5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
.- By way of personal explanation, I wish to say that the two morning Melbourne dailies have devoted leading articles to the speech I made yesterday, an attent ion for which it may be supposed I s hould be thankful; but I take exception to a statement occurring in both of these articles. It is made to appear that yesterday I threatened the Government with sundry no-confidence motions. There is nothing in the Hansard report of my remarks which could be construed to convey that meaning. I certainly spoke of further opportunities for discussing the matters with which I was dealing - the proposals in the Government programme - which, I presume, will be open for discussion when they come up again in the ordinary way. I emphatically deny that I threatened . further no-confidence motions. Life is far too short for that.
– I wish to ask a nonpolitical, hut a very important, question. Does the Prime Minister care to say if the action of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, in making serious reflections upon the conduct of an officer at the head of a branch of the Department which is non-political, has his concurrence? Does the honorable gentleman think that the publication of statistics, which should be prepared without reference to political opinion, could be properly carried out in the public interest if the views of Ministers had to be obtained beforehand ?
– I ask the right honorable member to give notice of his question for a date which will permit it to be answered after the censure amendment has been dealt with.
Debate resumed from 20th August (vide page 331), on motion by Mr. Ahern -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House : -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament -
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : -
But regret your advisers -
propose to destroy the beneficial character of our social and industrial laws ;
indicate no intention of taking such steps as will reduce the high cost of living ; and
fail to realize the urgent necessity of an immediate revision of the Tariff.
.- A good deal was said yesterday, and throughout the debate, about the holding of another election. It is well known that elections cannot be held without public expenditure, the cost of a general election being considerable. It is questionable, therefore, whether honorable members opposite are justified in attempting to force an appeal to the country without the hope of gaining something definite. I echo the statement the Prime
Minister made yesterday, that on a concrete proposition a thoroughly democratic result may be obtained by an election, and the members on this side of the Chamber will have no objection to an election of that kind. The speeches of the Opposition have evidently the object of preventing the performance of the important business of Parliament for which the country is crying out. Those honorable members are giving no consideration to the claims of the taxpayers who bear the cost of elections, and send representatives here to do the work of legislation. When an election is held, let it be on a question regarding which there can be a positive verdict by the electors; let us not have an election which can only be futile. The Government has wisely directed the attention of Parliament to the need for amending the electoral law. No doubt, members on both sides are democratic. We, on this side, are anxious to conform to the principles of democracy, and we therefore conceive it necessary that our laws must be democratic. The Government programme opens with a proposal for the amendment of the electoral law. It is clearly laid down that if the country is to be soundly governed on democratic principles, the electoral law must be sound and democratic. Honorable members on both sides will agree that a great deal can be done to improve the electoral rolls. Neither of the political parties represented in this Chamber is desirous that there shall be any election, the result of which does not represent the will of the majority of the people of the continent; and, therefore, no objection will be raised to any revision or preparation of the electoral rolls that, in the event of another contest, would give us clean lists.
– We on this side do not say that the rolls last used were unclean.
– Nor does any honorable member on this side say that either political party attempted to secure election on rolls which were not clean. I have always maintained, however, that there are a great number of duplications which should be removed. I am as anxious as any one here that every elector shall have the right to vote; but when we hear of names being objected to, and find from the electoral officers that the electors whom those names are supposed to represent cannot be found - when we find the local constable, who knows the district from end to end, stating that those electors are not in the subdivision - surely these facts are sufficient to justify the Department in erasing the names?
– The electors may be in the district, though not in that particular subdivision.
– The electors should be enrolled for the subdivision in which they reside, and not for a subdivision in which they are not known, and never have been known. This matter is worthy the consideration of the Government, and it is gratifying to see from the Memorandum that the electoral machinery is receiving immediate attention. The honorable member who preceded me said a good deal about the postal voting system being open to objections of various kinds. We all agree that no matter what the electoral system may be some one will be found prepared to declare that there are abuses.
– The honorable member is rather illogical in view of his previous remarks.
– I do not think so. It is a recognised fact that there are always people ready to take advantage of any law from time to time; if it were not so, there would be no necessity for any law. The absent vote, which was in use at the last election, is just as much open to objection as is the postal vote, though in the case of the absent vote there are certain propositions which honorable members on both sides will feel disposed to agree with. Under this absent vote, concessions are given to certain sections of the community, and those concessions could, I think, be very well extended to others.For instance, sailors and others whose avocations necessitate their travelling, have the right to record their vote before leaving the country; and this privilege, to which I am sure there can be no objection, might be granted to other classes, thus making our electoral system fair and free to all. It is quite impossible for all the electors throughout the Commonwealth to record their votes on any particular day. Many of our back-country residents are many miles from a polling-booth; and the law might be so amended as to make it possible for them to record their votes at any time when they happen to be in town after the issue of the writ. These people are doing pioneering work, and developing this continent for the benefit of all.
– They can vote at any polling booth.
– If the honorable member knows anything about country life, he must recognise that it is impossible for all the members of the family, for instance, to get to the polling-booth on one day, and, further, we must remember the adverse weather conditions that prevailed, especially in the mountainous districts, on the occasion of the last election. Those people may be 40, or even 100, miles away from the nearest polling-booth; and it is absurd to expect them to attend on a particular day under such circumstances as I have indicated. Another class who are placed at a disadvantage by the present conditions are those who conduct hotels on country roads at a very considerable distance from any polling centre. The Licensing Act of Victoria, at any rate, provides very clearly that no hotel shall at any time be left under the control of a minor, so that some responsible person must always be in charge. It will readily be seen that in many instances it is impossible for one person to go to the polling-booth, and return in time to enable another to exercise his rights of voting. Then there is the postal vote, to which some reference has been made. A great deal has been said on this subject, not for the purpose of hindering the developing of an Electoral Act to benefit every section of the community, nor with the desire to prevent people going to the poll, but in many instances because honorable members did not realize the great disadvantages very many people are subjected to in their avocations.. At the last election I saw a man being carried on a stretcher from a hospital five days after a serious operation in order to record his vote. It was necessary for him to do so. The honorable member for Bass said last night that it was not known that such people were anxious to vote, but it became compulsory for this man I saw to vote. I say it is known that these people are anxious to vote, and they have just as much right to record their votes as others I trust the Government will carry out their intention, as expressed in their announcement to the House, to restore the postal vote to the statute-book, not for the benefit of any section of the community, but in order that every elector shall have his just right of recording a vote.
– Do not forget that we did our best to give every facility for voting.
– The honorable member’s best was a very poor one. I leave it to honorable members who were here in the last Parliament, and witnessed the efforts of the then Government to curtail the electoral system of Australia, to the advantage of some and the detriment of others, to say whether honorable members opposite did their best.
– The position was that if a man was away from home he could vote, but if he was sick in a hospital he could not.
– The case that came under my view was that of a man who had undergone an operation in a large town, and had to be carried 15 chains to a polling booth. In the process the stretcher broke down, and the man ran the risk of his life. A law that compels a man to do this is not democratic, and is not a credit to any Parliament. On the same occasion I saw an aged lady who had been invalided for two years being wheeled half-a-mile in an invalid chair to the polling booth. She said she had been a resident of Australia for seventy years, and that this was the first and only time since she had the right to exercise a vote that she had been denied the opportunity of doing so. Surely that is not a credit to any country. Members opposite must realize that the people of the country have a decided claim. We all recognise that the whole success of the community depends on the development of Australia’s agricultural and mining resources. The success of society, or of the governmentof the country, stands upon the development of these, and if the electoral law is not fair to the people engaged in these industries it is no credit to the Parliament. I do not wish to touch all the subjects in the Ministerial announcement; time would not permit me to do so; but there are various items that call for serious consideration. Much has been said by honorable members opposite in reference to arbitration. Every one is agreed that the time for arbitration is well at hand, not only in industrial matters, but in national matters also, and in the course of the next few years we shall probably see an arrangement amongst the nations whereby it can be brought about. I do not turn a deaf ear to the progress of arbitration, but I have spent all my life in an industry in which I claim that arbitration or the fixing of rates and conditions is absolutely impossible. I refer to the agricultural industry. One of the items to which honorable members of the Opposition raise considerable objection seems to be the paragraph dealing with preference. They are of opinion that preference should be given to one section of the community, but I ask those honorable members to be open and frank, and tell us what is behind all this. It is only a pretence to say that they want preference for a certain section of the community, because they have done so and so. The real point is how they are going to enforce this preference, how they are going to follow it up. These honorable members know perfectly well that the natural result of carrying this preference, and the only method by which it can be effectively carried out, is the establishment of the union label, of which we have heard so much in the past.
– You offered preference in your policy.
– Preference to what?
– Preference to unionists.
– No doubt the honorable member is trying to side-track me. I maintain the Prime Minister’s manifesto does not lay down that preference is to be given to one section of the community over another. We give, if we have the opportunity to do so, freedom of action to every section of the community and preference to none, which is a fair proposition. As I have said, the natural result of preference, if carried out in its entirety, which, no doubt, honorable members opposite are aiming at, is to bring into existence the union label, the only method under which complete preference can be given effect to. Everyone knows what that means. Farmers and producers of Australia are just as much awake to this as honorable members opposite, and they know what it means. It means that everything produced by the unionist will need to carry a label, and if an article does not bear that label the kindred associations will not carry it. It is that very thing that has driven the producers of to-day, and will drive the producers of to-morrow - who are the workers of to-day - into the most determined opposition to the penalizing of any section of the community. As one who has spent the whole of ray life in agriculture, I maintain that it is impossible for any Court or any body of men to lay down the conditions of employment in agricultural pursuits. It is not a question of wages or hours or anything like that; it is a question of doing your work when you can do it. There are times in the season when it is impossible to do any work. Who will lay down a fixed rate of wage for harvesting operations in the wheat area? I have seen the thermometer at 104 degrees at 9 o’clock in the morning, and still at that point at dark. Who could work under those conditions? Honorable members opposite know perfectly well that no one could. Even if the human being could the animals could not. So I maintain it is impossible to carry ou under those conditions. It is just the same in the winter. If there is a fall of snow or bad weather of another kind it may utterly forbid the use of the animals and the men, and, seeing these abnormal conditions will cease to prevail only when those gentlemen who wish to legislate in this direction can control the elements and guarantee an average rainfall, will Hie producers of Australia be ready to accept the application to their work of the principle of arbitration ?
– They have just passed a Bill in the Queensland Parliament regulating the rate of wages in the cane-fields.
– Cane-growing and wheat-growing are two different things. Cane will stand on the field for twelve months, with a depreciation of 15 to 20 per cent, in the cane value, whereas grain will stand on the stalk only until the next storm, so that it is necessary to harvest it when you can. The difference between cane-growing and grain-growing is as great as the difference between the sun and the moon, and the honorable member would have known it long ago had he studied the question. Another thing made a great deal of by speakers on the other side of the chamber is the question of this bounty. I do not propose to offer an opinion as an expert on this question, but I wish to make a few observations on it, because it affects the locality I have the honour to represent very materially. A great deal has been done during the last few years to reestablish in Victoria the production of beet-sugar. An effort of that kind on behalf of the State Government to estab lish an industry is a laudable one, and should receive reasonable consideration from every member of the House.
– Does the honorable member not think it would be better to try to raise reindeer?
– I think that there is every probability that Victorian producers will be able to establish the beetsugar industry on a sound financial basis. I have no doubt that, in the course of time, when the population of the State is three or four times what it is to-day, the cultivation of the sugar beet will be one of the leading industries of the rich agricultural areas of this State. I believe that this may be made a profitable industry, and certainly no obstacle should be placed in the way of those who are attempting to establish it. I have no hesitation in admitting that I was one of those who were anxious for the issue of the proclamation repealing the Sugar Bounty Act. I was anxious because the present is the planting season for the beetgrowers of Gippsland. Mr.- Knibbs, at page 395 of the Commonwealth Tear-
Book, says -
During ihe past few years an effort has been made to revive the sugar-beet industry in Victoria. During 1910-11 £554 was paid as bounty on 1,847 tons of beet, and ^2,244 on 7,481 tons during ign-12. It is anticipated that the latter quantity will be increased by at least 75 per cent, during the coming season.
With such a prospect before us for the production of an agricultural commodity, I venture to say that honorable members who consider these matters from a national point of view will offer no opposition to anything calculated to remove restrictions upon that production. The beet-growers of Gippsland are particularly anxious that this matter should be brought under the consideration of Parliament, and I have received a large number of communications on the subject. The Ministry arc anxious to assist the producers of the Commonwealth, and by so doing they will benefit the rural workers and every other section of the community. The greater the area under cultivation, the greater the number of men employed in the agricultural industry, the greater the volume of production, and the better for every section of the community. The development of the beet sugar industry has been arrested by the conditions laid down in the Sugar Bounty Act, and consequently those who desire to see the progress of that industry welcome the repeal of that Act.
– Who refines and sells the sugar produced at Maffra ?
– It is at present under the control of the State Government of Victoria. The Government have taken the matter in hand for the purpose of establishing a national industry. The industry is one which, if given a fair chance at its inception, will be of benefit to every section of the community.
– I hope the State Government will assist it even more.
– The State Government do not propose to carry on the industry in all districts. They have established the factory at Maffra for experimental purposes, and that was a proper thing for the Government of the State to do. When they have proved that the industry can be conducted on a financial basis, there will be a number of people, among whom I hope the honorable member for Maribyrnong will be included, who will be prepared to enter upon the work.
– I am in the work already so far as the farmers are concerned.
– The honorable member was, when he was down at Bairnsdale for a week.
– I was only there for a day.
– From personal knowledge I am aware that the conditions imposed by the late Minister of Trade and Customs under the Sugar Bounty Act operated harshly and unfairly upon those who had taken up the work of beet cultivation.
– What conditions operated unfairly ?
– The conditions fixing minimum hours of work and a minimum wage. I am personally aware that no fewer than fifty men, from one cause or another, were incapacitated from earning the minimum wage laid down, and when they applied to the Department for an exemption under the Act to permit of their employment they never received a reply to their communication. These men lost their work and the wages they might have earned, and the producers lost services for which they were willing to pay. I say that that was an unfair and harsh condition, and I consequently welcome the repeal of the Act and the fact that the matter is now left to the control of the State Government, as I hope will be the case with all our industrial work. One of the clauses of the censure motion sets out that the Government have failed to realize the immediate necessity for a revision of the Tariff. Surely it is evident from the memorandum submitted by the present Government that it is their intention to make a strenuous effort to secure for the benefit of the community a satisfactory Tariff. They have lost no time in giving effect to the policy which honorable members on this side have all along been advocating. They did not lose a moment in the appointment of the Inter-State Commission, which the last Government shelved for five or six months. Their action in that matter should be accepted as a guarantee of their intention to go forward with this great policy. We are all aware that the importations of goods from abroad have been very extensive. This results inlack of employment for our own artisans, and in the exportation of a considerable amount of coin and bullion to meet the cost of the imported goods. The first necessity of any nation is to increase its population. By doing that we increase the possibilities of our defence, and so insure the security of our homes and the lives of those near and dear to us. No doubt the importation of dutiable goods into a country such as Australia affords considerable relief to the Treasury, but I maintain that it is not a good national policy to import goods which could be made in the Commonwealth. I welcome the fact that the Government are determined to take this matter up with a serious intention to do what is necessary.
– Where is the evidence of their serious intention? They have referred the matter to a Commission.
– In referring the matter to the Inter-State Commission for report they have at least done more than our honorable friends opposite did, though they had ample opportunity to deal with it.
– We want the Government to go on with it now.
– It is one of the subjects on the business-paper which will come up for consideration when we have disposed of this motion.
– Will the honorable member help us to consider it ?
– I am helping by placing my views on the matter before the House now, and I do not propose to make a second speech on the subject. If Parliament is anxious to proceed with the work, this debate should be curtailed as rauch as possible, to enable the Government to get on with the programme which they placed before the people, and which the people approved. Another matter which is vital to the progress of the country is the matter of land settlement; and every one will welcome the fact that the Government have submitted a proposition for the adoption of a definite land policy for the whole of the areas under Ihe control of the Commonwealth. There is little to discuss in this connexion until the Bill dealing with the subject is actually before us. I have looked into the matter as carefully as I could in the limited time at my disposal, and I find that legislation dealing with it in other pares of the world is very similar to that which has been adopted in Australia. But I am of the opinion that efforts should be made to provide for Australia more lenient land laws than obtain elsewhere. Every one of us must recognise that unoccupied areas are dangerous to a nation. If our unused land could be utilized, it would tend to the security of the country. Some honorable members have asserted that we are anxious to give land away. I should very much prefer that the unoccupied land should be given to the workers and producers of Australia than that it should come into the occupation of any Asiatic races, as must inevitably occur unless we do something with it at an early date. That being so, I welcome the proposition that the Government have placed before us for the early consideration of a Land Bill to establish freehold tenure in the Northern Territory, since that is the only tenure which will effect security for this country. The question of defence is probably the most important one that Australia has to face. There is no doubt that the late Government did a great deal in this connexion, but there is still a great deal to be done; and I think it is a pity that this House should be occupied in debating a censure motion which will have no material effect, whilst very important questions, such as defence and the Tariff, are held in abeyance. These questions should receive early attention from this Parliament. Yet here we are discussing a subject which can result in no good to any one. Surely if honorable members opposite have any intention of legislating - and that is what they were sent here for - if they have any intention of carrying out the mandate of the country, we should at once take these propositions which have been submitted to us into consideration.* There is one thing which I notice with particular pleasure in the Ministerial programme, namely, that the Government propose to obtain the highest professional advice in military matters. There is no doubt that economy and efficiency will result from the utilization of the best knowledge that can be obtained.
– That is only pursuing the policy of the Fisher Government.
– Surely we do well in continuing a good policy. Honorable members opposite would not be anxious to see us reject anything good in the policy of our predecessors. But are they sure that this policy was initiated by the Fisher Government? I understand that the present Prime Minister, in 1909, initiated the new defence policy. He it was who invited Lord Kitchener to come to Australia for the purpose of advising the Commonwealth. The late Government continued the Liberal policy, and we hope to continue whatever is good in theirs. Anything that is not good we shall pass out, as the Ministerial statement informs us.
– Is the honorable member in favour of borrowing money for defence purposes?
– Nothing is mentioned in the Ministerial statement as regards borrowing for defence.
– But is the honorable member in favour of that?
– I am not; there is no necessity for doing so. If we pursue a sound financial policy in regard to the construction of our national works, there will be sufficient revenue for defence purposes without any borrowing. I welcome heartily the announcement in the statement of policy in regard to the extension of the rifle club system. Having been for many years a member of a rifle club. I am satisfied that, in time of need, some of our most efficient defenders will be proved to be those who are masters of the rifle. The most efficient masters of the rifle in Australia have been proved over and over again to be the men associated with the rifle clubs. I concur in any policy that will extend their privileges, make them more efficient, and assist them to extend the popularity of the system.
One thing in particular we have to maintain, and that is a sense of absolute loyalty -to our country. There is some danger of interfering with or sapping this sense of loyalty. We often hear statements made by , admittedly irresponsible individuals of a wholly improper nature, and which lead to thoughts of disloyalty to our own nation. No Government or party should lend colour to ideas of that description. Another question which requires our serious consideration is that of establishing a uniform railway system throughout Australia. .This requires immediate consideration, and it is a pity that it is not one of the subjects for immediate discussion instead of the no-confidence motion with which we are engaged. The establishment of a uniform railway system is, in my humble opinion, of the utmost consequence to the well-being of Australia. It is not a question of expense; it is not a question of the number of miles of a certain gauge which one State may have in comparison with another ; but it is a question of what gauge will give the greatest efficiency in working for the benefit of the Commonwealth as a whole, bearing in mind not merely what is good for to-day or for to-morrow, but what will redound to the interests of the country in fifty, or perhaps a hundred, years’ time. This is a matter which every one of us should be anxious to take in hand as soon as possible. I am also of opinion that the Government should set out immediately upon the policy of maintaining economy in expenditure. This is a subject which has led me into some amount of trouble during the present debate. I am reported to have made certain statements about economy during my election campaign. I fully admit that I did deal with the question of expenditure upon administration. I dealt with items many of which I believed to be unnecessary. I pointed to expenditure from which the taxpayers receive absolutely no return - from which they obtain positively no valuable results. If the present Government can maintain economy in expenditure, their policy will be welcomed by every section of the community. I have endeavoured to place before the House the views which I hold on various matters, and I trust that they will receive consideration. They are certainly matters which are fraught with greater advantage to the community than a motion such as that which we are now discussing, which will have no material result. The censure motion appears to me to be futile as far as effective legislation is concerned.
– The honorable member himself is taking part in the debate.
– 1 do not propose to speak more than once. I shall be no party to such a course of procedure as has been indicated by an honorable member opposite, who has told us that when this motion is disposed of, others of a like character will be submitted. I maintain that we are all democrats in this House, and, therefore, none of us can honestly object to a fair electoral law, which will extend to every elector the right to record his or her vote, irrespective of health considerations.
– I do not hear the honorable member for Riverina re-echoing the sentiment that we are all democrats.
– The honorable member for Riverina is as good a democrat - perhaps a better one - than are some honorable members upon the other side of the chamber. If the honorable member for Capricornia is the democrat which he ought to be, judging by his appearance, he will support the proposal of the Government to introduce an amending electoral Bill, which will grant to every elector in the Commonwealth the right to exercise the franchise, irrespective of considerations of health or distance from the polling-booth. In regard to other matters of industrial concern, I know that my honorable friends opposite hold very strong views. But I ask them to consider for a moment what would be the effect of granting a preference to unionists if that principle were adopted in its entirety. I venture to say that if the agricultural industries of the Commonwealth are placed under the control of the Arbitration Court, they will at once enter upon the down, instead of the up, grade. Australia needs a strong rural community, and with that end in view, we need to encourage our present farmers to continue to be farmers, whilst enabling our agricultural labourers to become the farmers of the future. There is no industry which makes masters of so many of its workers as does the agricultural industry. How many factory workers ever become factory owners ? Very few indeed. On the other hand, 50 per cent, of the agricultural workers of today will be the farmers of ten years hence.
– The honorable member for Wannon said that 90 per cent. of our agricultural workers would be farmers within a few years. The average is coming down.
– What the honorable member for Wannon said is perfectly true, namely, that 90 per cent. of the farmers of to-day were agricultural workers a few years ago. The higher the percentage of employers and producers, the better will it be for every section of the community. The agricultural industry is the only industry which Australia must maintain, because upon it depends the success of every section of the community.
.- I take this opportunity of addressing a few remarks to the somewhat depleted cohorts of the chorus party opposite. When they were acting in complete unison the other day, and were chorusing their leader’s every statement, they irresistibly reminded me of a boy whistling in the night to keep up his courage. The present position of parties in this House is certainly unique. The amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition makes three distinct charges against the Government. The one important charge, which is not included in his indictment, is that of maladministration. Two days ago the honorable member for Yarra accused the Government of having allowed the Commonwealth revenue to be depleted to the extent of £100,000 or £150,000. Undoubtedly, that charge has been substantiated. This morning we learn from the newspapers that that philanthropic society, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, were the first to indicate the blunder which the Ministry had committed.
– Owing to the defective Act of the late Government.
– Owing to the maladministration of an incompetent Minister of Trade and Customs. There are not many honorable members upon this side of the House who believed that disaster to the public revenue was likely to be evaded very long, seeing that the Trade and Customs Department was under the control of the honorable member for Darling Downs; but few imagined that such a blunder would be committed so soon in the history of the present Government - a blunder which has undoubtedly cost Australia anything between £100,000 and £150,000.
– It may be a great deal more.
– It may be. The honorable member for Darling Downs has asked whether that blunder was not the result of a defective Statute which was passed at the instance of the late Government. I do not admit that it was. But let us view things from the worst possible standpoint, so far as the Labour Ministry are concerned. The Sugar Bounty Abolition Act and the Sugar Excise Repeal Act were proclaimed on the 26th July last. If the Minister of Trade and Customs knew that the revenue of the Commonwealth would be depleted by the proclamation of those Acts, and if he were considerate of the interests which he has sworn to safeguard, he would have delayed bringing those Statutes into operation until he had appealed to the Legislature. He knew that Parliament would reassemble on the 12th August. That being so, was there any particular urgency to proclaim the Acts, and thus to sacrifice the revenue?
– The honorable member knows that the revenue will not be sacrificed.
– I do not know anything of the kind. If it is not going to be sacrificed, it is because that philanthropic institution, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, has recognised that the Government have made fools of themselves, and deems it its duty to help them out of their difficulty.
– They are playing the game straight.
– Here is an admission by the Postmaster-General. In effect, he says to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, “ Under the provisions of the Sugar Bounty Abolition Act and the Sugar Excise Repeal Act you are entitled to pocket this money; but for goodness sake give it back to us, because we are being denounced in Parliament for having committed a great blunder.” Does the Minister of Trade and Customs deny that it was the intention of the Legislature that the Sugar Excise Repeal Act should apply only to sugar upon which bounty had not been paid ?
– Why did not the late Government put that in their Bill ?
– If the honorable gentleman had held office as Minister of
Trade and Customs, I do not think he would have blundered in this way.
– Does the honorable member repudiate the agreement made by his Government ?
– I repudiate nothing. Does my honorable friend say that the matter was of such pressing urgency that if there was a defect in the Act he could not wait for a fortnight and give Parliament an opportunity to amend it? Were the interests of the sugar-growing industry going to be sacrificed by the continuance, for a fortnight longer, of conditions that had prevailed in Queensland for the last twelve years ? No ; the position is that the present Government have, in consequence of their blundering maladministration, sacrificed, except for the good grace of the people directly interested in the matter, the revenue of the Commonwealth to the extent of probably £150,000. Apparently they themselves did not discover the difficulty. It was pointed out to them. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company said to the Government, “ We are not entitled to this money. You have got yourselves into a fix, but we shall try to get you out of it.” Would that company have gone to the Labour Administration in that way ?
– The honorable member, for spontaneous combustion, says “ Yes.” When he gets out of his political swaddling clothes, and has a little more to do with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, his answer will be different. It cannot be denied that the present Administration, within less than two months after taking office, have exhibited absolute incompetence and a total disregard for the people’s interest. Now the Prime Minister goes off to a Women’s Political League meeting in Toorak, and whines because, he says, the Opposition will not grant any pairs. I would remind honorable members of the Liberal party that when they accepted the responsibility of contesting an election they took upon themselves the obligation of being in their places in this House if they were returned. Our party, if it adopts my view of the matter, will refuse, save in exceptional cases, to give pairs. I do not say that there will not arise cases in which it will be satisfactory to both parties to give pairs, but in ordinary circumstances, if we were to give pairs indiscriminately, my honorable friends opposite, when they found themselves hard pressed, would have simply to rely on our good graces to pair up their recalcitrants, and so to remain in office for ever. We are not taking part in a business of that description. The Opposition will give every consideration to the Government so far as the conduct of legitimate business is concerned, but when the Prime Minister throws a policy statement on the table, saying in effect, “ Take this, without any explanation,” and we find in that printed statement proposals designed to destroy the effective legislation which was passed by our party during the three years that they were in office, he cannot expect any consideration from us. There have been some achievements on the part of the present Government. My distinguished successor, the Postmaster-General, conceived the brilliant idea of carrying farmers’ produce, such as eggs and butter, by parcels post. He entered upon his duties with all the enthusiasm of a newcomer, but I am inclined to think that by this time he has realized that there are many difficulties to contend with in connexion with the Department, and that an enormous increase of expenditure would be involved in so extending country mail services as to make them a convenient means of carrying such produce. There is another proposal with which I am in absolute disagreement, and that is the declared intention of the Government to place the Postal Department under the control of three Commissioners. The Department is, roughly speaking, carried on at a loss of about £500,000 a year, and the obligations which it has to accept in the effort to meet the necessities of the people, are tremendous. Wherever a few people are settled- from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Cape Leeuwin - the Department is under an obligation to give those people some sort of communication with the larger centres of population. There are, consequently, in the outlying districts, many mail services that are run at a very heavy loss. Whilst administering the Department, I always kept an eye on legitimate expenditure, but never worried very considerably about making the Postal Department a paying proposition.
– Is the honorable member serious?
– I am.
– Then, what about the applications made, during the honorable member’s regime, to various settlers to make good any deficit on the working of a line?
– I have already said that the Department is run at great loss, that it has to meet the necessities of residents of sparsely-settled and outlying districts, and must bring them into touch with civilization. It was because I was endeavouring to bring people so situated - the pioneers of any industry in any part of the Commonwealth - into touch with centres of population that I did not give first consideration to the question of whether or not the Department was a paying concern.
– But as PostmasterGeneral, the honorable member invited these people to pay.
– I shall tell the honorable member what I did. When we took office the rule in the Department was to call upon the persons served by a mail service to an outlying district to make up any deficit that arose. They were asked to take the revenue from the service, and to make good any deficit. The honorable member for Barrier, as PostmasterGeneral, liberalized that rule, his policy being to establish a required service, to give the residents concerned the revenue from it, and to pay 25 per cent. of the loss incurred. He initiated that system, and when I took office I made the conditions still more liberal. I provided that in the case of these out-back settlements the parties served should be allowed to take the revenue from the service, and that the Department should bear half the loss incurred, and I did the same thing in regard to country telephonic . extensions.
– Did the same rule apply to the congested centres ?
– In the congested centres the mail services were all payable. There is no doubt about the centres paying for the country extensions, and personally I think it is a fair thing. It is because I believe in extending these facilities, whether they are likely to be paying propositions or not, that I am absolutely opposed to a Commission which would be independent of Parliament taking control of the Department, which assists so much in the settlement of this country, and contributes to the peace and happiness of the residents in the more remote parts. As an indication of the tremendous extension that is going on in connexion with the Postal Department, I might mention that from the 1st January, 1911, to the 1st January, 1913, 356 new post-offices were opened, 8,475 miles of telegraphic lines erected, and 98,000 miles of telephone lines constructed. The great bulk of the telephone extensions -I believe that I could say with safety 70 per cent. of them - have been in the direction of providing facilities for the outbackers who had no conveniences before.
– What about the undergrounding in the cities?
– That does not affect the mileage.
– It means an expenditure of money.
– I am not now dealing with the expenditure of money.
– Where are the more remote parts where 98,000 miles of telephone lines were constructed ? None at all.
– In the honorable member’s constituency, probably as much telephone construction has taken place as has occurred in any other constituency in Australia.
– You have a good memory.
– I recollect that very frequently the ex-member for Riverina came along with propositions for country telephone extensions, and that very often his applications were granted.
– What about the inflated cost under the day-labour system?
– That issue does not enter into the consideration of this question.
– It is a very big factor in it, though.
– I do not say that it is not a factor. I am not questioning that fact for a moment, but arguing against the proposal of the Government to place the Postal Department under a Commission.
– No hope.
– I am very glad to hear the interjection. As long as we have the honorable gentleman with us the proposal is doomed, because the Government majority will have gone. After getting this assurance it is almost unnecessary to further argue the matter, because, sir, in that case you would be powerless. I do suggest quite seriously to my honorable friends opposite that, whilst with the bigger projects of railway extension and the control of Government railways, a Commission may be successful, to place the Postal Department, touching as it does the interest and the convenience of every person in the community, under a Commission where a business proposition is the only thing which would commend itself, would be calculated to inflict the greatest possible hardship on the outbackers in this country.
– Would not that mean that the whole policy would have to be handed over to the Commissioners?
– I am absolutely opposed to the whole policy being handed over to the Commissioners. If it is intended to create a Commission, subject to the Minister, so that he would have the last say on a question, it is tantamount to appointing three general managers.
– Without power to manage.
– In my opinion, to place the Department under three men would be highly unsatisfactory. What has happened in the past in connexion with Deputy Postmasters-General, who ought to accept more responsibility? When they did accept responsibility, honorable members used to bring the proposition before Parliament and the Deputies very often had to swallow what they had said. When I believed that a Deputy PostmasterGeneral had reasonable ground for the action he was taking, I always encouraged him to do the business in his own State, without referring it to Melbourne. I suggest to my successor that the more he can get the Deputy PostmastersGeneral to accept responsibility and deal with matters in their own States, the more satisfactory will be the results to the country.
– Why did you not give them more power?
– I did, and I backed them up very solidly. My successor has distinguished himself in another direction. Almost before he had got used to his chair in the office, he willed that the kangaroo stamp was to go.
– He was pretty quick off the mark, was he not?
– Yes; he was quicker in saying that the kangaroo stamp was to go than he is in getting the other stamp’ out. He announced that the new stamp was to be out in a few weeks.
– In three months, it was said ; and it will be out in less than that period.
– That was not stated in the announcement that the kangaroo stamp was to go. My honorable friend is in this extraordinary position, that while he announced that the new stamp would be out in three months, and says now that it will be out in less than that period, he told the honorable member for Maribyrnong the other night that he is still prepared to accept suggestions.
– So I am. There are more stamps than one to be issued.
– I think that my honorable friend realizes now that, while it was very easy to say that a thing was going to happen in the Department, it is not easy to do the thing when the responsibility falls upon him. A suggestion has been made in regard to showing loyalty by putting the King’s head on the stamp.
– Who is responsible for the kangaroo stamp?
– I was the PostmasterGeneral when the kangaroo stamp was issued, and I accept responsibility for it. There is just a chance that it may not disappear. My successor may disappear from the Department before the kangaroo stamp does.
– I do not like that.
– When my honorable friend sat on this side of the chamber, he used to denounce those who sat on the Government bench; but the first thing he did when he got on his feet as Prime Minister was to whine, “ Why will you not give us pairs?” Then he went all round the country addressing meetings and saying, “ We want fight.” The fight has only just begun. I do not think the honorable member wants much fight.
– He would rather have the pairs.
– Yes. The honorable gentleman looks very comfortable on the Treasury bench. But it was put to him very nicely by the honorable member for Grey yesterday that, if it is not hypocrisy he indulges in at different meetings, and if he really does want fight, he has only to do one thing when we take the division on our amendment; he has only to absent himself or to let one of his supporters be absent, and that will be the end of his Government. We recognise that the position is intolerable. Ministers have no right to make the Speaker, who should be the unbiased custodian of the rights and privileges of members, an instrument for keeping them on the Treasury bench. We have never had a position like this before, and I hope we never shall again.
– Let us go to the country.
– That is what we say, and the Prime Minister says that he wishes to go to the country. The way for doing so is open, unless his talk is merely so much wind.
– The Opposition desires that only one branch of the Legislature shall go to the country.
– We wish to send this House to the country.
– It has just come from the country.
– Yes, but the position is intolerable. Mr. Speaker has been made a partisan instead of an impartial judge.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement. He has no right to cast reflections on the Chair.
– Out of deference to you, sir, I withdraw it unreservedly; but should the occasion arise when you must occupy that position, I shall repeat what. I have said.
– The Constitution makes provision for what has been done; why, then, does the honorable member make so much fuss about it? If the Labour party were in our position, what would they do?
– The honorable member sees nothing objectionable in the present intolerable situation. Honorable members opposite, when they shouted in chorus in support of the Prime Minister’s statement that he wants fight, and desires to go to the country, were like a boy whistling in the night, in the effort to convince himself that he is not frightened. Reverting to the Postmaster-General’s intention to alter the design of the postage stamp, let me say that I do not think we should place the King’s head on our stamps. The question of loyalty does not enter into the consideration of this matter. The Minister has had to get the artist who drew the design that took the first prize to alter it, adding some wattle and other things. If the kangaroo stamp is to be known as the “ Frazer stamp,” this is to be the “ Wynne stamp.”
– The winning stamp.
– It has not won yet; and should the Minister of Trade and Customs be responsible for more blundering administration like that which has taken place in connexion with the sugar duties, the Government will not last very long.
– The honorable member for Darwin ought to criticise us.
– He can defend himself. A postage stamp is one of the best advertising mediums the country ‘ can have. Every letter leaving our shores bears an advertisement of the country on its stamp. Stamps with the King’s head in the design are ‘generally regarded as proper to communications from Great Britain. In designing our stamp we put into it the outline of the coast of Australia. The stamp shows a White Australia, indicating the Commonwealth’s policy in regard to its population. In the centre of the stamp is a kangaroo, an animal peculiar to Australia, and common to every State of the Union. That animal was drawn from the design which took the second prize.
– It looks as though it had gone through a six-years’ drought.
– Probably had the officer who was formerly responsible for the printing of stamps in South Australia been retained in the State employ, instead of being given charge of the Commonwealth stamp printing, the design would have been produced on better paper, the perforations would have been better, and the gum would have been better. Then there would not have been half as much trouble about the stamp. The manner in which the stamp was turned out by the Government Stamp. Printer led to most of the trouble. The design which the Postmaster-General proposes to substitute for the present design will not advertise the country. The drawing that won the first prize contained an execrable portrait of His Majesty, and the Postmaster-General has had to get another portrait from the GovernorGeneral.
– The King is not a beauty at any time, though he is a good fellow.
– Apparently the PostmasterGeneral wants a picture of him that will show him mercy rather than justice.
– Will the honorable gentleman explain why, after all these years, persons sending a telegram across a State border for even the shortest distance are charged 3d. more than for sending one anywhere within a State?
– The tremendous reductions in the price of telegrams that have come about under Federation should be appreciated by the honorable member if he sends many telegrams. I am not wedded to the use of State boundaries for the limitation of distances, but there must be some limitation of the kind. I do not know that there is any insuperable difficulty in making some other arrangement; the honorable member should refer the matter to my successor. We spend £25,000 a year in advertising Australia, but the Postmaster-General is putting aside a stamp which places an advertisement of Australia on every letter that leaves our shores, substituting for it, as an act of lip loyalty, a stamp bearing an execrable portrait of His Majesty the King.
– Does the honorable member think that the present stamp would induce immigrants to come here ?
– It advertises Australia. Apparently the honorable member for Robertson does not favour immigration, because last night he found fault with members on this side, on the ground that many of them were born out of Australia? How does the Prime Minister like his statement that he wants an Australian party? How do the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister of External Affairs like it? Ireland was their birthplace. We, on this side, do not care where a person may have been born.
– So long as he has brains.
– All we ask is that the man who makes Australia the land of his adoption shall show the same care of its interests as the man who was born here. The remarks of the honorable member for Robertson, if I may say it of a new member, are in bad taste.
Another proposal of the Government is the abolition of preference to unionists. It is evidently desired that the Court shall not be permitted to grant preference to those who are responsible for the initiation of conditions of industrial peace in this country.
– We desire that there shall be equality of opportunity for all.
– The honorable member means “equality of opportunity” to get victimized. I suppose the honorable member will not repudiate his boss, Mr. Blackwood, who is the president of the Employers Federation ?
– I do not know him.
– If the honorable member had not behind him the Employers Federation and the monopolists of Australia, this House would not know him.
– That is an assertion without proof.
– It has been laid down by this Parliament that the policy of this country is to bring about and maintain industrial peace by means of arbitration ; and in order to have arbitration there must be unionism. An individual cannot approach the Conciliation and Arbitration Court - that is laid down definitely by law - and, therefore, there must be organizations. Organized unionists subscribe for a number of months, in order to provide sufficient funds to get a hearing before the Court; and that money is spent in legal and other expenses, in order to obey the laws of the country. And yet, what is the reward ? Very often the reward is victimization and the “ sack,” because of the efforts put forth to that end. The honorable member for Echuca decries preference to unionists, and talks about “ equality of opportunity for all.” But let us see what Mr. Blackwood, the chairman of the Employers Federation, has to say on the question. That federation is responsible for bringing into existence a bogus union, which, headed by Packer, is lingering in Melbourne at the present time.
– Packer is a man who was persecuted by the unionists.
– Persecuted ?
– He would have been denied existence.
– I like the honorable member’s taste.- I suppose that honorable members opposite are not prepared to admit that this bogus union is the creation and creature of the Employers Federation; but, as a matter of fact, the chairman of the federation, in a moment of indiscretion, has “given the whole show away.”
-and went far away from home to do it.
-Yes. Mr. Blackwood is thus reported -
At a certain stage the men found that they c ould not make much progress whilst bearing the name of “ Free Workers “ -
The name settled them to begin with - as it was so much associated in the minds of many with strike-breaking -
The free workers were associated with strike breakers - so, at their first Inter-State Conference, the name was changed to that of the “ Independent Workers.” It must be borne in mind that this movement is in no way a strike-breaking machine. It is simply abona fide attempt to establish true trade unions, such as existed before the Socialists captured the old ones.
That is where the trouble came in. When the workers became organized they voted Labour; and, when trouble occurred with the Employers Federation, this bogus union was brought into existence. Listen to what Mr. Blackwood further says -
Before the movement had been long in existence, the absolute necessity of providing a clubroom, where the men could meet, was realized.
Very generous employers these -
Without such quarters, members of the new union but seldom knew who else belonged, and they felt isolated and disheartened in consequence. No sooner were the club rooms opened than all was changed, and the men, by frequently meeting and hearing weekly addresses, also by conducting their individual union committee meetings once a week in their comfortable quarters, felt they were really members of a real live and active body, and gained confidence.
Now we come to it -
The next step taken was the establishment of a labour bureau within the building, which employers were asked to patronize.
This, of course, means preference to unionists, but only in name. Those unionists have been banded together at the will of the Employers Federation of Australia, and are in receipt of favours from that federation, with the one object of breaking the Labour party. This union has had its expenses paid, and its club room provided by the federation, and it has its own labour bureau, which the chairman hopes the members of the federation will patronize; and, in the face of all this, we have honorable members opposite talking hypocritically about “ equality of opportunity for all.” Honorable members opposite do not believe in preference to unionists, but they do believe in preference to bogus unionists. The policy of the present Government is to give every possible consideration to men whose efforts are best calculated to break down trade union influence, and neutralize the effort to obtain better conditions for the workers of the country. The honorable member for Echuca is a member of an organization which not long ago had for its object the keeping up of the price of flour while keeping down the price of wheat.
– That is utterly untrue. I rise to a point of order. The honorable member charges me with being a member of a union, and I am not a member of any union.
– That is not a point of order.
– I ask that the words of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie be withdrawn.
– Oh, I withdraw them.
– The honorable member for Echuca declared that what the honorable member for Kalgoorlie said was “ utterly untrue,” and I ask that those words be withdrawn.
– I did not hear the words, but if the honorable member for Echuca used them, I must ask him to withdraw them.
-I apologize, and withdraw the words.
– I may point out that if an honorable member is misrepresented in any way, he ought not to rise to a point of order, but, when the honorable member then addressing the House has concluded, should take the opportunity to make a personal explanation if he so desires.
– I accept the statement of the honorable member for Echuca that he is not a member of the Flour Millers Association of Victoria, but I ask him whether he was not at one time a member of that body?
– The honorable member for Kalgoorlie is not in order in inviting interjections, and the honorable member for Echuca would not be in order in replying.
– I am very much inclined to think that the honorable member was at one time a member of that organization. If he was, he was a trade unionist, and, if he was not, he ought to have gone and joined Packer’s mob.
– I would be rendering a substantial advantage to the community if I did.
– The honorable member is quite right. Mr. Blackwood went very fully into this business.
– Do not look at me; I am beginning to get frightened.
– I do not forget the Eight Hours Day when the honorable member took the free labourers to Jumbunna.
– That was the thing that tuned you up.
– It tuned the honorable member up; it cost him his seat in West Melbourne.
– No; I sat for eight years after that, and I am back here now.
- Mr. Blackwood goes on to say -
Those that turn up. generally from sixty to seventy a day, are carefully scrutinized by the Bureau secretary, when all the obvious loafers are passed out. The respectable men’s names are entered in the register, and employment found for them as soon as possible.
But listen to these gentlemen who do not believe in compulsion of any description -
Before taking up a job they must become members of the “ Independent Workers “ by paying is. down, and agreeing to pay the subscription of 6d. per man per week.
That is a condition precedent to the employment of these free and independent workers by the Employers Federation. It is a system of compulsory unionism. They say to these men, “You have to join a union before we allow you to live.” Our friends have been throwing out suggestions concerning trade unions, but here is a condition of affairs laid down by their own Employers Federation.
– I may tell you that is utterly absurd.
– Nevertheless, it is true. %
– It is not true.
– Does Mr. Blackwood speak words that are untrue?
– Mr. Blackwood does not represent the employers of Australia as a whole.
- Mr. Blackwood is chairman of the Employers Federation of
Australia, and has been re-elected to that position. At present, he occupies the position, and it is only quite recently that he was re-elected.
– How many employers are in the federation ?
– Oh, this is a new phase of the question. Do we understand that the Employers Federation is only a myth ?
– I do not know; I only know that I employ 500 or 600 men, and 1 am not in that federation.
– How am I to know? I only know what Mr. Blackwood says.
– You do not seem to ba worrying a great deal to find out.
– Order. These interjections are grossly irregular, and must cease at once.
– I apologize.
– I admit I am not worrying very much, but when we find the chairman of the association frank enough to say that they have created a bogus union with the obvious intention of destroying genuine trade unionism in Australia, that they have built club rooms, that they ask members to patronize these men, and get them employment as soon as possible - and stipulate that the men must pay ls. down and 6d. a week before being eligible for employment, I think we might intimate to the people of the country that this is a condition of affairs going on under the regime of honorable gentlemen opposite, though they profess to be against preference to unionists. Mr. Blackwood goes on to say -
Fair-minded employers only desire to be assured that the rules of these new unions are framed and maintained so as to guarantee that the original object is carried out, namely, to build up once more non-political trades unionism.
That is the game. It is the fact that there are representatives elected on the plebiscites of members of trade unions and labour councils fighting in this Chamber, and in every other Chamber in Australia, for the interest of the workers that is troubling the Employers Federation; it is the presence of these representatives in this Chamber that has caused all the difficulty.
– You are a bit of a nuisance here.
– We are a nuisance to honorable gentlemen opposite, but the people whose interests we serve throughout Australia do not think we are a nuisance. Mr. Blackwood goes on to say - also that the unions, when created, will not go over in a body to ihe socialistic political unions.
This is one of the rules of Mr. Packer’s union, though it is evidently Mr. Blackwood’s union. This document goes on to say-
One rule you will find gives a guarantee on this point as it stands, that the independent unions shall not join or affiliate with the Trades Hall.
This is the condition of affairs that we find in Australia at the present time; and it is a most illogical position for any body of politicians to take up to say to a number of men, “ If you are going to obey the laws of the country you must organize in order to get before the Arbitration Court,” and then to turn round and say to these men, “As a consequence of your having gone to the Arbitration Court, we will give you no consideration.” My friends on the Government side have taken up the attitude that they are the particular friends of the farmers, the producers of this country. I do not agree with that view. I do not think there are more than two genuine farmers among the whole of the thirty-seven members on the Government side of the House. The Attorney-General is a farmer from Chancery-lane, and he has nine other lawyers with him on that side. There are also four or five commission agents, two or three auctioneers, a journalist or two, and a few squatters. The honorable member who preceded me said he was a farmer - there were not many people on this side who thought he was one, but we accept his assurance - and I believe there is one other genuine farmer on the Government side.
– What about the honorable member for Richmond?
– The honorable member for Richmond represents a constituency he understands, and he does not take up the attitude that his special mission in life is to look after the interests of the farmers. On the Government side there are ten who farm the farmer in Chancery-lane, and the others deal very considerably in the by-products of the farmer instead of being directly associated with the land. I asked the AttorneyGeneral the other day if he was associated with the Marconi Company. I submitted to the honorable gentleman what I thought to be a very fair series of questions. The Marconi Company had an action against the Commonwealth Government for the right, to inspect, and they were successful by a majority of the High Court in getting an order to inspect, the ‘decision of the majority of the High Court being ultimately sustained by the Privy Council through the Privy Council refusing the right to appeal. Now, the Attorney-General in that action by the Marconi Company against the Commonwealth was counsel for the Marconi Company, and naturally became cognisant of all the facts the Marconi Company could get against the Commonwealth. This is the position of the Marconi Company, so far as their Australian rights are concerned. They originally intended to set out in opposition to the Telefunken Company, disputing the rights of that company in Australia. When the Commonwealth, as a consequence of the change of Government, and another decision, adopted the Commonwealth system assigned to them by Mr. Balsillie, the Marconi Company and Australian Wireless - the company having the Telefunken rights in Australia - amalgamated their Australian rights in order to fight the Commonwealth. They stopped the contemplated action between themselves, and proceeded as one party to fight the Government. They offered their rights to the Commonwealth for £45,000. I say that, in my judgment, whilst the honorable member for Flinders occupies the position of Attorney-General, he ought not to be associated in any way with a company which directly or indirectly is challenging the position of the Government. It is all very well for my honorable friend to say that he has handed this particular matter over to his colleague, the Minister of External Affairs. I accept the honorable gentleman’s assurance on that point, but I want to point out the position in which the honorable gentleman has placed himself in having a general retainer from the Marconi Company, which is in litigation with the Commonwealth. Suppose that the Minister of External Affairs comes down to the Cabinet and recommends a compromise with the Marconi Company to bring about the stoppage of the action between them and the Government, what position will the Attorney-General occupy then? He is not disposed” to tell me. He told me very politely the other day that I did not understand what a general retainer meant. I think I do. I believe that the honorable gentleman would not be holding a general retainer from the Marconi Company without being paid for it, and, if he is in the employ of the Marconi Company, how is he going to do justice to the interests of the people of Australia in a position such as that which I have described ? In my judgment, the honorable gentleman’s position is positively and absolutely untenable. If he is going to retain the position of Attorney-General, he should dissociate himself absolutely from every interest which is likely to clash with the interests of the Commonwealth. I may say that I am in very distinguished company in holding this view, and I do not submit the opinion merely as my own. A scandal, involving the British Cabinet, arose only the other day over this same Marconi Company, and Sir Rufus Isaacs and Mr. Lloyd-George, of the Asquith Administration, had that Government absolutely tottering in the balance as a consequence of their association with outside interests. I want to remind the Attorney-General that it was not in the Marconi Company that was dealing with the Imperial Government that the Ministers referred to had their interests, but the Marconi Company formed for the purpose of exploiting the American market. There was no association between that company and the Imperial Government at all. I propose to read, for the edification of the Attorney-General, what Mr. Asquith said in connexion with this matter -
Proceeding to challenge some of the standards of Ministerial conduct which had been set up during the controversy, the 1’rime Minister formulated a code of rules of “ positive obligation.” They were these : -
Ministers ought not to enter into any transaction whereby their private pecuniary interest may even conceivably come into conflict with their public duty.
How does that fit my honorable friend? May not his pecuniary interest in holding a general retainer for the Marconi Company, which is contesting a matter with the Commonwealth Government at the present time, conceivably clash with the interests of the public? My honorable friend has his own code of morals, evidently, and the code of positive obli gation set out by Mr. Asquith is of no use to him. Mr. Asquith went on to say-
No Minister is justified in any circumstances in using official information that is given to him as a Minister for his own private profit or for that of his friends.
I say quite frankly that I do not think my honorable friend would do that ; but there is another rule laid down.
No Minister ought to put himself in a position to be tempted to use his official influence in support of schemes or in furtherance of contracts in regard to which he has an undisclosed private interest.
I do not think that my honorable friend is touched by that rule either.
– Mr. Asquith was deal1 ing with the case of men who were shareholders in the company.
– Mr. Asquith does not refer to shareholders when he says -
Ministers ought not to enter into any trans-action whereby their private pecuniary interest may even conceivably come into conflict with their public duty.
The honorable member for Echuca cannot get over that. There is, however, still another rule laid down which seems to fit my honorable friend the AttorneyGeneral -
No Minister ought to accept any kind of favour from persons who are in negotiation with or seeking to enter into contractual or pecuniary relations with the Government.
That hits the Attorney-General where he lives, does it not ? If it does not, all I can say is that the code of morals formulated by Mr. Asquith, as a consequence of the indiscretion of members of his Government which made the Administration totter in the balance, apparently does not appeal to the Attorney-General at all.
– On the contrary, I think it is a very good code.
– The honorable gentleman has broken his silence at last,* and will he tell me now that he accepts a retainer from the Marconi Company for nothing ?
– Then my honorable friend is pecuniarily interested as a consequence of getting the Marconi Company’s work.
– He is not ? My honorable friend says that he gets money from the Marconi Company, and then says that he is not pecuniarily interested.
– This is a kind of billet which the honorable member forKalgoorlie does not understand.
– It is a kind of billet which I do not want to understand. I want Ministers, no matter to which side they may belong, to be absolutely free as members of the Cabinet. When my honorable friend is in the employ of the Marconi Company, and he is-
– The honorable gentleman gets a retainer in order that the Marconi Company may be able to have the first call on his services should they require them. They pay a certain sum to him in return for having the first call on his services. My honorable friend is receiving payment from these people in contravention of the principle laid down by Mr. Asquith as one of the positive obligations of Ministers, that -
No Minister oughtto accept any kind of favour from persons who are in negotiation with or seeking to enter into contractual or pecuniary relations with the Government.
Does my honorable friend say that the Marconi Company are not entering into contractual or pecuniary relations with the Commonwealth Government?
– I believe, though I do not know, that they are negotiating with the Government.
– Here, then, is an extraordinary position. It is a nice state of things to bring about. Suppose that the Marconi Company are negotiating with the Commonwealth Government; suppose that a proposition is agreed to by the Attorney-General’s colleague, the Minister of External Affairs, and that the matter is brought before the Cabinet for ratification. What is my honorable friend going to do then ?
– What am I going to do? It depends upon what the proposals are.
– Will the honorable gentleman vote upon the matter ?
– He will? Then his is a code of honour which can be tolerated only in a lawyer. It is a code of honour for subscribing to which the newspapers would absolutely drive any man on this side of the House out of public life. No one of us would be permitted to occupy such a position. We should be denounced from one end of Australia to the other for getting entangled in business in which the financial interest of the Commonwealth and the public interest clashed with private interests. I say that it is an intolerable position. It is one to which the Prime Minister ought to have his attention particularly directed, and it is one that ought not to be permitted to continue. Whether the Marconi Company is right or wrong-
– It is always in the honorable member’s power, if he thinks it right, when this motion is disposed of, to formulate a motion which will raise this question.
– I have not the slightest objection to formulating a motion on this particular question. I have devoted more attention to it to-day than the limited time at my disposal would justify if I intended to travel over the whole gamut of matters that have been raised in this House; but the issue appears to me to be of such importance that I shall willingly accept my honorable friend’s invitation to test it by a separate motion, in order to see whether honorable members opposite are prepared to tolerate the position of affairs that has been revealed. I shall be glad to have an opportunity of asking them whether they approve of the Attorney-General’s action in accepting a general retainer from a company which is doing its best, and has done its best, to mulct the Commonwealth in heavy damages.
– I think the AttorneyGeneral ought to resign in the meantime.
– A very unjust claim, too.
– The claim of the Marconi Company may be just or it may be unjust, but the issue now raised is quite apart from that.
– I may go now, may I not?
– I should like to say a few more words affecting the AttorneyGeneral before he leaves the chamber. We read in the newspapers the other day that he had accepted a position as a director of a bank in this city.
– What a shocking crime!
– It is a question of how honorable members view these things. The Attorney-General’s colleague, the Postmaster-General, immediately on assuming office resigned from the directorship of a bank. He washed his hands of the business.
– He had to, because he knew he would be so busy in cleaning up his predecessor’s work.
– But the AttorneyGeneral took on a bank directorship. Can he not imagine that the banking interests of the Commonwealth are likely to clash with the interests of the bank of which he is a director? We had the Treasurer saying a few nights ago that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank had too much power. We are promised banking legislation. That legislation may, or may not, interfere with the power of the Governor of the Bank. It certainly will affect the question of the gold reserve. I say, therefore, that the Commonwealth banking interests and the interests of the private banks are in direct conflict. Very likely the banking institution with which the Attorney-General is now connected by reason of the directorship he has accepted, may be affected.
– A bank manager has said that the Commonwealth Bank is going to strengthen the private institutions.
– It may do that, and yet be in opposition to the private banks as far as business is concerned. The AttorneyGeneral, as the law adviser of the Government, will be responsible for drafting the new banking legislation. That is to say, he will have the drafting of the legislation affecting the interests of a bank of which he is a director. In other words, he occupies a position on the directorate of an opposition show.
– Why did the PostmasterGeneral resign his bank directorship ?
– I take it that he did not want to be associated in the indictment which is made by Mr. Asquith against Ministers who bring themselves in their private affairs in conflict with their public duty.
– The Postmaster-General gave that as his reason publicly.
Colonel Ryrie. - Has the honorable member been at any time a director of a bank?
– No, I have not.
– Perhaps he would like to be.
– I have only been director of my own affairs, with very limited success up to the present. There are other acts of omission and commission of which this Government has been guilty.
– Has the honorable member done with me now ?
– I have done with the honorable gentleman for the present.
– We cannot have done anything very bad in so short a time.
– This is a Government of marvellous achievements. They have threatened to abolish the present postage stamp; they have abolished preference to unionists ; they have sacked men on the transcontinental railway, at Cockburn Sound, and at Cockatoo Island; and, incidentally, they have thrown away revenue to the extent of £150,000 by their bungling in the sugar business. The Treasurer professes to be very enthusiastic over the matter of the construction of the trans-Australian railway. But, so far, his enthusiasm has resulted only in 60 miles of earthworks having been built, and in 9 miles of rails having been laid.
– We have not the trucks.
– The late Government ordered the trucks, and the present Ministry are not keeping the contractors up to their obligations.
– Keeping them up to their obligations will not produce the trucks. Why did not the late Government provide trucks long ago?
– Did the late Government keep the contractors for the sleepers up to their obligations?
– There are any number of sleepers available; the earthworks have been constructed, but no trucks are forthcoming. If the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs had kept the Sydney contractors up to their obligations, those trucks would have been running at the Kalgoorlie end of the trans-Australian railway to-day.
– The honorabe member knows that what he says is not true.
– I say that it is absolutely true. In the interjection by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, we have an exhibition of the manners which this young gentleman cultivated at Oxford. We have heard his inane laugh before. I understand that a portion of a certain tin mine in New South Wales was devoted to sending this young man to Oxford to cultivate bad manners and a haw-haw.
– This is really too bad. I caine into the chamber at the request of the honorable member.
– I defy the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to prove that the trucks under the Sydney contract were not due several weeks ago.
– The honorable member knows that I cannot prove anything now, because I have already spoken upon this motion.
– The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs himself stated in this House that the contractors had not fulfilled their obligations.
– How will keeping the contractors up to their obligations produce the trucks immediately?
– If they do not fulfil the conditions of the contract, the penalties for failure to do so should be imposed,
– Will it satisfy the honorable member to know that I am refusing to make any progress payments to the contractor until he has completed his contract ?
– That is very satisfactory. Why did not the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs tell us that before?
– Why did not the honorable member ask for the information?
– When I did ask for it, the Prime Minister interposed that no more replies to questions without notice would be given on that day. Similarly when the honorable member for Fremantle desired information regarding the Cockburn Sound naval base, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs stated that while the no-confidence motion was pending no information would be given.
– I was treating the honorable member with respect.
– I know the respect that I will get from the honorable gentleman. Up to the present time, the only achievement of the Government in regard to the trans-Australian railway is to get the earthworks carried a distance of 60 miles from Kalgoorlie, and to “ sack “ Chinn.
– Did the honorable member desire Chinn to be “sacked”?
– No. I think that the bungler in connexion with the construction of the trans-Australian railway is to be found in the central office.
– No; the Labour Government is now out of office.
– Yes; and there has been no progress made with the work since they went out. If the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is permitted to continue at the pace which he has set the line will be completed in fifty years, and about £50,000,000 will be required to build it. The Government have dispensed with the services of Mr. Chinn-
– Does the honorable member object >to his dismissal ?
– I object to the sum- _ mary dismissal of any man without a trial.
– Does the honorable member doubt the cause of his dismissal ?
– If the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is in possession of any facts to justify his action he ought to lay them upon the table of the House.
– Does the honorable member ask for them ?
– Do I take it that the honorable member asks for them now ?
– Yes. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is at liberty to lay them on the table now. When I said that the time for the delivery of the trucks by the contractors had .expired, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs said that my statement was not true. A moment later he admitted that he is making no progress payments to the contractor until he has completed his contract. Thus he convicts himself out of his own mouth.
– It is ridiculous for the honorable member to talk like that. The late Government ought to have had the trucks at Kalgoorlie long ago.
– If there is any blame to be apportioned in connexion with that matter, I say that it lies with the central office. The Treasurer was very enthusiastic about securing a naval base on the western side of the continent at Cockburn Sound. But there we find that a similar condition of affairs obtains. The allegation has been made that the Government do not want to build houses there. That may be so. But there is sufficient work to be done there to warrant the employment of hundreds of men.
– Where would the honorable member” put them ?
– It is not a matter of whether our war vessels shall enter the base through the Parmelia Channel, or through the Success Channel. The base will be in the same place.
– Jervoise Bay is not th§ best site - Mangles Bay is far superior.
– That is just what I would expect to hear from the Treasurer. Of course, he knows all about this matter, and Admiral Henderson knows nothing. I do not dispute that my honorable friend possesses a wide knowledge regarding a great number of matters. I have often paid a compliment to him for his early work in Western Australia. I have done so in absolute sincerity. I think that he has a record in Australia which will keep his memory green when most of us are asleep and forgotten.
– Mangles Bay is, the best site for the naval base.
– The Treasurer is not justified in putting his view against that of Admiral Henderson.
– Admiral Henderson did not express a view.
– I am led to believe that he did. However, T have not time to enter into these wrangles. I merely wish to say that at Cockatoo Island there has been another brilliant achievement on the part of the Government. Men have been dismissed from their employment—-
– Is that the place where the late Government had another banquet ?
– I was not at any banquet. That interjection is typical of the taste and manners of my honorable friend. As soon as one expresses an opinion in regard to work at a particular place he associates it with banquets or junketings.
– You always had them.
– And my honorable friend used to take his whack of them, too.
– No. 1 was never invited.
– I was not at any of them. Many statements have been made by honorable members opposite as to the party that is really assisting the farmer. As I have already pointed out, the Government and their supporters comprise ten lawyers, as well as squatters and commission agents, and all these are the friends of the farmer! There are only two genuine farmers on that side of the House. On the other hand, the Labour party, while in office, did something practical to assist the farmers. We introduced and carried into law the Federal land tax, which made the squatters disgorge some of their best land and cut it up into blocks so that it could be tilled by the willing hands of the country. During the first year of the operation of the tax, £20,000,000 worth of land was made available.
– The Commissioner says that the cutting up that took place consisted only of family subdivisions.
– He does not; but he does say a good deal has been done in that direction with the object of evading the tax. Honorable members opposite talk about the farm employe of to-day being the farmer of to-morrow.
– He is not likely to be until he gets better wages.
– Where is the farm employe to obtain the money with which to buy a farm ?
– He saves it.
– Does he ? The truth is that the farmer of to-morrow is not the working man, but the son of the farmer of to-day. I know as much about farming as does the honorable member for Wimmera. I am the son of a farmer, and was brought up on a farm. Out of the wages they receive not 10 per cent, of the farm hands can hope to save sufficient to enable them to become farmers. Honorable members opposite say that their special mission in life is to look after the producers. The men who are looking after, the producers of this country, however, are to be found on this side of the House.
– Is that why they tax their agricultural machinery ?
– We tax the squatter so that more land may be made available for the farmers.
– And tax all agricultural machinery.
– When the Tariff is before us, what does my honorable friend intend to do with regard to agricultural machinery ?
– I intend to try to free it from taxation.
– Will the honorable member vote against his own Prime Minister, who says that he is going to maintain the present Tariff?
– The Prime Minister simply allows the matter to remain where it is for the present, because there is no hope of a change.
– I regret that this dialogue is cutting into the limited time at my disposal. The Treasurer’ has said that he is going to maintain the present Tariff policy “ as may from time to time be determined by the electors.” That is really the fiscal policy of honorable members opposite. In other words, they say, “ We will do this, but if it does not suit we will alter it.” We say that, while they remain in power, our social legislation is in danger, and there can be no doubt that it is. It is not long since the present Attorney-General, speaking in this House of the old-age pension system, said -
I feel that it is not only repugnant to common sense, but opposed to the best instincts of our people, that we should plant here a tree which will not stop at the growth that it has already got, but which will go on growing if we do not substitute for it something based upon the contributory system.
That was his declaration, and it Bums up the attitude of the Government. We contend that the old-age and invalid pensions systems are in danger while under their control.
– No wonder the honorable member has crowded this charge into the last five minutes of his speech.
– I ask the Government Whip, who has remained silent, whether the Attorney-General is a man who is likely to eat his own words ? Do honorable members opposite say he was only joking when he made this statement?
– The last quotation made from his speech stopped short deliberately at one word. If that last word had been given, his statement would have appeared in a different light.
– If the honorable member thinks that anything of the kind has occurred in this case, I invite him to read the quotation which I just made. Here is the copy of Hansard in which it appears.
– It is a little bit suspicious, because the honorable member has put it into the last five minutes of his speech.
– Here is yet another result of the honorable member’s association with Oxford; he has developed a suspicious mind.
– The Attorney-General distinctly said, some time ago, that he would not alter the existing pension system.
– I have no doubt that since the Attorney-General is able to justify his association with the Marconi Company, and his acceptance of a seat on the directorate of a bank - since he is able to find the holding of such offices consistent with his occupancy of the AttorneyGeneralship - he will be able to adopt an attitude with regard to old-age pensions that will make him acceptable to his colleagues. I submit, however, that the social legislation of this country is in danger while the present Government remain in office; that they have not submitted any proposal to bring about more reasonable conditions for the people, and that in deciding to place the Tariff under the control of the Inter-State Commission they are simply putting off the consideration of that question. Those who have been associated with Commissions know what such a proposal means. It means an end to Tariff revision for the rest of this session. No serious effort is going to be made by the Government to do anything except to try to destroy the beneficent legislation which was placed upon the statute-book of the Commonwealth by the late Administration. There is no indication of any effort on their part to build up; their policy is to do nothing except to alter the legislation of the previous Government. I wish them luck, but I do not think that they will remain where they are long enough to do so.
.- As a new member, I rise with a great deal of diffidence, and with the hope that the House will adopt the suggestion made the other day by the large-hearted Whip of the Opposition when he said, “ Give the new members a show.” I feel that the Opposition will realize, before I have completed my remarks, that I need all the show they can give me, and, what is more, that I deserve it. Coming to the policy put forward by the Government, I may say at once that I can generally support it. The first paragraph in the policy statement deals with the question of electoral reform, and that, to my mind, is a very important one. I have listened with a great deal of attention to the debate, and, whilst I think that the speeches have excelled possibly in length as much as in anything else, they have undoubtedly been of a high order. 1 am not one of those who declare that great abuses of our electoral law took place during the last general election ; but I defy any member of the Opposition to say that great abuses might not have taken place without a chance of detecting them. We know quite well that it is not wise to place temptation in the way of any man, and in the amendment of the law which the Government propose, they will, I presume, take temptation out of the way of the electors in this respect. It has been stated that the proposals mentioned in the Ministerial programme are too ambiguous. Naturally the Government were not able to go into any details, but I presume that, in any measure they submit, they will endeavour to improve the electoral law. In my opinion, the improvement of the electoral law will not be perfect unless it establishes preferential voting and restores the postal vote. The ex-Prime Minister said that one of the grave charges he had to make against the postal vote was that the employers had a great “pull” on the employes and their wives in mining districts and other places. The employes and their wives, he said, were obliged to vote against the employers, and in connexion with the postal vote the employers had a lot of influence. In the same speech, he mentioned that more postal votes were recorded in Kooyong, where there are no miners, and very few employes, than were recorded in the whole of Queensland, where most of the miners and the employes reside. It goes to show that his statement about employers endeavouring to influence electors had no force at all in connexion with a large number of the postal votes recorded in Kooyong. With regard to the absent vote, I do not think that one of my honorable friends on the Opposition side will deny that there are possibilities of abuse. I do not intend to traverse the ground which has been covered by various speakers, but to touch only a few questions. In the first place, I want to refer to the rural workers. The minds of various speakers in this debate have been exercised as to the occupations of honorable members sitting on this side. They say that they doubt if there is more than one farmer amongst us. I believe that I have the honour and glory of being that one farmer on this side. At any rate, I can claim that I am a farmer, though possibly retired at present. The honorable member for Werriwa claims that he is a farmer, and he is just the stamp of man to make a good solid farmer. I can speak with some authority in connexion with rural workers. I am not one of those who say that the rural workers should be kept without the pale of some tribunal under which their work and wages may be regulated. I am not one of those who think that the rural workers are the only parties who should be kept outside. But, in my opinion, as I said before, the Federal Arbitration Court is not the right tribunal to settle industrial matters relating to rural production for the whole of Australia. It seems to me that any sort of Wages Boards or conferences between the masters and the men from the various districts would be the best means of settling industrial disputes. If you established cast-iron rules regarding the hours of labour, and how the men shall work in rural industries, you would simply deplete those industries and throw hundreds of rural employes out of work. The whole system would recoil upon their own heads. That is where the trouble would come in. A sneering remark has been passed here in regard to share-farming. Now, in Australia to-day there are thousands of farmers who started as share-farmers. As an old rural worker I was able to start as a share-farmer many years before I could have started on my own account. Many a man has started as a dairyman. An honorable member of this House has. started numbers of young men in dairying on the share system who are successful men to-day. I would strongly advise every young fellow who gets the chance to start on share-farming, assuming that he gets fair conditions under which to begin. Questions affecting the rural workers, it seems to me, should be settled distinctly between themselves and their employers. Let them confer together. The conditions vary so much in different parts of Australia that they call for varying treatment. I have in my pocket a copy of the rural workers’ log. I have not so much fault to find with the demand as to wages as with the conditions as to the hours of work. As we all know quite well, there are times in the year when a man may have the whole of his harvest hands waiting about the stable or elsewhere unable to do anything on account of the wet weather. But when the sun. does shine, then they have to “go for it “ for all they are worth. When I was actively engaged in farming, my men used to “go for it,” for they knew quite well that I would treat them fairly in other directions. The trouble with regard to the present-day unionism is that Labour organizers- I will not call them agitators - do not want men, as the honorable member says, to rise and become farmers. On the contrary, they want men to remain members of the union, contributing to its funds. As soon as men become farmers and employers, they are no longer any good to the organizers. Consequently the organizers are trying to get all the men into their organization and to breed strife. One or two other remarks have been made in this debate which astounded me. It has been stated by more than one honorable member that there have been no strikes as the result of arbitration awards. I want to know what is the difference between a strike and refusing to work. It was only in Monday’s newspaper we read that the shearers in a certain shed refused to go on, and cleared out because the boss had arranged to have his wool carted by a motor lorry. What is the difference between that act and a strike? The result is the same to an employer. The statement that the Arbitration Court has brought about universal industrial peace is so much moonshine. I wish to compliment the Government, not only upon the appointment of the Inter-State Commission, but upon its personnel. I also compliment them on the fact that one of the first duties devolving upon the Commission is to inquire into matters relating to the Tariff. One part of the amendment which has been launched against the Government relates to the Tariff. It seems to me to be most astounding. The Opposition say to the Government, “ You are not fit to occupy the Treasury bench, because you have not done more in three weeks than we did in three years.” Summed up, that is really the whole position. The late Government had three years in which to revise the Tariff on lines which should suit them at the present moment. We have only to analyze the “ innards “ of this thing to discover why they did not revise the Tariff during their term of office, and are so anxious to have it revised at once in the first session of the new Government. The existing Tariff is a huge revenuepro.ducing Tariff. Under it our imports have reached something like £70,000,000 per annum. The last Government opened its arms to this revenue, being anxious to splash money about, especially when the election was coming on. Now, the Labour party do not want a revenue-producing Tariff. They know that money makes the mare to go, and that money talks, especially at election time, and the Liberal Government being in power, they are trying to harass them by clamouring for a revision of the Tariff and a reduction of the revenue. I am of opinion that the Tariff should be revised. There is something wrong when 4,500,000 people import nearly £70,000,000 worth of goods per annum, although there are thousands of persons unemployed. A proper Tariff would enable all those persons to be employed in the manufacture of Australian raw material into finished goods for home consumption. The policy that we should pursue should make that possible. I am glad that the Government intend to work in harmony with the Governments of the States. This is a time when much good might be done by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State Governments. There is a partial drought in South Australia, which may bring great loss there; and there may be droughts in other States. As a result, there will be a falling off in our exports and less employment. This is, therefore, a proper time for the Commonwealth and State Governments to co-operate in great national works in which both are interested, such as the unification of railway gauges and the conservation of water. I am in favour of going into the money market to borrow for reproductive and permanent works. It is unwise to tax the people off the land so that posterity may possess permanent works free from debt. That is a wrong policy. During the past three years, the relations between Commonwealth and State Governments have not been harmonious ; but such a state of affairs is not in the best interests of Australia. The honorable member for Bass last night referred to a farmers society in Tasmania which he had been asked to join. He is a gentleman of such splendid proportions that it might be taken as a personal reflection if I made any reference to the fable of the mountain and the mouse. What I wish to point out is that, although he was asked to join this union, there was no compulsion. No bluestone arguments were used. The committee of the society seemed eminently respectable, most of them adding “ J. P.” to their names. There is no analogy between a society like that and a trade union. A farmer in Tasmania may or may not join the society as he likes ; but the unions seek to compel workmen to join them. I am an old worker, having commenced at the age of ten, and no one has greater sympathy with the workers that I have ; but I know that if my friends tie up the workers with too much legislation they will chafe under it.
– They are doing so already.
– 1 believe that they are. They should be allowed a little freedom, and should show that they are trusted to a certain extent.
– They are not even trusted to pay their own levies.
– It was rather unfair of the honorable member for Darling, in dealing with the receipts and expenditure of the Australian Workers Union, to strike an average for a period of twenty-five years, because in the beginning the Australian Workers Union had few members, and the contribution was, I think, only 5s. a year. Had the receipts of late years been given, it would be seen that a great deal of money is paid into that union. Where it goes, I do not know.
– Nor do the members of the union.
– The organizers of the union have been at my sheds, and some of them have been mean enough to take contributions from mere kiddies engaged in sweeping the floor, although the money would have been better taken home to their mothers. It has been said that the land tax has had the effect of bursting up large estates. Those who introduced it said that it would burst up large estates and provide revenue for defence purposes ; but, apparently, it does neither. The imposition of the tax and Socialistic legislation generally has frightened people from buying land, so that not so much is changing hands to-day as was changing hands three years ago. If the tax did succeed in bursting up large estates, there would be no revenue from it In order to raise revenue for defence purposes, the exemption will have to be lowered - that is inevitable, if the present policy is continued. There is one particular defect in the land tax to which
I desire to call attention. For this defect, I do not blame the men who introduced the measure, because it cannot always be foreseen what is necessary. It was said by the Labour Government that they were going to make it easier and cheaper for young men to get on the land. Under the old conditions of three years ago, it was possible for a young fellow to acquire land with a deposit of 5 per cent., and it was a common occurrence in the Western District of Victoria to take 10 per cent., but, under the operation of the land tax, 15 per cent, is demanded.
– A man has to possess land worth £5,000 before he pays any tax.
– I am now speaking of the deposit that is necessary when a young fellow wishes to purchase a farm from a big land-owner. Another regulation under the land tax which appears to me to work harshly is that which imposes a fine of 10 per cent, when, by some oversight, a man may be only two days behind in paying the tax. Considering the time that the man is behind, this means in many cases a fine at the rate of some 600 per cent, per annum; and the law should be altered so that the fine shall be at the rate of 10 per cent., with a minimum penalty of halfacrown or 5s. It is not fair, because of a little omission, for which the taxpayer is not really responsible, to fine him at the rate of 500 or 600 per cent. We have been repeatedly told during the last three days that there will be a dissolution of the House of Representatives, because, if one of the members on the Government side remains away for one day, the whole business may be stopped. But the position to-day is the same as when the Leader of the Opposition tendered his resignation. Why did he not ask for a dissolution then? If a dissolution is a good thing to-day, it was a good thing at that time ; and, under the circumstances, I think it would be wise if I endeavoured to pour a little “ oil on troubled waters.” Our friends opposite, it seems to me, are suffering a certain amount of disappointment at the reverse they have met; and are now, as it were, “ getting it off their chest.” I believe, however, that, after this no-confidence question is decided, they will settle down to work, realizing that” they have responsibilities to the electors, no matter on which side of the House they may sit. We can quite understand receiving a certain amount of “ vitriol “ from honorable members on the- front Opposition bench, because their position was better under the previous circumstances; but the rank and file are just as content as the rest of us, and none of them are, I believe, any more anxious to go before the electors than I am. The ex-Postmaster-General made some reference to statements by Mr. Blackwood ; but if we on this side were to condemn the whole of the Labour party for statements made by some union president or secretary, it would not be fair to them as a body. Mr. Blackwood is president of a certain Employers Federation , but a very small number of the employers of Australia are connected with that association. I know that I am not, and thousands of others are in the same position as myself; and I therefore contend that honorable members on the Government side of the House should not be held responsible for any statements made by a prominent Liberal in any other place. We are here, I take it, to do the best we can in the interests of Australia, and that, I believe, the present Government are desirous of doing; but, so far as I have seen during this week, the Opposition are determined not to give them the opportunity.I trust, however, that, after this little “ blow out,” honorable members will settle down to work, when we shall be able, the whole of us, to justify our existence here. If not, then, as I said before, let us clear the decks for action.
– Some honorable members, who, like myself, had the honour of a seat in the last Parliament, must feel it a matter for regret that eight months have elapsed since we had an opportunity to really deal with the affairs of the country. This afternoon, when the Leader of the Opposition made a request for some information, he was politely told - and I am not altogether quarrelling with the reply - that, owing to the no-confidence debate, no information could be given. I am sure that a great number of the supporters of the Government are very much dissatisfied with the position of affairs to-day. Many people outside this Chamber also consider that the business of the country might be in progress. Let us go back to the time of the general election. A few weeks after the election the country knew the relative strength of the parties, with our friends opposite in a majority of one in this House, and with an overwhelming majority against them in the Senate. Then we heard the Labour Government had resigned. Some people blamed them for doing so, but I think they acted rightly. I have not the slightest doubt they would have been put out if they had faced the House.
– Rightly so, too.
– I am not going to touch that aspect of the question, but some of my constituents have said to me, “ You know these new men; what do you think of them ? “ I said that they were a fairly able body of men, and that I had no doubt they could carry on the affairs of the country. But they said, “ What do you think they are going to do? “ and I had to reply that I did not think any one knew, though very possibly they might adopt a certain attitude in regard to public business. I knew that the bulk of their supporters did not care much about a policy before the country. We have heard a great deal on the other side about their policy, but I do not think that during the election the Government or their supporters worried very much about a policy. In fact, they had only one policy - to get the Labour Administration out, and to get themselves in.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member admits that I am right. When I was asked by my constituents what I thought the new Government would do, I said they might stop in office a long while. I thought they might interpret the verdict of the country to be that the Commonwealth was of the opinion that there was ample Liberal legislation from the previous Administration, and that Australia needed a spell of legislative quietude. There are still many non-controversial matters that could be dealt with under the powers given us by the Constitution, and many people thought the Government might have gone on those lines, and introduced legislation upon noncontroversial matters. In that case, it would have been impossible for members of the Opposition to hamper Ministers in legislation proposed in the best interests of the country; in fact, we have no intention or ever will have the intention of opposing such legislation; provided, of course, there was in it no attack upon our principles. I do not wish to enumerate the many things we are permitted to legislate upon under the Constitution.
New members may not be familiar with the legislation to which I refer, although the old members know it well; but there is one in particular, the question of marriage and divorce, which must be settled by this Parliament at some time. These matters are not party questions, and that the business of the country could have been proceeded with was the opinion of many outside; but despite that opinion we were doomed to a grievous disappointment. No sooner did the House meet than the honorable gentleman at the- head of the Government, in placing his memorandum or manifesto on the table, gave us to understand emphatically and distinctly the attitude of the present Administration towards past legislation. It was a declaration of war on the workers of Australia. I am quite willing to admit that the honorable member for Corio does not understand the game like those on the Ministerial bench, but they were aware that putting the memorandum on the table was a challenge that members of the Opposition could not ignore. Had we ignored it, and accepted the invitation of the Government to go on with the business of the country, Ministers would have had their tongues in their cheeks, and gone to Sydney, and said, “ We put a memorandum on the table of the House, and challenged the Opposition, but they took it like whipped curs, and we can walk over them any time we like.” That is what the present Administration would have done if they had had the opportunity. As I say, I was charitable enough to believe that they would have gone on the lines I have already indicated, considering the state of parties, but that was not their game. Honorable members on the Government side ought to realize that we exist here in consequence of a British Act of Parliament; that we take our life from the Mother Parliament in the Old Land, and that we belong to a people who understand parliamentary government better than their brethren of European civilization. And what has been laid down by the greatest statesman who has spoken our language? That whenever a measure of reform has been passed the Conservative party cannot repeal it. That principle has been recognised by the Marquis of Salisbury - who, although he was a Conservative, was a statesman, and not a political “ messer “ - and Lord Derby. All the distinguished and able men of the
Conservative party and not the “ rag-tag and bobtail “ allowed to act unrestrained in Australia - admit that reform legislation once passed by the Parliament of England cannot be reversed, but here in Australia we have the new doctrine, that whenever the Conservative party get into power they are to reverse all the legislation passed by their opponents, or, if not all, certain sections of it. I hope the country will speak out in no unmeasured language against this monstrous innovation. For some time past the tide has run in a certain direction, and reforms have been carried, and now the Conservative party have come in to reverse them. We shall have endless trouble. British statesmen recognised such a course would lead to trouble, and laid down the principle I have indicated. It is left to the brilliant geniuses who adorn the Treasury bench in the Commonwealth Parliament to-day to lay down this new doctrine and set this pernicious precedent. Whatever the result of this debate may be, I have no doubt that before long the people will condemn it. I think that the Prime Minister must be aware of that. Probably no one knows the feeling of the people of Australia better. He has issued a declaration of war against the working classes of this country, and the man who goes into a job like that with a light heart may be a politician, but he is not a statesman.
– That is very rough, but merited, I dare say.
– That is right, and the honorable gentleman will get some more of it presently. I wish to say a word or two about the administration of the present Government. I think, in this connexion, that our motion of censure was launched a little too soon, because we did not give the Government sufficient time in which to disclose their brilliant administrative abilities. Every day that passes gives only greater proof of their incapacity for the positions which they hold. However, the motion was tabled with my hearty support, and with the support of all my friends on this side, for the reasons I have already given. A leading instance of the adminstration of the present Government occurred only a day or two ago. By legislation passed in the closing days of last session, the late Government repealed the bounty and Excise on sugar. The matter was one which had long been discussed between the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments. A condition precedent to the repeal of the Commonwealth legislation to which I have referred was that the Queensland Parliament should pass certain legislation for the maintenance of the White Australia policy, and, briefly, to guarantee protection to the workers of Queensland in this industry. Upon the fulfilment of that condition by the Queensland Parliament the Commonwealth Government undertook to repeal, by proclamation, the Acts providing for the bounty and Excise on sugar. In the first place, I should say that I have not seen, and do not know, what is contained in the Acts passed by the Queensland Parliament. No doubt the Government do know what they contain; but I am given to understand that, in order to preserve the White Australia policy, the Queensland Parliament has provided for an education test. Honorable members know that the value of this will largely depend upon the officers administering the test, and any’ Japanese or other aliens who can pass the test applied will have a perfect right to settle and work in Queensland in the sugar industry. Some honorable members, in common with myself, do not believe that that gives a sufficient guarantee for the preservation of the White Australian policy.
– The .test is exactly the same as that provided for in the Com: monwealth Immigration Act. ‘
– We opposed that on this side.
– We could not enact anything else which would be approved by the British Government.
– When my honorable friends talk about the British Government, I would ask them to be good enough to shoulder their own responsibilities, and let the British Government alone. The question of immigration from the point of view of the British Government is on a very different footing from the question of the employment of labour in the sugar industry. When I hear this reference to the British Government I am reminded of something which has been ringing in my mind all day, and which shows that the British Government are far more liberal than are the present Commonwealth Government. A wire has been received announcing the fact that His Majesty the King has given his assent to the Navigation Bill. In com mon with other honorable members representing ports in Australia, it was my opinion that it would be twelve months at least before those whose business it is to advise His Majesty would be able to see their way to tender him the advice upon which he has acted. Evidently they have had a strong reason for the advice they have given. I do not know what occurred in the British Cabinet, but I think I can make a pretty good guess as to what really occurred when the matter of the advice to be tendered to His Majesty in this connexion came before the members of it. It is not difficult to realize that, with men like Mr. Asquith, Mr. Lloyd-George, Mr. Winston Churchill, the distinguished Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and others I could name in the Cabinet, the discussion would be something on these lines: “The ship-owners of Great Britain are opposed to the measure, but the people of the Commonwealth of Australia are very strong on the question. The people of our Dominion overseas are so strong upon it that they regard the provisions of the measure as necessary to maintain their standard of living.” These British statesmen, no doubt, said, “ It is not desirable that there should be bad blood between us and any of our brethren across the seas. They feel strongly on this; they have fixed the matter up in their own Parliament; and, in our opinion, they should be given what they require.” So far as this matter is concerned, I have no doubt that we shall find the British Government more liberal than the Government who occupy the opposite benches. I would advise my honorable friends not to talk so much about the British Government, but to let them alone. If we had the good fortune today to have a Government in the Commonwealth one-hundredth part as good as the present British Government, we should do remarkably well, and we should not be challenging them this afternoon on a motion of wan t-of -confidence. Referring again to the administration of the Government in the matter of the repeal of the bounty and Excise on sugar, I may say that there were two contracting parties interested in the matter. Under the contract, certain legislation was to be passed in Queensland, and that having been passed, it was left to the present Government to issue a proclamation repealing the Commonwealth Acts referred to.
Honorable gentlemen who occupy the Treasury bench have taken an oath of office to serve His Majesty the King, and how can they be said to have kept their oath when they have practically been parties to defrauding the revenue of the Commonwealth of from £100,000 to £200,000 ? What was the position of the Minister of Trade and Customs in this matter ? Here we had a compact between the Queensland Parliament on the one hand and the Commonwealth on the other. It was assumed that the statesmen of the Federation had brains, and could look after the revenue of the country. I do not wish, in this matter, to pass any reflection upon the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I look upon that company as, according to law, a legal organization of about as shrewd a crowd of fellows as are to be found in Australia. They are up to every game on the board. The position is somewhat similar to that which would occur if the Treasurer of the Commonwealth proposed to alter the incidence of taxation in such a way as to affect the profits of merchants. We all know how eager these men are to obtain information as to any proposal of a Treasurer likely to have an influence upon business. But the present Government had not wit enough to see that they ought to exercise vigilance with respect to the revenues of the Commonwealth in the same way as a Treasurer would exercise vigilance regarding a proposal to alter a duty. In the olden days in Australia a Government that had been guilty of such conduct would have been removed from the Treasury bench. But, of course, the supporters of the present Ministry are bound to cling to them whatever they do. What is their reply ? The Minister of Trade and Customs tells us that a compact was made, that he had to adhere to it, and that there was no section in the Act to protect the revenue. If that had been the case, it would have been easy for the Minister to withhold the proclamation until Parliament met. Then he could have asked Parliament to alter the law in such a way as to protect the revenue. This is one of the strongest indictments that can be brought against the present Government, and is, in itself, sufficient to condemn them.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company actually had to tell the Government.
– There is a gentleman named Knox at the head of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who knows more about this business than any other man in Australia. He gave the Government a hint, which he was not bound to do. He went out of his way to warn them as to what would occur. There is no doubt about it that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has any amount of sugar in bond. Of course, the . company is entitled to get whatever is due to it, and the Commonwealth must lose. Another matter to which I wish to refer is that which has been dealt with by the honorable member for East Sydney. I allude to the smallpox scare. It does not affect my own State. We have had one or two cases of chicken-pox in Adelaide, but we did not go mad and insist on vaccinating everybody. But New South Wales has been made to suffer seriously by what has occurred, and the trade of the whole Commonwealth has been injured. I know that from my experience in my own State. Port Adelaide is in my electorate, and I regret to say that a number of my friends who get their living on the wharfs have had to suffer because the shipping trade has been seriously affected. There is no honorable member representing a waterside constituency but knows how widespread the injury to trade has been. Personally, I do not believe that the sickness was small-pox at all. It may be asked what right I have to that opinion. Perhaps I have none, but, at all events, I know that some of the ablest men in Australia, including some doctors, are of the same opinion. But the Medical Union have decreed that the disease is small-pox, and they will hold to that verdict. There is not a trade union in the world - there has not been one since the time of the Knife Grinders Union of Sheffield - which is so compact and tyrannical as the Medical Union. The Chancellor of the Exchequer found that out in connexion with his new scheme of national insurance. Medical men whisper to each other in confidence, and what they agree upon the whole profession sticks to. The reply of the Government simply is, “ We were bound to take the advice of our advisers.” Were they? Could they not discuss the matter with their advisers? Were they bound not to ask their advisers to give them further information about small-pox and its nature? I have been told - and the information which I have Ministers ought to have; if they have it not, they are not fit to be where they are - that an outbreak very similar to that in Sydney occurred in the island of Trinidad a few years ago. There were 8,000 cases and twenty-eight deaths. Assuming that the disease in Sydney was similar to that which occurred in Trinidad, where it chiefly affected the coloured population, what probability was there of a single fatal case occurring amongst the white race in this country ? We know, from the experience of bubonic plague, that the fatalities amongst the white race are nothing like so numerous as they are amongst coloured people. If the Fisher Administration had been in office would not things have been made lively for us in reference to this alleged small-pox? Speaking as a public man of twenty years’ experience, I venture to say that of all the irritating things that can occur one of the most annoying is to get from a Minister, in reply to a question, the answer, “ I have been advised by my advisers.” Of course they are advised; but I have known statesmen in Australia say to their advisers, “ Take that back, and give me another report.” I have known more than one Minister to do that. A Minister who has the courage to do such a thing is worth a great deal to a country. Would not the Minister have been justified in obtaining from his advisers a report on the real nature of small-pox ? Would he not have been justified in the interest of the public in insisting upon caution ? Possibly some honorable members know what’ the real nature of small-pox is. 1 can recollect how it raged in London in 1871-2-3. The small-pox which came to Great Britain from the camps of the armies of France and Germany has always followed upon a big war. When the people of the Old Country read that there is an outbreak of small-pox in Sydney, will they associate that outbreak with cow-pox or nettle-rash ? No. They will assume that it is the true small-pox - the dreadful disease from which so many of us have seen our friends die. I suppose that many honorable members have passed ‘ through those outbreaks in Great Britain unvaccinated, and have never been attacked. But what has happened in Sydney i Talk about administration ! We have to recollect that the gentlemen who occupy the Treasury bench in this Parliament to-day are the distinguished blue-bloods of Australia. There is none of the common working man about that brigade, if we exempt the Prime Minister, whom, I suppose, we may consider a working man, as the term is generally understood. These Ministers, we are told, have accepted the advice of certain medical men. Why, if a dozen of these doctors could have been got together in a room to diagnose this alleged outbreak of smallpox, they would have been fighting amongst themselves within an hour, and the result would have been that we should not have got an opinion from them at all. I protest against the action of the Government in quarantining an area within a radius of 15 miles of the General Post Office, Sydney, because of the injury which it has done to my own State, and because of the damage which it has inflicted upon New South Wales. In certain of the large” business establishments in Melbourne the employers have insisted upon their employes being vaccinated. With what result? In one or two instances which have come under my own notice, young women have been laid up for four or five days from the effects of vaccination, and these large-hearted employers have stopped their wages while they were absent through that illness. Any person occupying the responsible position of a Minister of the Crown must know that in all cases in which the ordinary routine of life is interfered with, the blow falls most heavily upon the poorest section of the community - upon those who have to bear the heat and burden of the day. There is one other question of administration in regard to which I desire to utter a note of warning. I do not know what the Government are doing in connexion with the matter, but I can make a pretty shrewd guess as to what they intend to do. I propose, therefore, to anticipate their action by offering them some sound advice at this stage, because I am more interested in the welfare of Australia than in obtaining a temporary advantage over the Government. Now that the Navigation Bill has become law, it will have to be administered, and the appointment of a Superintendent of Mercantile Marine will therefore be necessary. I should not be at all surprised if, when the Government are about to make that appointment, they seek the advice of the Naval
Board. It seems to me that no Government can walk if the Naval Board does not prop them up. I am very anxious to affirm the principle that the Naval Board should have no more to do with this appointment than they have to do with anything in Mars. To me it is doubtful whether the Commonwealth Government can do other than create jobs for half-pay naval officers. So far as the Navy itself is concerned, I say, “ Let the naval men go there.” I am not a naval expert, and am not competent to criticise naval actions. But I say that the mercantile marine of Australia has no right to be controlled by any man of that stamp. Let it have the superintendence of a man from the mercantile marine - a man who is familiar with the navigation of the great waters of Australia. We hear a good deal of the noble professions of the law and of medicine. I think that one of the noblest professions under the sun is that of the shipping masters and of the shipping officers. Brave men they are, too. We find them in all weathers battling round our coast, and what are the plums which fall to them ? Look at the precarious position of the master of a vessel and of his officers as compared with that of the chief engineer and his comrades. If an engineer has a dispute with the shipping company by which he is employed, he is paid off, takes his kit ashore, and goes into the first engineering shop he encounters, where he obtains a job.. But what can the unfortunate officer on the bridge do in such circumstances ? He has spent the best years of his life at sea, and must take what he can get. I say that if there are any plums to be given by the Government in the administration of our Navigation Act they should be given to these men. Not very long ago an expert was required in connexion with our lighthouses, and a half-pay naval officer was offered the appointment. There were a dozen men in every port of Australia who were more familiar with the Australian coast - men who had battled bravely on many a dark, wild night, straining their eyes to pierce the gloom, and to pick up the lights. I have had the good fortune to be invited on the bridge of vessels in my own State by master mariners, who have given me the benefit of their advice as to the places which should be lighted, and the reasons why they should be lighted. We all know that if a master mariner loses his ship that is about the end of him. The insurance people black-list him, and his opportunity to obtain employment has gone. One would naturallyhave expected a master mariner familiar with the Australian coast to be selected for the position to which I have referred. There were in all the principal ports of the Commonwealth at least half-a-dozen such men who would have filled the bill; but a half -pay naval officer was chosen. I “hope that the same kind of thing will not go on in connexion with the administration of the Navigation Bill. Rumour is a busy jade, and she has it that the Government have appointed a Mr. Ramsbotham as Director of Light-houses.
– It is true that he has been appointed.
– I have not met him, but from what I have heard I am inclined rather to think that he is an able engineer, and that we should not be far at sea in taking his advice concerning engineering matters. I do not say, however, that we should always follow the advice of only one expert. I rather favour the policy pursued by a merchant in a large way of business in South Australia, who was a colleague of mine in the State Parliament. One afternoon, while the debate in the House of Assembly was languishing, I said to him, “ In carrying on a large business concern such as you control, do you not find it necessary sometimes to obtain the advice of an expert?” “Certainly,” he replied, “and I take the advice of, not one expert, but of two, and sometimes three, experts. I read very carefully what they recommend, and then I do what I like.” I do not think that he is the only business man in Australia who follows that practice. I have no reason to believe that Mr. Ramsbotham is not a very able man; but is an engineer the best man to select for the position of Director of Light-houses ?
– Is he not a civil engineer ?
– There are engineers and engineers; but the best type of engineer to consult is the man who has had practical experience. In the interests of Australia, I say that in filling positions in connexion with the Navigation Act and the light-house services, we should warn off the half-pay naval officer. Such positions should be given to our master mariners, who have spent the greater part of their lives in trading round the Australian coast. I come now to the Government memorandum. In the opening paragraph we are told that the existing electoral law has not been found to work satisfactorily. I do not desire to cover ground that has been traversed by previous speakers, and I shall, therefore, say shortly that I agree with those who have asserted that, in connexion with the recent general election, there has been circulated a most infamous slander on the people of Australia. I believe that the rolls, so far as the number of electors enrolled is concerned, are in a very healthy condition; and I am pretty well convinced that there is no foundation for the allegation with regard to duplicate voting. Before my return to this House, there was scarcely an election in South Australia in which I did not act either as a scrutineer or in some other capacity. I, therefore, claim to know as much about the conduct of elections as do honorable members opposite and their supporters outside, who are “ skiting “ all over the country. If the Attorney-General could supply me with the information for which I asked regarding the number of duplications alleged to have taken place in connexion with previous elections, making due allowance for the enlarged rolls-
– I have asked for the information, but am told that it is impossible to obtain definite information, because there has never previously been a general scrutiny in respect of the whole Commonwealth. The officers express the opinion, however, that there is no evidence that the duplication of votes at the last general election was much in excess of the average.
– I am not complaining because the Attorney-General has failed to supply me with information for which I asked. I was merely leading up to the point that a cruel and infamous libel on the people of Australia had been circulated by those who have alleged that at the last Federal election duplicate voting was largely indulged in, and that there were many cases of impersonation. The statement just made by the AttorneyGeneral shows that there is absolutely no proof of the truth of such assertions.
– The honorable member will recollect that, when I referred to the matter on a previous occa sion, I expressly said that we had no knowledge of whether there was any duplication whatever.
– I do not suggest that the honorable member uttered the libel of which I complain.
– He never spoke of it.
– I do not say that he did, but many others did so. It was not so much honorable members of the Liberal party, or their supporters, as the press who lied all over the country about this matter. The press supporters of the Liberal party were responsible for it. I come now to the question of absent voting. Why is the old system of voting by post so highly valued by members of the Conservative party? They value it, not because of their large-hearted humanity, not because of their solicitude for the sick, or for those living in sparselypopulated districts, but because their advisers - experts in electioneering - tell them that it is the easiest method of corruption that could be employed.
– It is not more so than is the absent voting system.
Mr. ARCHIBALD. If the honorable member would only apply to this question a little of the common sense that he applies, no doubt, to his own business affairs, he would admit that nothing lends itself more readily to corruption than does the postal voting system. I am strongly of opinion that we might wisely go back to the old system of voting by ballot - that we should declare that men and women shall be entitled to vote in the districts in which they reside, and that if they cannot do so they shall not be allowed to vote at all. lt may be said that that would be a very great calamity, but we must all recognise that the purity of elections is essential, and that those who fought for the introduction of the system of voting by ballot were never in favour of these new-fangled notions. Those who advocated the adoption of the ballot had no idea other than that of secret voting in contradistinction to the old system of open voting. This proposal will cut both ways, because there are just as many electors on one side in politics as on the other who will be unable to vote. Great facilities should be given for the transfer of names until almost within a day or two of an election. That would get over the difficulty now existing. I am not making this suggestion on behalf of my party. I know it is thought by a great many persons in South Australia that there is no justification for all the fuss that has taken place, and that absent voting should be confined to only one class, and that is to persons who are on the ocean while an election is approaching. That would cover the travelling public and a very large section of our workers who get their living afloat. It is utterly impossible if a ship arrives in port for the crew to go and vote as they should do. I have been supplied by the Chief Electoral Officer with a return relating to double voting and personation. I had no scrutineer owing to the fact that on the last occasion, as on the previous occasion, I had a walk-over. I was not entitled to be supplied with the return, but it was sent to me as an act of courtesy. I was very anxious to know how my constituents behaved in regard to the Senate candidates, and I found that the record for Hindmarsh is similar to other records. I do not mean to suggest that there has been no personation practised in Australia, because I believe that it has been, and always will be, practised to a very slight extent; but I venture to say that no more personation was practised at the last elections than at previous elections. Personation will always be indulged in, because there is a certain number of reckless persons who are prepared to take the risk. As regards the present system of election, there is nothing, in my opinion, to justify the statements which have been mads. I should like an inquiry to be made into the allegations, and in default of an inquiry we had better let the matter drop with an admission from the other side that the electors of Australia are not open to any reflection for the way in which they recorded their votes on the 31st May. The absolute necessity for the no-confidence proposition from this side lies in the fact that the Prime Minister has stated in a memorandum that the Government intends to repeal preference to unionists. That is a declaration of war with the workers, and we take it up. Whether the Prime Minister intends to do anything in the matter is a horse of another colour. I am inclined to think that if a big breeze should spring up he will hesitate. He will need a good deal of courage to proceed with his proposal; he will need more courage than I give him credit for possessing. I would not call it courage on my part to submit a proposal of that kind, because I consider it is foolhardiness for a public man to throw down the gauntlet to the workers of Australia, and that is what the Prime Minister is doing. Now, what is preference to unionists so far as the Government is concerned ? Ministers have only control of a certain amount of patronage, or, if you prefer the term, employment. The rest is in the control of the Public Service Commissioner, and there, of course, the rule of preference to unionists does not come in. It only applies, practically, to appointments made by the Postal Department. The rule is that, other things being equal, preference should be given to unionists.
Mr.Finlayson. - It only applies to casuals.
– Exactly. This principle was adopted in our legislation to enable the Court over which Mr. Justice Higgins so ably presides to give, when it was essential for industrial peace, preference to unionists. Repeatedly His Honour has said in Court to a party, “You do not want preference to unionists; I am not going to give it,” but he would grant preference if he thought it was necessary to do so. It is now proposed to withdraw that power from the Judge, who exercises his jurisdiction in equity and good conscience. The High Court Judges are never guided by equity and good conscience. With them equity is out of the question, and it is a matter of what the law says. With them, too, good conscience is out of the question, and it is a matter of law. If the exercise of this power did not rest with the Arbitration Court, but with the union secretaries or the Executive Government, I could understand the proposal of the Government. Has the Conservative party in the Commonwealth sunk so low that it will refuse to allow a Judge of the High Court to deal with industrial trouble and bring about peace? It is proposed to take away the Arbitration Court’s power of giving preference when, if exercised, it would often bring about industrial peace. The Ministry are not actuated by any other motive than that of deliberately defying the workers, because preference to unionists is the high-water mark to which trade unionism has risen in the present day.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
– I shall not say anything more regarding preference to unionists, as my time is limited, and many other honorable members have spoken on the subject, though there is much I would like to say about it. I come now to another matter of very great importance. The Government, according to the memorandum that the Prime Minister has laid on the table, intends to put the maternity allowance on a contributory basis. We shall have another opportunity to discuss that proposal, if it ever comes before us in tangible form, which I very much doubt. What I wish to refer to now is the honorable gentleman’s statement that 90 per cent, of the mothers of Australia do not need the allowance. That is entirely wrong. When I make a denial of that kind I am in a position to prove what I say, and I shall give proof in this instance. I asked the last Government, and I ask this Government, to give instructions for the preparation of information to accompany the Budget showing as nearly as possible the social conditions and income of the population. I do not ask for statements of average income based on statistics. If the wealth of Australia is divided by the population, poor fellows getting only 30s. a week are allotted an average income much above that sum. Information obtained in that way is of as little value as information regarding the average weight of adult Australians, which may vary in individual cases from 8 to 26 stone. The system of averaging, when aggregates are taken, is mere humbug. But a great deal of valuable information can be obtained by averaging in groups. If a statement made up in that way were presented with each Budget, we should know what the incomes of Australians are, and how wealth is distributed in this country. I do not wish to know the income of Brown, Jones, or Robinson, or of this or that wealthy man; my concern is not with the incomes of individuals, but with the incomes of groups. We get a certain amount of information of this kind from the publications of the Commonwealth Statistician, and I am going to quote now from Bulletin 8, the monthly summary for August, 1912, which gives, at page 49, a table showing the distribution of incomes in Australia, estimated as for the year ended 30th June, 1911. The total incomes above £200 a year amount to £62,637,896, divided among 114,195 persons. The incomes above £300 a year amount to £52,126,765, and are divided among 57,517 persons, a drop of nearly onehalf. The incomes above £500 amount to £41,455,747, and are enjoyed by 25,485 persons. The incomes above £750 amount to £35,408,930, and are enjoyed by 15,393 persons. The incomes above £1,000 amount to £30,664,673, and are enjoyed by 9,257 persons. The incomes above £1,500 amount to £25,397,094, and are enjoyed by 5,001 persons, and the incomes above £2,000 amount to £22,053,874, and are enjoyed by 3,536 persons. I have no fault to find with the Commonwealth Statistician, because I know what difficulty he has in obtaining from the States the information that he needs. It would be well if honorable members got the State members whom they know to insist 0.1 the preparation and publication of returns of this kind on the same basis, so that they might be accessible to the Commonwealth Government. I have heard that in one case a State Government wanted £8,000 from the Commonwealth Government for a return for which it asked, although the information was available. The people of Australia should see that that kind of thing is stopped. The figures which I have read take no account of the incomes on which income tax is not paid, but it is not difficult to ascertain the amount of those incomes. Those who have made a study of these questions arrive at the information in this way: The average family consists of the breadwinner, his wife, and three children. It is only the head of a household who pays income tax, and only one in nine heads of families have incomes above £200 a year. Will honorable members say that in all other households the maternity- allowance is not needed ? I think that it is. Let us consider the question in another way. There are 311,000 factory workers in the Commonwealth, men, women, and children. They earned £27,500,000 in 1911, which, on the average, meant £2 a week for the men, £1 ls. a week for the women, and 10s. a week for the youngsters. Of course, some of the male workers would earn £3 a week, and some considerably less than £2 a week; but where is the 90 per cent, that the Prime Minister tells us do not require a maternity bonus? I desire to arrive at the wealth of Australia by another method. I have taken some interest in this study, both in the Old Country and here; and, thanks to the statisticians and economists who have written on the question, it is possible to know exactly the condition of the people of the Old Country in groups - those who possess colossal wealth and the millions who have not bread for their wives and children. That, however, is of no value to us; we require the same rules and tables applied to Australia as in the Old Country, so that we may know exactly the condition of the working people. One method of arriving at the wealth of the country is to take the value of the deceased estates which come under the review of the various probate officers; but both we and the public know, of course, that a great number of people leave no estates at all. According to Mr. Chiozza Money, if we multiply the deceased estates by thirty we arrive at the value of the property of the living; and now let me see if I can prove that. Mr. Chiozza Money, in his Riches and Poverty, tells us that from Queen Anne, in 1702, to George V., in 1910, a period of 208 years, the Crown has passed eight times, on the average about every twenty-six years. This, it appears, is the fair average for the transfer of estates in Australia as well as in England, but the point is that relating to the value of the deceased estates. According to the Tear-Book, No. 6, page 814, the value of the deceased estates in Australia, in 1907, was, in round figures, £20,000,000; in 1908 it was £20,000,000; in 190& it was £22,000,000; in 1910 it was £22,000,000; and in 1911 it was £28,000,000, or a total of £112,000,000, showing an average over the five years of £22,000,000. To this I add £4,000,000 a year, because there is a certain amount of plate, jewellery, furniture, and so forth, which always eludes the requirements of the law of probate. This brings the figure to £26,000,000, which, multiplied by thirty, gives £780,000,000 as the wealth of Australia in 1911. On page 824. of the Tear-Book, No. 2, there are the figures for the previous five years, showing that the value of the deceased estates in 1906 was £18,000,000; in 1905 it was £17,000,000; in 1904 it was £16,000,000; in 1903 it was £19,000,000; and in 1902 it was £16,000,000, or a total of £86,000,000, giving an average of £17,000,000 per annum. When we again add £4,000,000, and multiply the total by thirty, we have £630,000,000 as the wealth of Australia in 1906, showing an increase in five years of £150,000,000. Honorable members have been asking questions about the rise in prices and the increased cost of living. I have a suspicion, as I believe any intelligent man or woman outside must have, that if the wages have gone up profits have gone up also; and, as the London press has said, we have had a “ glorious time “ in Australia during the last five years. There are people who howl about the “ bottom dog “ - about the working man’s increase in wages and his wickedness in adhering to his labour organization and to preference to unionists - but the wealth of the crowd to which those people belong has increased by £150,000,000. In the face of facts like this, what is the use of the Prime Minister saying that 90 per cent, of the women of Australia have no need for a maternity bonus ? I am not one to say that the working section of the Australian people are hard-up or starving, or to talk any rubbish of that kind; on the contrary, I have said over and over again that this is the best poor man’s country in the world. The only astonishing thing about the worker here is how on earth he can, under any circumstances whatever, get it into his thick head that he ought to vote for a Conservative. A peer of the realm said years ago in the House of Commons that the working man who voted for a Conservative was a fool. Of course, he is. Conservatives are the defenders of vested interests and of privilege, and all that sort of thing. Here we have the Government, in spite of the increased wealth and the present condition of Australia, making this suggestion. I have advocated the cause of my fellow-workers for forty years, and I have never seen any necessity for changing my opinion. I hope that the House and the country behind it will insist’ that the maternity bonus shall not be interfered with. There might be some excuse for doing so if we were a poor country, but we are a wealthy country.. One honorable member preceding me has asked where the money was coming from,, seeing that the progressive land tax was being whittled away, but I can tell the. honorable member where we can get the revenue for the maternity bonus. In doing this, I am not binding my party. I simply speak for myself when I suggest that out of the £150,000,000 £5,000,000, which is the amount now paid in Customs duties on the necessaries of life, and on the necessary clothing of the working people, should be set aside for this purpose. In England the wealthy are whining, howling, and cursing Mr. LloydGeorge, Mr. Asquith, and others, but they will have to pay the tax imposed, and they ought to be prepared to pay it. I would never growl at having to pay double my income tax; the Commissioner would never have any trouble to get it out of me; he would be welcome to it, because the income tax is a genuine and honest tax. I hope the Government will pause before they interfere with the maternity bonus. I understand that the Government, in the interests of freedom and liberty, and the rest of that sort of bunkum - bunkum coming from them - are going to remove the “ trammels “ on the press. Of course, the Government should stick up for their friends, the commercial press. I do not intend to rail at the press. I look on a newspaper as simply a commercial concern. It sells us news for a penny, and the news is good, bad, or indifferent, just what the paper chooses to sell. The newspapers aim at increasing their circulation, and they use every avenue and opportunity to play on the public to increase their circulation. Following on the principle adopted in France, they were simply asked by us to have the articles appearing in the papers signed by the writers of them. Many great French statesmen like Gambetta and Clemenceau won their reputations through the people becoming acquainted with their names when they were journalists. Our friends of the Bulletin turned the whole matter into humour; they did not mind signing their names to what they wrote. In connexion with the Labour journals there was no objection to signing articles; all the men on the staffs signed their names. What, then, is there in this cant about liberty and freedom in connexion with a commercial organization that has no morals? Morality no more comes into journalism than it does into hotel-keeping. The newspaper man sells news, and the hotelkeeper sells beer. People have antiquated ideas about the freedom of the press. Classic John Milton, the old blind poet whose marvellous powers enriched our literature and made our beautiful lan- guage what it is, wrote his best prose work in defence of the press. He pleaded hard for the freedom of the press, and the freedom of the press was gained;, but take the press of to-day, take the king of newspapers, the London, Times; is it like what it was when Delane was its chief, and Blowitz was its correspondent in Paris? With a staff of men like those two, the Times carried weight, but to-day it is but a rag in comparison. Now we are asked to defend, not the freedom of the press, but the absolute licence of the press. A newspaper is a commercial proposition. Ask the proprietor of any newspaper why he does not write so-and-so, and he will say, “ What has it to do with you ? I am here to make my paper pay. I will sell news, and put in news that suits me, not you.” As a matter of fact, the newspaper is run in the interests of the advertisers. It battens and lives on capitalists. The capitalists dictate the policy by putting in advertisements. This is the freedom and spread-eagleism we are asked to defend ! All the late Parliamentasked the newspapers to do was to have the articles signed. Any one who is a man would not mind signing what he wrote. I would go further, and have the law of France enforced; but that is a matter for the States, and the Legislative Councils would not vote for these “scallywags “ to sign their names. I say “ scallywags,” because a good many of the men on the newspapers are nothing else. I donot refer to the journalists of Australia;. I know too many of them. I see that the: member for Wentworth is laughing. He should have his face blacked and get a banjo. He is an excellent corner-man for the Government. Many journalists in Australia have to get a living, and have largely to conform to the requirements of the papers for which they are working; but I know honorable, upright men who, if they had freedom to write as they thought, would give us altogether different matter. Now we are asked to do something, not in the interests of freedom, but in the interests of licence. The member for Wentworth is prepared to defend licence and a corrupt press, notthe press of the time I have referred to. I can recollect, as a youth, newspapers run by men of principle, men who be- lieved in their principles, and wrote be- cause they believed in them. They were not like the wretched press of to-day.
– The member for Wentworth did not laugh when one paper referred to him as an “innate cad.”
– And they were not very far wrong. There are two ways of dealing with newspapers. One way is by legislation. And there is another way. There are millionaires in Australia. It is a pity one millionaire could not use his money in the interests of freedom, and the improvement of our civilization, by starting a newspaper in Sydney and Melbourne, running it on the same lines as the existing papers, catering for all the news, but running the paper on Labour principles and telling the truth. He would smash the existing papers to powder, and beat them at their own game. There is money in it, too. The millionaire who did that might very easily add another million’ to his wealth in a few years. That would be one way of doing it, but I admit that we cannot expect much assistance in that way. Honorable members on the other side have said that they are Democrats. I do not care very much about that. Like many of the words we use, it does not convey very much meaning. For all practical purposes, honorable members opposite are the Conservative party of Australia. They are the representatives and lineal descendants of the whole crowd of Conservatives who have gone before them. They have everything in common with the Oxford and Cambridge educated blackguards who sit behind Bonar Law, and every night blackguard and abuse LloydGeorge and other English statesmen. They talk about defending the people, but we know that in the past they have blocked all legislation proposed for the benefit of the “bottom dog,” and they always will do so. I do not say this of every honorable member on the other side, because I believe some who are there now have drifted in, and do not know where they have drifted. I refuse to believe that some honorable members on the other side will stand out against every demand made from this side in the interests of the people. What we demand is that the wealth earned in this Commonwealth of Australia shall be better distributed amongst the community. I want no rich man’s goods and chattels. If there is a rich man in this House or outside of it, I do not envy him his wealth, nor do I want it. But every step that we may take in the direction of the better distribution of the wealth earned in the Commonwealth will, I am satisfied, meet with the unmistakable and determined opposition of the Government, and of many of those who sit behind them. Indeed, they can follow no other course in view of the claims of the section of the community from whom they receive their support, their august allies, the people from whom their money comes, and their commercial press. These are the influences which will dictate their policy for them. I wish to make an appeal to the Government, because I am not so narrow-minded as to assume that the intelligence of Australia will always demand that the Labour party should be in office.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. GREGORY (Dampier) [8.19J.- May I first of all, sir, congratulate you on your unopposed appointment to the highest position in this House. I feel sure that, with the sympathy and cooperation of honorable members opposite, your duties during the session will not be too arduous. I am satisfied that your occupancy of the Chair will reflect credit upon this Chamber and upon yourself. The honorable member who has just sat down has had a good deal to say about the press of Australia, and I feel certain that the newspapers generally will take very little notice of his remarks. But I think it would not be unwise if I now said a little about another section of the press, the section controlled by honorable members opposite. I ask whether there is one newspaper in Australia adopting other views that is so one-sided as are the Labour organs? I say that there is none so degraded and so contemptible as are the Labour newspapers. They can well be classed as the “gutter “ press of Australia.
– I can see that they have been turning the honorable member up.
– They have. I have always had to put up with a good deal of their ink-slinging, but I have been able to rise above it. My honorable friends opposite will pay more attention to the opinions of one of their own side on this subject than to mine, and I make this quotation for their benefit -
All Politics - No Scruples.
Mr. Anstey, M.H.R., was appointed acting editor of the Labour Call, and, in assuming the editorship, published in theissue of 12th August,1909, the following terse opinion : - “ I want help. Left to myself I shall do the best I can. Dignity and ethics will be lacking. There will be only ink-slinging and splash. I shall beg, bone, and borrow, and scorn to own it. . Truth will find a place, but not to the exclusion of more interesting matter. No virtue will be seen in the enemy, nor vice amongst friends. It will be partisan and party. All politics ; no scruples.”
That is the opinion of one of their own members.
– It is not as bad as what the Argus said about me when it lied yesterday, and again to-day - a dirty, rotten rag.
– How these honorable members opposite do love criticism !
– I do not like lying.
– I think I have said enough with regard to Labour journalism. The honorable member for Hindmarsh when speaking of the Government policy objected to anything in the nature of a reversal of the legislation passed by the previous Government. He described the Prime Minister and those associated with him as not being statesmen, but poor politicians. But if there is one thing which I feel proud about, it is the statement of Ministerial policy which has been published by the Prime Minister, because ft makes a clean line of demarcation between honorable members opposite and honorable members on this side. It is clear, concise, emphatic, and to the point, and that is what honorable members opposite do not like about it. There has been too much pusillanimity exhibited by this party in the past, and members of it have been too ready to listen to and believe in the statements made by honorable members opposite. I feel that we on this side are representing the people. Honorable members opposite represent one section of the community, and vote every time as their masters tell them . Some time ago, we had a remarkable announcement in one of the Labour newspapers in Western Australia. It is well known that honorable members opposite are controlled by the Australian Labour Federation. Some three years ago, Mr. Minahan, in Sydney, told the Prime Minister of this country that he was a servant of the federation.
– What is the honorable member’s authority for that ?
– The newspapers.
– Here is an extract from the Vanguard, a Labour newspaper published in Western Australia. Mr. Mahon, formerly one of the leaders of the party opposite, had a dispute with Mr. Mitchell, the Minister of Lands in Western Australia, and writing in that journal, used the following words: -
Any changein Labour’s land policy, when made by the proper authority, is binding on every member of Parliament. Mr. Mitchell ought to have known that the authority which fashions that policy can at any time alter, revise, or withdraw it, and that any change made by that authority is binding on every member of Parliament.
There is an extraordinary thing; and yet honorable members opposite have the impertinence to tell us that they are free and independent. I feel pride in the policy which has been put forth by the present Government, because it makes the position perfectly clear.
– Had the honorable member any say in drafting the policy?
– We have no Caucus here. Ministers frame their policy, not the members of the party. The honorable member cannot understand the independence either of Ministers or their supporters.
– The honorable member has to swallow what they dish up.
– I should like to make my position perfectly clear as to one matter. I come here as one who is prepared to defend all the time the interests of the States. I am a thorough Federalist. I helped to secure the passage of the Constitution in Western Australia. I believe in Federation; but I have no time for Unification. I think that we should have a National Parliament tolook after national affairs, and should leave the States to control social and domestic matters. Any effort that may be made, even if from this side of the chamber, to interfere with the States within their own sphere, I shall resent. There is no doubt that honorable members opposite desire Unification. The changes they sought to bring about by their referenda proposals proved that. They tried to secure Federal control over matters affecting the social and domestic conditions of the people within the States. I am glad that the good sense and conscience of the people led them to reject that policy. I shall at all times strongly object to such powers as were asked for being given to the Commonwealth. While the Socialists were in office, they tried time after time to injure the States financially, and to undermine the powers left with them under the Constitution.
– -Give us an instance.
– Such a case occurred in connexion with the arbitration laws. I do not know whether we ought to blame the Court or this Parliament, but undoubtedly it was never intended, when the Constitution was framed, that the Federal Parliament should have power to make laws bringing before the Federal Arbitration Court many matters which are now brought before it. In almost every industry disputes are created for the purpose of bringing cases before this Court. Even the farming community are affected. The case of the miners of Broken- Hill was brought before the Court, and a judgment was delivered by it affecting them. In all these instances, industries should be controlled by the States, and the power should never have been given by the Federal Parliament.
– The Federal Arbitration Court can only act in Inter-State disputes.
– Which are artificially manufactured.
– Of course, there would be no scope for honorable members opposite unless they could manufacture these disputes. Then there was the land tax. It was well understood that the power of raising money by land taxation was to be left to the States. But the Federal Government introduced the land tax and took that source of revenue from the States. Take the subject of banking.
– The High Court is against the honorable member in regard to the land tax.
– I am perfectly well aware that the Socialists originally had no intention of taxing city lands, but they had to do so to keep within the Constitution.
– What nonsense ! Where did the honorable member get that from ? He must have been reading the War Cry, I think !
– Then, take the Commonwealth Bank Act. Undoubtedly, the Constitution gives this Parliament control over banking other than State banking. But a deliberate attempt was made by honorable members opposite to destroy the State Savings Banks. I do not know whether they realize what the State Savings Bank means to the people of Western Australia. Through our Agricultural Bank, which is financed by the Treasurer of the State, we have been able to give cheap money to the farmers. How is the Treasurer going to finance that bank in the future? He cannot, owing to the competition of the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and to the fact that the Commonwealth has turned the States out of the post-offices. I know several instances in which storekeepers have been appointed to take money for the State Savings Bank; but a good many people who have a £5 note to put in the bank do not care to go to a storekeeper for the purpose. Why did the Commonwealth Government, under the Labour regime, deliberately try to destroy the State Savings Banks ? Did they want money? No; they had an enormous revenue. They had established a Commonwealth Bank of Issue, and had obtained possession of nine or ten millions. There was no need to treat the States as they did. But I believe that the object they had in view was to destroy the financial balance of the States, so as to force them into Unification. Take the policy adopted by the Socialist Government in regard to our transferred properties. After the abolition of the Braddon section, when the States were receiving 25s. per head from the Commonwealth, how was it that that Government charged the States 3^ per cent, for money lent, whilst they refused to grant them more than 3 per cent, on account of the transferred properties? Was that fair treatment? 1 trust tha.t the present Government will see that the States are paid on account of the transferred properties at the same rate as they are charged for money which they borrow from the Commonwealth. But that is the way the late Government treated them. It is true that at a subsequent stage, owing to the trouble which arose, they raised the rate of interest from 3 to 3£ per cent. I hold that the rate should be the same in both instances, or else the Commonwealth should pay for the transferred properties. In this Federation, surely we should aim at doing our best to build up the States. What have we given to the people for the large amount which we exact from them by way of Customs and Excise taxation ? We have initiated a defence scheme, we have established old-age pensions, and we have enacted legislation providing for the baby bonus. Nothing else. The people look to the States for their railways, their roads, their water supplies, the education of their children, and for the administration of justice and charities. Yet we find that when honorable members opposite were in control of the Treasury they treated the States in as niggardly a manner as possible. I hope that in the future we shall endeavour to keep to the Federal compact. I quite realize that honorable members opposite desire to vest in the Commonwealth much greater powers than it now possesses. I admit that it does require some additional powers.
– We want the whole lot.
– I hope that the people of Australia will not be so foolish as to give the honorable member the “ whole lot.” He does not explain to them from the public platform why he wants these increased powers. He merely endeavours to cloud the issue, with a view to bringing about Unification. In the Postal Department we have the means of giving some assistance to the States, and I hope that in the future the Postmaster-General will act with greater liberality towards the persons who live out-back. A good deal of fuss has been made over the adoption of penny postage. Personally, I would rather that the system formerly in vogue had been continued, and that the £430,000 lost by the adoption of penny postage should have been expended in granting increased postal facilities to residents in remote rural areas. These are the persons who build up the country. The feeling of security that we experience when we are enjoying good seasons is remarkable, but we ought always to bear in mind that it is the primary industries upon which the secondary industries are dependent. Those engaged in our primary industries should, therefore, receive more consideration than has hitherto been extended to them. I hope that’ a generous effort will be made by the Postmaster- General to give them greater facilities in the way of postal and telephonic communication in the future. I know that the honorable gentleman has already issued instructions which will prove of value to residents in our back country, so far as telephonic communication is concerned, and I hope that those facilities will be still further extended. I suppose that it ill-becomes a new member to reflect upon any statement which has been made by an honorable member on the opposite side of the chamber. But when the honorable member for Adelaide read a quotation from a speech made by the Attorney-General, and when it was shown immediately afterwards that the preceding words entirely altered the context, I could not help feeling that what had been done was degrading to this assembly.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Attorney-General was not referring to Australian combines ?
– I dare not say that the honorable member “ deliberately “ withheld information in regard to the quotation, but that was the feeling which I had, and I believe that that feeling was shared by almost every other honorable member.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Attorney-General was merely referring to American combines ?
– The AttorneyGeneral very kindly read to the House the other portions of the extract, which put quite a different complexion on the matter.
– Order !
– There were 118 interjections during the course of my speech.
– Order ! I think that it has always been the custom to extend to the honorable member who is addressing the Chair - and especially to a new member - the courtesy of hearing him in hi 1 fi n 1C
– I would not have referred to the dismissal of the engineer on the Western Australian section of the transcontinental railway but that the question was raised here this afternoon by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. I merely wish to say - and I say it on behalf of my old friend, Mr. .Hedges-
– He has been passed out.
– I think that the honorable member scarcely realizes the difficulties with which he had to contend in Western Australia, and, therefore, I propose to offer a few remarks in regard to the late election contest. I refer to
Mr. Hedges because I think that a good many persons did not believe the statements made by him some time ago in regard to certain matters.
– Does the honorable member think that it is decent to deal with a case which is now before the Court?
– What case is. before the Court? I suppose that the strongest statements ever made from a public platform were made by the honorable member for Perth in regard to Mr. Chinn during the late election contest, and nothing in the nature of a writ has ever reached him. In connexion with the Chinn case, a very notorious character was brought over here from Western Australia, for the purpose of giving evidence in refutation of the statements made by Mr. Hedges. This man, Harcourt Whipple Ellis - an admirable confrere of the other side - was twice charged with a capital offence, and tried for his life. Shortly afterwards Mr. Hedges reported to Sir Newton Moore and myself the offer which was made to him by Chinn. This man, Ellis, was arrested at Albany on a charge of larceny as a bailee. It was alleged that he had sold certain gold to the Mint in Perth, and was decamping with the money. The case was part heard, and then adjourned. Next day it was settled out of Court.
– I rise to a point of order. I understand that Mr. Hedges has lodged a petition against the validity of the recent election for Fremantle.
– He has withdrawn it.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to that election, in view of the fact that Mr. Hedges has lodged a petition against the return of the sitting member for the constituency of Fremantle?
– I do not understand that the honorable member is now referring to a petition which had been lodged by Mr. Hedges. I take it that he is referring to an entirely different matter.
– I rise to a point of order. While I am extremely anxious to extend to a new member every consideration, I take exception to the statement which the honorable member for Dampier has just made, that a certain person who was brought over here from Western Australia - a criminal who had been charged with a capital offence - was a fit confrere for honorable members on this side of the House. I ask that he be compelled to withdraw the remark and apologize.
– The honorable member should have taken exception to the remark when it was made. If the honorable member for Dampier uttered a remark winch is regarded as offensive, I shall ask him to withdraw it.
– I do not think I did. I do not think my remark was of such a character.
– Wait till we see Hansard.
– What I meant when I spoke of “ the other side “ was that this man was a fit confrere for those who were called upon to answer these charges. I had no intention whatever of reflecting on honorable members opposite; but this is the man whose word was accepted by some in preference to that of Mr. Hedges. A good deal has been said about the action of the Government in closing down the plant at Cockatoo Island. I venture to say, however, that, had the Labour party been in power, they would not have delayed action for one moment after receipt of the report of the experts, and that if the present Administration had not closed down the plant as they were advised to do, and the fact that they were so advised had come to the knowledge of honorable members opposite, they would have been the first to charge the Ministry with maladministration. It was reported that the plant was being overloaded, and on the 18th March last the then Minister of Defence approved of Mr. Julius being appointed as a special expert to make an examination of it. Mr. Julius reported that the boilers were practically worn out, that considerable repairs had to be effected every week-end to keep them running for another week, and that the plant, as a whole, was in such a condition as might lead to a breakdown at any time. This condition, he added, had caused in the past frequent interruptions in the dockyard work. Then Captain Clarkson reported to the Naval Board - 1 am of opinion that the Board, having received this report, can pursue no other course than to immediately order the fires in these boilers to be drawn, and the boilers put out of use until a survey can be made by a Board of engineer officers.
The Board of Survey made an inspection, and it seems to me to be a reflection upon the administration of the inspectors of boilers in New South Wales that these things were found to exist, and that they had been allowed to exist, even in a Government dockyard, for one moment. It was a most disgraceful state of affairs. The Board found thick deposits of slime the scale on tubes, stays, and plates; and in the case of loco, type boilers Nos. 1 to 4, the lower tubes were buried in sludge. Any one who has had practical experience knows the extreme danger of allowing boilers to remain in that condition. The Board reported” further that -
The examination of the thickness of plates and the condition of the tubes of Nos. i, 2, 3, 4, and 0 boilers points to the fact that these boilers have been working for years in an extremely dangerous condition….. The
Naval Board, after consideration of the report, are of opinion that if the condemned boilers had been worked much longer under the conditions disclosed an explosion would have been inevitable.
They, therefore, condemned altogether six of these boilers. They allowed one boiler to be used, but fixed a limit of 20 lbs. to the square inch. In the case of another boiler, they gave a certificate that it might be worked up to a pressure of 40 lbs. to the square inch for a period not exceeding three months.
– Where did the honorable member get this information?
– My information is authentic.
– The honorable member is quoting a report that I could not obtain.
– As an honorable member says, we are being “ blown up “ here because the Minister would not allow the men at Cockatoo Island to be blown up. In the circumstances, I think the Government were quite justified, and that the Opposition ought to be pleased with the action they took. Their objection is that these matters should have been made public; but I think it only right in the interests of the people that they should be made public, and every information given. Coming to the question of the electoral law, I sincerely trust that the Government will, at the earliest possible moment, bring down an amending Bill. If the majority of the people of Australia are to rule, it is absolutely essential that a very great change should be made in the electoral law of the Commonwealth. The existing Act is a disgrace to every one who was concerned in placing it upon the statutebook. It is a disgrace from beginning to end. It opens the door to fraud, collusion, and impersonation, and ought certainly to be amended.
– It was good enough to put the honorable member into Parliament.
– No : bad as it was, it could not keep me out. Let me put before honorable members a few facts relating to the position in Western Australia. We had on the general roll, in round figures, 148,000 names; but at the last moment there was a great rush to be placed upon the supplementary rolls. In the streets of Perth, tables were placed in charge of men with whom it became a parrot cry, “ Come here and help to put a nail in Fowler’s coffin.” That was their cry to the passers-by, and 15,000’ names were added to the supplementary roll for the Perth electorate. In all, over 50,000 names were added to the supplementary rolls in Western Australia. Seeing that the electoral law of the Commonwealth had been in operation for about twelve years, surely the Department should have had the rolls in such a condition as to render it unnecessary, just prior to a general election, to add 50,000 names in a small community like that of Western Australia?
– How many are on therolls altogether?
– About 200,000. Fifteen thousand names were added to the supplementary roll for Perth, 11,000 in respect of Fremantle, over 9,000 for theSwan, and 8,000 odd for the Dampier. The remainder were added to the supplementary rolls for the electorate of Kalgoorlie. We were able to obtain copies of the general roll and the supplementary roll ; but I understand that there were some 10,000 persons whose names were either transferred, or, because of their death or for other reasons, struck off altogether, and of these we could secure no information. I Believe that in the case of Fremantle alone there weresome 3,000 transfers. None of the candidates, however, were able to obtain information regarding the names that had been struck off. I certainly knew nothing regarding the names that had been transferred, for although the general roll and’ the supplementary roll were published, the latter did not contain the names of those who had been transferred. I believe that many of the Presiding Officers carried out the election with a cleanroll; that is to say, the names of those who had been transferred had not been struck off the roll which was given to those officers. Their names still appeared on the general roll, and they would have been allowed to vote had they seen fit.
– If a roll, without the names of those persons having been struck off, was supplied^ to a Presiding Officer, how would he know that they had no right to vote? He would have no knowledge on the subject.
– Have you any proof of clean rolls having been supplied?
– I understand that my statement is correct.
– Where were they used?
– They were not used in Fremantle.
– The excuse made by the officers of the Department was that they had not had time to get the names of transferred persons struck off the roll.
– In Victoria the names were all struck off.
– Surely there must be something wrong with an electoral system which allows 50,000 names to be placed on the rolls of a State at the last moment ! The officials had no possibility of checking the names with the card system; therefore, there was no check at all in regard to names placed on the supplementary list.
– A large number of the cards notifying that names were placed on the roll were returned with the statement that the persons could not be found.
– I understand from honorable members opposite that the postal vote was abolished on the ground that it had led to a great deal of fraud and wrong practices. As a matter of fact, the postal vote has not been abolished. We have in the Electoral Act and the regulations a more simple system of postal voting than is contained in any of the State Acts in Australia. Any person can go to an Electoral Registrar in any port, :,, of Australia, and make a declaration that he will be outside the Commonwealth on polling day. He gets his paper, he writes the name of the person for whom he desires to vote, the vote is placed in an envelope, and the regulation provides that the Electoral Registrar shall forward, by registered post from day to day, these votes to the Divisional
Officer concerned. It is the most simple and effective method of postal voting which is known in any part of Australia.
– As that vote has to be recorded before the Electoral Registrar there can be nothing wrong.
– The reason why this provision was ‘ made in the law was to allow any person who had sold his interests in Australia, and was leaving its shores, to record his vote. There was a number of seamen employed on our coast, and there was no reason in the world why they should be disfranchised. Although I think that the regulation might be made a little more restricted in regard to identification, at the same time I quite approve of the postal vote as we had it in the Electoral Act. It should have been left there. There is no reason, I repeat, why all the seamen should be disfranchised, but honorable members on the other side say that they abolished the postal vote because of the corrupt practices it permitted. Last year there were 122,000 births in Australia. Let us assume that about a sixth of the mothers would not care to go to a polling booth on polling day. Some persons may say that the percentage would be less. At any rate, from 8,000 to 10,000 of the mothers of Australia have been debarred from recording their votes. Are we to believe that the good union seamen on our coast, to whom this special facility had been granted, would do nothing corrupt or wrong, but that the mothers ot Australia would be likely to adopt corrupt practices if allowed to vote by post’/
– Nonsense !
– From 8,000 to 10,000 of the women of Australia were disfranchised at the last election. Why was it done ? Because honorable members opposite thought that these women would act corruptly, and I presume that that is why the bribe of the maternity bonus was given.
– A big percentage of the postal votes came from districts where there were large numbers of domestic servants employed.
– Surely a domestic servant can exercise just as much liberty as a good union seaman !
– Practically she had to record her vote in the presence of her employer.
– It is quite possible that some electors may have acted improperly, but that has also been done in connexion with the maternity bonus, and I suppose that honorable members opposite will ask for its abolition on that ground, too, I have no time for the maternity bonus ; I believe that a wrong system was started.
– Why do you not abolish it?
– It is difficult to take away things that are given. I would have much preferred if the Parliament had granted some money to the States and asked them to establish maternity institutions in which nurses could be trained, and assisted to go into the back country and give the residents that attention which is required at a critical period in their lives. Apart from the fact that from 8,000 to 10,000 women were disfranchised, why were people in the back country disfranchised ? I know many persons who came over 100 miles to vote for me. I have letters from persons pointing out, more especially in the huge district from Carnarvon to Broome, places 50, 60, 80, and 100 miles away from a polling booth. It would be quite easy for people to come into a town between the issue of the writ and, say, a week prior to the day of polling. I would not allow any person to exercise the postal vote later than a week before polling day, so that the names of such persons voting could be crossed off the roll, and they would not have an opportunity to vote again. I hope that the Government will push forward a Bill which will provide for the restoration of the postal vote. It meant in my electorate the disfranchising of a large number of persons, and I certainly object to a special facility being given to one section which is denied to others. I also hope that some system of preferential voting will be introduced. We shall be able shortly to deal with an Electoral Bill, and I hope that honorable members opposite will help us to try and make the electoral system a good one. In my opinion, the present Act leaves an imperishable stain upon the honour of the Socialistic Government, and all those who helped in placing it upon the statute-book. I am pleased to see that the Government are alive to the necessity of immigration. If we want to doubt about the possibilities of Australia build up our resources - and there is no - we must do the best we can to induce people to come to our shores. I hope that the Prime Minister will work in sympathy and conjunction with the State Governments with the view of trying to induce a large stream of immigration. It is somewhat discreditable to us, when we note the wonderful progress which is being made by Canada and Argentina. It is only a short time ago that I read in the press a speech by the Treasurer of Canada, who said that immigrants were going to the Dominion at the rate of 1,200 a day, and that they had brought in during the last year about £30,000,000 of capital. Surely with the conditions prevailing here we should be able to induce a large number of immigrants to come and help us to build up the Commonwealth ! We want it more particularly in connexion with the Northern Territory.
– You cannot get land provided for your own people, let alone for immigrants.
– Let the honorable member go out into the back country, and he will see room for people.
– There is plenty of land, but it is in the hands of the wrong people.
– There is plenty of good land, and facilities are given by the Government of the States to induce people to go on it. We must endeavour to settle the Northern Territory. I have no time for the Socialistic fads and theories of honorable members opposite, and no belief in the leasehold system for the settlement of the country. I would like the Prime Minister to introduce a Land Bill dealing with the Northern Territory, and would be prepared to give away the land there free, subject to proper conditions to insure settlement, and prevent any one person from having too large an area. I know very little of the resources of the Northern Territory, but I think that, instead of the Minister framing ordinances to deal with mining there, this Parliament should pass mining legislation to enable investors to know what security they have for their expenditure on the development of the mining industry. It is strange that the mining industry, which is the most uncertain of all, should have the most restrictions placed on it. We need good legislation to aid the development of the mineral areas of the Northern Territory. The most pleasing thing in the Ministerial programme is the abolition of preference to unionists. I should like to see this preference abolished entirely. Preference should not be given to any one. I believe in unionism. It has done good for the working classes, but it is an impertinence for honorable members opposite to claim that much of the democratic legislation, and the amelioration of the condition of the people have been due to the efforts of the unionists. No man, woman, or child should have special consideration because of membership of any organization or union. I hope that a measure will be introduced as speedily as possible to abolish preference to unionists. We have heard of discrimination against unionists, but the tyranny of unionists on many occasions has been discreditable to the unions.
– Of course the honorable member can give examples of it !
– I can. A friend of mine who dared to be a political supporter refused to join a mining union at Cue, and the unionists there told the manager of the mine that, unless he was dismissed, they would strike. The manager of the mine took twenty-four hours to consider the position, and then dismissed the man.
– He was endeavouring to get the benefits of unionism without paying for them.
– He objected to join that union because it was using its money for political purposes, of which he did not approve.
– The honorable member’s leader once said that such a man was a “skulker.”
– That is one of the terms that unionists are in the habit of applying to others. They speak of others as “ scabs.”
– A good word.
– I think that we should be justified in passing legislation under which a man could be put in gaol for using such terms. The man to whom I refer afterwards went timber hewing, but the unionists found him out, and he was told by the keeper of the boarding-house at which he was living that she could not continue to have him in the house any longer, because if she did she would lose her other customers.
– 1 am afraid that he was a “ bad egg.”
– He was a good, honest, decent working man, whose conduct was such as would reflect credit even on the honorable member. Then the carrier said that he could not continue to cart timber for him, because of his fear of losing other customers. In the same way he was hunted out of a second, and out of a third, place. This is an instance of the tyranny to which I object. Similar tyranny was exercised in Perth in connexion with the tramway strike. Photographs were taken of those who worked, to be put in the “ thieves’ gallery “ in the Trades Hall, as they termed it. The place was well named. Let me come to a more recent case reflecting on a man who was selected as a Labour candidate for Perth. There was a horse-drivers’ strike, in connexion with which it was clear that the union had acted improperly, and the union was fined heavily for having so acted. The leaders told the men to go back to work, but they would not do so, and others were appointed in the place of some of them. Mr. McCallum, the secretary to the Trades and Labour Council in Perth-
– Why does not the honorable member call it the “thieves’ gallery” again ?
– I used the expression which the unionists themselves had used. They said that they wanted the photographs to put in the “ thieves’ gallery.”
– The honorable member said that it was a fitting name for the Trades Hall.
– I used the term used by the unionists themselves. Mr. Mccallum wrote a letter, not intended for the press, though it got into the newspapers, stating that they would know how to make the life of the men who were called “scabs” the life that a “scab” should have. I remember, too, the Renmark strike. The strikers in that case refused a conference with the President of the Arbitration Court. The exAttorneyGeneral telegraphed asking them not to do anything which would reflect upon the Court. They said they were going to have the union log or nothing, their intention being in the end to abolish the wages system altogether. They refused to go to arbitration.
– They got what they wanted when they went to the Court.
– While they were out on strike, members of the late Government contributed to help them in their illegal proceedings. I do not know if that can be looked upon as right. If we have arbitration laws, they should apply to all classes of the community. A law should not be obligatory on the employer, and not on the employe. I would not compel men to work, but if they refused to work they should not interfere with others who are ready to work. Personally, I am opposed to the Arbitration Court. It is absurd to suppose that any man, no matter what his capacity, can determine properly the conditions which should apply in all the industries of Australia. T believe in the Wages Board system, which brings together the employer and the employed, men who thoroughly understand a business from A to Z, and appreciate the difficulties on both sides. Such a tribunal is surely better able to make an award than any outside person, no matter how otherwise highly qualified. I am quite in sympathy with the desire of the Government to keep the rural workers out of the Arbitration Court; in fact, I think that in this respect we are overriding the Constitution. The control of all such matters ought to be left to the State Arbitration Courts. The States alone should deal with those subsidiary industries, leaving to the Federal authority only matters of Inter-State and international concern. I fully agree with the defence policy of the Government. We all, I think, admit that, as far as possible, defence questions should be kept out of party politics; but I must say that, in my opinion, greater consideration should be given to the rifle clubs. Those who advise the Minister of Defence are, apparently, not so much in sympathy with this movement as they ought to be, although the rifle clubs form a magnificent auxiliary to any system of defence. I therefore hope that the Minister of Defence, even if his departmental advisers do not approve, will extend more assistance to the rifle clubs than they have received in the past. I quite concur in the proposals of the Government in regard to their public works policy. Personally, I should like to see public works carried out by contract wherever possible. . Occasion may arise when it will be expedient to use day labour, but, generally speaking, the contract system is the best, and has proved to be of greater profit to the States and the Commonwealth. Further, action should be taken as speedily as possible towards the formation of a Tender Board, to exercise control over tenders and purchases made by the Crown. Some most extraordinary agreements have been entered into, more especially in regard to what is known as the powellising process, which, by the way, is known in Western Australia as the “paralyzing” process. As I say, some extraordinary agreements have been made for the acceptance of offers, involving large sums of money, without calling for tenders; and I am sure that honorable members on both sides will be of the opinion that, with a Tender Board, there should be considerable improvement. Uniformity of legislation in regard to trusts and combines is also required, in addition to a good companies law; and I ask the Prime Minister to consider the advisability of asking the various States to give the Commonwealth Parliament power, under paragraph 37 of section 51 of the Constitution, to that end, so that we may have one law applying to the whole of Australia. The State Parliaments would, I think, be quite willing to hand over a power of the kind, but there is great, objection to the desire of honorable members opposite to give to the central authority power to nationalize industries. I feel quite sure that the desire of honorable members opposite is not, as they endeavour to make out, to reduce the high cost of living, because we know very well that if the huge industries contemplated were controlled by the Commonwealth, the cost of production would beincreased, and, necessarily, the cost of subsistence. The real desire of the Opposition is to force people into the unions, so that their politics may be controlled,, and the position of the Labour party made much stronger. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition seems rather amusing, and it has very aptly been described as a sort of boomerang. Undoubtedly the proposal does strike very hardly on honorable members opposite. The amendment declares that the Government have indicated nointention to take such steps as will reduce the high cost of living. What is the cause of the present high cost ? Is it not the restrictions which have been placed’ on trade and commerce in this country by honorable members opposite? Is it not their efforts towards Socialism ? I do* not think that many people care how high the wages are if, at the same time, our production is increased; but if production is reduced the resources of the country are destroyed. There has been a great tendency to increase wages and reduce production; and the high cost of living is due entirely to honorable members opposite. What have they done to reduce that cost?
– The cost of living has risen all over the world.
– But what did the Labour party propose to do in order to reduce the cost of living? Although the report of the Royal Commission on the sugar industry pointed out that nationalization would increase the cost to the consumer, the Labour party adhered to their determination to nationalize. The exPostmasterGeneral announced to the public in Western Australia that it was the intention of the Government to nationalize the industry, and, apparently, it did not matter what the nationalization would cost. It will be seen, therefore, that the Labour party themselves have increased the cost of living. The amendment also says that the Government have failed to realize the urgent necessity for an immediate revision of the Tariff. Well, the Labour party were in office for a long’ time, and failed to do anything in that direction. I am pleased to see that an Inter-State Commission has been appointed, and I hope that, when a revision of the Tariff does take place, greater consideration will be given to the primary producers than has been the case in the past. I know I am now treading on dangerous ground, but I think that there might be reduced duties on many of the implements required by farmers and producers generally.
– To the detriment of our manufacturing industries?
– It is entirely due to the farmers that we have our manufacturing prosperity. It is interesting to note that, whenever there is a good season in the back country, everything progresses, and everybody is satisfied. Our progress and prosperity are due entirely to the primary industries which we have to protect first of all, afterwards building up the secondary industries. The whole future of Australia depends on the development of our primary industries. In conclusion, I again congratulate the Government on the policy they have brought forward. It gives us a clear line of demarcation - something on which we can go back to our people, to explain the policy we have in view. I believe the people are beginning to realize who are their friends.- Honorable members opposite are great believers in majority rule. They have a large majority in the Senate, and they know they have a minority in the country, and that the votes of the majority of the people of Australia were cast against the Socialistic party, and in favour of the Liberal party. Honorable members opposite should recognise the futility of trying to carry on with the anomaly of a majority of Liberals in this House and a majority of the other party in the Senate, and surely they will see the necessity for helping us to get a double dissolution, so as to enable one party to be dominant in both Chambers. They must recognise what a loss it will be to the community if the House of Representatives alone is dissolved. It will mean a big expense, and if the liberal party come back again to power, we shall be in exactly the same position - the Senate obstinately opposed to the legislation the Liberals desire to put on the statute-book. Therefore, in the interests of the country, and, probably, in the interests of the Socialists, it will be better to arrange to have a double dissolution and let the people of Australia say which party is to rule the Commonwealth.
.- Some considerable time ago my father supplied lue with a book called the Chatterbox - light literature of ineffective value in the way of education - and I am afraid that during this debate we have had much chattering that certainly has not been instructive, nor aided in any way the elucidation of the problems before us. I shall not emulate some of those gentlemen 1 will not name; I would rather emulate the Attorney-General in his brevity, his logic - in a humble way - and his capacity for saying in half-an-hour what it takes the average man two hours to say. I shall not attempt to extend myself in any way, because I know the leaders of the House have given utterance to all that may be said with effectiveness. I wish to get to bedrock to see what motions and Bills the Government are going to bring before the House, and how we are going to fight you onwards.
– Order ! The honorable member must address the Chair.
– If in the heat of the moment I did not address you, Mr. Speaker, believe me it was not out of discourtesy to you. The honorable member for Dampier has said much of the ills that have been undergone by men who are unionists and non-unionists. I know of the ills that my people underwent when I was a boy. The honorable member talked about a man being chased out of his position. My father was thrashed throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland, and black-listed from town to town, unable to live, and forced to starve, by those who had the wealth and associations that enabled them to send letter after letter from town to town, county to county, and district to district. I have the history of it. We have the same thing to-day. What are we fighting for? Trade unionists are fighting in the interests of the man who is a non-unionist, the “ scab “ who does not recognise the value of the work of the men fighting for him, but takes advantage of all they are doing for him, and draws on them every day for his existence. Yet the honorable member talks about a few individuals he knows. The honorable member is a new man from the country, and has much to say about the primary industries. I have heard so much about the primary industries during the last few days that I am absolutely sick and tired of it. The primary industries are no more than secondary, tertiary, or quaternary industries. What is the use of the primary industry without a plough? Who makes the plough? Where is the primary industry without the harness for the horses, or without the houses built for the farmers, or without every aspect of the civilization that comes from the associated efforts of the community? All industries are primary in the same way. They are secondary fin the same way. They are all connected. Each lives in relation to the other, and each does its best for the development of our civilization, and takes its reward out of the wealth that is produced. That is my answer to my honorable friend on the other side, and to any who have gone before him. I have heard the roaring of the Leader of this Parliament.
– Well described.
– Roaring like a sucking dove. On the other hand, I have heard the honorable gentleman who comes from
Wentworth, and whose name is associated with motor cars, talking about the squealing of the honorable member for Adelaide; but I have also heard the honorable member for Wentworth jabbering like a monkey on a stick. He has reached .not quite the pinnacle, but, like a monkey on a stick, he is climbing, and in his elation he is always jabbering. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have been getting round the country makingsome startling statements on a matter particularly relating to my own electorate; and, as I find to-night, they have primed one honorable member with some statements that he could not possibly have got himself, as I could not get them. They put him up to make certain statements in connexion with a position in which they have condemned our past Labour Administration. They sought to cast discredit upon us.
– I have held no conversation with the honorable member on. that subject.
– The Prime Minister is too cunning for that. I said that thehonorable member who spoke could not. have got the information unless it camefrom official sources. He is a new member of the House, and has used information that, if it be correct, could only come from official sources. If you did not give it to him, who did?
– I did not.
– Then, one of your Ministers did, or else he has got behind the Ministry; and that shows your lack of administration.
– The honorable member must address the Chair.
– The Minister of Defence has been going round the country making out that there is a scandal in connexion with the Fitzroy Dock. Three weeks ago, in consultation with the Minister of Defence, I asked for the papers, as I did also twice in the House, and even as late as last Friday when the Minister went away to Sydney. I asked him to let me have the information to build up some utterance, and, so that I could use the little technical knowledge I have, to take out for myself the facts of the case. There has been nothing but refusal; first, that of the Minister of Defence; and secondly, the explanation by the Honorary Minister that he would ask his leader for the information. Lastly, there was a refusal by the Prime Minis- ter, as late as last night, to place information received from public officers on the table of the House. The honorable gentleman asked why I did not place information received from officers on the table. I have gone to no officers for information; but even if I had done so, can it be said that the private information I would receive would be on the same plane as that received by Ministers from official sources? The Ministry have in their possession reports which are the work of the mind and brain of capable engineers, whose services this country has bought. Such a report is not a secret document, and the Prime Minister has no more right to it than I have. If the honorable gentleman is prepared to let the truth be known, why does he not lay the reports on the table of the House or the Library, and so make them public property, in order that every honorable member who is interested in the safe conduct of that establishment, and in the preservation of life and limb, and of the property of the Commonwealth, may be in a position to weigh the information supplied, investigate it, assess its value, and speak upon it according to his ability? Is my private information on the same plane as such reports? Surely it is not, and it is not correct for the Prime Minister to take up the attitude which he assumed last night. The fact that the honorable member for East Sydney, and the honorable member for South Sydney, and myself have not laid our private information on the table of the House is no justification of the Prime Minister’s refusal to table papers which have been bought by public money in the interests of the country. That is my answer to the Prime Minister. I think it shows that there is nothing in this business but a piece of political dodgery and quackery. It is an attempt to depreciate the last Administration by a Government that is lacking in administrative capacity, and lacking in a policy of progressive legislation. On lines of defence, the Government are making an attack upon an Administration who did well. Ministers believe in defence, and so do we on this side. In the best interests of the country, we attempted to establish an effective system of defence; and associated with that system we took over what is known as the Fitzroy Dock, or the Cockatoo Island Dock. Under what advice did the last Government take over that dock ? It was under the advice of Admiral Henderson and of another gentleman, who came out from the Old Country with the reputation of a skilled dockyard man and a capable engineer. We paid for the property, and certainly have paid a large sum of money - over £800,000. Having paid for it, the party on this side suddenly find themselves attacked because something is supposed to be defective at the dock. It was known when the property was taken over that the boilers and plant generally were not in an effective condition; but I agree with the honorable member for South Sydney in the statement that 75 per cent, of the plant is practically new, and very highclass plant it is. I have seen it, and know it, and I challenge contradiction of the statement. Then of the plant supposed to be old, there is scarcely a machine on the island that is not effective for reasonable work. I do not propose to> defend the past or the present Administration in this connexion. I believe that Mr. Julius was appointed to report upon the matter by the late Administration, and his report has been presented’ to the present Government. I do not blame any Government for appointing .an officer to report upon such a matter; but the real question is whether the officer appointed was capable and did the work he was appointed to do> effectively. I venture to say that the work in this case was done largely under the control, advice, and direction of Captain Clarkson. I ask what are the qualifications of Captain Clarkson? What is his status? What is there in him to justify his appointment to the Naval Board, and what is the position in which he stands when he ventures to report adversely upon a matter approved by Admiral Henderson?
– Did Admiral Henderson go into the question of the boilers 1
– He dealt with the question of the suitability of the Fitzroy Dock.
– That is so. I shall come to the boilers presently, and will “ blow up “ the honorable member for Wentworth. If we may trust the Department - since it is, supposedly, one of the official papers - Captain Clarkson reported thus -
The project was strongly reported against by Captain Clarkson, a member of the Naval Board, who urged that a ship-building establishment should be erected on some other site.
A little later Captain Clarkson further reported as follows - la my opinion, the Cockatoo Island Dockyard has neither the staff, organization, nor facilities for building vessels for the Royal Australian Navy with either efficiency, economy, or despatch. I consider that if the proposal to build these vessels there is carried out, the result will be disastrous.
Admiral Henderson not only advised the taking over of the Cockatoo Island Dock, but that, if possible, the Woolwich Dock of the Mort Engineering Company, closely associated with it, should also be taken over. The Cockatoo Island Dock was taken over, and now Captain Clarkson sets himself up against Admiral Henderson, and, at the same time, against the administration of the Cockatoo Island Dock.
– But the late Government set themselves against Admiral Henderson on that matter, as the honorable member should know.
– No. They took over the dock, at all events.
– Yes, but they repudiated Admiral Henderson’s scheme.
– Admiral Henderson recommended the taking over of the dock. Did the late Government take it over?
– That is all I am concerned about at present.
– But that is not the whole of the case.
– The honorable gentleman will please hold his tongue. That is the point I am making now, and I have made it.
– I think the honorable member should have the protection of the Speaker.
– I do not need the protection of the. Chair. I am equal to the Prime Minister at any time. This was the first step in the process. What was in the mind of Captain Clarkson? He had a desire, if possible, to have this dock wiped out, and to establish another under his own control at Jervis Bay. That was the whole scheme from top to bottom. Captain Clarkson was to be a little God Almighty, controlling a new dock.
– Is that the reason for the Maryborough speech of the Leader of the Opposition, in which Jervis Bay was foreshadowed as a place for a dock ?
– I know nothing of that.
– The honorable member is shooting at his own leader.
– I do not care who I am shooting at. I am here to defend the administration of Cockatoo Island Dock, and I am saying what I believe to be true. I wish to expose the action which this Government have taken in condemning the administration of the dock.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. We do not want to do anything to injure the dock.
– I will tell the House what this Ministry have done. They have gone round the country, and have placed the administration of the dock in a very bad light. They have maligned it most mendaciously. Let me tell the House what has come from the lips of the Minister of Defence himself. How he could have possibly put this statement in the press is a mystery to me. It is headed, “ Cockatoo Island Dock,” and it was published on 11th August. The Minister of Defence stated that an independent engineer, Mr. G. A. Julius, of Sydney, was appointed to inspect and report.
– Appointed by whom ? By the Naval Board ?
– By the late Minister.
– By the Minister on the recommendation of the Board. I admit that. Of course, Captain Clarkson was one of the Board. The others knew as much about engineering as a tom-cat knows about aeroplaning. This is the statement of the Minister -
His report was received on July 30, and here are some extracts from that document.
I wish the House carefully to note this passage -
The whole of the boilers, of which there are six, are practically worn out. All of them were, I believe, -
He did not know; he merely believed - second-hand boilers when installed, and at the present time considerable repairs have been <rffected to keep them in running condition.
This report was made by an engineer who is supposed to have inspected the boilers, of which he says there are six. But then the Minister of Defence proceeded to say -
Of fourteen boilers examined, five have been condemned. The ages of these are respectively 22 years, 28 years, 20 years, 2q years, and 30 years. They were originally used for locomotive work, and others were taken from the Countess of Hopetoun and the Protector.
It will be noticed that in this passage the Minister speaks of fourteen boilers, whereas formerly he had spoken of six. Where does the truth lie ? Does it lie in the comment of the Minister that there were fourteen boilers which had been examined, or in the statement of the engineer who is supposed to have made the examination, and who said there were six? The fact is that Mr. Julius never examined one boiler on the island. I challenge this Government to tell me when one boiler at Cockatoo Island was examined by this engineer. He went by hearsay, and made a report that, of course, was quite satisfactory to Captain Clarkson and the Naval Board, because it condemned the dock. If the Government were satisfied with Mr. Julius’ report, why was a re-survey instituted ? Did they doubt the efficiency of the engineer appointed on the advice of Captain Clarkson and his associates on the Board? If not, why this fresh survey? Why were 400 men turned out of employment ?
– Four hundred men ?
– About 400 were turned off.
– For how long ?
– The Government put them off on the Thursday, and paid them up to the Saturday, and many were out of work for a fortnight. Indeed, I have information to show that they are not all at work yet.
– There are fortyfour more being employed now than there were.
– I thank the Prime Minister for that interjection. He tells us that forty-four more men are being employed to-day than previously. Under what conditions ? If the boilers have been turned down as inefficient, and the pressure of the plant has been reduced, what are the additional forty-four men doing?
– Is the honorable member complaining because work has been found for these men ?
– I am complaining about the political dodgery and trickery of this Government. I know what it means from top to bottom, and I think I am getting the better of the argument.
– Is it a fact, or is it not, that these forty-four extra men are employed ?
– I cannot tell.
– The honorable member does not know.
– The Prime Minister said so, but I question the statement.
– The honorable member does not know, but he is sure that the statement is wrong.
– I did not say that; I merely questioned the statement. I have given my reasons for questioning it. Seeing that the boiler power of the establishment which employed about 1,281 men before it was shut down has been reduced by one-third, and that there are 1,325 men employed in it to-day, I fail to understand how the increase has been brought about. Where have the additional men been placed? In the first instance, the foundry and the blacksmith’s shop would be closed down. Al a matter of fact, I know that, at the present time, the blacksmith’s shop is not in full working order, for the reason that the boiler power which is being utilized has been diminished to the extent I have indicated. Consequently, the men have to work any hours that they can. Then it would be impossible to get heat for the converters for the steel foundry. If plates were ready for plating a vessel, well and good, but if they were not, the plates could not be rolled without pressure, which means boiler power. Then there would be no power available in the carpenters’ shop. Similarly there would be no power in the fitting and machine shops to operate the cranes and machines. These different branches, representing a very large percentage of the working power of the establishment, were shut down, and I say unhesitatingly that to-day they are not in full working order. Of course, the Minister of Defence may have taken on artisans as labourers in the dock-yard where they are not needed, in order to cloak Ministerial ignorance and maladministration. I come now to another aspect of the case. The Government have been very determined in their investigations into the condition of affairs at Cockatoo Island. Why do they not investigate the condition of affairs at the naval base at Williamstown ? What about the boilers installed there which were taken from the Countess of Hopetoun, and which are working effectively now ? How is it that the boilers placed on Cockatoo’ Island are defective, whilst those placed at Williamstown are quite effective? Then as the Government are such perfect administrators, how does it happen that they have already bought second-hand boilers, which have been discarded by the Railways Commissioners of New South Wales, and installed them on Cockatoo Island. Do Ministers deny that they have done that?
– I cannot deny it, because I do not know.
– And the Minister of Defence cannot deny it. That is precisely what has been done. The Government have installed at Cockatoo Island two locomotive boilers which have run their mileage
– Who has done it?
– The Prime Minister’s Administration - the Minister of Defence, I suppose, authorizing the officer in charge.
– Who is he?
– The Prime Minister cannot trip me.
– The honorable member’s argument is one long innuendo from beginning to end.
– In that respect, the Prime Minister himself is not lacking.
– Why does not the honorable member make plain statements ?
– I make this plain statement, that while the Government have condemned the late Administration for having installed at Cockatoo Island second-hand boilers in a defective state, the present Administration, through the officer in charge on the island, have purchased two locomotive boilers, which had been turned down by the Railways Commissioners, as having run their mileage, because they were not satisfactory for locomotive purposes, though they are quite satisfactory for the purposes for which they are now being used. While these boilers may not be effective for locomotive work, they are quite good enough for the work on the island, and so were the others which have been condemned.
– The honorable member’s allegation is that the boilers which have been condemned were all good ?
– In Ihe main, I say that they were all good. The Government have done precisely what the Fisher Government did, through the officer in charge on the island. They have taken boilers from the Countess of Hopetoun, and installed them. One of these boilers has been placed in the Williamstown dock-yard. Ministers have made a big row over the condition of affairs at Cockatoo Island, but they have made no investigation into the condition of affairs at Williamstown. Are life and limb of less value in the one case than in the other?
– Does the honorable mem: ber say that the Government have installed these second-hand boilers at Williamstown ?
– I say that the boilers are not bad boilers to-day, and it was only prejudice which prompted one person to take the action which he has taken - an action which the present Government have not been slow to utilize to the disadvantage of the late Administration.
– Then the honorable member says that Captain Clarkson can make the other four members of the Naval Board do anything that he wishes ?
– I say that Captain Clarkson has played a pretty fair game for himself, and that the Government have not hesitated to take advantage of it and to play it up against our party.
– Who put him on the Board ? The honorable member’s own Ministry, and he knows it.
– I do not care who put him there. If wrong has been done, I am not going to defend it. We are told -
The examination of the thickness of plates and the condition of the tubes of five boilers pointed to the fact that these boilers had been working for years in an extremely dangerous condition. The Naval Board were of opinion that if the condemned boilers had been working much longer under these conditions an explosion would have been inevitable.
Last night, the Prime Minister asked for the official source of my information; but the writing which I hold in my hand does not look “like official writing, does it? It is the writing of the practical men who made the examination of these boilers. But, apart from them, two gentlemen have interviewed me in Melbourne during the past fortnight, who are familiar with the condition of the boilers, and who have given me information as to the tests which were applied to them. I have here particulars of private tests made since those carried out at the instance of the authorities by a draftsman who, perhaps, was never in a boiler in his life, and two other individuals who knew little about testing boilers. A boilermaker or a boilermaker’s surveyor should be employed in conducting these tests. When the Navigation Bill was before us, we recognised that fact so fully that we sought to include in the Bill a provision that boilermakers should be employed as surveyors in respect of both the boilers and hulls of vessels. We recognised that difficulty was bound to arise unless such men were appointed as inspectors. A boilermaker, by a mere tap of his hammer, can tell to the sixteenth of an inch the thickness of a plate.
– In this case the man put his hammer through a plate.
– That would not matter. Instead of endangering life, it would safeguard it. Why is a safety-valve placed on a boiler ? Simply that it may afford a means of escape for any undue pressure of steam. You have your fires under a big iron shell filled with water, and the heat is going through the tubes while the water is expanding, and is being transformed into steam. If in such circumstances the safety-valve of the boiler were closed down, and an excessive pressure of steam were used, naturally one thing or the other would have to give way.
– It would be a case of “up she goes.”
– Yes. In cases, inspectors seal down the safety-valve, so that a certain pressure, fixed upon, cannot be exceeded. The greed and avidity to make money exhibited by the average employer will prompt him to run his boilers at more than a reasonable pressure, with the object of securing greater efficiency in his machinery. That spirit of greed and grab has in some cases been so strongly manifested that an inspector has had to lock down the safety-valves, so that they could not be opened without his assent. It is true, as has been said, that we have been fighting for boiler inspection ; but not in a Government dockyard where there are efficient engineers and men capable of taking charge of boilers.
– Does the honorable member suggest that these weak spots in a boiler constitute, in reality, so many extra safety-valves ?
– I say at once that, if a boiler were being worked at a dangerous pressure, the moment it developed a leak through which the hot water and steam could escape, the pressure would be relieved ; so that, instead of being a danger to life, such a weak spot would afford relief. Nearly every boilermaker will bear out that statement. In many cases one can see the water pouring out of the joints. It is true that those in charge close up the leakages as soon as they are discovered; and they do so because they desire to obtain greater efficiency. The opening up of a,, small hole through which water and steam may escape does not mean injury to life, bub it does mean a diminution of the power of the boiler.
– Surely an unexpected escape of steam or hot water must be very disconcerting to those who are working in the neighbourhood?
– The Honorary Minister, if he asks the boilermakers what they think of the people who instituted this inquiry, will be told that “ they are a lot of damned fools.”
– That is rough on Senator Pearce.
– That, at all events, is their view of the situation.
– This is a scandalous attack on the late Administration.
– The Prime Minister cannot get out of it.
– Let me get back, however, to the boiler tests. The Ministerial party have made so much’ df this matter that I must deal with it. As I was mentioning when interrupted, I have details of the results of private tests to which some of the boilers at Cockatoo Island were submitted. The loco-type boiler, No. 3, was tested at a pressure of 330 lbs. to the square inch, the working pressure being only 110 lbs; and the report of those who conducted that test is that the boiler is “as tight as a bottle.” This is one of the old boilers that has been condemned. At this private test the Hopetoun’s boiler was tested at a pressure of 250 lbs., and the working pressure was only 110 lbs. to the square inch. The report is that the tubes leaked a little, but that the leakage would not cause bursting. It would simply put out the fire. The Protector’s boiler in the blacksmith’s shop was tested at a pressure of 180 lbs., and there was no leakage. In one of these cases the test was made at a pressure three times in excess of the ordinary working pressure, and in the main the boilers were found to be fairly effective. It is true that they are not up to date; but they are not, and have never been, worked at full pressure. Those who furnished the official report have said that these boilers must be worked at a diminished pressure; but, as a matter of fact, it has always been recognised that they must be worked at a reduced pressure. Another aspect of this matter is that the Hopetoun’ ‘s boiler was tested at a pressure two and a half times in excess of the working pressure, and that is regarded as a destructive pressure for even a boiler in good condition. When a man builds a machine he always allows a margin of safety.
– What is the Board of Trade’s factor of safety in respect of boilers ?
– I cannot say for the moment, but the insurance companies’ test of new boilers is at a pressure only twice, and sometimes only one and a half times, as much as the working pressure.
– And those were the tests applied here.
– 1 am speaking now of private tests, apart from the official tests that were made.
– All boilers working at a pressure of 110 lbs. were tested at a pressure of 155 lbs., not 300 lbs., as the honorable member said.
– I have just been referring to the private, and not the official, tests. Is it not a disgrace to the present Administration that an honorable member who knows something about these matters - matters affecting the safety of life, limb, and property - has not had an opportunity to see the official report on the subject, although the Prime Minister has it at hand ? I had to get my information as best I could, not from officers, but from men who are doing practical work. In response to my application, they gave me such information as they could in connexion with the tests which were being made by the direction of the Minister, and also privately for their own defence.
– Such information as they could give, which was not very reliable.
– I venture to say that the information they supplied to me is reliable. I will back the average boilermaker to beat the draftsman whom the Minister sent there, to state the value of a boiler.
– Do you say that all these officers have done wrong?
– No; but I think that they have acted stupidly, without knowledge of what they were doing. They were not practical men. They were the wrong men to select to make the tests; and, what is more than likely, knowing that the honorable gentleman was going round the country, they wanted to play into his hands.
– That is a pretty serious reflection on four honorable men.
– It is a serious reflection on the Board, too.
– I do not mind if it is a reflection on the four men or on the Board. I am stating facts, and care not where the reflection lies. If I do an injustice to any man, I will willingly apologize to him next day. But while I feel that some dastardly work is being done, I shall fight against it as hard as possible, and give the reasons for my attitude. Again, I ask the Minister to lay the reports on the table, and to appoint an independent Commission.
– If all you say is right, it was time that Senator Pearce got out of there.
– If what I say is right, it is time that the honorable gentleman acceded to our request for a Commission. If I cannot get justice on this side of the House, I shall be ready on Tuesday to tie up the honorable gentleman and his Administration.
– This is the most scandalous attack that has been made on Senator Pearce.
– I do not think that there is any occasion for me to further deal with this matter, but I do invite the Administration to grant us an inquiry.
– Order ! I have several times called for order. I shall not give another warning, but deal with the next honorable member who offends.
– Look at the other side !
– Order !
– I invite the Government to appoint an independent Board of Inquiry or Commission to look into the administration of Cockatoo Island Dock, and thus provide us with an independent report. I shall not be very much afraid of the outcome of such an inquiry. With these remarks, I shall leave the question of the dock. I am very pleased that the Attorney-General is in the chamber, because I had occasion, a few nights ago, to interrupt him. I am sure that you, sir, and the House, will pardon me if I quote from the Argus a report of his utterance in the House -
There was a time in the history of modern Europe when associations connected with industries of many kinds were recognised by law and fulfilled the duties allotted them. Those guilds regulated apprenticeship and generally performed invaluable services to the community. But did the unions of to-day exist for the purpose of encouraging apprenticeship? Did they not, instead, urge the limiting of apprentices? (Ministerial cheers.) Did the unions of to-day insist on full effort being put forth by their members? It was no uncommon thing for a limit to be put on the output of a man’s work. (Opposition dissent.) Unions, as they existed to-day, were really political organizations of an aggressive character.
Apparently, the honorable member’s view is that they were not political organizations in the past -
In New South Wales and Western Australia unions had to furnish returns showing their total income and their expenditure under certain headings. In the last New South Wales returns the total income of the unions was given as ^16^,448, and the total expenditure £n6,sg(). Of the latter sum, the expenditure on claims for accident, sick benefit, &c, was ig.5 of the total. But management and other expenses represented per cent.
Not alone the implication, but the statement of the honorable gentleman, was that this large sum was being spent in political organization. If the thought had occurred to the honorable gentleman, he might have made an application to the Statistician of New South Wales, from whom he would have learned that the Registrar of Friendly Societies and Trade Unions issues a special form setting out clearly and distinctly the headings under which must be stated the moneys received by a union, and the purposes to which they are devoted. I ask the honorable gentleman to obtain from the Registrar a report as to how much money has been spent in political organization for political fighting. I venture to say that, after he has obtained a report, he will retract the innuendo or the suggestion which is embodied in his statement here. I will take my own organization. Because I am a politician to-day, my fellow members will not even allow me to hold office in the organization. They say that no man who is not working at his trade has a right to hold office in the union. Why? Because he might unduly influence its operations to his own interest. I justify my fellow members in taking up that attitude. I am a member of a union over 10,000 strong in Australia, and with seventy-seven branches. 1 have been through three or four political campaigns, but 1 have never received a penny out of the funds of my union. What I did receive was the support of one or two branches with which I was closely associated - not by striking a levy, but simply by coming together as a body of three independent men and saying, “ We will pay up 3d. or 6d.” In the last campaign, two branches came to my aid, and between them they gave me the sum of £14 - a gift which I fully appreciated, not for the sake of the money, but because of the spirit of good fellowship which it represented. The same thing can be said of most of the unions. A day or two ago the Prime Minister quoted the secretary to the Political Labour League of New South Wales as having said, in effect, that the unions have not contributed money, while the Attorney-General has suggested that they are making contributions. Which statement is correct?
– The big Australian Workers Union did not give me a penny for the last electoral fight.
– Our funds are not spent on political purposes. We have other things to spend them on. There are sick and accident and other benefits to provide; there are also the proceedings in the Arbitration Courts, for which the lawyers charge so much. That is where a great deal of the money has been going for a considerable time past. The AttorneyGeneral has perhaps gained his share from the other side. We have been forced to pay through the nose for law expenses. Then, too, the cost of administration is always great when those in charge are not trained accountants cr business men. The members of unions are at their work all day, and have to conduct the union business as well as they can. Consequently there is extravagance in administration, but there are also gifts to charities and to associated unions, of which nothing is heard, but which eat up the funds.
– Is the honorable member’s union affiliated with the Political Labour League?
– As a union, it is not. We admit the right of every branch to affiliate if it likes; some are affiliated, others are not. Those that affiliate contribute at the rate of 2d. per member per annum. I have a list here of all the branches of my union in Australia, and one can quickly ascertain the total membership. Under our rules no branch may have more than 300 members. That is considered a sufficient number for a secretary who gets only a nominal sum to look after his branch.
– Not one branch in Victoria is affiliated.
– That is so. I had the fight of my life to get my branch to affiliate with the Trades and Labour Council. It is the most Conservative body in trades unionism, and I regret to say its members, generally, are not in touch with me in this matter. There are other questions on which I intended to speak, but I shall imitate the Attorney-General, and curtail my remarks. It is not agreeable to me to repeat what others have said, nor to traverse ground that has been gone over by others, perhaps more effectively. Then, too, I have not been well of late, and my throat’ is bad, so that I shall not do myself good by continuing. I feel that we are on the right road. There are some works here to which I direct the attention of the Attorney- General. I direct his attention to the Conflict of Capital and Labour, Webb’s History of Trade Unionism, and the Guilds and Companies of London. The honorable gentleman was not correct in saying that the modern union differed from the guilds of the middle ages in seeking to limit apprentices and using political influence. If he will look through the works I have named he will see that the guilds were always limiting apprentices and taking political action. The unions are assailed by honorable members opposite for entering into politics, but they cannot prevent them from doing so. We will take political action whether honorable members opposite like it or not, and we will win. You cannot keep back the flowing tide - call it revolutionary if you will. It is steadily coming in, and is overflowing the bulwarks of Conservatism. The tide is one that will not recede. There is a rhythmic action in human affairs, a to and fro swing of the pendulum. The movement with which we on this side are associated is a forward motion. I shall be with it to the day of my death, and I wish it success after my decease.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pigott) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I wish to ask the Minister a question regarding the payment of men engaged on a Commonwealth work that is now being carried on in Brisbane. I understand that the men engaged upon the construction of a new drill-shed at Kelvin Grove are receiving only 8s. a day, and must provide their own tools, while not far away other men are receiving from the Commonwealth 9s. a day, and have not to provide their own tools. I want to know whether this distinction is being made, and, if so, what is the reason for it? Is the drill-shed at Kelvin Grove being carried out by the State Government? Is that why the men are not receiving the wages that are paid in another case by the Commonwealth Government?
– The question raised by the honorable member is a very important one. I have already called attention to it by correspondence with the Department of Home Affairs, as well as in the House. I know there has been some friction between the Department of Home Affairs and the State Department of Public Works in Queensland, because of the Federal Department insisting on certain rates of wages which happen to be higher than the usual State rates. Twelve months ago I called attention to the fact that the painters on Commonwealth work in Queensland were not being paid the 10s. rate which had been stipulated by the Department of Home Affairs. The State Department, which was carrying out the work, was paying 9s. to their own painters, and declined to have two rates of pay; and it was only after correspondence and very definite instructions by the Commonwealth Minister that the State Department agreed to pay the higher rate. Even then the State Department resorted to a subterfuge, because they paid their own workmen 9s. per day and 6d. for travelling expenses, while they paid the Commonwealth men 9s. per day and1s. 6d. travelling expenses. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs had stipulated that men engaged in ordinary pick-and-shovel work should be paid at the rate of 9s. ; but in Brisbane, at the present time, State workmen on Commonwealth works are paid only 8s., andhave to find their own tools. I do not imagine for a moment that the Department of Home Affairs has decided to reduce the pay; and if men on Commonwealth work are paid 9s. per day in some places, they ought to be paid the same rate all over Australia. All I ask is that the stipulated wages shall be paid.
.- It appears that it was arranged on 13th June, 1911, that this work should be carried out by day labour, and the State proceeded to so carryit out on the 16th of the same month. The first I heard of the matter was by the courtesy of the honorable member for Brisbane to-day, and I have not had much time to make complete inquiry ; but I find from the file of correspondence that there is some tangible excuse for the State Government paying 8s. per day, which is the Wages Board rate in Queensland. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs gave a general direction that day labourers were to receive 9s. per day, and the Departments of the various States were advised of this determination. Most of the States simply accepted the position; but the Brisbane Government wrote the following letter to the ex-Minister of Home Affairs on the 19th June, 1911: -
Department of Public Works,
Dear Sir, -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 15th instant with regard to the rate of wages to be paid to day labourers employed on works carried out for the Commonwealth Government, and, in reply, I have to inform you that the wages that are being paid to labourers in the Brisbane district arein accordance with the determination of the Builders’ Labourers Board for that district, and constituted under the Wages Boards Act of1908. A copy of the determination is enclosed herewith for your perusal, also a copy of our special conditions with regard to the rates of wages to be paid to all classes of workers.
Secretary for Public Works.
That was the statement of the position of the Queensland Government, who were acting as our agents in connexion with the day-labour proposition. Had the exMinister of Home Affairs really had at heart a keen desire that the men in Brisbane should be paid 9s. per day, what action might he have reasonably been expected to take on the receipt of that communication? We find that he initialed the communication, not as disapproved, but simply as “ Seen,” on the 3rd July, 1911, and apparently it was then put away in a pigeon-hole. Further, so far as I can gather from the file, no action was afterwards taken by the exMinister of Home Affairs to see that’ the men in Brisbane enjoyed the same privileges as were enjoyed by workmen elsewhere.
As I say, before this afternoon I had not the faintest knowledge of this matter, but I sent a telegram to Brisbane immediately. Unlike my predecessor, I desire to see the men in Brisbane get the same chances as their colleagues throughout Australia; and the telegram I sent was as follows: -
Minister for Public Works,
Am informed to-day that day labourers employed at Kelvin Grove are being paid less than nine shillings per diem. Please pay minimum nine shillings all ordinary labourers employed Commonwealth works.
Minister for Home Affairs,
Had the honorable member for Brisbane brought this matter’ up months ago when he first knew of it, those men in Brisbane would have had their fears set at rest immediately by the present Administration, and there would have been no occasion to make this a matter for discussion on the adjournment of the House. The present Administration stands for the payment of the best wages, and the granting of the best conditions, that we can give ; and, in common fairness, we shall pay similar wages for similar work throughout the Commonwealth. It did not require this spectacular Catherine wheel-
– Is that the reason the honorable member is making a spectacular display just now?
– A communication was addressed to me, and I showed it to the honorable member for Brisbane.
– I wish to say that where men’s rights are in question, honorable members have only to lay the matter before the present Administration, who will give absolute justice and fair play all round.
– I am sure we are delighted with their promptness.
– My honorable friend does not seem to be very delighted.
– I can assure the Honorary Minister that I am.
– One corpse remaining over from the elections has been buried, and the funeral procession is over - the corpse of the old lie that the Liberal party were out to reduce wages and destroy the conditions enjoyed by the workers of Australia.
– I merely wish to say-
– The parting blessing.
– I want to suggest to my friends that they should go just a little easy on these matters. They are exposing their own administration to the public of Australia in a way that is anything but lovely. One after another of these points crops up, and we are being abused, all because we paid some deference to the acts of our predecessors.
– More spectacular display!
– The honorable member has used that word three times already. I wish he would vary it. It is as bad as the word “incapable” used the other day.
– You have not heard the last of that; do not worry.
– I am not worrying. If I were in Opposition, as honorable members on the other side are, I should be worrying a little, because tonight we have had an exhibition I did not expect from honorable members. If there was one man more than another in the late Administration they would rush to defend, and not expose, it was the late Minister of Defence; but here tonight aseries of charges was made against his administration which I never expected to hear from that side. Those statements about the Fitzroy Dock are correct.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman is traversing another debate.
– Other statements appear in the press to-day. I see that there are innuendoes fromGeelong - from the Trades Hall, I presume. They are coming along every day. I wish to say once and for all it is time this kind of political game ceased. The present Government will treat the men employed on Commonwealth work at least as well as they have ever been treated by the previous Administration. All we shall do is to expect the men to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and when they have done that the Government will see that they get a fair day’s pay in full and generous measure. I hope sincerely this kind of political warfare will cease. I am tired of it. We have heard nothing but it since coming into office, when all the facts show that no reflection lies at our doors. On the other hand, they show that for three years honorable members now opposite were dumb, and tolerated these abuses and all this mismanagement, and dared not say a word to uncover it. It is about time they ceased. Honorable members get nothing out of it.. Let them take my advice and drop it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.49p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130821_reps_5_70/>.