such report in existence.
– I say there is.
– Well, we will have it on the table.
– Are you sure you will?
– Surely the honorable member is not going to take up that position, and refuse to put the report on the table ?
– I wish the honorable member to understand that he can make me do what he likes.
– I shall not attempt to do so, because it is just the reverse; the honorable member will not be made to do anything.
– The honorable member has already told me that what I am saying is not true.
– I was saying that to the best of my belief there is no such report in existence. The proof of it would be to put the report on the table.
– I cannot if you say it is not in existence.
– A lot of “ hifalutin “ has been talked about preference and favoritism in the Public Service. This is something new to us. This is the first time in the history of a Liberal Government that they have not been guilty of the most flagrant patronage for the benefit of their own friends. Notwithstanding what qualifications he may have had, they have never yet been guilty of appointing a Labour man to any position. We have only to look back to the appointments made in the past in the State and Federal Services to prove what I say. Who were the persons appointed to various positions in the Commonwealth Service by the first Commonwealth Ministry ? Quite a number of them were the political hacks of the party at that time. Yet these honorable members opposite have the audacity to talk of the exercise of preference in the Public Service by a Labour Government because two men were appointed by the late Ministry who happened to be ex-Labour politicians. One of these was appointed in the Northern Territory.
– There were heaps of them appointed.
– That is the kind of thing the honorable member is accustomed to say in the back-blocks, but when one gets in front of him, he becomes very tame indeed. I remember that on one occasion the honorable member was advertised to give a “Straight talk about the Labour party.” He had a pile of notes from which to speak ; but the honorable member for Adelaide walked into the hall, and the address of the honorable member for Wakefield was one of the tamest he ever made. On another occasion he was advertised for a “Straight talk on the Labour party,” when I was advertised to speak on the same evening from the verandah of an hotel at Quorn. Knowing this, some of the honorable member’s friends, I suppose, added to what was on his placards the words, “ Verandah politicians invited to attend.” I postponed my meeting, and went to the honorable member’s meeting.
– Was it because there was no one present at the honorable member’s meeting?
– No, I can always get an audience.
– The honorable member got some very poor ones this time.
– I secured the votes, anyhow.
– The honorable member only just did so; and he did not speak to the West Coast farmers as he is speaking now.
– The honorable member did his best to denounce me to the West Coast farmers.
– I never went into the district.
– I do not refer particularly to election time, because at that time the honorable member was more concerned about looking after his own electorate.
– I never opened my mouth about the honorable member.
– I do not say that the honorable member did so during the election, and I am speaking of the party to which he belongs. He knows that members of that party were very active in my electorate, and had a . number of paid organizers in it. There were Messrs. McDonnell and Allen, and Miss Chapman. An ex-reverend gentleman was on the job there too. A Mr. Page, from the Burra, devoted nearly all his time to my district; and, in addition to these, Sir Richard Butler, Mr. Pascoe, and another State Minister, and with regard to the former, he went through the district at th.3 State expense in motor cars, and held public meetings, at which he denounced me for all he was worth. I say that I went to the honorable member’s meeting, at which he was advertised to give “ straight talk “ on the Labour party, and to which “ verandah politicians “ were invited. I went right up to the front of the hall, and took out my pocket-book and pencil, and immediately the honorable member began to discard his notes and reconstruct his speech, and it was the mildest and most milk-and-water thing I ever listened to.
– Was this at Port Augusta ?
– The honorable member was wriggling for about an hour and a half, and cleared out quickly when the Port Augusta people told him to do so.
– I was at the meeting during all the time it lasted, and the honorable member for Wakefield did not make any straight talk. I may say that he brought with him to the meeting what they call in America “ political stampers.” He had two car-loads of men down from Quorn as a body-guard.
– And the honorable member cleared out next morning, and had a reason for doing so. I can tell him who influenced him to go.
– The honorable member can not.
– I will do so.
– Order !
– I notice, with regret, that the Government propose to increase the gold reserve of the note issue, and to interfere with the Commonwealth Savings Bank. I understand that a branch of the Commonwealth Bank lias been established in England, and from what I can gather it is likely to be of great use to the Commonwealth. In the time to come a great deal of the money which will be required for Commonwealth development will come through that source. I ask what better terms the
State Governments could have had than were offered to them by the Fisher Government. It was proposed that they should be allowed to retain for State purposes the £40,000,000 odd of accumulated savings then in the State Savings Banks; and they were offered, also, ‘ 75 per cent, of all new deposits, leaving to the Commonwealth only 25 per cent, of new deposits.
– They were offered a share of them also if the money were not required by the Commonwealth.
– The Fisher Government iu this matter treated the State Governments very handsomely and liberally. They lent them money on conditions and at rates which were better and lower than had ever previously been obtained by any State Government. But the proposals of the late Government in this connexion do not suit the present Government, because the financial institutions are behind them, and they must deal with the matter in some way. What would be the position of the party opposite if the influence of the Federated Employers Union, the trusts, combines, and corporations, was withdrawn from them’
– And of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company appears to have done very well already. If there is a Government who should reward them, it is the present Government, because they spent money freely in the interests of the Government, party. In the State from which I come there appeared daily in the newspapers advertisements calling upon electors to vote “No” at the referendum. The cost of these advertisements must have amounted to a colossal sum in the aggregate. There is one advantage which we may derive from our amendment of the Electoral Act. We shall be able to ascertain, at all events, what the newspapers have received for political advertisements. I am afraid we shall not be able to discover what members spent in connexion with the elections. The Liberal Union in the State from which I come acted very shrewdly in debiting nearly all expenditure to the referenda. Organizers going out after the date from which expenses had to be reckoned all spoke on the referenda, and had not a word to say about politics or the different candidates, but they were generally accompanied by candidates. If all the influences of these institutions had been withdrawn from honorable members on the Ministerial bench their numbers would be very small indeed. If we had had one decent straight-out daily newspaper circulating throughout the length and- breadth of Australia the result of the last election would have been very different. We had a Labour paper on our side in South Australia called the Herald but unfortunately it reached only the already converted, since it is boycotted by persons on the other side. In all the States the position was the same, and the great morning dailies published in all the States supported the present Government party. If we had had the support of the big daily newspapers, as our friends opposite had at the last election, they would have been swept clean out of existence; there would not have been one of them left.
Colonel Ryrie. - Honorable members opposite will have to put forward a different policy before they can induce any respectable or intelligent newspaper to support them.
– We induced the people to support us. We have a majority in the Senate, and the honorable member for North Sydney should not be so cocky, because it is purely an accident that our honorable friends opposite occupy the Treasury benches. If one of the candidates opposed to the present Government had not been confined to a sick bed during the whole of the election campaign the position would be very different from what it is to-day. If honorable members opposite were honest in their professed desire to leave the matter to the electors they would close up this business at once, and ask the GovernorGeneral to send them to the country. That would be the honest thing to do. They should not stop where they are and try to make it appear that they are the saviours of the country, and the only people who wish to do what is fair and right, that all the villainy is on this side, and all the virtues on their side. Let us go to the country at once and test the matter. I shall not occupy the time of the House further at this stage, as I shall probably have further opportunities to speak later on, unless honorable members opposite agree to go to the country, in which case I can reserve what I have to say for . the hustings.
– Remembering the meek and mild utterances of the honorable member who lias just resumed his seat as a member of the last Parliament, it is difficult to reconcile them with the wild and extravagant statements contained in his speech of to-day. It would be impossible for me to deal categorically with those statements, but there are two of them to which I desire to draw attention, because they indicate typically the inaccuracy of many of my honorable friend’s statements. In the first place, in the bitterest terms lie could command, he reproached this side for having slavishly followed at the last election the system of pinning down candidates to pledges which they were called upon to sign. He referred to one or two candidates as having been thrown upon the dust-heap by reason of their refusal to sign these pledges; and he went on to say that the Liberals had slavishly adopted the pledge of the Labour Socialist party, even to the dotting of an “i” and the crossing of a “ t.” Now, let us examine that statement, especially with reference to the State of South Australia, to which my honorable friend particularly referred. The terms of the pledge of the Liberal party of South Australia were as follows - i hereby agree to submit my name to a plebis cite of the members of the Liberal Union, and promise, in the event of not being selected, to stand down and assist the selected candidate.
– That is the Labour pledge.
– Is it? Very well, I will read by way of contrast the pledge of the Labour Socialist party. “ I hereby— “
– Which State?
– This is the Labour-Socialist pledge: “I hereby pledge myself- “
– Is the honorable member quoting correctly?
– I am.
– No manipulation of words.
– Order ! I have several times called honorable members to order.
– I merely asked which State’s pledge the honorable member was quoting.
– The honorable member is out of order. It is particularly disorderly to interrupt an honorable member in the middle of a sentence.
– I am quite at a loss to understand an interjection to the effect that I have misquoted.
– The honorable member would not do such a thing.
– I would not knowingly. I am simply giving the form of the pledge. If it is inaccurate, of course, I shall have to be corrected. Is the objection of honorable members opposite that I have called this the LabourSocialist pledge ? Let me quote it entirely - i hereby pledge myself not to oppose the can didate selected by the recognised Political Labour organization-
Quite right; there is nothing wrong or objectionable in that. and if elected to do my utmost to carry out the principles embodied in the Australian Labour party’s platform–
Quite unobjectionable; no one can protest against that. But the sting lies in the tail - and on all occasions affecting the platform to vote as the majority of the Parliamentary party may decide at a duly constituted Caucus meeting.
Is that the pledge or is it not? Have I correctly quoted it or have I not?
– Right every time.
– My honorable friend, the member for Grey, therefore, did this party the grossest injustice in saying that it had bound its candidates slavishly by a pledge similar to their own. Nothing of the kind took place. Honorable members on this side are not pawns on the chess-board. They have freedom of discretion which is denied by the pledge of the other side to which I have called attention.
– They may have freedom of discretion, but they have no discretion.
– The trouble with our opponents is that this party is bound together by those great principles of Liberalism which have been embodied in the policy submitted to the House.
– “ Boodleism.”
– I suppose there is no greater authority on “boodleism” than the honorable member for Darwin. The second point in the speech of the honorable member who preceded me to which
I wish to refer is this: My honorable friend showed much boldness and courage in saying, “ Let us go to the country.” But the honorable member, and all honorable members opposite, must have heard the challenge made by the Prime Minister when he said, ‘ ‘ Are you prepared to go to the country? “ I venture to repeat the Prime Minister’s statement, aud to ask the Opposition again, “ Are you prepared to go to the country?”
– My honorable friend says “ Yes “ ; but he and his party want us to go to the country with our hands tied. The position is very simple. There are thirty-seven members sitting on each side of this House. I quite admit that, as obstruction is determined upon by the Opposition, the conduct of business is impossible. That is obvious.
– Hear, hear ! And they have declared their intention to obstruct.
– Organized obstruction is obvious in the present condition of affairs. Nothing is more generally recognised in the ordinary daily transaction of business than that, when two men find it impossible to work any longer together, arbitrament should be resorted to. This party - the Liberal party - having regard to the existing condition of affairs, is anxious to secure the arbitrament of 4he people, but the other side say, “ Let this Chamber go to the country, and then we shall see what we shall see.” Suppose we did go to the country - and the Labour party avow that they have already iu existence a majority in the Senate who took no risks. But, suppose on the other hand - what is most likely - that the present Government were returned with a majority, how much further should we be politically than we are now? There would, of course, be a moral influence behind the victory of the Government, but that is all. If my honorable friends opposite are not afraid to go to the country, they will assist this side iu securing a double dissolution. Then parliamentary machinery which is at present unworkable would probably be made completely workable. Let me point out that the modest proposal of the Opposition is one of “ heads I win, tails you lose.” How generous it is of them ! A single dissolution - and then, if we were returned with a majority, they, with their majority in the Senate, would still be able to defeat every effort -of legislation made by the existing Government ! That is the kind of invitation to go to the people to secure their arbitrament that is suggested. My honorable friends opposite are afraid of the people. We on this side want to go to the people as long as we can secure finality from their decision; and finality can only be secured by the people being free to re-elect the whole Parliament, to re-model the whole constitutional machinery of Parliament. By that process, and by that only, I venture to say, can finality be secured. But it is not finality that honorable members opposite want. Therefore, I say that the assertion of the other side that they are prepared to trust the people is mere hollow pretence and humbug. They make all sorts of pretence about being in touch with the people, about being representatives of the Democracy, but when they are challenged to let the people put the constitutional machinery in working order that is a horse of quits another colour. They do not like it, and will not agree to it.
– The honorable member has had experience of it, and so can speak feelingly. The people “ bucked “ him hard.
– Yes. In twentyfour years I have been seven weeks out of Parliament. I lost my Senate election by a few hundred votes, but I was soon afterwards returned to this House by a majority of many hundreds. I hope that we shall hear nothing more from my honorable friends to the effect that they are prepared to go to the country.
– So we are.
– Oh, no. My honorable friend, who is a good sport, would never enter upon any undertaking on the basis of “heads I win, tails you lose.” That is the invitation which is being extended to us by honorable members opposite with their tongues in their cheeks. They have already discovered that this no-confidence motion which has been launched is of a boomerang character. It has enabled the people to realize that it is intended as a process of deliberate obstruction. The electors are gradually recognising this, . and my honorable friends, as a result, are not too happy. If it were not for the delay involved in the obstruction to which I have referred, the amendment itself would not be unwelcome to honorable members upon this side of the Chamber, because it practically connotes a censure on the administration and legislation of the late Government. From that stand-point I should be very glad indeed of an opportunity to discuss it. There is nothing but weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth amongst honorable members opposite. During my long experience in Parliament, I cannot recall an occasion when a greater agitation existed in the ranks of the Opposition than has been disclosed during the present session. They have made an acrid and splenetic attack upon the Government. Even the magnificent imperturbability of the ex-Prime Minister himself was seriously disturbed, and he descended upon us with some of those platform efforts which had won admiration for him in various parts throughout Australia. But they were received here by honorable members, who know better, with “ a ‘deafening silence.” They did not appeal to us, because we recognised that they were merely the platform tricks of the Labour party. In addition to that, we heard the exAttorneyGeneral, who, in his utterances upon this motion, was not at all happy. But all that was duly made up for by the honorable member for Adelaide in his vitriolic outburst. Of all the attempts at splenetic utterances I have ever heard, none has approached the savage deliverance of the honorable member. He realizes that my honorable friends are on the broad road to destruction; hence the weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. I cannot blame them - having regard to the atmosphere of agitation which exists on the other side of the House - for clutching with such avidity at straws, and in the utterance of the honorable member for Yarra we had an indication of how eager they are to secure something upon which they can misrepresent the Liberal party. The honorable member spoke hastily, and without due consideration of the matter which he brought forward yesterday. Had he occupied the place which is now filled by the honorable member for Darling Downs, under the same circumstances, he would have done exactly what that honorable gentleman did.
Several Opposition MEMBERS - Absolutely no.
– Clothed with authority, he dare not do anything else. If Tie were clothed with responsibility, he dare not have made the speech which he delivered yesterday.
– The honorable member knows different from that.
– I do not; and that is why I am speaking in this fashion. As a matter of fact the proposed action of the Government will protect the Treasury, and the loss of a solitary pound to the public revenue of the Commonwealth will not result. A deliberate attempt has been made to saddle the Ministry with such neglect of duty as would involve the country in a loss of revenue amounting to about £150,000. There is not the shadow of foundation for any such suggestion. I have given the matter as close consideration as I could,, and that is the view at which I have arrived. The character of the agreement entered into between the Queensland Government and the late Government of the Commonwealth cannot be denied. That agreement clearly shows that subject to the Queensland Government passing certain Acts, and doing certain things, the Commonwealth Government were bound to issue the proclamation repealing the Sugar Bounty and the Sugar Excise Acts. As soon as the Queensland Government performed their part the Commonwealth Government were to perform their part. I do not wish to weary the House by repeating quotations from speeches bearing on this matter, which were referred to by the Minister of Trade and Customs yesterday; but I do propose to cite one or two extracts for the purpose of driving home to the minds of honorable members what was the nature of the compact. The honorable member for Yarra, in speaking upon the Sugar Excise Repeal Bill, as will be seen by reference to Hansard, page 7060’, said -
The Government will withhold proclaiming the Act until the conditions laid down have been given effect to.
On. page 7062 of Hansard, the honorable member for Richmond said -
He trusted the Parliament of Queensland would take the opportunity of passing this promised legislation.
Mr. Tudor interjected, “ After that the Bill will be proclaimed.” Then the present Leader of the Opposition himself, in his policy speech, referring, first of all, to Mr. Denham’s telegram of 5th September, 1912, said -
My reply to that was that we should, on the 12th of the month, introduce Bills to abolish the Excise and bounty in terms of the undertaking. previously arrived at, and which he, Mr. Denham, had duly accepted. The Bills were introduced and passed by the Federal Parliament. When Mr. Denham carries out his agreement with me in the matter, proclamation will issue.
I think that makes it absolutely clear that the compact between the Queensland Government and the late Government of the Commonwealth was that as soon as the necessary Acts were passed by the State Parliament, those passed by the Federal Parliament would be proclaimed - that the proclamations should issue forthwith as a matter of fact.
– The compact was that it should be done. The State Government carried out its part of the compact. ‘ Four Bills were passed. The first provided for the payment, according to a scale of prices, of so much per ton of cane sugar, plus the amount of Excise; the second provided for the exclusion of coloured labour from the industry, the third for the establishment of Wages Boards, and the fourth - (sassed by the Queensland Parliament - that the existing scale of wages should continue until Wages Boards were appointed, to have the effect of awards of Wages Boards.
– A matter for which the late Government did not provide.
– The present Government tightened up the conditions in favour of the grower. The Queensland Government carried out their promises, and it was inevitable, therefore, that the Commonwealth should immediately give effect to its pledge. I do not think any honorable member can successfully refute that proposition.
– We shall have a try.
– That, at all events, is the first point that I ask honorable members to bear in mind. The second point I wish to emphasize is that there was an agreement on the part of the mill-owners to give the growers the full benefit and advantage of the Excise duty as soon as they were relieved of it. In other words, between the opening of the season and the date of proclamation of the repeal Acts, the growers were to be entitled, roughly speaking, to something like 2s. 2d. per ton on their cane. That is what was promised. I do not wish to weary the House, but I can show conclusively that this was the offer of the mill-owners. Mr. Knox, chairman of directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in his evidence distinctly said that the benefit, profit, and advantage of the Excise duty, of which they were to be relieved, would be passed on, and given to the growers. Only three refiners had to be consulted, and I find, after making inquiries, that when the proclamation was issued, bringing into operation the repealing Acts, the Department communicated with each mill-owner in New South Wales and Queensland in the following terms : -
Am directed to ask for favour of prompt statement as to what method you propose to adopt in recouping the growers in the amount of the Excise on sugar the produce of cane delivered to the mills this season prior to abolition of bounty and Excise. A uniform system is desirable, and this Department will be glad to offer .any necessary assistance in effecting such adjustment.
It is most important that ray honorable friends opposite should realize the condition of affairs then existing. They should realize that a fundamental feature of the arrangement was that the growers, whom we were all anxious to assist, should reap the benefit of the difference between the Excise and bounty, amounting to £1 per ton. The sugar in bond at the time of the issue of the proclamation would, of course, be subject to the Excise when entered for home consumption, but the Excise could not fairly be continued without the continuance of the bounty. All that had to take place was - and this was the crux of the agreement - that the mill-owners and the Government combined should allow the grower the benefit of this 2s. 2d. per ton on his cane. Let us see how the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs, in his somewhat reckless speech yesterday, proposed to deal with this matter. He said that he would have repealed the bounty and have continued the Excise.
– Those are not quite his words.
– The honorable member has given the substance of his statement.
– I do not wish to do the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs an injustice, and I shall be glad if the honorable member for Brisbane will supply me with the exact words used by him.
– He said there was no necessity to repeal the Excise at the same time that the bounty was abolished.
– That means that the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs would have continued the Excise after the bounty had been abolished, so that I have accurately stated what the exMinister of Trade and Customs said. In other words, he would have abolished the bounty at once, and have allowed the Excise duty to continue. A responsible Minister dare not do anything of the kind.
– And yet the Government which the honorable member supports is going to introduce Bills to continue that Excise.
– To make good a defect in the legislation of the late Government.
– No one will accept that explanation.
– I challenge any one to disprove my statement. If the late Government were still in office it would be impossible for them to meet the situation except by further legislation.
– The situation would not have arisen.
– By reason of the defective character of the repealing Acts of 1912, there was no way out, except that presented by amending legislation or repudiation.
– Seeing that the Minister stated that he was aware that the defects existed, does the honorable member not think that it would have been better, from an administrative point of view, to wait a couple of weeks for Parliament to meet to have those defects remedied rather than lose £150,000?
– I dispute the suggestion that there is going to be the loss of even £1. I speak subject to correction, but I think the ex-Minister realized afterwards that there were defects.
– No, I did not; and the Argus lies to-day in making that statement.
– That is what I saw in one of the newspapers; bub, of course, T accept the ex-Minister’s repudiation.
– I absolutely repudiate the statement, and intend to raise the question in the House as a matter of privilege.
– I was saying that if the ex-Minister had been in office under the same conditions he would not have acted otherwise.
– Yes, he would.
– The exMinister’s suggestion, in order to cure the defect, was to repeal the bounty, but continue the Excise.
– Until it was paid.
– But had he attempted to do anything of the kind, it would have meant the repudiation of the compact with Queensland.
– No fear. That is too thin.
– The next point is that the ex-Minister dared not have refused to issue the proclamation, seeing that the whole of the growers of Queensland were clamouring for it, meaning as it did at least 2s. 2d. per ton to them. If the Government had delayed the proclamation, there would have been a yell throughout the length and breadth of Queensland against them for repudiating the compact and doing an injury to the grower. The position was that the grower was entitled to 2s. 2d. per ton under an honorable arrangement, and every effort was made by the Government to have that arrangement carried out by the mill-owner. What the Government now seek to do is, not to introduce retrospective legislation, but to clothe by law the arrangement made by the parties, the general effect of which was to give the grower the benefit of what has been promised to him by the mill-owner. I have pointed out that the ex-Minister’s suggestion would have amounted to repudiation, Queensland having performed its share of the contract, and that the clamour throughout the State would have prevented him taking such action. Further, if the ex-Minister had attempted to do what he, in his present irresponsible position, said he would have done, the effect would have been to penalize the grower - the very man we are anxious to benefit.
– How would it have penalized the grower?
– If the Excise duty had remained, the grower would have got so much less per ton.
– That idea has been exploded times out of number.
– I defy the honorable member to explode it. If the mill owner had to pay the Excise, he must necessarily deduct it from the grower, in addition to which, by reason of the
Queensland Act, which came into operation on the 25th July, when our proclamation was issued, and of the fixing of a scale of prices-
– The honorable member is wrong again - no scale of prices has been fixed.
– It is the honor- able member who is wrong - a scale of prices was fixed by Queensland legislation.
– The honorable member is wrong entirely.
– Then let the honorable member prove me to be wrong. Though I speak subject to correction, I do not think I am mistaken when I say that the Act, which I have seen, provides that there shall be paid the contract price and a sum equal to the amount of the Excise. Does the honorable member for Herbert deny that? If the Excise had been continued, the mill-owner would have been obliged to pay, in addition, the Excise price, or, in other words, to pay double Excise, by reason of the operation of the Queensland Act. That would have been the result of the proposal to which the exMinister now commits himself ; and, therefore, it is quite obvious that it would have been impossible for him, in a responsible position, to have carried out his intention. It would not only have been a breach of contract, but it would have brought about a marvellous and inexplicable anomaly.
– The honorable member is wandering !
– I challenge honorable members opposite to refute what 1 am saying.
– The honorable member is floundering I
– We do not want any abusive diversion; let the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs answer my argument. I say, moreover, that if he attempted to carry out his suggestion, he would inevitably have had to come to Parliament in order to get authority to pay the grower the 2s. 2d. per ton to which he is entitled. A continuation of the Excise would, of course, have meant so much money to the revenue, but it would have been secured at the expense of the grower. The ex-Minister of Trade and Customs shakes his head, but I challenge him to disprove the case I am putting.
– The honorable member for Kooyong had better stick to Mr.
Knox and the Trust; he evidently does not understand the grower !
– Of course, the honorable member for Adelaide understands everything.
– I understand the difficulty that the honorable member is in.
– I challenge the honorable member, or any honorable member opposite, to refute what I am saying. If the Excise had been continued, double Excise would have had to be paid, and that would have been at the expense of the grower. Then the grower would not have been able to get back the 2s. 2d. to which he is entitled, unless the honorable gentleman came to Parliament and asked for amending legislation to authorize the carrying out of the honorable understanding between the grower and the mill-owner.
– You know that he could have done it by an administrative act if he had liked.
– My honorable friend, if he had had the benefit of Ministerial experience, would know that it could not have been done in that way. I hope that I have shown to honorable members opposite that the whole key to the position was the defective work of the late Government in the Act repealing the bounty and Excise legislation.
– When did you discover that fact ?
– It was obvious as soon as the matter was brought up by the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs, that the whole thing was a political bogy. I have left no room for uncertainty in the remarks I have made to-day. I have endeavoured to deal with facts alone, and it is open to any of my honorable friends opposite to try to dispute what I have said. The election cry of the country being deprived of £150,000 through the neglect of the present Government is fudge and nonsense. It is absolutely without a grain of foundation.
– It is correct.
– It cannot be fairly suggested that the proposal of the Minister to clothe with the form of law the arrangement with the growers will be retrospective legislation. I admit that retrospective legislation is undesirable in every way, but it will not be retrospective legislation for the Minister - more or less at the instance of the parties themselves - to give the shape of law to a very honorable arrangement, and so permit the growers to receive what they were entitled to get, namely, 2s. 2d. per ton out of the Consolidated Revenue fund. The effect of such legislation may be to charge the manufacturers with £146,000 or £150,000 by way of Excise; but there will be the necessary deduction by way of bounty, and the difference between the two will represent the 2s. 2d. per ton to which they are entitled.
– Do you think that there is any chance of the Commonwealth getting from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company any of the money which it has obtained ?
– So far as I had any Ministerial experience of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, it was always fair and reasonable in connexion with the Department. I understand that it has offered, and is prepared to carry out the honorable agreement to which it has been a party, and which Mr. Knox, on its behalf, offered to the growers.
– Did he do that by wire last night?
– No; the offer is to be found in the evidence given months ago before the Sugar Commission. There are only three mill-owners to be consulted in this matter.
– No; there are only the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the two Bundaberg mills - Millaquin and Bingera.
– Also Young Brothers and John Drysdale.
– I do not think so. But whether the number is three or five is a matter of no moment. There is the position. The difficulty arose by reason of the hasty and defective legislation of the last Government, and, therefore, it is most audacious on the part of my honorable friend opposite - I admit that he acted hastily and without full consideration - to saddle its shortcomings upon the existing Government. It only shows the straits to which the Opposition are pushed in their attempt to discredit the Government. It only shows the straws at which they will grasp to damage a Liberal Government placed in office by the people. That is the galling aspect of the situation. One or two other matters of a bogy character have been introduced here. The ex-Prime Minister and the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs laid themselves out specially to deal with postal voting. It has been clearly indicated by the present Government that its intention is to bring about electoral reform, and one aspect of that reform will be the restoration of the postal voting system.
– Prove that it is not a corrupt system, and I will vote with you.
– The burden is on my honorable friend to prove that the system is corrupt.
– We have proved that.
– That onus was thrown upon the late Government, and I venture to say that not a syllable of such proof was furnished.
– Do you believe that there were as many sick persons in your electorate as it was stated there were?
– The honorable member wishes to make it appear that only sick persons could vote by post, whereas, as a matter of fact, any person who expected to be absent from his polling booth on a particular day had the facility offered to him of voting in that way. We in Victoria had been accustomed to vote by post, and because 1,20Q electors in Kooyong had committed the crime of taking advantage of the electoral law, we were subjected to contumely and aspersions from the other side. My honorable friends opposite have been particularly sensitve about so-called imaginary charges that have been made in connexion with absent voting; but I venture to say that for every abuse of postal voting that can be proved the probability is that twenty or fifty cases of abuse could be proved so far as absent voting is concerned. I challenged the ex-Prime Minister to state what he really meant to convey when he picked out electors in Kooyong for taking advantage of the postal vote. I asked him if he charged them with dishonesty. Both the ex-Prime Minister and the exMinister of Trade and Customs could have had no other object in referring to this matter as they did, than to reflect upon those electors of Kooyong who voted by post. I challenge my honorable friends to prove any abuse of the system by those persons. I am aware, of course, that in connexion with every system there will be abuses. I do not deny that abuses may have occurred under the postal voting system, but the fact that a few persons abused the system was not a reason for depriving honest electors of the right to vote by post. The proper course to pursue was to increase the safeguards against abuse. There was never the least justification for the abolition of postal voting. If abuses were known of, Ministers should have prosecuted those guilty of them. The mere statement that there were abuses, or that the system was liable to abuse, did not justify its abolition. The present Government is to be commended for proposing to increase voting facilities. The Leader of the Opposition wishes to add to the proposed address a paragraph declaring that the House regrets “ that your advisers propose to destroy the beneficial character of our social and industrial law.” There is no justification for the use of these electioneering tactics. Honorable members opposite try to make it appear that we on this side wish to destroy legitimate industrial unionism, whereas from the beginning the efforts made to establish legitimate industrial unionism have been made by the Liberal party. The whole of the legislation for improving the position of trade unions, and increasing their liberties, has emanated from the Liberal party. The new Protection policy was the creation of the Liberal party, from which proceeded many reforms before the Labour party was even heard of.
– Every piece of legislation of any value has come from the Liberal party.
– Yes. The Government programme is redolent of the great fundamental principles of Liberalism - humanitarianism, equality of opportunity, and Democracy. Honorable members opposite are afraid to let us go to the country on those principles. Among the proposals in the Ministerial programme is the abolition of preference to unionists. An unfortunate state of affairs has brought about the capture of the trade unions by Socialists, who have introduced political unionism of a most militant character. Political unionism is synonymous with tyranny, coercion, violence, and boycotting, and it is those things that the Liberal party wish to prevent. Honorable members cannot close their eyes to what is taking place. Political unionism has resulted in tyrannous conduct of a kind hitherto unknown. In reply to a remark made by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I would point out that the arbitration law establishing tribunals for the peaceful solution of industrial differences has been the work of the Liberal party. The Liberals made provision for a system of judicial preference, to be exercised at the discretion of the Judge engaged in hearing a dispute, but the granting of that preference was surrounded by safeguards. The first of these was the provision that none of the funds of the unions should be diverted or appropriated to political purposes. The fullest and widest interpretation was given to that provision. The application of these funds for the improvement of factories and sanitary legislation and the like was not interfered with. The next safeguard was that a majority of those engaged in the industry concerned should desire the granting of preference, and the third safeguard was the requiring of advertising in the Government Gazette calling all parties concerned before the Judge, so that they might state their opinions. There was also a provision for the suspension of preference to unionists in the event of pressure or tyranny being exercised by the unions. Should the unions prevent the admission of would-be members or adopt burdensome and oppressive rules preventing members from remaining in them, it was competent for the Judge to suspend preference. What did the Labour Government do in regard to this matter? It swept away the safeguards that I have mentioned. Nothing would suit the Labour party but undiluted preference to unionists, which has come to mean tyranny, violence, and coercion. The turmoil of the last three years, and the flouting of our tribunals by political unionists, has been due to the fact that reliance has been placed on the sympathy of the Labour Government. It was known that law and order would not be upheld by the Government as strictly as by a Liberal Government.
– Is it not true that all we did was to remove the restrictions placed on the Judge?
– What my honorable friend’s Government did was to remove all safeguards contained in the Arbitration Bill to which I have referred, and that brought about undiluted preference to unionists, and the next stage of degeneration was a reign of tyranny, violence, and boycott.
– Refer it to the Judge.
– Subject to the safeguards to which I have already referred. It is by reason of the degeneration of this exercise of preference to unionists that the Liberals are bound, in the interests of freedom, and in the interests of the workers, to insist on its abolition in the terms of the policy statement. The ex-Attorney-General made an extraordinary statement in the House, which is entitled to some attention. He was dealing with Wages Boards. I regret the effort so frequently made by some of my honorable friends opposite to discredit the system of Wages Boards. As they exist in Victoria, Wages Boards have been one of the most successful pieces of industrial legislation, as well as one of the most advanced, we have ever known.
– They have been successful for the bosses.
– I interjected, when the honorable member for Grey was speaking, that the Wages Boards prevented strikes. As a matter of fact, as is well known, until the time of my friends opposite, we never heard of strikes in Victoria under the system of Wages Boards, because employers and employed adopted the system of “let us reason together.” They did reason together, and settled their differences.
– And sacked the men who sat on the Boards.
– The honorable member made several irresponsible statements last night, and he is repeating them now. The most eloquent testimony has been given to the Victorian Wages Board system ; their success has been demonstrated beyond all doubt; it has been shown that they are the most beneficent piece of industrial legislation throughout the Empire.
– They take eighteen months to give an award, and rob the men all the time.
– To show how obviously incorrect that statement is, though there may be instances of delay in connexion with Wages Boards, what is it compared with the delay in the Arbitration Court ? The New South Wales Arbitration Court was two years in arrear, and the congestion was extraordinary, to say nothing of the cost involved.
– What caused those delays? The technical objections of your party.
– The honorable member knows better than that. To take the question of cost alone. In Victoria they have 140 Wages Boards, and the cost to the Government - and not to the parties - is something like £10,000; but it is competent for all those Wages Boards to be sitting at the same time dealing with the particular differences in dispute in each industry, whereas in an Arbitration Court each dispute has to take its turn, and the parties have to take their turn at their own expense, which runs into thousands of pounds. Therefore, I say that the effort on the part of my honorable friends opposite to discredit Wages Boards is unwarranted, and, at the same time, grossly unfair. There have been a few instances of delays, so far as Wages Boards are concerned, which are readily explainable ; but where there has been one case of delay on the part of Wages Boards there have been ten cases, I venture to say, in connexion with arbitration. So I dispute the justification for these discrediting references on the part of my honorable friend. The ex- Attorney-General drew attention to an extraordinary state of affairs to discredit Wages Boards. He said that in New South Wales the average wage paid to the worker was £92 10s. ; in South Australia, £94; in Western Australia, £125 10s.; in Tasmania, £80 7s.; and in Queensland, £83 16s.; whereas in Victoria, where we have Wages Boards, the average was only £78? 14s. I do not know where my honorable friend got his figures; I do not dispute them; they may be official and correct, but they were the figures for 1911. Let us see exactly what has taken place in the meantime. Mr. Knibbs, in his April number of the Labour and Industrial Branch, Report No. 2, says on page 27 -
The above table shows that the relative increase from 1801 to 1911 was greatest in Victoria and South Australia and least in Tasmania, but in the last-named State there was a remarkable increase, amounting to nearly 17 per cent., in 1912. This is, no doubt, accounted for to a large extent by the fact that the Wages Board system was first adopted in Tasmania in that year.
Then Mr. Knibbs goes on to point out the average amount of wages payable in 1912, compared with £1 payable on the average in 1891, as follows: - New South
Wales, 24s. 7d. ; Victoria, 26s. 4d.; Queensland, 22s. 2d j South Australia, 25s. 10d.; Western Australia, 23s. 4d.; Tasmania, 24s. 2d. ; Commonwealth, 24s. 9d.
– That is a very complete answer.
– I have a more complete answer. Mr. Knibbs says on page 41-
– Any page will do; it does not matter.
– I am careful about my quotations. I wish I could say the same about the honorable member.
– You have had a dozen lawyers on that side trying to catch me, but I am not there yet.
– Mr.. Knibbs has some very interesting figures on page 41 of this publication. The figures given represent the weighted average weekly rates of wages of male adult workers for a full week’s work. I find that the rate for New South Wales was 55s. 3d., and for Victoria 54s. 4d., a difference of only lid. per week, and I venture to say that by the end of the year Victoria will have topped New South Wales in this wages rate.
– Judges iu New South Wales have refused increased wages asked for because of the lower rates paid in Victoria; and the honorable gentleman knows it.
– I do not know anything of the kind.
– I could quote a number of instances for the honorable gentleman.
– There were one or two instances of the kind, and the Liberal Government sought to bring in the necessary legislation to bring about coordination.
– But they did not do it.
– They did; but they were blocked from passing it.
– Yes; blocked by the State Governments.
– That is not so. The rate in Queensland is given at 54s. 6d., in South Australia 55s. 3d., Western Australia 64s. Id., Tasmania 48s. 6d., and the rate for the Commonwealth, as a whole, was 55s. 4d. But there is another factor to be considered, and in this connexion I suggest that honorable members opposite, before making quotations as to rates of wages, should take to heart the following very excellent advice given by Mr. Knibbs at page 65 of this publication. In his general remarks dealing with effective wages he says -
In order to obtain an accurate measure of the progress of wage-earners, regard must be had to the purchasing power of wages, and the indexnumbers based merely upon records of rates of wages must consequently be subject to some correction, inasmuch as they take no account of (a) variations in cost of living, and (4) losses through the extent of unemployment. The data furnished in this report in respect, firstly, to cost of living index-numbers, and, secondly, relative percentages unemployed, afford the material by means of which the necessary adjustments can be effected with considerable precision. The results will show the variations in effective wages, or in what may be called the “ standard of comfort.”
He gives the figures showing the cost of living- in the several States in 1912. At page 55 of this issue of statistics, he supplies a’ table which indicates the relative cost in each of thirty towns (including four, five, and sis roomed houses, and all houses), compared with the weighted average cost for all towns, for groceries, food, and rent. By reference to the table, my honorable friends will see that Mr. Knibbs takes the weighted average at 1,000 from the sources to which he refers, and, while he gives particular figures for the cost of groceries, food, and rent for four, five, and six roomed houses in detail, he summarizes the figures in one column covering groceries, food, and rent for all houses. Taking the weighted average as 1,000, he puts the cost of living in New South Wales at 1,082, in Victoria 969, in Queensland 899, in South Australia 1,062, in Western Australia 1060, and in Tasmania 957. It will be observed that the cost of living for groceries, food, and rent, including ] houses having four, five, and six rooms, is cheaper in Victoria than in any of the other States with the exception of Tasmania. I have shown that, according to the figures for 1913, there is a difference of only lid. per week between the rate of wages in New South Wales and Victoria, and I have shown also that the cost of living is substantially less in Victoria than in New South Wales. In the circumstances, the effort made by our honorable friends opposite to discredit the Wages Board system of Victoria must be held to have signally failed. I venture further to say that by the end of the year the actual wage rate paid in Victoria will be at least as high as in the adjoining State of New South Wales. The second indictment pleaded against us is that we have no intention to take such steps as will reduce the high cost of living. The AttorneyGeneral dealt so effectively with that indictment that I need not occupy further time in referring to it. The third indictment is that we have failed to realize the urgent necessity of an immediate revision of the Tariff. This is a most laughable suggestion, and a fine piece of humour, coming . from a party that determined, in conference assembled, in 1912, against effective Protection, and from those who were members of a Government that deliberately refused for a period of three years to propose any revision of the Tariff or any increase of Protection. According to our honorable friends opposite, it would be a crime to increase the old Protection unless there was an alteration of the Constitution permitting of the establishment of what they call the new Protection. It is a travesty of parliamentary proceedings for honorable members opposite to seek to descredit this side on such a ground, when they are themselves at fault from beginning to end, and are solely culpable in this connexion. They have availed themselves of every opportunity to throw gibes at this side on the subject of the “ Fusion.” It is well known that, speaking generally, Liberals on this side were divided on one subject only, and that was the fiscal issue. But an honorable agreement was come to, and published in the light of day. I ask honorable members opposite, amongst whom a similar fusion exists on the fiscal issue, if they have had the honesty to come to a similar honorable agreement on this question, free from the political motive which is the basis of the reference to the Tariff in the present censure motion ? On the fiscal issue there is no shadow of a justification for the gibes of the other side. In 1909, the honorable arrangement arrived at by honorable members on this side was that there should be no interference with the Protectionist policy of the present Customs Tariff, or in rectifying anomalies. That honorable agreement was repeated in January last, and now the same policy is repeated by the Government in the policy statement which has been circulated amongst honorable members. What we have done on this side has been done in the light of day. We have made an honorable arrangement, which has not been come to by any sordid or improper motives, and although the same fiscal differences between members of the party exist on the other side, they have never yet arrived at any honorable understanding or agreement, except it be from the base motive of a political move, such as that represented by this censure motion. In order to carry out the agreement we entered into on this side, we submitted the Inter-State Commission Bill, which I had the honour to introduce in another place, and we inserted this special clause.
– Which you dropped in another place.
– I had no opportunity of passing it in the other place -
When so required by the Minister, the Commission shall consider any additions to, modifications of, or simplifications of any Tariff or Customs or Excise Act expedient in order to remove anomalies and to develop preferential trade with the United Kingdom and British Possessions, and shall make to the Minister such recommendations in regard thereto as the Commission may think fit.
This clause was deliberately deleted by my honorable friends opposite when they introduced the Inter-State Commission Bill. I do not suggest for a moment that the power is not contained in the present Inter-State Commission Act to take the Tariff into review, but what I am emphasizing is that we on this side sought to carry out the honorable arrangement made, so as to enable Parliament to revise the Tariff in the light of information. Having regard to the charge now made against this side of our neglect in this connexion, I point out that when the Inter-State Commission Bill was before us last session, I urged strongly on the Government that the Tariff might at once be remitted to the Commission which was about to be constituted, so that when we met in the present session there would be available for us the necessary information to enable us to act in revising the Tariff.
– How long will it be before we get a chance of revising the Tariff on a report from the Commission ?
– I think that if ray advice had been accepted by the Government of the day we should by this time have had a progress report, which would have permitted us to deal with the Tariff at the beginning of this session. The present Government recently constituted the Inter-State Commission, and in pursuance of its promise has referred the Tariff to it for investigation and report.
Parliament will be afforded an opportunity of dealing with the Tariff in the light of the information furnished by the Commission.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that we could not deal with the Tariff at once as a Parliament ?
– We could deal with it ignorantly undoubtedly. But the old system of dealing with the Tariff is highly unsatisfactory. Honorable members all realize that. They are acquainted with the system of lobbying that goes on whenever a Tariff Bill is before Parliament. They know that we have to act simply on ex parte statements, and that we have to deal with items quite irrespective of the effect of alterations on other items.
– We had the Tariff Commission’s report last time.
– We did have the benefit of that report, but the new system will lead to a revision of the Tariff in the light of even better information. The Government desire the Inter-State Commission to make an exhaustive investigation as far as claims for increased duties are concerned. We shall then be able to deal in an intelligent manner with the various items submitted to us.
– Does the honorable member think that the Tariff Commission of 1897 gave any information to Parliament that was acted upon ? Can he mention one instance?
– I do think so. A large percentage of the recommendations of the Tariff Commission were carried out by Parliament.
– Not one.
– I have not the figures in my mind, but I venture to make the affirmation that a vast percentage of the recommendations of the Tariff Commission were carried out.
– The Tariff would have been settled in the same way if we had not had the Commission’s report.
– My honorable friend is getting away from his statement that would make it appear that the recommendations of the Tariff Commission were disregarded.
– That is not correct. A valuable testimony to the investigations of the Commission is that Parliament acted on so many of its recommendations.
– A great many of the recommendations of the minority of the Commission were carried out.
– What I say is that the vast majority of the recommendations of the majority of the Commission were carried out, as well as some of the recommendations contained in the minority report.
– A great many of the recommendations in the minority report.
– Does not the honorable member think that Sir John Quick ought to have been appointed to the Commission ?
– -My honorable friend is trying to get away from the point. It is unfair to attempt to discredit the present Government by such means. The Government are carrying out the promises which they have made, and I maintain that this Parliament will be advantaged very considerably by the information which will be furnished by the Inter-State Commission.
– The honorable member knows that we could start revising the Tariff straight away.
– The Government propose to start straight away. I venture to say that there will be a progress report before the first day of the next session if this Parliament lives so long. Therefore, I urge that the procedure adopted entails a valuable reform in the matter of Tariff revision. As a Protectionist, I fully admit that a man who makes a claim for an increased duty has no right to have it unless he is in a position to establish that claim, which ought to be considered with regard to other items in the Tariff. A Tariff is a most delicate instrument. If you touch one item, it is possible that you may seriously affect a dozen others. Consequently, under the system which has hitherto been adopted, of acting on ex parte statements, gross injustices were in many cases done to industries affected by alterations in duties. I feel that an injustice has been done in attempting to discredit the present Government, who have shown conclusively an eagerness to redeem their pledges and to maintain a policy which is in the interests of the country. My time has practically expired. I can only say, in conclusion, to honorable members opposite that, if they have the courage to carry out what they pretend to believe in - that they are prepared to trust the country - they have the fullest opportunity of doing so now. Let us go to the country by means of a double dissolution. Let them assist us to achieve that end. Then we shall secure the verdict of the country in a way that will provide the constitutional machinery for efficiently carrying out the public business of Australia.
.- I desire to offer a few criticisms on the administration of the present Government. At the outset I wish to pay a compliment to the Postmaster-General. When the late Government were in office they were told that the whole Postal Service was in a state of chaos; that there was seething discontent; that the lettercarriers urgently demanded reforms, and were almost at the point of striking; whilst the letter-sorters were up in arms against the system of broken shifts. We had complaints from all over the country that the late Government had failed to provide people in the rural areas with adequate postal and telephonic facilities. All this alleged discontent has now disappeared, and we have to congratulate the Prime Minister upon having secured as Postmaster-General a gentleman who has brought about complete harmony in the postal service. What are the reforms which have been achieved by this distinguished individual? He conceived the brilliant idea of altering the design of our postage stamp - of replacing the image of the kangaroo with that of the head of the King. The proposal was a strikingly original one, and when he propounded it to his colleagues they were so delighted that they fell over him, and acclaimed him as the man who could save the situation. The result has been a great increase in the revenue of the Department. Hundreds of letters were received by the Postmaster-General congratulating him on his great achievement. The telegraph wires were kept fully occupied in conveying the thanks of a grateful community to him, and the” telephone service was simply disorganized by reason of the number of subscribers who rang up to inform him that he had given them the very reform for which they had been thirsting for years. To-day we do not read in the daily newspapers any statements alleging seething discontent in the Post Office. Why ? Because the lettercarriers are no longer called upon to hawk round letters to which are attached stamps on which are printed the image of the kangaroo. This magnificent result has been brought about simply because Ministers were prepared to lick the back of the King’s head rather than the back of the kangaroo. I venture to think that there is now no need for the appointment of three Commissioners to administer the affairs of the Postal Department. The trouble has been solved by the PostmasterGeneral, and I heartily congratulate him upon his brilliant conception in regard to altering the design of our postage stamps. I have no doubt that the commercial community will now receive their letters more promptly than they have done hitherto. I come now to another matter. I am sorry that the Minister of Trade and Customs is absent from the chamber, but I presume that he has gone to get a nerve tonic. That honorable gentleman was scarcely seated in his office when he gave his sanction to an act which constitutes one of the blackest deeds which could be perpetrated in the Commonwealth. I am pleased that the honorable member for Werriwa is in his place, because I know that he will back up my statements in this connexion. When a rash was discovered upon some of the people of Sydney certain medical men affirmed that it was small-pox, while others declared that it was chicken-pox. After five days’ consultation they decided to err on the side of security by diagnosing it as small-pox. They threw upon the Government the onus of determining whether they would give effect to their recommendations. They asked the Minister of Trade and Customs to proclaim an area within a radius of 15 miles of the. Sydney General Post Office an infected area - that is an area from which no person could travel to another State without first being successfully vaccinated. On ray return to that city at the week-end, I am continually being interviewed by business persons, who say that their businesses have been absolutely ruined by this action on the part of the Minister. In my district hotels, which formerly employed twenty-five persons, are now almost empty. Their proprietors are losing money every day. Clothing factories which employed a large number of hands are -not working half time. Ships do not touch at the port of Sydney, on account of the presence of smallpox. Wharf labourers, trolly and dray men, and storemen are out of work as the result of this small pox scare. Thus it comes about that, for the first time within the past five or six years there are unemployed in Sydney.
An Honorable Member. - On account of the presence of small-pox?
– On account of the maladministration of the Cook Government. What I say can be substantiated by every honorable member who has occasion to visit Sydney. Business is dislocated, and the end is not yet in sight. I ask honorable members to compare the action taken by the late Sir William Lyne, when bubonic plague appeared in that city, with the action initiated by the present Minister of Trade and Customs upon the outbreak of small-pox there. The plague, it will be admitted, was much more dangerous to the community than is this socalled small-pox. How did the late Sir William Lyne deal with it? When a case was discovered in one block of buildings he immediately isolated that block, erected a barricade around it, and paid those within it to remain there. He sent a squad of men into the various buildings comprising the block to thoroughly cleanse them and to destroy the rats. In that way he was able to eradicate the disease. But what did the Minister of Trade and Customs do when he became aware of an outbreak of small-pox? He relied implicitly on the reports of certain medical men. I have no desire to deal with this question from a party stand-point, because the position is altogether too serious to admit of that. But the procedure which has been followed convinces me that there is no master-mind in the Cabinet. Immediately the presence of small-pox was detected in Sydney, the Government could have entered into negotiations with the Government of New South Wales, and have said to them, “ We will grant you the use of our quarantine station; and we will be prepared to pay the expense of stamping out this disease.” Something might then have been accomplished. Instead of doing that, they merely proclaimed the country within a radius of 15 miles of the General Post Office an infected area. The result is that the people living’ within that area are at liberty to carry the disease all through New South Wales, and right up to the borders of other States. I venture to say that there are a dozen honorable members upon the opposite side of the chamber, who, if they had occupied the position of Minister of
Trade and Customs, would have grappled with this difficulty in a masterly manner. If a vote were taken upon the question amongst the people of Sydney to-day, the Cook Government would be doomed. I have been informed that more than £1, 000,000 has been lost by the business and working men of that city as the result of the action taken by the Government. What have the Government done ? What are they going to do ? So far as I can see, relief can be secured only by defeating them, and placing on the Treasury bench more capable men who will be able to deal with the matter. I therefore welcome the opportunity to cast a vote to put them out of power.
– Where are the more capable men ?
– I think we could get as capable men in the waxworks.
– The electors did not think so.
– Because the people in the honorable member’s electorate made a mistake, that does not follow.
– There are good, and good for nothing; and the honorable member for Calare belongs to the latter class. I ask honorable members whether this state of quarantine is to continue to blight Sydney. Are doctors to have the right to go on vaccinating hundreds of people there, and so intensify the trouble ? I do not profess to be a medical man, but I do lay claim to the possession of common sense. When five or six people, who have been vaccinated, reside in Sydney with another who has not been vaccinated, and who contracts what is described as small-pox, Dr. Paton and other medical men say, “ Here is an example of the efficacy of vaccination. The man who contracted the disease was the only person in the house who had not been vaccinated.” The fact is, however, that the man has contracted, not small-pox, but cow-pox, which has been injected into the blood of the other members of the household, and as long as the doctors keep on vaccinating the people of Sydney cases of the kind will occur.
– Vaccination is causing contagion.
– Undoubtedly. Have honorable members ever heard of any other civilized country where small-pox has occurred, and where, although 500 sufferers have been quarantined, there has not been one serious case?
– There have been 2,000 persons quarantined.
– I am speaking, not of contacts, but of actual sufferers. Five hundred and twenty-five persons said to be suffering from small-pox have been placed in quarantine, but scarcely any of them have been put to bed. They have been walking about. I ask the PostmasterGeneral, the only Minister whom I see present, whether he thinks it fair to inflict upon the people of Sydney the bungling Minister who is in charge of the Department of Trade and Customs.
– Many have died from heart failure, the result of vaccination.
– No doubt. In crossing the border, we come in contact with people who have been vaccinated. The mere fact that the Federal Government has proclaimed Sydney an infected area has created a panic. In the newspapers we see every morning big headings, “ Twelve fresh cases,” or “Fifteen fresh cases.” The different districts in which the disease has broken out are mentioned, with the result that weak-minded people residing in those districts rush off to be vaccinated. As the outcome of this, sickness and disease have been brought into hundreds of homes. Those who are vaccinated have more sickness in their families than have those who are not vaccinated.
– Since the outbreak of small-pox in Sydney, there have been in Victoria forty-one deaths from diphtheria.
– Whereas there has been no death from small-pox in Sydney. There have been, however, many deaths from heart failure. When an inquiry is held concerning the death of a person who has died suddenly, the doctors always state that death has been due to heart failure.
– The honorable member is referring to cases of heart failure in the case of persons who have been vaccinated ?
– Yes. Honorable members will find that the doctors, in the case of vaccinated persons who have died suddenly, give the cause of death as heart failure. Undoubtedly that is so. People are inoculated with cow-pox, which poisons their blood, and the blood, becoming thicker, injures the heart, and heart failure ensues. We appeal to the Government to devise some means of removing the stigma now resting on the city of Sydney. The trouble is known to-day in
Sydney as the “ Cook plague,” or. “ the Cook blunder.” Any Government that continues to apply to Sydney, which contains a population of over 800,000 persons, a system which has dislocated the business of its factories, its shipping trade, and its commerce generally, is not fit to adorn the Treasury Bench of the Commonwealth Parliament. I hope that honorable members will rise to the occasion, and send the Government about their business, because they are ruled by medical men, and do not bring to bear on the subject any common-sense principles.
– Would not the honorable member follow the medical experts?
– If a medical man jumped into the Yarra I would not follow him.
– Surely a medical expert is a better judge than is the honorable member of what is required.
– Not in all cases. But if, for instance, a medical man went to the honorable member and said, “ This is a microbe,” I should agree with him.
– And the microbe would prove a pretty deadly one, too, the honorable member would find.
– We are all microbes.I do not say that I would not follow the advice of medical men in some cases, but I do say that We must use our common sense. When a medical man gets a certain idea into his head he does not take the trouble to depart from the line of thought which other experts have laid down. He reads up the subject, and is guided to a certain extent by the views of eminent men who have gone before him. But some of the most eminent men in the civilized world to-day declare that vaccination . does not render people immune from small -pox. That is a well understood fact all over the world. It is clear to me that vaccination does not give immunity from small-pox. Wherever compulsory vaccination is in force there are deaths from small-pox, whilst numbers die from cancer and other malignant growths. Some of the most eminent men say that such diseases are introduced by vaccination. I shall leave honorable members, however, to form their own conclusions as to that. One of the greatest blots that have been placed on the people of Sydney is due to the blunder of proclaiming that city an infected area. A few months hence medical men will discover a new name for the disease now described as small-pox. They are in a quandary at the present time in determining what the disease really is. I ask those honorable members opposite who represent New South Wales to try to induce the Government to allow reason to prevail, to raise the quarantine, and to deal with the outbreak in an effective way. They should adopt some such means as were followed by the late Sir William Lyne in dealing with the outbreak of plague, and should isolate the different places or houses where the disease is supposed to exist. There is another matter in respect of which the Government have completely blundered. “ Blundered,” indeed, is really not the right word to describe what they have done. We have in our possession to-day what is known as the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard. It is one of the most scientific and up-to-date engineering yards in the Commonwealth, and has clearly demonstrated to the people its ability to build ships. The Warrego, which was constructed there, is, we know, the best of the three destroyers that we have in Australian waters to-day. I know that the manager of the dockyard is an enthusiast in his desire to make the place a .success. Unfortunately, however, he is under what is known as the Naval Board, the members of which seem to have a desire that there shall be no ships built in Australia. The manager, like other men, may have his faults and failings, but no one can say that- he is not up to date in his business. The Naval Board, which is continually finding fault with the manager, consists of the Admiral, who is a seafaring man without any knowledge of engineering or ship-building - indeed, he is not supposed to know anything of them - the present .Minister of Defence, who is a journalist, and, I suppose, a grazier, also without any knowledge of ship-building or engineering ; and Captain Clarkson, who is an engineer, but who has been for twenty years employed on the Protector. I am not finding fault with Captain Clarkson as an engineer, but, as I say, he was for twenty years on one steamer, and has no practical knowledge of the working of a large shipbuilding establishment. Senator Pearce, when Minister of Defence, appointed Mr. Julius to report on the generating and power plant at the Fitzroy Dock, and out of that gentleman’s report the Prime Minister and his party have endeavoured to make a great deal of political capital. It has been said that the Government have endeavoured to save the lives of men, between whom and heaven there was only the sixteenth-inch thickness of the boilerplates. As a matter of fact, Mr. Julius, who was to report on the generating and power plant, never examined the boilers in the Fitzroy Dock, though he sent in a report that the boilers there were in a dangerous state. That fact was known to Senator Pearce, and was no news to the Naval Board ; and .my complaint is that Captain Clarkson should so deceive the present Government as to allow Mr. Julius’ report to go to them, and, by causing the Government to act in haste, throw the whole establishment into a state of chaos. If there is a competent man who Understands all about boilers, and so forth, in charge of an establishment of this kind, where 1,800 men are employed, it is the duty of the Government, when a report of this nature is received, to communicate with him, and ask him what action he is prepared to take. As a matter of fact, no communication was sent to the manager; but at 2 o’clock one day a telegram was sent to him ordering him to draw the fires at once. Surely this was a fine display of business capacity on the part of the Ministry. The moulders had prepared moulds, which, as we know, must be used wet, and men were waiting for the hot metal to pour into the moulds when this telegram was received, with the result that hundreds of pounds’ worth of material and labour were wasted. I am informed that one man was half-way up in a lift which climbs a cliff, when the telegram came, and he was left in mid-air, on the stoppage of the work, until ladders had been procured to release him. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister has returned to the chamber, and I repeat that Mr. Julius, who was appointed to make a report, never tested a boiler, but gathered his information from officers on the island.
– There is a report from three engineers on those boilers.
– I shall come to those three so-called engineers directly.
– Yes, so-called. The Government blundered in this matter, and lost the country hundreds of pounds. When they received the report of Mr. Julius, they should have communicated with the manager, and told him to be cautious, and to take all necessary steps to preserve life. As to the three engineers referred to, one of them was a draftsman from Melbourne, about whose abilities I know nothing, and the other two, though seafaring men and engineers, were not boilermakers or boiler experts, while all were in the employ of the Commonwealth Government. If the manager of the dockyard is to be condemned, why were experts outside the service not appointed to make the examination? Such men could easily have been secured in Sydney, but the Government selected three men directly under Captain Clarkson, who has made up his mind, so far as the Fitzroy Dockyard is concerned, to blot it out. He has said that Cockatoo Island is not a suitable place to build warships, seeing that there is not available either organization, experience, or machinery. As a matter of fact 75 per cent, of the machinery is new, and the latest that any country in the world can produce. As to the generating plant that is condemned, the present Minister of Defence is reported in an article of one column and a quarter in the Age to have described its acquisition as a bad bargain for the late Government, and a great mistake and blunder on their part. That generating plant cost £6,000, and that price could be obtained for it any day in the week. Everything on the island on behalf of the Commonwealth Government was valued by Mr. Christie, one of the finest valuers in Sydney, and not a Labour man. The State Government in this transaction were also represented by an expert, and for any defects there may be, the experts, and not the late Government, are to be blamed. To say that the Federal Government made a great blunder in taking over the dockyard is an absolute mistake. Captain Clarkson has said that the Fitzroy Dock is not at all suitable for ship-building. Were it not for the existence of the Fitzroy Dock our great battleship, which has cost the country over a million pounds, and is fitted with splendid machinery, could not be docked in Australia. Still it is said by certain persons that the purchase of the dock was a bad bargain. How did Admiral Henderson report on the state of the dock ? He recommended that it should be taken over from New South Wales by the Commonwealth. When we find the Minister of Defence occupying a whole column of a newspaper in an effort to blame the late Government, it is our duty to speak plainly here. I prefer to take the report of Admiral Henderson to that of Captain Clarkson. Before I read the report of the test of the boilers, let me show how biased Captain Clarkson is. He was sent to the Old Country, I think by the Prime Minister, when he was Minister of Defence, to supervise the construction of the destroyers.
– No, I do not know him at all.
– No one will deny that Captain Clarkson was sent Home to supervise the construction of the destroyers Yarra and Parramatta. On the way out to Australia the destroyers came together, and on some days the Parramatta had to slow up four times to allow the Yarra to come along, on account of the latter’s defective machinery and bad steering gear. On the arrival of the destroyers here, the defective machinery on the Yarra was complained of, and Mr. Cutler, the superintendent at the Fitzroy Dock, was sent down here to make a report. He condemned certain defects in the machinery. He did not frame his report with the view to injuring Captain Clarkson. He was called upon to report on the state of the steering gear and the machinery of the Yarra, because it was common report that in these respects her condition was not satisfactory. Captain Clarkson resented the report, but the alterations recommended by Mr. Cutler had to be made before the steering gear on the Yarra was complete.
– This is very interesting.
– It is.
– In a way you know nothing about.
– I know something about my own way. Mr. Cutler is a man who desires to make all the machinery he possibly can in the Commonwealth. He obtained the consent of the New South Wales Government to tender for the construction of the power plant for the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, and he was successful in his competition against private employers. He installed the power plant at the Small Arms Factory, and then Captain Clarkson, the responsible officer, declined to pass it. He found fault with the plant on the ground that it would not run, or do this or that, and the ex-Minister of Defence and the exMinister of Home Affairs had to go to Lithgow to try to get the matter fixed up. Roth Captain Clarkson and Mr. Cutler were there. The Ministers pointed out to the former that the contractor for the American machinery which was being installed at the factory had three months in which to make it run smoothly, and that the Department would not take it over till the expiration of that period. Captain Clarkson was informed a similar opportunity would be given in the case of the power plant in the Fitzroy Dock. The Ministers started the machinery installed by Mr. Cutler on behalf of the State Government, and after the turbine engines had had an opportuniy to run, everything proved most satisfactory. The Small Arms Factory was provided by the Fitzroy Dock with the finest machinery to be seen in the Commonwealth to-day. It is working well, notwithstanding the fact that Captain Clarkson tried to prevent the Commonwealth Government from taking it over. These are facts which I have related. Because Captain Clarkson is up against Mr. Cutler, I believe that he has misled the Minister of Defence.
– Professional jealousy.
– I believe that there is a little jealousy on the part of Captain Clarkson, and the Minister of Defence has been misled by his reports. I ask Ministers whether they are prepared to appoint a Royal Commission, or agree to the appointment of a Select Committee by this House, to sift this matter to the bottom ? I charge the Ministry with complete incapacity with regard to these particular works.
– I am inclined to think that there will have to be an inquiry.
– I hope SO; and I trust that honorable members on this side will assist the Government to elicit the truth. The Prime Minister said that the Government were called upon to save the lives of the men at the Fitzroy Dock, as there was only one-sixteenth of an inch between them and heaven. I am very pleased to know that the honorable gentleman is prepared to save human life, and we all give him credit for having that desire. But what are the facts in this case ? For two days the men whom the Government appointed to test the boilers at the dock could find no defect, and then they gave the order to put in the fittings as everything was all right. Afterwards, the defects in the boilers were pointed out by some one who knew of them, and next morning an officer went back and put his finger on the vital points.
– Who told you all this!
– If the honorable member will institute an inquiry, he will get the same information. After the defects were pointed out, it was stated that there had nearly been an explosion. Now, during the last ten years, there has been no explosion of a boiler or injury to a man on Cockatoo Island. The man who controls this particular work knows the defective part of the boilers. It is not where the steam is generated, because that portion is perfectly sound and able to do its work, but it is in another part, and it is immaterial whether the plate is thick or thin. Both the manager and the men at the works knew about the defective part. The authors of the report I have quoted were simply “ pulling the leg “ of the Minister of Defence. I regret very much the attitude of the Government in this matter.
– According to you, Captain Clarkson ought to be sacked at once.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to 7Jj5 p.m.
– The Prime Minister has taken credit for preventing the men who were employed at the Fitzroy Dock from being blown to heaven by the explosion of the boilers, but one of the boilers which _ was examined and tested had no defect in that part of it iu which steam was generated, the defect which was found being in a position where it did not materially affect the boiler’s safety. The honorable member for Calare has asked what the age of the boilers was. Some of the boilers are old, but some of our mail steamers have boilers which are at least twenty-five years old. One of the boilers has been tested up to a pressure of 330 lbs., although worked at a pressure of only 110 lbs. A boiler which can stand a pressure three times as great as that which it is called upon to stand in its ordinary working is surely not dangerous. Another boiler, which is used at a pressure not exceeding 110 lbs., was tested up to a pressure of 260 lbs. These were water tests, which are more trying than steam tests.
The* blacksmith’s boiler was tested up to a pressure of 180 lbs., although when in use it is not required to stand a pressure of more than 60 lbs.
Colonel Ryrie. - Were the tests official?
– Yes. Some of the boilers at the dock were taken from steam-ships.
– Does the honorable member refer to the thirty-year-old boiler which was in the Protector, and has been condemned ?
– Captain Clarkson, a member of the Naval Board, condemned two boilers that were in the Protector, but they were, nevertheless, taken out of the vessel, and used at the Fitzroy Dock, where they have been ever since.
– That shows how little care is taken of the lives of workmen in socialistic institutions.
– Had the Minister been in his place when I was speaking before the dinner adjournment, he would know that there has not been a serious accident at the dock for the last ten years. The manager of the works has the boilers examined every Christmas, when they are thoroughly overhauled. The state of the boilers was known to the Naval Board when the dock was taken over by the Commonwealth. The late Government paid for second-hand boilers, but these boilers, as I have stated, are quite safe at the pressure at which they are being worked. Some of those that have been condemned could have been repaired at a cost of £5 or £6. Ministers are trying to blacken the reputation of the Fisher Government for taking over the Fitzroy Dock. Captain Clarkson reported that the dock was not a suitable place for the building of warships, because it had neither the organization nor the machinery. But I have pointed out that 75 per cent, of the machinery is new and uptodate, and the rest capable of doing its work well, because some of the old machines can do as good work as new machinery. The Fisher Government took over the dock to have a place in which to overhaul and repair the battleship Australia, which is now in African waters, and our large cruisers. There is no other dock in the Commonwealth which could take the Australia. After the statement of the Naval Board that the acquirement of the dock was a bad bargain, I give little credit to what its members say. If anything went wrong with the Australia the Fitzroy Dock would be the only place in the Commonwealth where it could be repaired.
– It would take two years to build another dock.
– The Fisher Government would have been unworthy of its position had it not acquired a dock which would admit the Australia. The Naval Board, which is really Captain Clarkson, says that that is a bad bargain, despite the fact that the Warrego was built there, and Commander Hyde says that she is the best of our three destroyers.
– She was merely put together there.
– Her machinery was made there.
– Does the honorable member mean the engines?
– The engines were not made there.
– That part of the machinery that was made there is a credit to the dockyard. . The Warrego is faster, and consumes less fuel, than either of the other two destroyers. Yet the Minister takes the word of the Naval Board, though he has the facts before him, and tries to put the slur on the people of Australia that they are not capable of building warships.
– The Fisher Government could not build these ships to time.
– What was the idea of sending a telegram to Sydney in the middle of the day to draw the fires out when all the men were on the work ? Was that not an action intended to delay the work of building these ships? The Honorary Minister laughs at the idea of some hundreds of men being sent home out of work. If he had ever been unemployed he would not laugh. His laughter shows his callous disposition. I quite understand why he laughs at men getting sacked. But I venture to say this is another blunder of the Government’s. Any one with business capacity who had received a report from an expert that the boilers were dangerous, would surely have consulted the manager of the works, which could have been done by telephoning to the dock. The manager could have been told that a report of a damaging character had been received, and asked what was the best thing to do ; but the Government ignored the manager, and sent along a telegram to draw the fires at once, in the middle of the day, when the hot metal was almost ready to put into the moulds. The whole thing was chaos, and people naturally said, “ This is another blunder of the Cook Government.” I cannot understand men of any capacity for governing adopting such an extraordinary attitude, and I ask the Government to appoint a Committee to inquire into this matter to see who is at fault.
– Would the honorable member serve on that Committee?
– No. 1 have taken up a certain attitude, and I would rather you got outside men. You need experts on this matter. The men appointed to test these boilers are not outside men; one is a draughtsman from the Melbourne office Paney a draughtsman offering an opinion on boilers ! I think the time has arrived when the Government should give way to another more competent Ministry. It must be quite clear to supporters of the present Government that they have on the Treasury bench men who do not know how to govern the country. I am sure the Assistant Minister of Home Ali airs agrees with me that the Government have shown their inability to carry on the works of the country. Panic and chaos reign with regard to the quarantining of Sydney. Stagnation prevails amongst the business people of Sydney, and the honorable member who represents the next electorate to mine has taken no interest in seeing that the quarantine is removed. He is laughing at the people of Sydney in their dilemma, but the time will come when he will not laugh.
– I believe the people of my electorate desire to have their lives protected.
– I have on my left the honorable member for Dalley, well up in the engineering world, who is prepared to follow any honorable member put up to reply to my statements. We had an analogy between .the day-labour system and the contract system produced to the House by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to justify a paragraph in the Prime Minister’s manifesto to the effect that the Government are prepared to do away with the day-labour system and substitute the contract system. It is one of the old cries of the Conservative party, the cry of contract system against day labour, and I am not surprised at the party on the Government side taking up the cudgels for the contractors. The con tractors support them and finance them. I repeat, it is the old cry that has been going on for over twenty years. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs told us that cottages had been built at Jervis Bay and at Duntroon, at the Federal Capital. The Jervis Bay cottages contain one room less than the cottages at Duntroon. We were told that the cottages at Jervis Bay were built by contract, and that those at the Federal Capital were built by day labour, but the Minister forgot to tell us that the man who contracted for the cottages at Jervis Bay went insolvent.
– I told you that.
– The contractor lost money on the contract and threw it up, and the Government finished the work.
– I told you that; it is in Hansard. I said that the contract price was £336, and that the final cost was £385, while the cost at Duntroon was £1,100. - Mr. RILEY. - It is easy to make a comparison by saying we required so many rooms here and so many rooms there, and that so many rooms here cost so many pounds by day labour more than the rooms built there by contract; but any one with common sense and a knowledge of things is aware that it all depends upon the finish of the work. We may build a sixroomed weatherboard house, unlined, in the one place, and elsewhere we may build a cottage lathed and plastered inside. We may finish with redwood architraves and skirting-boards, and we may finish with cedar. It is not always a question of th’i number of rooms; it is a question of the finish of the article and the design of the house. I have a catalogue from Hudson and Sons, timber merchants, Sydney, who build houses practically by machinery; the cheapest way possible. I have a design of one cottage of six rooms to cost £575. On the next page is another design of a six-roomed cottage at £350, a difference of over £220 on the same number of rooms. My honorable friend must admit there may be a difference in the foundations of a cottage at Duntroon as compared with the foundations of a cottage at Jervis Bay. He has given us no details. If he had given the House a comparison of two cottages built on exactly the same lines, and from the same plan and specifications, and carried out with the same material, there would have been some logic in his argument. I interjected, and asked the honorable member whether the cottages at Jervis Bay were plastered, and he said “No.” Then I asked him whether the cottages at Duntroon were plastered, and he said, “ There was a little bit of plaster about them.” I consider it would cost at least 3s. a yard extra to, plaster the cottages at Duntroon. So there is no comparison at all. Yet, on this case, the Government decide to do away with day labour and go back to the contract system. I hope before I sit down to show the inconsistency of the Government, and especially of the Prime Minister, in deciding in favour of the contract system. Nearly twenty years ago, when Mr. Reid was Premier of New South Wales, the present Prime Minister was Postmaster-General in that State, and he initiated the day-labour system for the construction of a telephone tunnel. A contract was let for one section of the work, and owing to the cost per cubic foot for that section the present Prime Minister decided to continue the work with day labour. The late Sir William Lyne was then in opposition to the Government in New South Wales, and on the completion of the work he was waited upon by a number of contractors, who complained of the expensive way in which the work had been carried out under the day-labour system. The complaint made was so strongly supported that a Commission was appointed to inquire into the matter. The Commission took evidence, and though the facts disclosed showed that the men employed on the work were paid an additional ls. per day each, and the size of the tunnel was increased upon the original plan by 3 inches, involving the laying of perhaps 200,000 or 300,000 additional bricks for the section, it was found that a saving of £29,000 had been made by the adoption of the day-labour system in carrying out the work. The result of the inquiry converted the late Sir William Lyne from an advocate of the contract system to a strong champion of the day-labour system. The facts in this case came before the New South Wales Parliament, and though the Prime Minister is aware of them, we now find him pandering to the contractors and going back upon the daylabour system. He proposes now to substitute the contract system for day labour in the construction of Commonwealth works, though all his experience in the State Parliament of New South Wales goes to prove that the day-labour system is preferable to the contract system.
– Was Mr. O’sullivan in power in New South Wales at the time referred to?
– No, he was not. Mr. George Reid was Premier at the time, and an ex-Labour man in the person of the present Prime Minister of the Commonwealth was Postmaster- General of the State. As the honorable gentleman claims that he is a man who does not change his opinion, it is difficult to understand how his present environment has induced him to alter his mind in connexion with this matter. A further reason why the day labour system is preferred to the con.tract system in New South Wales is found in the experience gained in that State of the litigation arising out of works carried out by contract. I remember a case which was known as the “ McSharry Case.” Upon the construction of a railway the contractor, Mr. McSharry, after the completion of his contract, put in a claim for £250,000 for “ extras.’; The matter was referred to arbitration for settlement, and for th]ee years the arbitrators heard evidence upon the claim. The present Acting .Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Edmund Barton, was the arbitrator, and the honorable and learned member for Parkes held a brief on behalf of the New South Wales Government.
– Two good men.
– Yes, two good men, and true, for themselves. The inquiry into McSharry ‘s claim for “ extras “ on this contract cost the Government of New South Wales £33,000.
– It was the day-labour refreshers that cost all the money.
– No doubt, but the case illustrates what may happen under the contract system. We know that contractors are in business to make money, and if they can alter a plan in any way it affords them an opportunity to present claims for extras, and there is then no saying how much a ‘particular work will cost. The history of the past proves that Governments have had to pay dearly for legal entanglements arising out of claims for extras upon contracts for public works. It has been proved beyond any doubt that it is far better that a
Government should carry out public works by day labour. They can then alter their plans as they please, and there is no fear that when a job is finished they will be involved in litigation. For this reason the Labour party stand for day labour as against the contract system in the interests of the taxpayers of the country. I might refer honorable members to two other illustrations of what may occur under the contract system. A contract was let for the basement and foundations of the Sydney town hall, which is one of the finest buildings in the city of Sydney. When the contract was completed it was rumoured that the work had been slummed, and upon inquiry it was discovered that rough stones had been tumbled in anyhow, and smeared over with cement, and the whole of the work had to be done over again.
– Who was responsible for that?
– I do not wish to mention names, but that case is known in New South Wales as the “ Town Hall Scandal.” There was another contract scandal known as “ the Bare Island Fort Scandal.” That was a contract for fortifications of solid concrete to protect guns and gunners. An inquiry was held in that case also, and the scandalous work of the contractors exposed. Case after case of this kind having been brought under notice the Government of New South Wales were compelled to abandon the contract system and substitute for it the daylabour system. I might mention a number of cases of the kind, but I need not pursue the matter further. I come now to deal with our friends, the rural workers, and I am sorry that some honorable members who have recently entered this House for the first time have gone out of their way to inform us that they have come here to fight in the interests of the farmers, and that they are up against the rural workers’ log. Surely that is not a very courageous position for them to take up. They are here to fight the weakest section of the community, and the men who are least able to contend against them. They are here to fight men who have to work the longest hours of any industrial class in the country.
– Nothing of the sort.
– And the men who receive least for their labour. How courageous must be the honorable members who have come into this House prepared to fight these men. I hope they will not degrade themselves by fighting an unorganized, poor and helpless number of workers. I should scorn to come into this House on a cry of that kind and to fight those who need help.
– Does the honorable member say that the Australian Workers Union are a disorganized body?
– I am speaking of the rural workers, and not of the Australian Workers Union.
– They are not joined with the Australian Workers Union yet.
– They are there now.
– It will not be long before they are, and then their opponents will be made to sit up.
– Order ! I have frequently directed attention to the fact that when the Speaker calls for order, and especially when there are repeated calls for order, perfect silence should be observed by honorable members. It is grossly disorderly when this has been done for any honorable member to interject immediately afterwards.
– What do they propose to do with the rural workers? They are out to prevent those workers from getting equal justice with other workers in the country. The Fisher Government passed an Act to enable them to bring their case before the Courts. We were anxious to prevent industrial disputes and to encourage people to use the Courts of the country, where all sides of a case can be considered and common sense can prevail. But our friends opposite say that the case for the rural workers is so good that if they got it before the Court their conditions would be improved, and their hours and wages would be regulated. Therefore, they take advantage of their majority of one in this House to prevent these men from getting justice.
– They cannot do it.
– As long as we are here they cannot do it, and we shall certainly give them a good fight on the issue. Some of my honorable friends have said that these men have been stirred up by agitators. Of course they have been. I had the honour to be, for three years, a member of the New South Wales Arbitration Court as the representative of the employes. I remember a case in which the retail employers of Sydney were brought before the Court, and challenged our jurisdiction to deal with the shop employes. They said that the shop assistants were perfectly satisfied with their conditions, and that only the union secretary and the union officials had agitated to bring the case before the Court. At first it was ruled that we had no jurisdiction, but eventually these people got their case before the Court. Some of the employers went into the box, and swore that they had done all that they possibly could to make the condition of their employes comfortable, and that their business would not stand any increase. After the case had been heard in public we took other evidence in camera, as we had power to do. We spent four weeks in going through the books of some of the largest firms in Sydney. After we had ascertained their profits we gave an award which increased the wages of the shop assistants to the extent of £70,000 a year. We found cases of young women who had been working in the shops of Sydney for ten or twelve years in the employment of some of the largest firms, and who were receiving only 12s. 6d. per week. How could they live decently and comfortably on such a wage as that? Nevertheless, the profits of the employers were exceedingly handsome. We found that one firm was making £100,000 a year clear profit. Another firm was making £50,000 a year. Yet there were clerks working for these firms who were receiving only 30s. a week. How could a man keep a wife and family decently on that wage ?
– What Court gave those improved conditions?
– The Arbitration Court of New South Wales. I remind the House that for six years New South Wales had an Arbitration Court of its own. During the first three years of its working there was not a single strike in the State. It was only when lawyers came in and raised points of jurisdiction, preventing people from getting justice, that industrial disputes arose. Throughout the history of that Court the employers, and their hirelings the lawyers, took advantage of every opportunity to break down the system. Since the Wages Board system has been established we have had plenty of strikes in New South Wales, and we are likely to have plenty more. What is the difference between an Arbitration Court and a Wages Board ? Under the Arbitration Court system the members of the Court can claim to inspect all the necessary books in connexion with a business which is the subject of investigation. They can consider in camera the profits made by a firm. The members of the Court are sworn to secrecy. If an employer says that he cannot pay a living wage, the Court can, by inspecting his books, obtain full possession of the facts. It can ascertain the profits he is making, and come to a conclusion whether it is justified in granting an increase. The Court knows what the industry can pay. But under the Wages Board system the members of a Board cannot ascertain the profits made in the industry. An employer can object to show his books. There are not the same means of getting at the truth, and very often the Board has to come to a decision which is entirely against the facts If, as is sometimes said, we were Anarchists, we should not desire to bring workmen before a Court. I cannot understand the position of the Opposition in objecting to employes seeking the aid of the Arbitration Court I We brought the Court into existence for the express purpose of settling disputes. But the Ministerial party do not want the rural workers to get to the Court. The employers do not even want to meet them in conference. If they really want a strike, they are going the right way to bring one about. We believe in arbitration. We believe in preventing strikes, which are detrimental to the best interests of the country, and destructive of industry. Consequently, we believe in invoking the Federal Arbitration Court in disputes that extend beyond any one State, and desire to induce people to go to the Court in order to bring about peace, harmony, and good-will throughout the country. We believe in this method of securing justice. Some of my friends say that they are out to prevent preference to unionists. This bogy has been used in every battle affecting the industrial arena in recent years. But what is this policy of preference ? I ask my honorable friends te reflect upon these facts. Unionists as a body are competent and good workmen. To say the least of it, they are quite as good as non-unionists. But they do not wish to obtain any advantage over non-unionists. Any advantage they secure they desire non-unionists to share. But the idea of asking for preference is this : When an employer is brought before the Court, he is, of course, put to a certain amount of expense and trouble in defending his interests. Perhaps he feels the inconvenience which is occasioned. After a case is settled, the men who have given evidence with reference to a dispute are naturally, human nature being as it is, marked men. The employer resents what they have done. Consequently, there is a tendency for him to get rid of them as soon as he possibly can. If a particular workman has been a leader among his fellows in bringing a case before the Court, an employer turns him down. Therefore, we as unionists say that we want preference to unionists, not for the sake of any advantage which may be supposed to be secured over non-unionists, but in order to protect the men who have fought the battle of those whom they represent. That is all that we want, and we have never taken to ourselves the advantage that we might have taken on many occasions, by getting our own wages increased, and leaving the men outside to take care of themselves. To-day we, as a Labour party, stand for preference to unionists. We tax ourselves to provide the money with which to protect the workers in all industries, and because we do that we claim that the Arbitration Court should be empowered to grant us a preference. Under the existing law it has that power. But the present Government say, “ We will not allow the President of the Arbitration Court to exercise his judicial mind in that respect. We will prohibit the granting of a preference to unionists, irrespective of whether their case be good or bad.” I submit that we have no right to tie the hands of the Judge of the Court in that fashion. If once we deprive him of the power of granting a preference to unionists, we compel him to give an award in the interests of the employing class alone. To-day we have a Government in power–
– In office, but not in power.
– We have in office a Government which has not put before the country a democratic policy, but a policy of go back. One of the things which they propose to alter is the maternity allowance. They intend to attack the women who are helpless, and who have performed the noblest act of womanhood. The last Parliament determined to grant to all mothers - rich and poor alike - a sum of £5. But the Government now say that that grant shall be made only in necessitous cases, thus placing the stigma of pauperism upon those who receive it.
– The Liberal women are now turning them down upon that question.
– I have great faith in the womanhood of this country. The Liberal party appealed to the electors with a programme of abuse. The result was that they were returned with a majority of one. When Parliament met they immediately requested a month’s adjournment to enable them to formulate their policy. The idea of a Government being elected without a policy ! And now that it has been placed before us, what a policy it is ! They propose to prevent the weakest in the community from having access to the Arbitration Court. They propose to degrade our women by refusing them the maternity grant, merely because somebody has alleged that one woman expended her £5 upon a gold bangle. Just imagine the mental breadth of the man who originated that story ! I hope that the Government will not interfere with the maternity allowance until their proposals have been indorsed by the country. The Labour party are determined to uphold the laws which we have placed upon the statute-book, and to force the Government to appeal again to the electors. I am surprised that the Ministry did not meet Parliament with a request for Supply, and an intimation that as they did not possess a sufficient majority to enable them to carry on, it was their intention to ask the GovernorGeneral to dissolve this House. That would have been the manly course for them to adopt.
– It would have been a terrible shock to some honorable members opposite if they had done so.
– I well remember tha Prime Minister attempting to belittle another Government because they were hanging on to office when they had only a majority of two. But he is clingingto office when he has to rely upon the casting vote of Mr. Speaker. Such a position is degrading to the House and to the country.
– What does thehonorable member suggest?
– That the Government, should appeal to the country.
– Let us take the vote by ballot, then.
– I can assure the honorable member that if he will remain outside the chamber when the division on this motion is taken, this House will go to the country.
– Then there will be plenty of sad men upon both sides of it.
– I am sorry that honorable members opposite cannot restrain themselves. When I speak of a dissolution they appear to lose their senses. I say that an appeal to the country is the only course which any self-respecting Government could take under existing conditions. I fully appreciate what would be the attitude of Ministers if we were in office without “a majority. Would they talk of wasting time in discussing the Address-in-Reply? They would occupy three weeks in debating it, and would then launch a motion of no-confidence. I hope that we shall follow the same tactics. It is quite clear to me that the longer they administer the affairs of the Commonwealth the more they will play into the hands of the Opposition, by reason of their own utter incapacity. Already they have made a mistake in allowing the sugar-refiners to pocket £150,000, which should have found its way into the revenue of this country. They have blundered in quarantining 800,000 persons in Sydney, and they have also bungled matters by closing down the works on Cockatoo Island. Yet the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs apparently thinks it sufficient for him to rise, and, in a breezy fashion, declare that under the day-labour system the late Government erected certain cottages at Jervis Bay and others at Yass-Canberra, and that the latter cost more than the former. The Honorary Minister hands me a glass of water. He knows that I am speaking the truth, and, therefore, is kind to me. Each day this debate seems to reveal some new blunder on the part of the Government, and to-morrow no doubt we shall have something more to bring forward to show their utter incapacity. How can we expect Ministers to properly administer the affairs of the Commonwealth? Let us take them individually. The Prime Minister is certainly a practical man. He has worked hard in his day, and no one grudges him any position he fills, so far as the political fight is concerned. He has been a miner, and we all respect the miners who have come to the top. We come next to the Treasurer. Is he a practical man? He is a surveyor. Then there is the Attorney-General, who is a barrister, and a very capable one, too; but he has no practical ability to fit him to run any business. He endeavours only to bring business men to his own way of thinking, and he is certainly a very successful man in his own profession. Next, we have the Minister of Trade and Customs, another barrister, whose only business training has been obtained at the Bar. The Minister of External Affairs is also a lawyer. He is one of the leading barristers of South Australia, but what business training has he had other than his training at the Bar? None whatever. The PostmasterGeneral is likewise a lawyer, and finally we come to the Honorary Minister, whose occupation is given on the electoral rolls as “ independent means.” We all know what that means. Taking the Ministry as a whole, they are honest, sincere, and capable men in their own professions, but not one of them has the business capacity necessary to run a pie shop.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has thrown out a challenge regarding the personnel of the two parties, and the challenge is one that I intend to accept. Those who sit in opposition to-day have been touring the country for the last few years claiming that they are “ the true Australian party,” and I propose to show how far that claim is borne out by the actual facts. Let us begin by taking the Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Wide Bay. Is he an Australian? Then, again, is the honorable member for West Sydney, who was Attorney-General in the late Ministry, an Australian? I do not know whether the honorable member for Adelaide - who was an Honorary Minister in the last Administration - is an Australian, but he certainly does not look like one. If there is in this Assembly one foreign-looking face, it is that of the honorable member for Adelaide. Then let us look at the ex-Minister of Home Affairs. Is he an Australian? What is he but a blatant man from the United States of America? Can the members of the late Ministry claim that they are in any way representative
Australians? Having put that question, let me now turn to the personnel of the present Ministry, to whom reference has just been made by the honorable member for South Sydney. In the first instance we have the Prime Minister, who, like the Leader of the Opposition, is an imported man. But has any one done more than has the Treasurer, Sir John Forrest, for the advancement of Australia? It was he who explored the West, and made it what it is to-day. Yet we hear these small-minded men opposite decrying a man with such a record. Then we have the Attorney-General, whom the honorable member for South Sydney has just said has no business capacity. Has he not proved himself capable of meeting any contingency?
– Is he an Australian?
– I do not know. I believe that be is, but whether he is or is not, we know that he is good enough to be one. The point that I wish to make is that, taking the members of this House one by one, it will be found that we have on our side more thoroughbred Australians than are to be found in the ranks of the Opposition. New members on this side of the House have been scornfully referred to by the Opposition as “farmers.” I would remind honorable members, however, that those who have been spoken of in that way were born in Australia, and thoroughly understand Australian conditions. What do members of the Opposition - who represent only the unions, and, for the most part, those who reside along the coast - know of the hardships suffered by the people of the interior? What do they know of that which the pioneers have had to endure? Honorable members of the Opposition decry the work done by men who have achieved far more for Australia than have those who can see no further than the unions, union rules, and the trades halls, and who now invite the public to make a comparison of the personnel of the two parties. I hope that the public will do so. We could ask for nothing better. If the electors of Australia do make such a comparison, there can be no doubt as to what will be their verdict when we go back to our masters in the country, as the Opposition ask, and as we are willing to do.
– Let the honorable member support the amendment, and we shall soon go to the people.
– I am here to support the present Administration, which is fully capable of dealing with the larger issues that affect Australia. Looking at those in opposition who were members of the late Ministry, one feels that one might just as reasonably expect an ant to bear the load of an elephant as ask them to take up the work of attending to the true interests of the Commonwealth. The Opposition tell us that we are but miserable farmers. They do not use the word “ miserable,” but they speak of us in such a way as to suggest that we are mere “cocky” farmers.
– And Anarchists.
– “ Cockies “ and Anarchists - anything, in short, but decent, respectable farmers.
– Who has so described honorable members opposite?
– Honorable members of the Opposition have sneered at us in many ways. Practically every honorable member of the Labour party who has spoken during this debate, with the exception of the honorable member for South Sydney, has told us that we are only farmers. And, after all, we are proud of the fact that we are. Have not the farmers made the country ? The pioneers, who first of all carved out the way, and their sons who followed them, have helped to make Australia what it is to-day. It is not the men who walk the streets of our big cities, and who take their instructions from trades halls and labour councils, who have built up this country; rather is it those who have gone into the far interior. These are the men who will shape the destinies of this country. These are the men who are supporting the Ministry, and will carry Australia to the true destiny which is rightly hers. We do not wish to be governed by the narrow and limited outlook of those who do not know Australia. We prefer, rather, to have men like the Treasurer, who have helped to build up this country, and who know the right direction in which to guide Australia’s footsteps. They are the men to whom the Commonwealth should show some gratitude, instead of having as its representatives men who claim to be Australians, but who in this House decry those who have given of their best to the country. Already, during the present session, attempts have been made by the Opposition to pour contempt upon the farmers. I should like to call attention to one fact. I know that honorable members opposite pretend at all times to decry the teachings of history; but there is one farmer who stands out in the annals of Home as giving that city the greatest warning it ever received. Cato, whenever he addressed the Forum, ended his speech with the words “ Carthage must be destroyed”; and it is time that some farmer in this House at the end of his speech should warn us that we ought to keep our eyes on those hungry yellow races to the north. We who know. the great empty spaces of Australia, and who have followed the teachings of history, know that we cannot hope to hold those empty spaces for ever. Those great nations to the north are on the move; and, as was said by an honorable member last night, they have faced the exact position that we are facing to-day. We have here members claiming to represent Australia, who scorn the teachings of history, and who are driving strongly towards Socialism; and 900 years ago China adopted Socialism in exactly the same way that it is being adopted here.
– Rubbish !
– The honorable member calls it rubbish, but perhaps he has not gone into the question; like most of his colleagues, he pretends to scorn history. All readers must recognise the fact that we are now seeking to adopt that which China is shedding. If Socialism has failed with China, the most virile nation on the face of the earth, with the most productive part of the earth, what will it do in our case ? The irony of the position is that we are adopting Socialism just when the great nation of China is casting it overboard. The policy of the Government may be brought under two headings - the destructive and the constructive. Just as it is necessary for the farmer to plough out the weeds in order to grow corn for the people, it is necessary for this Government to root up some of the pests and weeds planted by the Opposition when they were in power, and to produce something to the advantage of Australia. In the first place, it is proposed to do away with preference to unionists. The honorable member for West Sydney has told us much about the advantages of unionism; he has told us that unionism has done more for the people than ever Parliament has. But what made trade unions possible? Why, Parliament. It is all very fine for honorable members opposite to laugh.
– What history is that from ?
– I should like to draw honorable members’ attention to one point. In my electorate, the honorable member for West Sydney delivered seven addresses, owing to the fact that he was imprisoned there by a flood; and I think that each of those addresses was worth fully 100 votes to me, especially the last one. Trade unionism is just like that flooded river; kept within bounds it is undoubtedly valuable, but when it overflows and fills, up our nouses with mud and slime it is time it was put back to its original position. It was a flood of that kind which imprisoned the exAttorneyGeneral in my electorate, and which gave him the opportunity to degrade his official position by threatening me, a poor, unknown candidate for the Opposition, that if I did not withdraw certain statements taken from his own pamphlet, entitled Labour in, Power, he would use his position as Attorney-General to prosecute me.
– I said that I should do so if the honorable member did not stop his lies.
– Here we had a man occupying the high position of AttorneyGeneral trying to frighten his political opponent off the field by virtue of his high office.
– Do you suggest, Mr., Speaker, that these remarks are in order ?
– Does the honorable member take exception to the remarks?
– I strongly object to them.
– I am stating exactly the position as it was in my electorate, and I see nothing to withdraw. A telegram was sent to two newspapers in the electorate, saying that if I did not withdraw and apologize within a certain time, and, if necessary, have a special issue of the newspapers to do so, I should be prosecuted. I went on the platform, and told the ex- Attorney-General to go ahead.
– The honorable member did not tell me to go ahead.
– I told the honorable gentleman’s supporters so. If the honorable gentleman thinks that he, an imported man, is going to frighten an Australian
– What the honorable member did was to repeat the same lie over and over again.
– I must ask the honorable member for West Sydney not to interject unnecessarily. I suppose honorable members are aware that it is part of the Standing Orders that when the Speaker is on his feet absolute silence must be observed; but I am addressing myself to the honorable member for West Sydney through a storm of interjections. If there is anything in the speech of the honorable member for Robertson which misrepresents the honorable member for West Sydney, or which the honorable member for West Sydney thinks misrepresents something that he has said or done, lie will have the right afterwards to make a personal explanation.
– I have been here some years now-
-Is the honorable member taking a point of order?
– No man interjects less than I do, but I am not going to be called a liar.
– The honorable member must not defy the Chair.
– The exAttorneyGeneral said that I repeated the same lie over and over again. I repeated only what I took from his pamphlet entitled Labour in Power, page 22.
– That was a lie in the first place, because the exAttorneyGeneral never issued the pamphlet.
– The pamphlet was made up of a series of articles which the ex-Attorney-General wrote for the Daily Mail in the Old Country.
– And the pamphlet contained a lot the ex-Attorney-General never wrote; and there was a lie.
– I must ask the honorable member for Bourke to withdraw that remark.
– Oh, I withdraw with pleasure.
– Since I have managed to stir up a certain amount of fight I may, I think, ease off somewhat. I arn afraid I was getting a bit excited.
– Stirring up mud !
– I am merely stating exactly what took place in my electorate.
– The honorable member is now stating what is a lie on the fane of it.
– If honorable members will nob obey the direction of the Chair I shall have to take other steps to preserve order. I do not like to do that, but the Speaker cannot be continually interrupting an honorable member in order to call other honorable members to order. This disorder must cease. I ask the honorable member for Robertson to avoid as much as possible inviting disorderly interjections.
– I did not set out to invite disorder, but to state exactly the position which was taken by the honorable member for West Sydney in my electorate; and if that is the means of causing disorder here, I regret that he ever took up that attitude. I could not, however, regret it at the time, because it certainly won for me a good many votes. There is one thing which the present Government proposes to do in the way of destructive policy, and that is to do away with preference to unionists, because on our side, I take it, we stand for preference to none. We stand here, as we stand in the country, for equal opportunities to all, so far as those opportunities can be given. We hold that in this fair Australia there should be no sections, but that all should work together for the good of the whole community. We hold distinctly, as I have held on many platforms, and hope to do again, that we cannot stand for the advancement of any one section as against the interests of the community as a whole. We are told that unless we give preference to unionists we will bring about trouble amongst the workers. We want the workers, as we want every other section of the community, to retain their faith in Parliament. But we do not want the workers of this country, any more than the workers of any other country, to ask that they shall be advanced in sections at the expense of the rest of the community. It is only the way in which the workers are led in this country that is causing all the trouble. In the Old Country, from which our farmers came, there is nothing of this kind.
– Oh, you know nothing about the matter.
– The Labour leaders in the Old Country have absolutely refused to ask for preference to unionists, and that is the crux of the whole question. We on this side have just as much interest in the workers as have honorable members opposite, and perhaps at heart more. We on this side are as hard workers as - -perhaps harder workers than - are honorable members opposite. We glory in the fact, which they throw at us with scorn, that our party comprises all sorts of men. That is exactly where we pride ourselves. There is only one distinction which we want for our men, and that is that they shall be honest and clean. Apart from that, they can come from any section in the community. We belong to all classes, and we try to see that justice is done to all parties.
– Do you believe in the preference you have on your platform?
– I do not know what preference the honorable member means.
– It is there, and you ought to know.
– There is one thing that we propose to do which will undoubtedly be for the benefit of the workers in this country as well as of other men, and that is to return to the system of contract for public works. I said just now that we on this side work as hard as, perhaps harder than, do honorable members on the other side. I was brought up in the bush, and know what it is to do hard work as well as does any man in the community. In my boyhood I did a good deal of fencing. Last summer, when I was staying at the seaside near Sydney, I saw five men sent down on the day-labour system to straighten up 400 feet of fence. They did not have to re-erect the fence, they did not have to put in any new timber except five rails; but it took them two weeks and half a day to straighten up 400 feet of a tworailed fence. I guarantee that any boy and I could have done the work in two days. That is a sample of the day-labour system. The fact that so much time has been wasted ; the fact that the union leaders have told their men to go slowly; the fact that the men are not endeavouring to turn out all the work that they could turn out, and the fact that the real producing interests have been neglected - these are the things which are causing the cost of living in Australia to go up as it is to-day. The present Administration proposes to do away with the day-labour system, and return to the contract system. It has already brought in a Bill to create a Department of Agriculture, and proposes to protect our products in the markets of the world. It has not only paid a graceful tribute to the producers, but has recognised, as every man who claims to be anything of a politician, let alone of a statesman, must recognise, that Australia depends absolutely upon its production for its existence. The Ministry goes farther; it brings forward a policy of construction. Amongst other things, it says that it is going to maintain a gold reserve behind the Commonwealth notes. There can be no doubt that one of the greatest causes of the present financial tightness in Australia was the creation of the Commonwealth Bank, with the consequent withdrawal of gold to a large extent. People here and the people from whom we have to borrow are afraid that there is not a sufficient reserve behind the notes. The mere fact that the Ministry has announced its intention to maintain a sufficient gold reserve has restored to a large extent our financial stability.
– You are a nice Australian to run down your country.
– I am a true Australian. I was born and bred here, and understand Australia. There is another work which the Administration has said it intends to take up in earnest, and that is the development of the Northern Territory. We may now expect not to hear of any ridiculous comic operas, such as we had lately, when the Director of Lands had to picket himself to keep himself from going to work. We want to fill the Territory with people. We do not wish to tell men that they ‘have to go there and spend the best years of their lives on a leasehold area, and that when it becomes of value, the Government will come along and reappraise the land. Speaking as one who has had practical experience, I say that we shall never fill the Northern Territory on the leasehold principle. If we are going to make the Territory fertile and productive, as it should be, we may have grazing leases - that is right - but we must have a freehold title for the farmers. We shall not get men to go out there and work the country unless we give them some security of tenure. I know what it is when men have a leasehold security. They take all they can out of the land, and towards the end of the term - and I think that all human beings are built in much the same way - they let the land go to ruin, and the result is a loss to the
Crown. The Crown never, parts with its right in the land. It sells- the land, and gives a freehold title ; but every one knows that it always retains the right to tax. All that it does is to give a man absolute security of tenure so long as he can finance himself and run the land. If a man strikes a bad time in the west or the north - and again I speak as one with experience - unless he has a freehold of his land, or holds it by some method of security, he cannot raise money to restock. What is the result of this system ? Men are turned off their land every day, simply because they have no security to offer when, after a bad time, it is necessary to re-stock. The Northern Territory is, to my mind, the greatest menace which exists in Australia to-day. I am one of those who believe that the watchword of Australia should be to fill our empty north. When the Leader of the present Government made his policy speech at Parramatta, he said, “ We want to keep Australia white, free, and Federal.” That in itself is sufficient to make any good Australian wish to follow the honorable gentleman. What is the greatest menace in Australia to-day?
– You !
– No, my time has not come yet.
– It is all right; I beg your pardon.
– I know that I have never done as much damage to some of the back country places as has the honorable member. I have been trying all the time to improve the conditions, not only of one class, but of every class. I have never damaged one class to try, as I thought, to benefit another class.
– A saviour !
– I hope that I shall never be a saviour for the likes of the honorable member, anyway.
– Order ! These interjections are irregular.
– The main stockintrade of the Opposition now, as it was when honorable members opposite went to the country, is that Australia is under the domination of trusts, or is going to be under that domination. The ex-Attorney-General told my constituents that we would suffer from trusts, combines, and monopolies as they had suffered in America; although he and his fellows know that Australia is on a different foot ing from America, our railways being State-owned, while the American railways are in private hands. They know that in Australia trusts and combines cannot buy up railways, and thus prevent competition, and cannot obtain rebates and special rates. It must always be the policy of Australia to keep the railways under the control of the Government, and so long as they are under that control there need be no fear that trusts and combines will bring us to our knees, or squeeze the life out of us, to use the exAttorneyGeneral’s phrases. This talk about the danger of trusts and combines should cease. It failed the Labour party at the elections, as it will always fail them, because the people have sufficient intelligence to recognise it as clap-trap, used to win back their positions. The members of the Labour party make cruel, mean, unmanly insinuations.
– Order ! The honorable member must not say that.
– I suppose that I may say that they make cruel assertions.
– The honorable member is not making himself very popular.
– I am not here to make myself popular with the other side. I came here to fight for what I consider right and proper; to advance what I believe to be the true interests of Australia. I am strongly of opinion that if these men held the reins of office very long, it would be impossible for Australia to recover. I am an Australian from the crown of my head to my feet, and through and through. I know Australia, and I know what I am talking of.
– The honorable member does not look an Australian.
– If I do not look an Australian, and the honorable member does, I do not wish to look an Australian. I shall not detain the House longer. The interjections excited me somewhat, but I do not wish to create any more feeling. In my humble opinion, if the Labour party were in power too long, nothing could bring back our former prosperity. I believe that, following the programme of the Government, which favours no particular section of the community, but recognises the interests of the whole, we shall make true progress, and assist the country to realize the high and noble destiny which we all hope is before it.
.- Ministers and their supporters claim that, as members of the Liberal, or Fusion, party, they know all about the farmers - what the farmers want, and what the- farmers are doing. I am one of those whose name appears on the assessment roll in four figures, or more, and I shall place before the House my views as to what the farmers in Tasmania are endeavouring to do for the working classes of that State. About six weeks prior to the last general election, I received a circular from the secretary of the Farmers and Stock-owners Association of Tasmania. It was addressed to “ J. A. Jensen, orchardist, Beauty Point, Tasmania.” The secretary must have forgotten that I was an Australian Labour member. Honorable members will be astounded when they hear what these professed friends of the farmers proposed. The president, and nearly every member of the committee of the association, pay the Commonwealth land tax in Tasmania, or are members of the Legislative Council of the State. The president is Frederick Burbury, Esq., J. P., who owns about 60,000 acres in the State, the vice-presidents being the Hon. A. W. Loone, M.L.C., and A. E. Mansell, Esq., J. P. Mr. Mansell is also a large landed proprietor, who goes in for the breeding of pure sheep, often sending stock to Sydney, where he has obtained some of the highest prizes at the Royal Agricultural Society’s shows. The trustees of the society are Norman Nicolson, Esq., J. P., and the Hon. J. D. Wood, Esq., J. P. The council consists of the Hon. J: W. Cheek, M.L.C., Colonel Legge, J.P., Henry Reed, Esq., J. P., J. Tabart, Esq., J.P., H. R. Oldmeadow, Esq., R. C. Kermode, Esq., J. P., Norman Nicolson, Esq., J.P., D. Lindsay, Esq., J.P., R. C. Field, Esq., J. P., A. F. O’Connor, Esq., J.P., Hon. Ellis Dean, M.L.C., Captain De Hoghton, J. P., E. O. Bisdee, Esq., J. P., Geo. C. Piesse, Esq., Jas. Agnew, Esq., L. M. Shoobridge, Esq., J. W. Downie, Esq., J. P., F. C. Parsons, Esq., J. P., Arthur Cotton, Esq., M.H.A., and S. Wellard, Esq., and the secretary is Mr. A. J. Honey. The document was dated Hobart, 1st March, 1913. It was sent to me for an express purpose. It was known that I am a large land-owner, which I admit I am, and this circular was sent to me on that account. I am given to understand that nearly every farmer and land-holder in Tasmania received one of these circulars. Let us analyze it and see the motives of the Farmers and Stockowners Association of Tasmania, which is part and parcel of similar associations throughout Australia, in regard to this Parliament and the workers of Australia in the future, and what they would do if they could do it This circular says -
Dear Sir, - On looking through the register of membership of the association, I regret to find your name is not amongst those who organized to protect the interests of those connected with the land. Therefore, I desire to avail myself of this opportunity of bringing under your favorable notice the objects of the association, with the hope that you will submit your name to me for enrolment. The association was originally formed in rooS without any political object, and merely for the purpose of enabling farmers, stock-owners, orchardists, and land-holders to combine for dealing with questions in which they were immediately concerned, namely, quarantine, railway freights, branding, stock losses, stock sales, markets, slaughtering, and all other subjects relative to agriculture generally. On these subjects the association has always kept a watchful eye, and has exerted a persistent influence -
Persistent influence, mind you ! - and in many instances obtained favorable hearings from Ministers and Parliament and the public; and this part of the work will not be neglected in the future.
The document admits it was formed not for political purposes in 1908, but in March, 1913, it became a political organization, as honorable members will see. The circular proceeds -
Can it be necessary to remind you of the continuous increase in taxes and wages, &c, and all other expenses which fall upon land-holders and all producers from the soil, and the many thousands whom the country man employs directly or indirectly are now combined in strong wellorganized bodies for their own individual and collective advancement? The time when the man on the land could stand alone has passed, and every day we see fresh instances of the truth of the old saying “ Union is strength.”
Colonel Ryrie. - We believe in that.
– You do not believe in unions; you run them down. This document says that the time when a man on the land could stand alone is past. The days when they paid 10s. a week and cheap rations are past ; the days when the farmer could treat every workman who came to his doors as he chose are past. Honorable members opposite know it is true; and, after saying, “Every day we see fresh instances of the truth of the old saying ‘ Union is strength ‘,” the circular proceeds -
Though there remains a few who have not been penalized enough to learn this lesson, the time has arrived for them to study it. Many working farmers and stock-owners and orchardists have learnt it already so well that they are now the most enthusiastic members of the Tasmanian Farmers and Stock-owners Association, which is an organization exclusively devoted to the interests of land-holders.
And none others. Here is an association that has formed itself into a union. Later on, the circular asks so much per year per member to join, and it says distinctly in type, duly signed by the secretary on the day it was issued in Hobart, that this union of farmers and stock-owners of Tasmania is a union expressly devoted to its own interests and none others. What about the working men they have control over ? We have been told that the working men get a fair deal from the farmers; we have been told by several speakers that in nearly every instance those working for the farmers are working eight hours a day only ; we have also been told that the farmers and agriculturists are paying decent wages. Then, why do honorable members wish to exclude the farm labourers from the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court? If they are treating their men fairly and well, what have they to fear ? My idea in regard to honorable gentlemen sitting on the Government benches is that they have come into this Parliament for one express purpose - to give preference to the farmers every time.
– Your document is a very good instance of the mountain and the mouse.
– We hear a lot about the farmer and the hardships of the farmer. Go right through the State Parliaments of Australia, and it will be found that the farmer is getting certain concessions in rates for the carriage of goods over the railways that other people in Australia are not getting. The farmers get preference there, and they have many years in which to pay for the land they are buying. They get help in every way.
– And should they not?
– Certainly. But these farmers who are getting help from every one else in Australia wish for legislation exclusively for themselves, and the right under the law to as much land as they deem to be enough for them. Nearly every small farmer in Tasmania is not a party to this document I have read. The genuine farmer knows nothing of it. It is the squatter, the member of the Legislative Council, who in the past has been paying his hands 10s., 12s., and 14s. a week, with rations, who is on this association. I know one dear, good Liberal in Tasmania, a man I suppose worth at least £50,000, a very large landed proprietor, who said, in conversation with several gentlemen in the train one day, “ I would not think of giving a man under 8s. a week and rations.”
– Is that in the document?
– No; but there is something else in it.
– You are advertising Tasmania very well.
– I am game enough to say what is going cn in Tasmania, whether I come back or not. This document says -
The first year of the association ended on 30th June, igo8, and up to the present time no great effort has been made to get members. But it is now recognised that it is most essential to have not only a progressive council, but a large membership to back it up, owing to the rights of land-holders and occupiers being continually assailed.
Who has assailed these large proprietors whose names I have read out? The Fisher Administration, with the Federal land tax. The document says that the association should have many members in order that the association might be able to fight. Whom ? The Australian Labour party and their policy. The circular continues -
It should be within the power of those connected with the land to form a body powerful enough to block any unfair or injurious legislation.
– “ Unfair or injurious legislation “ ?
– Yes, and honorable members will see that it is intended that this should be a very strong body.
No Government would refuse to consider the representation of such a body.
That is, of these large landed proprietors. The circular goes on to say -
It is absolutely essential to have an organization to protect the interests of all on the land - the pastoralists, the farmers, and the orchardists. There are many questions affecting us, but there may be circumstances most disastrous to our interest forced suddenly upon us, and where would we be if we are not organized?
This document goes to prove that the Farmers and Stockowners’ Association of Tasmania is out to fight the Labour party and all workers’ unions in Australia. They say that the time has arrived when they should be so strong that they may be able to upset the unions. This means that they are out to fight the workers’ unions on any pretext whatever.
Colonel Ryrie. - Are the workers to be the only persons who should have the right to do that?
– No, but why should honorable members opposite run us down for the methods we adopt when they are practising the same methods themselves? I do not think there will be peace in Australia until both sides are thoroughly organized, and the Conciliation and Arbitration Court has the final say. The circular continues -
The subscription is made so low that every land-holder and occupier, small or large, can enjoy the privileges of membership. The yearly subscriptions are as follows : -
If owning or occupying property of the annual value of £200 and under, 5s.
From , £200 up to and including£400, 10s.
I feel confident that you will realize the advantages of this association, and the vast field of work that is every day requiring its attention in the interests of all connected with the land, and trust to receive your reply that you will become a member on the receipt of this communication, and that you will remit the proper subscription, when your name will at once be enrolled.
Thanking you in anticipation, and assuring you of the co-operation of the association in guarding your interests,
– That is the biggest mare’s nest that has ever been discovered in this House?
– The honorable member for Parkes says that this is a mare’s nest, but here we have the most wealthy people in a State asking the farmersof that State to organize for the purpose of fighting those who are making them pay increased wages and taxes. These are persons who, during the last forty or sixty years, have been allowed to go free in Tasmania because the State legislation exempted large landed proprietors from taxation. Honorable members are aware that the worker in Tasmania has been saddled in the past with the heaviest income tax in the world. Men and women in that State, earning only £80 a year, have had to pay direct income tax, whilst these aristocrats and large landed proprietors have been allowed to go practically free, because their land has not been properly taxed.
– Have they no incomes to be taxed ?
– And the State has had to come to this Parliament asking for money.
– Yes, that is so. Now with regard to the rural workers’ log. Let me say that it will not injure me in any way. I welcome it, because I am pleased to be able to tell honorable members that I am now paying the wages demanded by the log, and have been paying those wages for some years. I give my ploughmen 7s. and 8s. per day, and my neighbours, not a mile away from my place, and wealthy men, employ ploughmen at a wage of 16s. per week, and rations. That is what is going on in Tasmania.
– Why do men stay in Tasmania to work for such wages?
– Because they have not enough money to get out of it.
– Are they not given free passes ?
– Not to go to another State. Let me say that what has been the ruination of Tasmania has been the fact that young men and women have left the State because of the sweating conditions prevailing there. Until last year, we never had any legislation on the statute-book whereby men and women might be fairly dealt with under the law. Wages Boards have been established there only within the last twelve months; they apply only to certain industries, and do not affect the rural workers. They are exempt as the result of the action again of the good old Legislative Council in protecting the only persons who can vote for them because of the property franchise. Of the revenue derived from the Commonwealth Land Tax £32,000 comes from the State of Tasmania, but not one of the taxpayers has disposed of his property since the tax came into operation.
– How many of them are there?
– There are some 400.
– Then the tax has failed to break up their estates ?
– That only shows that it is not high enough.
– It has failed to break up their estates, and that goes to show that that tax could have been collected for the last sixty or seventy years, since we have had responsible government in the State. Almost every member on the other side who was a member of the last Parliament fought the Federal Land Tax, and if their opposition to it was genuine. I ask why do not the Government intimate in the statement they have placed before the House that they propose to introduce an amendment of the law to do away with that tax?
– The commitments for the future are too large.
– I want to know why the Prime Minister said the other day that if the Navigation Act received the Royal assent it was not the intention of the Government to interfere with it?
– Did I say that? No, I did not.
– I can show the honorable gentleman the statement in print. We heard a lot about the Federal Navigation Act in Tasmania during the recent elections. When the Bill was before this House during the last session of Parliament many honorable members at present occupying the Government benches fought certain clauses which they said could not be worked in Australia. We do not hear anything from them now about it. We do not hear that the Government propose to repeal the provisions of that Act, which it was said would bring ruin upon shipping companies in Australia and outside the Commonwealth. They are not game to do it.
– They have not proclaimed the Act yet.
– No; but the Prime Minister distinctly stated - and I can show him the statement in print - that it was not the intention of the Government to interfere with the Act, even if it received the Royal assent.
– He is quite right.
– Why, then, did honorable members opposite put up such a strong opposition to the measure last year?
– They did not fight it.
– What about the Treasurer ?
– He fought only two clauses.
– I have not changed my views about them.
– It is time the right honorable member “ kicked up a row “ in Cabinet about the Act.
– I have had my say.
– Concerning the Electoral Act, it has been reported by the Returning Officer that in my constituency eighty-seven persons are alleged to have voted twice. I have had a confidential report furnished to me concerning the electorate of Bass. The person who acted for me has also sent me a report, in which he states that, as far as he can judge - and he ought to know pretty well, because he was himself a candidate for the Senate at the last election, resides in Launceston, and knows nearly every person in the city - in nearly every instance those alleged to have voted twice can be classed as Liberal supporters. He says, however, “To be fair, I am of opinion that not one genuine case of duplication has occurred.” He adds, “I think every case is nothing but a clerk’s error.”
– That applies in nearly every instance.
– Amongst the names of those alleged to have voted twice there arc two or three who at times occupy the pulpit.
– There will be dozens of those.
– As member for the constituency, I refuse to believe that those gentlemen would do such a thing. The Treasurer some weeks ago received a telegram from the ex-member for Fremantle, Mr. Hedges, in which he stated that there had been some 2,000 duplications or impersonations in Fremantle alone.
– Two thousand eight hundred.
– The Treasurer had a motive in giving that telegram to the press. He must have known when he circulated it that the statement would be published throughout Australia, and even abroad, and would have the effect of damaging our party.
– The information was published in Perth as well.
– The right honorable member had not had the telegram a couple of minutes when he handed it to the Melbourne press.
– I simply received a telegram on a matter of genuine public interest, and gave it to the press.
– Did it not please the right honorable member to give it to the press ?
– Must not we on this side be pleased?
– I should like to know who could impersonate me in the city of Launceston ? Who could impersonate the Treasurer in Western Australia? Sir John Falstaff himself would have to come out of the grave to do it successfully.
– The honorable member could not be impersonated at Beauty Point.
– Beauty Point is a very pretty place, and I am proud of it. When I took possession of the property it was in a state of nature.
– Did the honorable member name it?
– No, I did not; but if the honorable member for Parkes had been anywhere near it would have been appropriately named after him.
– That would have been just.
– The Government propose to bring down a Bill to amend the Electoral Act by restoring postal voting. I can tell them here and now that my vote will be given against such an amendment.
– The honorable member voted that way before.
– Yes, and I am not going to be intimidated into voting in a contrary direction by the threats of honorable members opposite.
– Would the honorable member be allowed by his party to vote otherwise?
– Yes, because it is not a platform question.
– Honorable members opposite were unanimous about the matter.
– Yes, because we believed that there was more corruption under the postal voting system than under the absent voting system.
– There has been corruption under the maternity bonus, bub honorable members opposite never thought of abolishing that.
– There has been a good deal of corruption in regard to solicitors and their clients, but we do not abolish lawyers for that reason.
– It would be a good thing for Australia if we did.
– I maintain that there can be more manipulation and wrongdoing under postal voting than under any provision of the Electoral Act passed at the instance of the Fisher Administration. It must have come as a surprise to the Prime Minister and his supporters to find, after an examination of the whole of the rolls of Australia, that it was discovered that the election had been conducted on such a sound and fair basis.
– Honorable members opposite are scare-mongers.
– I would not say that, but I do maintain that there was corruption under the postal voting system. Suppose a man or a woman is lying ill in bed. ls a person who is seriously ill likely to ask to vote by post? The really sick person is not likely to care about voting one way or the other. But I will say this : That any person who is lying ill, and wants to vote, should, if he or she is in possession of full reasoning powers, be given an opportunity, as long as a medical certificate is given that the person is unable to go to the poll. I will go as far as that. But I would not permit canvassing from house to house by paid justices of the peace, as was permitted in the past. Who are the justices of the peace ? There are very few workers amongst them.
– Take them as a class, they are the best men in the community.
– They are not a bad lot on the whole, but some of them were paid for what they did, and were expected to perform services for what they got. I do not say that all of them are guilty of this sort of thing. But let us suppose that a woman is ill in bed, and that a justice of the peace is canvassing in the interests of a political party. He visits the sick person, and tells her to make application for a postal voter’s certificate in order that she may exercise the franchise. The woman probably replies, “ Oh, I do not want to bother about it.” Thereupon the justice of the peace says, “ All you have to do is to sign your name here, and I will fill in the remaining particulars.” The woman does as she is directed, and the application is then posted to the Returning Officer. In due course a postal voter’s certificate is forwarded to the woman, and the justice of the peace again visits her. He inquires, “ Did you receive your postal voter’s certificate?” to which she replies, “Yes, here it is.”
What then takes place ? The woman probably does not know the candidates, or even the questions which are at issue in the election.
– Does not even know the strange justice of the peace, who is admitted into her house ! That is a pretty tall yarn.
– It is not. The honorable member is very sorry that the postal voting system i3 not in vogue.
– We will put it in vogue if we can.
– There are twenty-nine loyal members of the Labour party in another place, so that honorable members opposite cannot put it into vogue. The justice of the peace asks the sick woman to record her vote, and the latter probably replies, “ I do not know the candidates, nor do I know anything about them.” The justice of the peace answers, “ There is Mr. Humphreys and Mr. Isaacs.”
– Isaacs every time.
– The result is that the sick person seeks the advice of the justice of the peace as to what she shall do. But if she does not do as he instructs her to do, what happens?
– Her vote never reaches the ballot-box.
– That is the trouble. If the sick person records her vote in accordance with the wishes of the justice of the peace who solicits it, it is duly posted to the Returning Officer, but not otherwise. If she votes contrary to the instruction of the justice of the peace I doubt whether her ballot-paper ever reaches that officer.
– That is a serious reflection .on the justices of the’ peace throughout Australia.
– What I have said hero I have said on the public -platforms of Tasmania fifty times.
– I saw 2,500 postal votes in one electorate, and I witnessed hundreds of them myself, so that I know what happens.
– When I am talking of the justices of the peace of Tasmania I am talking of myself, because I happen to be one of them. But I have never knocked at any person’s door to solicit a vote in my own favour during the nine or ten years that I have been in political life. As a justice of the peace, I have never witnessed an electoral document - either a postal vote or anything else. As a member of this House I never asked the ex-Minister of Home Affairs to appoint a Returning Officer in my district, or to knock one off. That is a fairly clean record. No man can charge me with having done anything which is not straightforward.
Colonel Ryrie. - Why does the honorable member charge others with unworthy conduct ?
– I did not say that all justices of the peace act in the manner I have indicated.
Colonel Ryrie. - The honorable member said that all of them did.
– No. Hundreds of justices of the peace would not stoop to such conduct. I fear that if ever the Liberal party dominate Australia again, we may witness even more terrible amendments of existing legislation than they now propose. We hear a great deal of talk about what that party will do for the people of the Commonwealth. But at the Liberal Conference which was held in Launceston just a year ago, certain propositions were made which, in my opinion, show what they would do if they had the power. At that conference, which was held in Launceston on 28th June last year, one of the most prominent Liberals in Tasmania - Mr. F. Proctor, of the Lilydale branch - a gentleman who writes to the press every week, and a justice of the peace too, moved -
That compulsory voting should be made a plank of the platform.
He said -
The Liberals in the past have been too liberal in giving away too much. His branch thought that the giving of adult suffrage went too far.
In other words, if many of Mr. Proctor’s sort occupied the Government benches in this Chamber, and if they had a majority elsewhere, they would do away with adult suffrage. Mr. R. P. Kirkham, of the Tunnel, who was a Presiding Officer in Bass at the last election, seconded the motion, and said -
The members of his branch were in favour of compulsory voting, although, at the same time, he personally thought there would be harm in it. He considered manhood suffrage had done a lot to harm the Liberal cause.
As evidencing how accurate is the report of the utterance of these gentlemen, I may mention that another Tasmanian newspaper has reproduced word for word the same statements by them. The Government have signified their intention of introducing a Bill to amend the electoral law; and if Australia is ever so unfortunate as to have the Liberal party in the ascendant in both Houses of this Parliament, the people, if they are not careful, may have a Liberal Conference giving an order to the Government to carry out some such resolution as that which I have just read.
– The Liberal Conferences do not deal with us as the Labour Conferences deal with the Labour party.
– Is that so? As a matter of fact, the Liberals are copying the Labour party from day to day. The Liberal pledge agrees almost word for word with the Labour pledge, and an honorable member of the Liberal party cannot oppose any person who is selected by the Liberal Leagues to run for any particular constituency. For instance, Lt. -Colonel Cameron said that he was an Independent, and declined to submit his name for selection to the Liberal League of Tasmania, with the result that every Liberal newspaper in Tasmania denounced him as one who was not true to the Liberal cause, and declared that he valued his own opinions more than the views of the Liberal party in that State. The Liberal party can hope to gain power only by adopting the methods of the Labour party. Much has been said about our methods, and, judging by the way in which the Liberal party are copying them, there can be nothing wrong with them. I am told that the Liberal party have had a Caucus this evening, and have been instructing the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral what they are to do.
– They have evidently said something to the Treasurer, for he has been very glum ever since the Caucus.
– He certainly is not looking himself.
– The honorable member for Adelaide belonged to our party - he is a renegade. I never knew that until the other day.
– I think the right honorable member ought to withdraw that remark. If he does not, I shall have to place him in the class to which he knows he belongs.
– The Government also promises to do away with what has been described as “the gagging of the press.” As a matter of fact, the press of Australia to-day can publish anything it pleases about either party. Even during an election campaign it can publish what it pleases about either party as long as the name of the writer of the article is given. The press, therefore, is not “ gagged.” It may publish every day columns of matter about any political party, the only stipulation being that, during the course of an election campaign, the name of the author of all political articles shall be given. Surely, if such an article is true and honest, and written with good motives, the writer need not be ashamed to append his name to it. Have we not placed the same embargo on our Labour journals? Have we made any differentiation whatever?
– We only did what the honorable member for Henty and Mr. Watt advocated in the Legislative Assembly of Victoria in 1904.
– Can the honorable member verify that statement?
– I can.
– At all events, in Tasmania during the recent election campaign, some very serious statements regarding the Labour party were made in pamphlets which were circulated in thousands, as well as in the Liberal papers published in Launceston ; and I was under the impression that they were an infringement of the electoral law. I shall read an extract from one of these pamphlets, and ask honorable members to say whether, in a fair fight, such a charge should have been made against the Fisher Administration. I was astounded that a respectable newspaper would publish such assertions. I was opposed by a man named Margetts, who issued a circular containing the following headings: -
M A R G ET T S MECHANICS’ TO-NIGHT !
The Commonwealth Government Triedby Jury !
The Charge Sheet:
Defamation of Character
Misappropriation of Public Funds
Obtaining Money under False Pretences
Conspiring to Defeat the Ends of Justice
Robbery Under Arms
Assault with Intent to do Grievous Bodily Harm
Electors of Launceston - You are summoned as Jurors. The case will be called on at 8 p.m.
The Court will rise at9.30.
At that public meeting, which was held at Launceston, my opponent made a terrible indictment against the Fisher Administration, alleging maladministration and misappropriation of public funds. I was certain that the Crown Law officers, as soon as they saw this circular and the newspaper reports of the statements made by Mr. Margetts, would issue instructions for proceedings to be taken under the Electoral Act against the proprietors of the newspapers, as well as against the man who had made the charges. When I submitted them to the Crown Law authorities, however, I was informed that there was no case. In view of the fact that such a circular could be issued, and that the whole of the statement!) made against the Labour party during a speech extending over an hour and a half - terrible charges against the Fisher Government and the Labour party of Australia/ - could be published in the newspapers without infringing the electoral law, why do the Government propose to amend the electoral law with the object of giving more freedom to the press ? Could greater freedom be desired ? What more could be said and published about any party than was said and published during the last general election against the Labour party? Can it be asserted that the press is “ gagged “ ? Are newspaper proprietors and printers prevented from making dirty insinuations and charges against a clean party? I shall reserve any further remarks I have to make in regard to the proposed amendment of the Electoral Act until the Bill is before the House; and I have only to say, in conclusion, that not one proposition which the present Government makes will receive my support. I would prefer rather to go to the country.
.- I understand that the Prime Minister is prepared to agree to the adjournment of the debate.
– Not yet; it is too early.
– Then, I am quite ready to go on. During the debate some very interesting matters have been brought under consideration; and I am afraid that at this moderately late hour I shall not be able to finish my speech before we adjourn. However, I am prepared to continue; and, in the first place, I have to say that I should not have risen had it not been for certain statements made by honorable members opposite. Those gentlemen appear to have an impression on their mind, which may be a correct one, that, according to par liamentary procedure, they may come here and make statements, whether authentic or not, and, with or without authority, challenge everything that is said by their opponents. We have listened witu a good deal of attention and amazement to the arguments they have submitted, but I have yet to hear from honorable members opposite one of a national character having for its object the development and progress of Australia. Through the courtesy of the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs I have had placed in my hand the copy of a paper named Every Week, which is published in Bairnsdale. I am much obliged to the honorable gentleman, because I had not previously received the copy of this report, or supposed report, of a speech by me. I see that, at the very outset, the editor shows by the heading “ contributed “ that it is the statement of one. person, and one person only, and that he was not prepared to take responsibility for it. It would seem that honorable members opposite are past-masters in misrepresentation. This supposed report is not signed, but it was read by the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs as a true report. It is evident, however, that it was written and published by the very individual who made all the interjections, and who attended the meeting only in order to make himself objectionable. This person furnished his own report to the paper, and yet the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs calls it a representation of fact.
– Why did the honorable member not prosecute the writer?
– He is not worth prosecution.
– Is the paper not worth prosecution ?
– The paper would not accept responsibility for the report.
– The paper must accept responsibility since it published the report.
– I shall not concern myself with anything in the way of a prosecution of an individual of this character.
– Frightened !
– I should not waste my time or my money, which is hard earned, in a prosecution over so trivial a matter. There are greater things for me to concern myself with, and that is the reason I sought to become a representative in this House. A great deal has been made out of this newspaper report by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Adelaide rose and quoted it without even a blush of shame, and attempted, if possible, to lead the House and the country, through Hansard, to believe it was absolute fact. Those statements were never made.
– Did the honorable member write to the newspaper contradicting the report)
– Was there any reason why I should enter into a controversy with an individual not worthy of that consideration.
– Is the paper published at Warracknabeal?
– No; such a paper would get short shrift there.
– It is not a Labour paper.
– How does the honorable member know? The honorable member who has just resumed his seat made a great deal of capital out of certain alleged statements regarding misappropriation of funds, and another honorable member, whose name I do not know, has accused me of making such statements. Allow me to say that I never made any statements of the kind. It is said that I stated that the ex-Treasurer locked the doors of his room, and would not allow the Auditor-General to enter.
– Is this a personal explanation ?
– It is a reply to infamous statements made from the opposite side of the House, and I assume that I am entitled to make it. As a matter of fact, 1 had been referring to the increased expenditure on the Departments throughout the Commonwealth, and pointing out that from time to time there had been a very large increase in the upkeep. For instance, I had quoted the item in the Budget of £50,000 for the Prime Minister’s Department.
– Is that Department still in existence?
– It must be remembered that a Ministry does not exist for the purpose of tearing down the work of past Administrations. A Ministry exists for the purpose of continuity of government; and a new Administration, if I understand the position rightly, would not be justified in upsetting the whole of the Departments simply because they were initiated by another Administration. I was stating that there had been an immense increase in the expenditure of the funds intrusted to the Treasurer’s Department, and an expenditure of £50,000 in creating a new Department, the necessity for which I do not realize. Was the Department a necessity to the Government of this country ? Or, was it a fact that, notwithstanding the great increase in the expenditure of public money in equipping the Departments, the Auditor-General had complained from year to year that the Treasurer’s statement of accounts had reached his hands months after it was due? This Mr. Callinan, whom no doubt honorable members opposite are very pleased to welcome to their fold, sets out that I said that the late Treasurer locked the doors of his Department. The statement is really too ridiculous for consideration. As a matter of fact, notwithstanding that the whole of the Departments had been put on a more effective footing, we find that the Auditor-General, writing on the 30th June, 1911, says that the Treasurer’s statement of accounts for the year 1909-10 was received by him on 10th March, 1911, or many months after it was due. That is what I was referring to, and does any honorable member on the other side deny that it was a fact? Yet in this summary the writer leads people to think that I was attempting to mislead the electors of Gippsland, and trying to capture a seat by misrepresentations, such as honorable members on the other side are continually facing us with. Nothing has been more lamentable in this debate, in my opinion, than the statements which have emanated from honorable members opposite, who have not hesitated at every possible point to misrepresent honorable gentlemen on this side, particularly the Ministers. We had, the other afternoon, the spectacle of the honorable member for Adelaide accusing the Attorney-General of having made certain statements in reference to trusts and combines, and attempting to lead the House to believe that the honorable and learned gentleman was referring to Australia when he was speaking, whereas it was proved, to the shame and the dishonour of the Opposition, that he was not referring to Australia at all. I trust that honorable gentlemen will accept this explanation of a matter of which so much use has been made. I hope for their own credit that we shallhear no more about it.
– I am going to say some more about the matter.
– The honorable gentleman has marked in this contribution a good many passages, for which I trusthe is prepared to accept the responsibility. They do not affect me in any way, because they are statements which I never made. I venture to think that the more the honorable member abuses and accuses me in the House, the more votes I shall get when I next go to Swan Reach.
– I will do it.
– I am sure that if the honorable member comes to Swan Reach, he will be treated with that courtesy and consideration from my supporters, to which every member of the House is welcome. We are not ashamed or afraid to hear the policy of the Opposition placed before the country, particularly in the constituency I represent. The more they talk, the more votes we get. Following up this matter, I find that as time went on the improvements suggested by the Auditor-General were not effected, as one would naturally expect them to be. From his last report, I learn that the Treasurer’s statement of accounts for the year 1910-11 came into his hands on the 20th December, 1912 - the last day on which the previous Parliament met to transact the business of the country. Of what use was the report at that time ? It was a waste of time and public money to present the report to Parliament when it had no opportunity to discuss its contents.
– We will see how quickly you get your own audit down.
– If the Treasurer does not get the report down in time honorable members will not be able to say that it was owing to his fault. The Departments, as I pointed out a few minutes ago, were placed in a certain position by the late Government, and it is quite impossible for a new set of Ministers to correct at once the whole of their maladministration. Honorable members on the other side have, apparently, not had anything to do with large concerns which require a considerable amount of time and attention to put in order. We have had evidence of that over and over again. I trust that the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs will allow the matter dealt with in this contribution to get out of the way.
– Well, I pass out the matter, because it is not worthy of consideration.
– Why waste your time over it?
– To refute the statements which were made by honorable gentlemen opposite. It did not affect the issue in Gippsland by one vote. A great deal of writing was indulged in by the gentlemen who signed the letters, and the six gentlemen who sent the other one in order to misrepresent a man who had not the slightest chance of replying to them.
– The honorable member had the newspaper to reply to.
– I had other work to do. Representing a district covering onefifth of the area of Victoria, and comprising rough, mountainous country, I had not time to engage in a newspaper controversy. When one has hundreds of miles to travel, he has as much as he can do to keep his engagements.
– I represent a constituency four times the size of Victoria.
– No doubt the honorable member represents it creditably, but does he write many letters to newspapers?
– I do not.
– No one in such a position can do so. To come to some of the greater issues now before Parliament, I have entered the House, as have other honorable members, no doubt, resolved to do what I can for the benefit of Australia, and the good of every section of the community. I welcome the programme placed before Parliament by the Government I have the honour to support. It contains the policy and principles which we so successfully advocated during the electoral campaign. The measures which are proposed are those in favour of which the people of Australia have given their verdict, and no one can blame us for bringing them forward. The result of the popular verdict was that honorable members opposite admitted their inability to administer the affairs of the country, and resigned their offices, leaving it to other men to take up their work. Now they dispute the right of their successors to place on the statute-book the measures which we advocated when before the constituencies. Parliament is the expression of the will of the people, and a majority has been returned on the Liberal side.
– Where is the majority ?
– I understand that until quite recently it has been the practice in the history of this Commonwealth for the Speaker to continue in the chair from Parliament to Parliament. Had that procedure been followed in the present case, I should not have been asked that question. As the hour is late, I ask leave to continue my speech to-morrow.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That this House do now adjourn.
.- I informed the Minister of Trade and Customs earlier in the evening that I intended to refer on the adjournment to a wilfully and maliciously misleading statement appearing in to-day’s Argus. Without a shadow of reason, the Argus, in a leading article, publishes the following statement -
Light is thrown upon Mr. Tudor’s sense of political probity by the whole incident. He was responsible for the grave omission by which a large gift to the manufacturers and refiners at the expense of the taxpayers was made possible. He became aware of the flaw subsequently, and instead of acting in the interests of the public and giving a friendly warning to his successor in order that his own wrong might have been righted, he lay low and watched developments in the hope of making political capital out of the public loss.
No statement that has been made by me here or elsewhere bears the interpretation that I knew, or that I know, of any flaw in the Act empowering the Government to repeal the sugar legislation. I have here a proof of the Hansard report of my speech of yesterday afternoon, in which I have not made a single alteration. What I then said was -
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 many thousands of pounds.
The Government failed to take the necessary precaution to safeguard the revenue when the
Sugar Bounty Abolition Act was proclaimed. . . . 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.
I also said - and I think that this is the kernel of the matter -
To the representatives of these sugar companies they could have said, “ We will let the 16,000, or 20,000, or 30,000 tons of sugar remain 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.”
Nowhere in my speech did I say that I was aware of any flaw in the law, and I do not believe that there is a flaw. I said -
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.
And further -
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 vear they were going to the bad.
Nothing in my speech justifies the wilfully malicious and misleading statements of the Argus. It is said that what I did was done for political purposes; but I take it that had I gone to the Minister and tried to advise him as to how to run the Department, he would have been justified in saying that he knew what to do without my advice.
– I am not concerned about that, but I am concerned about my political honour. I shall be prepared to leave this matter to honorable members opposite. I expected fairer play from the Argus. I know that it is on the other side, and I am prepared to fight it or any other rag-
– Oh !
– It or any other rag that descends to such tactics. I do not mind being attacked; but when arguments that I have never used are put into my mouth, I say that the Argus is descending to some of the low-down tricks of the gutter press of America. I trust that it will take an early opportunity to withdraw the statements published concerning me. It had no right to misrepresent remarks made fairly and honestly in the House.
.- I am not going to occupy much time, but I desire from the Ministry some information. I applied to the Minister of Defence a week or two ago for information as to the report of Mr. Julius on the Fitzroy Dock, and since that time I have applied twice in the House for similar information, but have not received it. I have also applied to the Acting Minister of Home Affairs, and have received no information ; yet I see that at the same time that the information is refused to me as a member of the House, and refused to the House, it can be given in sections to the public press of the whole of the Commonwealth. I respectfully submit there is something radically wrong iti such procedure. If any member who may have occasion to speak, as I am seeking to speak, on this question, cannot have a report placed on the table of the House or the Library, why should the information be given outside? Who has given this information away? I am waiting for this report, I wish to speak on it, I wish to see what is the full value of the report, and I am kept without it, while statements are going round the country emanating from the lips of the Prime Minister. Procedure such as this is most undesirable, and I ask that some reform should be made in connexion with the placing of reports on the table for the use of the House, before these reports, or aspects of them, are given to the public press.
– What is the excuse 1
– There is no excuse. I appealed to the Minister of Defence, and he absolutely refused to give me the information, and yet it is given to the public press. Am I not entitled to the information if I want it? The establishment reported on is in my electorate, and if I am not entitled to the information, why should the press have it? I enter my protest against such procedure. I will not condemn the whole of the Administration, but I must certainly say that some of the Ministers should have before now placed on the table the information necessary for me to put up such argument as I desire.
– I wish to enter another protest. I know that it is the practice that no questions are replied to, and no requests to lay papers on the table are entertained while a no-confidence motion is pending, but I notice that the Attorney-General introduced a deputation to the PostmasterGeneral from his constituency, and received a promise from the PostmasterGeneral that the request of the deputation would be taken into consideration. Also in respect to questions put to the PostmasterGeneral, especially on the adjournment, the Minister has been exceptionally courteous, and has replied to questions from both sides of the House. My complaint is that for several days there has been an abbreviated report, or what is supposed to be the report, of the Land Tax Commissioner in the press, and I have been trying to get a copy of that report, but have not been able to obtain it.
– I think it is on the table.
– I do not know whether it has been laid on the table, but in courtesy to members when they make a request for a printed report - and I dare say there are printed copies of this report lying at the Printing Office - they should be supplied. But members cannot obtain copies when they ask for them.
– I do not think the report is printed.
– The report of the Land Tax Commissioner is looked for from year to year, and I hope members of the House will be placed on the same footing as the press. That is a moderate request. Certainly, Ministers are entitled to firsthand information, and a report of this kind, or of any other kind, should be in their hands; but second to Ministers members of the House should come before the press or any one outside. I ask the Treasurer, or whoever is to blame, that these reports be made available at the earliest possible moment.
– 1 agree entirely with my honorable friend. These matters should be presented to Parliament at the earliest possible moment. But just why the honorable member should begin to trounce this Government so early in its career, for following meekly and at a long distance in the steps of the previous Government, I do not know. During the past three years we learned of nothing first, except through the press, either as to public documents or any other thing. I have never known a Government occupy these benches who have gone out of their way to make public information through the press in the way they did. However, I agree with my honorable friend entirely that the ethic is not a perfect one, and that the House is entitled to information at least as early as any other agency. But with regard to this request that we should put this document on the table in the middle of a censure debate, what does my honorable friend take us fort
– I take you for trimmers. You are afraid of the truth.
– Has he ever known a Government to do such a thing ? I never have.
– If you have nothing to hide, put the report on the table. That is all I want.
– We never refused to produce any document.
– Your Government refused numbers of them.
– Tell me one.
– Order I . Several members are interjecting across the chamber at the one time. It is grossly disorderly. The Prime Minister is replying to questions that have been asked, and he is entitled to be heard in reply.
– I was merely asking him to name one paper that was refused.
– Papers were refused, and the honorable member knows it.
– Where is your dignity?
– I have no dignity left. It all oozes out when I look at the honorable member. He is overstocked for both of us. We have to get a rough, broad average in this world, and that is why I cannot afford to have any dignity. My honorable friend is a monopolist, and if he does not alter his tune ^ shall need to have him nationalized because of his monopoly of the dignity of the Chamber.
– You should have plenty, because you have never used any yet.
– What is the matter with this perky little man over there ?
– I have been’ on your tracks for the last day or two.
– The honorable member has, with his usual perkiness. Is the honorable member for Dalley going out of the chamber ?
– Yes, after hearing the stuff you are talking.
– The Government are following the usual course in deciding to place no papers on the table of the House until the debate on the censure motion is concluded.
– Will the honorable gentleman make the Land Tax Commissioner’s report available ?
– That is what I have to say to the honorable member.
– Can I not get a copy of the report?
– With respect to the papers relating to the Fitzroy Dock, may I suggest to the honorable members for South Sydney and East Sydney, who have all this information about the dock, that they should place their papers on the table of the House. Why cannot we know the different statements made by some one at the dock? Why should it be left to one or two honorable members to obtain all this public information in this way? Why should those honorable members not place their information on the table of the House? I am asking for it. I have got a grievance.
– Why did the honorable gentleman try to make political capital out of the purchase of the dock by the late Government?^
– I will tell the honorable member what I have been making capital out of. His leader promised me in this House that he would not make that purchase until he had consulted Parliament about it. That is what I am complaining about, among other things, if the honorable member wants to know. The moment the back of Parliament was turned, the late Government did make the purchase.
– And they fell in.
– I do not say that they fell in.
– That is the general opinion.
– At any rate, there appears to be a lot to do before we can build these boats.
– It was on the report of Admiral Henderson that the Dock was taken over, and he must have inspected the place.
– Was it really? If it is such a good place, why did the honorable member’s leader, who was then Prime Minister, say in his policy speech that the Government did not intend to use Cockatoo Island for ship-building at all, but only to effect repairs and look after the ordinary current work of the Departments? That is what the honorable gentleman’s leader said at Maryborough the other day. He condemned the dock as a ship-building proposition long before we said a word about it.
– The honorable gentleman is a beauty. He is condemning New South Wales institutions. Such remarks do not come very well from him.
– Here is another great national statesman, who thinks that because a matter relates to his own particular State everything connected with it should be covered up. The price asked must be paid; no’ questions must be asked, and Parliament must not be consulted. “It is my State, and therefore everything must be covered up.” All I have to say is that there are some honorable members representing that State who do not subscribe to that standard at all.
– It is a scandalmongering Ministry ; that’ is all it is.
– I want to pay my honorable friend the tribute of saying that he is an excellent judge of scandalmongering. In this particular matter I have to say that at the earliest possible moment I will put all the information about the dock on the table.
– We have been asking for it a good while.
– And honorable members opposite have been preventing the supply of the information by tabling their motion of censure.
– We are getting a blessing of this description every night now.
– Yes; this is another development of my honorable friends. They are making precedents again. As Boon as the debate finishes, they begin on the motion for the adjournment to discuss matters over again. They have had their speeches on the censure motion, but that does not satisfy them. They want a second edition when every one should be going home, and going to bed.
– The honorable gentleman gets his little bit in every night.
– I have to do so. My honorable friends opposite keep me moving, and they know how obliging I always am. I want to make this bargain with my honorable friends: If they will put their statements about the dock on the table to-morrow, I will put the reports we have received on the table. That is a fair bargain. Let us have all the reports on the table. If honorable members will agree to that proposal, we shall be prepared to meet them. Let them put their reports on the table, and I will take the unusual course of putting our papers on the table in the middle of the discussion of a censure motion. But let us be fair about it, and let not honorable members opposite gibe at us for not putting information before the House, while they decline to give us even an inkling as to where they gottheir information. I say to my honorable friends: Put your information on the table, and we will return the compliment. Until they are prepared to do so, I am afraid I must say again that until the censure motion is disposed of, I cannot undertake to do anything of the kind.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.52p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130820_reps_5_70/>.