5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m.,. and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Referred to the Committee of Supply.
– Last week the PrimeMinister stated that Mr. Justice Isaacs, when Attorney-General, represented South. Australia as against the Commonwealth. To that I replied, “ Not as against the Commonwealth”; but the Prime Minister answered, “Yes.” I ask the honorable member whether he is now prepared to withdraw that statement, which appears in Hansard, and has been published in the press of the various States, seeing that Mr. Justice Isaacs did not represent the South Australian Government as against the Commonwealth.
– I withdraw the statement; my recollection is that I made the correction later in the speech in which the statement was made. I withdraw the statement absolutely. I wish to say, too, that I understand that Mr. Justice Isaacs, when AttorneyGeneral, did not accept a brief from the South Australian Government, though he furnished to that Government an opinion for which he received payment.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether Mr. Justice Isaacs furnished an opinion in which the Commonwealth was involved, or against the Commonwealth ?
– I really am unable to answer all these questions in detail. The honorable member must give notice.
– Will the PrimeMinister inform the House whether any member on the Government side who has been ill has been refused a pair by the Opposition?
– Not so far as I am aware.
– Will the Prime Minister be good enough to furnish copies of the report on the day labour versus contract system, made by a Royal Commission when he was Postmaster-General of New South Wales? It would be very interesting to honorable members, and I should like each member to have a copy.
– So far as I remember, the question was not reported on.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister or of the Minister of Trade and Customs to a statement by the Premier of New South Wales which has appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. The paragraph containing the statement reads as follows : -
The Premier (Mr. Holman) has advised the City Council that to combat the statements that have appeared in some English newspapers concerning the small-pox outbreak cablegrams had been forwarded to Mr. Coghlan and the officer in charge of the State’s agency in San Francisco, asking them to give wide publicity to the fact that the epidemic is of a very mild type, and that of the 400 cases no deaths have occurred, and no patients have been dangerously ill.
Has notice been taken of that statement by the Government, or will notice be taken of it? Is it intended to back up the Premier of New South Wales in the endeavour to remove the stigma which has been cast by this Government on the whole of Australia?
– I am not in a position to answer questions generally, but I may inform the honorable member that some time ago a message was sent by the Commonwealth to the High Commissioner, telling him exactly the nature of the outbreak. That message was somewhat on the lines of the statement to which the honorable member has drawn my attention.
– In this morning’s Age there is published a letter signed by Mr. M. Meagher, of Bathurst, who, discussing the question whether the AttorneyGeneral should continue to hold the Marconi Company’s general retainer, says -
The late Sir Charles Russell held a general retainer for the London Times. This paper was publishing a number of articles attacking Parnell and his party. Russell felt that his hands were tied in Parliament, and because of his general retainer he could not deal with such questions as “ Parnellism and Crime” as freely as he would wish. He wrote to Mr. Soames, the Times solicitor, as follows : -
Dear Sir, - As the writings in the Times under the title Parnellism and Crime, and in relation to that subject, are now under discussion in Parliament, in which discussion i may be called upon to take part, I think you will agree with me that it would be better, at such a juncture, I should not continue to hold the general retainer for the Times.
The word “ general “ is used there in a very emphatic sense. I would ask the Attorney-General whether he is disposed at the present juncture to adopt a similar attitude in regard to the Marconi Company to that which was adopted by the late Lord Chief Justice of England, and to return his retainer ?
– I have read the letter to which the honorable member has directed attention. In regard to the other part of his question I do not propose to give any answer other than that which I have already given;
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In last Saturday’s issue of the Register and the Advertiser, both of which newspapers are published in Adelaide, I am credited with having made the following statement -
He did not believe the present Sydney outbreak was small-pox at all, but the dictum of the Medical Union, which was the closest and narrowest in the world, had to be obeyed. He protested against the Government’s action in having quarantined Sydney on account of the damage it had done in this State, and also New South Wales. He also objected to the Commonwealth, through the Naval Board, finding well-paid jobs for half-pay Navy officers’ in connexion with the administration of the Navy Act, as had been done in the case of the lighthouse expert.
Some honorable members may hold the views which have thus been attributed to me. I wish to say that I expressed no opinion on the quarantining of Sydney, that I did not mention small-pox during the course of my speech, and that I did not criticise the appointment of the lighthouse expert. How I came to be credited with having expressed these views I do not know.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Defence Act - Military Forces - Regulations
Amended, &c. (Provisional) - Statutory Rules
IQ13, Nos. 227, 228.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. - Statement re Pensions for twelve months ended 30th
– Before submitting the motion which I intend to propose in regard to the business of the day I should like to make mention of the death of an old and respected member of this House - I mean the Honorable William Knox, who, for many years, was one of our most highly-esteemed representatives here, and one of the most useful members withal that this chamber has known. He was a man of patriotism and zeal in the public service of the country - one whose example all may worthily emulate, though few certainly will excel. It seems as if death has laid a heavy toll on the members of this Commonwealth Parliament. One after another is to be counted amongst those who have gone hence, and left their labours to be carried on by others. We can but acquiesce in these visitations from time to time, and hope that we may do our duty as faithfully as he did who has just gone from amongst us. I am quite sure that I voice the feelings of the whole House when I say that we tender our sincerest sympathy to the bereaved ones, and pray that a kind Providence may assuage their grief and soften the blow to them.
.- The Prime Minister quite correctly said that he spoke for the whole House when he expressed sympathy with the widow and family of the late Honorable William Knox, who, both in a private and public capacity - especially in his own State - has rendered valuable service to the community. The head of the Government also very fittingly referred to the severe toll demanded by Nature of the people’s representatives in this Parliament. I have expressed my views on that subject before, and I do not wish to repeat them. Our sympathies go out to the bereaved ones. Nature demands that we must all go hence at some time, and however much we may differ as to the methods which should be followed in carrying on the government of the country we all recognise faithful service by any honorable member, no matter what political views he may hold. It is very important for us to recollect that every person who enters this Chamber enters it as the choice of a majority of the electors of his constituency. The position which he holds is, therefore, a very honorable one. I join with the Prime Minister in offering our sympathy to the widow and relatives of the late Honorable William Knox, and in placing on record our recognition of the public services which he rendered.
.- I wish to add a few words to what has already been said by the Prime Minister and my respected leader, because the late Honorable William Knox was the oldest friend I had in politics. It is more than forty years ago when he, one of the handsomest men in Melbourne, took my part as one of the youngest officials in a bank in this city, and thus rendered me a kindness which afterwards cemented into a friendship that was never broken. Later on, I followed the study of another profession, whilst he remained associated with the bank. Few men have filled as large a position as he has, and though we differed politically, our friendship was never estranged. I wish, therefore, to pay my meed of praise to one who proved himself a true friend and a kindhearted gentleman, especially when I brought the unemployed movement under his notice - a movement which he assisted monetarily and in other ways. I join in the hope which has been expressed, that his bereaved ones may have God’s help to enable them to bear their affliction, and, in conclusion, I would say, as every one else here will say, “ God rest his soul.”
– I move -
That the business on the notice-paper preceding notice of motion No.1 be postponed until after consideration of Order of the Day No. 3.
.- I offer no objection to the proposal of the Prime Minister, although I expected that the notice-paper would have been arranged in the order in which the Government intended to proceed with business. I further anticipated that the Treasurer would have extended to honorable members the usual courtesy, by issuing to them copies of the Supply Bill beforehand
– Copies of the Bill were issued on Saturday.
– I have not seen a copy. I missed it, and my secretary must have missed it, too.
– I was surprised to get it on Saturday.
– If the Government had not been too busy electioneering they might have been able to arrange the business-paper in such a way as to permit of Supply being brought on-
– I would point out that the business-paper has been arranged in accordance with the usual practice.
– The Prime Minister can arrange the business-paper in any order that he pleases.
– Not under our Standing Orders.
– Who does arrange it?
– I am speaking now more particularly of the position when the Address-in-Reply is under consideration, which, under standing order No. 21, must be disposed of before other business, except of a formal character, can be entered upon. There is, further, a noconfidence amendment to the Address.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders - Trea surer’s Advance - Revenue and Expenditure - Sugar Industry : Proclamationof Repealing Acts - General Election : Chargesof Dishonesty: Electoral Officers: Instruction of ex-Minister of Home Affairs - Home Affairs Department : Administration - Testing Station for Explosives - Old-agepensions : Blind Persons - Votes for Contingencies - Post and Telegraph Department : Telephone Extension in Country Districts : Repair of Lines : Supply of Overcoats : Country Mail Services : Commission of Management: Tasmanian Mail Service - Commonwealth Bank - Attacks on Labour Party - Reciprocal Trade: New Zealand and Canada - Cotton Growing - Training Ship “ Gayundah “ : Repairs - Compulsory Military Training: Senior Cadets: Use of State School Grounds : SergeantMajors’ Uniforms and Duties - Finance : Increased Cost of Living : State of Money Market - Preference to Unionists.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended in order to enable all steps to be at once taken to obtain Supply before the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech has been agreed to by the House, and to pass a further Supply Bill through all its stages without delay.
.- I enter my protest against the suspension of the Standing Orders - a procedure to which, both in Federal and State politics, I have always objected. To my mind, there could be no more serious invasion of our parliamentary privileges than is involved by the suspension of the Standing Orders. The Government of the day, whether it be a Labour or a Conservative Administration, should protect to the fullest extent the procedure of the House. A time may come when party feeling is running high, and when the one side or the other, having behind it a strong servile majority, will by this means rule the House in a way that the people do not desire. This is a proposal against which every honorable member in ordinary circumstances should take a stand ; but as I understand that on the present occasion the suspension of the Standing Orders is desired in order to obtain Supply, I do not intend to take very strong exception to it. I shall, however, continue to protest, as I have always done, against the suspension of the Standing Orders from time to time.
.- I indorse the words that have just fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Kennedy. The motion which the Treasurer would like to move is, I think, one that was heard in the early history of this House, when an enthusiastic pressman leant over the gallery, and said, “ I move that this House adjourn for forty purple years.” Such a motion would probably suit the Treasurer. I do not propose to offer any objection to the taking of the steps necessary to enable the Public Service to be paid, but I wish to emphasize the point that the present Government have no desire whatever to do any business. If they had they would speedily get out of the way the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, and would push on with the business of the country. I learn from to-day’s newspapers that it is proposed to ask for the adjournment of this House at an early date to enable honorable members to entertain our parliamentary visitors from Great Britain. The Government, apparently wanting an excuse for not pushing on the business, intend to avail themselves of this opportunity to secure an adjournment, on the plea that members of the Commonwealth Parliament should be able to tour the country with their guests, who, by the way, we are most anxious to see enjoy themselves while in the Commonwealth. In the circumstances, I do not offer any objection to this motion. The Treasurer to-day is so very mild and courteous that one really finds it difficult to offer any objection whatever.
.- I wish to express my pleasure that some honorable members have at last learned the lesson that the Standing Orders should not be lightly suspended. I quite agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Kennedy, but regret that when from time to time, during the first five years of the Commonwealth Parliament, I objected to the Standing Orders being suspended I did not receive the support of honorable members now sitting in Opposition. At that time they sat behind another Administration, and gave it their full support. On almost every occasion on which such a motion as this was submitted I pointed out that it was not in accordance with the best parliamentary practice, and should not be encouraged ; but I cannot say I ever received the support of a member of the Labour party. In this instance there is some excuse for the action proposed. Who delayed the last general election so long that a Supply Bill could not be brought forward until the financial year bo! which it related had already been entered upon ? The elections should rightly have been held last March or April, We should then have been able to meet by the 1st June - before the beginning of the present financial year. I do trust that now that we have in power a sound Administration they will correct this ‘ procedure at the first opportunity, and that we shall at last have the granting of Supply, as it ought to be, within the control of the House. I, therefore, welcome the support of honorable members opposite, who have announced their objection to the suspension of the Standing Orders, and have no doubt that Ministers will gladly receive it in bringing our procedure in this respect into that full and proper order from which it ought never to have departed.
.- It is obvious that the honorable member for Werriwa is trying to score off the Opposition by urging that the general election should have taken place at an earlier date. The honorable member, who professes to be a student of the Constitution, ought to know that under the Constitution the Senate continues to exist until the 30th June, so that if the general election had taken place in April, and Parliament had been called together, as the honorable member suggested, early in June, any members of the Senate who had been defeated at the polls would have been able to take part in the passing of the Supply Bill. That is what is advocated by the enthusiastic constitutionalist who has been returned - temporarily, I hope - by the electors of Werriwa.
– Poor fellow !
– I do not think that the honorable member is particularly pleased that the honorable member for Werriwa has been returned. The Government has far more docile supporters. The honorable member for Werriwa urges that the late Government were responsible for keeping the House in existence longer than was necessary, with the result that we have now to pass a Supply Bill when we ought to be dealing with the Estimates for the current financial year. He must have forgotten his constitutional knowledge, of which he used to give us the benefit when he was a member of the House on a previous occasion. Apparently, he recognises and approves of the pernicious principle that defeated senators should continue to take part in the legislation of the country.
– But the Senate does not deal with Money Bills.
– Here is another brilliant gem of constitutionalism ! Does the honorable member say that the Senate has not to deal with this Bill ? Has the Senate not to pass this Bill ?
– If that is the honorable member’s reading of the Constitution - well !
– Would the honorable member recommend the Prime Minister or the Treasurer to make any payment under this Supply Bill simply because it had been passed by this House ?
– That is another matter.
– It is another matter in which even the honorable member, in his indiscretion of to-day, would accept no responsibility. Here was a case where no Government could, under any consideration, be justified in allowing a Senate, composed of some members who might have been rejected by the popular votes of the various States of Australia, to deal with a Supply Bill for the current financial year. The argument of the honorable member was all intended to show that the late Government were interested in making the elections as late as possible - That was not the case. Recognising the constitutional position, the Government wished to meet Parliament with the new Senate. Supply had been granted only till the end of June; and as soon as the result of the elections was known, the late Government resigned in order that the present Government should be free from embarrassment and able to call Parliament together early in the financial year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding Nine hundred and sixty-four thousand five hundred and ninety-six pounds be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 19^4.
I regret to have to ask again for Supply before the Estimates-in-Chief are on the table, but the position has been unavoidable for one reason and another. I hope, however, that it will not be long before I shall be able to announce the date when the Estimates will be laid before the House. Honorable members will notice that the Supply asked for is for one month. The Bill provides for the ordinary votes £694,596, for refunds it provides £20,000, and for the Treasurer’s Advance £25D,000.
– The sum of £250,000 for a Treasurer’s Advance for a month?
– Yes. The refunds are required to pay cable receipts, which come to the Government in the first instance, and have to be paid to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company and the Pacific Cable Board, and also for postage on postal notes, and the repayment of money paid into the revenue iti error. As to the Treasurer’s Advance, honorable members are aware that the first Supply Bill provided for £400,000, and I now ask for £250,000 more. This is no doubt a large amount, but the reason is that until we have an appropriation for works and buildings the numerous works throughout the Commonwealth have to be paid for out of this Advance. All these works, I may say, have been authorized by Parliament, but they were not completed by the end of the financial year ; and the course followed in regard to them is the course taken in previous years. I may point out that, although £650,000 may be approved by Parliament, for Treasurer’s Advance, it is not intended that more than £500,000 shall be voted under this head when the Estimates for the whole of the financial year are before the House. As I say, the course now taken is exactly the same, I believe, as that taken last year.
– The late Government did not. ask for so much, yet the present Treasurer always grumbled.
– I am speaking from memory, but I think the late Government asked for as much as we are asking for. As soon as we have an appropriation for works and buildings, the money now voted to the Treasurer’s Advance will be debited to that appropriation, and the Treasurer’s Advance will be relieved of nearly the whole of the liability. This is merely a temporary measure to enable us to pay for works and buildings from the beginning of the financial year until we have an appropriation. This Supply Bill, like the last one, is based on the Estimates of the previous year. The only increases of salaries which will be paid under it are the ordinary statutory increments, due to officers whose salaries do not exceed £180 a year. There is nothing novel or unusual in the Bill.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay) [3.37J. - The Treasurer, of course, needs money to meet the obligations of the Commonwealth, and it is the business of Parliament to pass this measure, whatever our views may otherwise be as to the administration. It is very interesting to hear the Treasurer deprecating any criticism in relation to the amount for the Treasurer’s Advance, and suggesting that it is not much, and that later on the matter will be adjusted.
– We are doing the same as did the late Government.
– We are now hearing a very different tale from that which the Treasurer and the Prime Minister used to tell when in Opposition. They then asked what the money was required for, and used language sufficient to suggest to the people outside that it was not necessary, and might be misused. In the case of the late Government the amount first asked for in a Supply Bill for a
Treasurer’s Advance was £150,000, whereas the present Treasurer is asking for £400,000 to begin with.
– The late Government asked for £200,000.
– In the succeeding Supply Bill we asked for £200,000, whereas the right honorable gentleman is asking for £250,000.
– There was another Supply Bill.
– There must be as many Supply Bills as are necessary until the Budget is introduced and the Appropriation Act passed. This Government, however, we are told, have come into power to economize and put the finances right; and yet we find them asking, not for £350,000 in the first two temporary Supply Bills, but £650,000.
– The late Government had a great deal last year under this head- £645,000 altogether.
– Not at all. The first two Supply Bills provided £150,000 and £200,000 respectively for Treasurer’s Advance.
– Did that include refunds ?
– The refunds would not make any difference, so far as Treasurer’s Advance was concerned. Does the honorable member say that his amount is not in addition to the refunds?
– Then it is £250,000, plus £20,000.
– How much did you have ?
– We had £150,000 and £200,000.
– We are later in the year.
– But the honorable member is only asking for Supply for one month. Our highest for one month was £200,000; but honorable members, in addition to getting £400,000 in the last Supply Bill, are now asking for £250,000 more. I am not questioning the utility or necessity of this amount of money being granted, but I am dealing with it from the attitude the honorable member assumed when he was in Opposition.
– I do not think I was very severe.
– I do not complain of the way in which the Treasurer has made his temporary financial statement in asking for Supply; but, in view of the remarks made so prominently in the country concerning the state of the Treasury, it is time we asked the Government or the Treasurer to make a statement regarding the finances generally. It is. difficult to interrupt a discussion such as is going on in the House to deal with it now, and I shall not attempt it; but it is incumbent on the Government to make good the statement they made throughout the country regarding the state of the finances. It was about the fifteenth time of interrogation before we were able to get the Prime Minister to admit the actual facts of the case. It was only about a week ago that he admitted there was a net cash surplus of about £2,500,000 in the Treasury.
– You are saying what is absolutely incorrect.
– It is only quite lately that the Prime Minister admitted it; but. there were many statements published and reprinted in the country press, where, I believe, they were intended to do good service, claiming that there was an actual deficit ; and it was only the other day that the Prime Minister admitted that when the present Government came into office there was a net cash balance of £2,474,323, plus a net cash balance of £291,025 in the Australian. Notes Trust Account. That is to say, there was a surplus of £2,765,348 in the hands of the Treasurer.
– Then he ought to have plenty of money to spend on telephones.
– The outgoing Government were the first Government to leave a surplus of that extent in any part of Australia; but so far from using these financial resources to placate supporters and spend money heavily, we conserved the public finances and safeguarded the public interest as far as practicable, with the result that, though State Governments are financially embarrassed, the Commonwealth is to-day in a very happy position financially. We can search in vain for records of Liberal Governments going out of office leaving a state of affairs like that. It is no part of our duty to extol our own administrative virtues, but it is just to those who were associated with the Labour party that the absolute facts should be made known. The Treasurer knows that I am stating facts. I would remind him again of the manner in which he issued his first financial statement at the opening of the session. He put down the actual amount of credit balance for the last financial year as so much, and said that the balance brought over from other years was so much, hiding as far as he could the actual aggregate money accumulated in the time the previous Government were in office.
– I do not think I did that.
– The facts were all there, but they were hidden as well as the right honorable gentleman could hide them, which was not at all in keeping with the standing of the right honorable gentleman as Treasurer of his own State, or as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. I hope the Prime Minister and members of the Government will take this opportunity to make good their statements, in which the people of Australia were slandered, in regard to electoral matters.
– Are you coming to that again?
– It deals with the honour of the people of Australia. Either the people of Australia are honest or dishonest. The honorable member said they did not vote honestly.
– Who said that?
– The honorable gentleman’s party, individually and collectively; and in such a way that they influenced people outside the Commonwealth, in America and Great Britain, where the journals have claimed that Australia, so far as electoral matters are concerned, is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And there on the Government benches are the accusers of the people of Australia. They who made the reckless charges are not more honorable. Idle, cynical laughter will not rid them of the charge. There is not a tittle of evidence produced.
– Do not be in a hurry.
– If the evidence is coming forward, it should be produced. Mr. Oldham’s report vindicated the good name of the people of Australia. I presume the honorable member for Wakefield speaks for his party, and from personal knowledge.
– I speak for myself.
– I presume we are going to have this proof. Then let it come. It should not be delayed a day. The public should know the facts.
– And so they do.
– The presumption is that all this has been done by the supporters of those on the Opposition benches.
– Who said that?
– The inference clearly was that the manipulation was by the previous Government, but the report of the Chief Electoral Officer shows that, so far as he can find out, there has been no manipulation. The Prime Minister and others have referred to an official statement by the Commonwealth Statistician, Mr. Knibbs, to the effect that there is a greater number of names on the electoral roll than of people of voting age in the Commonwealth. The report by Mr. Oldham practically nullifies any charge which may be involved in that statement by Mr. Knibbs. Mr. Oldham says -
The number of electors on the certified lists on 31st May, 1913, was 2,760,216, and the number of electors to whom ballot papers were issued was 2,033,251. The percentage of electors to whom ballot papers were issued was 73.66. It may be taken that the number of qualified persons actually in Australia and those enrolled who are temporarily absent in various parts of the world total not less than 2,615,000, and may total considerably more.
I have heard the statement made that Mr. Knibbs says so and so, but 1 have not yet seen that official report by Mr. Knibbs to which reference is so often made. If the Government are in possession of that report it ought to be on the table of this House. In the circumstances, that is the proper place for it.
– The honorable gentleman will not let us put anything on the table of the House. Why does he not get rid of the censure motion, so that we can put papers on the table of the House?
– Was there ever more miserable quibbling in this House? If the Prime Minister had in his possession a paper which would explain his former attitude in this or in another Parliament during his public life to his advantage, it would have been placed on the table immediately. A censure motion does not debar the Government from laying papers on the table. It never has done so, and it never will.
– This Government will not put papers on the table while a censure motion is being discussed.
– Such a motion does not debar members of the Ministry from putting papers on the table. The AttorneyGeneral has laid papers on the table.
– No, but it debars the Opposition from complaining of the fact that papers are not placed on the table. They cannot expect that they will be placed on the table when they have launched such a motion.
– I do not ask for privileges.
– The honorable gentleman cannot complain if he is not given them.
– I am not complaining. The honorable gentleman quite mistakes me if he thinks I am. Far be it for me to complain of anything the present Government may do. If I wished to complain, I should adopt a very different attitude from that which I am taking up at the present time. When the honorable gentleman talks of . complaining, I might turn for a moment to the question of what has occurred in connexion with the sugar industry, though I shall not deal with the matter fully.
– This House was denied a report by the Chief Electoral Officer on the postal vote when the honorable gentleman’s Government was in power.
– The honorable member says that the late Government refused to lay on the table a report which was in their possession at that time.
– The late Government refused to have a report prepared.
– If the honorable member’s statement is a statement of fact I regret it, but it is not within my knowledge.
– -It is not a fact.
– I only wish to say that, if it is a fact, the matter was never brought before me. I never heard the question raised here. If there were such a report in the possession of the Government, I should have insisted upon its being presented.
– This House asked for a report from the Chief Electoral Officer, and the honorable gentleman’s Government would not get that report.
– Look at the quibbling again ! That is not the question which has been raised here. The honorable member suggested that we did not put on the table a report which was in our possession. Now he quibbles, and makes an entirely different statement.
– I say that this House asked for a report from the Chief Electoral Officer on the abolition of the postal vote, and the late Government refused to have that special report prepared and presented to the House.
– The honorable member made a direct statement and charge, and now he goes back upon it, and says that the Opposition at the time wished for certain information which was not furnished, because it was not in the possession of the Government.
– I did not make any such statement.
– The honorable member has made two distinctly different statements. The Government will have to discharge their public duty regarding the allegations of corruption on the part of the electors of Australia. I repeat what I said when the charge was first made. I know the people o°f Australia, and I know also some of the other peoples of the world, and I express my opinion that in connexion with the elections, the people of Australia are more honest and straightforward than are those of any other country in the world. That is a big thing to say of them. I will not say that in Australia we are entirely free from those who will, perhaps, take advantage of the rights and privileges they enjoy, but I do say that the number of such people in Australia is smaller than in other countries, and they are not confined to any one political party. Honorable members opposite, whom I congratulate upon having the press largely on their side, have influenced the newspapers to create an atmosphere that induces many honest people- to believe the thing which is not. It is< not to their credit that they have done so. Let me turn now to the question connected with the sugar industry. What, would have been said of a Labour Government if they had done something wrong, without knowing it was wrong, at- a time when Parliament was in session, and it was possible to right the wrong? That aspect of the matter has never yet been dealt with by the Government. This Parliament met early in July, and it was late in the same month before the proclamation to which reference has been made was issued. Ministers were roaming about the country. They obtained an adjournment to enable them to look into matters. We presumed that they were looking into all matters; but they missed the most important. They had time to go about accusing the people of corruption, but no time to look into essentials and to protect the revenue of the country. Now they whine that what occurred was due to the oversight of the previous Government. This Government was in office for a month before the proclamation in regard to the repealing Acts was issued. They had at their disposal officers who knew everything about the business.
– Somebody has lost the country £120,000.
– If so, the loss has been caused by this Government. They have never yet told us whether they were in consultation with the experts of the Department before they issued the proclamation.
– The Sugar Company had to tell them that they had lost the money.
– That is not the point with which I am dealing now. It was their duty to ask the responsible officers of the Department how the matter stood. If the whole of the sugar made from Australian products in 1911-12 had been placed on the market, there would have been no surplus Australian sugar in bond after April of this year, because last season was a short one, and the consumption of sugar was largely in excess of the quantity produced in Australia.
– Does the honorable member mean that the Government never consulted the officials of the Customs Department?
– They have not told us whether they did or not. They certainly ought to have done. I am sure that if the honorable member for EdenMonaro had been at the head of the Department he would have ascertained, before he issued the proclamation, whether there was Australian-made sugar in bond-
– The Government say they do not know.
– The Customs officers know every pound of Australian-made sugar that is in bond at any particular date. Therefore, the Government could have been in possesion of the information. There would have been no loss to the sugar industry if the Minister had taken the right course. The bounty could have been paid in the meantime, and the sugar-growers protected, whilst a short Act of Parliament could have been antedated to deal with all the sugar produced from this year’s crop. It was as simple as A B C if the matter had been looked into properly. It has been suggested by the Minister of Trade and Customs that I said that I would issue the proclamation when Mr. Denham, the Premier of Queensland, carried out his agreement with the Federal Government. Certainly; but that applied entirely to the new year’s crop. As regards the future, two things were possible. One was to equalize the bounty and the Excise, and the other was to enter into an agreement with the Government of Queensland to abolish the bounty and Excise on certain conditions. Mr. Denham preferred the latter course, and it was carried out. I have always held the view - and I am sorry the sugar producers did not agree - that the true remedy was to equalize the bounty and Excise. By that means I believe the sugar-grower, who is the person to be protected primarily, would have been properly protected. But the other course was adopted.
– The honorable member means that he was in favour of equalizing the bounty and Excise and retaining them both?
– Of course.
– Why did not the honorable member do that?
– Because the other course was preferred, and I would not insist on my view being carried out against the view presented to me by those immediately concerned as the desirable one. But I am not sure that if the same parties were compelled to meet the situation again they would not take the opposite course. That, however, is another point. In large affairs like this, where one has to depend on the good faith and good will of people, one has to deal with circumstances as they arise.
My last point on the matter is this: I regret that this industry has been divorced from Federal control. I believe that the dual control will be mischievous, though I do not believe, as some do, that it ‘will be disastrous.
– The honorable member is responsible for the dual control.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to say a few words-
.- I am entitled to a second period during this debate, and should like to take the opportunity now of finishing what I have to say on the sugar question, since the right honorable gentleman has been good enough to resume his seat to give me that opportunity. I have said that I regret that the industry is now under the control of two Parliaments. The sugar industry in Australia can only exist by the good will of the Federal Parliament and the people of Australia. Without full and ample protection at the seaboard it cannot survive.
– The industry has a 50 per cent. duty now.
– Some industries have even more, and they are not primary industries, nor are they tropical industries. They have a hope of existing without protection, but the sugar industry has no such hope. It has to meet competition from two sides - from Hawaii and from Fiji and Java, which are natural places for sugar production in the tropics, and where white labour is not employed. The Australian Parliament is determined that the industry shall be carried on by white labour. Thirteen years ago it was difficult to make people in the southern parts of Australia believe that it was possible to produce sugar by white labour. The denunciations that came from the press, and those interested, were all in the direction that it meant a disaster to the industry, and failure to those who had put their money into it. We on this side were the one party that stood solid, and predicted that the industry would succeed under reasonable Protection, with white labour conditions. The Government of the day - the Barton Government - brought in the pre sent Tariff with the addition of the bounty and the Excise, differentiating between white and coloured grown cane. By the economic operation of that legislation, without any coercion at all except the repatriation of the Polynesians, the industry has prospered as a white labour industry. It has settled about 700 miles of the north-east coast line of Australia in a way which could not have been done under other circumstances. Twenty years ago one could not persuade people even in Queensland that sugar could be successfully grown with white labour north of Mackay. To-day, they all admit that it is practicable to do so in nearly every part of Australia. There is another point in this matter that I wish to deal with; then I will be finished. We have heard a great deal about the powers of this Parliament under the Constitution. We have also heard a great deal about the great American Republic, and how its people are going to remedy their troubles with regard to trusts, combines, and monopolies. How does the President of the United States intend to act? He proposes to deal with the sugar question in the way that some honorable members opposite proposed to adopt here, and that was to wipe out the duty, and have free competition. In America, sugar-growers have coloured labour, and yet those interested there say that by the act of the Senate in passing a measure to wipe out the duty by degrees, they would destroy the industry. How is it possible in a country like Australia, where there is a determination to provide that every white man who is engaged in a productive industry shall get fair wages and have reasonable conditions, the sugar industry could compete against open ports? The suggestion is impossible. Whatever our opinions may be on this question, they will have to be put to the test. Australian people, I believe, are ready and willing to pay more for sugar to enable the industry to continue. I believe that the Protection at the seaboard will be sufficient to allow fair and reasonable conditions to the workers, and fair and reasonable returns to the growers and the investors.
– Will they be able to grow for export?
– In my opinion, under present conditions, unless the growers get machinery that will enable the white worker to greatly excel the coloured worker in the field, it is not practicable for the industry to grow and export sugar at a profit.
– They grow about only half enough for ourselves.
– I believe that under fair conditions the industry will produce enough sugar for Australian requirements.
– The growers have not done so this year.
– They have a fair return this year. The question is not whether they can produce enough sugar for Australia, but whether they can produce enough sugar to export. In my opinion, it will not be economically possible for them to produce sugar and sell it overseas. Therefore, it lies with the Australan people to say what Protection shall be given to the industry. Certainly the Protection should be sufficient to give each party a fair return. In my opinion it would not help the producer if the Protection were such as to make the production in excess of the requirements of Australia. These requirements will grow with the population, and it will be a very large and important industry which will supply them. Whatever the Protection is, I believe that the majority of the people of Australia will demand that it shall be given rather than that we should lose the industry. That is my reply, not only in regard to the sugar industry, but in regard to every other. If an industry is essential, then the Protection must be adequate. I do not wish to trespass further on the time of the Committee. I should not, perhaps, have enlarged so much on this question had it not been for the kindly interjections of the Prime Minister, but I am glad that the Ministry, now that they have had time to reflect, admit cheerfully, as they are bound to do on the facts, that not only were the finances of the country carefully conserved by their predecessors-
– We do not admit anything of the kind.
– My honorable friends have got into a kind of political torpor that is helping them along their way, and making them a little more serene than otherwise they would have been.
– Do not believe that for a minute.
– In the statement of policy made by the Prime Minister we see no reference to the sugar industry, although he knew all about the circumstances which subsequently transpired. Will any honorable member say that such conduct was straightforward? Why did not the Government straightforwardly embody a reference in the statement of policy? They set themselves up as patterns for others to follow.
– No. You do that.
– There is not a single hint in the Ministerial statement, important as it is, that anything was wrong with the sugar industry. These are the guides and counsellors of this nation I They find themselves in a difficulty. Instead of telling the public of the difficulty when they had an opportunity, they refrained. Why ? They thought that they would be able to get out of the trouble without the knowledge of the public. No other reason for their silence can be given. The matter was important enough to justify a statement. Had it borne against the Labour party, we can rest assured that it would not have been forgotten.
Colonel RYRIE (North Sydney) [4.18]. - I would not have risen had it not. been that the ex-Prime Minister could not refrain from indulging in abuse of this side of the House. There has been nothing else from the other side since we commenced to work this session. I feel sure that new members, of whom we havea good crop, must wonder whether they have really succeeded in taking a seat in the National Parliament. They must wonder if they are really in an assemblageof men who are supposed , to be moulding; the destinies of this great Commonwealth, because they have heard nothing but abuse and misrepresentation from start to finish. The Leader of the Opposition, even on the Supply Bill, could not refrain from abusing this side of the House. He said that we are the slanderers of the people of Australia. Simply because, owing to persistent reports in the press, it appeared that great abuses of the Electoral Act had been indulged in, and this side of the House took steps to see whether that was the case, we are called the slanderers of Australia. The party on the other side have given, I suppose, as great an insult to a respectable community in Australia as has ever been given to any section of a community in the world, and that is to the landowners. The land-owners of Australia were deliberately insulted by an instruction issued by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs.
– In what way
Colonel RYRIE. - The ex-Minister gave orders to the electoral authorities that no station-owner, overseer, or manager should be employed in the conduct of elections.
– Quite right, too.
Colonel RYRIE. - Of course, the honorable member says that. The instruction was equivalent to a declaration that land-owners are dishonest; that those who own land-
– The squatters?
Colonel RYRIE. - Many selectors term their holdings stations. Selectors and all who hold land are as good as told that they are liars, perjurers, and dishonorable men. Before a man accepts electoral work he takes an oath to discharge his functions according to law, but the exMinister of Home Affairs has said that the land-owners of Australia are liars and perjurers, who, if appointed for the conduct of elections, would abuse their positions. This is an insult that the landowners will not forget. When Labour members go to the country again, the insult will be avenged. Labour members have an intense hatred of the man on the land. They wish to drive him off the land, to nationalize it. They like to get the farmers’ votes, but when there is an opportunity to insult them, they do not let it pass. Am I, as a station-owner or manager, to be told that if I were appointed to the position of assistant returning officer or poll clerk, I should, in spite of my oath, abuse the confidence reposed in me?
– Is the honorable member a squatter ?
Colonel RYRIE. - I own land, but I do not call myself a squatter. As a landowner I have been stigmatized by the last Government as belonging to a class of persons who would be false to their oath ; who are dishonorable and dishonest. There are a good many land-owners, managers, and overseers in Australia, and they regard the instruction of the exMinister of Home Affairs as a deliberate insult to them. They are men who have risen from the ranks for the most part. Because they possess energy, brains, and intelligence, they are told that they are not fitted to occupy positions under the electoral law. Honorable members opposite are always ready to abuse those who hold land in considerable areas. Such men as Sir Samuel McCaughey are always being abused by the Labour members and the Labour press.
– They will not believe the honorable member; they know better.
Colonel RYRIE. - We did not believe the honorable member for Gwydir when he said that he would not get vaccinated. We were right. We knew what hi3 word was worth.
– It was your brutal Government.
Colonel RYRIE. - It was recently stated in the press that Sir Samuel McCaughey had purchased a huge property - something like 200,000 acres - from a financial institution, and the comment was made that probably he would manage the place with the help of an overseer and two or three black boys. In conversation with me he has spoken of the unfairness of such comment. Speaking of this particular land, he said, “ When purchased it was absolutely a barren waste, overgrown with scrub and overrun with rabbits. It had not a drop of water on it. I am having erected on it 70 miles of wire-netting fence; I am having two artesian bores put down at a cost of £3,000 each, and I am employing thirty men on it in digging out the rabbits.” That man deserves credit for what he is doing. He is making waste land available for settlement later on. What poor man could touch such land? No one can take up country of that kind unless he has a large amount of capital at his command, and is prepared to spend it. Yet the men who have capital, and use it in making valueless country useful, are abused by the members of the Labour party. The ex-Minister of Home Affairs stigmatized the land-owners, managers, and overseers of Australia as persons who are corrupt and dishonest, liars, and perjurers.
– He did not.
Colonel RYRIE. - He did so by issuing the instruction to which I have referred.
– The honorable member should be a good authority on the subject.
Colonel RYRIE.- I say that the landowners of Australia are as honorable as are those who are engaged in the same occupation as the honorable member, whether they be Scotchmen or Irishmen. He would not like to have those who are in his line of business stigmatized as unfit to hold positions under the electoral law. What was done was absolutely unjustifiable.
– The honorable member will secure the squatters’ vote.
Colonel RYRIE. - I always get the vote of the respectable and honest. It is the boss rabbiters and rouseabouts whom honorable members opposite would make deputy returning officers and poll clerks. I gave a list once before of the men who vote for honorable members opposite and whom they favour. It is the tugs, the toughs, and the touts, the race-course spielers, whom they would appoint to positions of trust. The men whom they would appoint to positions under our Electoral Act are the Darling whalers, the sundowners, the pinky-drinkers, and the whisperers and tick-tackers on the pony courses, rather than those who hold land in this country. The land-owners will not forget these honorable members when it comes to their turn to judge them.
.- It is not my intention to attempt to reply to the choleric outburst of the honorable and gallant Colonel. I will deal rather with the action of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer in regard to the repeal of the Sugar Bounty and Sugar Excise Acts. Later on, I may have a few words to say upon electoral matters. The Prime Minister stated the other evening that he did not promise to repeal the sugar bounty and sugar Excise legislation unconditionally. Of course, one may be excused for doubting the honorable gentleman, because he appears to make so many statements, and to forget all about them, that a denial on his part is quite a frequent occurrence. But I would remind honorable members that about a fortnight prior to the declaration of the poll at the recent general elections there appeared in the Brisbane Courier the following -
Abolition Promised by Liberal Party.
Information has been received by the Aus tralian Sugar Producers’ Association, through the Liberal Senatorial candidates, Messrs. T. D. Chataway, R. J. Sayers, and A. G. St. Ledger, from the Honorable J. Cook, leader of the Party, that if the Liberals are returned to power at the coming general elections proclamations will be at once issued abolishing Excise and Bounty on sugar unconditionally. (Signed) Arthur E. Lavis. 240 Queen-street, Brisbane.
That statement appeared in the Brisbane Courier of 13th May, 1913, and was not contradicted by anybody. No doubt, it was used in the interests of the Liberal candidates there.
– If the Government acted up to that promise, we can understand the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs in proclaiming the repeal of the sugar bounty and Excise legislation without making due inquiry as to the quantity of sugar which was in bond at the time. Nobody in a deliberate assembly ever appeared more uncomfortable than the Minister did on the day that the honorable member for Yarra revealed his. action in allowing the stocks of sugar in bond to be released without first having paid Excise. It is all very well for the Government and their supporters to say that it was the duty of the late Administration to have inserted in the Sugar Excise Repeal Act a provision to remind the Minister of Trade and Customs that duty must be paid upon the sugar which was in bond at the time of the proclamation of that Act. By doing so they would have made themselves ridiculous in the eyes of Australia. It would have been necessary for them to have inserted a section which would have read somewhat as follows - “ Whereas it is probable that this Government will vacate the Treasury benches on the 31st May, and that a Liberal Government will take its place, it is hereby expressly declared that all sugar in bond upon the proclamation of the Sugar Excise Repeal Act shall pay Excise.” We have to recollect, too, that this is the Ministry of all the talents. It includes the Attorney-General, an eminent lawyer, who seems to have taken a very great interest in his work. The moment he was sworn in, he rushed away to introduce quite a new feature into our electoral administration. He at once instituted a search with a view to ascertaining all the information that he could regarding the electoral administration of the honorable member for Darwin. Where was he when the repeal of this sugar legislation was proclaimed ? And where was the Treasurer, who is so anxious about the funds of the Commonwealth, that he did not keep an eye upon the Excise due upon the sugar in bond ? Surely these Ministers were not foraging amongst the dust-bins to see what they could find to the detriment of the late Ministry ! They had important public duties to perform, and one of them was to see that the millers and others interested in this sugar paid duty upon it. The Minister of Trade and Customs must know - and, indeed, anybody who takes an interest in Customs matters knows - that people like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are perfect artists in their endeavours to pay as little duty as possible. Any person whose trade renders it necessary for him to pay duty is always watching the Tariff, and always making preparations to avoid paying Customs duty. Without doubt, some of those interested in sugar were awaiting the time when they could release the stocks which were in bond without paying Excise upon them. The Government seem to have been reminded by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, on Mr. Knox’s own showing, that they had made a mistake. I can well understand that that company, out of gratitude for the defeat of the referenda proposals, and the return of the Liberal Government to power, would be inclined to be magnanimous. Mr. Knox stated at a meeting the other day that on the 25th July, the date of the repeal of the Sugar Bounty and Sugar Excise Acts, he informed the Government of their mistake.
– A few days afterwards.
– I had better be quite accurate. The extract reads -
COLONIAL SUGAR COMPANY’S POSITION.
No Advantage Expected.
Sydney, Wednesday. - At a meeting of the shareholders of the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd., the chairman (Mr. Kater, M.L.C.) made the following allusion to the discussion about Excise duty on sugar in the House of Representatives : - “ When we obtained a copy of a proclamation issued on this subject, it was evident to us that unless some further action was taken all the sugar produced this season before 25th July would be freed from duty, although the bounty was payable on the cane from which it was made, and the revenue would thus have to suffer. Accordingly, we gave at once to the Customs all the particulars we possessed as to the quantity of sugar in which we were concerned that would be covered by the proclamation, and pointed out that whatever steps might be taken to protect the revenue, thé growers who had made early deliveries of cane should receive the same advantage in respect thereto as those whose crops were cut after 25th July. These representations were made by us three weeks ago, and since then the Comptroller has on several occasions seen our Melbourne manager about the position.”
I join with the Leader of the Opposition in emphasizing the point that, though the Government knew this three weeks ago, nothing was said about their proposed legislation in the statement .which was thrown on the table of the House by the Prime Minister without any explanation whatever. Was it that they wished to hush the matter up ? Did they expect the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s example to be followed by the other millers; and if the whole of the Excise due upon the sugar in bond had been collected, would nothing have been said about the matter ? The Minister of Trade and Customs stated on the night that he endeavoured to reply to the honorable member for Yarra -
Honorable members opposite will find that the people they are complaining of are more Liberal than he gives them credit for.
But they are not all as liberal as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It must be admitted that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a very powerful corporation, and that it has gained a great deal by the defeat of the referenda. One of the principal stockbroking firms in Australia - that of Messrs. Palmer and Son - stated that if the referenda were defeated the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s shares would go up. That prophecy has been fulfilled, shares in the company having increased in price by some £3 or £A each. It has been made possible for the company to bleed the people to a greater extent than they would have been able to do if our referenda proposals had been carried. The company is, apparently, grateful, an’d intends to return this money, which ought to have been collected by the Minister of Trade and Customs and his officers.
– But will it return the money ?
– Yes, it has promised to do so. There are, however, others who have declined to pay. A meeting of the farmers and millers of Mackay was held about 15th August last - just about the time when the Minister said he was sending away telegrams to see if the matter could not be arranged - in other words, to see if his mistake could not be rectified quietly before the honorable member for Yarra had spoken.
– I think that the Minister said that he had sent away telegrams that morning.
– He said that before the House met that day he sent the telegrams. This meeting of the farmers and millers of Mackay discussed the question, and, according to a report before me -
The millers contend that the Government is in a difficulty through having paid bounty on cane sugar which paid no Excise, owing to not having gone into consumption, and wants to shelve the liability on the millers. A motion was proposed that the Federal Government should be asked to refund. to the refineries all the Excise collected on this season’s sugar up to July 25th, the date of the abolition, and that the refineries should be asked to pay the equivalent to the millers, in which case the millers would pay the growers gs. 2d., except where the growers have already received the bounty from the Government, in which case 7s. would be refunded to the Government. The motion was not carried, some of the millers stating that they would not support the proposal, which would mean a loss to their companies of several thousands of pounds. The following amendment was carried .- “ That the Federal Government be asked to arrange the matter with the refineries.” To return to the point that this matter should have been attended to by the late Government, and that there should have been inserted in the Sugar Excise Bill a clause providing for the collection of duty on the sugar, I hold the opinion that the whole thing would have been arranged by the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs, the honorable member for Yarra. He would naturally, as any intelligent and active Minister of Trade and Customs would have done - I am not suggesting that the present Minister is not intelligent, but I do say that he was neglectful.
– He was busy looking after us.
– I suppose that his assistance was being sought by the AttorneyGeneral and other members of the Government in their efforts to find out something against the late Ministry, whilst they neglected their important public duties. In all probability the exMinister of Trade and Customs, knowing the habits and customs of those who deal with the Department, would have said to those interested, “ The Queensland Government having passed certain legislation, we now propose, on a certain date, to proclaim the Acts repealing the sugar bounty and Excise legislation. Will you clear all your sugar up to 12 o’clock midnight on the day preceding that date?” Naturally the refiners and all others interested in the repeal of that legislation would have said, “ Certainly, we shall do so,” and that is all that would have been necessary. The Government could have said to these people, “ Unless you clear your sugar up to the date named we shall have to suspend for a period - until you come to your senses - the issue of the proclamations with regard to the repealing bounty and Excise legislation.” There is yet another point to be considered. I venture to say that the ex -Prime Minister and the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs would not have issued the proclamation without first asking from the Queensland Government something more in regard to the promise made by Mr. Denham. It will be remembered that the honorable member for Wide Bay, when Prime Minister, addressed to the Premier of Queensland a telegram stating that the Government of the Commonwealth would abolish the sugar bounty and Excise legislation if the States concerned would pass an Act - [a) to confer upon the Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate in respect of the employment of coloured labour and regulation of wages and conditions of labour,- or (b) to abolish coloured labour in the industry and establish tribunals for the regulation of rates of wages and conditions of labour.
Mr. Denham, it will be remembered, said that he preferred the proposal contained in paragraph (6), providing for the abolition of coloured labour in the industry. But have the Queensland Government abolished coloured labour? No. They have passed three measures dealing with this question, and one of these will interest the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General, as well as the honorable member for Gippsland and others who have said that it is impossible for a Parliament to regulate wages. The Act is cited as “ The Sugar Growers Employes Act of 1913,” and contains a schedule declaring that the weekly rates of wages for forty-eight working hours shall be, in the case of adults - without keep, £2 8s. ; with keep, £1 16s. Youths (sixteen to eighteen), £1 4s., and so on. This is an attempt, and a successful attempt, apparently, to fix rates of wages. It is not the first time that a Parliament has fixed the wages to be paid in an industry. This Parliament, as well as the Parliaments of the States, has fixed the rates of wages payable to barristers. It has done so, if not directly, at least indirectly.
– And on a very liberal scale.
– Quite so. If it is in the power of a Parliament to decide that a solicitor may charge 6s. 8d. for giving a little advice, and 3s. 4d. for reading a letter, it should be an easy matter for a Parliament to decide what are fair rates of wages to be paid in certain industries. The Queensland Parliament passed the measure I have named, fixing the rates of wages to be paid in the sugar industry until such time as they should be altered by an award made under the State Industrial Peace Act. Another Act, the Sugar Cultivation Act of 1913, was passed providing what persons may be employed in the sugar industry. Certain persons are prohibited from growing cane, and certain others are not to be employed, but there is not a single word in the Act which complies with the request of the ex-Prime Minister that Japanese, Chinese, and Hindoos shall be excluded. The Act lays it down that unless a man can pass a dictation test of about fifty words, he is not to get a certificate; but administration depends very largely on a Government which was in favour of the. employment of coloured labour in the industry.
– Is that not the same test as for admission into Australia ?
– That has nothing to do with the request of the ex-Prime Minister to Mr. Denham, which was that coloured labour should be kept out of the industry. According to a telegram that, I received the other day, coloured labour is certainly not being excluded from the industry in the Bundaberg district, because, at Pemberton, six coloured men are employed there as carriers, and between twenty and thirty other Asiatics are scattered over the district. In all probability, there are more Asiatics employed further north than in the Bundaberg district. The honorable member for Yarra, when Minister of Trade and Customs, before proclaiming the repeal of the Acts, would have asked the Queensland Government what had been done to carry out the promise made by Mr. Denham; and that request would have been altogether apart from the attention that the ex-Minister would have given to the quantity of sugar which was in bond at the time, and which would escape duty if the proclamation went forth before the duty was collected. I notice that an attempt has been made by the supporters of the Government to put the blame on the Labour Government and party for not introducing a certain clause into the sugar legislation ; but that cannot save the present Government from the charge of blundering. The attempt to fasten the term “incapacity” on the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs will not shield the present Minister from the great blunder he committed in allowing the loss of revenue, variously estimated from £150,000 upwards.
– The Government admit that they do not know, how much the loss is.
– I think it could be ascertained.
– The Government may not have any great difficulty in finding out the amount of duty which ought to be paid, but there will be great difficulty - if they succeed, as I suppose they may, in passing retrospective legislation - in ascertaining how much was grown by white labour, and how much by black - how much sugar ought to escape the bounty. I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs may get out of his difficulty^, but he will certainly have some trouble if the millers refuse, as they apparently are refusing, to consent to the refiners paying the Excise that is due on the sugar. I shall avail myself of another opportunity to deal with the statements of the Treasurer regarding ‘ the Department of Home Affairs.
.- I was much surprised to hear the Leader of the Opposition claim the production of sugar as a primary industry, which it is the duty of this Parliament to encourage ; otherwise I do not understand the action of the honorable member for Capricornia. If the history of the sugar industry, as related to us to-night, shows anything at all, it is that, whatever class of industry it belongs to, it is not a primary industry in the sense that it is able to depend on itself. Furthermore, what we have heard shows that the action of the Labour party in this Parliament has been very detrimental to the interests of Australia as * whole. The Leader of the Opposition says that years ago the Labour party were instrumental in introducing this legislation. I, for one, take pride in the fact that, along with others - and notably the honorable member for Angas - I opposed the legislation; and it would be very instructive to compare the prophecies then made by honorable members opposite with the prophecies made by honorable members on this side. After nearly eleven years we find that this industry has cost the Commonwealth over £14,000,000, while the total production, in addition to what it has cost the owners of the sugar lands, has been only £11,000,000. Manifestly, there has been a loss of nearly £4,000,000 of money, but, as some of this has gone into the Treasury, and has been expended for general purposes, we may take it that the cost to the community, in order to keep going a business that is not suitable to Australia, has been £10,000,000. In fact, the more we go into the matter the more we realize that this is what might be termed a blacklabour industry.
– What, the sugar industry?
– Think what a different result there might have been had this £10,000,000 been used in a different way - if it had been lent to young men willing to start wheat production on the share system. For each of such young men, £300 would have been quite sufficient, and we know that every sugar producer is costing a great deal more. On the average, those to whom this money could have been advanced would’ have been able to repay it in about three years. In the first three years, with an advance of £1,000,000, employment would have been given to 10,000 men in sharefarming, and those men would have become the backbone of the country. In the second three, with the advance of another £1,000,000, and re-lending out of the first million, employment would have been given to 20,000 more, and in the third three years to 40,000 more.
– With whom would they have shared ?
– It does not matter with whom they would have shared; they would have probably shared with themselves or with their fathers; at any rate, they would have had capital to start on their own account.
– Should we finance the squatters on half-share terms?
– It is not proposed to finance a single squatter, but to finance the sons of farmers, who are directly concerned in the primary industries. Under such a plan as I have indicated, we should, at the end of ten years, have given employment to 70,000 farmers, who would have been returning the money advanced, and not costing the country a penny. The money would then have been available to advance to others.
– It is like a community making a living by taking in each other’s washing.
– Such producers would have had to sell their products in the markets of the world against the competition of the world. Theirs is a real primary industry; and if it were not for the primary industries no secondary industry could exist.
– The same argument would apply to any other industry.
– It must be an industry that has been built up in the same way. My point is that another class of men would have been put on that land. By granting them assistance in the same manner in which we have built up the sugar industry, and at practically the same cost, we could have placed 70,000 young farmers on the land working on shares, who would all be of great benefit to the country, earning something for themselves over and above the cost of production.
– Does the honorable member say that they could grow wheat on the sugar country?
– I am talking about the sugar industry passing out. Take poultry and eggs; they return three and three quarter millions, nearly three times the value of the sugar production. The average area under sugar is 140,000 acres, and we contribute £7 per acre to keep that land under cultivation, though I have been told this land is the richest land in Australia, or, some say, in the world. If we have to contribute £7 per acre to keep rich land in cultivation, then the more rich land we have the worse off we are. We ask the man on poor land to contribute to the owner of the rich land. But this is the monstrous proposition that is assented to by Parliament, that the richer the land is the less it is able to support itself, and the greater the contribution demanded from the man on poor land in order that the rich land may be held under cultivation.
– Why raise the fiscal issue at this juncture ?
– I am engaged in pointing out what it costs the community to grow sugar cane. Much has been said about the repeal of the Excise and
Bounty Acts, but both of them should have been repealed long before this, and undoubtedly the sugar duty has been the great hindrance to fruit-growers and jam-makers, preventing considerable employment in these industries. In sugarcane growing we are attempting to carry on a black or yellow or brown man’s industry, and the Leader of the Opposition is unable to say how any fresh trade can be carried on unless there is new machinery introduced.
– If the jam-makers import sugar for jam-making, they get a full drawback from the Customs.
– The drawback only applies when the jam is exported.
– There is duty of £14 per ton on jam and other fruits put into food of that nature.
– I merely incidentally mention this, but if the honorable member went into this matter be could obtain evidence from the very best men engaged in the business. The late member for North Sydney, Mr. 6. B. Edwards, speaking from his experience as manager of a large jam manufacturing concern, pointed out what a serious hindrance the duty on sugar was to the jam manufacturing trade. My point is that we have 140,000 acres under cultivation, and we have collected the money for its cultivation from other people not engaged in the growing of sugar. The competition does not cease. We find roughly that it has cost the Commonwealth Parliament £10,000,000, which could have been used in other directions. If we were anxious to encourage people on the land, we could have made an advance of £300 to every share farmer, allowing three years for repayment, as is usually done, and thus we could have had 70,000 young fellows employed on the land developing it, and engaged in a primary industry that would return a great deal to the country over the cost of production.
– You told us this ten years ago.
– It shows I was absolutely right then, when the honorable member agreed with me on so many occasions.
– I have since seen the error of my ways.
– Only in the matter of bananas. We should look at this from the point of view of cost, apart altogether from Free Trade and Protection. I have shown that, in poultry and eggs, we produce three times the value of the sugar output, and that is an industry conducted on the poorer lands of the Commonwealth. From this time forward, the sugar industry will depend upon the Tariff only. The production may be 190,000 tons, but the people of the Commonwealth will still pay not less than a million pounds sterling, which is, no doubt, to be a continuing payment. In an ordinary business concern, people may consider the advisability of advancing a million or two to get a return of £10,000,000, but we have a definite statement from the Leader of the Opposition that there is no hope for the sugar industry, except with the introduction of new machinery. Are we to call on the poorest citizens to pay for machinery for this industry?
– What do you suggest?
– I suggest that we should abolish all the duty except what may be required to provide revenue for expenditure in other directions.
– You would abolish the industry?
– Possibly; but as it has had so many years in which to establish itself, and it is still not self-supporting, clearly we are paying too much for the whistle.
– Your remarks would apply to all industries.
– We are told this land is very valuable, and then another honorable member says that it is so rich that the growers cannot live on it. If that be so, this House assents to the proposition that 140,000 acres of land in Queensland, which is some of the richest agricultural land in the world, requires a contribution of £7 per acre from people living on poorer land, and people who have no land at all to keep it in cultivation. Surely folly could not further go.
– I am afraid that the honorable member’s remarks place the Prime Minister in an awkward predicament.
– They show that the Labour party have never grasped the situation. They could never have had any idea of the true position, or surely they would not have permitted such a state of affairs to continue. That it has continued for so long is very much to the blame of all Governments of the Commonwealth. I hope that this Parliament will look at the matter from a common-sense point of view, and will not try to further encourage what seems to be a black-labour industry. I have heard the scale of wages read out, and it appears that it has been absolutely necessary to pass an Act of Parliament to enable men to receive 8s. a day in harvest time in the sugar districts. Hearing that, I was astounded to find that it was thought necessary to still continue a bonus to preserve such an industry. If the sugar industry cannot pay better wages, except under compulsion, than that to those employed in carrying it on, it ought to be abolished altogether. Honorable members opposite have frequently said that -an industry which cannot pay proper wages should be abolished. The yearly sum which we are called upon to contribute to the up-keep of this industry, would pay the wages of every one employed in sugar cultivation a dozen times over. If honorable members opposite are content that the money of the Commonwealth should be dissipated in this fashion, what becomes of their claim that -their object is to help the poorer citizens of the community? We are casting unfair burdens upon them, and I am astonished that honorable members do not see that it is the duty of Parliament to look at this matter in that way. From the point of view of defence, will any honorable member contend that by the expenditure of £1,000,000 we could not provide a better defence than could be put up by the 3,000 or 4,000 small farmers engaged in this industry?
– Farmers are engaged in the industry all along the coast, even to the north of Cairns.
– I am glad the honorable member has reminded me of that, because I wish to tell him that if we passed a law prohibiting the growing of a single stick of sugar-cane on these lands, they would still, as far as Maryborough, remain of the same value, and be worth from £25 to £30 per acre.
– What could they grow on the land?
– They could grow grass upon it, and might feed two head of cattle per acre upon it, as they are now doing in the Richmond River district. I am satisfied that these lands as far north as Maryborough would be placed under some sort of cultivation. ‘Every one must see that it would not make the slightest difference to the value of the lands in the Richmond River district whether they were used for growing sugar-cane or not. Do not honorable members know that the value of those lands is determined, not by the artificial sugar returns from them, but by the genuine returns produced by their occupation for other purposes ? We might have the lands in these districts occupied by men whose industry would be an absolute gain to the country, but we have by a high Tariff, and the payment of bounties, diverted their industry into an unprofitable channel.
– The honorable member desires that these lands should be turned into poultry farms?
– To any productive, instead of to an unproductive, industry. We should have in the occupation of these lands substantial farmers, who would be a gain to the community, men who would be able to pay their share of the taxation of the country, instead of men who must call upon other sections of the community to help them; upon persons who are not owners of rich land, but of poor land, and upon every infant in the community. I did hope that after ten years’ experience of this method of dealing with the sugar industry Parliament would have been willing to retrace its steps, but I find that, as in times past, the interests of a small section of the community, provided that it be a fighting section, prevails over the interests of a larger number of people who are unable to fight for themselves, and who do not appear to have the representation they deserve in this House, even from the members of the party terming itself a Labour party on the opposite side.
.- The honorable member for North Sydney tried to fasten on this side of the House a charge that they have maligned the land-owners of Australia by reason of some action taken by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs in connexion with the conduct of the recent elections. I want to say at once that I do not know what order was issued by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, but I believe that the honorable gentleman will be found quite capable of giving an explanation which will be satisfactory, not only to honorable members, but to the whole of the people of Australia. After suggesting that we had insulted the land-owners, and did little honour to this National Parliament, the honorable member for North Sydney, almost in the same breath, grossly insulted every elector who voted for honorable members sitting on this side. He practically designated all who supported honorable members on this side as spielers and loafers. That is language which ill becomes any member of this Parliament. So far as the land-owners are concerned, I confidently assert that, upon inquiry, it will be found that, in proportion to their numbers, the number of land-owners who occupied positions in polling booths throughout Australia in connexion with the recent elections will compare very favorably with the numbers appointed to such positions from other sections of the community. I understand that the order issued by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs did not in any way refer to small land-owners.
– Hear, hear ! It referred to the big squatters.
– It referred to the big squatters and farmers in a large way, for reasons which, no doubt, were held to be sufficient by the honorable gentleman. I should like to say that, so far as honorable members on this side are concerned, they have always endeavoured to deal out even-handed justice to the farmers, as well as to other people in Australia. In the Parliament of New South Wales, as well as in the Federal Parliament, I have represented districts in which there are a great many farmers. Very many of them realize that the Labour party is the political party that looks best after their interests, and we consequently get a very large measure of support from them. It would be well if the honorable member for North Sydney were more careful in the statements he makes in this House, and did not endeavour to fasten a stigma upon this side, while at the same time insulting every elector in Australia of a different way of thinking from himself. The honorable member for Werriwa takes exception to the amount of money expended in connexion with the sugar industry. The honorable member is of opinion that it would be far better for the Commonwealth, instead of fostering that industry and encouraging the production of sugar by white labour, to expend the money in some other direction, and preferably by inducing people to take up land on the share-farming system. First of all, we would require to find the land on which to settle the 70,000 farmers the honorable member spoke about. But, apart from that difficulty, I venture t& assert that the legislation enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament some years ago to deal with the sugar industry has rendered a splendid service to Australia. The honorable member for Werriwa pretended that the industry is fit only for black labour, and I may take it from his remarks that he is an advocate of black labour, so far as sugar growing in Queensland is concerned. This Parliament in its wisdom took the view that the industry could be carried on by white labour, and it has been abundantly proved that Parliament was right in taking that view. At the time when this legislation was brought in we had something like 10,000 kanakas producing sugar in Queensland. To-day there are considerably fewer than 1,000. In place of the kanakas we have white men working in the sugar fields. We have a population of nearly 40,000 supported by the production of sugar. In addition to that, we are told by the Queensland Government that there is room for still greater settlement in the sugar-growing districts. There are large areas of land available for people desirous of taking it up for sugar production, so that within the near future we can look forward to becoming self-supporting in this respect. Yet the honorable member who has preceded me advocates that we should repeal the duty on sugar and allow it to come in free. What would that mean 1 It would mean that sugar production in Queensland and on the Richmond River would be a thing of the past. It would not be possible for the farmers there to compete with sugar imported from abroad. Consequently, the Commonwealth would lose, because, after all, we all know that every inhabitant of the Commonwealth is a source of wealth, and, if we shut up avenues of support for 40,000 people in an industry that is capable of being extended to support as many more, it will certainly be a bad thing for an Australian Legislature to do. The honorable member’s argument is purely a Free Trade one from start to finish, and if applied to any other industry would have equally injurious results. In fact, it would mean paralyzing hundreds of industries in Australia, and we should lose a considerable part of our population. It is only by fostering our own industries that we can hope to find employment for a large population. I rose particularly, however, for two reasons. One is that I wish to impress upon the Minister of Trade and Customs the desirableness of giving attention to the matter of the erection of a testing station for explosives. He promised that he would do so.
– The honorable member asked me whether I would give consideration to the matter, and I promised to look into it.
– I hope that the Minister will consider it without further delay, because it is a very important question. In Australia we use explosives freely, but we have no means of testing them. We have to accept tests made in the Old Country. In mines giving off gas there is constant danger of explosions taking place from the use of defective explosives. We ought not to rely upon tests made elsewhere. For years past explosives have been coming in by the shipload, and we do not know whether, when used, they will give off fire or not. A permitted explosive is supposed to give off no fire at all, owing to the danger to life if an explosion of gas should occur. A testing station would, I believe, cost something like £10,000 a year to erect and maintain. Nothing has been done in this direction at present. The previous Government had it under consideration for at least twelve months, and promised that something should be done, but it had to be left over until the present Parliament met.
– Does the honorable mem. ber say that the late Government promised to erect a testing station?
– There is a difference of opinion as to whether the States or the Commonwealth should deal with the subject. I think it is a Commonwealth question, because explosives are used throughout Australia. I trust that the Minister will deal with the subject as soon as possible, in order that the States may know what the intentions of the Government are. Recently the Government of New South Wales have declared that they do not intend to go on with a project for erecting a testing station, because the Minister of Mines there lias been in communication with the Federal Government for some time. If the Commonwealth Government is not going to move, the States should be informed as soon as possible, in order that they themselves may- take the necessary steps to have all explosives that come within their borders properly tested. The present state of things is highly dangerous. We may, of course, go on for years without an explosion, but a serious one may take place at any time because of defective explosives being used in mines. The sooner the Government rises to the occasion and erects a testing station, the better for all concerned. There is another matter which I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer. In the Old-age Pensions Act there is a provision to the effect that a blind person may receive a pension. The amount is 10s. per week. In New South Wales, influences are exerted to induce blind persons to go into an institution in Sydney. The Commonwealth Government takes 6s. a week from the pension, thus reducing it to 4s., and blind persons are informed that if they go into the institution the full amount will be paid. The hardship of the practice is this : If a blind person resides up country - say, 200 or 300 miles away from Sydney - it is unfair to expect him to go into the institution in the city, where he will be so far away from his friends.
– In Victoria they do nob insist upon a blind person who lives in the country coming into the institution in Melbourne.
– I feel sure that the Treasurer will be inclined to listen sympathetically to what I have to say on this matter. In New South Wales a practice the reverse of that followed in Victoria prevails. I quite agree that every blind person should be trained to do some work useful to the community. But while it is easy for a blind person living within easy distance of the institution to make use of it, it is quite otherwise with persons living 200 miles away.
– Going into the institution should not be compulsory in any case.
– I had a case of the kind in hand to-day. I was endeavouring to get satisfaction in regard to it. This poor fellow is thirty-one years of age; he is unable to do anything, and has been a drag on his mother for years* The authorities tell her that he ought to go to an institution, but she knows that it would not be possible to maintain’ him there out of £1 a week, and consequently she thinks that he is entitled to a full pension. I ask the Treasurer to look into these cases, and give an instruction that where persons reside at some distance from an institution, they shall be paid the full amount of the pension.
– I do not wish to delay the Committee, but I would like to refer to some of the observations which have been made by the ex-Treasurer, and to point out to him the reason why £400,000 was asked for the Treasurer’s Advance last time, and £250,000 is asked this time. It is because works are going on of which Parliament has approved. The Treasurer’s Advance has been almost wholly required to finance works and buildings authorized by Parliament and in course of erection. I am sorry to say that there is a very small balance available at present. On other occasions we nave had to grant large sums to the Treasurer’s Advance for that very reason. I hope that there will be some means found by which these large sums may in future be otherwise provided. Works are going on; there is no vote of Parliament for the works, and therefore the money required has to come out of the Treasurer’s Advance temporarily until we can get a grant. I find that in 1910-11, up bo the 12th August, the Treasurer had £600,000 for this purpose. Last year, certainly, the amount was not so much; up - to the 3rd August it was £350,000 ; but I am told by the Treasury officials that there was the greatest difficulty in managing with the sum until a further advance could be obtained. This year wre are asking really for more than was asked for in 1910-11, namely, £650,000 in all. My right honorable friend was very touchy.
– Oh, no.
– My right honorable friend was not quite so generous as I think he ought to be. He said that I wished to hide something up, or to say as little as possible. I did not go out of my way to say anything which was unpleasant. I find that on the last occasion I made this statement-
– The other day I was stopped from quoting Ilansard for this session.
– I will state the facts. I merely said that the revenue for the year was-
– Will other honorable members be allowed to quote from Hansard for this session, sir?
– It is out of order.
– I stated the credit balance at the beginning of the year, and the expenditure during the year, and pointed out that there was a surplus of £213,000 between the expenditure and the revenue for the year. I added that to the amount brought forward at the beginning of the year, and said that there was £2,474,000 at the end of the year, and that it had gone to trust accounts. What more or less than that could I say?
– In the country press the only thing referred to was the amount of surplus on the year.
– I might have gone on to say, if I had so chosen, that if all the moneys voted had been spent, instead of having a credit balance of £213,000 for the year, my right honorable friend would have had a considerable deficit - £600,000 odd.
– I think you did say that.
– No. I find that £702,000 less than the amount voted for the Fleet was unexpended, £93,000 less on the military, £39,000 less on the Navy, £71,000 less on postal buildings, £9,000 less on telegraphs and telephones, and £25,000 less on lighthouse building - in fact, there was £940,000 less expended than was voted. There were underdrafts to the amount of £940,000, and an overdraft of £81,000, so that £859,000 voted by Parliament was unexpended last year. That sum has to be provided for this year. Although the year was a good one for my right honorable friend, still he must remember that his revenue was £1,353,000 more than the revenue of the previous year, so that he had a very fortunate year. He had a large amount more than he estimated he would have, and spent a good deal less than he estimated he would spend.
– What about the charge of extravagance?
– My right honorable friend got a deal more money than was received in the previous year, and he did not spend by nearly a million what he estimated he would spend.
– You will “ bust “ it up.
– My right honorable friend said that I did not give him much credit - or, at any rate, that 1 was not as gentle as I could have been ; I stated the facts only. I would like to say a few words about the prospects of this year. It is too early to say much about the revenue, but I may mention that the revenue from Customs and Excise up to the 21st of this month has not been quite equal to that of the previous year. I do not take much notice of the figures for a small period like six weeks, and therefore it is too early to make an estimate. I think that so far as Customs and Excise revenue is concerned, we are about holding our own, and I hope that we will continue to do so. These are, I think, the only points which have been referred to. As regards the blind, I will have the matter looked into. I shall be glad if the honorable member for Hunter will write me a letter stating the facts. Perhaps I could get them from his speech, but it will be more convenient if he will write to me on the subject.
– There are one or two points in the speeches of honorable members which I wish to reply to. First, the Leader of the Opposition asked whether the action we took in repealing the bounty and the Excise on sugar was taken with the knowledge of the responsible head of the Department. I may say that it was, although I want it to be distinctly understood that it is a Ministerial responsibility, and not that of the head of the Department.
– You knew that there was sugar in bond at that time ?
– On the evening of the day before the Sugar Bounty and Excise Acts were repealed, the instruction was issued that stock was to be taken of all the sugar then in bond.
– Did Ministers know the quantity of sugar then in bond ?
– The instruction was given that the information was to be obtained.
– How much sugar was then in bond?
– It was subsequently ascertained at about 32,074 tons.
– Is all of it this year’s crop ?
– Nearly all. It has been charged against us that, as a consequence of that proclamation, repealing the Acts, there was loss of revenue to the Commonwealth. There will be no loss of revenue, and we intended that there should be none. We propose to take action which will secure the revenue which the country should get, and the instruction to which I have referred is evidence of that. On the 2nd August, we attempted to make an arrangement with the mill-owners which would enable the growers to get the full benefit of the repeal of the Excise at the earliest possible date. That arrangement could not be completed, and I gave verbal, and afterwards written, instructions for the preparation of a Bill several days before the honorable member for Yarra took action in this Chamber. I said, when the subject was brought up here, that before Parliament assembled an instruction had been telegraphed which was evidence that we intended to take legislative action to secure the Excise revenue to the country.
– Why did not the honorable gentleman take action to that end before ?
– Before we took office an agreement had been entered into between the Commonwealth and the Government of Queensland for the repeal of our Excise and Bounty Acts upon the enacting of certain legislation by the Queensland Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition says that the promise had been to deal with this year’s crop.
– The legislation applied to this year’s crop.
– Of course it did, but it was intended to put an end altogether to the bounty and Excise system, as it affected, not only this, but also all other crops.
– Exactly; but it was not to apply to last year’s crop. It was to begin with this year’s crop.
– That was the earliest date at which it could begin. We honoured the agreement to which I refer, and, on the Queeusland Parliament passing legislation stipulated for, repealed the Commonwealth Acts. The Leader of the Opposition says now that, instead of repealing the Commonwealth Acts in accordance with the agreement that had been made, the proclamation should have been kept back until after the meeting of Parliament, and that then action should have been taken similar to that which we now intend to take. The position is , this: We have repealed the Excise and Bounty Acts, as agreed upon with the Queensland Government, and intend now to ask this Parliament to impose taxation which will secure the Excise Revenue, and at the same time give the benefit of 2s. 2d. a ton to the cane-growers up to the date of the repeal. The action that we have taken has been dictated by our regard for the welfare of the growers. So long as the Commonwealth Acts remained unrepealed, the growers were subject to the Tudor regulations, which increased their labour cost.
– To that the Minister objects, I suppose !
– The right honorable member knows that I never at any time objected to it.
– Why does the honorable member object to it now?
– I do not.
– Then the Minister is merely trying to ridicule the regulations ?
– No. When the Liberal party was in opposition, its members refrained from making the sugar industry the football of political parties, remembering its importance, and the value of the interests at stake; but the members of the Labour party are incapable of showing that consideration for it. The interjection of the right honorable member for Wide Bay was intended to convey the meaning that I object to the wages conditions.
– The whole of the honorable member’s party did so.
– Having been Sp’eaker in the last Parliament, the honorable member is in a position to know that that is incorrect.
– The Minister could show by reference to the reports of his speeches that he was on this side or the other on any question, because he is always on both sides.
– That remark is not characteristic of the fairness expected from one who has been Speaker. The honorable m ember knows that the statement is inaccurate. Could anything better demonstrate his incapacity to deal with a question of this importance apart from party considerations ? The Tudor regulations increased the cost of production borne by the growers.
– They provided a living wage for the workers. It was the first time that that had been done in that industry.
– The Tudor regulations increased the cost of producing cane, and the growers naturally said, “ We think Parliament should make it possible for us to pay this increase in cost.” They desired to receive the benefit of the difference between the amount of the bounty payable and of the Excise collected. The whole of the legislation enacted by this Parliament towards the close of last session was intended to achieve that end. It was intended to insure that the grower should receive an extra 2s. 2d. per ton for his cane. The position is perfectly clear. If, as the Leader of the Opposition has suggested, we had deferred action till some future date, the grower in the interim would have been denied the benefit of this additional 2s. 2d. per ton for his cane.
– The Minister is keeping some of the growers out of the 6s. 6d. per ton.
– No. That amount was held back only for about a fortnight, in order to enable a readjustment to be made, so that the growers might benefit from the beginning of the season. But upon all cane which has been delivered to the mills from the 25th July last the growers are getting the advantage of the additional 2s. 2d. per ton.
– That is so in Queensland. Are the growers outside of that State getting it?
– They are getting it in Queensland, and in New South Wales too. If the honorable member for Wide Bay had been Prime Minister, he would have delayed proclaiming the Sugar Bounty Abolition Act and the Sugar Excise Repeal Act until a later date, and would then* have introduced legislation which would have produced the same result. We have given the grower the benefit of the additional 2s. 2d. per ton from the 25th July last, whereas my honorable friends would not have given them that advantage until a much later date.
– I said nothing of the kind. The Government put themselves in the position in which they found themselves owing to the fact that they went upon a holiday.
– This comes well from the head of a Government which held on to office for three weeks after they had been defeated at the polls.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs is the limit. We kept him ‘ in office for five years although his party numbered only seventeen altogether.
– The Minister has said that we hung on to office for three weeks after we were defeated. Let him prove his statement. Let him be a man for once.
– -The late Government were fools to go out of office. They should have stopped there until honorable members opposite put them out.
– I am glad to say that they had a higher sense of their responsibilities. The present Government were occupied in framing our policy right up till the meeting of Parliament. That policy was put before the House at as early a date as possible. In seeking an adjournment to enable us to formulate our policy, we did no more than has been done by every Government which has had bo meet Parliament under similar circumstances.
– Ministers had a longer adjournment than has been granted to any other Government.
– No, about the same.
– The adjournment was longer than that which has been granted to any other Ministry.
– By proclaiming the repeal of the sugar bounty and Excise legislation, we have given relief to the cane-growers at the earliest possible moment. The suggestion has been made that we have been’ guilty of a want of straightforwardness because our intention to introduce legislation for the collection of Excise upon the sugar which was in bond when the Sugar Bounty Abolition Act and the Sugar Excise Repeal Act were proclaimed was not mentioned in our statement of Ministerial policy. There was no necessity to mention anything. We had taken public action. Everybody knew that we had repealed the two Statutes in question, and a notification to that effect had gone out to the mill-owners. Paragraphs had also been published in the press, so that there was no concealment whatever. Further, it is not usual to insert in a statement of Ministerial policy every detail relating to matters of administration.
– That was more than a detail.
– There was no new policy involved in it. The Bill is intended to authorize the collection of revenue at a subsequent date. During the course of his remarks the honorable member for Capricornia made a rather interesting statement. He said that the Queensland Government had not taken steps to abolish coloured labour. During the past three years, whilst my honorable friends have been in office, have they been administering an Act to exclude coloured labour from Australia ?
– Upon what is that Act based? Is it not upon an educational test? When I entered this Parliament I was called upon almost immediately to take part in an historic division, the question at issue being, “ Shall we exclude coloured labour from the Commonwealth by direct legislation, or shall we endeavour to achieve our object by means of an educational test?” At that time it was pointed out by our leading constitutional advisers that if we adopted the method of direct exclusion we should offend the susceptibilities of other nations, and that, further, we should require Imperial assent to our legislation. There was an international aspect of the matter which we had to consider. My honorable friends opposite voted for direct exclusion, as did some honorable members on this side of the chamber. Honorable members opposite said that the education test could not be made effective. Has it been made effective ? If it be defective, why were they content for three years to administer a White Australia policy upon an educational test? Undoubtedly that test has proved a thoroughly effective method of securing the end which we had in view. In Queensland that test has been introduced into several Acts, and has proved effective. In the sugar legislation which was recently enacted in Queensland the Commonwealth method of prescribing this test has been adopted. The Leader of the Opposition stated that he was opposed to the sugar industry being handed over to Queensland. He said that he regretted that the industry has been divorced from Federal power.
– It was he who made the agreement to hand it over to State control.
– It was he who made the agreement to hand it over, and he did so on the advice of the Sugar Commission, which recommended -
That the Bounty and Excise be abolished, provided that the Commonwealth Government, by co-operation with the States or otherwise, take whatever steps may be necessary to promote the White Labour policy, and to insure the maintenance of a living wage in the sugar industry generally.
Now that this industry is a white industry there is no more reason to keep it under Federal control than there is to place the furniture industry of Victoria, the iron industry of New South Wales, or the wheat-growing industry of South Australia, under Federal control.
.- Honorable members who have had the advantage of hearing the two speeches upon this subject which have been delivered by the Minister of Trade and Customs will admit that if I have failed to convince them that he has made a blunder, he himself has succeeded in convincing them of the blunder which he has committed. On Thursday last there appeared in the Age and the Argus a statement by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in reference to this matter, but it must be remembered that not one word as to the blunder which has been committed by the Government was published by any newspaper until after I had exposed it in this House. The 800 newspapers, which the Government boast of having behind them, and which are ready always to back up everything they do, and to find fault with anything we do, try to show that this mistake was made, not by the present Administration, but by the previous Government. The Minister of Trade and Customs went even a little further last week when he said that I knew that there was a mistake in our legislation. Since reading the Hansard report of his speech, I have informed the Minister that I have never made any such statement. I have never said that I knew that our legislation dealing with the abolition of the bounty and Excise was defective. I made my attitude perfectly plain, not only when I first brought this question before the House, but in the course of a personal explanation that I made regarding a statement in the Argus.
– But the honorable member knows that there was a mistake in his legislation.
– I do not. What I da know is that, if it is possible now for the Minister to make an arrangement with the companies concerned, it was equally possible for him to fix up the matter before the proclamation was issued. The honorable member for Richmond knows very well that the Government could have arranged the whole matter before issuing their proclamation. The Minister himself has said that, on the evening on winch they intended to proclaim this legislation, the Department practically took stock of the quantity of Australian sugar in bond. Why was not this action taken a few days before ? The Minister’s excuse is that it would have involved the sending of telegrams all over the Commonwealth. Is it not a fact that the Department has often to send telegrams to different parts of the Commonwealth in regard to departmental matters?
– The Minister despatched telegrams on £he day on which the honorable member made the exposure.
– Yes; telegrams to ascertain how many persons were holding Australian sugar on which Excise had not been paid.
– That is not what the Minister said.
– The Minister said that he sent telegrams to the holders of this sugar intimating that they would have to pay on it the duty which they should rightfully have paid before.
– No; I gave them notification of our intention to introduce the necessary legislation.
– I am anxiously waiting for this promised legislation. The Minister stated that the Government knew before they issued the proclamation what would be the effect of their action. They knew that they were forfeiting the duty on 32,000 tons of sugar.
– No; the honorable member uses the word “ forfeiting.” There was never any intention to forfeit revenue.
– The Government either acted in ignorance or knew what they were doing.
– That, I presume, applies to the late Government and their Bill dealing with the Excise and bounty.
– I am not a lawyer, nor have I sat in a Cabinet comprising five lawyers. The Minister is a barrister, and has for colleagues four other lawyers.
– There are five lawyers in the Government, and, so far, they have made five big muddles.
– I shall not be surprised if they make fifty-five blunders if they remain in office much longer. If the Government knew before they issued the proclamation what would be the effect of their action, and yet failed to take any steps to ascertain the quantity of Australian sugar in bond, then they were fooling with the finances of the country. The Minister has said that when the proclamation was being issued inquiries were made as to the quantities of Australian sugar in bond. On this point I should like to make a quotation from a report of the half-yearly meeting of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, which was held on the day after I brought this question before the House. According to this report, the chairman, Mr. Kater, M.L.C., said -
You will have noticed in the papers a reference in the Federal Parliament to our company, in connexion with the repeal of the Excise duty on sugar, and I may as well take advantage of your presence here to tell you the facts. When we obtained a copy of the proclamation issued on this subject, it was evident to us that unless some further action was taken all the sugar produced this season before July 25th would be freed from duty, although the bounty was payable on the cane from which it was made, and the revenue would thus have to suffer.
It will be noticed that Mr. Kater makes no reference to last season’s sugar, some of which was’ also held in bond. He refers only to this season’s sugar. The Minister should lay upon the table a statement showing the actual quantity of Australian sugar in bond at the time. Some ©f the desired information is obtainable from the public press. The Argus every Wednesday gives the quantities in bond, whilst the Sydney Daily Telegraph about once a week publishes a statement showing the stocks in bond. When the papers are available it will be found that duty has not been paid on the whole of last season’s sugar. Some of it was held in bond right up to the day of the issue of the proclamation, yet Mr. Kater proposes only to deal with this season’s sugar.
– Would the honorable member take these figures from the “ dirty, lying rags,” as he calls the newspapers ?
– I see the AttorneyGeneral communicating with the Prime Minister. He is quite right in trying to reprimand him for using such language.
– I was merely quoting the honorable member. I admit that it is “ language.”
– Order !
– I have taken the trouble, Mr. Chairman, to count up the number of interjections in the Hansard report of the speech that I made when first introducing this question to the attention of the House. I find that in the course of that speech, lasting ninety-five minutes, there were recorded ninety-seven interjections, while many were not recorded.
– We all have our turn.
– I do not think I ever read a speech in which interjections bristled as they did in that report of my speech. I wish, however, to get back to the statement made by Mr. Kater.
– What means have we of ascertaining the quantity of last season’s sugar on which duty was not paid ?
– The whole of the Australian sugar, raw or refined, that was in bond at the beginning of this season could reasonably have gone into consumption. Last season’s crop was a very small one, and every ton of Australian sugar should have gone into consumption before the present season started. There was no need to pile the sugar up, as apparently it was being piled up.
– That cannot be helped sometimes.
– I admit that, but the Government could have said to the people who were holding the sugar that they would have to pay the Excise on every hundredweight or ton before the Act was repealed. That would have been a proper stand to take; and I believe it is the stand that would be taken to-day if the Government could “ put the clock back.” I do not believe for a moment that the members of the Government, when they issued the proclamation, realized what they were doing. The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that the issue of the proclamation was purely a Ministerial act of policy, and not one for the officers of the Department to take.
– Does not the honorable member see that the refiners did not want the Excise and bounty taken off?
– If the Attorney-General says that the refiners did not wish the
Excise and bounty taken off, it shows, if he will allow me to say so, that he knows nothing about, or does not understand, the matter.
– It was for the benefit of the growers.
– They need not have entered up this sugar for home consumption until as late as they chose, and they could not be asked to pay the duty until they did so.
– The present Minister of Trade and Customs, and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who has had some experience, as Minister of Trade and Customs, will both agree with me that the refiners were most anxious that both the Excise and the bounty should be abolished ; they were unanimous on the point.
– Every suggestion made by honorable members opposite means that the growers would have had to lie out of their 2s. 2d. all the longer.
– If the Government can legislate now for the purpose of giving the growers the 2s. 2d. extra on every ton of this season’s crop, sent to the mills prior to the 25th J uly, it would not matter when they proclaimed the legislation.
– It matters a lot to the growers, because since then they have been getting the extra 2s. 2d.
– The Minister was so anxious to let them have the money that he kept it back for some time, and we were told by the Government Whip that it was kept back on account of the noconfidence amendment. That is the most absurd statement we have heard in this connexion, and there have been many absurd statements made.
– I did not say it was on that account.
– The honorable member inferred that it was.
– It was only said in jest, in any case.
– Mr. Kater goes on to say in his statement -
Accordingly we gave at once to the Customs all the particulars we possessed as to the quantity of sugar in which we were concerned that would be covered by the proclamation, and pointed out that whatever steps might be taken to protect the revenue, the growers who had made early deliveries of cane should receive the same advantage in respect thereto as those whose crops were cut after 25th July. These representations were made by us three weeks ago-
He was speaking on Wednesday, 21st, so that the representations were made to the Government about the end of July, or six days after the issue of the proclamation; and I should not be surprised to learn that that was the first intimation the Government had that any revenue had been forfeited. It must be remembered that these representations came from a supporter of the present Government; and no statement I have made here denounces the Government more than that of Mr. Kater, when he says, in other words, that the Government were absolutely ignorant of the effect of their own proclamation until he informed them, and showed how the forfeited revenue could be made up. Mr. Kater went on to say- and since then the Comptroller has on several) occasions seen our Melbourne manager about the position. We have thus been made aware that the Government proposed to make such arrangements as would bring about the payment of the duty on the sugar which was freed by’ the Act passed last December and the recent proclamation…..
– Who got the £150,000?
– The sugar companies kept it in their pockets, and it is there to-day. We are told by the Minister that the forfeited revenue means about £100,000; and the Government knew nothing of it until the chairman of directors of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company came and said,” Please, you have not charged us enough.” I candidly admit that when I was Minister of Trade and Customs no one ever came to me and said that I had not charged them enough.
– Who came to the Customs this time?
- Mr. Kater says he did.
– And he came to his friends.
– That is the point. No matter what papers connected with this matter may be laid on the table, we shall not get the interviews that took place between the Melbourne manager of the sugar company and the Comptroller of Customs. I can imagine Mr. Symons, the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in Melbourne, going to the Comptroller and giving the exact figures, showing how much sugar there was in bond and what the loss of revenue had been. No honorable member opposite can possibly justify such a position. Had the
Labour Government been as neglectful of their duty as administrators of the public purse-
– As they were.
– As we were not.
– As they were.
– It all arose out of a mistake in the legislation.
– There was no mistake at all; the honorable member reminds me of the old gramophone with one record.
– It is a good record
– It is not a good record. There is absolutely nothing in the assertion that the legislation was defective. If it was so, and these honorable gentlemen knew it, then it was their bounden duty, as soon as Parliament met, to take steps to remedy the defect. They would have found every member of the House anxious to protect the revenue, because there are no parties in it when it comes to a matter of a fair, honest deal in protecting the revenue and in seeing that the taxpayers get their just dues. We know as to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but I am anxious to know what legislation will be introduced to compel the four or five other companies I mentioned the other day to pay Excise on the sugar affected by the proclamation of the Sugar Excise Repeal Act.
– Do you mean other refining companies ?
– I mentioned them the other day when speaking - the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Millaquin Sugar Refining Company, Messrs. Gibson and Howes, Young Brothers, and John Drysdale.-
– Do you not think they will all pay?
– I am doubtful about one or two of them. I am anxious to see the legislation by which we can compel them to pay. If the Attorney-General had a general retainer for John Drysdale, I can imagine him arguing that the whole of the sugar had been freed by the proclamation of an Act of Parliament, and asking whether the Government could then come in and enforce payment of Excise on it. I believe the Attorney-General would have the best end of the stick in saying that the Government had deliberately forfeited this amount of revenue, and that there was no power to snake the companies pay up once the sugar went into consumption - because they could rightly say that all the sugar had gone into consumption.
– Do you say you are anxious to see that legislation ?
– Then stop talking.
– If one man came’ into the House to-day with the hope that we would get through the Supply Bill during the sitting, it was the Prime Minister, and I know he will agree to a bargain that we should adjourn as soon as the Bill goes through, so that it does not matter whether I have a few words to say on it or whether any other honorable member speaks. For instance, the honorable member for North Sydney spent some time denouncing some of the hardworking men of the country as “ beer sparrers spielers, whisperers, and tick-tackers:’ I would like to know what company the honorable member has been keeping to become acquainted with all these nice, expressions. But I am anxious to see this proposed legislation, because I know it will be difficult to prove that the sugar has not gone into consumption, if these persons say it has, at £2 or £3 less per ton than they would have charged if they had had to pay Excise. They would certainly have a good case in Court.
– I do not think they would reduce the price.
– As I said the other day, it does not affect the price of sugar one farthing to the retailer or the wholesaler. If there is one item in the Tariff which is kept right up to the amount of the protection, it is sugar, as has been proved time after time. No other monopoly takes such complete advantage of the Tariff. They keep the price at 5s. or 10s. a ton under that at which sugar can be landed in the Commonwealth. If German, Fiji, or Java sugar is landed at £14 a ton, less the duty, their price will be £19 10s. or £19 15s. They boast about it; they advertise it right through the papers. Finally, dealing with this aspect, I repeat that I would like to see the legislation proposed to be introduced to ascertain how the Government intend to compel these people to pay once the sugar has been freed from paying Excise. I am sorry the member for Gippsland is not in the chamber, but I wish to point out to him the great amount set forth in the schedule for Contingencies.
– That is an old story ; we have always complained about it.
– I do not complain, because I know that a record has to bekept of practically every shilling spent under Contingencies.
– But the House never sees the record.
– Members can see it. The Auditor-General will not pass any item under Contingencies unless he is assured as to how the money hasgone, and a voucher has to go in for every shilling that is spent. In the schedule before us, I find the following sums provided for Contingencies: - Treasurer, £7,980; Attorney-General, £5,095; External Affairs, £14,927; Defence, £45,880; Customs, £6,270; Home Affairs, £5,975; Postmaster General, £92,100. Thus, eliminating the Prime Minister’s Department, the Auditor-General, the Public Service Commissioner, and the Houses of Parliament, the items under Contingencies amount to £170,000 for one month only. But the honorable member for Gippsland is reported to have said -
He would challenge any one to say he made a different statement at Swan Reach to what he had at Bairnsdale, and quoted figures showing items of expenditure totalling£4,000,000 for which there was no adequate return.
Sitting suspended from. 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I do not know that I have much to add to what I said’ before the adjournment on the. subject of the blunder made by the Government in connexion with the sugar Excise. If any of the sugar refining companies are paying Excise into the revenue at the present time, it proves that the Government made a mistake, and forfeited revenue to which they were honestly entitled. It is a most unusual course for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to propose to make payments to the revenue because the Government were so neglectful of their duty as to permit them to retain Excise which they should have paid. We know that people occasionally send a few shillings or a pound or two to the Customs, Post and Telegraph, and Railway Departments as conscience money, but I think that no one has ever heard so far of conscience payments amounting to £100,000 or £200,000. I am anxious to see the legislation by which the Government propose to get this amount back.
– I hope we shall succeed.
-Whether the Government succeed or not, the result, from our point of view, will be the same. If they succeed, it will be proved that by their own act theydeliberately forfeited revenue which they had a right to collect, and if they do not succeed it will prove that they are unable to collect money which rightly belongs to the Commonwealth, and which might have been recovered if the Government had exercised proper caution.
– The honorable gentleman is encouraging people to resist the Government.
– Some persons do not require much encouragement to resist demands made upon them by the Government. If the moneys forfeited represented Excise on whisky or tobacco, and’ the Minister of Trade and Customs came down with a Bill to repeal that Excise duty after the excisable articles had gone into consumption, I should like to hear some of the lawyers on the other side express their opinion of such a proposal. I wish again to refer to the speech of the honorable member for Gippsland, from which the honorable member quoted last week. I quote the following report of it-
Mr. Bennett said he would challenge any one to say he made a different statement at Swan Mill to what he did at Bairnsdale, and quoted figures showing items of expenditure totalling £4,000,000, for which there was no adequate return, and there were items of expenditure from petty cash and Prime Minister’s Department and miscellaneous items, and he, in suggestive tones, asked, What was the expenditure for, and where did it go to?
An interjector at the meeting said -
You mentioned thousands.
– I mentioned millions, and the figures I quoted were taken from Mr. Joseph Cook’s, and they were never challenged as being incorrect.
If the honorable member will look through any Supply Bill, he will find votes for contingencies set out on almost every second line. For one branch of the Department of the Treasurer he will find in the Supply Bill now to be discussed a vote of £300 for salaries, and of £1,000 for contingencies, and a total of £7,980 for contingencies for the Department. He will find a vote of £92,100 for contingencies for the Post and Telegraph Department.
– I hope that is for telephones.
– No; telephone construe- > tion is provided for in an entirely different way. This is a vote for contingencies for the Department for one month. The honorable member for Gippsland, when we come to consider the Budget and the Estimates, will find that a vote of nearly £200,000 is required for departmental contingencies for one month, and he will easily learn from that how the millions with which he tried to mislead his constituents are accounted for. But every member of the Ministry is able to inform the honorable member that Ministers must produce vouchers for every penny expended under the contingency votes. Though he may have believed that there was no adequate return for money so spent, the Auditor-General must be provided with vouchers covering every penny of it. The honorable member said that he quoted figures given by the Prime Minister, and that had not been contradicted. As the AttorneyGeneral admitted to-night, members frequently object to votes for contingencies appearing on the Estimates and in Supply Bills, because it is not evident where the money goes to. These votes are set out at greater length in the Estimates, but it is impossible, even on the Estimates, to give complete particulars of the expenditure. I direct the honorable member’s attention to the matter to-night in order that he may go back to his constituents aud tell them that when he said that the Fisher Government had spent this money without furnishing any return for it, he said something which he now discovers to be absolutely incorrect.
– Did I ever say that the Fisher Government did not furnish a return for it ?
– According to this report of the honorable member’s speech, he certainly did say so.
– Who is the honorable gentleman’s authority ?
– My authority is a newspaper which is at least as reliable as the newspapers which have done me the honour to oppose me for years. I quote from the issue of Every Week, published at Bairnsdale on. Thursday, 7th August of this year.
– They did not have a reporter at the meeting.
– That proves nothing. I have been reported on many occasions when, apparently, there was no reporter present at my meeting. Senator E. J. Russell is my authority for saying that in, I think, the campaign of 1910, the late ex-Senator Styles and himself were billed to speak at Sale. On that occasion Mr. Styles held no meeting at all, whilst Senator Russell held a large meeting, but there was a long report in the Age newspaper of the meeting which Mr. Styles did not hold, with interjections and applause all carefully filled in in the report of the speech, and concerning the meeting which was held by Senator Russell not one word was published.
– Was Senator Russell’s speech attributed to Mr. Styles?
– No, it was not. They would scarcely make that mistake, any more than they would be likely to attribute a speech made by the honorable member for Wentworth to me. The honorable member for Gippsland must be very young if he thinks that because there is no reporter present at a meeting there will be no report of the proceedings published. The honorable member has no idea of the amount of imagination which these newspaper men possess in getting up the reports of meetings, particularly those which happen to be favorable to their own candidates.
– There is a good deal of imagination in that statement.
– When the honorable member for Gippsland was asked what the late Government did with the money, he said they spent it on motor cars and cigars.
– I thought this was the fitting occasion to point out to honorable members the amount of contingencies contained in the Supply Bill brought down by the present Treasurer. He cannot say that he has not been long enough in Parliament to devote attention to the matter, because this is the second Supply Bill that he has had under his notice.
– We are given no information whatever about the contingencies.
– We are not given a word of explanation.
– The honorable member has explained the matter thoroughly.
– It is possible that even if I explained the matter again some honorable members opposite would not understand it.
– That is very likely, in the circumstances.
– I can supply honorable members opposite with arguments, but I cannot supply them with brains.
– Why not test that? The admission is surely unworthy of such a brilliant speech.
– I must ask honorable members to discontinue these interjections. I hope there will be no more of them.
– I have no intention of occupying the whole of the time available to me, but I was anxious to take advantage of this opportunity of showing the honorable member for Gippsland how these contingencies mount up; and I trust that when next he goes before his constituents he will tell them that he made a mistake. As to his statement that charges made were not contradicted, I would remind him that they may have been contradicted a dozen times, but that the press which backs up honorable members opposite will not give honorable members on this side the fair play which they accord to the Ministerial party.
– After listening to my honorable friend, the member for North Sydney, who addressed the House in a state of spiritual hilarity, I must say that I thought he must have believed himself to be at the Modder River in command of a brigade charging Cronje. I could not have imagined that my honorable friend would, in such a state of excitement, stand up for the squatters - those very squatters who not long ago elected a Labour man, Mr. Hall, in preference to him. During the time when I was stumping the country at the last election, numbers of Fusionists said, “ Those Labour men have robbed Australia.” One lady declared that King O’Malley made all his wealth out of the Home Affairs Department. Charges of that kind have been repeated often since then. When I entered the Home Affairs Department as Minister, I was advised to search the files, and find out what I could about my predecessor, Mr. Fuller. I said, “ No ; I have been in the House with Mr. Fuller since the opening of the Federal Parliament, and I know him to be an honorable gentleman. I have not come into this Department to be a Pinkerton detective ; I have come here to make reforms, to turn the Home Affairs Depart ment inside out, to put it on a business basis.” Now, I am going to make a challenge to my honorable friends opposite. I will ask the Prime Minister to pick a man on his own side, to inquire into this subject. I will pick the honorable member for Henty. I might pick the PostmasterGeneral, but he is an old friend of mine, and I want this matter to be made dead sure. Let the honorable member for Henty and an honorable member chosen by the Prime Minister pick a third man - a banker - as arbitrator, and I will give £100 to any institution that may be named, if these men, after inquiry, find that the Home Affairs Department, when I left it, was not on a business footing of efficiency equal to that of any Department in Australia. I will undertake to go down to the Department and point out the reforms which I carried out. I do not want a man on my side to be chosen. I am quite content that the inquiry shall be made by honorable members opposite. I am not much of a politician. I am a business man, and that is why I have been a success in Australia.
– The honorable member means - in spite of his own colleagues.
– I am not dealing with my colleagues in this matter. Let me read the order which I issued in regard to the electoral matter which has been mentioned. It was as follows: -
Owner, manager, or overseer of a station having control of employes not to be appointed an electoral officer unless unavoidable.
Let us consider the question for a moment without any ill-feeling. We are all trustees for the people. The House is a great national corporation : we have been elected directors, and are getting on very badly as business men. Now, to start with, is it fair and honest that a number of employes on a station where we want absolute secrecy in the ballot, should feel that their very existence depends upon whether they vote as the station-owner likes ? I am opposed to the employment of partisans. I am a partisan. I would not wish to be the judge of any of my honorable friends opposite, nor of many of my own friends on this side. I think that a manager or a presiding officer ought to be like a British Judge - fair and impartial. My opposition is to partisanship, not because I am not. a partisan. Why, the House handed over to the High Court the testing of a charge against a member. It would not leave him even to his own brethren. The next thing is that the Electoral Department will not even let men count the votes at small places. The boxes are sent in to the big places so as to make sure that there will be no victims.
– How can a presiding officer in a small place see how a man votes ?
– Does the honorable member recollect the case of the squatter who was discovered by two men looking through a window, a candle in hand, getting the numbers of the papers and comparing the numbers with the figures on the roll ? Does he remember the case that occurred a little beyond Geelong a few years ago?
– I had forgotten that.
– I do not want to go into the case, because it is dead. I have received hundreds of complaints, and even now I am getting complaints, that our friends are throwing working people off the roll by thousands; but I do not make that a charge against them. I only threw it cut for what it is worth .
– That statement is rather serious.
– These are rumours going round the country; but I, of course, am not going to charge honest men with a crime of which they are not guilty. I would not say that my honorable friends would do such a thing. I want now to read the reply from the Department us to the interpretation of this declaration.
With further reference to your circular, No. 533 (E. 12/4884), of the 6W1 instant, conveying an instruction by the Minister that, in future, except in cases where it is absolutely unavoidable, station managers, owners or overseers, are not 10 be appointed to an v position in connexion wilh the conduct of elections -
I did not say “ any position in connexion with the conduct of elections.” I did not draft this letter. I put the matter just as it is stated at the top.
I beg to inform you that the Divisional Returning Officer for Macquarie has reported that lie has received the following inquiry from the prospective Assistant Returning Officer for Trunkey Creek Subdivision, viz. : -
Will you kindly advise me if a grazier who holds a living area of country, runs sheep, cattle. Sc., and who looks after it himself, and makes his living therefrom, comes within the meaning of owners?
Do persons who carry on grazing and farming on their own property come within these classes ?
I have advised the Divisional Returning Officer that, unless he is otherwise instructed, such persons should not be regarded as coming within the prohibited classes.
I want to put this matter fairly to my honorable friend opposite. I know that he did not act out of any spleen or malice that was rankling in his besom. He was conscientious about what he did; but here is a ]joint I wish to put to him. Does lie think that for all these years these huge monopolists should have had the whole of the little pickings that flew by, thereby depriving clerks in the country towns, and fellows travelling round, of the opportunity to get a guinea or two at an election? Surely a man who has all his needs ought not .to grab everything ! My honorable friends opposite have had for too long au opportunity to grab everything.
Colonel RYRIE - These terrible overseers are all great corporations; they are all monopolies !
– Some of the nicest gentlemen I have ever met were overseers, and some of the nicest were squatters. We had a splendid exam pie of a nice speech from a squatter here the other night - the honorable member for Riverina. But then we had a terrible example somewhere else. I do not want to detain the Committee; as I intend to speak in the debate on the no-confidence motion.
Colonel Ryrie. - Are you responsible for what the divisional returning officers sent out, because the documents are headed, “ Original Returning Officers’ Instructions “ ? There is nothing more there than that the Minister directs that station managers and overseers are not to be appointed as electoral officials.
– Whoa there is an answer received it goes to the Minister for the real spiritual interpretation, and that is justice. I am very sorry that the sugar debate, which ought to be sweet, became acrimonious this afternoon. In order that there may be no further scandal, I trust that the whole file of papers in the Home Affairs Department will be laid on the table of the House. It is regrettable, of course, that people believe the little offsiders which we hear, such as - “ Look at what he has been getting out of it.” I never thought that my enemies’ lies could have got so close to me at the late election. Only for the tales which were whispered in their ears it would not have happened. I think that honorable members on. both sides are absolutely honest. I claim that there is not a nian in the House who is net above reproach. We have different ideas of business, but that does not say that we are not all honest. I am very sorry that the Americans have got a bad name through men making charges in the House. These charges flew all over the world, and we could not contradict them.
– Surely, no one has been making charges here !
– Every one knows that it was said that hundreds and thousands of persons voted who had not the right to vote, and for a while I thought that there must be something in it, seeing that honorable members opposite gained a majority.
.- The ex-Prime Minister has’ stated that Australians are an honest people, and I was therefore glad to hear the honorable member for Darwin explain that no . reflection was intended to be cast on station managers and overseers by the electoral instructions which he issued, and to which reference has been made during this debate. The use of station homesteads for polling places is unavoidable in many country districts. Were they not so used, many bush workers would be unable to record their votes. The ordinary landowner, large or small, or station manager, does not desire to act as a Returning Officer, or in any other electoral capacity. For more than twenty years the office at the station homestead where I reside has been used as a polling booth, :md only once has any one connected with i he station acted as a poll clerk ; on that occasion the bookkeeper so acted. It has been our custom to put Up the Returning Officer and his poll clerk, and to give 1 hem every facility for the carrying out f their duties, although we have known < hat a great many votes are recorded for I he other side. I protest against the gibes :’nd jeers of Labour members against the squatters. “ Time and chance happeneth to all men.” We are not all born squatters. Some of the station managers in :ny_ district were shearers only a few years igo, and squatters were selectors. Many of I he squatters in Australia have risen from (.he ranks, and, as a class, the landowners are as honorable as any in Australia. It would not be true to say, as the ex-Prime Minister has said, that Australians are an honest people if the Australian station-owners, managers, and overseers were not honest - they are so large and influential a body. If those of us on this side who own land were to attack Labour members as we have been attacked, charging them with living on the game, with being union secretaries, and the like, they would bitterly resent it. We do not make these charges, however, and I do not think that they should be made in an assembly purporting to be the House of the National Parliament of Australia. Pastoralists are essential to the welfare of the country, and are doing good work in outlying districts, where many of the men who live on Labour politics would not go. Having listened to the sugar discussion, I hope that we shall have . no more of it, and. as a new comer, I trust that no more will be said against the land-owners of Australia.
.- Mr. Chairman-
Honorable Members. - Another squatter!
– There will be no freehold for me while I can lease land for Id. an acre. One might fancy from the remarks of the honorable member for Riverina that the squatters are the most maligned persons on the face of the earth, and that they are all pure merinoes who could not do wrong if they tried. The rottenest class that was ever in Australia is the. squatter class in Queensland to-day. At the last elections some of them refused to allow polling booths to be erected on station property, and would not permit their permanent employes to have anything to do with the conduct of elections by acting as poll clerks or the like.
Colonel Ryrie. - That was quite right, in face of the instruction issued by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs.
– That instruction should have been issued years earlier. More power to the honorable member for Darwin for having had the pluck and courage to issue it. I know what the squatters are only too well. I have had to light them ever since I have been in the country.
Colonel Ryrie. - Do not forget the overseers.
– They are the puppets of the squatters. They put me in mind of a lot of the swagmen who, while they are on the creek, are Democrats, but when they become boundary riders getting £1 a week are masters’ men, and ask “How do you want me to vote, sir?” The last election was the first occasion in the history of Australia on which rent was charged for offices on stations in the Maranoa division used as polling booths. From Aramac to Stainburn Downs, and out on Clare Station, no one could be got to act as poll clerk or presiding officer at the stations. A man was sent out in a motor car to erect a tent on the public road near Stainburn Downs and Clare Stations, for the purposes of polling booths. The station property used to belong to Mr. Fairbairn. At that time things were different, but the place has since “been sold to a gentleman who has been away in the Old Country. While He was away the Australian Workers’ Union came into existence. He was like Rip Van Winkle, having been asleep while this change was taking place, and said that if any man dared to leave his shearing-shed on election day he would be handed his cheque. On the Saturday morning the bell rang, but no one answered it. It was some miles from the shed to the main road where the polling booth was, and those who had not horses were given mounts by others, so that all day there was a continual cavalcade passing to and fro. The stationowner found that if he dismissed his men he would not get his wool off, and wool being the price that it is now, the first thing that those of us who own sheep wish to do is to get their wool off and take it to market.
Colonel Ryrie. - The squatter, I suppose, got his wool off, and went to market too?
– He got his wool off, but it was the shearers who got to market by polling their votes. I tell the honorable member for Riverina that I have nothing for which to thank any squatter in my electorate. Every one of them does his best to defeat me just as the honorable member does His best to defeat the Labour candidate.
Colonel Ryrie. - Will the honorable member tell me how he got his stations?
– I bought them. How did the honorable member get his? Did he steal it? I paid hard cash for mine - cash which I had earned by shearing the “other fellow’s” sheep. Further than that, I bought my sheep from the man next door, and I obtained a bigger price for my wool than he did.
Colonel Ryrie. - Stations, I said.
– As a matter of fact, I do not own a station or a sheep. But I know a bit about sheep. The honorable member for Riverina made a great joke the other night of the President of the Arbitration Court, Mr. Justice Higgins, having referred to “adult” sheep. He called the “ stag “ an adult sheep. Well, for the honorable member’s information, I may say that that was what the pastoralists used to feed the fools upon before they banded themselves into an organization. But they do not feed the fools on it today. The shearers have the best wethers on the station. I can quite understand the honorable member for Riverina saying that he fed “ fools “ upon the adult sheep. But we are no longer fools - we are members of one of the grandest and best organizations in Australia. Thanks to the industrial body to which I am proud to belong, those times have passed. Were it not for the Australian Workers Union, I would not be here to-day. I have nothing for which to thank the squatters. They do their level best against me, and, to be frank, I do my level best against them. If I can settle them politically, I do it. But there is one thing of which they cannot accuse me, namely, of exhibiting party bias as their representative. I come now to another subject - that of telephone construction in Western Queensland. Successive Governments, irrespective of whether they have been Liberal, Fusion, Tory, Protectionist, or Labour, have told us that they were going to offer greater postal and telephonic facilities to residents in remote rural areas. My experience is that they have done just the opposite. They have saddled men with guarantees which they knew very well they could not pay. To me it was amusing to listen the other day to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie relating what he had done for country districts when he occupied the position of Postmaster-General. As the representative of a country district, I have to thank him for nothing. During the debate upon the censure motion, almost every honorable member opposite has prided himself upon representing a rural constituency. As far as Queensland is concerned my honorable friends do not represent the country electorates. These are represented by Labour men. I have been talking of the necessity for granting greater telephonic facilities in our outback areas ever since the inception of Federation, and I have no hesitation in saying that country representatives have not had a square deal in this matter. If the Government are sincere in the statements which are contained in their manifesto, the least they can do is to erect those telephone lines upon which the people of Western Queensland are willing to guarantee the Department against loss. There is one matter in particular to which I desire to direct the attention of the PostmasterGeneral in the hope that he, will look into it. It is the necessity for erecting a line midway between Charleville and Augathella, a distance of 27 miles. There is already a main trunk line running across the continent through Charleville and connecting the outside districts. When the coastal lines break down it is used to send messages through from Charters Towers to Sydney. The people there have offered to guarantee the Department against loss upon the proposed additional line. After corresponding for two or three years with the Department, and after having thousands of interviews with the Deputy Postmaster-General and with the Secretary to the Postal Department, I was assured that if I could get the necessary guarantee the line would be built. I got the guarantee, and then, after all these years of tribulation and trial, the officers had the audacity to tell me that the main trunk line, which carries only one wire, was not in a position to carry another wire for a distance of only 27 miles. I told the Deputy PostmasterGeneral that if the Department had allowed the main trunk line to get into such a state it certainly was not fit to be used for the purpose for which it was being used. The reply I received was that, if another wire were attached to it, it might assist in breaking down the first wire by inducing galahs to rest upon it.
– What are galahs?
– They are a species of parrot, and they go about the country in flocks numbering thousands. But I have been in that country for thirty odd years and 1 have never known them to break down a telegraph wire. This is a matter that I want the Postmaster-General to look into, because I can get no satisfaction from the officials in the different States.
I had another experience which I might as well relate, because it shows that although we are a Federation in name we are not a Federation in reality. “Upon the border of New South Wales and Queensland there is a town called Mungindi. It is situated in the electorate of Gwydir. Prior to the consummation of Federation there were two post offices there, one on the Queensland and the other on the New South Wales side of the border. That on the Queensland side has since been done away with, but the office on the New South Wales side of the border still remains, and is to-day a terminal station for the electric wire. The people made a request that telephone communication should be established between there and Thallon, a town 27 miles distant, to which a railway is built along the southern borders of Queensland. The Department in Queensland was quite willing to do its share, but the New South Wales branch would not agree to place an instrument in the office a short distance over the border, merely because the revenue would not be credited to the Department in that State.
– Unification is the remedy.
– I think it would make the position worse. The authorities in Queensland were prepared, as I have said, to do their part, but I had to wait three months even for a reply to my letter to the Department in New South Wales.
– Why did not the honorable member go to the honorable member for Gwydir about the matter?
– I did, with the result that he brought about the construction of the line. If he had not repeatedly interviewed the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney I should not have got it to this day. This shows that we have a Federation in name, but not in fact. Why should the Department pay any consideration to the imaginary boundaries between State and State ? Then, again, there are many stations oh the border of Queensland and New South Wales which desire to be coupled up by means of the telephone wire; but because the route runs now in Nev/ South Wales and then in Queensland, as the river flows, the Department will not do the work. It is thus missing a good chance to secure revenue. The Postmaster-General’s De- partment ought to take action to remedy this state of affairs. As it is, it calls for reports from the responsible officers in the two States, and these are so conflicting that the work is allowed to slide, with the result that the people cannot obtain the conveniences they desire. So far as mail services out-back in Western Queensland are concerned, up to the present time we have been doing very well, but when I tell honorable members how satisfied are a lot of the men who go into the out-back portions of Queensland, when they get a mail once a fortnight, and in some instances only once a month, they will recognise that something more should be done for them. These men have many trials and tribulations, not only in times of flood, which are comparatively rare, but in times of drought. They have had to wait as long as four and five months for their mails. Representatives of the more favoured electorates - more especially those who represent our big cities - ought surely to be prepared to give some consideration to those who are out-back making history. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will think seriously and deeply of doing something for the people in the back-blocks of Queensland, and, in fact, of all the States. These people are not supplicating for something for nothing. They are quite prepared to pay. Not one of the telephone lines that I have obtained for my constituents in the vast electorate of Maranoa has failed to pay. Surely that is ample proof that still better facilities should be afforded. If, in the early days, the Queensland Government had done what successive Governments of the Commonwealth have been doing since the inception of Federation in regard to the extension of telegraph lines into far Western Queensland - if it had refused to erect a line because it would not pay - the country would still be undeveloped. There is in far Western Queensland country which is being taken up for the grazing of sheep and cattle, and as soon as it is stocked thousands of men, women, and children will be settling there. The railways, too, are stretching out west, and in time we shall have no out-back country at all, except in the Northern Territory. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to give consideration to these matters, and to ascertain whether better and easier methods of telephone communication cannot be given to the people, not only in the far western dis tricts of Queensland, but in the whole of the sparsely populated areas of Australia.
– I have listened with pleasure to the remarks which have fallen from the lips of the honorable member for Maranoa. Ever since I have been in the House - and no matter on what side we have been sitting - we have always been in accord as to the urgent necessity of extending telephonic communication to the outlying portions of Australia.
– During the last three years we have erected 93,000 miles of telephone wires.
– I wish to see the telephone wires extended to every hamlet in Australia.
– Yes, but all this cannot be done in one day.
– Quite so; but the work could be done more expeditiously, as well as under better conditions, than at present. While the honorable member for Kalgoorlie was speaking a few days ago on the question of the appointment of a Board of Commissioners to control the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, I interjected that I would not vote for placing the Department under a Commission. I am not prepared to vote for such a Commission, because this is the one Department of the Commonwealth which can help the people in the bush. All our other Departments exist to obtain revenue, to administer punitive legislation, or to deal with kindred matters. The one Department of the Commonwealth which can give facilities to those who go into the backblocks of Australia is that of the PostmasterGeneral. The great mistake hitherto made in administering this Department is that, in considering extensions, we have been guided too largely by the state of the departmental balancesheet. Such a question should never be considered when we are dealing with the extension of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities to the people. The whole guarantee system is wrong. From one end of Australia to the other the one desire is expressed, by means of press and platform, that people should be encouraged to settle in the outlying parts of the country.
– And yet our policy has been a policy of centralization right through.
– I quite agree with the honorable member; and my objection to placing the Post Office under Commission is that this will lead to still further centralization.
– People will live where the best conditions are.
– Quite so; and one reason why Australia is not progressing at the rate we should like to see is that people are not settling on the laud with the same rapidity that they are settling in the cities. Unless we extend more conveniences and facilities to the country districts we shall have fewer people remaining there. The honorable member for Maranoa has told us of people who get their mails once a week, once a fortnight, or once a month.
– Some people get a mail only once in three months.
– And others are cut off entirely from any telephonic communication. Telephonic and postal facilities should not be measured by the balance-sheet of a commercial ledger, any more than should the extension of an educational system or the Judiciary. Wherever it is necessary, schools are established in order that the rising generation may get the benefit of education. What would be said of a Government who would consider whether or not a school would pay? I regard the telephone as as much an adjunct of presentday civilization as education. Valuable lives may be saved or lost owing to the presence or absence of such communication; not only may a doctor be summoned immediately, but, in case of any sudden change of temperature in a patient, he is able, without leaving his house, to give invaluable directions. The telephone should no more be regarded from the point of view of a balance-sheet than should the provision of a school, a policeman, or a magistrate. I am pleased to observe from remarks by country members on both sides that they intend, if possible, to insist, for the first time in the history of Federation, that the Post Office shall be made what it ought to be - a means of benefiting the people - and that it shall not be regulated by the balancesheet of the Departmental officers-
– What about the proposal of the Government to appoint Commissioners ?
– If my vote will defeat that proposal, it will be defeated, I promise the honorable member. I suggest to the Postmaster-General that, instead of placing the Post Office still further under officialdom, he should take his courage in both his hands, and shake the Department free of that very officialdom which has proved so detrimental in the past. If the Deputies in the various States were made responsible to a much greater extent than at present, we should have better work and service. In my opinion, no greater mistake could be made - and it is just as well to clear the decks now - than to place the Post Office of the Commonwealth under Commissioners. This would mean for country districts, not greater, but fewer facilities. In the large centres of population we know that anything done by the Post Office will pay; but if Commissioners were placed in charge they would be tempted, just as all other Commissioners are, to make the service pay, so as to be able to present to Parliament as good a balanceas possible. The real reform lies in striking out in an entirely different direction; and the Postmaster-General ought to come to this House with a progressive policy for extending telephonic communication all over Australia. Such a policy would, I believe, secure support from both sides of this chamber. Those of us who have been battling in that direction for years hope that at last there is a Postmaster- General who sees eye to eye with us, and who is ready to make his name by giving to the people of Australia those means of communication they have not been able to obtain in the past. At present, people who go out into the bush, and who live hard and work hard, are called upon to provide a guarantee when they apply for the telephone. At first, when they make their desires known, possibly through their representative, the stereotyped reply, which we know so well, is received that the inspector will report; and he does so to the effect that he regrets he does not think the business obtainable would warrant the construction of a line without a guarantee. And it is the very poorest classof the community upon whom this call is made. We hear about the low wages received by workers, but I believe that the men who get the smallest remuneration for their labour for some years after they make a start on the land are those who go out into the bush. The cursed conservative policy of the Department, under both Liberal and Labour Governments, has been to compel the very class who, above all others, can ill-afford it to guarantee money before they are given a necessary adjunct of civilization. The Post Office should be used for the benefit and convenience of the people, and not as a revenueproducing machine ; and no greater mistake could be made than to remove it from the operation of the policy of the Government, and place it under the castiron rule of Commissioners.
– The honorable member is becoming quite a Socialist.
– If to be a Socialist is to endeavour to give conveniences to the people who go out into the back-blocks, the honorable member may call me what he chooses, but the policy I am advocating is one, I believe, of which he isin favour. And it is a policy I believe of which the country is in favour. If we are short of revenue there is an item of half-a-million for a post-office in Sydney. Defer that expenditure for a few years and spend the money on postal facilities in country districts, and we shall be doing good work.
.- It, is rather refreshing to hear the honorable member. I can imagine the way in which he will be treated when the Prime Minister gets him at the next Liberal Caucus, because for years the Prime Minister has prided himself on holding the opinion that the Postal Department should be under the control of Commissioners.
– I say now that the management of the Post Office has broken down hopelessly.
– I am sure the Caucus will deal severely with the honorable member for Franklin. The honorable memberfor Grampians interjects. One who goes round the country saying that the. workers are “ beer sparrors and wasters” should be the last to interject. The honorable member had nothing to say when the wine drinking took place at the Savoy a little while ago. It is by piecemeal statements from honorable members on the Government side that we get some idea of their policy. We find the honorable member for Grampians enunciating the policy of the Government in regard to electoral reform. He tells us that the basis of voting should be the ratepayers’ roll, but I wonder will he be prepared to go further when the matter comes on at a later period. I regret that the honorable member for North Sydney should have made the statements he made this afternoon. It is not the first time. A session or two ago he referred to the workers in the Australian Workers Union as “ bounders “ and “ wasters.”
Colonel Ryrie. - No. I may have said some among them were, but I did not refer to them generally.
– I accept the honorable member’s qualification ; but this afternoon he branded every one who voted on the Opposition, not only as dishonest, but as disreputable men.
Colonel Ryrie. - No
– No other deduction could be drawn from the honorable member’s remarks. The honorable member for Riverina has told us what good fellows the squatters are and what good they have done for the country. I say unhesitatingly that in Queensland, as the honorable member for Maranoa has pointed out, before the Australian Workers Union came into existence, the squatters tried to house men worse than swine are housed in some parts of the world. It was the conditions that prevailed then that brought about the trouble that occurred in the early nineties, and so I commend the member for Darwin for the action he took as Minister of Home Affairs in relation to returning officers on pastoral stations. I have represented a squatting constituency for over twenty years, and I have known the time when men were discharged and had to wander hundreds of miles for employment because it was ascertained that the proper proportion of hands did not vote to suit the management. I have seen this also on the mining fields. Two hundred men were discharged at Charters Towers in the same way. I have no personal grudge against the squatters - though they fight me as bitterly as they can, I have received a great deal of courtesy at their hands - but the condition of the men working in the industry at one time was such that it was a disgrace to those who had the management of affairs at the time. However, the old squatter is practically gone. The great pastoral concerns are owned by big joint-stock companies, find the old squatter is a thing of the past. I commend the honorable member for Darwin for bringing about the regulation dealing with returning officers on pastoral stations. The sugar Excise business is a matter the Government seem to have tried to gloss over. The Minister made a stupid blunder in throwing about £128,000 into the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. A few days ago Ministers came down and told us that they did not know how much sugar was in bond at the time the proclamation was made relieving the industry of the liability to pay Excise duty, and that the proclamation was issued without making any personal inquiry, and now they claim that they had full knowledge. It was not until the last moment, when they were pressed upon the point, that we could get any information. Why was it covered up? Was there anything shady about it that it was necessary to cover the matter up as the Government did for some little time ? They practically placed £128,000 in the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and now they tell us that the company is an honorable one. Was it an honorable company when it was fighting this Parliament, when it did everything possible for it to do to try to frustrate any attempt we made to get evidence from it? Under the present constitutional limitations we have, it used the full force of its powers to prevent certain information being dragged from it, and as soon as the referenda were defeated we found it paying a bonus of £250,000 to its shareholders, and increasing and watering its stock by a million pounds sterling.
– Do you not think your Government should have dealt with the company ?
– As the Constitution stands to-day it cannot be done. I defy the present Government, or any one else, to deal with that company under the present Constitution. No wonder it could give its shareholders a bonus of £250,000 when the Government had made it a present of £128,000. Its annual dividend of 10 per cent, represents a sum of £98,000; and it is clear that nearly two years’ dividends have been handed to the company as the result of the action of the Government. Whether the blunder arose through the ignorance of the Minister of Trade and Customs or not I do not know; but” the fact remains that, as the result of their stupid action, the Government have lost £128,000.
– Is the honorable gentleman sure of his facts?
– Unfortunately, we are in this position : The Government said, only the other day, that they did not know how much sugar was in bond at the time the proclamation was issued; and to-day they tell us that there was 32,000 tons in bond. Several days after our inquiries were made, we get this information; and we do not know what consultations were held to enable the Government to fix up the statement on the matter to be made by the Minister of Trade and Customs. We do know, however, that at least £128,000 has been put into the pockets of the shareholders of this company. Previous to the granting of the last bonus to which I have referred the same company, not very long ago, declared a bonus of £250,000, and a few days later put up the price of sugar £2 per ton. This meant that in a few weeks they recovered the bonus of £250,000 from” the pockets of the people. This is the sort of company which our friends opposite seem to be desirous of supporting. I do not, after all, know why I, personally, should growl at the Government in connexion with this matter. They are practically in the hands of these people, and have to do what they are told in this respect.
– The honorable member knows that that is not true.
– My Yarra Bend friend had better hold his tongue. The present Government owe their position to the fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and other financial companies, are practically behind them. Had it not been for the assistance given them by financial institutions and monopolies in this country, I do not hesitate to say that honorable members opposite would not be where they are.
– It did not come our way, at any rate.
– All I can say is that the Premier of Queensland is, with another prominent member of the Liberal party there, a trustee of a secret fund, from which amounts are doled out as required by the Liberal League. The Treasurer has come down with a second Supply Bill; and the honorable member for Gippsland has, no doubt, had his eyes opened as to the way in which things are done here, and knows how far he was correct in saying that the late Government locked the doors in order to keep the Auditor-General out. There are some things which I should like to learn from the Treasurer. First of all, I want to know what he has done to curtail the power of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable gentleman said that this officer’s power should be curtailed to a very large extent. I want to know what he is doing in that respect.
– I said he was given too much power by the Act.
– The Treasurer is called upon to administer that Act. He tells us that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has too much power.
– I said the Act gave him too much power. I said nothing personally of the Governor of the Bank.
– The honorable gentleman has stated in this House that it is time the wings of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank were clipped, and a good deal of power taken from him. Returning to the question of the sugar Excise and the Minister of Trade and Customs, I remind honorable members that on two occasions this afternoon the honorable gentleman was good enough to refer to me as the ex-Speaker. I do not mind that in the, slightest. A similar reference has been made by the Prime Minister and other honorable members opposite. Let me tell them that if I had wanted the position, I could have had it.
– I did not make the reference in that sense.
– The honorable gentleman made it in a sneering way. Personally, I do not mind, because my work as Speaker is on record, and it will stand as long as the honorable member’s. I may be allowed to say that I do not think the honorable member for Darling Downs is a very important man in the Cabinet at the present time. I think he was chosen as a Minister merely because the Government could not get any one else from Queensland.
– We are very glad to have him.
– Oh, the honorable member for Parramatta would say anything. Was it not the honorable gentleman who referred to his present colleague, the Minister of Trade and Customs, as one of the “ poor, little, miserable, wet fowls who sat on the Treasury bench?”
– No; that is not so.
– I can rake it up for the honorable member. Let me remind the honorable member for Darling Downs that were it not for the Labour party, he would not be in the Federal Parliament at all to-day. Had the Labour party stood behind Mr. Bell when he was running for Darling Downs against the present member for that district, the present member would have been out, and Mr. Bell would have been returned.
– Is the honorable member quarrelling with the judgment of the party on that occasion ?
– No; there were good reasons why we could not stand behind Mr. Bell, who, at that time, wobbled on the question of black labour. On that account, we decided to support the present honorable member for Darling Downs, and he was returned.
– And he has been wobbling ever since.
– Yes, I believe he has been. As a matter of fact, he has been prepared to go with any Government that came along, and was not particular as to what the brand of the Government might be. He fluttered around the late leader of his party to an extent that has been unparalleled in this House, and he will do the same with the honorable member for Parramatta. We are about full up of the sneering and insulting remarks addressed to this side by honorable members opposite, and they should be informed that we intend to defend ourselves on every occasion. Insults have been hurled at this side of which honorable members on the other side, and particularly the Prime Minister, ought to be ashamed.
.- The honorable member for Riverina has, to-night, treated the House to some rather beautiful sentimental expressions already referred to by the honorable member for Kennedy. I wish also to enter my protest against the advice he has given us. Let the honorable member set an example himself, and induce his friends to follow him. The particular occasion which gave rise to his remarks was the speech by the honorable member for North Sydney, who, this afternoon, when complaining of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, referred to supporters of this side as tugs, toughs, tick-tackers, and such characters. The honorable member for Riverina is quite right in suggesting that these gibes, sneers, and reflections on honour and honesty are oat of place in a Parliament like this. There are some of us on this side of the House who deprecate them as much as he does, and we shall be very glad, indeed, to join a Coalition to stop that kind of thing, whether it comes from the one side or the other. But as long as mud is thrown there is always danger of some being thrown back. Folk who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
– Hear, hear ! We have just had ten minutes of mudthrowing.
– Honorable members opposite during the last six months have not failed to express themselves in the most extravagant terms about honorable members on this side.
– During the last three years.
– Particularly during the last six months their attacks, insinuations, innuendoes, slurs, and venom have exceeded anything in the previous history of political conflict in this country, and I think that honorable members themselves have exceeded their own previous efforts in that direction.
– I should like to have fifteen minutes.
– I am sorry that I cannot sit down now to allow the Prime Minister to have his opportunity.
– I have to be quiet now.
– If the Prime Minister cannot have fifteen minutes in the form of a speech, he generally manages to get in a great deal while others are speaking. I do not know of any other honorable member who is so prolific in interjections as he is. My remarks apply as much to him as to any member on his own side, because the attacks made by the Prime Minister during the recent contest, especially in regard to finance, were altogether outrageous. Speech after speech, as recorded, resounded with nothing else than abuse, and abuse, and abuse, of the Labour party and all its ways. There was nothing that Andrew Fisher did that was right. There was nothing that the Labour party had done that was right. There was nothing that any Labour member had done that was right. There was nothing done by any Labour party in any part of the world that was right, according to the Prime Minister. In regard to our financial administration, in particular, he was abusive. Fortunately, the intelligent portion of the community estimate that kind of political warfare at its true value, and I was delighted to know that upon his visit to Brisbane he simply disgusted the electors there by the abuse which he heaped, during the whole course of hit speech, upon the Labour party and its leaders.
– I believe it did disgust your crowd.
– The first report that I had of the meeting addressed by the Prime Minister in Brisbane was given to me by a very energetic member of his own party, who told me that he was simply disgusted with the lack of argument and the absence of policy in the Prime Minister’s speech.
– It was just the same in Ad q1 £l i d g
– What I am leading up to is this : This afternoon, the Treasurer, who was as wild and extravagant in his criticism in the West as the Prime Minister was in the East, brought down this Supply Bill, and honorable members must notice with a remarkable wonderment that it contains an advance to the Treasurer of £250,000 on the top of £400,000 previously granted. The ex-Prime Minister has already pointed out that during the first two months of Labour administration last year, the Treasurer secured an advance of £350,000.
– The Bill is not yet before the Committee. We are simply discussing the motion upon which the Bill will be founded.
– I can bring up this matter later on. I was merely referring to points that had already been alluded to by the Treasurer. I am particularly anxious to refer to one matter, wherein he pointed out that the surplus of the ex-Treasurer was so large because lie did not spend money. He stated that about £940,000 was unexpended. I wish to point out that throughout the criticism levelled at the finance of the Labour Administration, the whole complaint of the Ministerial party during the last Parliament was that we did not spend enough money. But their complaint when they got outside was that we spent too much. In Parliament they asked why we did not spend a million on the Federal Capital, and why we did not push on more speedily with the Port Augusta railway?
– Some of us did not complain about the insufficient expenditure on the Federal Capital.
– The Prime Minister and the Treasurer never lost an opportunity to say these things. They spoke with one voice in Parliament about Labour finance, and with a different voice when they got before the people. If the Treasurer is correct in saying that there is an unexpended balance of £940,000 in the Treasury, what becomes of their argument in regard to extravagance ? The complaint to-day is that we did not spend enough, whereas outside they told the people that we spent too much. It seems as if it is almost impossible to please these honorable members. There are one or two other matters to which I wish to refer. One is the question of reciprocal trade between Australia and New Zealand and Australia and Canada. That is a subject of the utmost importance to this country. The ex-Minister of Trade and Customs was in negotiation, as we all know, with the Canadian Minister of Customs, who visited Australia in the early part of this year. The negotiations fell through. I do not know whether that was caused by the result of the elections. At any rate, it seemed as if the ex-Minister of Trade and Customs was unable to negotiate without authority, and a new Minister of Trade and Customs had not yet been chosen. I wish to call attention to a statement which has been made on the subject, and which, in my opinion, is neither overstated nor extravagant. Mr. Arthur Kidman, one of the squatter friends of honorable members opposite, by the way, has declared -
That there is the greatest possible demand in Canada for Australian products, but under present arrangements such trade is going entirely to New Zealand. If Australia does not decide to establish reciprocity and a steamer service she will give New Zealand a gift of ^500,000 worth of trade in foodstuffs alone. Something ought to be done immediately with the New South Wales and the Commonwealth Governments. The time is propitious.
I have already invited the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to this very important matter, and should like to know what is being done in regard to it? The weeks and the months are going by. There are business firms in Queensland, and New South Wales particularly, as also to some extent in Victoria, who have spent a good deal of money in building up a very satisfactory and growing trade with Canada in certain lines of Australian produce. We can ill afford to lose that trade. Unfortunately, however, through the lack of reciprocal arrangements with Canada and New Zealand, we are practically out of it at present. There are now sufficient motives to encourage the Minister of Trade and Customs to persevere ; and I hope that before long he will be able to give us a satisfactory statement informing us that negotiations have been resumed, and that we are likely to enter into a treaty at an early date. There is another matter to which I wish to invite the attention of the Minister. A few months ago the Dominions Royal Commission visited Australia, and the ex-Prime Minister made an offer of £500 to its chairman to secure the visit of. a representative of the British Cotton-growers’ Association in order to advise as to the establishment of the cotton industry here, but up to now nothing further has been heard of the matter. I do not know if the Minister is prepared to give us any information.
– I have not heard of the offer before.
– Can it be grown here under our labour conditions?
– Cotton can be grown in Australia equal in quality to cotton grown in any part of the world.
– Yes, but can it be grown under Australian labour conditions ?
– I will come to that point. There is a belt of country stretching across the greater part of north Australia, including not only Queensland, but the Northern Territory and Western Australia, where there is land of exceptional quality for cotton culture. The cotton which has already been, grown in northern Australia, and particularly in the district represented by thehonorable member for Capricornia, has. been tested and proved to be equal to that grown in any part of the world, and in many cases superior. A sum of £500 was offered to the Chairman of the Dominions Royal Commission to bring an expert here to advise the Government as to the cotton industry.
– What authority have you for making the statement? I had not heard of the offer before.
– I am obliged to the Prime Minister for the interjection. If he will make an inquiry, he will find, that I sent a telegram to the ex-Prime-
Minister suggesting that some arrangement should be made with the chairman of the Dominions Royal Commission to invite a representative of the British Cotton-growers’ Association to visit Australia. He replied, after the lapse of some days, that he had opened up negotiations with the chairman, and £500 had been offered to secure the visit of a representative of the British Cotton - growers’ Association. This is a matter of great importance to Australia. The honorable member for Echuca has asked whether cotton can be grown under Australian labour conditions. I say without hesitation, and emphatically, that cotton can be grown here successfully and profitably.
– You are certainly an optimist in that regard.
– There is a feeling in the minds of most men that tropical fruits and tropical products can only be grown under black-labour conditions. They used to make that statement about sugar, but we have exploded the idea.
– At a cost of £1,000,000 a year to the consumers of Australia.
– If we can establish an industry like the sugar industry at a cost of £1,000,000 a year, it is cheap to Australia. If we can establish the cotton industry, and thereby settle and utilize areas that have not been used, and introduce a stream of immigration to develop that industry, it will be worth our while to pay a pound or two.
– And the cost of all cotton goods would go up by 50 per cent.
– Persons used to believe that rubber could not be grown unless we had slave labour, and the idea that cotton cannot be grown successfully under white-labour conditions is based on the old slave experience of America.
– Why cultivate miserable, inferior land like that?
– There is no need to cultivate poor land in Australia for the next century. We have millions of acres of the best possible land lying idle.
– Do you say that this is rich land ?
– Cotton-growing does not require the richest possible land.
– Sugar land, I mean.
– Cotton will grow on inferior land, but we have vast tracts of country eminently suitable for cotton culture. I ask the Prime Minister or the Minister of Trade and Customs if this matter comes before his notice to follow it up, so that we may get the earliest possible advice and information, and see if something cannot be done to establish the cotton industry in Australia on a reasonable basis. I want to refer to one or two other matters, otherwise I would devote more time to a statement of facts regarding the cotton industry. I wish to call attention to two matters in connexion with naval affairs in Queensland. One of the old Queensland fleet, H.M.A.S. Gayundah, is used for training purposes. I have to complain that the boat has been ordered to go from Brisbane to Sydney in order to be docked for her annual overhaul. Why should it be necessary to go to the expense and delay of taking the ship to Sydney, when at Brisbane there are a Government dock and also private slips where the work could be done as expeditiously and as economically as at Sydney? I object to this idea of centralizing and getting work done in a particular place which could be done just as easily in another place. There are plenty of men going about Brisbane today in want of employment, whose services could be secured for the overhaul of this boat. At Brisbane we have the expert ability and accommodation, and could do the work well. No satisfactory reason has ever been adduced to me for incurring the expense of sending the boat to Sydney. Next, I want to complain about the boat itself. She is used now for the annual training of naval men, but she is absolutely unsuitable for the service. I have here three foolscap pages of complaints in regard to her unsuitability.
– Is this a threat?
– No, but if the honorable member would do me the honour to peruse these pages, and learn the conditions under which men have to carry on their training, he would agree with me, I am sure, that it is time we had a better boat. The Minister of Defence should make inquiries as to the suitability of the ship. We are trying our best to encourage naval training amongst the Australian youth, but we cannot secure the best results unless we offer reasonable conditions for the purpose. I suggest that the Minister of Defence should get a boat from the Imperial Government. I think that he could easily get a boat of the P class - the Pyramus or the Psyche - and there would be no difficulty in getting her fitted up to carry on the training work. The present ship is small and entirely unsuitable. If the Minister or his representative here wishes to see these pages of complaints, and will respect the confidence of the writer, I shall be very pleased to afford him an opportunity. At the end of last session I asked the Minister of Defence to favour me with a return showing the results of the efforts made to secure the use of State school grounds throughout Australia’ for training the cadets. I feel sure that every honorable member must have been dissatisfied and to some extent disgusted, that the cadets should have to train on the streets and vacant pieces of land. In some cases the cadets have actually got into danger, and some lads have died as the result of the injuries they received while drilling on the public roads. That, it seems to me, is entirely unnecessary, because in every town in Australia there are, iu connexion with the public schools, reserves belonging to, and kept up by, the public, and I see no reason why these areas should not be available for drilling purposes. The return I got disclosed a remarkable state of affairs. In New South Wales, there are twenty-nine grounds now in use, while one has been withdrawn. In Victoria, there are three in use, and one has been withdrawn; in South Australia, there are two in use, and three have been withdrawn ; in Western Australia, there are two in use, but none have been withdrawn; in Tasmania, there are none in use, but one has been withdrawn; and, iii Queensland, there are four in use, and two have been withdrawn. Altogether, there are forty-one school grounds in use throughout Australia, and nine have been withdrawn, making fifty that have been in use. The reasons for the withdrawal of the grounds are given, and all assign misconduct. In some cases statements most uncomplimentary to young Australia are made. Personally, I think that the average Australian boy behaves himself as well as any boy in any other part of the world, and had sympathetic consideration been shown to the boys, there would have been no need to withdraw any of the school grounds from use. In some instances - I am not speaking without the book - political influence has been at work, grounds being withdrawn because the authorities did not wish to assist the late Government in carrying out its defence policy. If this Government can secure grounds from its friends on the school committees, I hope that it will do so. Boys should not be asked to drill in the streets, or be thrown on the kindness of some one who is willing to lend a paddock as a drill ground. I wish now to make some reference to the sugar question. Of all the statements made in connexion with it, none was more damaging to the Government than that of the Minister of Trade and Customs this afternoon. It is unfortunate for us that Ministers decline to lay papers and reports upon the table until the censure amendment has been dealt with. Some papers have been laid upon the table, but Ministers will not produce those which would help us in discussing the matter that is now before us. I should like an opportunity to read the correspondence which passed between this Government and the Queensland Government regarding the sugar legislation. It has been reported in the press that there was such correspondence, but we are in the dark concerning it. Last week, the Minister of Trade and Customs said that he had taken action regarding the repeal of the Bounty and Excise Acts just before Parliament met, and to-night it slipped out that on the day before the repealing proclamation was issued, inquiry was made as to the quantity of sugar in bond, and it was found to be 32,074 tons, on which £128,296 of Excise was payable. Knowing that that amount of revenue was at stake, the Minister caused a proclamation to be issued making all the sugar in bond free of duty.
– He protected the country against loss.
– You cannot continue to levy duty after the Excise has been repealed. Every honorable member knows that it will be only by the grace of the companies concerned that we shall be able to recover one penny of the Excise at stake. Had the Minister had as much regard for the revenue as he should have had, he would not have made sugar free until he had got an undertaking from the companies that they would pay the duty on it upon withdrawing it from bond. I am certain that there would not have been any difficulty about that. The companies are not desirous of evading payment of just dues, and I do not blame them for the action they took. It is certain that they anticipated the action of the Government. Last year, the production of sugar in Australia was only 130,000 tons, and the requirements of the country 226,000 tons, so that 96,000 tons had to be imported to make up the shortage. Why was it that on the 24th July, 32,000 tons of Australian sugar was in stock? Why were the companies selling imported sugar, and keeping Australian sugar in bond? They would not have done that had they not thought that there was a chance of the Excise being repealed. It was not necessary to repeal the Excise and Bounty Acts at the same time. The Queensland Government must have felt that those Acts would not be repealed, because the measures .passed by the Queensland Parliament are so worded that I am sure the Labour Government, had it remained in power, would not have repealed the Commonwealth sugar legislation. One of the terms of the agreement with the Queensland Government was that the employment of coloured labour in Queensland should be prohibited. It is a mere quibble for the Minister to say that, had such a prohibition been enacted, the Bill containing it would not have received the Royal assent.
– The honorable member’s time has expired. Do I understand that the honorable member desires to avail himself of the additional time which is allowed him under the Standing Orders ?
– Yes. It is a mere quibble for the Minister of Trade and Customs to argue that if the employment of black labour had been directly excluded by the Act it would not have received the. Royal assent, and that, therefore, a dictation test was imposed. As a matter of fact, Queensland already has upon her statute-book Acts which specifically exclude Asiatics aud coloured aliens from employment in certain undertakings, and those Acts received the Royal assent.
– When were they passed? How many years ago?
– The fact that they were passed years ago is an additional reason for believing that the Royal assent would not have been withheld from the Sugar Cultivation Act, because the present King has been much more liberal in expressing his views upon these matters than have previous rulers. The Royal assent has been given to democratic mea sures which have almost surprised the people, because a few years ago it would have been impossible to have obtained that assent. What about our Navigation Bill ? New Zealand could not get the Royal assent to the provisions of its Navigation Bill, and yet that assent has been given to our Navigation Bill, which contains even more drastic provisions. I would further point out that the dictation test will fail in its purpose unless we can depend upon the administration. That is where it will fail, because the administration of that test is now in the hands of those who all their political lives have been associated with what is known as the black-labour party. It is an easy matter to put a dictation test to any coloured alien that he can pass. If, for example, a Japanese presented himself, the officer administering the Act could easily impose a dictation test in Japanese. A dictation test is practically useless from the stand-point of safeguarding the sugar industry from the employment of coloured labour.
– Can the honorable member give any instance of that?
– No. The honorable member is doubtless thinking of what was said this afternoon to the effect that under our Immigration Restriction Act a dictation test is applied. But as that dictation test is applied by men who have no particular interest in any other part of the world, it is naturally applied in a much more reasonable and expeditious manner. In this particular instance we set out to accomplish one thing. The payment of the sugar bounty and the imposition of the Excise duty were intended to accomplish only one object - to do away with the employment of coloured labour and to establish the sugar industry on a white-labour basis. We wish to insure the continuance of that policy, and the Sugar Cultivation Act passed by the Queensland Parliament does not give us the guarantee that we had a right to expect. No wonder that the Queensland Government made section 1 of that Act read -
This Act may be cited as “ The Sugar Cultivation Act of 19.13,” and shall commence and take effect on and after the date of the commencement of the Act of the Parliament of the Commonwealth intituled the Sugar Bounty Abolition
When these Acts were in their final stages in the Queensland Legislature, the Premier of that State is reported to have made a remark to the effect that “ If Mr. Fisher does not like to take these he can carry out the work himself.” It is evident, therefore, that the Premier of Queensland had a suspicion that the measures would be objected to. I have another complaint to make in regard to them. We wished to guarantee to the growers that they would receive the bounty, and, in addition, the difference between the bounty and the Excise, which is estimated at 2s. 2d. per ton. But all that the Sugar Growers Act of 1913 provides is that in No. 1 district the grower shall receive 9s. 8d. per ton for his cane, that in No. 2 district he shall receive 9s. 2d. per ton, that in No. 3 district he shall be paid 8s. 8d. per ton, and that in No. 4 district he shall receive 8s. 2d. per ton, in addition to the basic price, but there is no stipulation as to what shall be the basic price upon which those payments shall be made. At the present time, there are contracts which are not affected by this Bill. But there is no guarantee that the canegrowers will get a basic price which will give them the advantage of the difference between the bounty and the Excise. If the basic price in No. 1 district is settled at 12s. per ton, the grower will get on the top of it 9s. 8d. per ton. But there is nothing to guarantee that the millowners will not reduce the price to 8s. per ton, and that would make the amount which the grower would receive 17s. 8d., instead of 21s. 8d. per ton. That is a weakness in the Act which the Labour Government would not have allowed to pass, and consequently the two Statutes which we passed last session would not have been proclaimed. I entirely object to the suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong, that it was necessary to automatically proclaim the Sugar Bounty Abolition Act and the Sugar Excise Repeal Act. The honorable member stated that immediately the Queensland Parliament enacted certain legislation we were in honour bound to issue the necessary proclamations. I dissent from that view in toto. We came to a certain arrangement, and we had a perfect right to say whether that arrangement had been faithfully carried out. If each of two parties agree to perform certain undertakings, each must be satisfied that the other has faithfully carried out his part of the agreement before it can be consummated. The Queensland Government failed to carry out their part of the agreement with the Commonwealth in a manner which can be regarded as satisfactory to this House. If the Minister of Trade and Customs discovered a defect in the Acts passed by this Parliament at the instance of the Labour Administration, there was no reason why he should have hurriedly proclaimed them. This House met on the 9th July. The Queensland Bills were not then through the Parliament of that State. An adjournment of this Chamber took place on the 9th July, and if there be any force in the Minister’s contention that he was acquainted with a defect in our legislation, it would have been the easiest possible thing for him to have put through a Bill on that date to guarantee the payment of the Excise on the sugar of the past season. There is yet another aspect of this matter : Some honorable members appear to think that the payment of the sugar bounty was dependent on the collection of the Excise, and that the Sugar Excise Repeal Act had to be proclaimed because the bounty had to be paid. The idea is ridiculous. The sugar bounty was paid out of the Consolidated Revenue, and was absolutely guaranteed to the growers, even though a single shilling of Excise had never been collected. Consequently the Government are quite out of court. They are absolutely without an argument when they suggest that the two Acts passed by this Parliament had to be proclaimed simultaneously.
– The Government are illegally withholding the payment of bounty now.
– I believe that the bounty will be paid, although it is unfortunate that its payment has been delayed so long. It is equally unfortunate that the Minister of Trade and Customs should have been in such a hurry to please his political friends in Queensland that he was induced to take action without realizing what he was doing. Of course, he was quite consistent, because during the last session, when this matter was before the House, there was no member of the Opposition who was more insistent than he was that we should repeal both the bounty and the Excise, and be content to accept the word of the Queensland Premier that he would pass the promised legislation. Day after day it was a case of “ Mr. Denham has promised to pass certain legislation. Can you not accept his word?”
– The honorable member will recollect that Mr. Denham could not get a reply from the late Government until the 5th December. The request was made on the 5th September.
– I know all about that. We have had it over and over again. My point is that the Minister of Trade and Customs continually insisted that both the Sugar Bounty and the Sugar Excise Acts should be repealed on the strength of the promise of the Queensland Premier. Some of us expressed a doubt as to whether we could accept that promise as one that was likely to be faithfully honoured. Subsequent events have absolutely justified our fears in that respect.
– But the late Government did accept it on the 5th December of last year.
– Oh, no.
– On the 5th December of last year, the honorable member for Wide Bay sent his telegram to Mr. Denham, in which he put the alternative proposals. Immediately afterwards Mr. Denham said he preferred the alternative proposition, and, on the strength of that, legislation was ultimately passed in this Parliament and assented to on 24th December.
– But we kept in reserve this power to protect the interests of the Commonwealth and the sugargrowers. We said that our repealing Acts would not be proclaimed until the Queensland Legislature had carried out its part of the bargain. That is the difference. The suggestion of the honorable member for Darling Downs was that we should pass our repealing Bills, « leaving the Queensland Parliament to carry out its part of the compact in accordance with the promise of the Premier of that State. We objected to that, saying, “ We shall hold in reserve this power not to bring our legislation into operation by proclamation until Queensland has carried out its part of the bargain.” If the Labour Government had been in power these two Acts would never have been proclaimed until Queensland had passed more satisfactory measures. Queensland’s legislation in this regard is not satisfactory, but the Minister of Trade and Customs, in his anxiety to accommodate and oblige his political friends in Queensland, rushed in, proclaimed the repealing Acts, and the Commonwealth has suffered a loss of revenue amounting to £128,296.
– That is a most unfair accusation.
– It is absolutely correct.
– The facts support it. It is not a matter of doubt. Action was taken by the present Minister of Trade and Customs, and the loss of revenue has been suffered. The Government now come down with the suggestion that in some way or other they are going to collect the money, but it is remarkable that in the statement of Ministerial policy submitted to the House there was no suggestion that this was going to be part of the programme for the session. There was no hint of such a thing. This only goes to bear out the statement made from this side of the House that the Ministry have blundered. Little by little they are trying to get out of the difficulty, with the result that they are becoming more deeply involved. The statement made by theMinister to-night in regard to his knowledge as to the sugar in bond at the time of the issue of the proclamation is, to my mind, the most damaging admission he has made. I must, however, keep my promise to my honorable friend, and will reserve for a later occasion further remarks that I desire to make in regard to this question.
– I have followed very closely the debate on the Supply Bill, and more particularly the remarks made by the honorable member for Kennedy and the honorable member for Brisbane. The latter opened his speech with a reference to the abuse which he said had been heaped upon the Opposition by honorable members on this side of the House. He then referred to the financial proposals, to the cotton industry, to matters of defence, and, finally, to the sugar question. I do not know that there has been from this side of the House any abuse of the Opposition which has not been exceeded by that which the Opposition has heaped on us. I am quite certain that throughout the length and breadth of Australia during the recent election campaign no statement was made by honorable members on this side that could not be verified. Speaking for myself, I made no statement in public that I am not prepared to support and substantiate with evidence at any time. Coming to the question of finance, to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Kennedy and the honorable member for Brisbane, I have heard the ex-Prime Minister and members of the Opposition speak of the deficit which they found on taking office, and which they claim to have converted into a surplus. During the election campaign there were many references to the unex- ]3ended earnings received from the taxpayers which were placed to the credit of the Commonwealth. Members of the Labour party said that when they came into power they were faced with a deficit of £451,000, and the present Leader of the Opposition declared that he converted that deficit into a surplus of from £2,000,000 to £2,500,000. That, he said, would be the surplus shown at the end of the financial year which closed on 30th June last. I have verified his figures, and know that they are correct. But the point that I .wish to make is that the right honorable gentleman never told the people of his great inheritance as the result of the expiration of the Braddon section in 1910. The people of Australia know that under the .Braddon section of the Constitution it was provided that 15s. out pi every £1 collected from Customs and Excise should be returned to the six States which created the Federation. But neither the present Leader of the Opposition, nor any of his supporters, to my knowledge, referred to that fact, or to the expiration of that section. Of the small deficit of £451,000, a sum of £450,000 exactly was provided by the Deakin-Cook Government for oldage pensions. The Deakin-Cook Government knew, when they were going before the electors in 1910, that although that deficit existed the Commonwealth, as the result of the expiration of the operation of the Braddon section, would in future receive from Customs and Excise a much larger revenue than had ever been obtained before. While the Fisher Government were in office - and I say, clearly and distinctly, that it was a period of misrule - the Commonwealth received from Customs and Excise over £16,000,000 more4 than had been received during the administration of any previous Ministry. The Fisher Government also collected about £4,500,000 from the land tax which they introduced, making in all an additional revenue of about £20,500,000. And yet they talk about the small deficit of £451,000! If I were Treasurer of the Commonwealth, and knew that within three years the Commonwealth would receive an additional £20,500,000, I should not worry much about leaving a small deficit of £450,000, more especially when the deficit, as in this case, was incurred in providing for national works, and in carrying out other national purposes. The Deakin-Cook Government knew, when they went to the electors in 1910, that the Braddon section was about to expire, and that a larger revenue would consequently be available to the Commonwealth. Honorable members opposite, who, in reality, are only delegates - delegates of an irresponsible body outside Parliament - should have been truthful in their statements^ They should have made reference to the expiration of the Braddon section; but in no newspaper published in Australia did I ever see any evidence that they had done so. What they did claim was that they were Heaven-born financiers, who had brought the country out of a state verging on ruin, and had converted a deficit into a substantial surplus.
– Is it not true that they did? ..
– No. The Fisher Government during their three years of office practically ruined the country. The honorable member for Wide Bay, when Treasurer of the Commonwealth, in 1912, brought down a statement showing that he estimated to receive £20,422,000 in that, the year of our greatest prosperity, and that the expenditure would be £22,681,541. In other words, in the year of our greatest prosperity he proposed to expend £2,261,541 more than he would receive. And yet the Labour party call themselves heaven-born financiers. To the individual their policy means increased taxation and a decrease in the purchasing power of the sovereign. The Labour Government undertook to perform great things, but we now find employment scarce and money dear. And what made money dear? The policy of the Fisher Government and their sup1porters. Money is dear all over the world ; but in Australia, up to June, 1910, there was probably the cheapest money in the wide world, considering the size of the country. Nearly four years ago I remember money being sent from Melbourne to New York, where it is earning 7 per cent., and yet at that time money here, on gilt-edge security, could be obtained at 3 per cent.
– That was because there was stagnation all round here.
– There was no stagnation here; but at present we have financial crucifixion, all through the Labour party, who do not know what finance means. The late Government set to work on financial reform, and, first of all, introduced a Commonwealth note issue, which had the effect of filching from the banks, and taking out of circulation, about £10,000,000. This was the chief factor in making money dear, because, when money is drawn out of circulation, it must cost more. Mr. Knibbs tells us that during the last three years the purchasing value of the sovereign has decreased by to 15 per cent., so that for’ what a man could purchase for £2 lis. three years ago he has now to pay £3.
– Mr. Knibbs did not say that.
– Mr. Knibbs did say so. The Labour party has practically driven capital out of the country. I would abolish the 10s. note, and, in fact, abolish the Commonwealth note issue altogether, because it is of no earthly use, if its only effect is to decrease the purchasing power of the sovereign.
– The honorable member would abolish the Australian Navy !
– No; I support the Australian Navy. And here I should like to point out that it was not the Socialist party, but the Liberal party, who instituted the Australian Navy. It was a Liberal Government which brought out Admiral Henderson and Lord Kitchener, and the schemes of those two experts have been adopted. Yet the Labour party, from probably every platform throughout Australia, have been guilty of the misstatement - of the wilful perversion of the truth - that the credit for the establishment of the Australian Navy is due to them. Then, again, wherever I went in my electorate I found that statements had been made by Labour candidates that if the Liberal party were returned to power, old-age pensions would go. But who introduced old-age pensions ? The Liberal party. Over sixteen years ago an old-age pensions scheme was operating in Victoria, where it was introduced by Sir George Turner, as Premier of the State. As a matter of fact, the old-age pensions scheme is in existence to-day because of the efforts of the Liberal party in the past, when there was no Labour party in existence. Now the Prime Minister proposes to extend old-age pensions, and make them even more beneficial to humanity by means of the insurance scheme he has foreshadowed in his memorandum. However, it was the question of finance with which I desired to deal. When the ex-Prime Minister submitted his Budget on 3rd August, 1912, he proposed to take from the accumulated unexpended earnings of the previous year a sum of £2,261,541 to make the public ledger balance. There is marvellous finance !
– Where was the honorable member last session ?
– I was away from Australia with the full consent and concurrence of my electors, and I am here to-day, in spite of remarks made by honorable members opposite, and to their great surprise, with a larger majority than I ever had before, and I prophesy that I shall have even a larger majority on the next occasion. What the people of Australia think of the finance of the Labour Government is shown in the £act that that Government was deservedly “ turned down.” I have said on the platform, and I repeat here, that in reality the Labour party and Government committed Australia, during their three years of power, to a capital expenditure of over £100,000,000, which the taxpayers of Australia will have to provide. We have heard honorable members opposite talk about clean rolls, clean administration, preference to unionists, and so forth; but the great heart of the people of Australia has declared clearly and distinctly that there is to be no preference. According to Mr. Knibbs, there are about 430,000 unionists in Australia, with an estimated population of 4,600,000. Roughly, this means one unionist to every twelve of the population, and the other eleven have to bow the knee to the Labour party. They are to have no right to live or work ^unless they join the unions of which honorable members opposite are delegates.
– Do you employ unionists ?
-I have never asked a man whether he is a unionist or a non-unionist. Our party stands for industrial unionism, but is totally opposed to political unionism. When the
Fisher Government defeated the DeakinCook Government there were about 300,000 unionists in Australia, and now, through the preference system and various other systems, according to the Government Statistician, another 130,000 have been coerced into unions, making 430,000 unionists to-day. Is this coercion to continue? No. There is in the Government’s declaration of policy a clear and bald statement which is a gauge of battle, such a gauge as the country wishes. We shall fight for a double dissolution, and the sooner we get that double dissolution the better it will be for all. It is not to be a “ heads we win, tails you lose” dissolution, as honorable members opposite wish, if we can avoid it. We wish to have a dissolution of the Senate as well. It is no earthly use our legislating for all our measures to be thrown out in the other Blouse. Certainly we have the powers of administration, but we must also have the powers of legislation which the people wish us to have. That is why we are going back to the country as soon as we can, and then we shall see what we shall see -the majority of the people turning the greater part of the members of the Senate adrift.
– If they represent the country, why should they not go there?
– We are going for a double dissolution, and we are going to have it as far as I am concerned, and not a single dissolution, as honorable members opposite wish. I hope we shall take a vote on the Ministerial policy tomorrow. This debate I consider a waste of time, and I would not have spoken had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Kennedy. I do not even know the paper from which the honorable member quoted.
– There were three papers - the two morning papers published in Melbourne and a paper published in your own electorate.
– I shall be satisfied if the honorable member will tell me the date, but I have never seen those reports, so I could not have been very anxious concerning the matter. I never dispute any statement I have made. I remember that I was asked a question in connexion with universal suffrage, the ratepayers’ roll, and various other matters at a meeting at Avoca. I was asked whether I meant to say that the man in the street who refused to work, the beer-sparrer, the loafer, and waster was as much entitled as an industrious man to a vote in the government of the country. I said, “ No,” and I said further, “ Judging by what I know of men who will not work when they can get work, if we confined ourselves to the ratepayers’ roll, it might be better.” I would point out to honorable members who interject that the ratepayers’ roll can be stuffed just as easily as the ordinary rolls, and that the Chief Electoral Officer could strike out any bogus names that should not be there. I do not wish to take any unfair advantage, but I wish to be clearly understood that I do not repudiate my remarks. I do not think that the man who refuses to work, who will not take an interest in affairs, who is practically a waster, should have the same power in the government of the country as the man who will work. That is practically all I rose to say. I do not deny the statement of the honorable member for Kennedy, and I think he will agree with me.
– Keep on; you are doing well ; it will look well in Hansard.
– It will. I wish it to appear in Hansard. It is evidence that I did say so, and that I do not deny it. I can tell the honorable member for Brisbane that in connexion with the sugar Excise there will be no loss to the people of Australia. The honorable member was speaking with the book, and I am speaking without the book. I have no figures, but the facts I have mentioned I am prepared to verify. They are perfectly true, and I am satisfied that the people of Australia will lose no money because the Cook Government fulfilled the implied promise of the late Fisher Government.
– The honorable member should be the last in the world to talk about men being loafers, or men who will not work. He was not in the chamber during the whole of last session, and I have yet to learn that he did not take his salary. He should be the last in the world to rise under theprotection of the House, and vilify men who go on to his estate and work during his absence. I am told that better work is done, and better wine made during the honorable member’s absence from his estate, because he is not there to interfere with the men. I have also to learn that the honorable member is a born financier. He does not know that the Deakin Government and previous Governments were compelled by their masters in the States to return more than the three-fourths of the Commonwealth revenue. They gave back to the States £6,000,000 more than should have been paid to the States, and to do this they starved’ the Departments throughout Australia. The telegraph system is in a bad state owing to the way in which the Department was starved at that period. I was working in the Postal Department at that time, and know of it from practical experience. Electrical engineers in the States made recommendations to headquarters, but they could not get the money because the masters of Parliament, those who pulled the strings in the States, told Ministers that they must return more money to the States to save the people paying taxation to the State Parliaments. We hear this great financier, the honorable member for Grampians, quoting Mr. Knibbs, and stating that money had been withdrawn from Australia.
– That is the case.
– According to Mr. Knibbs, there is more money in the savings banks to-day than ever before. He says that, per head of the population, there is more money in the banks to-day than ever there was before. The advances ave larger, and more money is being expended in industries. Why is there a shortage of money in Australia at the present time? Honorable members know that immediately the Fisher Government came into power, Australia started to progress. There were huge expenditures upon public works, and private people launched out as they had not done before for many years. Industries sprang up everywhere. This state of things arose because the Fisher Government caused £1,400,000 per year to be added to the revenue of the country in the form of land-value taxation levied upon people who were never before asked to pay such taxation. The standard of living in Australia was raised, and we were told that, on behalf of every family, £10 more was paid in Customs revenue than was paid previously. In my State, the Prime Minister led the people to believe that the Fisher Government imposed additional taxation upon the people.
– That is not true.
– They did nothing of the sort, but they did make ib possible for the workers of Australia to raise their standard of living. Immediately they secured a fair and reasonable wage, the workers raised their standard of living, and business people throughout the length and breadth of Australia benefited thereby. These are the reasons for the prosperity which we find to-day in Australia. Money is tight throughout the world, and not in Australia alone, and we know the reasons for it. We know of the great demand for money for development in Canada. We know of the Balkan War and of the awakening of China, which has drawn huge sums of money by way of loans from all parts of the world. Advancement and progress in all countries has increased the demand for capital throughout the world, with the result that to-day we find that money is costly everywhere. The talk to which we have listened from some honorable members may do very well for outside districts, but it is not of much use here. I am glad to see the honorable member for Wilmot in his place, but I know that one night, when he got away into the back-blocks of Tasmania, where there was no press, he started telling the people about the dreadful Caucus of the Labour party.
– I did not say a word about the Caucus.
– I am told that two daughters of a settler in the backblocks, after reaching home one night from one of the honorable gentleman’s meetings, started looking under the bed for the Caucus. When honorable members talked in that way in my State, I may assume that the honorable member for Grampians talked in the same way in his district. Such talk may be all right outside, but it is no use to bring forward these old tales in this Parliament. Money has not been withdrawn from this country, and the honorable member for Grampians knows it. I regret very much that the Fisher Government has been displaced because of the development which was carried on during their term of office. I admit that they spent money, but they have something to show for their expenditure. The way in which members of the Fisher Government organized the Departments was simply wonderful. The Home Affairs Department was the fifth wheel of the State coach when the Fisher Government took office, but no sooner were they in command than we found heaps of work put upon the various branches of that great Department, and it is surprising to me that they did as well as they have done. The administration of the Post and Telegraph Department has been criticised tonight, but I can say that in the district of the honorable member for Franklin more telephone work was carried out in three years by the Fisher Government than was carried out in nine years by previous Governments. Metallic circuits have been put in, transposed every quarter of a mile, giving practically a silent line from Franklin to Hobart, and through to Launceston. I have spoken from Port Cygnet to Launceston, and could hear the person with whom I conversed as distinctly as I can hear honorable members in this chamber. Why was I able to do so? It was because a metallic circuit has been provided throughout the length and breadth of the island, which enables people now to converse on a practically silent line. The honorable member for Franklin seems to possess some fortunate way of dealing with the Postmaster-General, no matter on what side of the House he sits. He will admit that more telephone work has been done in his district than in any other electorate in Australia.
– I want a lot more done there.
– No doubt the honorable member does, but he has had a fair share of work done in his district. The source of trouble in the Department seems to be that they have adopted a fixed specification for the whole of Australia. It does not matter whether a pole is to carry one or a dozen wires, the Department insists on one being erected much larger than the strain put upon it warrants, and that the ground shall be cleared for 20 feet around the bottom of all poles. I know from practical experience that it is sufficient to clear 6 feet around a pole to prevent it catching fire, so long as the brush is cleared right away for that distance and is not left to dry in a circle round the pole. We find now that men are engaged in clearing 20 feet around each pole, and there are from twenty-five to twenty-eight poles to each mile. Work of this nature adds considerably to the cost of line construction. I supervised the construction of one line, which was surveyed by my father and myself. 1 refer to the line from Circular Head to the Montagu. It was constructed over twenty years ago, through some rough country as well as plain country, and was carried out at a cost of £12 6s. per mile. I am informed that, at the present time, a similar line would cost from£26 to £30 per mile.
– Poles were very much cheaper twenty years ago.
– They were not very much cheaper, but the increased cost arises from the fixed specification for all lines. The engineer is adopting the ideas of engineers in the Old Country and in Canada, where, as honorable members are aware, snow settles on the insulators and wires and brings down the lines. Here we have no snow heavy enough to damage any of the lines. I am of opinion that the PostmasterGeneral might safely adopt a more economical system of construction, and still secure very effective lines. The line I speak of running to the Montagu, was up for seventeen years before it was necessary for any of the poles to be replaced. It carried only one light line, and the strain was not very great. We require cheap telephone construction to open up the country, and should adopt cheap lines similar to that to which I have referred. I wish to appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to carry out the construction of the line which I asked him to undertake soon after he came into office. I presented a petition to him from residents in a district called Ridgeway, in my electorate. If the work is carried out I feel certain that it will be immediately reproductive and a boon to the people. With reference to the payment of the hands engaged upon construction work, it is remarkable that casual labourers should be paid 8s. a day in Hobart whilst they are paid 9s. a day in Brisbane. The climate in Tasmania at this time of the year is very severe, and a man engaged on trenching in the stony ground of Hobart is entitled to the full amount paid in any part of Australia. Again, I appeal to the PostmasterGeneral to provide the men engaged on outdoor work with overcoats. Interruptions of the service always take place in stormy weather, and the men have to leave immediately to carry out repairs. The Department is, apparently of opinion that overcoats should be provided, but it adopts a very cheese-paring policy. I find that one overcoat is provided for every three or four men. Surely the Department can afford to give these men one overcoat each. The present system is unfair, unjust, and, from a hygienic point of view, entirely wrong.
– Was it the late Government that did that?
– The Treasurer has done wonderful work in the exploration of Australia, but his experience has been confined to dry country. If he had explored in Tasmania he would have some sympathy for these men.
– The honorable member believes in one man one coat.
– I do, undoubtedly. I feel sure that as soon as the Postmaster-General has this matter brought under his notice he will insist on coats being provided, because a generous man such as he is would not for a moment countenance the present state of things. I wish also to refer to the mail service between the mainland and Tasmania. Had the Fisher Government remained in office they intended to give us an up-to-date line of steamers running between the mainland and Tasmanian ports. Those steamers were to be owned by the Commonwealth. Since the present Government came into power practically nothing has been done. Statements are published in the newspapers every few weeks to the effect that the Government intend to do something, but we never learn what they intend to do. When the right honorable member for Swan was on this side of the House he complained about the Treasurer not being prepared to spend money usefully. What is he going to do now he is in charge of the Treasury? Is it his intention to give the company that has a monopoly in carrying mails between the mainland and ‘Tasmania an extension of their contract with an increased subsidy? At present, I believe, the company is receiving £13,000 per annum for carrying the mails. I believe it is intended to pay them an additional £2,000, making £15,000 in all. That sum would pay the interest on three new vessels equal to the Loongana. We should then have an up-to-date service, run for the convenience of the public. I am of opinion that we should have much cheaper fares than at present rule. Apparently nothing is to be done to improve the service betwen Hobart and Sydney. I understand that a large sum of money is paid, but the boats are not what they should be. A person wishing to travel from Sydney to Hobart has to book weeks in advance. In addition to that, I am informed, passengers are sometimes made to pay cabin rates for steerage accommodation. That is most unfair. The shipping companies should be induced to put on an up-to-date service. I venture to say the day is not far distant when Hobart will become one of the principal shipping ports of the Commonwealth. At the present time a wharf is being constructed which will be able to accommodate the great ocean liners. It is being built by day labour, and will be a credit to the Marine Board of Hobart and to everybody connected with it. The Tasmanian authorities are rising to the occasion in making provision for an increased traffic; but the shipping companies, with the monopoly that they enjoy, are doing nothing to bring about an improved state of affairs. I hope that the Government will do something in this matter. I can assure them that nine-tenths of the people in my electorate desire a Commonwealth line of steamers. Practically everybody is in favour of such a scheme. Why not drop this party fighting altogether, and say at once, “ We will give Tasmania a Commonwealth line of steamers “ ? If the Government did that they would make a name for themselves. I also think that it is most unfair that the sergeant-majors, a body of able men who are training our youths, should be called on to provide their own uniforms. Indeed, it would be unfair that they should be called upon to buy their own caps. The Commonwealth has a clothing factory of its own, and surely the Minister of Defence could make arrangements for these men to buy their clothes from the factory, even if they paid for them out of their own pocket. They will get them cheaper then thai they do now. Another matter which has come under my notice is that the best Area Officers - sergeant-majors - are being continually drafted into the office. They are excellent clerks, no doubt, but I think that they should be kept outside, where it is essential to have good instructors. I am sure that the sergeant-majors would prefer the outdoor work, but the pay is not high enough. If we give them fair remuneration the attraction will be sufficient to keep the men in their proper place, and that is training the boys.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1914, a sum not exceeding nine hundred and sixty-four thousand five hundred and ninety-six pounds be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
.- I wish to intimate that on the second reading of the Bill I have some remarks to make which will occupy about an hour. I thought that that stage would have been reached earlier. I suggest to the Treasurer that we might adjourn now.
– We want to get the money.
– I must get in tonight what I have to say.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Sir John Forrest and Mr. W.H. Irvine do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It is a recognised custom that we may ventilate our grievances before Supply is granted. I have a grievance against the Prime Minister. It is in connexion with the question of preference to unionists. When I heard the honorable member speak a few days ago, he gave us the impression that he was being misrepresented before the country, and that what he had agreed to previously was some kind of conditional preference to unionists. He gave us to understand that he was never in favour of that whole-souled preference to unionists which the ardent unionist advocates, whereas, in looking up the records of a not very recent date, I find there has been no stronger supporter of unconditional preference to unionists than the Prime Minister. He said, in effect, in quite a dramatic fashion, “ When next these Labour men are referring to my attitude on preference to unionists, let them give the context of my remarks, let them quote me as a whole, and not choose a sentence here and there which does not correctly state my position.” I find, to put it shortly, that there are several stages in the development of his mind on this question.
First, his attitude is that of the secretary of a coal-miners union in Lithgow. This is what he stated, on the 9th December, 1904, had been his attitude as a union secretary. On page 7846 of Hansard, he said -
The honorable member for Newcastle referred to me as an old-time secretary of a trade union. The honorable member is quite right. When I was secretary to a union we always insisted on preference to unionists, and in a very summary fashion.
– What was the union?
– The Coal-miners Union. We had no difficulty in doing that, and I am free to tell the honorable member that if I were in the same position to-day I should do the same again.
Further on, in reply to a question as to how long he was secretary, he said -
For some years. If I were in that position again I should adopt the same attitude. I have no sort of sympathy with the man who will work alongside another man, and see that other paying every week of his life into an organization to protect his rights, and to maintain his position, whilst he himself is skulking, and deriving the benefit for which the other is paying and working. I have no sort of sympathy with that kind of thing.
There is not much qualification about that. There he is telling the House what his attitude was when he was the secretary of a coal-miners union, but later in the debate he makes other remarks, and as he correctly pointed out several days ago, he is there supporting a conditional preference, because in the Bill under discussion at the time there was a condition that preference could only be granted by the Judge provided that the union concerned contained a majority of the employes of that industry.
Then we have him linked up with the Attorney-General, who does not believe in preference of any description to unionists, and now he has another condition concerning preference, and that is that the funds of the unions must not be devoted to any political purpose. The Prime Minister, in whose heart there is this support for unconditional preference, has chosen as his right-hand man the honorable member for Flinders. What does the latter say about preference to unionists? He says -
– On what date, and when ?
– I shall give the information presently. The honorable member for Flinders says -
If I had my own way I would say that Parliament should wipe off the statute-book as the ugliest blot ever put upon it a provision which enables a legal tribunal to grant a legal preference to unionists in any shape.
– Order ! Is the honorable member quoting from a speech made in this session ?
– I did not know that I was prohibited from doing that. I am not quoting from a speech delivered during the present debate.
– The honorable member is not in order in quoting from the report of another debate of this session.
– I have no need to quote further. That speech was delivered on the 14th of this month, and is recorded in Hansard on that date.
These two gentlemen sit side by side. One of them tells us that he would enforce preference to unionists in summary fashion if he had the opportunity, and his colleague says that the provision allowing a Court to grant preference is the ugliest blot on the statute-book.
In 1900, Mr. Wise introduced an Industrial Arbitration Bill into the New South Wales Parliament. The honorable member for Parramatta was not then a political fledgling. His views were matured when he entered Parliament, and he had been a member of the Assembly for ten years. He had been Leader of the Labour party, and had left the party; he had joined the Liberal party, and he had held the positions of Minister for Mines and Agriculture and Postmaster-General. Having had ample time to study the question, and speaking, not as a Labour, but as a Liberal member, he spoke on this Bill in 1900. There was never a better case put for unconditional preference to unionists. There were never stronger arguments than those he used in support of unrestricted preference at the hands of a Court.
He dealt with victimization. He referred to the difference between capitalists here and those in the Old Country, to the disadvantage of the former. He replied to . the objections of associations of employers to preference to unionists. He dealt most effectively with the free-labour question. He discussed freedom of contract. No one can. read the speech without being sure that he felt the truth of every word he uttered. He is now associated with men whose views are the opposite of those which he holds; because he cannot have changed his innermost convictions. In that speech he justified interference with the liberty of the subject, and appealed to the House to leave matters unconditionally with the Court. I wish to quote portions of the speech, to put it on record.
Let me now refer to the victimization of the workers. Speaking on 2nd August, 1900, the honorable member said -
All that voluntary action can do for the settlement of these disastrous industrial troubles has been done ; but, in spite of all that has been done, men are to-day being victimized because they belong to trades organizations. The other day a mine manager discharged six men, the reason given being that the trade of the mine was falling off, and that, therefore, these men had to go. It was only a coincidence that they were the six men at the colliery who had agitated for an advance in wages, which was afterwards conceded. They attended the meeting at. which it was determined to ask for this advance, and, so to speak, took a. lead in the proceedings whereby it was secured : and it was merely a coincidence that they, and only they, were sent about their business at a time when there was an appearance of a falling off in trade.
The victimization argument is there compressed into a nutshell. There is not a unionist throughout the length and breadth of Christendom who knows the case for unionism better than the Prime Minister, although he is now leading the forces which will strangle unionism in this country if it gets the opportunity.
On the sub ject of Australian capitalists, he gave reasons why unionists should be more fully protected here than they are in the Old Country. He said -
My answer to it is this : That, having had experience of both countries. I venture to say that there is a difference between the capitalism of the Old Country and the ca pitalism of these Colonies.
He continues -
It seems to me that the difference in the capitalism in the two communities is largely one of temperament. In the Old Country, there is. still a lingering trace of the old spirit of noblesse, which has come down from Feudal times. I am glad to “say that it has not yet left the capitalism of the Old Country. In these young countries, most capitalists have had to force their way up from the ranks, and the process has developed a somewhat harder side lo their natures; they have become what may be called professional capitalists.
The honorable member is now the spokesman of these capitalists. For whom did the capitalists of Australia vote at the last election if not for him and those with whom he is associated ?
And now, referring to the reply to employers. Answering objections to preference to unionists by employers’ associations, the honorable member said -
But now let us see for a moment what this objection really is, and whether it is so formidable as it might appear in some quarters. I take up a criticism of the Bill by the’ Builders’ and Contractors’ Association, and here the objection was put in a sentence : - “ We also question the justice of imposing disabilities upon nine-tenths of the industrial community at the instance of the trade unions’ ‘ tent ‘ in order that the majority of the employes may be coerced into joining trade unions or becoming industrial Ishmaelites.”
That is the self-same clap-trap that we had to-night from the honorable member for Grampians. The honorable member is effectively answered by this speech of his Prime Minister, which I would recommend him to read. The honorable gentleman showed that the employers desired freedom of contract which he controverted in unqualified terms.
Dealing with the subject of free labour, he says -
It is recognised in unionist circles that unionists should not work with free labourers. I. know a great many people who will not agree with that. The reason why that takes place to-day is this : a free labourer is regarded by the unionists as a menace to his wages, as a menace to his price. It is in order to secure his price that he has to sacrifice the free labourer. That is the reason why unionists very much object to work with free labourers, because the free labourer is only used, as a rule, by the employer in order to coerce the unionist to accept conditions which the unionist dislikes. That being so, under this Bill, the motive of the employer to employ free labour will be taken right away. The free labourer is never called into requisition at all, except in times of industrial trouble. Man for man, it is a recognised rule that the trade unionist is at least the equal of the free labourer in ability at his work. Therefore, it is not on account of superior workmanship that the free labourer is employed, but in order that he may be a menace to the unionist, who is employed for the time being, or in order to defeat him if he is out on strike. As this Bill is going to stop strikes, there will be no further motive on the part of the employer to take the free labourer under his protecting care. I should like to say, as the result of long experience in these matters, that if honorable gentlemen will think for a moment what is the object of the free labourer, and the effect of the free labourer upon the condition of the unionist, they will see a very good ground for dislike on the part of the unionist to the free labourer.
I venture to say that the case for the unionist as against the free labourer was never put stronger than it was then put by the present Prime Minister.
In referring to freedom of contract, he next combated the argument in its favour. The employers desire freedom to choose the non-unionist in preference to the unionist because the unionist increases wages, and is therefore a menace to the employers’ profits. This is what the honorable gentleman said on that occasion -
We hear it in these words : that this Bill is an interference with liberty - an interference with the principle of freedom of contract. I often think that those gentlemen who make this objection must be very ignorant of our industrial history They must be very ignorant of the operation of this principle of the freedom of contract when they claim for it so many virtues and so many advantages. The industrial his.tory of this and every other country shows that, masquerading- under this principle of freedom of contract has been some of the most ghastly and horrible slavery that this or any other country has ever known. Go to the beginning of this century, and read there a picture of the operation of this principle of freedom of contract. T. have here a volume entitled Industry in England, by Mr. H. de B. Gibbins. An one who will take the trouble to read this book will, I think, for ever after be very careful as to how he uses that phrase “ freedom of contract.” We are not here, I take it, to mouth shibboleths, either of liberty or protection, or anything else. We are here “to investigate facts, and to see the bearing of them, and they are facts in the industrial life of this country.
Then he goes on to picture how the employers have treated litle girls in the factories of England under this system of freedom of contract by working them seven, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, and eighteen hours a day. Here is an extract which he cited from the speech of a member of the House of Commons on this point -
Our ancestors could not have supposed it possible - posterity will not believe it true - that a generation of Englishmen could exist, or had existed, that would work lisping infancy of a few summers old, regardless alike of its smiles or tears, and unmoved by its unresisting weakness, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, sixteen hours a day, and through the weary night also, till, in the dewy morn of existence, the bud of youth was faded, and fell ere it was unfolded. . . . . Then, in order to keep them awake, to stimulate their exertions, means are made use of to which I shall now advert, as a last instance of the degradation to which this system has reduced the manufacturing operatives of this country. Children are beaten with thongs, prepared for the purpose. Yes; the female of this country, no matter whether children or grown up - and I hardly know which is the more disgusting outrage -are beaten, beaten in your free market of labour, as you term it, like slaves. The poor wretch is flogged before its companions - flogged,I say, like a dog, by the tyrant overlooker. We speak with execration of the cartwhip of the WestIndies; but let us see this night an equal feeling rise against the factory thong in England.
These are quotations from the utterances of the Prime Minister, who is now the mouthpiece of the employers of Australia, and these are the words in whichhe stated his case in favour of preference to unionists. Then he quoted Richard Oastler. He said -
I am quoting this as a perfect picture of freedom of contract - the shibboleth which is being mouthed to-day by all employers-
Apparently he has not forgotten the use of the same picturesque language thatbe used formerly, but it is not now used in defence of the rights of the working men, but in justification of the assaults made upon them by the Employers Federation. He continued - and I cannot but believe that those who mouth it so f ully must be very ignorant of what it meant in its full operation at the beginning of this century. I will tell you what I have seen. Take a little female captive six or seven years old; she shall rise from her bed at 4 o’clock in the morning of a cold winter day, but before she rises she wakes, perhaps. half-a-dozen times, and says, “Father, is it time? Father, is it time?” And at last, when she gets up andputs her little bits of rags upon her weary limbs - weary yet by the last day’s work - she leaves her parents in their bed, for their labour - if they have any - is not required so early. She trudges alone through rain, and snow, and mire, and darkness, to the mill, and there for thirteen, fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, or even eighteen hours, is sheobliged towork, with only thirty minutes’ interval for meals and play. Homeward again at night she would go. when she was able, butmany a time she hid herself in the wool in the mill, as she had not strength to go. And if she were one moment behind the appointed time, if the bell had ceased to ring when she arrived with trembling, shivering, weary limbs at the factory door, there stood a monster in human form, and as she passed he lashed her. This, “ he continued, holdingup an overlooker’s strap.” is no fiction.It was hard at work in this town last week. ThegirlI am speaking of died : but she dragged on that dreadful existence for several years.
This is the beautiful picture of freedom of contract that the honorable member for Parramatta put before the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales just before he entered this Parliament. Although he had been a Minister in a Liberal Government, he still held fast to his faith in the doctrine of preference to unionists - a faith from which he is now drifting.
Much has been said about interference with the liberty of the subject. The honorable gentleman then went on to quote John Stuart Mill upon the question of interference with the liberty of the subject. He said -
We cannot do better than refer to an authority which is more frequently quoted by the opponents of this measure than perhaps any other - an authority whom they nearly always regard as being on their side. I refer to John Stuart Mill. I am going to quote a few sentences from his essay on liberty. Whatever other people may say of John Stuart Mill, I disagree with him in many of his statements; but I recognise in him one of the clearest and most profound thinkers on these questions that our race has ever produced. This is what John Stuart Mill says : “ The object of this essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force, in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion.
That principle is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. “ That,” said the honorable gentleman, “ correctly describes the principle operating under this Bill.”
The principle of preference to unionists, where a unionist must be preferred to a non-unionist, is, according to the honorable member, based on the ground of preventing harm to others. He indicated that the purpose for which it should be rightfully exercised was to prevent harm to others, and that the warrant for interfering with liberty of action is to secure self -protection. There, again, we have the whole case in a nutshell - that there must be granted a preference to unionists in order to prevent that victimization of unionists which the honorable gentleman knows, from his long experience, takes place in industry. When an employer proceeds to engage labour, and has the chance of choosing a unionist or a non-unionist, does he care whether the preference goes in one way or the other ?
– It is in very few instances that the preference goes to the unionist.
– In very few instances indeed. I have heard employers say that they do not care whether a man is a unionist or a non-unionist. We know, however, that the majority do care. The
Prime Minister knows from his long experience, as he stated on the occasion to which I have been referring, that it is necessary to give unionists a preference in order to protect them. He knows absolutely, in his heart, that if there were no preference to unionists, the alternative principle would be brought into operation in order to break down the unions.
– Did not the Workers’ Union take up politics ?
– The Prime Minister cannot say that at this time the unionists were not engaged in taking action for political purposes. At the time of the maritime strike, the unionists of Australia were advised to take political action.
– By employers.
– By employers as well as by the press of Australia. It was said to them, “ Why do you not take constitutional measures?” but now that they are doing so, an effort is being made to smash them up. It is said now that they must not take any action of a political character, although politics in Australia are the bread and butter of the whole of the working population.
– Of the agitators.
– The amelioration of their condition, which has been gained in recent years in the Parliaments of the country, has been the result of advocacy of political remedies. The honorable member for Hume need not talk about agitators. He has travelled over New South Wales “barracking” and agitating for the farmers. If there is a professional agitator in Australia the honorable member is one.
– And a paid one.
– He has farmed the farmers very successfully.
We have often heard the expression. “ Trust the Court.” The present Prime Minister dealt with the question of “ trusting the Judge.”
– Would the honorable member do that?
– Certainly. I believe in leaving this question to the Judge unconditionally. ‘ This is what the present Prime Minister said on the point -
We commit millions of pounds’ worth of property to the disposal of our Judges every day. All over the world the Courts of Law determine the conditions of families and of estates, and it seems to me that we should not hesitate about committing trade disputes to the arbitration of a Court in regard to which we have the highest guarantees to assure us that the Court will be what we say it will be. We commit these material interests to the hands of men to whom we are content to commit the issues of life and death.
The honorable gentleman also said -
Now you can say anything you like about what is possible under this Bill ; but when you refer a matter to the decision of a Judge, whatever you may think of the opinion he may hold, it is assumed that he is competent to givea decision. But every one of these cases cited presupposes that the Judge is going to be a fool, and not an ordinarily intelligent man. Is not the very reason of inquiry to enable the Judge to find out what is the measure of justice in the claim of either side?
Yet the honorable gentleman is not prepared now to commit this matter to the Judge unconditionally. He insists that before it goes to the Judge it shall be surrounded by political conditions which are dictated by the Employers Federation of Australia.
I desire to now refer to the beneficial character of unions. In the House a few days ago a question was raised as to. what the unions had done in the amelioration of the conditions of the great masses of the people. I think I heard the honorable member for Robertson dispute some statements as to the extent to which industrial organization had helped the workers.
– The honorable member’s union would have ameliorated him if they could have got hold of him a little while ago.
– The honorable member is talking “through his neck. He does not know what he is talking about. My position in the organization with which I have been connected has been for a number of years one of unexampled confidence - unexampled confidence expressed by the members in myself. I have had hundreds of letters - -
– And bricks.
– Asking me not to sever my connexion with that body.The honorable member who interrupts may do very well in scavenging the Department of Home Affairs - in raking the dust-bins and running about scandalmongering.
The present Prime Minister, in the course of the speech to which I have already referred, gave his opinion of what unionism had done for the amelioration of the condition of the working classes. He said -
It is generally recognised to-day, I think, by all intelligent men that nearly all that has come to labour by way of advancement has been per medium of these organizations. One can readily understand the feeling of the unionist when engaged in a dispute in defence of the privileges he already enjoys, and which he has hardly won by many years of arduous toil, when a man is brought into the arena to try and wrest those privileges from him. The free labourers, in these unionist centres at any rate, step in to reap where they have not sown, lt is that feeling which gives rise to hostility on the part of the unionist.
Further on, he developed his case showing the great advantage of trade unions. He said -
I venture to say that, upon the merits of the case alone, the Bill does right to give a preference to the trades unionist. 1 have already said that, in my judgment, trades unions have, done more for the workers than perhaps all the other influences which operate to advance our civilization put together. That is not my own opinion only, it is the opinion of those who have studied the question deeply, and who are in a sphere which enables them to detach themselves from the influences which operate with those . who have had anything to do with these troubles. It is their opinion that trade unions have done a great deal of good to the country at large. Almost the last speech that Mr. Gladstone delivered before he died furnished an opportunity for a statement of this kind -
I believe the trades unions of the world are the bulwarks of our modern democracy. That is Mr. Gladstone’s deliberate opinion in almost the last speech which he delivered.
Then he went on to quote Thorold Rogers -
Thorold Rogers will be admitted to be one of the clearest-headed men we have who has ever investigated this subject. He says -
The public is profoundly interested in the efficiency and independence of the working man. By the former, the industrial success of the country is guaranteed and secured. In the latter, lies the only hope that we shall be ever able to realize in our day what the trade guilds of the middle ages aimed at, and in some directions unquestionably secured…..
The trade unions of London, and other large towns, do not, perhaps, exercise the moral discipline over their members which they might do if their fellows more generally enlisted in the system, and they will do as they get stronger and better informed; but I am abundantly convinced that the trade unionists in England include in their numbers the most intelligent, conscientious, and valuable of the working men.
That is Thorold Rogers’ view of trade unionists. He says -
I confess to having at one time viewed them suspiciously. A long study of the history of labour has convinced me that they are not only the best friends of the workman, but the best agency for the employer and the public, and that to the extension of these associations poli- tical economists and statesmen must look for the solution of some among the most pressing and the most difficult problems of our own time. I shall hope to show this after I have dealt with the facts of the present situation.
Those are the opinions of writers who have studied these questions deeply ; and, therefore, it seems to me to be but a just recognition of the work of trade unionists, and, apart altogether from its incidental bearing upon the Bill, that this preference to trade organizations should be given.
I venture to say that in that speech, is to be found one of the most complete statements of the case for preference to unionists ever placed on record.
– Is the honorable member dealing with an item in the Supply Bill?
– -I have no doubt it is very disconcerting to honorable members opposite to have their leader quoted in this way - a leader who, as the exAttorney General said a little time ago, is the leader, but not the trusted leader, of the employers’ organizations who sent honorable members opposite to Parliament.
That is how the Prime Minister stood in the beginning, and we see how he has since been slipping down the hill all the time. He then believed in forcing the principle of preference in a summary fashion, and had no time for the skulker who loafed on his fellows; he supported legal and unconditional preference in the Bill in the State House after he had become a matured Liberal, and then, in 1904, to meet the exigencies of party politics, we find him, for the first time, supporting a restricted preference. That was the first step on the broad and slippery path which leads to destruction. He no longer advocated preference because it was right in principle, or to protect trade unionists from victimization, but held that a majority of the workers in a given industry must be members of the union. He was now able to return along the road of freedom of contract; he had commenced to smash the unions, which for so many years he assisted to build up.
– How many more lies is the honorable member going to tell?
– Does the honorable member deny the speech I have quoted ?
– I am referring to the honorable member’s statement that I am going to smash up unionism ; that is the lying statement I wish to give an emphatic denial to.
– I have to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the words, and require the honorable member to withdraw statements which have not a Word of justification.
– I ask that the Prime Minister be requested to withdraw the words without qualification.
– The Prime Minister has withdrawn the words.
– He has never withdrawn them.
– I am the judge of that, and the honorable member for Gwydir is out of order. The Prime Minister withdrew the words without any qualification, and afterwards simply asked that the honorable member for Cook should withdraw certain statements made in his speech.
– There was a qualification at the same time.
– There was no qualification. The words objected to were withdrawn. The request which followed was not a qualification.
– May I ask, Mr. Speaker, what you intend to do about the request the Prime Minister made?
– Order ! I call upon the honorable member for Cook.
– I am glad the Prime Minister has. interjected, because the fact will show in Hansard that he was here while his speech was being quoted. Does the Prime Minister deny what I have read ? Does he deny the case he put forward against the victimization of unionists? Does he deny his definition of Australian capitalists, whose mouthpiece he is at present ? Does he deny having answered those employers whom his party represent here to-day ?
– All these are misstatements - every one !
– Does the honorable member deny having put the case against free labour as shown in the speech I have quoted ? We must bear in mind that the honorable gentleman had the printed proofs of his remarks, and he sat down in Parliament House, Sydney, and cor- rected them most carefully, so that his considered opinions might go down to posterity.
– That is not so; the honorable member knows nothing about it. Members of the New South Wales Parliament do not correct their proofs.
– I know that the New South Wales members do correct their proofs.
– I know they review them.
– Another misstatement.
– Will the honors able member deny that effective speech of his on the question of freedom of contract ?
– I will deny anything if you will only let us go home !
– I have several times called for order. I remind the honorable member for Cook that it is impossible for me to prevent interjections if he adopts an interrogating style of speech, which deliberately invites interjections and gives rise to disorder. If the honorable member did not ask for replies, interjections would not flow so freely.
– I had an idea that I was entitled to adopt my own style.
– The honorable member is entitled to adopt his own style; I merely suggest that if he adopts the interrogating style and addresses himself to individ>al members, and deliberately waits for replies, interjections must follow, and interjections are contrary to the Standing Orders. The honorable member, if he himself invites interjections, makes it all the more difficult for me to maintain order.
– I am deeply thankful to you, Mr. Speaker, for suggesting an improvement in my style. I certainly would be very glad to put my remarks a little more effectively than I have been doing, but I had to direct my interrogations to the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member is not in order in doing so. He should address himself to the Chair.
– Quite a number of honorable members all round the Prime Minister took occasion to reply, probably knowing more about the Prime
Minister’s speech than he knew. The Prime Minister starts out by making a statement, and then he uniformly sets out again to deny it, and one never knows when he has the Prime Minister.
– It is as bad as you in the Court the other day.
– The honorable gentleman would be pleased to turn off this unsavoury subject. No doubt he does not like these convictions of his to be put forward. They are his convictions, and the statements he now makes in connexion with his associates are not his convictions; he does not believe in them; it is absolutely impossible for a man in the maturity of his opinions to make such a speech without believing what he is saying. So we have the honorable gentleman slipping from point to point until he has boxed the compass. He wishes to catch his train, and I am pleased to defer to his wish. I shall return to the subject on another occasion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through Committee without amendment.
Bill read a third time.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
The Leader of the Opposition is not present, but a fortnight ago I asked him whether there was any possibility of making an arrangement with regard to taking the vote on the no-confidence motion.
– Why should there be an arrangement?
– Only for the reason that I think the country is now expecting a vote to be taken early, and I think the country has a right to expect a vote to be taken early.
– You do not mean this.
– May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, to stop these insults, or I shall have to stop them myself?
– I hardly ever rise now but I am met with insults from the other side, and if you, Mr. Speaker, do not protect me, I shall have to take steps to protect myself.
– Order !
– I do not intend to tolerate it much longer. I hope to be able to get to a vote on this question on Thursday night.
.- It is very interesting to hear tie Prime Minister get up with this exceptional display of dignity, and request that a vote be taken at a certain time. The Prime Minister is generally credited with the responsibility for conducting the business of the House, aud he can take a vote any time he chooses. It is in his hands.
– That is not the way it is done.
– The Prime Minister takes up an attitude at twenty minutes to 12 on Tuesday night, and says, “ We expect that the division will take place at a certain time.”
– I did not say anything of the kind. I said I hoped it might be possible. If I were in the honorable member’s place I would listen.
– I listened very carefully to the honorable gentleman. I have listened to the honorable member on many occasions, and many times I have heard him reversing his opinions. I have heard him express many opinions he has reversed to-day.
– I do not suppose you have ever reversed yours. You have not the brains.
– Listen to the courteous gentleman who objects to the language of the ex-Prime Minister ! Hear the delicate-tongued, cultured Prime Minister 1 The honorable gentleman is in charge of the business of the House, and can take a division at any time he chooses. I would remind the Prime Minister, and the press supporting him, that for every member from this side who has spoken there has been a member speaking on the Government side, and it has not been a waste-of-time debate. If we get any expressions of opinion from this side of the House they are replied to from the Ministerial side. If the Ministry wish to close the debate - which
I doubt extremely - they can do it tomorrow, or at any time they choose. I hear an interjection, “ Let us catch our trains.” I have no objection to my honorable friend catching his train. The worst thing that can happen now is that the House may be counted out, and I can assure the honorable member we do not intend to count out the House. We are not looking for any divisions to-night. It is insinuated that we are desirous of delaying the business of the House. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister is particularly desirous that every new member on his side of the House should have the opportunity of expressing an opinion, and, in fact, the Government side so far have had a majority of members speaking. I think the honorable gentleman should recognise that, and should keep it in mind when indulging in heroics about his desire to get on with the business of the country.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta- Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs) [11.451. - I suggest to my honorable friend that before he assumes the role of leader of the Opposition, it would be well for him to take a few lessons. He really does not do his job well at all. I could show the honorable member bow to do it very much better if I were over there.
– No doubt. “The Lord gie us a good conceit o’ ourselves.”
– I only wish to say that I made no complaint. I again suggest that three weeks is quite sufficient time to devote to a debate on a censure motion.
– Well, why does not the honorable gentleman close itf
– Why does not the honorable gentleman hold his tongue f I hope his leader will take a more moderate and sensible view of this matter than he appears to do. - I feel sure that he himself would not take such a view of it if his nerves were not overwrought at this late hour of the night. I hope that the right honorable gentleman who leads the Opposition will induce his followers to agree to the course I suggest, and permit us to get on with the business of the country after Thursday night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 August 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19130826_reps_5_70/>.