5th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– The week before last, the Postmaster-General announced that Mr. Swinburne, a wireless expert, had been brought to Australia to report whether the Balsillie wireless system, which had been assigned to the Commonwealth, is, or is not, an infringement of the Marconi patent. I ask the honorable gentleman if he has received a report from Mr. Swinburne?
– I do not think it advisable to make such information public in connexion with a matter in regard to which litigation is proceeding, bub as the honorable gentleman was connected with the case when in office as PostmasterGeneral, I have from time to time given him information in regard to it, and I have no objection to telling him privately what I know in this matter, but I would rather not make the information public.
– Has the Prime Minister received a communication from the Lord’ Mayor of Sydney, intimating that a very important and influential body of citizens desires the Government to remove the quarantine embargo from Sydney?
– I have. I saw it juBt before arriving at the House.
– I ask the PrimeMinister what has become of the suggestion emanating from this side of the House, in which he concurred, that a Committee should be appointed to consider the best way to deal with the smallpox epidemic? The honorable member said he would consider the appointment of a Committee.
-Obviously, nothing has come of fhe suggestion sofar. The whole matter is receiving consideration.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister when it is his intention to issue a proclamation bringr ing into force the Navigation Act, which recently received His Majesty’s assent?
– The Department is engaged in framing the necessary regulations, and in making all other preparations for organization prior to the bringing of the Act into operation. I am not able to say at present when the precise time for that will arrive.
– Is the preparation of regulations and the organization of the Navigation Department the only thing standing in the way of the proclamation, of the Act?
– I do not know what the honorable member means. If he will make himself more explicit, I shall be glad to answer his question.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in regard to the establishment of a testing station for explosives, whether the Governments of the States have been approached about the matter. If so, has he received any replies from them, and, if he has received such replies, will he lay them on the table of the House?
– Representations were made to the Governments of the States by my predecessor, and, so far as I know, there is no objection to laying the papers asked for on the table of the Library.
– A statement appeared in one of the newspapers some time ago to the effect that the Ministry has definitely abandoned the idea of having Government freezing works in the Northern Territory, and has entered into negotiations with a private company for the establishment of such works. I shall be glad to know if that statement is correct.
– The idea of establishing freezing works has not been abandoned, although, as the honorable member for Barrier will see, the sum of £25,000 does not appear on the Estimates. For some time past I have been trying to ascertain whether an English company will establish freezing works at Port Darwin. There was an idea of establishing works at Wyndham, with the possibility of having two within a short distance of each other. I have had negotiations with an English Company of high repute, though I cannot say yet whether they will end in the establishment of freezing works at Darwin. If these negotiations should fail, there are, I believe, other companies and firms ready to discuss the question.
– I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether there is a definite understanding that the Government as a Government are not to proceed with the erection of freezing works at Darwin, but that if suitable arrangements can be made with a private company they will hand over to it the carrying out of the work? In other words, is it the policy of the Government not to put up the works as a Government concern?
– I think that I may say it is not the policy of the Government not to put up freezing works, but the preference of the Government is to have it done by private enterprise if the conditions are such that we can adequately protect the public interest, and the interests of all stations which are not tied up to particular companies who may do the work; but if we fail, then the question of providing works - perhaps on a smaller scale than was originally intended, but adequate to the necessities of the Territory - will be considered.
– It is not the intention of the Government at present?
– Not at present.
– I desire to ask whether the Minister of External Affairs or his predecessor bought 2,000 sheep for the Northern Territory a little time ago, and, if so, are they all dead, or how many are dead?
– I am not aware that there was a purchase of 2,000 sheep. If the honorable member desires information, I shall try to get it for him tomorrow.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral if he will have regulation 481 altered. Under it all mechanics from the age of eighteen to the age of fifty are classed together. Could not the regulation be amended to include youths of sixteen? Provision is made for youths of fourteen and a half to sixteen, and then there is a jump.
– These regulations were made by the Public Service Commissioner, and do not come under my purview.
– In view of the alleged serious trouble at the Sydney Quarantine Station, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he has read the account of persons who have been patients there, and noted their complaints about the insanitary and other conditions rprevailingthere? If so, will he cause inquiries to be made, and have the complaints attended to?
– If the honorable member will bring under my notice any particular cases showing bad conditions at the Quarantine Station, they will be inquired into. The last report I read from a discharged patie.nt was entirely in favour of the treatment he had received at the station.
– Is the Prime Minister correctlyreported ashaving said recently, at Parramatta, I think, that if the Labour Government had continued in office they would have been sure to impose additional taxation ? Further, did he say thathis ownGovernment were compelled to increase the expenditure on account of the draft Estimates of ‘the previousGovernment ?
– I did not say that. Isaid that on taking office we found such a condition of things that when the draft Estimates were presented, they were very much inflated, and “we had to take off some millions. I am -quite laware thatat the time of the late Government leaving office, the end of the financial year, there had been no Estimates considered; but I do not know that that helps my honorable friends in theslightest degree. In the first place, the draft Estimates ought to have been submitted months beforethat time.
– Months before the 31st May?
– We took office, I think, on the 25th June; that is, right atthe end ofthe financial year, and no Estimates had been submitted. The Estimateswere then submitted to us, and we had to take some millions off them, and I do not hesitate to say that in my opinionthere would have been extra taxation imposed had my honorable friends retained office.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister what justification he has for the statement repeated here, that the previous Government would have imposed further taxation, seeing that a statement to the contrary hadbeen made to the public ? Is he aware- having had five years’ experience in a State Government, andone year’sexperience, at least, in Commonwealth Government - that all Estimates when sent in by the Departments are generally about 20 or more per cent. above the commitments for the year? And, further, does he wish the people or this House to believe that he is making a statement based on his experience, when he says that the draft Estimates were such that he could not prevent great additional expenditure being incurred at the present time?
– I am not aware that draft Estimates are always 20 or 25 percent. more than they ought to be, although I can well ibelieve that to be the case in connexion with a Government which proved itself so extravagant as did that of my honorable friends opposite. I can very well understand it to be so under their régime.
– Good business.
– My general belief that there would have been further taxation, if the late Government had remained, is based onthe rush upwards o’f the expenditure during their three years of office, andfrom what we know of their financial administration in a general way.
Mr.BAMFORD. - Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directedtoa cablegramin this morning’s press reporting a (discovery of an invention by an Italian, scientist - SignerUlivi, I thinkthe name is -by which mines canbe exploded at a considerable distance without direct communication, with what the inventor lerms F rays? If so, will the honorable gentleman make the fullest inquiries into the matter before engaging in further naval expenditure?
– I shall be very glad indeed to make any inquiries which are necessary in that direction.
– In view of the fact that next Tuesday will be the great national holiday - a day on which all Christians will go to the races and the semi- Christians to picnics - will the Prime Minister on Friday adjourn the House until Wednesday at 3 o’clock?
– I am quite unable to say yet what will be done, but the matter will beconsidered .
.- I wish to raise a matter of privilege. My attention has been drawn to a leader in this morning’s Argus.
– Is it the intention of the honorable member to conclude with a motion ?
– Yes, sir. While I think that we are prepared on both sides of the chamber to accept advice, and even criticism, from the editorial staff of the great newspapers of Melbourne and Sydney, I think that we must condemn a vulgar abuse and a wicked suggestion, especially the wicked suggestion, I do not know who is the author of this article. It may have been written by Mr. David Hewitt Maling after consultation with members of the staff. While I am quite prepared to put up with Mr. Maling ‘s humour and sarcasm, I do resent his endeavour to browbeat the Ministry in this Parliament. In the article in question, the writer, in referring to the Electoral Bill, says: -
The measure has, of course, been kept on the notice-paper, and the Opposition has made a long sequence of sixty-five minute speeches about it, with the deliberate and unconcealed intention of obstructing ; but there have been no all-night sittings to expedite its course, and no effort has been made to put the closure into force. No clearer testimony as to the intention of the Opposition in respect to Government business, and of its belief that the Ministry is not doing all it can to enforce progress, can be cited than that ofMr. McDonald, theex-Speaker.
I resent the suggestion that the Government should apply the “gag.” Have we reached that stage when the Government must apply the “gag” to prevent the full and free discussion of important alterations in our electoral laws? The ex-Speaker holds certain opinions, to which the Argus refers. The honorable member for Kennedy is reported to have said -
All the Ministry wish to do, or could do, was to get the Estimates through. Mr. Cook had said that if the Ministry could not carry out its policy, the members of that Ministry, would not, as self-respecting men, sit on the Treasury benches. The Ministry had not done a single thing towards carrying out its policy, and had not managed to get one of its policy measures through.
– Who is responsible?
– The Opposition was responsible, but the Ministry had . . practically to do the bidding of the Opposition.
That quotation may express the views of the honorable member for Kennedy and of certain other people, but I resent the sug gestion that I have done anything to. obstruct the Government in carrying out their policy. A proposal to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the conduct of the recent general elections was carried in this House, and I understand that it is the intention of the Government to appoint such a Commission. Many members of the Opposition refrained from offering a protest against that motion because we had been, so to speak,, challenged by Ministerialists regarding the conduct of the recent elections. We had perforce to vote for it because of those charges. But since that motionhas been carried, I object to the editor of the Argus, or Mr. Maling, endeavouring to - “bulldoze,” I suppose, would be the proper expression - bend the Ministry to his will.
– Chop off. his head!
– I do not propose that, and I am not going to make- a long speech upon this matter either. I object to the reflection which has been cast upon this side of the House in that leader, and especially do I resent the portion which reads -
Indeed, several members of the boastful Opposition have taken care to “hedge” respecting the postal vote. They evidently have no desire to face the electors again, whilst refusing the franchise to those temporarily laid aside by illness.
Why we have been inviting the Prime Minister to withdraw a member or two from his side of the chamber. Let him withdraw a man, or let one of his supporters be ill, and then we shall have to face the electors. The peroration in this article-
– Doesnot the honorable member think that members have pledges to their constituents?
– But the author of this article is endeavouring to divert the Ministry from its duty. The article proceeds -
No report of a Royal Commission could absolve it from its pledge to the electors - repeated with great seriousness, in the earlier days of the Parliament - that the postal vote is to be restored to the 77,000 adults who are now deprived of it, that safeguards against duplicate voting are to be strengthened, that the absentee clauses of the present Act are to be amended to prevent abuse, and that the sections attempting to gag the press are to be repealed. These are not proper subjects for inquiry.
The article concludes -
There would be a prolonged roar of triumph from the Opposition if, at this stage, the Ministry were to allow itself to be diverted from the purpose. which it placed in the forefront of its declaration of policy, and it is incredible that Ministers would give occasion for such jubilation.
I think this article goes beyond what is fair in editorial criticism, and I therefore move -
That the comments of the editor of the Argus concerning the progress of the business of Parliament are mischievous, and are not calculated to assist the Government in carrying out its policy.
– Order ! A motion of that kind is not in accordance with our Standing Orders. Standing order 285 reads -
Any member complaining to the House of a statement in a newspaper as a. breach of privilege shall produce a copy of the paper containing the statement in question, and be prepared to give the name of the printer or publisher, and also submit a. substantive motion declaring the person in question to have been guilty of contempt.
The honorable member will require to put his motion in terms which accord with those laid down in that standing order.
– I can very soon supply the name of the publisher, because I have it here.
– The Standing Orders require that a motion of this kind shall be framed in such a way as to declare the person who is responsible for its publication to have been guilty of contempt.
– Then I would like to add to the motion the words, “ and that the editor of the Argus is guilty of contempt.”
– The honorable member will also require to include in his motion the name of the printer or publisher.
– Then I ask leave to amend my motion so as to make it read -
That the comments of the editor of the Argus concerning the progress of the business of Parliament are mischievous, and are not calculated to assist the Government in carrying out its policy, and that the editor of the Argus and Henry Burrell, the printer and publisher, are guilty of contempt.
– I do not see much in the motion, because this newspaper has no influence, and it is a mistake to think that it has. I wish to be fair to the poor Argus. In the first place, it is read only by people of this country who suffer from various troubles,
And who sit in their chairs and are being “nursed. In the early days, when I used to travel over the country, I found that the people, if they wished for news, read the Age, and that, when they requiredsomething to wrap their sausages in, they bought the Argus; but, even then, theGovernment, under the sanitary regulations, stepped in, because the paper was so full of poison that it was thought the children of the community would be injured. The danger- of a motion like this is that it will give the newspaper a circulation, whereas, at present, it has none, except amongst those who are dying or are preparing to die. Therefore, I cannot see much in the motion.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The Argus of Thursday last reports me as having, in an interjection, .suggested that the honorable member for Capricornia should call the Speaker names and get “ chucked out.” I never uttered such words in this chamber, and I give the statement an unqualified denial.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs in a position to give this House any information in regard to the Beef Trust now operating in Queensland ? When I asked the Attorney-General a question on this subject last week, I was informed that the Minister of Trade and Customs was making inquiries, and I think that there should be sufficient information obtainable in Queensland to be now laid before the House.
– The Department of Trade and Customs is certainly watching over the matter of a Beef Trust in Australia. Honorable members will ‘see, however, that it is not possible for us to give, at every stage of every inquiry, the information that may be in possession of the Department. I can say that the Department has no sympathy whatever with any trust or combination likely to interfere with the industries of Australia.
– There is sufficient evidence to establish the fact of a Beef Trust.
– The Department is watching over the matter with the closest care and scrutiny.
– Even if the Customs Department finds out that Messrs. Swift and Company are erecting works on the Brisbane River, and that that firm belongs to the American Beef Trust, is it possible to do anything to stop them ?
– I do not know whether the honorable member’s question is intended to obtain information or impart information. The Commonwealth has jurisdiction over the exports and the sea trade of Australia, and whatever powers the Commonwealth possesses, we are prepared, if occasion arises, to exercise.
– I take the opportunity, once again, to point out that, properly speaking, I should not have allowed the question by the honorable member for Yarra. I have pointed out on previous occasions that it is distinctly out of order to ask further questions arising out of replies givenby Ministers to questions already asked, unless the object of the further question is to elucidate an answer already given. It is not in order to follow up a question with further questions based on the answer given, and thus probably give rise to something very much in the nature of a debate or dialogue. The matter must not proceed further in the form of questions and replies.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs any intention whatever of interfering with the business of Messrs. Swift and Company in a way in which he would not interfere with the business of any other company?
– That is another question of the same nature to which I have just referred, and if answered, may lead to a further series based on the Minister’s reply. The question is disallowed.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Public Service Act - Promotion of T. Pittman as Clerk, 4th Class, Pensions Branch, Commonwealth Treasury, Victoria.
Wireless Telegraphy Act -
Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1913: No. 222.
Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1913, No. 263.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1, 2, and 3. The Marconi Company have filed their statement of claim, and the Government has filed its reply.
An order was obtained from the Court by the plaintiffs to enable them to inspect certain Commonwealth Wireless Stations, and this inspection has been made by the plaintiff company.
I do not think it is advisable, as a rule, to answer questions in cases where litigation is being carried on, but I may state I am advised that the Government has a good defence to the action.
asked the Minister representing the Ministerof Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
These particulars will have to be obtained from the State as well as the Military Authorities, and will be furnished as- soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Every such case submitted to the Minister which requires special consideration has been and will continue to be dealt with on its merits. The whole of the question is under further consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, uponnotice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Estimates : Alleged Increase of Expenditure - Financial Administration of Fisher Government1 - Wireless Telegraphy: Mr. Balsillie - Tariff Revision : Questions to Manufacturers by Inter-State Commission: Paper Board Industry: Anomalies - Match Industry: Preferential Duties - Imperial Conference - Prime Minister’s Speeches - Conduct of Business - Small-pox Outbreak : Quarantine - Federal Capital - Northern Territory: Land Tenure: Beef Trust: Freezing Works - Maternity Bonus - Liberal Institute, Parramatta - Potatoes, Export of : Bags : Inspection Charges - Defence : CompulsoryTraining : Expenditure : Administration - Fitzroy Dock: Discharge of Hands - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Inter-Parliamentary Union for Promotionof Peace - Members’ Travelling Expenses on Tramways - Contribution by Mr. Brookes to Liberal Organization in Western Australia Members’ Correspondence: Typists. in Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding£812,622 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1914.
The Estimates for the current year are now on the table.
– I understand that a month’s Supply is now asked for at the rates provided for in the Estimates for last year.
– Yes. Our proposals will be dealt with in detail in the usual way during the consideration of the Estimates. There is nothing out of the ordinary in this Bill to which to direct attention, except that the measure makes no provision for an advance to the Treasurer, because I rely on the passing of the Appropriation Works and Buildings Bill this week. That will provide money for the carrying on of the works, and buildings, and will unburden the Advance Account. Of course, if there should be delay in the passing of tha measure, I shall have to come to Parliament soon for an advance for the purpose of making payment for works that are now being proceeded with all over the country, but I do not anticipate the necessity for that. So far as my memory serves me, it is not usual for a Government to ask for Supply before it is wanted. The Supply for which I now ask will be imperatively necessary on Friday, and from. Tuesday to Friday is a good time to allow for the passing of a Supply Bill through both Houses of the Parliament. During my experience in Western Australia, the consideration of a Supply Bill rarely occupied more than an hour, the forces of the Opposition being directed to the criticism of the Estimates-in-Chief, not to the discussion of Supply Bills. Unless thereare special grievances, it is very seldom that a Supply Bill takes long to pass in any Parliament. Grievances have to be ventilated, but as practically the whole of last week was devoted to the discussion of grievances - grievances which, no doubt, to honorable members opposite, were considered very real - the subject ought now to be nearly exhausted. Believing that to be so, I ask my honorable friends to give a speedy passage to this Bill.
.- I appreciate the terms and manner in which the Treasurer has asked for a month’s Supply. I understand that some amount remains to the credit of his Advance Account, but not very much. It is a compliment to him that anything is left, because he is a good spender. He asks that the Bill may be passed practically without discussion. No doubt, grievances have been voiced very freely of late, but the head of the Government, and others on that side, take good care by misrepresentations outside, of the most gentle and cut-throat kind, to mislead the public as to the position of the Commonwealth finances, and as to the financial administration and policy of the late Government. I asked the Prime Minister to-day whether certain statements attributed to him by the press, reflecting on the action of the previous Government, and expressing his belief as to what that Government would have done had it been returned with a majority, were true, and he affirmed that they were. It was an outrage for him to assert that this party would break its pledges to the people. He had no warrant for doing so, and has no evidence that we have ever broken our pledges. The honorable gentleman’s statement was a gratuitous insult to the Labour party, though quite in keeping with his general conduct outside. The honorable gentleman made the statements to which I refer at Parramatta, in connexion with the opening of a Liberal Institute, in which, according to the report, he has a personal interest, having taken £100 worth of shares.
– No; £50 worth - 100 shares at 10s. each.
– I accept the correction, but the authority for my- statements is the following telegram which appeared in the Art/us of yesterday -
Sydney, Sunday. - The Prime Minister (Mr. Cook) attended a meeting held at Parramatta on Saturday night for the purpose of inaugurating the Liberal Institute, and he put his name down for £100 worth of shares in the Institute.
The report continues -
Referring to the finances, Mr. Cook said : “ I would ask the working man to remember that the average working man is contributing £i IOS. 4d. more in taxation now than he was three years ago. Mr. Hughes claims that all the social acts for the last twenty years have been due to the Labour party. If that be the case, a part of it must be the heavy rents which we have to pay to-day. In the State arena the Labour party has finished with a huge deficit. Mr. Fisher certainly left us a surplus, but he left us plenty of debts to pay. After cutting down their Estimates by some millions, we just manage to make ends meet.”
To-day he admitted that the Estimates are not the Estimates of his predecessors, but, according to the report which I have read, he said at Parramatta that they were.
– I say now that they are, in a sense.
– It is like the Prime Minister to blow hot and cold in this way. The Attorney-General, if he were at the head of a Government, would no more think of throwing the responsibility for the Estimates on to his predecessors than of cutting off his head. The responsibility for Estimates lies with the Government that brings them in, otherwise they have no standing. Apparently, this “Government is prepared to remain in office on any terms. Ministers justify their increased expenditure, which will be more than we expended in our most fruitful years, by draft Estimates prepared by the Departments on the usual lines of excessive expenditure. The Prime Minister said -
Had the Labour party gone back to office there would have been more taxation. Let there be no mistake on that, point. I make the statement here deliberately and solemnly.
To-day, in answer to a question, the honorable gentleman admitted that it was only his opinion. He acknowledged that lie had no evidence to support it. If he looks up the meaning of the word “ solemnly,” he will see that he is playing it fairly low down. I have no doubt that he will consider that he is doing so.
– I think that you are a good judge of what is “low down.”
– I do not pretend to be a good judge of the opinions of anybody, but I do claim that .if I make a mistake in fact, I take the earliest opportunity of correcting it.
– I made no mistake whatever.
– In solemnity, perhaps not, but in fact, yes. In no instance have we, as a party, gone against our pledges to the country. No new taxation was proposed, and no new taxation would have been imposed, and the attempt of the present Government to raise a new and fresh issue would in another sphere be characterized by the proper term, and the people who continue to make use of such statements, without evidence, would undoubtedly be put outside of ordinary decent society. That is just about how the matter stands. But what is behind the general statement that the previous Government had expended very much more during their term of office than did the Deakin Government in 1909-10? There is no comparison between that year and the years 1910-1911, 1911-12 and 1912-13. The expenditure on new works in that period, the amount of new social expenditure, the increases in the invalid and old-.age pensions, the maternity allowance, the gradual growth of the Public Service, the increase in the remuneration of State employes, and the very large expenditure on defence, exceeding anything in previous years, show clearly the reasons for the increase. Had the present Government been in office, would they have refrained from expending the money that was available on such enterprises of the Commonwealth ? Did not the Liberal party, did not the Prime Minister himself, whilst sitting in Opposition, did not the honorable member for Gwydir, and others, during the years prior to the expiration of the Braddon section, point out how the various services of the Commonwealth were being starved, - as regards public works and equipment, and the payment to employes? Immediately the money was available the previous Government took every proper step to get the works carried out on national lines. We did more. We not only avoided the raising of loans for defence, but accumulated a surplus amounting to 10s. lOd. per head, which was handed over to the present Government. They have mopped up that surplus. They speak of cutting down our expenditure, but they have increased the expenditure.
– I think that that is about the same amount as you mopped up on the last occasion, is it not?
– We mopped up a deficit when we took office.
– I am talking of last year.
– We mopped up a deficit when the honorable member left office.
– I am talking of last year.
– Order !
– Whenever an interjection is made while the Prime Minister is speaking he says “ Can I not be allowed to say a word? “ I do not object to the interjection, sir; on the contrary, I rather like it, because it enables us to understand what is in the mind of the Prime Minister for the time being. When he and his leader, Mr. Deakin, left office, they left a deficit. We paid off that deficit and left a surplus of £2,600,000.
– On a point of order, sir, I submit that the honorable member is guilty of tedious repetition. Hie has made use of that statement twenty times, to my knowledge, since this Parliament met.
– I have not heard the honorable member for Wide Bay repeat himself during the present sitting.
– In a previous discussion, the Prime Minister stated that the Fisher Government antedated the agreement between the Fusion Government and the State Governments by six months.
– Practically, yes.
– They did not.
– I think they did.
– Why do you not say that you are sure ?
– That was the practical effect.
– I contradicted the statement at the time. They did not.
– I know, and you know very well, that you “ collared “ the money in the next half-year.
– That is the term, “ collared the money.”
– The statement is absolutely inaccurate.
– It is absolutely true and accurate. c
– Order !
– It took us two months to get from the Prime Minister an admission that there was a surplus left by us.
– Back on that again ?
– It will probably take us two months to prove what can be seen by simply looking at the laws passed by this Parliament.
– You credited in the next six months the amount which you had ‘paid the States in the previous six months.
– Order !
– I hope, sir, that you will allow the Treasurer to interject, because he really knows something about this matter. The agreement was made between the States and the Commonwealth to take effect from the 30th June - does the right honorable gentleman remember when ?
– Yes; but that was a continuous agreement, until the people altered it, and the States agreed to it, too.
– I ask the Treasurer did we not start at the very date of the agreement ?
– How, then, could it be ante-dated by six months, as declared by the Prime Minister?
– It was not the first agreement.
– Because at that date you had paid them, as you were entitled to pay them, under the Surplus Revenue Act, many millions, and you deducted the amount from them in the succeeding six months.
– Order !
– That was in the terms of the agreement.
– No, it was not.
– The matter is a little technical, and it easily lends itself to the tactics of the Prime Minister in public. But the facts are admitted by the Treasurer, who understands that we started from the same day as did the agreement between the States and the Fusion Government.
– Yes, but that was curtailing it by six months.
– No; we started as I have just said.
– That is not the point I made.
– We carried out the terms of the States agreement, but the Prime Minister said that we ante-dated the agreement.
– So you did.
– The Prime Minister, unlike the Treasurer, who knows the facts, said that we ante-dated the payment six months from the day of the agreement.
– Yours was a tenyears’ agreement, but ours was not.
– That is another matter.
– The States agreed to our proposal, but not to yours.
– I need not pursue the matter further. The Treasurer now admits clearly that we carried out our pledges to our electors. We said we did not object to the payment of 25s. per head for a period, but we did object to a provision for the payment of that amount being embodied in the Constitution. Before and during the election, I stated that if we were returned we would pass a measure providing for the payment of that amount for ten years. That proposal was carried out to the very letter. We agreed to all the prin ciples embodied in the agreement, including the special payment of Western Australia.
– Yes, but the States did not agree to that, you know.
– The States got, and are getting now, an amount exactly in accordance with their agreement, and, if it is to be altered, it can only be altered by the Government. It was passed by the previous Government. If there is any risk, it will probably lie with this Government. But that was not the charge which was made against us. The charge was that we had taken from the States payment for six months, which the Fusion party would have given them. There is another of the misrepresentations which it is very easy to make and publish abroad, but so hard to refute. I have stated before the difficulty under which we, as a party, labour through having no central press to publish our statements of fact. It is only by continuous iteration and reiteration that we can hope to catch up to a set of statements that are contrary to the facts. I have figures showing comparisons between the proposed expenditure of the present Government and the expenditure of the previous Government. The figures show that our Administration was even more economical and more careful than the present Government indicate by their Budget proposals. I will content myself by making a general statement. We under-spent our revenue, whereas the present Government are already over-spending. Our commitments would not have been in excess of our financial position had we retained office, and the gratuitous statement, first given out as a fact, but now modified by the Prime Minister to a solemn opinion that he entertains, that if we had been returned we would have imposed other taxation, must be greatly discounted by honorable members in the House, and by people who know the honorable gentleman outside. I wish to offer my congratulations to the exPostmasterGeneral on the reply made by the PostmasterGeneral to a question asked to-day by the honorable member for Parkes regarding wireless telegraphy. The answer was that while the Minister did not think it wise to give the opinion of the expert, he indicated clearly that the Government were advised that they had a good defence to the action. The previous Government took a political risk in employing Mr. Balsillie. I was greatly responsible for choosing him in London. He is a comparatively young man, who happens to be an Australian. He received his first training in Brisbane. Subsequently he visited other parts of the world. He is undoubtedly a skilful man, and well worthy of the salary which we pay him. The late Government had to accept the responsibility-
– Is the honorable member going to discuss the question now ? I do not think that he should.
– I have said less than the Postmaster-General said. I am dealing with the position which is occupied by Mr. Balsillie. He was attacked most bitterly by honorable members opposite; lie was denounced as a man who had pirated other people’s patent rights, and as one who should not have been employed by the late Government. Whilst the Postmaster-General has said enough to vindicate his position, am I going too far if I say a word or two in favour of a public officer-
– Does not the honorable member think that he should wait until the case is closed?
– I was largely responsible for selecting him.
– The honorable member has told us that several times.
– Does the Prime Minister object if I say a word or two in favour of a good officer, who has passed through a severe ordeal, and who has received the commendation of the Postmaster-General ?
– The ordeal has not yet been completed.
– The denunciation was very complete. I have only spoken to Mr. Balsillie twice since he came out here. But I believe that this continent is better equipped with wireless than is any other country in the world, and all this has been accomplished within the brief space of two years. I think that we have reaBon to congratulate ourselves upon what has been done in this direction. We have wireless communication all round Australia, and we are in touch with the Antarctic and also with the East. Tt is only a matter of a very short time when our internal communication will be aerial, too. T invite the Government to give attention to this aspect of the matter. In my judgment, the great cost of constructing telegraph and telephone lines to the remote portions of Australia will be avoided in the near future. With the development of wireless telegraphy and wireless telephony, we shall be able to send messages from the sea-board inland, and from inland to the sea-board. It has always been a trouble with our remote settlers to secure speedy means of communication. T hope that this phase of the question will not be lost sight of by the Government in the general turmoil of party politics. In conclusion, I join with the Treasurer in the hope that the passing of this Supply Bill will not be needlessly delayed. The right honorable gentleman is unfortunate in that his colleagues behind him take good care that political controversy shall not be allowed to rest, and whilst statements are made which are wilfully misleading, it necessarily follows that they must be answered on occasions like the present.
– I join with the Leader of the Opposition in expressing the hope that there will be no needless obstruction to the passing of this Bill. But I wish to say a word or two to the Prime Minister regarding certain remarks which he is reported to have made the other day. He is alleged to have declared that the late Government neglected their duty by failing to revise the Tariff in the direction of imposing sufficiently high protective duties on articles which are coming into the Commonwealth, to the detriment of Australian industries.
– Where did this take place?
– It is idle for the Prime Minister to ask that question. He sees that I have not the statement with me just now. Does he deny that he made use of words the effect of which I have quoted ? Does he deny having stated that it was the duty of the late Government to revise the Tariff and to give further protection to Australian industries? He is silent. He can deny most things, but he cannot deny that.
– I cannot deny it, because I do not know.
– The Prime Minister does not know what he says, and he does not care. He certainly has two voices, and he sometimes speaks in half-a-dozen voices. He tells the public at one place that he is anxious that he should get certain legislation through this House-
– I will have to tell them the truth, which is that the honorable member is sticking up business, and will not let it through. What else can I do?
– There is no earnestness in that interjection. The Prime Minister has preambulated over tins country addressing banquetting gatherings, and has1 spoken not merely with two voices, but with many voices. On one occasion he stated that the Government were determined to get their programme through, and that they would not put up with very much from the Opposition. Loud cheers greeted his statement, because his hearers thought that if he did not get his -.programme through,, he was going to face the music.
– I hope he does.
– Of course, a large winegrower who can take a trip to the Old Country, stay away for twelve months, draw his parliamentary salary, and be returned again to this House, can afford to say anything. These interruptions, I am sure, are for the purpose of occupying my time. I repeat that the Prime Minister on one occasion declared that he wanted to pass certain legislation. But on another occasion he said, “ I think it is time Australia had a rest from legislation, don’t you?” Then his Conservative hearers cheered again, and in effect said, “ Yes, we think we want a rest from legislation.” This audacious freetrader, who voted against every proposal to give increased protection to Australian industries, actually had the temerity to attend a meeting the other day,, and to blame the late Government for not having revised the Tariff with a view to giving those industries further protection.
– I think he has a good hide.
– Of course, it is said that a man can go a long way in politics if he has a good hide. I am sorry, indeed, that we are not now dealing with the Tariff. I regret that it has been referred to the Inter-State Commission, because I believe it will be a very long time before we have an opportunity of revising it, and of dealing with the £78,000,000 worth of imports which annually find their way into the Commonwealth. These figures evidence the extent to which our imports have grown. There are many unemployed in our midst, and there are many industries that require further protection. If I were asked, “’ How do you judge that protection is required in Australia?” I would refer to the amount of revenue we receive by way of import duties. When 1 .learned that our imports had assumed such enormous dimensions, I would not bother about sending out a long list of questions, such as the. Inter-State Commission have sent out to manufacturers. I would accept the fact that we annually import £78,000,000 worth of goods from- Japan and other cheap labour countries, as the strongest possible evidence that Australian industries require more protection. I invite the attention of honorable members to the list of questions which have been forwarded to manufacturers by the Inter-State Commission.
– I think they are on right lines.
– I beg to differ from the honorable member. A man may be engaged in an industry, either in a small way or in a moderately large Way. As a matter of fact, many of our manufacturers are mechanics. They have not been trained as accountants. Yet it would require the knowledge of an actuary to answer some of these questions.
– Some of them are absolutely idiotic.
– I find that an applicant for Tariff investigation is asked his name, his postal, address, the business proposed, the situation of his factory, and the estimated employment to be afforded by the proposed industry. Now, a man may be able to answer those questions, but he would have to do so in a spirit of hope. The next question asked is, what proportion the cost of labour bears to the total factory cost of the finished article imported or made in Australia ? Fancy asking an Australian manufacturer to answer that question ‘.
– That is what they say they do not know; they know it in regard to foreign countries, but, apparently, not in regard to their own.
– How is it possible for any man in Australia, unless he has been abroad, to answer what is really an unnecessary question? As a matter of fact, many of the manufacturers have to employ independent accountants to make up their income-tax returns.
– They have to give the information to the Statist now.
– Then the manufacturers are asked to say what countries at the present time are most successful in the manufacture of the article for the Australian market, and to specify, if possible, the wages paid in such countries in the industry referred to, and give their authority. Are the manufacturers supposed to search the Public Library in order to ascertain the wages paid in the various countries throughout the world ? If a manufacturer were to come to the Parliamentary Library, which is supposed to be one of the most up-to-date, and ask for the Japan Year-Booh, he would find that the latest obtainable there is five or six years old. The next question that is asked is what is the ruling freight pelton on the article from the countries mentioned ? How is a manufacturer to get his work done if he has to run round and inquire from the shipping companies the freights from various countries? Indeed, it is doubtful whether he would get the information from the companies. Further, he is asked to say what proportion the freight bears to the total landed cost, but not the duty paid in Australia. Perhaps there is not much objection to the request for the information as to the capital proposed to be invested in land, buildings, and so forth; but the manufacturer is called upon to say whether the article is being manufactured, or partly manufactured, in Australia, and to give the names and addresses of the manufacturers. What did we appoint an Inter-State Commission for but to investigate such matters? The members of the Inter-State Commission are men of considerable capacity, and we pay them reasonable salaries, and give them a staff that costs several thousands of pounds a year.
– Surely the honorable member does not expect men with such salaries to work?
– I expected that the work of the Inter-State Commission was to be of a very onerous character.
– No Minister is present.
– At any rate, the only Minister present is the Minister of External Affairs, and this shows how much interest the Government take in the question.
– The Minister of External Affairs was specially selected to be present because of the profound character of the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia.
– I know that my remarks are much too deep for a Free Trader like the honorable member for Parkes to grasp; he, like the honorable member for Werriwa, takes the view that no Protectionist has any brains whatever. What the public like about the politician is earnestness and sincerity; and I wonder that they have not been able to see through the Prime Minister and those of his colleagues who profess to be Protectionists now. We have appointed an Inter-State Commission, which sends forth a list of questions that it would take the highest actuarial skill to answer.
– They are very good questions.
– I think that the exMinister of Trade and Customs is wrong in the attitude he takes up towards the manufacturers. Following the questions there is the following declaration -
I,………………… , the person making this application, do solemnly and sincerely declare that the several matters and things herein stated, and also those stated in the documents and lists attached, are true and correct in every particular. And I make this solemn declaration by virtue of the Statutory Declarations Act1911, conscientiously believing the statements therein to be true in every particular.
How could any manufacturer swear to that? The Prime Minister, who professes to be so anxious to protect Australian industries, had no sympathy with the questions I asked the other day in reference to the preferential treatment given to British goods.
– Does the honoiable member not agree with that preference?
– Only in regard to goods produced by union labour; and I ask honorable members opposite whether they are prepared to take up a similar position. I saw an article the other day in the Argus which I sometimes read - not more than once a day - referring to the desire expressed by the local match manufacturers for better treatment; and in reply to a letter which I sent to the chairman of the company, I received a communication which I am at liberty to use. I desire to remind the Prime Minister of what he had to say the other day about the formation of a combination in the Old Country with £50,000,000 capital to fight trade unionism, and to tell honorable members that I have a list of some of the prominent men who contributed.
Some of the individual subscriptions amount to over £10,000; and the union has been formed for the purpose of bargaining collectively with trade unions, or with what are called free individuals or non-unionists. We know what the rate of wages will become if trade unionists become divided, and the employers can bargain with what they call free workers. It is time we took up the attitude that we will not allow goods into Australia, at the preferential rate, from the Old Country, unless they have been manufactured at a fair rate of wages. If we countenance the sweater in the Old Country, we disadvantage the trade unionists there as well as trade unionists in Australia. Nowadays we are making rapid strides with trade unions everywhere, and unionism is not confined to the legal profession, of which the honorable member for Parkes is such an ornament. The article in the Argus is of such an unkind character that I thought I would write to Messrs. Bryant and May, and Messrs. Bell and Company, and this is their reply -
Melbourne, 25th July, 1913.
Dear Mr. Higgs,
I have your letter of 23rd inst., and am only too pleased to give you the information you desire.
It is clear that the Argus article must have been written under some misapprehension, for it is incredible that a journal which has always been so fair and favorable to Australian manufacturers should now seek to damage one in which so many Australians are employed under ideal conditions. I have not thought fit to answer their charge, which, if it can be taken seriously, amounts to one of “ bluffing for higher duties.” Exactly how much there is in this you shall judge for yourself, and I would further have you know that all our assertions are fully borne out by the books of the company, which I undertake shall be exposed unreservedly to the Tariff Commission when appointed.
Great Britain is our worst competitor, because of the 50 per cent. preference. (Could there be a greater anomaly in a Tariff which, in the main’, jjives a 5 per cent. preference to British goods, and in only a few rare instances rises to 10 per cent. and 12½ per cent. ?)
When this absurdity was first enacted the Swedish companies combined to establish a factory in England, with the express intention of catering for the Australian market - and that alone ! We do not know how much of the work is actually done there (we think very little, except dipping and packing; the boxes, or, in any case, the splints for matches and skillets for box-making are cut and shipped from Sweden), but we do know under what labour conditions that work is done. Onlv last month the employes of the Anglo-Swedish concern at Barking were out on strike, and, from their statement, it appears that they had been asked to work on the average fifty-five hours per week for the magnificent remuneration of from 16s. to 22s. The day workers’ money is from 3½d. to 4d. per hour, and this class of work is performed in many instances by men who have wives and children to support, and thev are asking for½d. per hour increase ! In our factory the hours are forty-eight per week, and the wages average, for men, 45s. to 66s. per week; and for girls, £1 to 45s. The lowest wages paid in the factory are to a few young girls, beginners, who have a minimum of10s.,but who are on piecework, and can earn up to twice that amount if capable. There are very few boys in the factory, and the average age of the girls would be in the neighbourhood of eighteen to twenty years. I have said above that the conditions are ideal, but we particularly want you to satisfy yourself on that point, and I should take it as a personal favour if you and a party of your friends (political or otherwise) will do us the honour of a visit. Ladies will be most welcome.You have only to give us a couple of days’ notice, and we can promise you an extremely interesting afternoon. There is nothing in Australia at all like the wonderful machinery used here.
Now as to the charge of “running cunning” with a view of getting further Tariff consideration. Wood match making in Australia does not pay, and we can prove it to the satisfaction of any impartial person - as we did, in fact, prove it to the expert accountants sent here at our own request by the ex-Minister of Customs. Fortunately, the profits of this company do not depend on the manufacture of matches, wax or wood. We have arrangements” with British and foreign makers - and we have never concealed the fact - which enable us to import on the most satisfactory terms, and such dividends as we have been able to declare in the past are entirely due to this branch of our business. Under an effective Tariff, which ensured the goods being made in Australia, such arrangements would have no force, and we should forego that portion of our profits; but Australian labour and other Australian manufacturers would be corresponding gainers. We are now persevering with the manufacture of wood safeties because both parties in Parliament have definitely declared for Tariff revision, and meanwhile we had rather employ our plant, even at a loss, while we are training our staff against better times; but please do not believe that we are, as has been represented, “ in full swing again.” On the contrary, we have less tiran half our wood match plant employed ; to fully man it would require a further 100 hands at least, and even then our output would be quite a small proportion of the consumption of Australia. There would still be lots of room left for other factories, or for importations. Just how ‘* effective “ the present protection is may be determined by reference to the following figures : - Wood Safety Matches. 1910. - Imports, 18,584 cases; local sales, 1,442 cases; total 20,026 cases. 1911. - Imports, 22.185 cases; local sales, 2,671 cases ; total, 24,856 cases. 1912. - Imports, 27,683 oases; local sales, 820 cases; total, 28,503 cases.
The quality of our goods undoubtedly gave trouble at the outset, but this has now been entirely overcome, and their merit is recognised by the trade: so much so that we could, if we wished, take orders for many thousands of cases
So much for “ wood safeties,” which are the heaviest line, and which are rapidly displacing wax vestas throughout Australia. As to the latter, wax vesta making in Australia has been a reasonably profitable industry for several years past. We never ceased work in that branch. It is a good industry for the direct employment of labour, and immensely important to other subsidiary industries, e.g., our account with one local stearine factory is at least £1,000 per month, and with the local strawboard manufacturers from £200 to£300, and both of these items would be more than doubled under a satisfactory Tariff. They are merely given as instances of how our industry helps others. Of course they, too, only employ Australian labour under Australian labour conditions and rates of wages. As to the conditions in force at our own works, we repeat our invitation, to come and see for yourself.
Match making carries over a bad reputation from the old days of “ phossy jaw.” With our process there never has been, and never can be, any risk to the health of those employed. In fact, it is about the healthiest industry of the lot. Again, come and look at our young ladies and judge for yourself.
Thanking you again for the interest you have shown in this matter, as in all other matters where Australian industrial interests are concerned, and looking forward to shortly meeting you at the “ Empire Works,”
Bryant& May, Bell & Co. Pty. Ltd.
P.S. - You are at full liberty to make any use you may choose of the information contained in this letter.
– Has the honorable member a brief for this company ?
– The time allowed to the honorable member by the Standing Orders has expired.
.- I shall take advantage of the second speech allowed during Committee discussions to finish what I have to say on this subject. The honorable member for Werriwa is personally a very nice man, but politically, at times, he goes out of his mind. He asks if I have a brief for the company, a question which gives a clue to his mental attitude when the Tariff was under discussion some years ago, when any one who advocated Protection was, according to him, impliedly guilty of the grossest corruption. The honorable member could not find expressions bad enough to apply to such members.
I have no brief for the company, except the brief which I consider that I hold for every company, and there is nothing marked on the brief, that is, I get nothing for my advocacy of the claims of local manufacturers. But, as an Australian, I consider it to bemy duty to try to get good protection for every industry that exists in the Commonwealth, or could be established here. My only reward is the feeling that I am thus doing my duty to my fellow countrymen.
Some persons take the view that, rather than protect an industry like this, it would be better to pension off those employed in it. That was the old cry of the present High Commissioner in regard to this very industry, and, no doubt, thehonorable member for Werriwa, if the embargo on free speech which has been placed by the Government on its supporters were removed, would say something of the same kind again now. It is possible that the labour cost of the production of a given industry may be very small. Complex and costly machinery maybe used to do away with hand labour. If honorable members visit the exhibition now being held in Melbourne, they will see machinery belonging to this very company cutting narrow, ribbon-like strips of wood from pine logs, and will see other machinery making up boxes, shaping matches, and performing many other processes necessary in the match-making industry. I hope that as time goes on machinery will enter largely into all industries, and thus lighten the burden of humanity, doing away, as far as possible, with uncongenial manual toil. The more perfect the machinery, the better it is for humanity, so long as the wealth which is produced is properly and equitably distributed. Employes must receive good wages and work short hours. They must have plenty of money with which to feed, clothe, and educate their children.
I would not refuse protection to the Australian manufacturers of matches if the labour cost of matches were only 5 per cent, of the total cost of production, because the shareholders live in Australia - certainly the chairman of directors does - and the dividends, when they are received, will be spent here on the employment of builders and artisans of all kinds for the construction of houses, and in giving work to tradesmen and to many others. It is better for Australia to have money thusspent here than to have matches imported from abroad made by persons who contribute nothing to the cost of governing the country. It is said that Australia needs population, and she does. When I visit my constituents, I sometimes ask, “ Why is it that you cannot hear Madame Melba, or the great lecturers who visit Australia? Why cannot you see fine plays? Why have you not big public libraries and other comforts of civilization?” I tell them that it is because of land monopoly and the fewness of our people. There is not enough population in the country to support these things. We need a large population to make the cost of government as cheap as possible. But we cannot get a large population unless we give adequate protection to our industries. It is useless for our friends opposite to bring hundreds and thousands of immigrants to this country in the hope that they will stay here, because they will not stay here unless there is work for them to do.
– In Victoria the population has been declining for the last six months. In Victoria we are not retaining the natural increase in the population.
– That is a very serious and alarming statement, and I accept the honorable member’s word for it.
– Victoria has not done so for twenty years. It is the natural result. People go where there is more land.
– I remember the time when the honorable member and his Free Trade friends in New South Wales used to draw attention to the number of persons going out of Victoria, and compare the populations of New South Wales and Victoria; but they never told the public that New South Wales was about four times the size of Victoria. It is of no use to bring immigrants here unless there is good employment for them when they arrive. Just prior to Federation, mechanics were leaving Australia to go abroad, because there was not sufficient work to keep them here. I notice that most extraordinary efforts are being made to bring immigrants here. The London Daily Sketch of the 25th September last contains an advertisement from Western Australia entitled “ A Unique Offer,” in which specially cheap passages by a White Star liner are held out; -
The Government of this go-ahead State is doing its utmost to help the farmer, encourage the worker, and attract suitable settlers, and to this end the Agent-General for Western Australia has chartered two fine steamers, which rank among the best-fitted vessels leaving England for Australia, to accommodate a large contingent of farmers, farm labourers, and domestic servants.
Arrangements have been made for sending ,000 farm hands and country workers to land in Western Australia in time for this year’s harvesting. Passages are now being booked, and the special cheap fares will be granted to all approved strong and healthy men who are willing to work on the land, as well as to respectable girls who are prepared to undertake household duties, even though they may not have been specially trained for this kind of work.
Male adults are granted assisted passages for £6, about one-third of the lowest class of ordinary fare.
The man who desires to take his wife with him can do so for an extra charge of £3, while the fare for children under twelve is 30s. These are the only charges made beyond a deposit of £3 per head landing money, which is refunded immediately on arrival.
It is said, also, that the authorities are bringing out farm labourers, though I doubt that it is possible to get such persons in Great Britain at present. When we were in Scotland two years ago, we read complaints in the press of farmers leaving that country for Canada. There was a good deal of consternation expressed at that time, and I think it is very doubtful, indeed, whether farm labourers can now be got to leave Great Britain for Australia. I do not think that many persons are being trained there to farming.
– Not according to Mr. Lloyd-George’s account.
– No. Have we not all read what Mr. Lloyd-George has said about the lands in Scotland, which are overrun by deer, and which once accommodated many yeomen ? What applies to Scotland applies to a great deal of the country in England. There are, I believe, 13,000,000 acres of uncultivated land in England. We all admit that farmers need a little capital when they come to Australia. There is plenty of land here for them.
– What is the good of the land, unless you have free railways, in order to .take their produce to market?
– I cannot join my honorable friend in his free railway business, because many persons would not get a show to ride in the trains, and yet would have to contribute to the cost of their 1 maintenance.
– They do now.
– I can see that my honorable friend wishes to lead me into a discussion. Iti many cases a farmer whocomes here from Great Britain must geta shock. It is very surprising to an Australian to observe the fields or the farmsin the Old Country. At the time of our visit they were covered with a green carpet. Take a British farmer, and put- him on some of the bush lands in any part of Australia, face to face with timber that will take from £7 to £10 an aero to clear, when, perhaps, he has no money. The treatment of the immigrant is very haphazard. The Western Australian Government give him three days’ free accommodation, I believe, and then start him out. If we cannot get farmers, we are getting grocers’ assistants, drapers’ assistants, clerks, and some mechanics. I believe that members of the engineering trades have come out here, but I am not sure that they have been able to get employment. That brings me back to the necessity for revising the Tariff, With a view to giving scientific Protection. I do not know whether it would be well, at this stage, to sound a note of warning to those who believe in Australia, and desire to see the Tariff revised, that the Government are spending so much money and in such a way that it will be almost impossible to reduce the revenue from Customs duties.
– The Government are hurrying into recess without rectifying even one anomaly. ‘
– In all conscience, the Government will not be able to get there before the middle of December, surely.
– Yes, they will.
– The Treasurer, I know, is a courageous man. We have now discovered why he got his Audit Bill through, and why he said that it would be of no use to the Government unless we made it apply to every year. We desired to apply the measure to every electoral year, that is, to 1916, 1919, and so on.
– It means that the Government will not open Parliament till August.
– That is what it means. -On reflection, I came to think that the Imperial Conference had something to do, with the introduction of the measure. The Government did not want to meet Parliament next year until August, and in the meantime the Treasurer, accompanied by the Prime Minister and, no doubt, by the Minister of Defence, would . have a trip to England, and duly impress >the natives. In all sincerity, I hope that he will be able to get a trip next year, “but I would rather that he should go as an ex-Minister.
– Yes; that is generally my luck.
– The right honorable gentleman, tells us that it is generally his luck to go to the Old Country as an exMinister.
– Order I The honorable member cannot discuss these personal matters.
– I believe, sir, that next time the right honorable gentleman will go to the Old Country as Treasurer of the Commonwealth. Everything points to the fact that the Prime Minister, although he has expressed a desire to pass legislation, wishes to get into recess as soon as possible, and to have a spell. No doubt, he is entitled to a spell, because he has had rather a rough time as Prime Minister, and previously he had a pretty rough time as Deputy Leader of the Opposition. He did all the work on the other side, and the burden of stirring up this side is still on his shoulders. He seems to stir us up, I think, more than any other Minister does, and he succeeds very well. I am glad that he has returned to the chamber.
– You do not want much stirring up. I cannot speak nowadays.
– I will sit down if the honorable member will speak.
– We want to get along.
– I wish to emphasize the necessity for Tariff revision. The InterState Commission have, I think, gone the wrong way about their work. The long list of questions to which they desire a statutory declaration will in very rare instances be answered. The manufacturers will be prepared to go on and suffer, because they will not be able to comply with the demands made by the Commission. The Prime Minister has seen the error of his ways, and become a real, sincere Protectionist, because he must be that when he charges the former Government with having neglected their duty and with having failed to revise the Tariff to give further Protection to Australian industries.
– You will not say so when he is on this side, and a Labour Government bring in a revison of the Tariff.
– I believe that all along the Prime Minister has been a Protectionist at heart. I appeal to him to give the Inter-State Commission a hint that the Government want an early report as to the state of Australian industries.
– On high Tariff lines?
– No; if the Inter-State Commission will bring in a report, we will supply the High Tariff lines. Let nobody be under the impression that the Tariff has gone to the Inter-State Commission. Some people have an idea that the Tariff has become a non-party matter, and that the Commission’s report, whatever it may be, may be accepted : but unless the report carries with it sufficiently high protective duties for Australian manufacturers, I, for one, will not support it, but will vote for increased duties.
– I think that I can promise to vote for all their duties.
– The honorable member evidently thinks, from the composition of the Commission, that its report is not likely to be very strongly Protectionist.
– I think I can promise now that I will vote for all the duties they suggest.
– 1 should like to warn the Australian manufacturer, through the press, that he must not depend upon the Inter-State Commission, but that he should continue to demand from this Parliament a revision of the Tariff, and, above all, he should not be led away into thinking that he is going to get Protection from the body because it is an Inter-State Commission. The moment that their report is laid on the table of this House, the fight will commence, and the Free Traders here will attempt to secure lower duties if high Protectionist duties are proposed, while the Protectionists who are here, if they think that low duties are proposed, will try to get higher duties; so that referring the Tariff to the InterState Commission has not settled the fiscal question. It has to be fought out.
– Let it be fought out on its merits here.
– Let the fiscal question be fought out “on its merits here and in the country.
– The Protectionists will have a big handicap this time.
– The only handicap to which Protection can be subjected will be on account of the state of parties in this House.
– We have made one great gain- I refer to the Prime Minister.
– Yes. The party system sometimes seems to be the only workable political instrument, and yet, without a doubt, it has its disadvantages. With the indulgence of honorable members I have been able this afternoon to make a few remarks on the question of Protection uninterrupted by rude howls from the Ministerial ‘ benches, and I do hope that the Prime Minister will consider my observations. Indeed, I think I shall send him a proof copy of my speech, because he has not been listening to it. I do not know whether he is becoming callous - whether he has arrived at that philosophical state of mind when he imagines that nothing matters. I wonder if he has reached the stage at which he thinks, ‘ ‘ If we amend the Tariff, well and good; if we do not amend it, well and good;” and “if we pass the Electoral Bill, well and good; if we do not pass it, well and good “ - that is, so long as he is allowed to continue Prime Minister, aud the Treasurer does not worry him too much. I do commend my observations on the question of Protection to him for his consideration.
– I should scarcely have, risen to answer some of the remarks of the honorable member if they had been addressed only to this House, because, without hearing them and without knowing by whom they were uttered, people would be unable to make anything out of them. But the Hansard reporters, with their wonderful ingenuity and cleverness, will doubtless be able to make something out of them.
– I rise to a point of order. I take the most serious exception to that remark. I do not believe that there are any speeches delivered in this House which are altered less by the Hansard reporters than are my own.
– What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that the honorable member for Werriwa is misrepresenting me by making it appear that my speech will be made for me by the Hansard reporters. I also’ take the view that people outside will’ read what the honorable member has said. I shall have to apply an epithet to him if he persists in his statement.
– If the remark made by the honorable member for Werriwa is regarded as offensive by thehonorable member, I have no doubt that it will be withdrawn.
– I was going to suggest that by the exercise oil imagination the Hansard reporters may be able to make the honorable member’s speech clearer-
– A miserable quibble. I ask that the honorable member’s remark be withdrawn unreservedly.
– The honorable member for Werriwa has made a reflection on the honorable member for Capricornia, and I ask that the offensive remark be withdrawn.
– Of course, I bow to your ruling, sir, and withdraw the remark. ‘ If the honorable member had been addressing himself only’ to this House, I would not have taken exception to his statements. Bat a report of his speech will go forth to the world in Hansard, and although he objects to his remarks being made sensible, I have no doubt that they will be. One of his statements was that our party are in favour of increasing the taxation of the community. That is undoubtedly not correct. The honorable member knows that the Prime Minister is committed over and over again to a reduction of the taxation of the people as soon as there is a chance of doing that.
– Oh, oh !
– Our party came into office five days before the beginning of the current financial year. So that we had only five days in which to arrest the extravagant expenditure of the late Government. The honorable member for Capricornia has already heard the declaration of the Prime Minister that the Government have endeavoured to put an end to that expenditure, and that, with that object in view, some millions of pounds have been pruned off the Estimates. Our party does not pretend that it is possible to do more than that. Whilst the late Government were in power our taxation increased from £1 16s. per head to £3 10s. 3d. per head.
– It did nothing of the kind.
– I do not know whether the honorable member can add up the figures, but I can assure him that the Statistician has done the work for him. I repeat that, since the advent of the Caucus party to office, taxation has increased from £1 16s. per head to £3 10s. 3d. per head. These are the official figures on the subject.
– Quote them.
– They are taken from the official Year-Book. When I find that this tremendous load of taxation has been imposed by the party opposite, I cannot allow the speech of the honorable member for Capricornia, in which he committed himself and his party to the further taxation of the people of this country, to go unanswered. He read a brief on behalf of a particular firm, just as if he were a barrister employed by a client.
– I have heard the honorable member do the same thing frequently, on behalf of the importers.
– The honorable member has never heard me do the same thing in his tfe. If the side of the importers coincides with that of the people, I rejoice to have been on the side of the importers. The honorable member for Capricornia declaimed vigorously against our volume of imports; but let me remind him that, just in proportion to the increase of our import trade, our manufacturing trade increases. Just as values have increased in the one case from something like £36,000,000 to £76,000,000. in the other case they have jumped from £34,000,000 to £54,000,000. When speaking on this subject, the honorable member did not seem to appreciate that, as a rule, increasing imports mark the increasing prosperity of a country, and that, with that increased prosperity, there is necessarily an increased demand for the manufactures of that country. Nobody can rejoice more than I do at the natural increase in the prosperity of the great manufacturing class. In fact, 80 per cent, of the increased value of manufactures in this country is absolutely independent of any Tariff whatever.
– The honorable member’s party pledged themselves not to touch it.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. As soon as we have been able to cure the wanton, wicked, wilful extravagance of the Caucus party, we shall strive to cut down the taxation of the people.
– Order ! I am quite sure that it is impossible for the Hansard reporter to hear what the honorable member is saying, on account of the hum of conversation and the numerous interjections. There are practically two or three members speaking simultaneously.
– I was -pointing out that the honorable member for Capricornia had gone out of his way to speak on behalf of a particular manufacturer, just as a lawyer would speak on behalf of a client. I trust that the time when we shall witness similar exhibitions is rapidly passing away. I hope that honorable members will speak only on behalf of the people, who are their true clients. Our aim should be to cut down taxation. Unfortunately, time after time we find ourselves forced into a position similar to that into which we were recently forced by legislation enacted last year at the instance of the Labour party, under which we were obliged to make up £750,000 of revenue in connexion with the sugar industry. I know that, three or four years hence, some honorable members opposite will begin to talk the other way. It is because they do not realize what they are doing that I feel bound to put them right. I trust that we shall never again witness an honorable member in this House speaking on behalf of a particular client, and urging that it is our duty not to consider the consumer, but to consider the manufacturer. Our duty is to consider the interests of every class of the community, and not those of a particular section.
– Not those of the trusts ?
– The only members of the trusts are men drawn from the big manufacturing class, of whom the honor.able member for Capricornia has spoken. You cannot impose a Tariff without the people having to pay for it.
– Does not the foreigner pay for a lot of it f
– I would not presume to argue in that way with the honorable member for Barrier. The honorable member might as well say that if he was dealing with a man in America, and there was an interchange of £1,000 worth of goods, the American might claim that, because in his country a duty of 50 per cent, was imposed on the goods sent to him, the honorable member for Barrier should send him £1,500 worth of goods for the £1,000 worth of goods he received.
– I have heard it argued that the foreigner pays some of the duty imposed by a Tariff.
– No doubt the honorable member has heard that argument from men of the mental calibre of the honorable member for Capricornia. I hope that if the question of the Tariff is again brought up, there will be some consideration given to the interests of the great masses of the people. I hope we shall not again have returned to power a political party the members of which are prepared to place first the interests, not of the manufacturing class as a whole, but of the great manufacturers. I do not wish to see the big manufacturer harassed in any way. I look upon himas a desirable member of the community, but I say that he has no more right to make his profits at the expense of some one else than the. worker has a right towork at other peoples expense. We do not guarantee the farmer against loss during times of drought, and why should we guarantee the manufacturer against loss of interest on any of his plant by forcing people to buy from him ?
– Does not a drought affect the manufacturer as well as the farmer 1
– Later on, perhaps; but farmers cannot force people to buy from them. As we cannot safeguard the farmer against drought, we have no right to safeguard the profits of the manufacturer by permitting him to take them from the farmer who suffers from the drought. Farmers, miners, and other producers in this country are selling the whole- of their products in open competition in the markets of the world. They have to pay freight on their products tothe other side of the world; yet they are not in the least degree considered by some honorable members. The bulk of the manufacturing class do not come to Parliament for assistance at all. They get asfar from Parliament as possible, but the ring and trust men come to Parliament, and they find ready supporters in the members of the Caucus party. Honorable members opposite have devoted their time to talking against trusts and voting for them.
– Then why do they not assist us at election time ?
– I have no doubt that my honorable friends received a great deal of support from them. The rings and trusts would be a very ungrateful lot if they did not work hard and vote for the party opposite. There is a pretence between the trusts and honorable members opposite. My honorable friends say, “ We can talk against each other, but so long as you vote for us it is all right,” and they become the ready followers of the ideas of the trusts, and vote exactly as the interests of one or two of the big trusts demand, and not as the interests of the people require.
– I suppose that is why we are in favour of nationalization ?
– This is the sort of stuff that bluffs the J. P. in a country Police Court.
– The honorable member may have had more experience of country Police Courts than I have had. I do not care to inquire in what position he has appeared in them. If one wished for an instance of. what the honorable member for Capricornia speaks of as “ coddling the big men,” he need only consider the legislation passed by the Caucus party to give up £700,000 of Excise a year to the big sugar mill owners.
– The honorable member will get some of it.
– Our party had nothing to do with it. The whole thing was settled by the legislation passed by honorable members opposite on the 21st December last year.
– Members of the party to which the honorable member belongs voted for it.
– I never voted for it, and would not have dreamt of doing so. The present Minister of External Affairs and I, in 1902, 1903, and 1905, pointed out what the cost of this socalled industry would be to the community, and the injury the legislation then proposed would do to the consumers. I do not wish to hear from the honorable member for Capricornia or any other honorable member opposite any more talk about the party being in favour of the poorer people. They have condemned the trusts and combines from scores of platforms, but they cheerfully voted over £700,000 a year Excise for their benefit in connexion with the sugar business. After that, all their protestations about considering the interests of the people are but idle words. Their words against trusts should be treated as the idle wind. We might ask of them, in the words of Job, “ When shall vain words have an end?” The honorable member for Capricornia spoke for a particular manufacturer, and was not able even to say how many men are employed in the industry in which he was engaged. He practically told us that the statement of one manufacturer should outweigh the statements of every one else. There was a time when the spirit of serfdom was so strong in people that when one of the great landlords deigned to speak, they would bow down and grovel in the earth before him. The same spirit would seem still to animate honorable members opposite, and they cannot help grovelling when they hear the voice of the manufacturer. During the whole of their régime, the political party opposite increased the taxation of the people. They cannot escape the fact that their very last act was to yield up £700,000 a year in Excise duties on sugar. The public will still have to pay that amount, because, although the duty has now been repealed for over three months, there has not been a drop of one half-penny per pound in the price of sugar.
– Order ! The honorable member is dealing with a matter which was settled some time ago. I must request him not to further refer to it now.
– I could very easily connect what I have said about the loss of £700,000 in Excise revenue with this Bill, because it might be claimed that it considerably affects the granting of the Supply that is now asked for. I hope that we shall hear no more pretences from the members of the Caucus party about their being against trusts. They may talk in that way, but they vote in the other way, and we must judge them by their votes, and not by their speeches.
.- For the greatest political humbug to which I have ever listened commend me to the speech of the honorable member who has just sat down. He poses as a great Free Trader, and takes the honorable member for Capricornia to task but he has had to agree to the platform of honorable members on the other side, who are prepared to sink the fiscal issue during this Parliament and the next. Those were the terms of the agreement on which the honorable member secured his election, but at the election he had not the moral courage to say a solitary word concerning them.
– I did refer to them.
– The honorable member avoided it on every possible occasion. Is it not sheer political humbug for the honorable member to talk in the strain to which we have just listened ? He talks about relieving the people of taxation, and says that the Caucus party have been responsible for wilful, wicked extravagance. Those remarks were received with cheers by honorable members on his own side, but when the honorable member explained what he meant by them there was no cheering. The honorable member said that the wilful extravagance has been in connexion with the defence of the country. We can only come to the conclusion that he is opposed to the scheme of defence now being adopted. He is opposed to universal training. The honorable member is opposed to the defence of the country as carried out at the present time.
– Not to naval defence. I would have as much of that as the honorable member pleases.
– If the honorable member did not mean that, why did he accuse honorable members on this side of extravagance in spending £3,500,000 on defence 1 ,
– The honorable member for Werriwa now admits that he is opposed to it.
– That is candid. He assumed that one honorable member speaking from this side voiced the opinions of the Opposition generally, and, arguing in the same way, I should be justified in assuming that the honorable member’s statement on this subject is concurred in by every honorable member on the other side. In the old days here, the honorable member for Werriwa was considered a rabid Free Trader, but how has he fallen since? May I congratulate the honorable member on his present associations. The Liberal party, knowing well that the honorable member was not too certain a quantity, had a special platform prepared for him to sign.
– I signed no platform.
– The honorable member signed the pledge, and therefore he is safe.
– I signed no pledge.
– The honorable member had to agree to the Liberal party’s programme that was issued at the last election. Am I to understand that the honorable member is not a member of the Liberal party?
– I am a member of the Liberal party because it is free- enough to enable every man to do as he pleases.
– The honorable member, a little while ago, contested a plebiscite with the honorable member for North Sydney; and will he tell me that he did not agree to stand down if he were defeated ?
– We never took a plebiscite, I can- assure the honorable member.
– Did not the honorable member contest a plebiscite against the honorable member for North Sydney 1
– There was no plebiscite of the electors.
– The honorable member now brings the matter down to a very narrow issue. I always thought honorable members opposite were a Caucus-ridden party, and the honorable member has proved it. It is true there was not a general plebiscite of the electors, but there was a plebiscite of a little section of the Liberal party; and the honorable member himself was so dissatisfied that he threatened at one time to take strong measures; indeed, it was thought he was going to contest the seat in spite of the result of the plebiscite. All this shows conclusively how Caucus-ridden the party opposite are. They dare not speak ; and even a gentleman like the honorable member for Parkes is snubbed when he asks a question - treatment which he dare not resent in the slightest. This reminds me of a cartoon I saw depicting the Prime Minister having his portrait painted by the honorable member for West Sydney, and the former holding the honorable member for Parkes, drawn as a dog, by a string, with the label, “My majority.” The majority was so uncertain that it had always to be kept chained up; and the honorable member for Werriwa seems now to be the majority, and has to be kept on a string to prevent him getting away. The honorable member for Werriwa has spoken very emphatically about the taxation imposed through the Customs House; but I did not hear him say anything to the effect that he was going to try to have this taxation removed. Did the honorable member say anything to that effect?
– Certainly; the first chance possible.
– The “ first chance possible “ is at the present moment, because, if the honorable member will only come over to this side, he can accomplish his object at once.
– If the Labour party would propose to remove the taxation, I would vote with them to-morrow.
– The honorable member does not attempt to tell us how he proposes to relieve the people of this burden, and I am afraid that, when the time came, he would not be prepared to do so. The honorable member has, in my opinion, fallen from grace in this respect. Whether the honorable member likes it or not, the great majority of the people of Australia have declared in favour of Protection; and I regret that he should have made the speech he did this afternoon with the knowledge that he, above all other men, has been obliged to acknowledge the fact. The Prime Minister ought, I think, to have made some explanation of the position he took up the other night in regard to the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition. The position is most extraordinary, and 1 do not know to what the press of the country is coming. There is hardly an occasion when we challenge statements by the Prime Minister that he does not say that he has been misreported. Unfortunately, those reports have been circulated broadcast without any attempt on the Prime Minister’s part to deny their accuracy. The honorable gentleman does not get up, as a man should, and say distinctly that’ he never intended to convey the impression that has been conveyed, but he merely tells us that he has been misreported. That is not sufficient; the country ought to know more. We shall not see three-quarters of a column in the Argus or the other big metropolitan newspapers to-morrow morning pointing out that the statements reported were not founded on fact, and that a speech had never been delivered by the Prime Minister in the way represented. People must not run away with the idea that these statements are idly made; they all have a purpose. I am prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s statement, but the press, in emphasizing the reports, do so with the object of misleading the people of the country as to the alleged extravagance of the late Government. The statement was made that the present Government, when they came into office, had to cut down the Estimates to a very considerable extent, and that had the Labour
Government remained in power, the expenditure would have, been so great that additional taxation would have been inevitable. Now the Prime Minister does not know anything of the kind; and, in any case, it is only an expression of opinion. I should be quite as much justified in declaring that if the present Government remain in office for another twelve months, they will have to impose an enormous income tax. These statements are all made with the special object of making the public believe that honorable members on this side have only the one wild idea of extravagance.
– That is not the only wild idea that honorable members opposite are credited with.
– the honorable member is credited with many wild ideas, and I should not like to say what is the principal one. The object of the newspapers is to get those misstatements scattered broadcast, as was shown at the last election. It was then said there would be a deficit of £1,200,000, although the then Treasurer had stated “from the public platform that there would be a surplus of £2,200,000 odd. The Prime Minister has actually had the audacity to tell the House that he has never read the statement issued by the ex -Treasurer ; but, in saying that, the Prime Minister is not speaking in accordance with fact. He declared at several meetings that he was not going to make the policy speech until such time as the ex-Prime Minister had delivered his policy speech. Day after day the present Prime Minister waited for that speech, and after it had been delivered, he commented on it; and yet he has told us that he never read it. When statements of that kind are made, they ought to be referred to in the strongest possible language. No selfrespecting men would remain in office under the peculiar circumstances of today; and the Prime Minister told us that if he could not carry the Government’s policy, he and his colleagues, as selfrespecting men, would not continue to occupy the Treasury bench. Nevertheless, the Government have accepted the position; like the honorable member for Werriwa, they will accept any degradation - politically, of course.
- “ Eat “ .any “dirt.”
– Do not talk about “ eating dirt “ ; one member of the Government told us on one occasion that he had been “ eating dirt “ for two years. Under the circumstances, it is idle for the Government to tell us what they are going to do in tne way of straightening up the finances. Let them tell us where the wild expenditure has taken place. The honorable member for Werriwa has been candid enough to say this afternoon that in his opinion the extravagant expenditure has been in relation to military defence, and that he objects to £3,500,000 being spent in that direction. I congratulate the honorable member on his candour; and I should like to know where the honorable member for Echuca stands in this matter. That honorable member was going to prove some terrible things a little while ago, when he said that robbery and embezzlement had taken place. Up to the present, however, he has been as silent as the grave.
– The honorable member has been singularly deaf
– The honorable member, when his coat tail is pulled, says, “ Yes, Mr. Cook,” and sits down. The honorable member for Gippsland is in a similar position. He told the public that there was some £4,000,000 not accounted for, and that the late Government locked the doors against the Auditor-General, but he, too, when his coat tail is pulled, says, “ Yes, Mr. Cook,” and is silent. Then there are the honorable members for Wannon and Hume.
– What charge did I make that was untrue 1
– The charge of wild extravagance.
– On several occasions. I have the honorable member’s speeches.
– Did not the honorable member charge us with running a laundry in the Northern Territory by employing Chinese ?
– No; I pointed out that there was £1,000 on the Estimates for a laundry.
– Although an honorable member may be challenged, that does not give him the right to make a speech from his seat. All interjections are forbidden by the Standing Orders.
– I would like honorable members who are so ready to interject to put their interjections together, and make a speech of them. They are all capable of making speeches, although they are not now permitted to do so.
– That is an absolute misstatement.
– It is borne out by the facts. I have sat behind Governments, and know exactly the present position of the Ministerial supporters. I ask the honorable member for Werriwa if he has ever thought of the time, years ago, when he was fighting in this House, and of his associations then and to-day?
– Yes, including the honorable member’s association with me.
– I have never been associated with the honorable member. I have always belonged to the Labour party, the members of which have voted solidly together.
– The honorable member has often voted as a Free Trader.
– I voted as a Protectionist, too. The honorable member is now associated with those who, years ago, were carrying the bannerof Protection. During the fiscal discussions I was one of the free and independent members, and gave my vote as I thought proper. When I considered that an industry needed help, I voted accordingly, and supported the Tariff when an attempt was being made to oust the Government which introduced it.
– Where is the honorable member now?
– Unfortunately, for the time being, in Opposition.
– The honorable member admits that it is unfortunate.
– Yes, for the country. But honorable members opposite are not prepared to test the feelings of the electors as to whether we shall remain here. They do nothing, and are unable to do anything.
– The Labour party had an opportunity to remain in office.
– We could have stayed there a week longer.
– But what would have been said? The Administration would have been told that they were hanging on to office for the sake of its emoluments. That was said on a former occasion. It was stated that a noconfidence motion was being discussed at length because Ministers wanted the few paltry pounds that they were receiving. We, on this side, have not degraded ourselves by making such statements against our opponents. Ministerialists have told the people that the Fisher Government spent millions without knowing where a . sixpence of the money was going. The Prime Minister himself made that charge without being able to support it. Such extravagant statements bring discredit on those who make them. All the members of the last Parliament were responsible for knowing where the money was going. Members had the right to make all the inquiries necessary, and no Opposition ever made fuller inquiries as to how money was being spent.
– But we could get no information.
– Honorable members got all the information that they asked for. The honorable gentleman used to pose as the financial genius of the party. I would like to know what the honorable member for Echuca will do, in the event of the Government taking action against the Millers Combine, in which he is largely interested. Will he resign his seat? He does not tell us. But if he does not get from his Prime Minister permission to speak, I wonder how his electors will take it. They will say, “Mr. Palmer, we never heard from you.”
– The last election increased his majority by 2,000.
– It increased mine by nearly 7,000. The honorable member for Wimmera was a member of the deputation that waited on the Government respecting the provision of the electoral law which requires the signing of newspaper articles published during an election campaign, at which a number of statements were made which are regrettable. One of the principal reasons against the signing of articles was alleged to be that a number of school teachers and bank managers are the correspondents of the big newspapers, and ought not to be compelled to sign their names to the reports and articles which they send for publication. I do not say that these men act in this way from ulterior motives. They may be merely indulging in a hobby.
– Or taking interest in the affairs of their district.
– Yes. But it was not decent for members of the deputation to bring them under notice in the way in which they did.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Let it go.
– The Treasurer is responsible for some of the speeches that have been made this afternoon.
– If so, I apologize.
– The apology comes toolate. The right honorable gentleman came before the Committee like one of Kruger’s commanders, saying, “ Put thisBill through; it is all right. There is no reason to discuss it.”
– Did the last speaker discuss it?
– Ministerialists tried tomake their speeches sitting down. Your electors are desirous of hearing from you, young men. Stand up, and express your views. I indorse the statement of the honorable member for Kennedy that Ministers who will remain in office under the present conditions must be very fond of the emoluments of office, or not very particular as to the way in which the business of the country shall be carried on. The Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral, and the honorable member for Grampians were recently at Wedderburn, when the Prime Minister declared that “ if they could not go on they would go out.” That statement was received with cheers, but the honorable gentleman has admitted all over the country that they cannot go on. It was said the other day that, because he had had to struggle a long time to get the Prime Ministership, he would be a fool to resign it earlier than he could help. The gallant AttorneyGeneral, when his turn to speak came, said, “ The Government would go straight forward with the plan it had mapped out.” Then followed more cheers. The honorable member for Grampians said, “ Members must stand shoulder to shoulder, never absenting themselves from the debates or the divisions.” That was a wonderful thing for him to say, seeing that he was absent all through the last session. It came very badly indeed from the honorable member for Grampians to talk in that way before hiselectors. While we are prepared to discuss measures submitted by the Treasurer or other Ministers, yet, as things are now conducted in this country, the only channel through which a member’s constituents can find out whether he is doing anything or not is through the medium of Mansard, or, if he should have a sympathetic local paper, through some of its columns being filled with the Hansard report of his speeches.
Whether the Prime Minister is acting in this way designedly - whether Liberals have had a Cabinet or Caucus meeting - I know not; but I know of nothing which is more calculated to prevent the business of this country being conducted properly than is the behaviour of the Government at week-ends and other times. We would be less than men if we submitted to the provocation that has come from the other side. Quite a wrong impression is being circulated as to the state of the Commonwealth, because the utterances of the Prime Minister are transmitted to the other side of the world, and, in my judgment, do much damage to our great country. If there is any honorable member who ought to select his language carefully, it is he who is supposed to lead this Parliament. I know of no man who has so degraded the position of Prime Minister as the honorable member for Parramatta has done.
– What are you complaining about?
Mr.FENTON. - One would need to go back a long way to answer that inquiry. I complain of statements which have been made from time to time in respect to the finances as they were before the 31st May, and as they are. Take, for instance, what the honorable member for Parramatta said when the policy speech of the Labour party was delivered at Maryborough. Not only then, but previously, he made erroneous statements in respect to the position of the finances. The only thing I regret is that he is not here now. I do not believe in going to a meeting to form a Liberal Institute, or to a meeting at Ryde, or a remote corner of the country to make a statement about a fellow member. Let such statements be made here, on the floor of the House, against the men at whom they are directed. I feel quite satisfied that, in any conflict or argument with his predecessor, the Prime Minister will come off very much the second best. At the beginning of this year, the honorable member for Parramatta made a political speech at Traralgon. He was followed by a special representative of the Argus, and I take it that that gentleman would be very careful as to what he allowed to appear in that newspaper, in order not to put in a bad light the political party it backed and the cause he espoused. What did the honorable gentleman tell an audience at Traralgon on the 6th February ? -
All told, the present Ministry had£18,000,000 of money more than their predecessors, and they were finishing up the year with a deficit of £1,500,000. They certainly spent their money like toffs.
– That is a misapprehension. You have been told that before.
– That is not so. The Prinib Minister has never denied that statement.
– He did not make the statement.
– He did.
– I was there, and know that he did not make the statement.
– The honorable member went to other places, and, unfortunately, he took his cue from his leader, and made even more outrageous statements than the one to which I have just taken exception. When the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking at Traralgon, he knew as well as most members of the late Parliament knew that instead of the Labour Government finishing with a deficit of £1,500,000, they had a surplus then of practically £2,225,000.
– Why did you not put this before the people?
– I did; I controverted the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta a night or two afterwards.
– But they took no notice of you.
– At any rate, the people to whom I spoke believed what I said in preference to the statement of the honorable member for Parramatta, because, like the honorable member for Kennedy, I enjoy the luxury of an increased majority. The honorable member for Parramatta also told the people -
Twenty thousand persons had been added to the Public Service. Yet every one of the new enterprises was under the patronage of Ministers.
Do honorable members notice the cunning language which is employed - “under the patronage of Ministers?” That is what I object to.
There were 17,000 under the Public Service Commissioner, and, excluding Defence, 23,000 were in the direct pay of the Government itself.
The honorable member knew perfectly well that he was not making a correct statement. Three days afterwards the report of the Public Service Commissioner appeared, and, instead of there being only 17,000 under the control of the Commissioner, and appointed under the provisions of the Act, there were 29,272. Further, the honorable gentleman told the public that the land tax represented £1 9s. per head, and that is the statement to which the ex-Prime Minister takes great exception. In the light of his recent utterances, with all the particulars at his elbow or before his eye, I almost question whether the Prime Minister has corrected that statements At all events, I have not seen a correction.What an outrageous statement it was for him to say, at Traralgon, that the land tax amounted to £1 9s. per head.
– He could not have made that statement, because it would be absurd.
– That is not the only absurd statement which the honorable member for Parramatta has made. If the land tax were yielding that amount per head we should be deriving from that source a revenue of £6,700,000 per annum.
– He could not have made that statement.
– I know that the Prime Minister has said that he corrected the statement, but I have not seen the correction, and would be glad if he would show me the newspaper in which it appeared. The unfortunate feature is that when other misleading statements are made., as they come from a leading politician, they do harm. Of course, such statements are not likely to do any damage where the authority is known to us, but in other parts of the world they are calculated to do considerable harm to the Commonwealth. To show the evil of such statements, let me remind honorable members that at the time they were made by the honorable member for Parramatta, a member of the New South Wales ‘Government and a member of the Western Australian Government were at Home, whilst the Premier of South Australia and the Premier of Victoria were on their way to London. For what purpose did those representatives of four State Governments go to the Old Country? They went there to borrow money. In the face of the outrageous and in accurate statements made by the then Leader of the Opposition and the prospective Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, I do not wonder at the representatives of the States not being able to borrow what they required. The honorable gentleman did not show much consideration to his colleagues in the political fight when they were trying to raise money on the other side of the world. The reason why I am making this protest is that practically at every week-end similar statements are made. I think it is about time that the Prime Minister, Cabinetted by Ministers or caucussed by the party, was told to give his tongue a little holiday at week-ends, because, by its use in the past hehas certainly done his country no good. On 12th April - that was after the delivery of the exPrime Minister’s speech at Maryborough - the honorable gentleman said, at Wagga -
Since the present Government took office, taxation had increased by £7 or £8 per head. This meant an additional £10 or £12 per family in cost of living. The consolidated debt had risen£30,000,000 during the time the present Federal Government had been in power.
The Labour Government did not borrow any money in the public market. It was altogether wrong for the honorable member for Parramatta to make that statement. It is well known on the other side that the only tax imposed by the Labour Government was a tax on the unimproved value of large estates in Australia ; that tax amounts to about 6s. 3d. per head, and is paid by only 14,000 persons.
– You allowed the Customs revenue to increase.
– The honorable member knows that the Customs revenue was received under a Tariff which he himself assisted to pass in 1907.
– But you made no attempt to revise the revenue duties.
– The honorable member is always ready to make an excuse. So far as taxation is concerned, the only tax imposed by the Labour party was a land tax, amounting to 6s. 3d. per head, and not to £1 10s. 4d., as the honorable member for Parramatta has asserted at various gatherings. The honorable member for Wimmera knows full well that we had no more than he had to do with the raising of the revenue from the Tariff .
– But you could have adjusted the Tariff.
– It is admitted everywhere that in times of prosperity there is more revenue coming in from the Customs House. The honorable member knew that when he made the interjection. There would not be nearly so much revenue obtained from that source if I could have my way.
– Why did you not make your Government do it?
– I should like to see the honorable member make the present Government do it.
– You are the person complaining.
– The Liberal Government has done more to throw dust in the eyes of the people on Tariff matters by the appointment of the Inter-State Commission than ever the Fisher Government did.
– Your Government passed our Bill to appoint the Commission.
– The Labour Government did pledge itself to introduce a Tariff Bill, and that Bill, as I said before, would have been on the table of the House before now had the late Government been returned to power.
– After neglecting the work for three years.
– The Fusion party came into office with great pretensions, but relegated the question of the duties to the Inter-State Commission. Years ago, the honorable member for Kooyong professed to be a very strong Protectionist. I do not know whether he is still the same strong Protectionist as he used to be.
– It is a Free Trade seat he represents now.
– I dare say that if the honorable member went to the people of Kooyong and said, “ I am a fiscal atheist,” they would return him so long as he bore the brand of his party. But I know that when he was in the State Parliament, or even when he was in the Senate, he would not sit quietly behind a Government and support them so slavishly as he supports the present Government, after they have relegated one of his one-time cherished ideas to a Commission.
– Was he not representing Fitzroy in those days?
– Yes; he was called a Radical then. I do not know what he can be called now.
– Another change ?
– There is a change in the seat and also in the man. On the 10th April the honorable member for Parramatta said, at Ryde, that instead of the land tax bursting up large estates and doing other things credited to it, it evidently had not done so, because there were more persons paying land tax now than ever before. His statement is absolutely incorrect. It is surprising how, out of the mouths of officials, we can condemn the Prime Minister. It is that circumstance which makes me distrustful when I hear him quoting figures. I naturally wonder if they are as erratic as those which he presents to country audiences. The Prime Minister affirmed that more persons were actually paying land tax now than ever before. Yet we find that, whereas in 1911-12, 14,972 persons paid the tax, in 1912-13 only 14,293 paid it. These figures show a very considerable reduction in the number of taxpayers. Another incorrect statement which he made was that, during the past three years, there was less land under cultivation in the Commonwealth than was previously under cultivation. On this point, Mr. Knibbs is very much opposed to him. According to the official Tear-Book, the area under crop in 1908-9 was 9,891,243 acres, whereas in 1911-12 it was 12,107,000 acres, an increase of 2,215,000 acres.
– The honorable member will find that he has made a slight mistake in his calculation.
– The figures I have quoted are from the officialYear-Book. Thus Knibbs gives a flat contradiction to the statement of the Prime Minister.
– I fancy that the honorable member has made a mistake in his subtraction.
– I wish the honorable member would get rid of his fancies, and give us some facts. He indulges in too many fancies.
– During the last year of Labour rule there was an actual decrease in the area under cultivation in Victoria.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended, I was speaking of the way in which figures are sometimes manipulated in the country. For the benefit of the honorable member for Grampians, who was absent from the Chamber when I mentioned the matter previously, I would remind him that, speaking at Wedderburn the other day, and following the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, he made this declaration -
Members must stand shoulder to shoulder, never absenting themselves from debates or divisions, but attending closely to their duties, bearing the flag of Liberalism in the interests of Australia.
I am surprised that he should make that declaration before his own electors.
I complain very bitterly indeed of the action of the Prime Minister in asserting that, had the Fisher Government been returned to power at the recent elections, their Budget statement would have shown a larger increase of expenditure than does the Budget of the present Treasurer.
– They could not help it.
– I am here to sayand I can say it with every degree of certainty - that an incoming Fisher Government would never have dreamed of borrowing £3,080,000 in excess of the £24,000,000 which would have been at their disposal from ordinary revenue and the surplus of last year. What did the honorable member for Grampians tell his constituents? Did he not complain that the late Government were pouring millions of pounds out upon a useless project like that of the Federal Capital? Was not that his gospel ? Yet we find that the present Government propose to spend upon the Federal Capital more money in one year than the Labour Government expended in three years. I am certain that the same story will never go down in the Grampians electorate again. Why did not the honorable member assist honorable members upon this side of ,the Chamber in their effort to reduce the vote for the Federal Capital ?
– Members of the Labour party all voted the opposite way.
– The honorable member for Gippsland made a mistake upon that occasion, and one which he will yet repent. The Prime Minister realizes that he has done the wrong thing, because he is now endeavouring to throw on the late Government the blame for the ‘ present * . Budget. But his statement will not be accepted by the people. The Labour party would never have borrowed £3,080,000 when they had a revenue of £21,000,000 and a surplus of £2,650,000.
– The Labour Government would have borrowed £5,000,000.
– Economy was the cry of honorable members opposite after the last election, and yet the Government propose to expend this year £5,000,000 more than the Fisher Government expended during their last year of office. Their supporters say nothing about a reduction of the expenditure on defence, or on the Postal Department, or on the Federal Capital.
– So long as we do not have to account for the doings of honorable members opposite we shall be all right.
– The honorable member is all right except on the Tariff. Just now he is supporting a Government whose members are taking a vital interest in the Tariff question. He is pledged to give effect to the Liberal programme.
– To a truly Liberal programme.
– There is no doubt that the honorable member is Caucus-bound. To-day he has simply to do what he is told. When this Parliament was younger I recollect occupying a seat in the Speaker’s gallery, and listening to the honorable member’s denunciation of the various Tariff items as they were brought forward.. But to-day we hear none of those denunciations. The honorable member is well developed physically and mentally, and yet he sits there as docile as it is possible for him to be-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I wish to offer my sympathy to the Treasurer, seeing that Ministerial supporters cause the Government programme to be criticised so severely. . Members of his party who have not the courage to come here and make’ statements which can be refuted, adopt the subterfuge of visiting different parts of the Commonwealth and making assertions in a most cowardly way, inasmuch as we have no chance of challenging their accuracy at the time. At public meetings and all sorts of political functions they are in the habit of indulging in declarations which are without foundation, for the purpose of scandalizing the Labour party. Consequently, upon an occasion like the present, we are bound to take the opportunity to tell them that they are not doing the right thing by members of the Opposition. I do not think that they can point to one item in the Government policy which they have attempted to bring into existence. The Ministry have merely brought forward one or two little measures for the purpose of detaining members in this city, and without any hope of passing them into law. They are merely marking time with a view to getting into recess as soon as possible.
– We would like to win as many more seats as we can.
– The honorable member has remained silent in this chamber, although he would have liked to have criticised the Government. He has discovered that they are not carrying out the programme which he advocated during the election campaign, and for that reason he absents himself from this House at different periods. He goes away and remains away for a full week. Why) Because he has no confidence in the Government. He would like to come over to this side of the House, only he is afraid that if he did so he would not get the indorsement of our party. As the honorable member for Adelaide interjects, he remains where he is, in disgust of his own party. The honorable member’s first speech this session was on small-pox and vaccination, but he had not the moral courage to support honorable members on this side in their efforts to secure the release of Sydney from quarantine. In the district of Werriwa he advocates the removal of theembargo, but when he is given an opportunity in this House to do something to bring that about, he is not to be found in his place. He has been silenced by his party. The Caucus has brought him to heel, and has told him plainly that if lie abuses the Government he will not secure the indorsement of the party at the next election. The weakness of the present Government is shown by the fact that the Treasurer has come down month after month for Supply. The Government have been in office now for about four months, and, though the Treasurer might be willing to do the right thing, the members of his party compel him to do things which, I am sure, he does not relish. The delay in dealing with the finances of the Commonwealth is not alto gether the right honorable gentleman’s fault, but is due to the desire of the Government to delay legislation. When the Works Estimates were under consideration, members on the Government side severely criticised a vote of £285,000 towards the establishment of the Federal Capital, although that was one of the best votes on .the Estimates. They are now prepared to vote millions of pounds without hesitation. The party opposite are not prepared to spend the money on the country in a legitimate way, or they would criticise some of the amounts to be covered by the Supply Bill as they criticised the vote for the Federal Capital. The fact is that they are unable to act independently of the party to which they belong.
– Did we not criticise the votes for telephones and for the Northern Territory ?
– Some honorable members on the other side have condemned expenditure on the Northern Territory; outright, and if it is as useless as they would have us believe, I should like to know why they are supporting the expenditure in the Territory which is covered by the Supply Bill. We have been told that it is useless to spend money in the Northern Territory, and that unless people are given freeholds of land there it cannot be developed. I do not believe that the Government will ever have the power to grant freeholds in the Northern Territory, but if they are given that power there will be very little land left there for the people of Australia. The American Beef Trust or Swift and Company will secure the whole of the good land in the Territory for the purpose of growing cattle to supply their meat works. I condemn the action of the Government in spending money with the object of fostering the American Beef Trust. I hope that expenditure in the Northern Territory will be for the benefit of the people of Australia. Anything that can be done should be done to prevent the American Beef Trust securing the land of the Northern Territory. We were told by the Attorney-General that if we could supply him with evidence of the existence of a trust, he would immediately take action against it. I think that sufficient evidence has been placed before honorable members to justify the Attorney-General in deciding that there is a trust now in existence in Queensland. The Government show no desire to prevent its growth. In a year or two it will have grown to such dimensions that it will be almost impossible to check it, and its operations will be felt, not only in Queensland, but throughout the Commonwealth.
– When did the Trust first go to Queensland?
– They have been there for about a year. They are building meat works on the Brisbane River. They bought two meat works already in existence in Queensland.
– They went there about a year ago.
– We could not prevent them building there.
– They bought the Alligator Creek Meat Works about a month ago. The Government have the power to check this Trust now if they desire to do so. I have said that the Trust is establishing works on the Brisbane River, and has bought two meat-works in other parts of Queensland; but it is generally understood that they have also bought the Ramornie Meat Works, on the Clarence River. Their capital is so great, and their operations will be on such a large scale, that they will be able to drive all competitors out of the market. People are continually writing to members of this Parliament about the Trust, and, although the Government must be aware of its existence, the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister of Trade and Customs seem to be indifferent to the matter. When people throughout the Commonwealth are being called upon to suffer from the operations of the Trust, the members of the present Government, who might check the advance of the Trust now that they have the power, will be oalled to account for their negligence. I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer an abuse of the Maternity Allowance Act by certain hospital authorities. The Lady Bowen Hospital, in Brisbane, is a lying-in hospital for poor women and unfortunate girls. It is supported entirely by public subscriptions, and is managed by the aristocratic women of Brisbane. About two days after a patient in that hospital has got over her trouble, the matron brings a written or printed form to her for signature. Its contents are not read over to the patient, but it is an application for the maternity allowance, and immediately it is signed it is sent on to the Department. When the return letter is received at the hospital, it is opened by the hospital authorities, the order is cashed, and a certain portion is retained without the consent of the patient. A day or two before a patient leaves the hospital she is asked to sign another form, which is not read over or explained to her. This form is a permission to the hospital authorities to deduct a certain amount from the maternity allowance for the expenses of the patient while in the hospital. When leaving the hospital a patient is given only £1 14s. 6d. out of the allowance of £5. That is the kind of thing that is being done in the Lady Bowen Hospital at the present time. The majority of the women who go into this hospital are in poor circumstances, and they depend on the allowance for clothing and feeding their infants after they leave the institution. One woman who was given the £1 14s. 6d. remonstrated with the matron, and received an additional amount. She asked that the money should be put in a piece of paper for her, and it was wrapped up in the envelope in which the Department forwarded the £5 allowance to her. Some immediate action should be taken to put a stop to this abuse. The postman should be empowered to hand the envelope containing the order for the allowance to the patient alone. I hope that the Treasurer will make the necessary inquiries to prevent this abuse in the future. It must have been taking place for some considerable time,because there was talk of it before I came down to Melbourne to attend this Parliament. It is not necessary for me to go into any detail on the financial question. There is no doubt that, with a falling revenue, the finances of the Commonwealth are in a bad way; and the reason is that the people have not the confidence in this Government that they had in the Fisher Administration. Honorable members opposite endeavoured to make out that if the Fisher Government had been in power the finances would have been in the same condition that we now find them; but the financial ideas and ideals of the late Administration were far superior to those of the present Government. It is the financial administrator who is most likely to be a success in politics; and we know that the Liberal party have always been a financial failure, a fact that they are now demonstrating to the people. The longer the present Government remain in office the stronger the Labour party will grow; and if the Government are allowed to go into recess - and we may let them go through - it will make our task all the. easier when the elections come round.
.- I should like to say a few words on the question of the reopening of the Tariff and the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia this afternoon. That honorable member took exception to the questions which the Inter-State Commission propose to put to any manufacturer who desires Tariff assistance; but I disagree entirely with the honorable member in this regard. I feel proud that the InterState Commission are following on the lines I instituted when I was at the head of the Department of Trade and Customs ; and I believe that the steps now taken will place Tariff revision, and the policy of Protection, on a sounder basis than ever before in this or any other country.
– Does the honorable member think that the manufacturers will produce balance-sheets for the InterState Commission?
– I do not know, but I think that the manufacturers ought to answer the questions honestly. The honorable member for Capricornia took special exception to the question as to the proportion of the cost paid in wages. I may say that, notwithstanding the fact that the press did their utmost to defeat me, and circulated a great number of misstatements, they could not show that I had made any pledges or promises that I had not carried out in connexion with the Tariff. The manufacturers are compelled to give similar information for the purposes of the statistical returns, and I do not see where the difficulty lies in giving it to the Inter-State Commission, although the latter, with more power than I, as Minister, possessed, require the information to be sworn to.
– The questions show that the Inter-State Commission are going to look after the interests of the consumer.
– They are going to look after the interest of all Australians - manufacturers, workers, and consumers.
– The honorable member had the same object in view.
– Exactly; and I think that the honorable member for Parkes will give me credit for that.
– I will.
– After all, it is perhaps more difficult for the political head of a Department to elicit such information than it is for an Inter-State Commission.
– But the honorable member insisted on balance-sheets.
– No, I did not.
– I quite approve of it.
– The impression got about that I desired the whole of the books of the manufacturers to be thrown open; but I merely asked for certain information which was absolutely essential to our legislating on right lines.
– When manufacturers complain that they are being ruined, it is perfectly right that the Minister should know whether they are really being ruined, and how.
– The honorable member for Capricornia said it was unfair to ask questions which manufacturers were unable to answer; but in reply to that I have to point out that if manufacturers are unable to answer they can say so. I think my record, so far as Protection is concerned, will compare with that of any one in the House.
– Is that question raised on a Supply Bill?
– I wish to know what the Ministry are going to do. The Government, in their statement, said that it was their intention to rectify Tariff anomalies, and their press supporters, at the last election, said that there were a great many that should be dealt with. At present I am merely taking an opposite view from that of the honorable member for Capricornia, who is of opinion that the Inter-State Commission have gone out of their way in asking some of those questions. We were informed in a Ministerial statement that the question of Tariff revision was to be referred to the Inter-State Commission, and that in the meantime any anomalies discovered would be rectified. We were told during the election campaign by many honorable members and their press supporters that the Tariff is reeking with anomalies which required instant attention; and no one can say that there are not anomalies. What is a perfect Tariff to-day may not be a perfect Tariff six months hence, owing to the alterations in the mode of manufacture here or elsewhere. Last Saturday the Prime Minister, at the opening of some paper-board mills in New South Wales, is reported to have said that since the inauguration of the system of encouraging enterprises of that kind, he had found none deserving of greater sympathy than that. I know that last year I met Mr. Sands in Sydney, when he asked for some consideration for this industry, and I told him distinctly that I believed it did require some encouragement. If any great proportion of the articles now being manufactured at that factory is on the free list, the fact should receive the attention of the Government at the earliest possible opportunity. In 1911 I brought under the notice of the House about 200 items and sub-items in the Tariff, with proposals to increase the Protection in practically every case, or to make dutiable articles then on the free list. I understand that at this factory in New South Wales it is proposed to manufacture strawboard which was an item considered in the last amendment of the Tariff; and here I may say that, according to my information, unless some Protection is given on paperboard, those engaged in the enterprise will have to come down to making strawboard. However, I find that on the proposal to increase the duty on strawboard the present Prime Minister paired for the lower duty. It is interesting, also, to observe that amongst those who voted for the lower duty, in addition to the Prime Minister, were the present Minister of External Affairs, the Minister of Trade and Customs, the Honorary Minister, the honorable member for Barker, the honorable member for Franklin, the honorable member for North Sydney, the honorable member for Moreton, the Government Whip, and the present Speaker; while the honorable member for Parkes, the honorable member for Echuca, the honorable member for Wilmot, the honorable member for Grampians, and the honorable member for Wakefield, paired in the same interest. The proposal for the increased duty was defeated by the votes of those honorable members.
– The honorable member has never heard of my advocating a high duty.
– I am glad to acknow-ledge that the honorable member is consistent; but one would think, from the newspapers at the present time, that every honorable member opposite is in favour of higher duties. The newspapers, which support the Government, represent everything to the detriment of the late Government in regard to the Tariff ; but if I were to give a vote like that of the honorable members I have named, I should find the fact starred up with headlines in the news column.
– What was the duty?
– Speaking from memory, I think the duty was ls. 6d. per cwt.; and I proposed to raise it to 2s. against all countries except the United Kingdom. If this mill is making paperboards that are not at present manufactured here, there ought to be no duty, but there ought to be no duty before the article is manufactured, because that would penalize those who use it.
– Why is this being discussed in connexion with Supply?
– Any grievance may be discussed on Supply. I have heard the honorable member, when over here, discuss grievances for what seemed like years.
– Is this a grievance ?
– Yes; it is a grievance that the honorable member should pretend that he was in favour of high duties when the votes he gave in Parliament were all the other way.
– There is nothing there to justify it, and nothing in what I said, either.
– In announcing the Ministerial policy, the Prime Minister said, “ In the meantime any anomalies discovered in the existing Tariff will be dealt with.” Have they discovered any?
– This is all a wicked waste of time.
– I can assure the honorable member it is not. T have a right to raise the question, notwithstanding what the Prime Minister says. Apparently I’ have touched the honorable member on the raw by showing up some of his votes so soon after the alleged Protectionist speech that he made in Sydney last Saturday. I trust that the Lane Cove Express, if there is such a newspaper, or any other paper published in his elec torate, that gives an account of the function which he attended, will also publish my remarks to show that he voted -against the increase of duty on this item. The ex-Prime Minister to-day drew attention to the account that appeared in both the Age and the Argus of the opening of a Liberal Institute in -Parramatta.
– It was not the opening of a Liberal Institute.
– The honorable member attended a meeting for the purpose of inaugurating a Liberal Institute, and put his name down for £100 worth of shares.
– It was 100 shares at 10s. each.
– The Prime Minister Was once associated with Labour, and to-day he says that he is just as much in earnest as ever he was in connexion with it. We have heard of the man whose mother thought he was the only one in step out -of the whole regiment,, and perhaps that applies to the Prime Minister as regards himself and those who have remained in the Labour party.
– If you are out walking with other men, and they choose to go over a precipice, there is no reason
Why you should follow them.
– The speed at. which the honorable member walks is not likely to take him over any precipice. There has been a Liberal ‘ Workers’ Institute started in Melbourne, and I see that Mr, J. D. Packer is the secretary of it. It was stated before the Court, on oath, during the past week by Mr. Packer that his organization received as much from employers as it did from workers, and this is exactly the same sort of institute which the Prime Minister is -connected with, according to the name which appears in the same paper - the Argus - the one account being on the newsoftheday page, and the other on the cable page. We know that this institute is out to down the workers - to. get the workers to work for less wages - and that the employers contribute to the funds for the purpose of strike-breaking. I hope for the Prime Minister’s sake that the organization in Parramatta is different from the one in Melbourne, and that those associated with it will be different, because it is known by every honorable member on that side what sort of people are associated with the Free
Workers’ organization. I do not know what name they go by now, because they change their name every time they are found out, like a man who has a number of aliases for appearing before the Court. Are we likely to have any alteration in the Tariff, and will an Anomalies Bill be introduced, or is it a fact that, after careful examination of the Tariff, the Government find that no anomalies are there?
– Did you leave any there ?
– In my opinion, no ; and I was slated for that opinon by the press which supported the honorable member. They said I was wrong in not bringing forward a whole lot more. If the Prime Minister is to be true to his press supporters, he will find some of the anomalies that they ara anxious to see rectified. The honorable member for Oxley referred to the operation of the American Beef Trust in Queensland, and I should not have referred to this question but for the interjection of the Minister of Customs, who asked how long they had been there. I believe the American Beef Trust, or the Australian Meat Company, as they call themselves in Brisbane, are either erecting or preparing the ground for erecting works. At any rate, they have had a great number of men at work on the Brisbane River for some time. Even though it was proved up to the hilt that the Australian Meat Company are Swift and Company or the American Meat Trust, it would be impossible for the Federal Government to take any action, except, perhaps, under the Commerce Act. As the honorable member for Parkes interjected this afternoon, would we be prepared to set up a different standard for Swift and Company, assuming that it is they, from the standard set up for any other exporter? The only possible means of dealing at the present time with the American Meat Trust, without an amendment of the Constitution, would be under the Commerce Act. The question is whether they would not have an opportunity of an action at law against the Commonwealth for setting up for them a standard different from that set up for other exporters of meat. I have my doubts whether any power that exists under the Commerce Act can be made operative. The company’s principal man here, from America is Mr. Malkow.
– He represents Swift and Company.
– I have some very interesting matter which I intend to give the House when we come to deal with the question of the Trust, but since the 25th June I believe that the Australian Meat Company, which is practically the American Meat Trust, operating in Australia, has purchased works at Gladstone and near Cairns, and that they have been in negotiation for the purchase of others at Ramornie, in New South Wales. If they have purchased these works, and are shipping meat, there will be an opportunity for dealing with them at those works that there will probably not be at their Brisbane works for twelve months. I hope that if the Government find that the Trust are now operating here - as I believe it will be found, although they cover up their tracks pretty well-they will take every step possible to see that the Australian producers and consumers of meat are not treated as the people in America are at present.
– What particular mode would the honorable member suggest?
– I believe the only possible way to deal with them would be by amending the Constitution.
– We have unlimited power under the Commerce Act.
– There is no doubt that the Minister has the power to prohibit Swift and Company shipping from Australia under that or any other name.
– An extraordinary suggestion.
– I admit that; but I believe the Minister has the power, under the Commerce Act, and the only question is whether it would be held that the power was exercised rightly.
– Does the honorable member suggest that unlimited power should be exercised against any particular person?
– I am not sure. I thought at first it would be possible to do it.
– We may attack methods. Can the honorable member suggest that we attack individuals?
– The High Court would not allow it.
– TheHigh Court would not. What power the Minister has may be exercised in such a way as to make it sufficiently awkward to compel the Trust to be more amenable to the law in this country than they have been to the law in America. It is well known that they have ridden roughshod over the people of America - the consumers on the one hand, and the producers on the other. If it is found that there is not power under the Commerce Act-
– There is unlimited constitutional power. There is no difficulty about that; but I should be very glad of a practical suggestion.
– I am anxious to see that this particular Trust does not start operating in Australia.
– Does the honorable member mean that some particular individual or individuals should be prohibited from buying meat in Australia? Let us have a practical suggestion.
– I have said that, so far as this particular company are concerned, while there might be power under the Commerce Act to deal with them, I do not think it would be practicable.
– The honorablemember does not suggest that we can deal with individuals apart from the methods they adopt.
– If it was found that this particular Trust coming into Australia operated to the disadvantage of the producer and the consumer, I understand from the Minister that the Government would have full constitutional power to deal with them, even though they are: operating in one State only.
– So long as they are engaged in the export trade.
– The only way to deal with the difficulty would be under the Commerce Act, and the Government would be compelled to set up for them a different standard from other exporters if they wanted to deal with them simply on account of their operations.
– That would be unconstitutional.
– The Attorney-General says it would not.
– I do not think there is any constitutional difficulty whatever.
– If that is so, there would be full power under the Commerce Act.
– You can do nothing until they start to do business.
– If they have bought works in full going order at Gladstone and Cairns, and start them immediately the beef season opens, action should be taken by the Government if they have the power.
– If these people act injuriously to trade.
– What we know of the operations of the Trust in America leaves no room for doubt that they will act injuriously.
– Does the honorable member suggest that, because some one called Swift is a member of a trust which is said to have been guilty of all sorts of iniquities in America, he should not be allowed to buy beef in Queensland?
– We could not stop their buying; but we could, under the Commerce Act, control their export of meat. At the beginning, good prices would probably be paid, as they were in America, until every competitor had been driven out of the market, and then the Trust would pay its own prices.
– I should like the honorable member to suggest what should be done.
– I think that the only power of interference that we have is given by the Commerce Act. The Attorney-General will agree with me that it is impossible to stop the Trust from erecting works in Brisbane, and that it will be impossible to take action against it until it starts to export its products. Apparently the only power that we can use against it is that given by the export provisions of the Commerce Act, and we cannot deal with the Trust until it exports. I understand that it has not yet attempted to ship 1 lb. of mutton or beef from Australia, and it is not likely to do so until the coming season.
– Under what conditions would the honorable member deal with these people?
– I would deal with them under the Commerce Act, if that was possible.
– Does not the honorable member think that they could be left to the people of Queensland ?
– Some of them are in it up to their necks.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I cannot agree with the Prime Minister in characterizing the speech of the honorable member for Yarra as a waste of time. I think it stands out from the other speeches that we have heard to.day.
– I was referring to the day’s waste of time.
– It is the first speech I have heard with any argument in it. We had a speech from the honorable member for Capricornia which, howeverwell intentioned, seemed to me a sheer waste of time, the honorable member speaking apparently only to occupy the time of the Committee. The remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong amounted to a sort of post mortem examination of the speeches made by the Prime Minister before the last election, and reminded one of the well-known saying of Lord Beaconsfield, that “the most effective satire is a majority.” Whatever the Prime Minister may have said to the people of New South Wales prior to the last election, the people of Australia returned the present Government to power with a working majority, which has been actually at work for four months; and if it had not been for the systematic obstruction which they have had to meet, it would have worked- to some advantage. I do not agree with the Labour politics of the honorable member for Yarra, nor do I share his fiscal opinions, but he always believes what he is saying, and says it in such a way that one can get a proposition out of him, a syllogism, something that can be taken hold of. Today he dealt at length with the fiscal question. I admit, with the Prime Minister, that the discussion of that question is irrelevant, and more than irrelevant at this time, because the appointment of the Inter-State Commission, with power to report to Parliament on Tariff matters, removes it from the arena until we get recommendations from that body. The fiscal question is practically not sub judice; it has been relegated to the Inter-State Commission for report.. I am very glad that it has been so dealt with, because I have always contended that the settlement of a Tariff is a work for which Parliament is quite incapable. When a Tariff is proposed, we are so infested with, and in some cases influenced by, literature from both parties -in regard to every item, that it is impossible to obtain calm, clear and deliberate discussion. 1 rejoice that the matter is now removed to the arbitrament of a body which will look at it apart from political considerations, and submit its recommendations to Parliament. The discussion of the fiscal question is now at least irrelevant, though, I admit, that the honorable member for Yarra puts his case as well as he could. He criticised the Prime Minister for his more modern utterances on the Tariff, and I rather sympathize with the criticism. I have read some speeches of the Prime Minister, which seem to suggest the possibility of the present Liberal party proposing higher duties. I, for my part, would have no sympathy with such a movement; and I hope that it will not originate with, this party. I am glad to know that the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs approves of the questions which are to be submitted to manufacturers by the Inter-State Commission. On previous occasions, when manufacturers were complaining that they were being ruined, the question which a Free Trader would have liked to ask, in face of the cry of the consumer about the increased cost of living, was, “ Is ruin staring you in the face, or are you making so much out of your industry that you dare not show your balance-sheet, and only want a higher duty to enable you to make more profit.” During the discussion of one of the Tariffs - I do not remember- whether the last or- the one beforeI brought before the House the case of a hat manufactory of this State which said that ruin was staring it in the face. I happened to get hold of its balance-sheet, and found that its £1 shares were standing at 35s. in the market, and that it was paying a dividend of 10 per cent, to its shareholders and putting by 5 per cent. The series of questions which oho Inter-State. Commission seeks- to put to manufacturers in order to. discover whether higher duties, are necessary to enable our industries to hold1 their own is very pertinent. In the past the manufacturer and the politician have been considered, but the unfortunate consumer-, who in the long run has to pay, has not been as much thought of as he should’ have been. Some years: ago, when a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate Tariff matters was before the House,
I asked what steps were to be taken to» cause the consumer to be represented, and was told that there need be no fear, asthe members of the Commission would look after him. The Commission wascomposed of strong Free Traders and strong Protectionists, and made no attempt to invite the public to appoint adelegate to show to what extent high duties were affecting the prices of commodities coming under the category of: necessaries. I think that the InterState Commission will fulfil its duty in making suggestions to which we shall have to say “yea” or “nay,” and I am glad that the honorable member for Yarra brought the matter forward, because, although not strictly relevant, ifr. is a useful one to have discussed. I’ welcome the opportunity to express myopinion, because Opposition membersnever tire of twitting Ministerialists withbeing prevented from speaking. For myself, I do not hesitate to say that during the last three months I have not heard any arguments that seemed1 worth answering; the Opposition having done . nothing but talk against, time, with apparently no other objectthan to prevent the Government from doing business. Four Supply Bills havenow been before us, and the Opposition have managed to occupy so much timeover them that between whiles, it- hasbeen impossible to pass other legislation. The. discussion of the Electoral Bill has. occupied nearly five, weeks. The Bill may contain principles which honorablemembers opposite, do not like, but someof them, notably the honorable member for Macquarie, have approved of some of its principles. If the Opposition reallywish to do business, we should’ have an< opportunity to come to close quarters in* Committee. They fear that, if we do, the Government will carry some of the most salient features of the measure, and place them on the statute-book. Weget a little tired of hearing that thoseon this side are not at liberty to- speak. When you find the whole of- the Opposition coming up, one after the other, asif of a set purpose, in order to. occupy the- time of the Committee, and- sayingnothing that is either worth recording orworth answering, they- will understand’ that honorable members- on- this side donot, speak because there, is. nothing to be-» said.
.- I desire to refer to the export of potatoes from Victoria, as it is a matter of very great interest indeed to potato-growers in this State. Probably honorable members are aware that potato growing is being carried on here practically at a loss. The troubles of the potato-growers have been accentuated by the fact that they are unable to export potatoes other than in new bags. There is no doubt that there is a combine in connexion with the sale of potato-bags, and the price has been raised from 4s. 6d. per dozen to 8s. The very fact that growers are compelled to use new bags tends to make them dearer, because they are not able to use secondhand bags, especially for export. That means to the farmer a loss of from 4s. to 5s. a ton. He is getting here to-day 22s. 6d. per ton for his potatoes, and out of that sum he has to pay about 9s. a ton for the digging, and 9s. a ton for the bags. With the other 4s. 6d. he has to take the potatoes out of the pit, fill the bags, and cart them to the railway station. A farmer in Victoria is practically selling his potatoes to-day in order to get back the money which he has paid for digging them. The position here is a serious one. When we federated it was thought that the Intercolonial barriers would be wiped away, and Inter-State Free Trade established. But if the States are to be allowed to set up what are practically prohibition orders, or to issue proclamations as to how produce shall be carried to them, they will defeat the spirit and the intention of the Constitution. The Attorney-General told me the other day that it was not for him to give an answer to a question I asked. He said it was not for him to declare whether there was anything in my contention that the States were acting contrary to the spirit of the Constitution, but that it was for the potato-growers themselves to take action. Now, that is almost impossible, because, individually, the potato-grower is a poor man, and cannot afford to test this point in the High Court as against a State. It is preposterous to imagine that he could do so.
– The States have been doing the same thing in connexion with pigs.
– That may make the position much worse.
– It is a question of stopping the introduction of disease, I think.
– I fully recognise that the prohibition orders were first issued because of the occurrence of a disease in potatoes here, but we have no disease to-day. In that respect Victoria is absolutely clean.
– The whole of the inspection work should be taken over by the Commonwealth.
– I intend to deal with that point briefly. Victoria is now practically free from disease, and its potatoes will bear inspection with those grown in any other part of Australia. Not only is our farmer losing money through having to use new bags, but he has to pay three inspection dues. That, of course, is a matter for the State to deal with. Firstly, the farmer has to pay 3s. for the inspection of his farm; secondly, he has to pay 6d. per ton when the potatoes are delivered at the railway station; and, thirdly, he has to pay another 6d. per ton if the potatoes are intended for export. Then, when he sends any potatoes to Western Australia, he is met with another demand. Mr. Hogan, member for Warrenheip in the State Assembly, has told me - and I believe this statement is true - that in Western Australia the charge for inspecting Victorian potatoes is 15s. per ton. I call on the Federal Government to take action in this matter.
– What sort of action do you suggest?
– Perhaps, when I read section 112 of the Constitution, it may suggest to the honorable and learned gentleman a way out of the difficulty.
– I was looking at it.
– The section reads -
After uniform duties of Customs have been imposed, a State may levy on imports or exports, or on goods passing into or out of the State, such charges as . may be necessary for executing the inspection laws of the State ; but the net produce of all charges so levied shall be for the use of the Commonwealth, and any such inspection laws may be annulled by the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
The inspection charge of Western Australia is acting detrimentally to the users of potatoes in that State, and there is no question about it affecting potato-growers in Victoria very injuriously. Of course, I do not put myself forward as a constitutional authority.
– Did you say that the prohibition was on the bags?
– No; I was referring to the cost of inspection.
– You are only referring to the inspection charges?
– Yes. The proclamation regarding the use of new bags is quite another matter.
– I beg your pardon; I misunderstood what you said just now.
– I recognise that some action ought to be taken. I think that the Victorian Government should take some action in regard to the use of secondhand bags for export purposes, and should not leave the testing of the question to a potato-grower.
– Western Australia will not take your potatoes unless they are put in clean bags. It is the same in the other States, too, I. think.
– The honorable member does not follow me. In my opinion, the Government, of Western Australia had no right to issue that proclamation.
– Victoria could not interfere, but we might.
– Victoria can interfere, and in the interests of our potatogrowers it ought to take action to test the validity of the proclamation in the High Court. It is certainly notthe duty of anybody else to take that step. I claim that it is the duty of the Federal Government to take action regarding the Western Australian charge of 15s. a ton, for, according to my reading of section 112, the Constitution confers that power.
– There is no doubt of that.
– On a previous occasion representations were made to a State Government that the charge for inspection should be a reasonable one. That is what the section contemplates.
– It goes further than that.
– That is the intention of the section. If a State persists in the unreasonable course of exercising its power unfairly the Federal Government can intervene.
– We have full power to intervene whether the inspection dues are reasonable or otherwise.
– Yes, we have full power to annul any inspection charge levied by a State. The Attorney-General has just admitted that that is a fair and reasonable construction to place on section 112 of the Constitution. I agree that it was framed to enable the Commonwealth Government to act in case any State Government should try to impose an unreasonable charge. I claim that 15s. a ton is an unreasonable charge, and if it were removed it would mean financial salvation to hundreds, perhaps to thousands, of potato-growers in Victoria.
– How much a ton does the inspection cost - 5s.?
– It is done in Victoria for 6d. a ton. I do not think there is any doubt that by their action the Government of Western Australia are defeating the spirit of the Constitution. They might just as well have power to impose Customs duties against any produce from other States as have power to levy an exorbitant charge for inspection of produce.
– As regards these facts, I promise the honorable member that I shall have inquiries made.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, and remind him that in Victoria it is a matter of great urgency. The potatoes are in the pit, and there are markets for them in other parts of the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Maranoa, for instance, has received a letter stating that in Queensland they could do with any quantity of our potatoes, but that the inspection charges are very severe. More than that, the middlemen there, who have control of the potato trade, will take every care that Victorian potatoes do not reach those who want to use them in the inland towns. When we had the Irish blight in Victoria we were very zealous to protect one part of the State as against another part, so that the disease should not be introduced into a clean part. It was considered quite sufficient then to charge only 6d. per ton, and a very full inspection indeed was made. The Minister can understand that the potato-grower in Warrnambool did not want the blight introduced from Bungaree, or vice versâ and insisted that the inspection should be a vigorous one. Therecan be nothing in the argument which may be put forward by the Western Australian Government that it costs 15s. per ton to make the inspection.
– The Western Australian Government did exactly the same thing with apples, and the same Minister of Trade and Customs interfered and stopped them from making the charge.
– I am very glad to hear that statement, and now the Minister has an opportunity of stopping the Western Australian Government again. I trust that he will treat the matter as one of urgency, and make immediate representations to the Western Australian Government, and, perhaps, to other State Governments, and find out exactly what the inspection charges are. Turning to another question, I have been somewhat surprised to-night at the statements made regarding extravagant expenditure, and after reading the statement of the Treasurer, I candidly admit that, to my mind, the Commonwealth is in a serious position. This year we have to find £27,000,000. Even with our surplus of nearly £3,000,000, we have to borrow £3,000,000 to make ends meet. He would be, I think, a most optimistic member who would say that our expenditure next year will not be £30,000,000. This year we are practically £6,000,000 behind in making ends meet; yet the Government offer no suggestion as to what they intend to do if the Inter-State Commission should recommend the imposition of increased duties. To-day our revenue is £21,000,000, but if we have effective Protection the revenue may drop to £15,000,000. As a Protectionist I cannot see that effective Protection can bring in anything like £21,000,000.
– The Tariff does not do that; it brings in £15,000,000.
– The revenue is £21,00,000; the Tariff produces £15,000,000, and we shall not get much more than £10,000,000 or £11,000,000 from an effective Tariff.
– You will get no more higher duties, I hope.
– The Government are pledged to establish effective Protection, and when the Prime Minister speaks it will end the opposition in the corner where the honorable member sits. Surely the Ministry realize the seriousness of the present position ! I do not care whether the Estimates were prepared by the Labour Government or by the present Ministry.
– We had nothing whatever to do with them.
– Will you not take the assurance of an ex-Labour Minister ?
– Yes. I believe that the Estimates were drawn up by the officers of the Departments, and were not submitted to the late Ministry, and, therefore, the present Ministry must take the full responsibility for them.
– Of course, we do.
– That is the first time the honorable gentleman has made that admission.
– Not at all.
– It is refreshing to get the admission, even at this late hour.
– This is not the first by half-a-dozen times that I have had to admit it.
– I have been here all the time, and that is the first admission I have heard.
– You are dreaming half of your time.
– I am sure that when the honorable gentleman goes out to teameetings he does not admit it there.
– I have never addressed a meeting where I have not admitted it.
– In a speech the other night the Government Whip - the honorable member for Richmond - showed how the expenditure increased under the Labour Administration. I will quote from the Treasurer’s Budget statement a very effective answer to his statement. He says that during the last year of the regime of the Fisher Government the increased expenditure was £1,383,841. This year the increased expenditure by the anti-Labour Ministry will be £4,135,285.
– That is a complete misrepresentation .
– Oh! It is?
– Yes. An absolute one.
– They are the Treasurer’s figures, and the Prime Minister ought to deal with him. I would like to know from the honorable gentleman what part of my statement is wrong. Is it not a fact that the increased expenditure last year was £1,383,841, or does he deny that the increased expenditure this year will be £4,135,285?
– I do deny it absolutely.
– I candidly admit that I cannot understand the Prime Minister’s denial. Upon page 8 of the Treasurer’s Budget the honorable gentleman says -
I have prepared a table showing the expenditure, including that from loans -
– Over and above what?
– Over and above the expenditure last year.
– What last year?
– The last year that the Labour Government were in office.
– I ask again, what last year - expenditure or appropriation ?
– I am comparing the expenditure to the end of June, 1913, with the expenditure up till 30th June 1914.
– What is the honorable member comparing - expenditure with expenditure, or appropriation with appropriation?
– This is how it is headed-
– There is not much head about the statement, anyhow.
– The table is headed, “ Actual, 1912-13.”
– And “Estimated, 1913-14.”
– OF course. We cannot expect the money to have been expended already. That is an impossibility, because only two or three months of the present financial year have passed. But the estimate of the Treasurer is that this year we shall expend £4,135,000 more than was spent last year.
– More than was spent ; but not more than was estimated. Now does the honorable member see the difference ?
– That is only a quibble.
– Compare like with like.
– I will compare like with like after 30th June, 1914. If the Government do not intend to expend this money, they are deceiving the country. They are merely bringing forward an inflated balance-sheet. Is that the intention of the Government? Do they wish to come forward at the end of June next with a surplus?
– Does the honorable member say that the balance-sheet last year was an inflated one?
– The balance-sheet last year showed that business men were in control of the finances of the country. They were making money out of a note issue.
– The estimated expenditure of the late Government was £1,250.000 in excess of their expenditure.
– They left office with a surplus of nearly £3,000,000. The statement of the Prime Minister is a very good argument why we should not pass a Loan Bill. There should be no question about that now. He is practically boasting that the Government do not intend to spend this money, and, therefore, they will not get a vote of mine.
– It is merely shopdressing.
– I have remarked this afternoon and evening that the honorable member for Adelaide has interjected to an extent that his interjections, if counted up, would credit him with a very decent speech. There may be some provocation to interject for an honorable member sitting on the opposite side of the House to that of the honorable member who is addressing it, but there is very little justification for an honorable member interjecting when he is sitting upon the same side of the chamber as the honorable member who is in possession of the floor. I hope, therefore, that I shall be allowed to conduct our proceedings in accordance with our Standing Orders.
– I appreciate the special consideration which has been extended to me.
– I have exercised a great deal of forbearance with the honorable member this afternoon, and I trust that he will cast no reflection on the Chair.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that you, sir, are not justified in asserting that I have reflected on the Chair when I have not done so.
– What is the point of order?
– I claim that I have privileges equal to those of Mr. Speaker or of you, sir, and that it is not for you to suggest-
– Mr. Chairman-
– There is no point of order involved. The honorable member is making an attack upon the Chair.
– What is the point of order?
– My point of order is that you have no justification for suggesting that I have reflected on the Chair. I have not done so. Other honorable members have interjected, and I have interjected. Yet you have singled me out for special reference. There is no justification for that, much less for suggesting that I have reflected on the Chair.
– I cannot see any point of order in the honorable member’s statement. I have only carried out my duty by calling attention to a very persistent series of interjections this afternoon.
– The Prime Minister has stated that the Government do not intend to spend this money.
– 1” have made no such suggestion.
– I hope that after the little unpleasantness we have experienced, our proceedings will be conducted with a stricter regard to our Standing Orders.
– The Prime Minister has been quite definite in stating that the Government do not intend to spend the money set out upon the Estimates, and that they are going to use their brutal majority to get them through.
– Is the honorable member in order in persistently putting in my mouth a statement which I have not made, and which I have already denied ?
– If the Prime Minister takes objection to what the honorable member for Ballarat has stated1, the honorable member must withdraw his remark. But I heard nothing that is out of order, so far as the honorable member is concerned.
– I rise to a point of order. I am afraid that I have not made myself clear. I say that the honorable member persists in attributing to me a statement which I have not made and which I have denied. Is he not compelled, under our Standing Orders, to accept my denial, or is he in order in making an incorrect statement regarding myself ?
– Of course, if tnt honorable member for Ballarat has made a statement to which the Prime Minister takes exception, the honorable member must withdraw it.
– I am quite willing to comply with our Standing Orders, and if the Prime Minister will tell me the statement to which he takes exception, .1 will withdraw it.
– The statement to which I take exception is that we do no.t intend to spend this money.. I have never made any such statement.
– The Prime Minister says that” he has not made it, but I venture to say that no other inference can be drawn from his remarks.
– Withdraw it, and look . up the report in Hansard.
– 1 withdraw, and am content to look up the report in Hansard. I wish now to deal briefly with the increased expenditure proposed on defence. To my mind we are in a very serious position in Australia to-day. It is estimated that this year we shall expend £4,000,000 odd on our Naval and Military Forces, £1,000,000 on the construction of the Fleet, £300,000 on land required for defence purposes, and £175,000 on machinery and construction works at Cockatoo Island. In other words, we are going to expend nearly £6,000,000 on defence. I think that the people of Australia will find it impossible to bear this burden. Our expenditure on defence has increased from 18s. 6d. to 23s. per head.
– Both sides of the House are drunk on that subject.
-r-l realize that Australia ought to be. defended, but I am very much afraid that a few military officers are running the Commonwealth so far as the expenditure on defence is concerned. This is going to be a burden that the people cannot bear. This year the increased expenditure on our Naval and Military Forces will be £1,000,000- an increase of 5s. per head. Evidently the Estimates submitted by the military officers have been accepted in globo, and we are asked to sanction them. The Government propose to borrow money for defence purposes. If it were not for this vast expenditure on defence, there would be no necessity to borrow £3,000,000. But for that expenditure we would be able to make ends meet. If it be essential that we should expend £3,000,000 more on defence this year we should vote that money, but we should see that it comes from direct taxation. I shall not vote for any proposal under which the workers will pay any portion of that taxation. I recognise that they did enough when they submitted to the compulsory training system. The toilers willingly allow their sons to be trained, and trained under very great difficulties in some cases. I trust that the Prime Minister will lose very little time in looking into two matters which were mentioned here last week. I hope he will endeavour to induce the State authorities to carry the trainees over the railways free of charge. In the constituency of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, the lads have to pay their own fares from Sunshine every time they come into town to drill.
– That is not right.
– It is very unfair. If the Prime Minister cannot arrange with the State Government to . carry the boys free when they are in uniform, we should shoulder the burden here. I know of some lads in our Citizen Forces who have to lose a day’s work in order to attend compulsory drills. They are only in receipt of 20s. or 25s. per week as farm labourers. They have to come from Gordon. They go to Ballarat, and thence to the Canadian Ranges, and they are not allowed a penny to provide themselves with food. They have to stay there the whole day, and they do not get back to their homes until 9 or 10 o’clock at night. 1 asked the officer in charge of them what one lad was going to do for dinner, and he replied, “ He must put a sandwich in his haversack.” [ said, “ That is all right, but the lad gets up very early; the baker calls al his place about twice a week, and the bread will be pretty stale, and he will not bs likely to enjoy it very much at dinnertime after tramping about the ranges.” I said then, “ What is he going to do for tea?” and the reply was, “He gets into Ballarat at 6 o’clock at night, the train arrives at 7, and it would not be long for him to have to wait. If he is very hungry he can pull up his belt a hole or two.” I said that seemed very cruel, and I pointed out that the young fellow would be walking past fish-shops and restaurants, and would smell the steak and onions, and it was not fair that he should be kept without food.
-The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I rise to direct the attention of the Government to a matter of importance which, so far as I know, has not yet been touched upon in this debate. I refer to the necessity of the Government taking action early to relieve the people of Sydney of the embargo which has been irritating, exasperating, and ruining many of them during the last three or four months. It would seem that, having issued their proclamation putting the 15 miles area of Sydney under quarantine, the Government consider that it would be undignified of them to respond to the appeal of the people to remove the embargo. Assuming that this was a real outbreak of small-pox, which might develop into one of the epidemics of which we have read in days gone by in other countries, there might have been some reason for the drastic step taken by the Government to protect one part of Australia from the spread of an epidemic raging in another. But, although there have been one thousand cases of the illness, there has not been one death, and that is a record for an epidemic disease which is not equalled in any other country in the world. With this evidence before them that this is not a malignant or dangerous form of small-pox, the Government should have realized that their drastic action was unnecessary, and that the penalty they are imposing upon the people of the Commonwealth, and particularly of New South Wales, is unjustifiable in the extreme. By an act of administration the Government have forced thousands of people in New South Wales to undergo vaccination, to subject themselves to serious illness in many cases, and in some cases to follow their relatives to the grave, because of the use of bad vaccine in the early days of the epidemic. Many lives have been sacrificed as a result of the action taken by the Government, and, in the circumstances, one would think that they would not hesitate for a moment to review the whole situation. The Prime Minister has frequently referred to this matter in terms which indicate that the Government do not take a serious view of it. It is all very well to say that they are protecting the other States, but I venture to say that no Government in any other country would have been tolerated so long as the present Government have been if they had imposed so unjustifiable an embargo upon a city of 750,000 people. There are many authorities to-day who hold, as I have held all along, that this epidemic is not small-pox but cow-pox. The fact that no deaths have resulted from it supports that conclusion. But that does not concern the Government, or Dr. Cumpston, their guide, philosopher, and friend in this matter. When appealed to, Dr. Cumpston says that there are still a great many people within the quarantine area who are not yet immune from small-pox. He indicates that he is not prepared to lift the embargo until every person residing within the quarantined area is vaccinated. That is unworthy of any medical or scientific man having the knowledge which Dr. Cumpston should have of this epidemic. The press of New South Wales, as well as some of the public men who have been responsible very largely for urging vaccination upon the people, are to-day urging the Government to lift the embargo. The Sydney Morning Herald, only a fortnight ago, having probably received a hint from the people who are suffering financially in Sydney as the result of the embargo, published a leading article quite opposed to the articles it published for many weeks after the outbreak of the disease. It urges the Government now to relieve the city of Sydney from this unjustifiable and undreamtof quarantine, but the Government failed apparently to recognise the seriousness of the position for which they are responsible. The Sydney Daily Telegraph for weeks urged the people to go into the shambles and be vaccinated, and take into their systems germs from which they may suffer severely by-and-by. This newspaper, with its scare articles, was largely responsible for hounding thousands of people to vaccination, but it has referred in a recent issue to the quarantine embargo as calculated to make the administration of the Quarantine Department the laughing-stock of the world. The Prime Minister has seen a report from a patient isolated at the Quarantine Station at North Head saying that he was well treated, and that everything was all right, and he takes that report as if it were gospel truth. I wish the honorable gentleman were present to listen to a statement which I have here. He is a New South Welshman, and we should at least expect that he would see justice done to the State from which he comes. I have here a list of complaints from patients who have been treated at the Quarantine Station, published in a newspaper that formerly upheld the action of the Government. The information is supplied by the senior partner of a Sydney firm. It is not a nondescript who writes this, but a man whose word can be relied upon, and whose character will stand investigation, but he desires that, for business reasons, his name should not be printed. How many men have had to be vaccinated for business reasons through the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs ? How many employes have been forced to undergo vaccination in order to protect their employers? How many business men have themselves undergone vaccination in order to overcome the prejudices of people created by newspapers and the scare set up by the Federal authorities? This gentleman writes -
Mind you, I have no complaints to make against persons. The officers did their best, but the system of quarantine as I found ii during my several weeks detention was abominable, to say the least of it. We were herded like infected cattle in a slaugher-yard.
Is the Minister of Trade and Customs listening to this, or is he paying more attention to the honorable member for Wilmot than to this serious charge against his administration. This member of a city firm went into quarantine voluntarily as an act of duty to his country, and he says that he was herded, with others, like infected cattle in a pen. He adds -
Men, like myself, who have been always used to a fair standard of decency, were put in wards higgledy-piggledy with Domain loafers and those to whom the lowest level of living is luxury.
He offered to pay the uttermost penny for - fair treatment,- but that was refused.
– Can the honorable gentleman supply the name of this gentleman?
– The Minister could get it from the newspaper that published his letter.
– I will ask that inquiries be made into the matter. It would facilitate the investigation of complaints if those who make them would give their names confidentially to the Department.
– I quite realize that this gentleman is unwilling, for business reasons, to disclose his name, and have it known that he was confined in the Quarantine Station.
– If he would only give his name confidentially to the Department, that would be sufficient.
– Let the Minister ask him to give his name confidentially. It is useless for the honorable gentleman to try to shield himself behind the State authorities in this case. All the time that this question has been under discussion, when we have referred to any matter of administration-, the Minister has sheltered himself behind the action of the State Government.
– That statement is incorrect.
– It is not incorrect.
– If the honorable member repeats that fifty times, it will not make his statement a fact.
– Nor will the Minister’s repeated denials make it untrue. Every time I have tried to elicit information as to Federal responsibility the question has been shelved, whether answered verbally, or after due notice. On every occasion there has been a decided shirking of responsibility - a make-believe and pretence.
– Does the honorable member advocate the lifting of the quarantine; and, if so, what would he substitute ?
– The isolation of patients and contacts.
– Is that not a matter for the State?
– It is a matter on which the Federal authorities can instruct and advise. This gentleman goes on to say-
My family and friends strongly protested against my treatment, but were informed that no patient could be given any separate or better conditions, even though he paid for it. . . .
The food was carried from the kitchen to the patients across a bare, unprotected space, without a covering on the dishes, and the diet was not appetising to a man who was used to even fair cooking, though to some I dare say it was a banquet.
Now, as for the women, I will go as far asto say that I would rather a woman who wasdear to me were dead, than that she should have to go through what they have to in quarantine. If a woman offered to pay£100 a week she would not get any better treatment, for the reason that the officials could not do any better.
The Federal Government have starved the station, and that is the bottom of the whole trouble.
Another correspondent says -
The sanitary arrangements were unspeakablyvile.
Did the Minister go down to look into these matters for himself during his various visits to Sydney?
– Those people should be compelled to sign their names to the letters.
– The honorable member is inconsistent, inasmuch as he, and those who sit with him, protest against the signing of newspaper articles, while they would compel people, who labour under peculiar difficulties, to sign their productions. There is some idiotic laughter; and this is what has to be endured when the health and life of the community are at stake. The corespondent to whom I have referred says -
The sanitary arrangements were unspeakably vile; in fact, there were none at all. The place reeked with filth, and though the attendants did their best, the task was wholly beyond so small a staff. I will just give an instance of how persons suffered through insufficient attendance. When I was well enough to leave I was stripped to have a disinfecting bath, and my clothes were taken away to be fumigated. Well, the attendant who took my clothes away had work to do at the other end of the station, with the result that after I finished my bath I had no clothes and had to sit in a corner for over haff-an-hour with nothing round me but a damp towel. How long I would have had to stay like that I do not know, but I managed to get another patient to go and fossick out my clothes. When I got them I lost no time in shaking the dust of quarantine off my feet, I can tell you.
– The honorable member for Indi says that that person was not used to a bath.
– All the bathing in the world would not make the honorable member for Indi clean - politically, of course. In my judgment, the Minister has never comprehended the seriousness of this trouble, nor recognised the injury he is doing. I do not say that the Minister does not care, but he cannot know the number of lives that have been sacrificed on the altar of vaccination, though, of course, he does know that this alleged small-pox has not caused the loss of one life. Yet there are authorities, higher than Dr. Cumpston, prepared to show that this is not small-pox, but pure cowpox.
– Has the honorable member the authority of any medical man for saying that this is cow-pox ?
– I have had interviews with men who are capable of giving an unbiased opinion.
– Men who have seen the cases?
– Who have “ seen many of the cases, -and have written to the press regarding them.
– Are they medical men ?
– Yes, and others. There are scientists and bacteriologists who know as much, and perhaps more, than medical men know of the disease. So well has the case been worked up in the interests of the medical fraternity-
– Can the honorable member give the nam’e of one scientist or medical man who has declared this to be cow-pox ?
– The honorable member fancies that he is in a Police Court where he is allowed to take a lot of liberty. If the honorable member is being briefed or . prompted- by the Minister of Trade . and Customs, I am not here to answer queries of the kind. It is notorious that the newspapers, who have been largely responsible, for the scare, have refused to publish communications giving the other side, no matter by whom sent. Many persons, some of them sufferers, have written giving their experiences, but the press has religiously and unjustly refused to ventilate their side of the question; and it is for that reason that the honorable member for New England is so ignorant on the subject. Let the honorable member inquire from the Sydney Morning Herald, the Daily Telegraph, the Evening News, and other papers which support his party, how many letters setting forth vividly what this embargo means to the people of New South Wales, have been thrown into the waste-paper basket. The honorable member for Newcastle knows of a person who has been in bed for fifty-one or fifty-two days with erysipelas, claimed by his medical advisers to have supervened on vaccination. But, of course, all cases of that .kind are of no consequence to the Government; they do not care how many widows or orphans may be left because of the scare and a system of vaccination imposed, not legally, but indirectly, by regulation on the ipsi dixit of one man. Are the Government really trying to get to the bottom of the matter? The very first thing they should have done was to appoint a body to investigate, and not to rely on one person.
– Was an embargo placed on Sydney at the time of the plague?
-Wise men governed the country at that time, and they resorted to isolation. When small-pox broke out in a malignant form, and people died, the disease was stamped out in one-third the time that the Government have been playing with it on the present occasion. The Government declare that they are not going to take any action while there are any new cases of this alleged small-pox. If the Government keep on their present method it will spell ruin to hundreds of people in Sydney and suburbs, because the cow-pox will continue. The Government shelter themselves behind the medical .officer, or behind the State authorities; but the quarantine area is a Federal area, and the staffing and sanitary conditions are a Federal responsibility. I cannot think that the Minister has ever made any personal investigation, although he has been vaccinated, and ought to consider himself immune. I make another appeal to the honorable gentleman to lift this quarantine.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member has repeated tonight what he has told us previously day after day.
– And I shall repeat it again.
– I am sorry to say that the honorable member, shows just the same refusal to recognise and consider facts. He has repeated day after day the number of deaths that took place from vaccination.
– I said the number of people who would have been alive except for vaccination.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement in that form, but I understood him to repeat a statement he made to-night about the number of deaths from vaccination. He drew harrowing pictures of the deaths of persons leaving widows and orphans. These deaths could not be very well due to small-pox, because the honorable member said there were no deaths due to that disease. What was the cause of the deaths of these persons, if the honorable member did not imply that they were due to vaccination ? The natural conclusion from the honorable member’s remarks was that those deaths were due to vaccination,or else his words had absolutely no meaning. We know, from the inquiries that I made at the request of honorable members opposite, that the medical authorities in Sydney certified that there had not been a single death due to vaccination. When the honorable member gets official information of that kind from the State authorities who know all about it, he should accept it.
– Biased authorities.
– When a man starts a fad, and advocates it all over the country, he calls any official statement which tells against him biased. No one would believe that the State authorities would supply false information to this House. I have the highest opinion of them. These returns are based upon statutory returns based in turn upon certificates of deaths supplied to the proper authorities, and how Mr. King, the secretary of the Board of Health in Sydney, could falsify them by any prejudice in his mind, is beyond me. I do not understand the honorable member’s attitude, and that statement of his, when examined, is found to have just as much foundation as his statement of deaths due to vaccination. I am just as anxious as is any other honorable member to know the absolute truth of the matter, and if the honorable member for Gwydir will supply us with information as to any death due to vaccination, I shall be very glad to ascertain the facte. Our only desire should be to avoid making party politics of this matter.
– I am not doing so.
– I do not know what the honorable member is doing.
– The honorable member cannot comprehend what I am doing.
– The honorable member has constantly, although he knows that some of these matters are within the jurisdiction of the State, sought to make political capital at the expense of the Government. I do not object to the honorable member blaming the Department for anything the Department does, but a great many of his statements have just as much foundation as the one to which I have already referred. He has to-night brought before the Committee a number of statements which have appeared in the newspapers. I can quite understand, as regards these patients, that a person who has been there, and who is in business, not wanting to give his name to the press, but I cannot understand why any patient who has been through the quarantine station, and who has suffered, should not make a statement to the proper authorities in order that the matter may be investigated. Notwithstanding that these statements were anonymous, since they were made I gave instructions that the facts should be investigated, but the difficulty was that the persons who were making them were not there. If any person making them will come forward and supply the name, we shall be only too pleased to have an investigation made, but so far as I know, there has been no foundation for any of the statements made.
.- An item appears on the Estimates relating to the Fitzroy Dock. About fourteen blacksmiths and others were put off work there at the end of last week. The reason given was that no plans or details were coming from Melbourne to keep them at work. Do Ministers think that the best and most economical way to carry on the construction of ships is to keep the plans and details in Melbourne when they should know that they are wanted on the spot? It must mean delay, and the Minister should, if he desires to run his Department on business, lines, remove them to where the construction is going on. No business man would keep his plans and details 600 miles from where he was constructing his ships. It is a serious thing for men to be put out of work, and if the plans are not sent over more rapidly than at present, more people will be put off, and this will reflect upon the Administration. I know that the plans and details were kept in Melbourne when the previous Government were in power, but, all the same, the system is a mistake. Everythingshould be on the spot. It is an island, and all the plans would be perfectly safe. I ask the Treasurer, in the interests of those employed there, that facilities should be given for the men to draw their plans and keep the details in Sydney.
– I shall make a note of it.
.- It is not pleasant for a Minister to suggest that a member is doing something with an ulterior motive when he is doing it honestly in the interests of people who, he feels, are being injured by the action of the Government. The Minister of Trade and Customs has, as is usual when any member of the Government makes a statement, cleared out of the chamber, instead of staying to hear the reply. This is one of the things that show that they have a weak case, and are unable to stand by what they say. The honorable member tried to make out, because I quoted something published under a nom de plume in a responsible newspaper, that the information is not to be relied upon. It is the place of the Government, when direct statements are published, to investigate them, especially when they can locate them, as they can the statements I have read to-night. As far as concerns the honorable member’s imputation as to my motives, he is welcome to his opinion. I hold just as strong opinions on the other side as to the efficacy of vaccination as, probably, he or Dr. Cumpston does, and I am entitled to express them in the House, if I believe that by doing so I shall bring relief to a large number of people who are suffering, and who the great newspapers of the State are declaring today are being unfairly and unjustly treated. The Sydney Morning Herald is now calling it an absurd quarantine, and an unjust imposition upon the people, although for many weeks it said nothing. Is it saying this now because the business people of Sydney have had a series of meetings, and have, I believe, notified the newspapers that if they continue to boom this alleged smallpox they can look forward to a material reduction in their advertising contributions? We must naturally look for some reason why the Sydney Morning Herald and the Daily Telegraph have now assumed the position of critics of that which they formerly supported. The Telegraph says that the Government are the laughing-stock of the world. Will the Minister of Trade and Customs imply that the Telegraph does not know what it is talking about? It has all the sources of information available. It has the key to the whole position; it has its men in and out reporting these cases from day to day; and, with all this knowledge, it is forced to affirm that the Government are making themselves the laughing-stock of the world. ‘ How can one think anything else, when we know that there is no country in the world where small-pox has existed that has ever done such a ridiculous and absurd thing as the Federal Government have done by imposing an embargo, and all the difficulties entailed thereby, upon the public? The Minister, who tries to undermine the efforts of any one who endeavours to bring relief, says that I referred to the Government. To whom else can I refer? Who else is responsible for the embargo ? Because I have tried from day to day, and from week to week, to impress the Government with a sense of responsibility and wrong-doing, the Minister has had the temerity to say that I have been actuated by political motives. The life, death, and health of the community are matters too important to be the plaything of party politics. I hold, as many others do, that the action of the Government has brought into Australia an evil that is becoming obsolete in other countries. A Government that tries to cure disease by the indirect method of vaccination, when that disease can be dealt with successfully only by isolation, sanitation, and segregation, does not understand the drift of modern medicine and science. The Minister says, “ I have made inquiries from reliable sources, and have information based on the certificates of medical men who have attended the patients, and there is not one case of death which is attributed to vaccination.” If a public inquiry were held, and opportunity were given to those who know the condition of the victims immediately after vaccination, and from then until the time of death, a different conclusion would be come to. The doctors certify only as to the final cause of death, generally stating it to be heart failure. They do not say what brought about the heart failure. Who would expect the admission from the medical profession that death has resulted from vaccination, when a large number of the members of the profession, whenever a small-pox epidemic breaks out, make it the excuse to cry, “ Vaccinate, vaccinate.” Why do the doctors urge wholesale vaccination? Is it because they know vaccination to be beneficial 1 No. It is merely a medical fetish that is now tabooed by the wisest scientists.
– There should be a quorum to listen to this highly interesting address. [Quorum formed.]
– The Minister must have known that his charges against me would be replied to, but he nevertheless left the chamber. He attributed my action to quite other than the real causes. Would he say that the Daily Telegraph was trying to make political capital out of this subject? He knows as well as I do that the medical certificates on which he bases the statement that there has been no death as the result of vaccination are certificates giving merely the final symptoms before death, not the real causes which culminated in deaths from bloodpoisoning, heart-failure and erysipelas. The doctors do not say what were the primary cause of those terminations of life. But the friends of the victims, who saw them immediately after vaccination, and witnessed their subsequent sufferings and symptoms, could prove that they would be alive to-day had they not been vaccinated. The Minister does not concern himself with that. He is content to accept the certificates of the members of a largely biased profession, who always make a lot of money out of a visitation of this kind. Take, for instance, the doctor who vaccinated a staff - and riot a very large one .either - in a big office in Sydney. It took him two hours and a half, and he lifted 80 guineas for the work. So it is with the doctors who privately have charged from half-a-guinea up to two or three guineas for the operation. But that was nothing compared with the business which was brought to them afterwards as the result of the vaccination. These men were largely interested in vaccination from a financial stand-point, and I know from some of them that nothing but the financial side of the question appealed to them. Yet these are the men upon whom the Minister relies to guide him. I shall continue to refer to this matter so long as the Government continue to be, in the words of the Daily Telegraph, “ a laughing-stock *f the world.” So long as they adhere to their present attitude, I shall persist in my effort to prove that that newspaper is right, and that the Government are reckless and indifferent to the appeals which are made, not only from this side of the chamber, but from their own side. What has happened to the honorable member for Werriwa ? He can stand on a public platform, and denounce the actions of the Government; practically he can agree with those who are opposed to the embargo on Sydney; he can help them to pass resolutions, but here he dare not say a word.
– It is hardly fair, because he has said something here.
– He has not said anything on this question for some time.
– He does not get a chance to put in a word.
– The honorable member for Werriwa has had a chance to speak, and so, too, has the honorable gentleman; but he is dumb, like the rest of the honorable members opposite. He is in the most unhappy position of any one in the Chamber. He would be delighted if only the Government would take the muzzle off; but they will not remove it,and he simply has to sit there and try to smile - it is a sickly smile - when he thinks of the restrictions which are put upon him by the party to which he unhappily belongs.
– Get him vaccinated.
– The honorable member for Grampians has never looked well since he was vaccinated. I suppose that it had something to do with the hallucinations he has displayed with regard to finance. I felt satisfied that there was a cause for his extravagant statements on the hustings. We have ascertained at last that his mental wanderings are attributable to the after-effects of vaccination. I was very pleased to hear the honorable member for Maribyrnong read some of the marvellous statements which the honorable member for Grampians made before the electors.
– They are very truthful.
– If the statements are truthful, how is it that the honorable member is ashamed of the truth?
– I have got it in.
– The honorable member to-day dare not say a word in that direction. Here we have a Government who are adding millions to the public expenditure in every direction, and “the watchdog of economy “ has not barked once - not even howled. When the honorable member was on the hustings, he told the people that every man ought to be in his place, shoulder to shoulder, man to mau, to fight the destinies of this country against “ that beastly Labour party.” He said that every honorable member ought to be here every day.
– What . about the “ beer sparrers? “
– I suppose that he had in his mind the address which he delivered when he slated the “ beer sparrers’ and “ beer chewers.” He did not’ say anything about the men who drink some of the inferior wines which he makes. The honorable member is always parading as a financial authority and as an exemplar of what a member of Parliament should be. He says that an honorable member should never be out of his place in the House, that he should closely follow every debate, and thoroughly scrutinise every item on the Estimates. The Government Whip interjects. I do not know what the honorable member said, but it cannot be much, seeing that it produces such hilarity on the part of the honorable member for Wilmot. Here is another authority on finance who has not dared to open his mouth in this chamber since the session began. Yet this financial guide of the party now “rushes into the newspapers. He has endeavoured to relieve his feelings by some inimitable laughter.
– Does he not speak at tea parties?
– I do not know where he speaks; but I read in the newspapers a heading “ Mr. Massey Greene on Finance.” I give the Prime Minister all the credit to which he is entitled for the way in which he ties up his supporters. He and the Attorney-General keep a wonderful curb upon their supporters. No matter how the latter may feel, they dare not speak.
– I would like to speak for five minutes now if the honorable member would sit down.
– Let us get home.
– That is what the Treasurer calls argument. He exclaims, “ Let us get home.” I say, “ Let us get on with business.” Home is the last place to which the Government should think of going, considering the progress they are making. Before he goes to bed to-night, I would like the Treasurer to read the leading article published in the Argus to-day, which was quoted by the honorable member for Capricornia this afternoon. When he has done so he will not say, “Let us get home, but “Let us get to work,” so as to lift the Argus out of its despondent condition. When the Government lose the support of the Argus what will they have left?
– The Age.
– No, the Argus has been their bulwark. What will they have to rely on in the future?
– The Worker.
– The honorable member for Wentworth is a great student of the Worker, and the Treasurer has evidently had a chat with the honorable member about the possibilities of that organ.
– The honorable member has said enough.
– I would not have risen but for the insult of the Minister of Trade and Customs. When a Minister rises in this chamber and makes statements such as he made he must expect a reply to them. Before resuming my seat I ask the Prime Minister whether he is going to hold a full investigation into the conditions surrounding and the experiences arising from the small -pox embargo in Sydney f Is he going to appoint a Royal Commission ?
– If he will appoint the honorable member a Royal Commissioner will he accept the job?
– The PostmasterGeneral has a chart to guide him on hia way, and ohe that he needs badly, provided by ray work on a Royal Commission. I want to ask the Prime Minister
– The honorable’ member has asked enough questions upon: this matter.
– Does the PrimeMinister say that those questions are not worth discussing? Is he callous to what: is happening in Sydney?
– I would like the honorable member to say something: fresh.
– Let him raise the embargo, and he will see how silent I will be. But while Dr. Cumpston is urging that the other half of the people of Sydney should be vaccinated, I shall not cease to do my duty. No man who understands the circumstances of the case would for a moment dogmatize as to whether this embargo should be retained. A similar embargo has never been imposed in any other country in the world. Surely it is sufficient evidence that not one death has occurred in Sydney, although there have been a thousand cases of alleged small-pox there. Surely it is sufficient to know that there are men in the medical profession who are qualified to judge, and who declare that it is not small-pox at all, but merely cow-pox. Yet the Government only wish to know what Dr. Cumpston says. They will accept no other guide. In spite of all the appeals which have been made to them by honorable members, and in spite of the appeals of the Daily Telegraph and the Sydney Morning Herald not to make themselves the laughing-stock of the world, they still remain adamant. All they reply is, “ Vaccinate the other half of the people of Sydney, and then we may lift the embargo.”
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I am getting rather afraid of our commitments upon defence, and I am of opinion that it is about time we called a halt. In this .Bill I find that provision is made for the expenditure of £300,000 during one month, and it is to be absorbed in “ contingencies,” “ miscellaneous services,” and “ petty cash.” Of course I am satisfied that the Ministry recognise that a halt will have to be called some time in our expenditure upon defence. All over the world Governments are expending more in this direction than they can afford, and we seem to be following in their footsteps. Whilst I am of opinion that it is imperative that we should defend Australia, it seems to me that the Department is expending money without giving us a return commensurate with that expenditure.. We have only to look at the Department to find that it is nothing but a seething mass of discontent. I do not know who is responsible for this. Whether the Department is too big for a Minister to handle, I cannot say with any degree of assurance. But day after day I have submitted to me most peculiar anomalies in it. At one time a decision will be given which will suit one man or set of men, and in almost parallel circumstances a different method of administration will be applied to another man or another set of men. That naturally breeds discontent. I do not care in what walk of life a man may be placed, he expects to be treated in the same way as his compeers. I recollect a few years ago when a crisis was created in this House because of the desire of a majority that a Commission should be appointed to investigate the inner working of the Postal Department. It was proved beyond a doubt that it was necessary that such an investigation should take place. I read the report of the Commission, and picked out from the evidence the portions in which I was interested. If an inquiry was necessary in the case of the Postal Department, we can say with perfect assurance, that the administration of the Defence Department needs a similar inquiry much more urgently. We have to take into consideration the fact that while the Post and Telegraph Department is an earning Department, the Defence Department is a spending Department. We are paying money for defence as for insurance.
– It is a very heavy premium.
– I agree with the honorable member. The men are not satisfied, and no one who gives the matter any consideration can be satisfied with the results from our expenditure on defence. I could enumerate many ways in which we could get a better return for our money. We find one Department overstocked and overmanned, and yet a demand made for more men. We find another understocked and undermanned, and no effort made by the sub-heads of the Department can bring about any improvement of the condition of affairs.
– Is the honorable member now referring to the Defence Department*
– Yes. The irregularities in connexion with that Department demand serious attention. I have been, perhaps, more closely associated with the Defence Department than have most of the members of the Committee. My electoral division has within its boundaries most of the branches of the Department in Victoria, and naturally irregularities in connexion with it are freely brought under my notice. There are dozens of cases which I might every day bring before the Department to secure redress, but I am unable to do so. I believe that the Minister of Defence is earnest in the desire to carry out the administration of the Department properly, but, like every Minister who has preceded him, he is surrounded by a body of officers who are determined that they shall run the show and be the real administrators of the Department. The Minister feels that he is a layman in charge of a highly technical Department, and must proceed with great care. Naturally he does not like to take a stand, if he proposes any departure from the advice of his officials, unless he is very sure of his ground. Rather than create .a position which as a layman he could not maintain, he allows matters to go by the board. That is not a good thing for Australia. From many matters which have como under my notice it has been proved that it is useless to appeal te the Defence Department for information or to have wrongs redressed. If honorable members put questions concerning the administration of defence on the noticepaper, they will find that the Minister in this House representing the Minister of Defence will ask them to be good enough to let the matter in which they are interested stand over until next Thursday. On next Thursday they will be asked to put it off until the following week. Last session I put some questions on the paper to which lying answers were given, and I was put off until Parliament was dissolved. I had to wait until we met again, this year to get answers to questions which I submitted last October.
– Have you received answers to them yet!
– To some, but not to all of them. If it is thought that I am drawing the long bow, I ask any honorable member to put a question concerning a defence matter on the paper, and he will find that the officials will beat all round the bush, and will not answer the question directly. The Minister seems to be helpless. His officials will not report upon a question put to them. I do not wish to particularize any branch of the Department. We know that, no matter how well men are treated, some will imagine that they have grievances. It is an Englishman’s prerogative to have a grievance, and we must take a lot of the complaints that are made with a grain of gait. But I say that, no matter how unfairly a man may be treated in the Defence Department, he has to surmount enormous difficulties to get his case placed before the responsible head of the Department, the Minister. He has to follow a course of procedure recognised in military and naval quarters. He must first of all ask for redress from his immediately superior responsible officer. His complaint is then passed on to another responsible officer. If the officers are against the man who complains, they keep back his complaint. They pigeonhole it, and it may take years before it reaches any person who can redress the wrong complained of. I charge the heads and sub-heads of the Defence Department with having repeatedly taken this stand against men who have been seeking redress. To mention a particular case, I may say that last October it came to my knowledge that the petty officers and warrant officers who had been brought out from England were receiving 2s. per day lodging allowance, while men who had been in Australia before, and were doing exactly the same work, did nob receive the allowance. It is admitted that that was not fair. The honorable member for Adelaide at the time represented the Defence Department in this House, and I put a question on the subject on the paper, which was answered in a manner that showed an intention to deceive.
– What Government did that?
– This occurred under the late Government. It has become apparent, I think, to honorable members on both sides that when I speak on these matters it is not a question with me of any particular Government or Minister. I trust that the honorable member for Echuca will not treat defence questions as party questions. As I say, I received an answer that was intended to deceive, and I was asked to put off the question for a week. It was further postponed, and Parliament had actually prorogued before I got a reply. I made a complaint, and there was au inquiry ; but it was not until the present Government got into power that I could extract from the defence officials the report, which showed that the men had been treated wrongly, and that they had been paid their back money, putting them on an equality with the imported men. Then there are Australian regulations and British regulations, and “the military authorities use either that suit them when dealing with the men. There are men here who are receiving onethird more pay than they would in England, while others, doing the same work, ave receiving one-third less than they would in England. It is almost impossible to reach tlie Minister past the Commandant, or the Commanding Officer of a division, and much more so to get past the Naval or Military Board; and when you do get to him, neither he nor you have time to look into all the details of the many cases that require investigation. The subordinate officers ought to secure a fair and square deal to all ; and, if they do not, and the Minister cannot be reached, then I say that the Defence Department requires an inquiry just as much as does the Post and Telegraph Department. We are asked to vote the large sum of £300,000 for one month, and I point out that while we have, say, a definite sum of £200 down for pay, we have contingencies set down at £2,000, while, with pay at £700, the vague term ‘ ‘ contingencies “ is responsible for £15,000, and so on. There should be some method of securing that the money shall be so expended as to give a full return, and that those in subjection to the officers and the Boards should have a fair deal. We have always boasted of being able to run our Departments on common-sense and Democratic, or, as the Government would say, Liberal, lines; and there is no reason why we should follow the systems of older countries which are based on militarism. As matters stand, if a mau endeavours to redress a wrong, he finds himself so persecuted that it would have been better for him to have kept his mouth shut. The authorities go so far as to interfere with his social life. I suppose we are all agreed that when a man has done the work he is paid for, how he occupies himself afterwards is a matter for himself, always providing that it is not to his discredit or does not make him unfit for duty; and it is exactly under this latter proviso that the interference takes place. Of course, we have no desire to name the officers who are responsible for this; but if the Naval Board and other authorities will not allow the warrant officers and the rank and file to get justice, names will have to be mentioned, or steps taken to have a full inquiry into the administration. Discon- tent in the Defence Department is more detrimental to a country than discontent in any other Department. I should like to see a Defence Minister in this House with some power and responsibility. The Honorary Minister has given defence matters much thought, and is quite fitted to take some responsibility in administration. The Minister of Defence does not object to listen to complaints or grievances, but, as a matter of fact, he has not the time to go into the multitudinous matters. It so happens that my constituency is much interested in defence matters. I think the Prime Minister will admit that when he was in charge of the Defence Department, although I worried him a great deal, I was always fair in my dealings with him, and I believe the Government of the day will not charge me with being unfair in any statements I make.
– Did you find the then Minister unfair?
– No, I cannot say he was. When I make a statement such as I make to-night, it is only with a view of having the matter thoroughly considered. The Defence Department is a large spending Department, and its outlay is increasing. The Northern Territory or the transcontinental railway is nothing as a sink for money when compared with the Defence Department, yet we in this House, which is supposed to be the superior House so far as the purse is concerned, are utterly at sea as to what is being done in that particular Department. Either we shall have to get a Minister in this House really responsible for the Department, or we shall have to have an inquiry to find out who is responsible, so that the members of the House can go to him with matters that come under their notice. If this is not done, I shall endeavour to get other members who are interested in defence administration and expenditure to join me in taking steps to see that the money is spent in the right direction with due economy and a fair return, and that individuals in the Department get justice meted out to them.
– Why not get the Minister of Defence to come to the bar of the House ?
– In a Parliament like this, with both Houses returned on the same franchise, it would be a good thing to arrange for Ministers to appear in either House when necessary.
– That is provided for in the Victorian Constitution now.
– Wherever one goes he hears comments as to the Defence Department becoming a large spending Department. We recognise that we must prepare for defence, but the expenditure must be carefully watched. When witnessing the arrival of the Australian Fleet in Sydney Harbor, one could hear everywhere comments about the magnitude of the defence expenditure, and queries as to where we were going to stop, and whether we were spending the money in the right direction. I trust that the Ministry will consider this matter from both stand-points, and provide the opportunity for honorable members to place matters before them, so that they may get redress as far as individuals in the Defence Department’ are concerned, and see how the money is spent.
.- Speaking earlier in the evening, I said the Prime Minister had admitted that the Government were not going to spend the amount placed on the Estimates for this year. The Prime Minister denied this, and called upon me to withdraw it. I now find that he made the following statement -
It is quite true that the Estimates are £4,000,000 more than the actual spending last year, but it is very probable that when we have tried our hardest to spend all this money this year, as they did last year, we shall have more than ,£1,000,000 unspent.
That confirms my previous statement.
– If the honorable member is unable to perceive the distinction between an intention to spend and inability to spend, I pity his intellect.
.- If the Government are going to cut £1,000,000 off the Estimates, what are they going to take it from, and why is that £1,000,000 there? Is it to come off the Postal Department? Member after member complains that telephones are needed all over the country, and if the retrenchment is going to take place at the expense of the Postal Department, it will be a very bad thing, and ought not to be allowed. The Prime Minister blurted this statement out the .other night. I know he did not intend to make it, and was afterwards sorry he did make it, because he is evidently troubled about it to-night, or he would not have made the remark he did to the honorable member for Ballarat.
– When you people deliberately misrepresent a man, it-would annoy anybody.
– The honorable member should be the last in this House to talk about deliberately misrepresenting anybody, especially after the statement he made the other night, and other statements which he has made throughout the country at other times. There is no greater offender in that regard than the honorable member himself. I have already quoted a number of cases, and I have a number more that I could dig out of his speeches during the campaign to show that he was either misreported, or making misrepresentations.
– The honorable member has never dug one out yet.
– The honorable member has wriggled out of it in a way that is not creditable to himself. He has never got out of his statement about spending all the revenue, or cleared up his assertion that the public accounts were not properly audited. His object in making it was to mislead the people.
– I never made it.
– Then was there a conspiracy by the newspapers of the country to attribute certain statements to the honorable member, with the object of misleading the public. Does he say that on all these occasions he was deliberately misrepresented by the press ?
– There has been an instance of misrepresentation to-night. I have been misrepresented to my face.
– If the honorable member’s exact words were not used, the member who quoted him used words as nearly as possible those of the Prime Minister. When the statement was justified by a quotation, the Prime Minister made nasty interjections.
– It was not justified. The honorable member misrepresented me.
– According to the Prime Minister, every one misrepresents him. I have never tried to do so. I have accepted the newspaper reports in good faith, and have based my questions on them. There are one or two matters to which I wish to refer in this debate. For instance, the Postmaster-General, during the electoral campaign, told his constituents that it was a wicked waste to spend money on the Federal Capital - that the Capital should be in Melbourne or in Sydney. He said, too, that the transcontinental railway meant another waste of money. What is the honorable gentleman’s present position in regard to those big national questions? I should like to know how the construction of the transcontinental railway is progressing. I understand that the line is not being constructed as quickly as it should be, and I have been led to believe that the saving of £1,000,000 which the Government expect to make this year will be made at the expense of the line. If the PostmasterGeneral has his way, the Federal Capital expenditure will also be starved. Victorian members should be the last to offer objections to the spending of money on the Federal Capital. They have had their fair share of Federal expenditure. It was anticipated by the members of the first Parliament that the Parliament would meet in Melbourne only for two or three years ; but it has now been meeting here for thirteen years, and will probably meet here for another six or seven years.
– Another throe years will see us out of Melbourne.
– If the Government intend to save £1,000,000 this year, it may be at the expense of the Federal Capital.
– The honorable member does not expect to be at the Capital within three years?
– I expect to be there soon, and I hope that the Government will not save money in that direction. The trans-Siberian railway was laid at the rate of 18 miles a week; and, seeing that the trans-Australian railway will traverse flat country, offering few engineering difficulties, and with no large water-courses, it ought to be laid at the rate of at least 20 miles a week.
– At the present rate of progress, the line will not be finished within twenty years.
– The Minister of Home Affairs went to Port Augusta to see how things were being done there. Just before he went, we heard that the track-layer which had been purchased by the previous Government, was a valueless machine, which had cost a lot of money that had been wasted. The late member for Fremantle told us that the purchase of the machine was a wilful waste of money. But the Minister, on his return, told us that it was the most wonderful machine that he had seen in Australia, and was capable of doing the work of dozens of men. The trouble was that the conti actor who engaged to supply trucks failed to do so, and the machine could not work to its full capacity. Now that the trucks are available, the machine has become the most useful thing that could be obtained for its purpose. I hope that the railway will be pushed on as fast as possible.
– Get a good contract.
– Big railway works more than any other can be carried out successfully by day labour.
– According to the honorable member’s statement, not much has been done yet.
– That is so; but difficulties are always met with at the start of an enterprise. But now that the work has been started, there is ample money left to our honorable friends to carry it right through. I wish to see the construction of the railway pushed on as quickly as possible. The Government ought to make au effort to push on .with the work, and show us exactly what they can do in administering the Department. They would then be doing a good thing for the people of Australia, particularly those who live in Western Australia. Although, probably, at first the line may not be so successful as we anticipated, still I trust that the earliest opportunity will be taken to push ahead with its construction. There are one or two other matters on which I desire to say a few words.
– Do you know that this is Tuesday night?
– I understood that the Government were prepared to adjourn at a reasonable hour. How far do they wish to go with the Bill to-night ?
– We want the Bill put through, of course.
– I wish to speak particularly about the proposed meat freezing works at Port Darwin. I think that if the Government would be content to take the Bill to the thirdreading stage to-night, we could dispose of it in a couple of hours to-morrow.
– Oh, no!
– That is, I think, a fair suggestion.
– There is no hope to-night.
– On the second reading of the Bill there will be plenty of time for rae to say what I desire to say.
.- I desire to-night, although I would rather speak to-morrow, to say a few words about the refusal of the Government to go on with the freezing works in Port Darwin as a Government concern.
– What is the good of keeping us here?
– If the Government will give us an opportunity to speak on the third reading of the Bill to-morrow, we are prepared to give way at once.
– We cannot break into another day.
– I am quite prepared to go ahead, as the Treasurer suggests, although I would much rather go home now.
– You know very well that you had the whole of last week to refer to this matter, if you had wanted to do so.
– You are only doing this out of nastiness.
– That is, I think, a very unfair remark on the part of the Postmaster-General. I think that the Ministerialists will have to admit that in this session, at any rate, the Opposition have not dealt with the Northern Territory in a party spirit. We have not harassed the Government, and I am sure that the Minister of External Affairs will agree with me that we have not acted in a party or carping spirit. I do not think that honorable members in Opposition should deal with a matter differently from what they would do when sitting on the Ministerial side, or vice versa. But there are some matters of so important and fundamental a character that it is necessary, I think, that we should deal with them at the first opportunity. I confess that I feel rather strongly on the point that the Government have turned down the idea of carrying on the freezing works at Port Darwin as a Government concern. To-day I asked the Minister of External
Affairs whether something which had appeared in the press was a correct statement of the position.
– There are no cattle at Darwin. You cannot get cattle there. You said so yourself.
– That is not the question.
– You will have to build a railway to take the cattle to Darwin from the Katherine. You said so last session.
– I admit that.
– What is the use of talking about freezing works when there is no hoof there to freeze? Where is the urgency ?
– How is it that a private company is trying to erect freezing works ?
– They will have the railway built to the Katherine.
– A private company is not trying to erect them.
– The Minister of External Affairs told me to-day, in answer to a question, that negotiations were going on between him and a private company.
– They had been for two months. As a matter of fact, I spent three-quarters of an hour to-night with the representatives of a company which may do something there.
– Yet the Prime Minister says something which is quite different.
– Not at all. The honorable member seems incapable of understanding a plain statement from anybody.
– I asked to-day whether the Government had definitely turned down the proposal to establish freezing works themselves, and I understood the Minister of External Affairs to say, “Yes.”
– No. I said that if we failed to get the works erected by private enterprise we might go on with them.
– But for the time being the Government have turned down the proposal. Persons who wish to undertake the works are discussing the matter with the Minister, and are negotiating with him.
– Within the past two months we have been negotiating on the lines I have indicated, and have been getting all the data that we could.
– I have no objection to the Government saying that it is their policy to turn, down Government concerns in favour of private enterprise. But honorable members upon this side of the Chamber think differently, and we have a right to challenge their action at every available point.
– The Territory is costing us £700,000 a year now.
– And it is time that we did away with that loss. It was the policy of the late Government to build a railway from Pine Creek to the Katherine, and to establish freezing works at Port Darwin. I venture to say that the Minister of External Affairs has been told that it is necessary for the development of the Territory that freezing works should be established there. When I was in the Territory, a deputation waited on me, and urged that freezing works should be erected there. My reply was that the Government were quite prepared to place upon the Estimates a sum of money for that purpose; but I desired to know the most suitable site upon which to erect them, and until the Administrator was satisfied on that point, I was not willing to agree to any particular site. At that time the Administrator had been in the Territory only a week or two, and, consequently, was not in a position to say which was the most eligible site. Within a few months, however, he communicated with me to the effect that Port Darwin was the proper place at which to establish the works. In order to develop the Territory, it is necessary, not only that freezing works should be erected there, but that a railway should be constructed from Pine Creek to the Katherine. Had the Fisher Government remained in office, we should have placed upon the Estimates for the current financial year a sum sufficient to cover the cost of erecting freezing works at Port Darwin. In order that no time should be lost in the construction of those works, the Administrator, when lie came south, placed himself in communication with some architects who had had a great deal of experience in connexion with similar works elsewhere. The result was that arrangements were made for Mr. D’Ebro to visit the Territory for the purpose of deciding upon the locality where the works should be established, and of procuring plans and specifications relating to same. Upon an important matter of principle, therefore, there has been a reversal of policy by tins Government. If we are to wait “until a private company is prepared to undertake the establishment of these works, delay will be inevitable. Seeing that the development of the Territory depends upon their erection, it is not wise that this matter should be left in the hands of private enterprise. If private enterprise is to be permitted to establish freezing works there, it will take into serious consideration the question of pro/its, and I do not see why the development of a large portion of the Territory should depend upon whether certain persons can make a profit or not. If the Government undertook the erection of freezing works at Port Darwin, those works could be carried Oh as a business concern, and made to pay their way, together with sufficient interest on their capital cost. But beyond that there would be no necessity to make a profit, because of the direct benefit that would accrue to the people in the way of the development of big pastoral ‘areas. I admit that, if every pastoralist in the Territory had a certain interest in the works-
– We must tie them up to the works.
– If the works can be run co-operatively, there is something in that suggestion. That would mean that the whole of the money would have to be raised by the pastoralists, and no outsiders would be allowed to have a hand in the business.
– The Government of which the honorable gentleman was a member did nothing when they had the power.
– We tried to do some.thing in the matter. I do not know that the present Government have done very much in the Northern Territory, though they have had an advantage over the late Government, who had a good deal of the spade work to do. We were told by the Prime Minister in his Parramatta speech that if the Liberals were returned to power there would be a vigorous development of the Northern Territory.
– I thought then that we should have a few more supporters in this House. I ought to have said that we would do these things if the Opposition stopped “stone-walling.” I am sorry now that I did not say so.
– It was to be presumed from the honorable gentleman’s statement at Parramatta that the late Government were not developing the Territory vigorously. Honorable members opposite are becoming restive, and I will let the matter go now if they will agree to have it discussed on the third reading of the Bill. I do not think that I should be treated in this way. How often have I spoken this session?
– The honorable gentleman has never been like this before.
– And this is all the thanks I get for it. I feel very strongly on this matter. The Minister administering the Northern Territory is here now, and I would ask him whether the Opposition have been unfair or unreasonable in any of their criticisms of the present administration of the Northern Territory. One reason why they have not is, perhaps, the fact that the honorable member for Angas is Minister of External Affairs, and every member on this side is anxious that nothing unkind or discourteous should be said of him. If another Minister occupied the position, it is possible that he would not have had as easy a time as the honorable member for Angas has had. We have to face the facts as they are. It must be admitted that there is a very powerful Beef Trust in America. The Attorney-General will admit that it is one of the biggest trusts in the world. If only one-half of what we read about it is true, it is a very cruel trust. It is appalling to know that for the sake of dividends it is prepared to ruin thousands of people. .During the lasttwo or three days I have read a number of articles by a Mr. Russell, a journalist of repute in America, on the subject of the American Beef Trust. I am not prepared to say that everything he has written about the Trust is absolutely correct, but even allowing that he has overstated the case against it by 50 per cent., it is still clear that it constitutes a. big problem in America to-day. I admit that Australia is not America, and whether the Beef Trust has yet started in Australia is questioned. Some say that it has, and some that it has not. I heard Mr. Trefle, Minister of Lands in New South Wales, state at a public meeting that the representatives of the Trust had met him, and had asked for certain concessions in New South Wales, which he refused. I understand that they subsequently went to Brisbane, and had started operations there. I do not believe all the cables which appear in the newspapers, but I have seen cables stating that the American Beef Trust has started operations in the Argentine.–
– It has been in the Argentine for some time.
– The honorable gentleman admits that it has started in the Argentine. What guarantee have we that this private company, which has been referred to, is not connected with the American Beef Trust?
– It is a big English company, with branches all over the world.
– It may or may not be an English or Australian company, but we have no guarantee that it will not be purchased or come within the scope of the American Trust to-morrow. It is admitted that the Beef Trust in America is stronger than the railway companies, stronger than a great many of the Judges, and stronger even than the Government; at any rate, it was’ stronger than the last Republican Government, because, apparently, it gave very large sums to the electioneering funds, amounting, I am told, to some £800,000. I do not think there is much doubt that there are trusts in Australia who are prepared to assist political parties in providing the sinews of war. I did not wish particularly to raise this question to-night, but I think we are justified in asking the Minister of External Affairs why it is that the proposals of the late Government have been turned down.
– I could give plenty of reasons that would appeal to the honorable member.
– The Minister of External Affairs is from South Australia, where, I understand, a Liberal Government, with a majority in both Houses, run freezing works of their own.
– They have got the works, and they must keep them going.
– If it were better for the community, the Government could hand the works back to private enterprise. I presume it was a Liberal Government who started the works.
– Do they pay well?
– I do not know ; all I say is that the Liberal Government of South Australia are running their own freezing works.
– The honorable member, as Minister of External Affairs, spent enough in the Northern Territory !
– That is another question.
– There is £70,000 alone for salaries.
– It is a big Territory, and we have to do something with it.
– How many people are there up there?
– I do not know that we are discussing that matter.
– Seven settlers have gone up.
– The late Government may have failed miserably, if honorable members opposite choose to say so ; but the Prime Minister, at Parramatta, said that the Liberal Government were going in for a vigorous development.
– That is so; we are.
– The proposal before us does not show much evidence of vigorous work.
– Considering all the late Government did in three years, honorable members opposite might give us a little more than three months. The late Government got seven settlers there, and that is an achievement at a cost of £700,000.
– At any rate, there are more settlers there than there were before. However, we are not discussing what has or has not been done in the way of development; I am focussing attention on the fact that the Government are not prepared to go on themselves with the freezing works.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Is the Prime Minister still determined to proceed further with the Bill?
– We must have a Supply Bill.
– I regret that at this hour we should be compelled to raise this question, but it is too important to be allowed to pass. Personally, this is the first opportunity I have had to raise the question of the freezing works at Darwin since receiving the reply of the Minister of External Affairs to my question. It was by the merest accident that we discovered from a chance remark that the
Government intended to erect freezing works by arrangement with a private company. I should not have felt so anxious were it not for the final statement in the reply that I received. I asked the Minister whether we would have an opportunity of discussing any proposal or agreement before a final decision was arrived at, and’ I was informed that it might not be practicable to submit it before finality. Unless we on this side inform the Minister as to our attitude on the question, it would be easy for an agreement to slip through, and the whole matter to be fixed up before any steps could be taken to improve or alter the conditions. The fact is that the people of Australia are nervous on this question of the meat supply. It represents one of the most important industries, and in later years, particularly in the Northern Territory, may become the most important industry. In developing new country, occupation must first follow along the lines of pastoral pursuits where the land will allow it. You must allow settlers large areas, and give them opportunities to open up the country in the quickest possible way. It is also patent to every one who knows anything of the trend of modern commercial development that refrigeration is playing an increasingly important part in the marketing of food products, not only on land, but by sea. The shipping companies are spending thousands of pounds in experimenting in this direction, and refrigeration is a most important feature in meat works and in the handling of fruit. The Governments of different countries are taking a more and more active part in the question all over the world. The honorable member who preceded me, the exMinister of External Affairs, referred to the South Australian Government’s action in this regard. The Western Australian Government have also developed in that direction lately, and it is not a new thing in Victoria, where the Government are extending, as rapidly as possible, their cool storage provisions for food products of all sorts. New South Wales and Queensland are also doing the same, yet the Commonwealth Government, who should set the example in commercial development to all the States, are absolutely going back to the oldest and worst methods of providing the accommodation so urgently required. The Minister of External Affairs admitted, in reply to my questions, that a site had been selected for the works at Darwin, and the plan had been prepared. Why, then, did he not proceed with the intention of the late Government to make the works Government works, and so protect the people against any possibility of difficulty in regard to the preservation of meat, or opportunity to store their meat at a satisfactory price? The people of Australia are very nervous on this matter, and have good reason to be. The Meat Trust of America is notorious, not for the way it has served, but for the way it has robbed, the public. There is no question that it has established itself in Australia. It has secured meat works 18 miles from Townsville, and also near Cairns. This is most significant.
– I draw attention to the state of the Committee.
– A crawling thing to do. We gave you a supper.
– I ask that the honorable member should withdraw his insulting remark.
– If the words are offensive to the honorable member, I am sure they will be withdrawn.
– Certainly. [Quorum formed.]
– The Trust has meat works in other parts of the country, but the acquisition of works in North Queensland can have only one object. It must be patent to every honorable member that it has designs on the northern parts of Australia. There are other places in North Queensland for the refrigeration of meat, “but it is certain that the Trust do not intend to allow competitors to remain in that business any longer than they can help. If anything can be done to eliminate competition and give them an absolute monopoly of the meat-freezing works of Australia, particularly in Queensland, they are going to do it. The only possible protection for the people is not by the encouragement of private enterprise, but by the Government taking a hand. I referred the other evening to the fact that the Governments of the civilized countries of the world to-day are expanding in every direction their command and control of public utilities, and if it is true that refrigeration is playing an increasingly important part in the preservation of food products, it is most necessary that the Government should hold a controlling influence in that direction. The only remedy for monopolies, and the only guarantee against trusts in Australia, lies in the hands of the Commonwealth Government. The States are unable to do effective work in that direction, being prevented by their artificial geographical boundaries from following trusts or combines beyond their own borders. It remains for the Commonwealth Government to protect the people of Australia from every possible influence in this direction. We had an exceptionally favorable opportunity to do this when opening up a piece of Australia for the benefit of the whole people, in order to guarantee the other parts of Australia that that part would not be left open to foreign invasion, yet we have left it wide open to an invasion of a much more dangerous, subtle, and insidious character.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Oxley raised this question last week, and the Attorney-General, speaking for the Minister of Trade and Customs, said that information was being sought regarding the meat industry. While the Minister of Trade and Customs is seeking information, and the Minister of External Affairs negotiating in regard to the erection of works, damage may be done which it may take years to repair. Honorable members are willing to spend money freely for the development of the Northern Territory, and I think they are agreed that it can be wisely spent there on the erection of freezing works. I understand that the estimated cost of a complete establishment is £135,000.
– From £80,000 to £100,000.
– There can be no need to carry out the whole scheme at the beginning. Cannot the Minister see his way to complete a section of the works first?
– This is not a question of cash, but of getting pastoral development associated with the freezing works. Some of these capitalists own stations in the Territory. Red Hill was bought by one company recently. It is a pure business proposition. We have to consider what is best for the Commonwealth.
– The Government can best assist and encourage pastoralists by saying, “ We shall erect freezing works at Darwin, to which you can send your meat.”
– That is what we are trying to do. I am trying to get freezing works established at Darwin rather than at Wyndham.
– But works under private control must be run to suit private interests.
– Would the honorable member establish Commonwealth export works throughout Australia?
– Yes; as a member of the Royal Commission which inquired into the fruit industry, I have signed the recommendation that the States should establish export fruit depots and departments, and I think that the Commonwealth should set a good example. A Government representing the whole people can do things more effectively than any other authority. Private interest has always its own ends to serve. Ido not blame capitalists interested in the meat industry in the Northern Territory for wishing to establish big freezing works, but I say that the Commonwealth must prevent the Meat Trust from acquiring a controlling influence in’ the Northern Territory. Freezing works are needed, not only for the benefit of the pastoralists of the Territory, but also for the benefit of the residents of the Territory, and particularly of the residents of Port Darwin. We must try to secure for them a supply of fresh vegetables.
– Surely they can grow vegetables for themselves. There is plenty of water there.
– Vegetables, like fruit, cannot be grown all the year round ; and in the tropics a fruit and vegetable diet is more to be encouraged than a meat diet. The establishment of freezing works should enable a permanent and regular supply of fruit and vegetables to be provided. The meat that will be frozen there will not be intended for export only. If it were to be frozen only for export, it might suit the pastoralists just as well to travel their stock to the Alligator Creek works, at Townsville, or to Cairns.
– A distance of about 1,500 miles.
– It might be as near to that point as to Darwin; but we must have at Darwin refrigerating accommodation for the people of the Northern Territory. Who is going to provide that accommodation if the Government do hot? Can any one imagine that the promoters of the company are going to consider the residents of the Territory? No; they are studying their own interests first and last. I do not blame the company for seizing the opportunity; but I blame the Government who give them the opportunity, especially when we can step in and secure the accommodation which the pastoralists require for export, and which the residents require to enable them to live healthy lives in the tropics.,
– Who is looking after the two or three hundred persons living in Darwin now?
– I do not know. The residents are making shift as best they can.
– Cannot they live there without a refrigerating apparatus ?
– They are getting along in a sort of way; but if we are to secure proper settlement there, the present haphazard method cannot be allowed to continue.
– There is not one refrigerating apparatus from Thursday Island to Geraldton.
– That is exactly why the Government should establish freezing works at Darwin. They should start at one place, and reach out until they establish freezing works at a dozen places. I was glad to hear the Minister of External Affairs say that it is not a question of cost with the Government. It is a matter of principle, evidently.
– It is a question of cost. It will cost £100,000 to establish the works, and there are no cattle there. The matter is not urgent at all.
– I am sorry that the Treasurer has not had a consultation with his colleague, who, only a few moments ago, said it was not a question of money with the Government. They need not carry out the whole scheme now, but they could start in a small way, and then as trade expanded enlarge the freezing accommodation. When the Treasurer tells me that it is a question of cost, which Minister am I to believe? The secret of the whole business is that Ministers are in favour, not of the Government control and management of public utilities, but of private enterprise controlling and managing those things which are necessary for the use and the welfare of the people.
– Private enterprise does it in your State, any way.
– Yes, and private enterprise has been told by the Queensland Government that it is in no danger.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I can make another speech later.
– Go on now, as there is no honorable member wishing to speak.
– I have not much more to say. If the Minister of External Affairs would say that, whilst it is a matter of principle as to whether the Government or private enterprise should do these things-
– It is not a question of the Government as against private enterprise, but a question of what is commercially best for the Territory. There is no objection to Government enterprise. If you knew the whole of the facts that impel me, you, perhaps, would not say that I am wrong.
– I cannot see the logic of the Minister’s position. The Government propose to give away rights and privileges in regard to freezing works at Darwin which they say, under certain agreements, will safeguard the interests of the people. But the fact remains that those who are principally interested in the meat business in Australia to-day are those to whom the interests of the people have been a very secondary consideration. I am sure that the Minister will understand that we, on this side, and, I think, honorable members on the other side, too, are nervous in regard to the meat industry. It is too important to Australia to be allowed to get into the hands of. one’ company. No one dare deny that the American Meat Trust is established in Australia.
– Will you give us the evidence?
– A little time ago a company was formed in Queensland.
– We know that; but is the company working in restraint of trade ?
– The people who are operating in Queensland are operating the Meat Trust in America, and what they have done in America they are likely to do here.
– To what company are you referring?
– I am referring to Swift and Company, the Morris Company, and the Armour Company.
– Bothwick and Company are here.
– There is no doubt that the new works on the Brisbane River are being erected by Swift and Company.
– I think you are mistaken.
– The policy of the Meat Trust, in every country where it has operated, has been to eliminate competition, and to secure a monopoly of the business. The meat-exporting companies in Queensland to-day feel quite nervous in regard to this matter. Fortunately, most of the companies are strong, but some of the weaker companies are trembling, because they realize that it will be only a few years when they will be wiped out. We are told that the American Trust is not working in restraint of trade now. The tiger does not show its claws all at once. But when the fitting time arrives, the claws of the Trust will be exposed, and then down will go our pastoral industry.
– The honorable member is raising a bogy.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- The pastoralists are not political friends of mine. They oppose every one on this side, because they think that we are not their friends; but, in a few years, they will learn that those who tried to protect them against monopoly were honorable members on this side. The honorable member for Hume, I am sure, is not fully acquainted with the history of the Meat Trust, not only in America, but in other countries
– No; but I happen to be interested in an investigation of the verymatter to which you are referring, and I can give you my assurance that we can find no direct evidence to connect Swift and Company, of Chicago, with the Meat Trust.
– I am sorry that at this moment I have not the documentary evidence here. I have affidavits and reports of every description concerning the operations of these very companies, not only in the United States, but in the Argentine, and South Africa, and also of the possibility of their operations in Australia.
– The honorable member is building up a fabric upon wrong premises.
– The honorable member for Hume must not make speeches when he is not in possession of the Chair.
– We are faced with a very serious danger, and the position we take up is that whether the pastoralists are our political friends or not, we believe that the pastoral industry is too important to be allowed to be used by those who have not Australian interests at heart, if by any means we can prevent it.
– The pastoralists do not think that they are in danger.
– That does not eliminate the danger.
– They have considered the matter, and they are not afraid.
– The honorable member for Moreton said a little time ago that, personally, he welcomed the Meat Trust to Queensland, and so also did the Premier of Queensland.
– This is the way in which honorable members help us to get. through non-contentious business.
– This is a very contentious matter.-
– Trusts are not a contentious matter with the Government.
– Not if their attitude during the recent elections can be regarded as a criterion. They say, “ All right,” until they find out that the damage has been’ done. After the horse has been stolen, they are prepared to lock the stable door. We contend that the interests of the people are of paramount importance. The trouble is that in the erection of freezing works at Port Darwin, the interests of the people are likely to become a secondary consideration. I hope that when the Minister’s proposals for the erection of freezing works in the Northern Territory are submitted to us, if we cannot secure the rejection of any private enterprise proposal, we shall at any rate obtain the insertion of some stringent provision which will safeguard the interests of the people. We are anxious to secure a positive guarantee that there shall be no damage done.
– The Government will not allow us to consider the matter until it has been completed.
– The Minister of External Affairs has pointed out that we shall be afforded an opportunity of fighting ‘the matter when an agreement has been arrived at that private enterprise shall carry out the work.
– I did not say that.
– The Minister said that if the Government established works, we would have an opportunity of discussing it.
– Then I was wrong in the statement which I made. The position put by the Minister only increases my alarm.
– I am afraid that Wyndham will get the benefit which will accrue from the establishment of freezing works rather than the Northern Territory.
– There will be no difficulty in the Minister getting private enterprise to establish freezing works at Port Darwin. The only difficulty will be in regard to the conditions which should be imposed upon the individuals who undertake the work. The very provision which would be rejected by a private company would constitute a sufficient protection by this Parliament of the interests of the people. It is because the margin is always in favour of the Government that we advocate the erection by the Commonwealth of freezing works at Port Darwin. Private enterprise has always its own ends to serve, whereas the Government have only one end to serve, namely, the interests of the people. If these works be established by private enterprise, we shall be incurring absolutely unnecessary risks. If our suggestion be adopted, we shall be protected against all risk, and shall be able to give to the pastoralists that protection to which they are entitled. I may tell the Minister that this is not the last occasion upon which he will hear from us upon this matter. There are a few honorable members upon this side of the chamber - especially those who represent Queensland- who will return to it, and I shall give my support to any movement in the direction of challenging the position of the Government upon it. I wish now to make a suggestion to the Prime Minister. There may not be much in it;-
– At this time of the morning t
– It is a good suggestion, and I am sure that the Prime Minister will consider it.
– I am not taking any suggestions at this hour. I am quite unable to do so.
– To-night, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports emphasized a matter to which the Prime Minister himself called attention the other day, namely, the expenditure on our Public Service, and particularly upon military and naval defence. There is not an honorable member in this chamber who is not becoming alarmed, not only at the present expenditure upon defence, but at the probable heavy increase of that expenditure in the future.
– This is what the honorable member says when he gets upon the other side of the chamber.
– The Prime Minister must have forgotten the attitude which I have always assumed upon this matter.
– I am sure that I do not remember it. All I know is that honorable members opposite have all been boasting about the country of how much they have spent upon defence.
– I have never once made a remark about our expenditure upon defence without in the same sentence regretting what I believe to be an unfortunate necessity. To my mind, our expenditure on defence is, to some extent, a necessity.
– Honorable members opposite introduced it all. We did not.
– We are committed to it, unfortunately, and I am afraid I must support the present Government in going on with it.
– The honorable member acquiesced in the expenditure on defence last year. v
– I am acquiescing in it this year.
– Though there has been an increase of £1,000,000.
– I am sorry that I have to vote for the increased expenditure, and the real trouble is that I do not see how I can escape voting for another increase of £1,000,000 in this expenditure next year. It is because of the rapidly increasing burden of the expenditure on defence that I offer the Prime Minister what I think is not an unworthy suggestion. It is reasonable to say that as the years go on the danger of war is not increasing. The wisdom, intelligence, and reasonableness of the nations are coming to our aid, and there is less danger of war to-day than there was ten years ago. -The tendency in the civilized countries of the world is stronger than ever it was before towards peace. The nations are realizing to-day more than they ever did before that war and warlike preparations constitute an increasing and unnecessary burden. The suggestion of Mr. Winston Churchill the other day for the reduction of armaments was but a sign of the times. Every country in the world is feeling the terrific pressure of military and naval expenditure. We in Australia are only at the beginning of it, and it is because I believe there is a better way that I speak as I do to-night. This better way is to be found by the nations exercising ordinary common sense. The wars of the future will not be wars of conquest. A statement on the subject appears in to-night’s Herald, from President Wilson of the United States. The wars of the future will arise out of commercial matters. A statement made by the German Emperor some time ago that if the nations continued to build fiscal walls against Germany they would have to be demolished, even if it must be with bayonets, was a very significant statement. We in Australia cannot afford to be on bad terms with any nation. It is our business to develop trade with every country. Nothing is more encouraging or deserving. of encouragement than the expansion of our trade relations with other nations, and especially with the eastern nations, with whom we are more likely to come into conflict than with any others. If we can establish friendly business relations with those nations, we shall have done’ a great deal. Honorable members generally are aware that there has recently been a remarkable interchange of thought and literature between the nations of the world, and this has done more to promote and cement good feeling than anything else that has taken place in the history of the nations. There have been reciprocal visits between different
British and German parties, journalists, ministers, parliamentary parties, and business men, and these have done more to prevent war between the countries than all the work of the diplomatists, and those responsible for the government of the two countries. I invite the attention of the Prime Minister in this connexion to the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. The Parliaments of the different countries of the world are interesting themselves in this matter. They are seeking to check the growing expenditure on armaments, and we in Australia would be wise to take an early and an active part in the promotion of any movement in that direction. I have here a list of the mem bers of the Parliaments of various countries who are identified with the promotion of International conciliation and arbitration for the prevention or settlement of International disputes. Austria has 121 members in this Inter-Parliamentary Union; Belgium, 219; Canada, 165; Denmark, 179; France, 516; Germany, 157; Great Britain, 230; Holland, 108; Hungary, 242 ; Japan, 379 ; Norway, 144 ; Portugal, 150; Roumania, 20; Russia, 141; Servia, 21; Spain, 62; Sweden, 281; Switzerland, 69; Turkey, 69; and the United States of America, 272. The Australian Parliament is invited to take a part in this matter. It is remarkable that while the leading nations of the world are spending £365,000,000 annually on warlike preparations, or £1,000,000 per day, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, with an expenditure of something under £3,000, last year did more to promote and keep peace between the nations than the expenditure of £365,000,000 on warlike preparations by the nations. Realizing this, the Parliaments of the various countries are now voting money, to be expended not only in preparations for war, but for the promotion of peace. The results of the expenditure of £3,000 by the InterParliamentary Union for the promotion of peace have been simply enormous. The chief credit for the fact that the dangers of war have been repeatedly averted during the last few years must be given to the movement for the promotion of peace, to which I have referred. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Portugal, Roumania, Servia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United States, all annually give grants towards this object. I wish to suggest to the Prime Minister and to the Treasurer - who, of course, is equally interested - that this Parliament might give an annual grant for the promotion of this Inter-Parliamentary Union for the settlement of national disputes by peaceful means. The dangers in Australia from extravagance in the naval and military expenditure are enough to appal even the stoutest heart amongst us. Apart altogether from the danger of the military authorities usurping the rights Joi the civil authorities, the expenditure in this unproductive and unworthy direction is a matter that must cause all considerable concern. We are urgently in need of money for expenditure in other directions. There are many miles of territory in Australia waiting for railways, and hungry for development. We are unable to do this work because we are pouring out £5,500,000 every year - and the amount is likely to increase - in preparing for war. By the expenditure of a few thousand pounds we could possibly create such a friendly atmosphere and cordial relations with other nations as to render this warlike expenditure absolutely unnecessary. I notice, by-the bye, that out of a total of £212,000 for contingencies in the Supply Bill now before us something like £40,000 is for the Military and Naval Defence Department. Those contingencies are a very risky thing; but I would forgive the Treasurer a good deal if he could see his way to apply a thousand or two to the laudable object I have mentioned, and so save the country from what I believe is likely to be a burden that will cause trouble not only financially, but in other directions. I should like to refer’ to another small matter which has to do with the privileges of honorable members, and this is the first opportunity I have had to do so. We are able to travel on the railways by virtue of our gold passes, and we are also able to travel free on the tramways in Sydney.- I suggest to the Prime Minister that it is time he opened up negotiations with the tramway authorities in the other capitals in order to se cure a similar privilege for honorable members there. If the suggestion has any value at all, it has particular application in Melbourne. We are here trying to serve our constituents, and we have to run north, south, east, and west looking for the Commonwealth Departments. I do not know how other honorable members find it, but the tram fares that I have to pay in Melbourne - and the fares here are not the cheapest in the world-
– They are very cheap - it does not amount to much !
– The amount I have to pay in fares is a very respectable one. I am fortunate in having constituents who pay me a considerable amount of attention, and I have a heavy correspondence which necessitates various visits to the Government Departments. So much so, that the business sometimes occupies me the better part of the day. The fares, I admit, may not amount to much, perhaps only1s. a day, or, to some honorable members, perhaps less than that; but, in the aggregate, members’ fares must amount to a considerable sum in the year.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker-
– This shows the honorable member’s obstructive tactics - he is at the bottom of all this trouble!
– It is rather unfortunate that we have to discuss so imporant a matter as the Darwin Freezing Works at this hour of the night, but a great principle is involved. It would have been much better to discuss the matter at a time when the Minister of External Affairs could give us a reply.
– There was an opportunity last week.
M.r. THOMAS. - It is not by any intention or desire that the question is being discussed at this time of night. The Minister of External Affairs will bear me out when I say that at 4 or 5 o’clock this afternoon, I told him that I desired to say a few words on the subject.
– Why make all these excuses?
– There are no excuses; at any rate, I have a right to discuss these matters if an opportunity is not to be given to me to discuss them to-morrow. I understand that the Ministerof External Affairs does not intend to give any explanation, and even if he were to do so, it would not be of so much advantage as if the House were full. However, I shall leave, that subject and refer to a Home
Affairs matter, in regard to which the answers I have received to questions have not been of a satisfactory character. When the Address-in-Reply was under discussion, the honorable member for Bourke made reference to the payment, on 26th April last, by Mr. Brookes, of £500 to the honorable member for Perth. The honorable member for Perth explained in this House that the £500 had not been sent to him by Mr. Brookes personally, but to pass on to the Liberal organization in Western Australia. I can raise no objection to any organization utilizing some of their funds for political purposes, but section 172a of the Electoral Act provides that if any person, trade union, registered or unregistered league, or association devotes money for political purposes, he or it shall send a return to the Chief Electoral Officer within a certain time showing how the money was spent. That is the law. Whether it is good, bad, or indifferent is not for us now to question. The present Government, when introducing their Amending Electoral Bill, made no provision for the repeal of that section, and I take it that they are in favour of it. Seeing that it is part of the Electoral Act, those administering the Act should see that it is carried out. On 5th September I asked whether the Minister of Home Affairs would see that the section was complied with. The Prime Minister replied, “ I am very anxious that I should not add to my reputation by acting as a detective.” I had no desire that he should do so. All I wanted was that the Act should be made effective. On the 10th September I asked whether Mr. Brookeshad complied with the section. The Assistant Minister replied, “ I am not aware whether Mr. Brookes has expended any money or incurred any expense which requires a return under the provisions of section 172a.” On 12th September, on the adjournment of the House, I asked whether action would not be taken by the Electoral Officer to see that Mr. Brookes complied with the Act. On the same occasion, the honorable member for Maribyrnong quoted from a newspaper a report of a statement by Mr. Herbert Brookes, at a meeting attended by the Vice-President of the Executive Council, that, on three occasions during the last week, it was stated in the House of Representatives that he had been responsible for passing a certain sum of money to a member in another State. He wished to state that this was absolutely true. He was proud of it, and hoped to be able to do it again. The Prime Minister, in reply, said he was amazed at the moderation of the amount, as we, as a party, had been referring to £50,000 having been given here and there for political purposes to the Liberal party, and that, apparently, the amount had come down to about £500. He could not understand the bother there was over this paltry sum. I confessed at the time I thought this rather a peculiar reply. Whatever the amount was, we simply asked that the Act might be complied with. The Prime Minister’s reply was that he did not think the Act demanded the statement for which I was asking. The penalty for failure to comply with section 172a was a fine of not less than £100 and not more than £500, or imprisonment for any period not exceeding six months. On 18th September I asked again if Mr. Brookes had complied with the section, and the Prime Minister said, “No; the period within, which returns are required to be lodged has not yet expired.” On 17th October, I asked whether Mr. Brookes had yet complied with the section, and, if not, what was the latest date on which such a statement should be in the hands of the Chief Electoral Officer. The Prime Minister’s reply was, “ I am unable to answer this question in its present form, as I am not aware that Mr. Herbert Brookes has taken any action which requires him to lodge a return under section 172a of the Electoral Act.” When money is sent to any organization - Labour, Liberal, Conservative, National, or any other - for political purposes, the Chief Electoral Officer should be notified of the manner in which it is spent. This Government claims to be a pure Government, administering the law fairly, without favour to any, and it is therefore strange that no attempt is being made to ascertain how this £500 was spent. Mr. Herbert Brookes stated at a public meeting, at which the VicePresident of the Executive Council was present, that he had forwarded the money, add the honorable member for Perth has acknowledged that he received it, and handed it Over to the Liberal Association. I do hot question those statements, nor do I suggest that in receiving the money the honorable member for Perth did any- thing wrong. If any one sent me money for a Labour organization, I should not hesitate to receive it, and to forward it. But the electoral law should be complied with, and those who spend money on elections should let the public know how it is spent. I have no objection to trusts, combines, unions, or individuals giving money for political purposes. Any one holding political views has an unquestioned right to spend money to give effect to them. But Parliament has rightly required that the Chief Electoral Officer shall be informed how such money is spent. The Prime Minister, when I referred to this matter, said, “ You are kicking up a row now about a paltry £500, when you used to talk about £50,000.” There is no doubt that this £500 was sent to Western Australia, but it does not follow that it is the only amount that was contributed to the Liberal funds. I ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether it is the intention of the Government to see that section 172a of the Electoral Act is complied with ?
.The matter brought forward by the honorable member for Barrier is largely a matter concerning the interpretation of the provision of the electoral law to which he referred.
– I have nothing against the honorable member personally.
– I wish to correct one misapprehension under which the honorable member seems -to labour. He mentioned that I had sent a receipt for the money to Mr. Herbert Brookes, but the receipt was sent by Mr. David Forrest, then treasurer of the Liberal League. I think, too, that the honorable member on one occasion made some reference to my bank account; but the money reached me one day when I was in the League’s office, being addressed to me, “ care of the Liberal League,” and I took it out of the envelope, and handed it across the table to the secretary, having no more to do with the matter.
– I quite accept the honorable member’s statement.
– I have not, in the whole of my political career, taken a penny from either Liberal or Labour organizations towards my election expenses.
– I did not suggest that the honorable member received any of this money.
– I make the explanation to prevent misapprehension.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir John Forbest) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
– I object to the suspension of the Standing Orders.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution of Ways and Means covering resolution of Supply 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 (by Sir John Forrest), read a first and second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.Now that the Treasurer is in a very happy mood because he has got his Supply put through’ in one night, I want to make ‘ a small request, and that is that two typists shall be allotted for the Ministerial room, and two for the Opposition room, to help honorable members with their correspondence. As members of Parliament, we spend a lot of time in the mechanical work of writing. If we could have the assistance of two typists in each room it would not only help us, but convenience our constituents when they receive the letters. ‘
– Can they not read the letters?
– I think that very often my constituents must experience a difficulty in reading my letters. I used to think that I was about the worst writer in the House, but I have received some letters from the Minister of External Affairs in his own handwriting, and I recognise now that we run very close indeed in that respect.
– I did not want you to bring them up against me.
– It would not cost very much to provide this convenience for honorable members during the sittings, tff the House. It must be remembered that country constituencies are very large, and that an honorable member has to spend a lot of time on his correspondence. I realize that fact now more than I used to do, because my division now includes a large portion of a country constituency.
– Some of the town constituencies mean pretty heavy work, too.
– A town constituency is nothing like a country one. In Broken Hill I used to have what might be called a town constituency, but now that a large portion of a country electorate has been attached to it my correspondence occupies much more time than it did previously. I do not expect the Treasurer to give me a definite reply to-night. If he will just say that he will consider my suggestion favorably I shall be satisfied.
– It is too late for me to make a promise.
Question resolved in affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 1.37 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 October 1913, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1913/19131028_reps_5_71/>.