5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that certain persons living out of the Commonwealth have purchased lands within it upon which they intend soon to settle, and that they are being treated as absentee land-owners in the matter of the land tax ? Will the honorable gentleman take the matter into consideration, with a view to relieving those who are suffering in this way!
– I shall have the whole matter looked into, and if those referred to are being treated unfairly I shall try to effect some remedy,- though the land tax is collected by a Commissioner administering an Act of Parliament. My opinion is that it is not worth our while to bother much about the absentee side of the land tax.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware “that the PostmasterGeneral of the United States of America, in his last annual report, urged his Government to take over from private control the telegraphs and telephones of the country? Will the honorable gentleman endeavour to make available to members of this House the reasons why that step has been urged in America?
– The British Government has taken control of telegraphs, and it is my ‘view that services of this kind should be managed by the State, as they are here. I shall look into the matter.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs any information regarding an appliance which has been invented in Germany for the detection of explosive gases in coal mines, and, if so, will he take into consideration the need for introducing the invention into Australia.
– I have no information on the subject, but shall have the matter looked into, and shall inform the honorable member of the result of the inquiry.
– I ask the Minister of External Affairs whether the oilboring operations now taking place in Papua are a charge on the Commonwealth or on the Papuan revenues, and what progress is being made.
– In the sense that provision has been made for them by us, these operations are a charge on the Commonwealth revenue; iia other words, they are provided for on Estimates which we supply means to meet, and I have also special votes for the purpose. The- prospects’ of” the discovery of good oil are being maintained’ bo far as the investigations have gone. . Dr. Ward, the eminent expert, is- still engaged1 in his- inquiries in Papua. He has directed the sinkingof another shaft, and that work is being proceeded with. At his suggestion, machinery has been ordered to carry out deep boring, to enable more efficacious commercial tests to be made. On the whole, the prospects of obtaining good oil are very satisfactory.
The following papers were presented : -
Murray River Waters - Resolutions agreed to by the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of tire States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, at the Inter-State Conference, Melbourne, 1914.
Ordered to. be printed.
Army Medical Corps - Annual Report of the Director-General for year ending 30th June, 1013.
Defence Act-Regulations Amended (Provisional ) -
Military Forces - Statutory Rules 1914, No. 31.
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1914, No. 32.
Military College - Report on Fourth En- trance Examination, held October, 1913.
Small Arms Factory, Lithgow - Report by G. Swinburne, Inter-State Commissioner, on a dispute between the management of the Factory and the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, with regard to the conduct of the work in the tool room.
– I wish to know from the Minister of External Affairs what has become of the contributory insurance scheme which ‘ was to provide against sickness, accident, and unemployment, and was promised last year.
– The task of preparing the scheme is a much bigger one than perhaps any honorable member is aware. I did not underestimate the difficulties of it. The Government Statistician, with whom I have been in regular communication on the subject, has collected a great mass .of information relating to it, and I have arranged that he should employ four men specially to deal with the matter. We. sent out a series of questions to bodies that are directly interested in this great question, sucK as employers’ associations, employes’ associations, trade unions, friendly societies, and medical associations, and at the request of some of them the time> for replies was extended until the end of March. ‘It is now only the middle of April. I was asked by Mr. Knibbs some time ago to go down to his office to look through the vast mass of material he has there, and which he could not possibly shift up to my office. When an opportune moment arrives, I shall do that, and see what steps should be taken.
– The honorable member for Newcastle asked me yesterday some questions with regard to the Adamstown Rifle Range. I have ascertained that in March last approval was given for the erection of fifteen new targets, targetshed, and telephone connexion. The erection of these targets, however, involves a question of acquiring more land to provide a sufficient safety area. The Minister of Defence has the matter under consideration.
– I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs if it is a fact that the Government have abandoned the experimental farms in the Northern Territory. If so, why?
– I hope in a few days to be able to lay, perhaps, on the table of the House some notes on the whole question which I prepared for my colleagues, and I think the House will obtain from them all the information necessary.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs if it is correct that the telephone conduits being constructed in Adelaide are being constructed by contract. If so, what is the price of the work, does it exceed the estimate of the Department for doing the work, and in that case, by how much?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will direct his question to the Postmaster-General.
– With regard to the dispute existing with the men engaged on the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway at Kalgoorlie, will the Minister of Home Affairs say what increase has been paid to the men as between the rates existing at Port Augusta and those paid at the head of the line, and correspondingly what increase he offers between the normal ‘rate in Kalgoorlie and that which is offered for the work at the head of the line at that end ?
– The wages of the men - I am talking of labourers in both cases - at the Port Augusta end of the line were increased from 10s. to lis. 8d. provisionally on their carrying that wage right through to Tarcoola - a distance of 260 or 270 miles. At the western end of the line the wages laid down by the previous Administration were lis. 8d. for labourers. We aimed at carrying on that rate provided that we could in any way not increase the cost of living through the cheap handling .of supplies, and so forth. We found, however,, that whilst the price of commodities was not increased at the rail head, the boardinghouse keepers there, who are not in the same favorable position as boardinghouse keepers resident in Kalgoorlie, had increased their prices from 21s., which was admitted to be the lowest price in Kalgoorlie, to 25s. a week, and unless the Commonwealth would guarantee the collection of accounts from the men- they were not in a position to reduce these rates. I accordingly authorized a more than corresponding increase in wages -from Ils. 8d. to 12s. 6d. This the honorable member will see more than covers the difference between the increased cost of living and the old wage. The honorable member asked what wages we were paying in Kalgoorlie. As a matter of fact, through no fault of our own, the men are not at present receiving these wages, but I understand that some men who were receiving 12s. 6d. from us are working on the State railways at 10s. a day.
– Following ‘ up the question of the honorable member lor Fremantle, I should like to ask the Honorary Minister if it is a fact that men are working for the Western Australian Government on the State railways for 10s. a day, and where ? If so, are they not working in a civilized place convenient to the ordinary conveniences of townships, while the other men are working in an inhospitable region, far from hospitals and other similar advantages?
– The particular reference I had in my mind was a communication I had received from our officers in Western Australia, which I shall be happy to show to the honorable member. I should not attempt to draw any direct analogy between the further fact that the men who are on strike in the West refused to unload our timber going forward to our base of supplies, while they were quite prepared to allow the same timbers to be handled for the State Government in the same place at 10s. a day.
– Does the Honorary Minister say that the unloading of sleepers at Kalgoorlie, for the State Government, under the existing arrangement, is on all-fours with the work carried on 70 or 80 miles beyond Kalgoorlie by the men on the transcontinental railway who are now on strike?
– The honorable member has entirely misapprehended me. The men on strike refused to allow our sleepers coming forward at Kalgoorlie to be unloaded into our goods yard there, but, on the other hand, were quite prepared to allow State employes receiving 10s. a day to unload sleepers for the State in the State railway yard.
– The State railway yard is in Perth, I presume?
– No, in Kalgoorlie. It is the same place.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral state what has become of the Bankruptcy Bill promised last year?
– No doubt something may have to be said about that later on. It is not mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech for this session.
– I wish to ask the Minister of External Affairs if the dispute between the Marconi Company and the Commonwealth has been terminated, and, if so, what the award of the Court is?
– The litigation has not been terminated ; there has been no alteration of the position since last session. At that time, oh the advices we received, it was favorable to the Commonwealth, and the next step to be taken was not really for us to take. I was discussing the matter yesterday with- Mr. Garran, of the Attorney-General’s Department, and there was a point on which I wished to speak to the Postmaster-General to-day.
– How long is it since Mr. Swinburne’s report on the Balsillie wireless system was presented to the PostmasterGeneral, and is there any reason why members of the House should not obtain that report?
– If that report is made public, our opponents in this case will have the advantage of seeing it. It is a departmental paper which I think ought to be kept secret.
– If it is only a departmental report, is it available to members of the Government, and is it not an anomalous position that one member of the Government should be retained by our opponents in this case, and can see this document when other members of the House cannot?
– No member of the Government is retained in this case so far as I understand, and the document has not been made public. I think the Minister of External Affairs and myself are the only two Ministers who have seen i,t-
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs state when the Government propose to take over the lighthouses on the coast of Tasmania ?
– The position is that the preparatory wark is being done, but that we do not propose to take over the lighthouses on the coast of Australia until there have been issued regulations enabling us to collect the light dues. Before they can be issued, reasonable notice must be given to the owners of oversea and other vessels who will have to pay those dues. We approached the State Governments with the object of inducing them to remit from the clues which they are now. collecting a sum as nearly as possible equivalent to the expenditure of which we shall relieve them by taking over these lighthouses, our desire being that the shipping community should not be subjected to double taxation in respect of the same services. We told the State Premiers that we were anxious to obtain an early reply, as we desired to take over the services early in the coming financial year. They promised to deal immediately with the matter. We are awaiting a reply from them, and hope to be in a position to take over the services early in the coming year.
Statement by Attorney-General.
– In the Age of 10th February last, the Attorney-General was reported to have said, when speaking at a Lord Mayor’s banquet, that there must be ‘a dissolution, and, in reply to an interjection by Councillor John Gardiner, “ Does that mean a double dissolution?” the honorable member said, “ Certainly it does.” I wish to ask the honorable gentleman whether he was correctly reported in regard to the use of the words “ certainly it does”; and, if so, whether, before making the statement, he had an assurance from the Governor-General that the Government could have a double dissolution ?
– I do not recollect the exact words that I used on the occasion in question. I spoke probably to the effect reported, but the inference which the honorable member draws from the remark - the inference as to some communication from the Governor-General - is entirely without foundation.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister when it is proposed to introduce the Bills relating to fire and life assurance which were promised nine months ago.
– As soon as my honorable friends opposite will permit the business of the country to go on.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister of Defence explain why military horses in training at Liverpool were fed on fodder imported from the Argentine or some other country instead of being supplied with Australian produce ?
– In the absence of any knowledge as to whether there is any substantial ground for the statement- -
– It was so reported.
– I shall call the attention of my colleague, the Minister of Defence, to it.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that orders have gone out to the several departments, and particularly to the Works Department, with a view to holding up works in order to save money before the close of the current financial year?
– I know of no such order.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General whether he prepared during the recess a Bill to cover the proposed reform of the postal service, and, if so, when he intends to introduce it ?
– A Bill has been prepared, and is ready for submission to the House as soon as we have an opportunity to go on with the business of the country.
– I addressed to the Prime Minister yesterday a question in regard to the proposed contract for the supply of 500,000 powellised karri sleepers for the transcontinental railway. I do not wish to unduly labour the question, but the honorable gentleman, when replying, failed to answer the further question put by me as to whether he was prepared to lay on the table of the House a copy of the proposed contract. Is he prepared to do so ?
– I hope that tha House will be made fully aware of all that is taking. place in regard to that matter.
– As soon as tho matter is ready to be laid on the table of the House.
– When will it b3 ready ?
– I suggest that the honorable member direct that question to the Premier of Western Australia, who is holding up everything at the present time.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs take into consideration the advisableness of allowing Queensland firms to tender for Commonwealth requirements to be delivered on the Brisbane wharfs, so that they may not have to deal with the shipping combine?
– So far as I am aware, there is nothing to prevent a firm or company tendering on whatever terms it thinks fit to set out: I shall look into the question raised to see that justice is done in connexion with all Government contracts.
– Does the Prime Minister propose, this session, to impose any limit to the time allowed for the asking of questions without notice?
– This is a very pertinent question.
– Is this a question from the Ministerial Caucus meeting?
– I suppose this question is the’ result of a rumour that the honorable member has heard somewhere. It is a very pertinent question, seeing that we have now been a solid half-hour over questions without notice.
In reply, I should like to say that I have my mind to-day on another matter of a very interesting character which I understand we are to approach shortly; and I am always willing to be generous when it does not cost me anything in the way of Government time.
– I understood the Prime Minister to say just now that the contract for the supply of powellised sleepers was being delayed by the Western Australian Government. If that is correct, why did it take five weeks-
– I remind the honorable member that it is not in order to ask further questions arising out of an answer already given by a Minister.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he can explain the delayofover four weeks in the presentation of the proposed agreement or contract with the Western Australian Government in regard to a supply of powellised karri sleepers.
– I know of no delay in the matter. We have been ready for some time.
– It took over four weeks to send the contract to the State Premier.
– Did it? I only hope that when the next contract is made it will be more business-like than the last one.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House which Department it was that issued the order to officers in each State to restrict public works expenditure this year?
– I have just answered a similar question asked by another honorable member. I desire to say that no such order has been issued that I am aware of. Will some third individual get up and ask the same idiotic question ?
– I have to ask the Prime Minister to withdraw that expression.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker.
– I desire to ask the Attorney-General whether he had resigned from the position of director of a certain banking institution in Victoria before he started negotiations in relation to the State Bank?
– Is it in order for a Minister, when replying to a question, to keep his seat? Is that not disrespectful to the Chair?
– It is customary for Ministers to rise when replying to questions; and I ask the Attorney-General to observe the rule.
- Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is, No.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs lay on the table of the library all the papers connected with the recent contract for engines?
– Owing to a very important paper in connexion with another matter having disappeared from the file while it was in the Library, so far as we can ascertain, I prefer not to lay originals on the table there. I shall be happy, however, to show the honorable member the whole file if he will come to the Department, or, if he prefers, I can let him see it in the House.
– I am afraid that the Postmaster-General misunderstood the question I asked just now in relation to American telegraphs and telephones. I was not asking the Postmaster-General his opinion on the question of handing over the telephones and telegraphs to the State, but whether he would ascertain for honorable members the reason why the PostmasterGeneral of the United States of America advocates such a step?
-I have no objection to obtaining a report, if I can, of what the Postmaster-General of the United States of America said on the matter. kalgoorlie to port augusta railway:
– Am I to understand that the Honorary Minister now withdraws his statement that some of the men employed on the transcontinental railway struck against a wage of 12s. 6d. a day? This, I may say, the men never did. Does the Honorary Ministernow correct his statement that some of the men are unloading sleepers for the State Government at10s. a day?
– Not now. I think the honorable member himself knew a good deal more about what was going on in the strike camps than appears on the surface. The actual position was that an order was issued by the union, I understand, that no work was to be done for the Commonwealth Government under the rate of 13s. 4d. a day. That meant that the Commonwealth could not handle sleepers coming forward in quantities at the rail head. Although that embargo was laid on the Commonwealth, other men employed ‘ on the State railways at the very same place at 10s. a day were allowed to handle this timber into the State yards.
– Is it the intention of the Government to inaugurate a general loan policy?
– Would the honorable member mind asking his leader whether he will permit the Governmentto do so?
– Is it a fact that the Attorney- General still holds a retainer from the Marconi Company, and, if so, will he consider the advisability of abandoning that retainer so as to expedite the decision of the case ?
– I do not know whether I hold that retainer or not. If the retainer has been renewed in the ordinary way, I shall certainly take no steps to interfere with the renewal.
– Inview of answers to questions given by the PrimeMinister today, I desire to ask him how much longer he proposes to hang on to office ?
-I must ask honorable members to refrain from asking frivolous questions.
– This is not a frivolous Question. Ask the Prime Minister!
– Order ! I must also ask honorable members to refrain from asking questions consequent on answers given to previous questions.
– I should like to say- -
– Order ! The Prime Minister cannot make a statement without the leave of the House.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs tell me whether the taking over of lighthouses and similar proposals are being delayed owing to the need of the Government to postpone the financial obligations to a later period?
– The statement is absolutely without foundation and is characteristic.
asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
Whether he will take steps to see that the allowance of pensioners when in hospital is paid to the management of the institution as fees, provided pensioners are not discharged destitute ?
-The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
There is no legal authority at present to pay pensions to hospitals for the period during which pensioners are inmates.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made to ascertain the exact numbers in question, and information will be afforded as early as possible.
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are. as follow -
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Leaving out of consideration any increase of remuneration to Divisional Returning Officers under the existing system for which ap plication has been made, the immediate increase would amount to £18,000 per annum; but from this will have to be deducted -
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, has furnished the following information -
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Honorary Minister, upon notice -
What stage has now been reached in connexion with the building of the proposed new General Post Office in Perth?
– I have not the papers with me, but I may say from memory that tenders have been called, and are returnable early in June next. Every effort will be made to push ahead with the constructionof this building.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Australia, Sydney, Submarine A.E. 1, Submarine A.E. 2, Sydney.
Melbourne, Encounter, Warrego, Yarra, Parramatta, Pioneer, Melbourne.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that much of the information supplied to the Electoral Office to take action against people who are not enrolled is supplied by post-office officials?
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that at Cowra, on 13th February, he made the statement that only by the straining of the Standing Orders and such like methods were we able to hold on at all?
– I do not remember all I said at Cowra, but I distinctly remember that I referred to the persistent and continuous obstruction of public business by the Opposition. I also referred to the fact that when we made an unwonted use of standing order 119, it was in order to avoid wasting further public time in discussing a third vote of censure and two other time-wasting motions by two honorable members of the Opposition, which were then on the businesspaper. If I used the word “ straining,” it was with reference to that incident and that alone. I think that circumstances fully justified the use I then made of the standing order named. Only a spirit of bitter partisanship could read into what I said any reflection on Mr. Speaker.
- Mr. Speaker-
– Order ! The time for questions is past.
– But my intention is to move the adjournment of the House, and, under standing order 38, I must bring on the motion now before the Orders of the Day are called upon.
– The honorable member cannot submit a motion of that kind at the present juncture.
Order of the Day read.
– On a point of order, I claim that I am entitled to move my motion. I understand that standing order 21 provides that no business other than formal shall be taken until the AddressinReply is adopted, but that does not apply to a motion for adjournment ; otherwise, no motion to adjourn a debate could be submitted. An honorable member must surely be able to move the adjournment of the House at any time; otherwise, no motion to adjourn a debate or to adjourn the House, perhaps for a short way of getting rid of the AddressinReply, could be permitted.
– Last year there was a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders before the Address-in-Reply debate was concluded.
– I am prepared to accept the ruling, but, despite standing order 21, I consider that standing order 38 covers the ground. Otherwise, I shall take the point,ifany honorable member rises to move the adjournment of the debate on the Address-in-Reply, that he cannot do so, and that honorable members mustcontinue sitting until the Address-in-Reply is adopted, and Mr. Speaker would not be ableto getout of the difficulty in which he has placed himself.
– I remind the honorable member that the ordinary motion for the adjournment of the House can bo moved only by a Minister. This is not a motion for the adjournment of a debate. Standing order 38 provides that -
No motion for the adjournment of the House shall be made except by a Minister of the Crown, unless a member, after petitions have been presented and notices of questions and motions given, and before the business of the day is called on, rising in his place shall propose to move the adjournment for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance (which he shall then state and hand in in writing to the Speaker), and unless five members shall thereupon rise in their places, as indicating approval of the proposed discussion. The member proposing the motion for adjournment shall not be allowed to address, the House on such motion until the Speaker shall have ascertained that five members approve of the proposed motion.
It must be patent to the honorable member that he cannot interpose at the present, stage with a motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of urgency, as the business of the day has already been called on and entered upon. The time to do that - putting aside the limitation of standing order 21 altogether - is before the business of the day has been called on.
- Mr. Speaker–
– The honorable member may not argue the point with the Chair. There is only one way in which my. decision can be dealt with, and that is by giving notice of a motion to dissent from it.
– I do not propose to take, a step like that.
– The honorable member will not be in order in arguing with the Chair.-
– By way of personal explanation, I would like to say that the decision has put me into a rather invidious position. If you, sir, rule that the Orders of the Day had been called on, that decides the matter.
– I spoke of the “business of the day,” of which the Orders of the Day are only a portion. The business of the day was called on when the formal questions which appear on the notice-paper were commenced. Any motion for the adjournment of the House to call attention to a definite matter of urgent- public importance must be moved before the business of the day is called on ; but in no case can such a motion be moved before the AddressinReply has been dealt with.
– I wish to point out, by wayof explanation -
– The honorable member may not argue the point with the Chair. He must see that it is altogether irregular for an honorable member on the floor of the House to enter into an argument with the Chair.
– Then, Mr. Speaker, I move that this House dissents from your ruling.
– The time to give notice of a motion to dissent from my ruling was immediately after the ruling was given. I appeal to the honorable mem- ber’s sense of his duty to the House and to the Chair to obey the direction that I have given. The honorable member cannot now move to dissent from my ruling.
– Then, as soon as an honorable member opposite gets up to move the adjournment, I shall block him. I am right on the legal point.
– The honorable member knows the rules of the House as well as any one, and I appeal to his goodsense not to get into conflict with the Chair. If he thought that I had givena wrong ruling, it was his duty, there and! then, to. give notice of a motion to dissent, not to enter upon an argument with the Chair ; and, when he had been called to order several times, to give such notice. However, I am prepared to waive that objection, and if he still wishes to give notice of a motion to dissent from my ruling, and will hand it to me in writing, I shall receive it.
-By way of personal explanation, I could state &e whole point in a couple of minutes.
– The honorable member is now out of order. That would be an evasion of the rules and practice of the House. He must not attempt to go behind my ruling. The* Standing Orders provide that if a member thinks a ruling to be wrong, he may give notice of his intention to move £o dissent from it, but they require that such notice must be given immediately.
Debate resumed from 15th April (vide page 38), on motion by Mr. Ken dell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral be agreed to by this House: -
May it Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the’ Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- After this little interlude, w& had better get to the business of the session, if there be any business : in the’ programme before us. I must first’ express regret at the early departure’ from Australia of Lord Denman, and my appreciation of the terms in which he conveyed to Parliament, and to the country, the intimation that h’e is leaving. I believe that he has spoken his mind quite freely in saying that he and his family have been happy during the term of his GovernorGeneralship, and regret very much his early de- parture, and I speak for most, if not all, in the- community when I add that we hope that he, Lady Denman, and family will enjoy good health and prosperity when they have returned to their own home’. I offer my congratulations to the honorable members for Corio and Robertson, who’ moved and seconded the adoption of the proposed Address-in-Reply. Both of them found it difficult to make speeches, se’eing that there was nothing to speak about.
Mr.- Riley. - They did very well.
– They did excellently ; but the Government have accomplished even more, because they halve concealed entirely any policy that they may have. They alone among Australian Governments live by slandering the people’, and by continuing to slander them-, wilfully and knowingly, after the facts have been revealed. Worse’ than that, the Miniate* who has been the prime slanderer- Senator McColl - has been appointed to” look after the cleansing of the rolls and the Conduct of election’s. Speaking at the Fitzroy Town Hall soon after he became a Minister, he said that 60,000’ persons more than were eligible voted in New South Walesa 60,000 more in Victoria, 30,000 more in Queensland,- 17,000 more in South Australia, 11,000’ more’ in We’sttern Australia, and 7,000 more iff Tasmania; and that, worse still, some persons voted twice, and the dead we’re resurrected. This Minister, who is VicePre’sident of the Executive Council, has been intrusted by the Government with the cleansing of the electoral rolls. The Prime Minister, speaking a!t Parramatta about a) month a’go’, said’, “ Before we can do anything, we must cleanse the rolls.” Those who need cleansing are’ the men who are hot honestenough to tell tie truth, of to admit it when the facts are put before them’. Oan they show me a tittle of evidence iri the reports of their Commissions or officials which gives any foundation for’ their wild, reckless, malicious’, and villainous statements?
– As to the need for cleansing the rolls ?
– I refer to the outrageous statement that Australia is corrupt, and that the electors are corrupt.
– Who said that?
– Ministers. Now we have a’ denial ! They never said it I What a mistake- for persons to think that they said, it ! Did not the Prime Minister say at Parramatta recently that the foils must be cleansed before we can have an election ?
– Yes. I sa>y . so again now.
-Did I he not say, and did not other Ministers say, and did not the press which was behind them repeat, over and over again, the” statement that the Australian people, as an electorate’, hari acted corruptly during the last election?
– No one has said that.
– It was said in this House.
– That Australia is corrupt ?
– Did not the honorable gentleman send Mr. Foster back to Canada, praising his country at the expense of Australia, inasmuch as the Ministers of the Crown here had said that the voting here at the last election was corrupt; in other words, that tens of thousands of persons had voted who ought not to have voted, some of them having voted nineteen times?
– Who said that?
– Who said it? Is there honour or honesty among honorable members opposite ? Do they shelter themselves behind a slander ? Will they allow Australia to be slandered overseas now that it can no longer be slandered here?
– The old, -old story !
– It is a new story. No words of mine, or of any member on this side, will make the slightest impression on some of those opposite, though our arguments may reach others. But behind honorable members is an intelligent and honest people, who will be judge and jury in these matters in the very near future.
– When the Government get the rolls purified to suit them, two years hence!
– This purification is one of the most subtle and cunning manoeuvres of the Government in playing for time. The Round Table, an Imperial magazine, dealing with the whole of the Dominions - a magazine that is not a party organ, but goes through the whole world - tells a tale the like of which no Australian patriot would wish to listen to for a moment. Dealing with the political situation, it says, in its issue of December last -
Immediately after the elections sensational statements were published to the effect that great abuses had occurred under the Electoral Act, and that better means should be adopted of securing the verdict of the country. Inquiries since made, however, show that the rumoured malpractices, at which the opponents of the Labour party clutched rather too greedily, were to a large extent based upon / misapprehensions. For instance, it was boldly stated by a member of the Cabinet that no fewer than 80,000 “dummy cards” had been placed in the electoral index boxes in Kew South Wales alone. The implication was that there had been roll stuffing on a gigantic scale to further the interests of the Labour party. But subsequent investigations demonstrate that what occurred was done by the electoral officials strictly in accordance with the electoral law, and had no relation whatever to party manoeuvring…..
It is mentioned that the Federal electoral system is worked upon a card index basis, and reference is made to the question of the 80,000 dummy cards. It is then stated -
As a matter of fact, investigation shows that the total number of instances of doubtful voting in New South Wales is narrowed down to i per cent., and the probability is that more detailed inquiry will prove that even in these cases there was no grave irregularity, but rather error of judgment or mistake on the part of electoral officials or of voters. It is to be feared that the statements alleging electoral irregularities circulated throughout the press, hard upon the elections, without sufficient investigation, were cabled abroad, and produced a lamentable impression as to the purity of the Australian electoral system. Unfortunately the press, which is so eager to publish a sensational statement, is slow to give prominence to the more sober ‘and serious explanation which is forthcoming as the result of patient inquiry It is a satisfaction to be able to state, for the credit of Australia, that the explanations since officially given dissipate the charges so rashly made, and show that the aspersions on the good citizenship and electoral honesty of the people and politicians were undeserved.
That is not my tale, nor is it the haphazard tale of a newspaper which publishes hearsay statements. It ia an article appearing in one of the leading magazines of the British Dominions, and was published and in the hands of the Government in December and January last. In March, the Prime Minister, speaking to his constituents, said, “ Before we have an election we must cleanse the rolls,” leaving the old implication that the rolls were in the state alleged by the Minister. The honorable member should have the manliness to get up and say, “ We have slandered the people of Australia, although not meaningly or wilfully, and we regret it,” but we hear no word of apology from any member of the Government, nor are we likely to. The people, however, will be able to protect themselves.! Let us turn to Ballarat. What did Detective Burvett say when appointed by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs to investigate the matter? His evidence, which is proof, full and complete, must be put on record. He told the Select Committee,- “ I did not discover one instance of fraud. I located all the electors on the list given to me. I either saw them, or satisfied myself of their existence.” We, however, do not hear a single word of apology from any one, although the report is a complete reply to the allegations. May I remind the Attorney-General that when this question of investigating the vote at the last election came up, he, and the Prime Minister, and the Government wanted to have a secret investigation by the Cabinet ? My friends objected to this, although even then I should have preferred to have a secret investigation by the Ministry had that been the only course open to us. I would have preferred this to knowing nothing. I desired to bring out the facts of the case fully and faithfully in the interests of the people of Australia, and when I put the position to the Attorney-General, I said, “ We welcome an investigation in the interests of Australia, but we ask that it should take place in the same way as it would have done had it been made before the rolls were finally closed, and therefore there should be a representative of each candidate at the investigation . ‘ ‘ That investigation proved exactly what we alleged would be proved, viz., that there was a faithful and honest vote by the people at the last election. If there are at any time voters voting more than once at an election, I think we could say that such instances need not be sought for among the supporters of the Labour party. People who take a leading part in supporting a pioneering party like ours do not get many benefits from doing so. The Prime Minister can vouch for that. He is not a child in these matters. He has been a child of fortune in some respects, and I do not regret it. I am very glad that he has had some privileges and enjoyed some positions of honour; but he knows, and nobody knows better, that no man who would do such things could find an asylum in the Labour party if discovered. He ought, with that knowledge, to have been the very first to deal with this matter in the way I suggested. It is not too late yet for the Government, and those who made these false charges, to embrace the opportunity of dealing with the question right away.
– I am sorry that I cannot agree with the honorable member that everything is perfect in the Electoral Department.
– The Prime Minister said yesterday that if I dealt with a certain matter here I should not have the same privileges as I would have on the platform.
– I warned you that you would not be able to establish the shadiness of a certain transaction here with quite the same glibness with which you have established it on the public platforms of the country.
– There are two questions that, although very clear and distinct, are allied in some respects. One is the substitution of contract for day labour, which is the avowed and settled policy of the Government; and the other is the manner in which the Government, since Parliament lost control over them, or had no further opportunity of criticising or watching their actions, have entered into the carrying out of their policy of contracts. Let me take, first of all, the contract itself that has been the subject of past discussion. I refer to the contract entered into by the Minister of Home Affairs, or, rather, by the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs - the honorable member for Wentworth - on behalf of the Minister, with Mr. Teesdale Smith for the construction of 14 miles of railway from close to Port Augusta towards Kalgoorlie. That contract, according to information in my ‘ possession from the Home Affairs Department, was entered into on 9 th February last. The terms of it were that Mr. Teesdale Smith was to construct the14 miles of line, and was to be paid 4s. 6d. per yard of the cuttings and an additional 2s. 6d. for every yard deposited on the banks more than a chain and a half from the mouth of the cuttings on either or each side. Whether that is a good or bad bargain is not the main point; but, at any rate, that is the fact. Mr. Smith was to put down £1,000 deposit. Time was the essence of the contract. The work was to be done in three months, and any failure to do it in that time was to bear a penalty of £5 per day. Thus, if the contract took double the time the penalty was to be £450, if treble the time £900, and if it took a whole year £1,350, or 2.7 per cent.
– What will the total amount of the contract be?
– It is very curiously put in the memorandum, and, in fact, the usually sharp and correct Age fell into an error, andestimated it at £20,000. As a matter of absolute fact, it is between £20,000 and £30,000 at each end. According to the information furnished me by the Minister, the contract is divided into two parts, and itis further estimated in the memorandum of agreement that about 100,000 cubic yards at each end were to be removed. Honorable members may rest satisfied that the cost of that particular job will be nearer £60,000 than £50,000.
– Were no tenders invited?
-I am coming to that point. This particular contract was unknown to the public until it had beenin existence for over five weeks. I must follow the statements made by the Minister. No tenders were invited for the work, and, so far as I can discover, no information wasgiven to the public that the Government proposed to enter into a contract for it. True, the file of papers conveys a hint that before they entered into the contract they asked two or three men, without any plant, to go over to Port Augusta, and to give an estimate of theamount for which they could do the work’.
– Who asked the men togo over?
– Mr. Deane, I presume. They went over, and made certain proposals. Mr. Teesdale Smith chanced to be about Port Augusta at the same time. Mr. Poynton. - He was not within 300 miles of Port Augusta.
– We are told that he was. At all events, he made the offerI have outlined, and Mr. Deane telegraphed to Captain Saunders,who was engineer in charge of that particular section, to obtain his opinion in regard to the tender. The telegram was as follows:
Smithoffers take piece-work from 92 to 106 miles. Cuttings, 4s. 6d.; banks, 2s. 6d. He will find water, plant, explosives, horse feed. Completion in three months from acceptance Do you recommend acceptance?
Captain Saunders replied -
Re Teesdale Smith’s offer, I consider the time stated to complete the work warrants paying prices stated. Fauldingham.
I believe that the name has beenmisspelt, but I attach no importance to that.
– It should ‘be’” Falkingham.”
– Quite so. The telegram continues - (Fauldingham stated ‘be wantedfive -shilling, and we weretosupplyplant, tools,water,and pay men. I cannot do the work in three months.
Mr. Deane went on to say inhis memorandum to the Secretary of the Departments
Itwill be seen that in Captain. Saunders’s opinion no better arrangement for carrying out this work properly can be made, and I ask the Minister to allow me to enter into a contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith on thoselines.
I appeal to honorable members who have listened to the reading of Mr. Deane’s telegram of inquiry, and to Captain Saunders’ reply, to say whether there is any justification for that statement. Did Captain Saunders say anything of the kind ?What he did say, in effect, was - “ I cannot do the work in three months, and if you compel a man to do it in three months, you must pay him these rates.”
– Is thatall that Captain Saunders said ?
– Mr. Deane brings Captain Saunders intothe controversy by stating in his memorandum that he has declared that “ no better arrangement could be made.”
– Is the right honorable member prepared to say that Captain Saunders did not make that statement ?
– There is no such statement by him in these papers.
– All the papers, may not be there.
– If there is something worse to come, we should know it at , once. If there is further correspondence–apart altogetherfrom that which has been supplied to me and to the public-the position is twenty times worse. Nothing should save the Government if they have been withholding information, despite the repeated appeals I have made to them for the production of the papers relating to this matter. We have reached a very serious situation, since we now have from the Prime Minister a hint” that there are other minutes by Captain Saunders.
– I assure the honorable member that there is a big file of papers.
– If there are other papers dealing with this questionthey should have been laid on the table of this House.
– We shall put them on the table of the House.
– The Honorary Minister acting for the Minister of Home Affairs said that copies were being prepared. Why were they not prepared and laid upon the table? For five weeks after the letting of this contract representatives of the press called at the office of the Department of Home Affairs day after day, and whilst tittle-tattle of every kind - political, party political, and social - was retailed, there was nothing definite about this contract having been entered into. Did the Department forget that it had been made? Did the Prime Minister himself know that it had been entered into ? Was he aware of its terms? Did he approve of its conditions? Then, again, did the AttorneyGeneral approve of the fact being concealed from the public that the contract had been let? When I challenged the honorable gentleman to say publicly whetherhe did or did not approve of it he grew very angry, and began to talk about my appearance and my Caledonian accent. I ask him now, whether he approved of the. contract being entered into, and of the manner in which it was entered into? Do Ministers and their supporters approve of the contract having been entered into without any tenders being invited, and do they approve of the giving of this contract being withheld from the public until I virtually dug it out of the Home Affairs Department?
– Does the right honorable member solemnly say that ?
– I asked for the information.
– Several papers published it, and yet the right honorable member has the effrontery to make this statement.
– So far as I know the contract was not published here.
– It was published twice. Speaking from memory, it was published on the 6th and 12th February - many weeks before the right honorable member mentioned the matter at all.
– No particulars of this contract were published, to my knowledge, up to the time that the departmental memoranda were handed to me.
– We shall give the right honorable member a few facts.
– I shall be very glad to have them. According to the Engineer- in-Chief’s memorandum no tenders were called, and the conditions of the contract were, taken as a whole, quite unjustifiable. On 23rd February last the Argus published a statement that during the previous morning the AttorneyGeneral and the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs had been in consultation with the officials of the transcontinental railway, and that several well-known contractors had had consultations with them. I may say, in passing, that the Argus seems to have a lien on the Government, and to obtain fairly early particulars of what is going on in connexion with it. In this particular paragraph, however, it was not stated that a contract had been entered into with Mr. Teesdale Smith. I challenged the AttorneyGeneral to say whether he, in his official capacity, took part in the consultations referred to; whether he had private communications with well-known contractors;, whether he approved of the terms of the contract granted to Mr. Teesdale Smith; and whether he approved of information as to the letting of that contract being withheld from the public. So far I have received no substantial answer. Opinions in regard to this transaction have been expressed by people quite apart from the Government. The Age, in its issue of 24th March, said of the present Government -
Firstly, they have made a breach in the day-labour system without any ‘ justification for that breach, and secondly, in giving to a particular contractor a contract, at his own price, without tender, they have offended against one of the most obvious business precautions, and have laid themselves open to the accusation of favoritism. It is opening the door to the deluge that may easily bring in Tammany practices.
What was the only rejoinder made by the Prime Minister to my challenge? It was that when we were in office we did the same thing in respect of the sleeper contract.
– I did make that statement.
– We did not do the same thing. We called for tenders twelve months before. And yet the Prime Minister’s answer to ray challenge is, “ You’re another.”
– I referred to another sleeper contract, for which the late Government did not call tenders.
– The Prime Minister’s rejoinder was that we were as bad as were the present Government in this respect. But are we to be placed in the same class ?
– I should hope not.
– Are we to be classed with honorable members opposite - the unsoiled, the pure men who have never changed their political views or principles - the men who would not sell themselves for the world ; men who .would rather die than sacrifice their political principles? The Government declared to the public that they desired to be returned to purify” Australian affairs, and not to do as the Labor Government had done. ‘ When they were returned they abused the rules of Parliament to the very uttermost. While Parliament was sitting they could not do very much harm, but, as soon as Parliament was out of session, they carried out their will. I say, as I have said outside, that it would be honest and straightforward on the part of the Prime Minister if he put on the main door of the Department of Home Affairs, “All citizens entering here will be treated equally; those who desire privileges from the Government come in by the side door.” We heard at one time a great deal about “ the man on the job.” If some poor man, who may have been up all night with sickness in his family, did not feel capable of doing a hard day’s work, and he happened to sit down or stretch himself for a moment, he was hounded by the press as a lazy workman. On the other hand, when the contractor came on the scene, it was a case of “Welcome, my brother, welcome!” That contractor was the man for the Government, and not “the man. on the job.” I pass from this to the question of day labour. For ten solid years the principle of day labour has established itself in all classes of Government work in Australia; and the evidence in its support is beyond cavil or dispute. In Queensland, in the case of 1,144 miles of railway, the cost, under day labour, as compared with a similar length of railway constructed under contract, showed over eleven years a difference in favour of the former system of no less than £2,000,000.
– I think I am entitled to ask the right honorable gentleman to explain what he means by suggesting that at the front door of the Department all are equal and that the side door must be used for special privileges.
– It would be more manly, if the honorable gentleman has the courage to do so, to speak straightforwardly than to use innuendo 1
– The Government put up the placard that every person was to be treated equally; but every person has not been treated equally. No tenders were invited, but a few men called in> and a great contract for over £50,000, according to the memorandum- from which I have quoted, was, for all practical purposes, secretly entered into.
– Where does the memorandum say that the contract was for over £50,000 ?
– If all people were to be treated alike under contract, in preference to day labour, tenders ought to have been called. Why was Mr. Teesdale Smith treated specially? The Government were in a hurry - and Mr. Smith was in a hurry. Mr. Deane, the engineerinchief, says : -
Mr. Smith is quite agreeable to paying a deposit and entering into a contract accord ing to our specification. The value of the work at each end would probably be between £20,000 and £30,000, and he oders to pay a deposit of £1,000 right away. This is an urgent matter, and I think the Chance, which has been quite unexpected, is a good one, and should be seized, with the object of carrying out the work efficiently and promptly. Mr. Smith has to dispose of his plant from the MinippaStreaky Bay contract, and he cannot hold his offer open for more than a day or two, otherwise the plant, horses, and men would be dispersed.
We can imagine Mr. Smith or his agent telling the Government that this was the chance of a lifetime. There were interesting developments. Apparently, if an officer brings forward any suggestion, the Ministry are bound to support it.
– Not this Ministry ; it was the last Ministry which did that sort of thing.
– The memorandum goes on -
I strongly recommend the serious consideration of Mr. Smith’s offer, and shall be glad to have the Minister’s approval with the least possible delay.
This is signed by Mr. Deane, as EngineerinChief for Commonwealth Railways, and is indorsed, “ Approved. (Sgd.) W. H. Kelly, for Minister of Home Affairs, 6th February, 1914.” The contract is for three months, with the penalties I have stated. Those penalties are absolutely ridiculous, in view of the fact that undoubtedly time is the very essence of the contract. As a matter of fact, they are not penalties at all, and there is no limit, so far as I can see, to the time which the contractor may take over the work. He may continue from year to year on payment of his nominal penalty, and if he takes two years, the penalties amount to less than 6 per cent. However, all this is secondary to the consideration of the manner in which the Government entered into the contract.
– Of course the right honorable gentleman’s figures are all wrong.
– I am taking my figures from the memorandum.
– The right honorable gentleman is misreading the whole thing.
– In view of that statement, I ask to be allowed to put the whole of the documents in. The following is the letter of the 17th March. 1914. which I received from the Department of Home Affairs - 17th March, 1014.
In response to your request of the 12th instant, I desire to inform you that the contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith was the outcome of a memorandum by the Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways, dated 5th February, 1914 (copy herewith), which bears my approval.
According to the terms of the contract, the contractor will -
Engineer-in-Chief and in accordance with the plans, specifications, and directions (if any) of the said Engineer-in-Chief and of the Minister, all work to bo carried out, performed, and completed under this agreement..
for Minister for Home Affairs.
The Right Hon. A. Fisher, P.C., M.P.,
The treatment of Mr. Teesdale Smith is in violent contrast to the treatment of the Western Australian Government. The State Government had a contract with the Commonwealth, and that contract was cancelled, although it was hardly overdue, while a contract) which was distinctly and lengthily overdue, for the supply of rolling-stock by a private firm, was not cancelled. I should like to ask the Treasurer why the contract with the State Government was cancelled, in view of the further circumstance that the Commonwealth Government had three months’ supply of sleepers ready to be laid down, while the private contract for rolling stock was not cancelled ?
– Why is it that the present Government, who pride themselves on being “ national,” hit at a State Government as soon as an opportunity presents itself? The Prime Minister is reported to have said that karri sleepers were quite unsuitable, and that it was almost the act of a lunatic to enter into a contract for their supply.
– Quote on. I spoke of a contract for the supply of 1,500,000 sleepers.
– Then the honorable gentleman referred to the number ? I may take it that the contract was all right in regard to some of the sleepers?
– There was no objection to making a test of the sleepers.
– When in Western Australia on the last occasion, I took the opportunity to meet every officer of the
Railway Department in reference to this matter. I asked each one whether he was directly or indirectly interested, or related to any one who was directly or indirectly interested, in the production of powellised timber, and I accepted no evidence from any who was. With one exception, nineteen out of twenty of those officers said that karri sleepers had been sufficiently tested to enable them to be as profitably laid as any other timber.
– And yet the State Government are not laying any of those sleepers on their own lines. They were adopting the method of trying it on the Commonwealth “ dog “ I
– It may be that the Western Australian Government have not used any of those sleepers; but one of the reasons given by the Prime Minister for the cancellation of the contract related to the reduction of the length of the sleeper. I saw from the press that the Government had been able to get a shorter sleeper to serve the same purpose; but I point out that the report of the Royal Commission on the question was subsequent to the cancellation of the contract. Thus it will be seen that the Prime Minister got his reason after he had “ cut the painter.” That may be a very convenient way for the Prime Minister, but it is not at all a suitable way.
– I did not say what is alleged.
– I am always prepared to qualify my remarks by saying that if the honorable gentleman did not say it it is no use repeating it.
– You do not always quote correctly. You pick out little bits.
– I am not picking out little bits, but I shall not pursue the matter further, because it must come up again. I pass to the principle of day labour. Apparently the present Government are determined to throw away the money of the public by having works done by contract. I have quoted the example of Queensland - and I could quote Victoria just as effectively - in order to show that the day-labour system is- a saving to the State. The Ballarat instance is a good one. The construction of a telephone tunnel at Ballarat was let by the Fusion Government, but when we came into office we stopped the arrangement, and had the work done by day labour; at a. saving of £800 on the lowest tender submitted. Even the Prime Minister, when he was Postmaster-General in New South Wales in 1S95, when the Reid Government could not exist without the support of the Labour party, was induced to adopt the system of day labour for underground telephones.
– I fancy I have heard this before.
– The honorable gentleman may hear of it again. At any rate, he was induced - by gentle pressure, I have no doubt - to adopt the day-labour system, with the result that the Government saved about a third of the money compared with the contract price. Yet, with all that experience - his own personal experience - now he reverts from day labour to the wasteful system of contracts, at a time when the evidence in favour of the day-labour system is ten times stronger than ever. Victoria gives absolute evidence in the construction of railways of a saving of 23 per cent, to 33 per cent, by the daylabour system. We might pass over this matter if it were proposed to apply the system to a single contract, but, so to speak, the Ministry have nailed their colours to the mast in their determination to carry out works by contract and not by day labour. The Commonwealth Government, in years to come, must carry out large railway and other works, for which they will need the best engineers and the best equipment that can be got ; and when they get that equipment - it was being inaugurated before Ministers came into office - they will be in a position to construct all works, while giving better wages and conditions to the men, at least 25 per cent, cheaper than any contractor. The contractor is never sure of continuous and regular pursuit of the same class of work-, and must give consideration to loss of material, loss of interest, and so forth. Therefore, instead of fattening the few people at the expense of the workers and taxpayers of the country, the Government must resume the proper and economical system of constructing works by day labour. Now I approach the question of the Government’s management of the finances of the Commonwealth, and their attack on the Commonwealth Bank, and I would ask the attention of the Treasurer for a minute.
– I have been very attentive all the time.
– I do not direct my attention particularly to the right honorable gentleman. I spared him when speaking with regard to the sleeper contract, which must be a matter of interest to his own particular State; but I must deal with him in regard to another matter. If he thinks fit to make any reply during the course of this debate, I hope he will tell the people why he has with. drawn the loan moneys from the States, and put them into a gold reserve far in excess of requirements. He has withdrawn between £1,100,000 and £1,200,000 of loan moneys, which could be well used by the States, and he has compelled them to borrow to the same extent from, and pay interest to, foreign money-lenders. There is no way of getting out of the difficulty unless the people of Australia be sweated to make up the £40,000 or £50,000 that the Treasurer has wilfully wasted by adding to the gold reserve. And he has done it against the best advice of the leading financial journals and financial men. The Financial and Banking Journal said, in May last, that, though they differed from Mr. Fisher in regard to the manner in which the Australian notes issue was brought about, his method of doing it was absolutely as safe as if their views had been accepted from the first.
– But you kept up the rate of interest as against the poorer nian.
– This journal was asked as to what would happen if the people who held notes demanded gold, and they replied that after all the notes were paid there would remain in the Treasury some 300,000 odd sovereigns. The Queensland system worked for about nineteen years on a reserve averaging about 33 per cent. It was often down to 25 per cent, and at ether times it largely exceeded 33 per cent. It proved to be a good system, and it was not a new one. The attempt to throw away £50,000 a year at the present time is one of the wonders of the political situation. Whatever the private views of the Treasurer may be, I ask him to help the States; I ask him to help those people who need the money, and not to compel them to go to wiser people who have money to lend, and make the taxpayers of Australia sweat to make the necessary payments every year.
– Why did” you take away the Savings Bank money from the States ?
– The interjection of the Treasurer indicates that he is thinking of the Commonwealth Bank. Does the right honorable gentleman remember that his colleague - Senator McColl - speaking to a little coterie of ladies in Swanstonstreet, is reported to have said that the Commonwealth Bank had lost £56,000 in the first half-year, and that the loss would be worse yet? I ask the Treasurer, who is responsible for the management and protection of the Commonwealth Bank, whether he saw that statement, and, if he did, what action he took ; because at that time the right honorable gentleman had in his possession the report of the Auditor-General and the Governor of the bank, showing a profit for the half-year ?
– If I did see the statement, I am not responsible for everything that Senator McColl said. I think the loss was £46,000.
– The Treasurer is guardian of. a bank that belongs to the people, and the bank was slandered by Senator McColl. Certainly he made a. misstatement of £10,000 in regard to the loss on the first half-year - it was £46,000, and not £56,000 - and he made the slanderous allegation that it would be worse yet, though, if he had known at the time what he was paid to know, he would have said that there was an actual profit on the half-year.
– It was £1,500, I understand.
– The Prime Minister need not say that it was only a little profit. The Treasurer knows that the loss of £46,000 on the first half-year was largely owing to the cost of equipping the bank, the Governor of the bank having debited all the fixtures to the first half-year’s loss of £46,000. Since then, the bank has made a profit. It must be remembered that this institution started without any capital; yet it has made a profit. The Attorney-General informed us to-day that he is a director of a private bank - in this city, I presume. He is a Minister. Another Minister slanders a public institution. Would any Minister try his hand in the same way with regard to a private institution? Cannot Ministers be honest enough to admit that, at least, the paid trustees of the Commonwealth should protect a Commonwealth institution ?
– What do you think of the proposed bargain with the. States ?
– Evidently any matter that interferes with the private interests of honorable members on the other side is anathema, is wrong, and must have its throat cut, if it can be done secretly, or must be stabbed to death. They seem afraid to have the matter discussed openly. They are a’fraid of exposure.
– Do you say that the Bank is not to be criticised?
– Is it fair criticism to lie about the Bank, arid slander it? I gave the quotation. A Minister said that the Bank had lost £56,000 - which it never did - and that the loss would be worse yet; although he knew, or ought to have known, that it had made a profit. What would happen to an honorable member if he made the same statement about a private institution? He would receive a writ within a week-.
– Not if the statement was true.
– This statement was not true, and the Minister knew, or he should have known, that it was not true.
– It was in the report of the Governor of the Bank. Of course, it was capable of simple explanation; but it was a true business statement showing a loss which is, perhaps, inseparable from any new business. There must be a certain amount of loss at the start.
– My time will not allow me to deal with the honorable member; but I ask the Treasurer again whether he cannot see his way to reduce the gold reserve to at least 33 per cent. ?
– At present we think the reserve should be 40 per cent., which is only 7 per cent, more than you propose.
– That difference of 7 per cent, will run into three-quarters of a million; and in my opinion that is an absolute waste of money.
– If we do not .use it, the money is- there. We cannot invest every penny. You got pound for pound, and £5,000,000 for nothing. You are too greedy.
– I am anxious that the Government should get more.
– We. desire safety.
– I do not know what the right honorable gentleman would have done if we had not left him that £5,000,000 in which to delve with his scoop. It’ is very handy.
– Yes, and every little trust fund also. We do not find Liberals leaving funds of this description available. They have a different method. It is to clean up everything, and then knock the bottom out, leaving the damage to be repaired by their successors. I congratulate the Treasurer on having fallen on a very good thing. He can do things well when he gets an opportunity.
I have been more than delighted lately at the attitude of the Government, and of every one who. is any one in Australia, in regard to naval defence matters.
– I absolutely disagree with Senator Millen’s statement.
– Senator Millen has taken the right stand.
– The honorable member for Werriwa would have been in company with the Prime Minister five years ago. On the 25th March, 1909, at that exciting period when most persons were a little off “ their heads in regard to the Dreadnought proposal, the Prime Minister, speaking in the Sydney Town Hall, said that, “ He nailed his colours then and there to an increased subsidy.”
– An excellent thing if we are to remain part of the Empire. Were we to separate, we could not last forty-eight hours under the honorable’ member’s policy.
– I ask the honorable member for Werriwa to cease interjecting.
– A people determined to maintain its independence does so, whether big or little. The nation that has a heart and soul can maintain its independence. Prussia has done so. For close on 300 years she was surrounded by foes. My own country has stood up against odds with great heart and courage. If there were a crawling, dependent spirit among Australians, no power on earth could save them. It is the vim, determination, manhood, and patriotism of the people of a country that make a nation, not the numerical strength of the population. The Prime Minister, speaking at Crow’s Nest on the 8 th April, 1909, said, “ Australia should not only give a Dreadnought, but increase the Naval
Subsidy.” On the 28th March, 1909, he said, at Sydney, “ If I were in Mr. Fisher’s place, I should offer a Dreadnought, and ask for a Naval Conference.” On the 31st March, 1909, speaking at Bendigo, he said about our proposal for a local Navy, as outlined at Gympie, “ It represented the views ‘of the Brisbane Labour Conference, but it would be found that it was quite impractical.” That was then his opinion of the scheme that he is now indorsing. I was amused to hear him say, without a blush, speaking in the presence of Sir Ian Hamilton, “ We established this defence system.”
– So they did.
– And the Dreadnought that the Labour party scoffed at is now here.
– On the occasion to which I refer, the Prime Minister admitted that the Opposition helped the present Liberal party in this matter. The honorable gentleman does not look a humorist, but he can be very funny on certain occasions. On the 2nd April, 1909, he said, at Sydney, that, “ as soon as Parliament met, there was no doubt that a Dreadnought would go to Britain.” At that time they had fixed up the Fusion Coalition. The Labour party was in office, and the “ rag-tag and bob-tail “ of politics gathered together to put us out. Having succeeded, our opponents (sent Colonel Foxton to the 1909 Conference. The present High Commissioner stated that the reason why he voted to put us out of office was that he wished to prevent Senator Pearce from going to that Conference. That statement was made publicly in this Chamber. Everything shows that the giving of a Dreadnought to the Mother Country was then the policy of the Liberals. Now they have changed. Senator Millen is the hero of the hour, because he says that the First Lord of the Admiralty will never be allowed to take one of our ships from the South. Pacific.
– Did he say that?
– Those were practically his words. He said that the First Lord of the Admiralty wanted to destroy the Australian-owned and manned Navy. If I rea”d his words correctly, he strongly objects to that.
– That is a totally different statement.
– Whatever the difference in regard to words and terms, the - present policy of the Liberals is evidently based on the lines laid down by the Labour party before the Fusion Government took office. The Prime Minister knows that this policy was laid down by us. The Admiralty, before we were put out of office, knew what our policy was. As a party we laid down a policy that cannot be repealed.
– Why haggle over these matters, seeing that the policy is universally accepted to-day?
– Our views were expressed at the proper time in a memo’randum sent to the proper quarter; but an attempt has been made to mislead the public on the subject. We did not content ourselves with a mere statement, but laid down a policy, clear, definite, and distinct, that we stand by to-day. I wish to give credit to the honorable member for West Sydney for the establishment of the system of compulsory training, of which he was the pioneer. I opposed his suggestions more than once, being afraid of the barracks system, but I am notafraid of the present system. As others have tried to steal his thunder, it is only fair and just that he should be mentioned as the pioneer and fighter for the system, whether it be good, bad, or indifferent. In my opinion, we shall have to alter the system in some way to prevent our lads from being deprived of their Saturday afternoons. They should have as many free Saturdays as possible, so that they may go away on Saturdays and Sundays to make holiday. We should provide for the drilling of our young men at proper times, but should put them to as little inconvenience as possible so long as the system is properly maintained.
Preference to unionists has been spoken of as a test question at the present time. I have dealt with the manner in which this Government regards preference to other people. Speaking for myself, I am a unionist, and have been a member of a union from the time that I commenced to work. Almost without exception, membership of a union is a guarantee that a man is able to perform the class of work that he professes to be able’ to do. Unions have been the great bulwark of liberty, and the chief agents of development in the Old Country. Through their guilds, and in other ways, they have done more for the advancement of the people than has Parliament. If treated fairly, they will develop along their own lines, raising the position of their members and still further benefiting the country. Are those who have borne the heat and burden of the day, fighting for justice, to be scorned by Parliament? Are they to give up the right to strike, and, at the same time, not to be allowed to ask for preference from a competent Court of Arbitration and Conciliation? I would prevent strikes absolutely if I could.
– To take from a man the right to strike is to deprive him of freedom, and to make him a slave.
– I would establish competent tribunals to deal with all causes. I believe the honorable member for Werriwa and others misunderstand what unions exist for, It is not to strike, but to get justice. They want only justice; they do not want to strike. If they can get justice, what do they want to strike for?
-Why do they strike?
– Because they cannot get justice. They cannot get to the Courts; they are blocked by a thousand barriers, and when they cannot get there for a year honorable members opposite say that they ought not to strike, even though they have no other remedy. The party opposite are determined to withhold the proper remedy from them. The great toiling masses of Australia have done everything for the country, and there is no credit due to any one who sneers and jeers at them as they are sneered and jeered at now. Listen to the words of the Prime Minister himself. On the 2nd August, 1900, he said in the New South Wales Parliament -
The industrial history of this and every other country shows that masquerading under this principle of freedom of contracthas been some of the most ghastly and horrible slavery that this or any other country has ever known.
He is turning his back on that attitude. He is helping others to perpetuate that ghastly and horrible trouble. On the 9 th December, 1904, speaking in the House of Representatives, he said -
WhenI was secretary to a union, we always insisted on preference to unionists, and in a very summary fashion.If I were in the same position to-day I should do the same again.
I should expect the honorable member to do it. I expect even better from him to-day. He cannot blow hot and cold in a matter of this kind. It is in some respects a matter of life and death, and we both know it. If the unions were suppressed - as the honorable member is seeking to suppress them - industrial liberty as it is understood, and the protection of life and health in the mines and factories to-day, wouldnot exist. On the 2nd August, 1.900, in the New South Wales Parliament, the honorable gentleman said -
The Bill does right to give a preference to the trade unionist. The free labourers step in to reap where they have not sown. It seems to me a just recognition of the work of trade unionists that this preference to trades organizations should be given. The free labourer is. only used, as a rule, by the employer in order to coerce the unionist to accept conditions which the unionist dislikes.
Yet the honorable member now sits there as the defender of a principle which he does not believe in. Of course, he can say that he has changed his views, and yet he has already said that if he were in the same position he would do the same thing again. He would do himself more justice and earn, perhaps, greater honour, if he would stand to his principles. The granting of preference to unionists is equivalent to giving up the right to strike, and is a very poor equivalent at that. I turn my attention to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I was disappointed with his reply to-day regarding the non-proclamation or putting into operation of the Navigation Act. My colleagues will deal with that question more fully. It was intended when the British Government accepted that measure so readily that it should be put into operation without delay, but unreasonable delays have taken place. In regard to lighthouses there has been further delay. We find that because the States have intervened-
– The honorable member is mixing up two things.
– I refer to the question of lighthouses, with regard to which the States are not prepared to give up to the Commonwealth the control, which I think they ought to give up, because it is certainly a Commonwealth matter. The States ought to co-operate in a matter which involves the protection of life and the shipping of Australia.
– Do you find fault with us for asking them to do that?
– No. Navigation and lighting are, of course, national matters, as the States should recognise at the earliest possible moment.
– Why did not the honorable member approach them when he was in power ?
Mr.FISHER. - Because the examination was not then complete. Has the Minister been keeping a careful watch over the large number of exemptions which have been given under an agreement which he entered into as between the Commonwealth and Queensland regardingthe sugar industry.? I believe over 1,000 exemptions have been given to aliens by the State Government contrary to that agreement, and their action, which I hope has not been taken with the connivance of the Federal Government, is likely to seriously injure this great industry.
– Does the honorable member contend that there should have been no exemptions of any kind by the State Government ?
Mr.FISHER. - Some exemptions may have been necessary, but there should not have been wholesale exemptions, granted without any care at all. Had they not been checked, the industry would have undoubtedly been ruined. The sugargrowers have not been fairly dealt with. They are now entirely in the hands of the trusts and combines, and it would have been better to leave the industry entirely under Commonwealth control. The Attorney-General has, at least on two occasions, addressed himself in direct terms to the question of the referenda. If the result of what has taken place is to bring the referenda questions before the people at an early date, it will be a very good thing for Australia. We have only now to get them to the people to insure their being carried. We shall have a direct issue; and we, as a party, are prepared to face every issue, and to face the influence of the money of every opposing combination in the interests of the people generally. The high cost of living spoken of by the Prime Minister is increasing to-day, notwithstanding his statement. The quotations he made were applicable to 1901-2 as well as to these later years. The encroachment on the people’s incomes will increase gradually, while the trusts and combines remain. Ministers know that they are here, and will come here in increasing numbers. We can feel assured of one fact - that if the Government wish to conserve the rights of the people of Australia, or to preserve to. them the reasonable expenditure of the money which they have earned, they will undoubtedly give them an early opportunity to express their views regarding thetrusts. I have mademy speech on the Address-in-Reply to-day, so that business might not be delayed, as would have been the case had I given notice of the amendment. I beg now to move -
That the following words be added to the Address-in-Reply -But regret to have to inform you that your Advisors deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
– After two hours of labouring - and I have never heard such a case of heavy labouring in all my life - the mountain has brought forth its little mouse. I do not know whether it is a motion of censure or not; I do not quite know what is intended. The motion says nothing, it indicates nothing, but merely makes a general statement. Perhaps, however, we had better give the right honorable gentleman the benefit of every doubt, and treat the motion as if it were a very serious one. Therefore, I move the usual motion -
That the debate be adjourned.
– I rise to a point of order. The Prime Minister having already made a speech, I would like to know whether he will have the right to continue his remarks at a future time?
– It is true that the honorable member did say a few introductory words. This is not strictly regular, but similar latitude has, I think, been previously permitted in like circumstances.
– I will waive any objection. On another point of order, I would like to know what practice will be adopted. On the last occasion when a motion of censure was before the House, both the Address-in-Reply and the amendment were discussed together. Is that to be the practice on this occasion, or are there to bo two separate debates?
– This is an amendment to the Address-in-Reply, and it has been the practice in the case of an amendment of this character to discuss the motion and the amendment together.
-It would be wise to have this matter cleared up at once. Under the Standing Orders a member is permitted to address himself to the particular subject-matter of an amendment, and afterwards, when the amendment is disposed of, to speak again on the original question. I want to know how we stand in regard to the present amendment.For my own part, I think it would be wise for members to agree to discuss the motion and the amendment conjointly, and in that way end the matter.
– The ground covered by these two matters is so intimately connected that it is practically impossible for me toseparate them ; it will depend on the development of the debate. But it will, I think, be better to agree to debate the two questions together.
– On the last occasion when a censure motion was before the House-
– I would point out to the honorable member that there is a motion before the House for the adjournment of the debate, and such motion being formal, it cannot be debated.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at half-past ten o’clock a.m.
Australia - Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie Railway - Naval Defence - Queensland Contractors and Shipping Combine - Land Tax on Absentees.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to bring before the House an alleged influx of Chinese to the northern parts of Queensland and to the Northern Territory, and I am sorry that the Minister of External Affairs is not present, because this is a question which affects his Department very much. A most serious accusation is made by one of the newspapers in Brisbane. This paper has published two big articles on the subject, and claims to know the names of the people who are engaged in this business of bringing Chinese into the northern parts of Australia. As soon as I saw the published statement, I wired to the Minister of External Affairs to draw his attention to the article, because I thought it only right that his Department should be fully-seized of the facts at the earliest possible moment. I will not delay members long in just reading the following remarks published in the Daily Standard, Brisbane, on the 2nd and 3rd April. These are the headings - “White Australia” Flouted- The Yellow Menace - An Open Back Door - “ Contraband “ Chinese Coolies in Hundreds - Big Syndicate at Work - White Money Seeking Traitors Concerned. (Specially written for the Daily Standard.)
Then followed this synopsis of the article -
It will come as a shock to most Australians to learn that our much vaunted White Australia policy is being laughed at by the wily Chinese. While every care is being taken in the principal ports of the Commonwealth to prevent the landing of aliens, Australia’s backdoor is being invitingly left open, and hundreds of Chinese arc being smuggled into the country.
So easy and profitable is the work of getting the “ contraband “ into Australia that a big syndicate, with its head-quarters in Hong Kong, and having a capital of about £20,000, has been started. Many influential Chinamen in Australia arc connected with the scheme, and several renegade whites arc also concerned.
The Chinese coolies are first brought to Portuguese Timor, whence they are conveyed to the Australian coast. After lying low for a time in the “’ Never Never” country, they are drafted into Queensland towns, and then taken to the masters assigned for them. As much as £50 per head is paid for the coolies.
The menace to the future of Australia can easily be understood, and it is necessary that immediate steps be taken by the authorities to bar effectually the back door of Australia against the entrance of these aliens.
Then the newspaper goes on to comment upon the facts above set forth. I personally know that in Queensland, particularly in the north-western portions of the State, there are many new-chum Chinese to be seen. How do they get there ? We who have been in western and northern Queensland for any length of time can discern a new-chum Chinaman as easily as we can a new-chum Britisher. They go about like lost sheep; they are travelling about Queensland - I know of several - and know not enough English to dig up a spud with. When the authorities were spoken to in Brisbane, the only reply the newspaper could get was, ““We have to get our instructions from Melbourne.” I maintain that when such a serious thing as is here described takes place, the whole machinery of both the Customs Department and the Department of External Affairs should be set in motion at once. I have not discussed this matter with the Minister since my return to Melbourne; but he replied to my telegram, thanking me for the information that it gave, and stating that the Department would go fully into the matter as soon as the papers reached Melbourne. Will the honorable gentleman tell the House what has been done, and whether there is any truth in this article? In an article published in its next issue this newspaper stated that it could give the names of the men engaged in the traffic, both in Queensland and Hong Kong, and I am sure that if the Department has obtained any information on the subject the Minister will acquaint the House with the actual position, so far as he can do so without prejudicing his case.
– I would earnestly impress upon the Government the desirableness of ending as soon as possible the strike of men employed near Kalgoorlie in the construction of the transcontinental railway.
– There is really no reason why they should stay out.
– The Prime Minister, in making that statement, is relying on official reports which, I regret even to suggest, are of very doubtful accuracy. I have no , desire to use strong language, although I think I should be justified in doing so; but the position first taken up by the Ministry, and since abandoned, should be sufficient to indicate to them that there is a good deal to be urged on behalf of the men. The original position taken up by the Government was that these men were working under Kalgoorlie conditions, and that they were receiving the rates of pay ruling1 in that city. They have since abandoned that contention. It is absolutely clear, and should have been to the Government from the start, that men employed at the head of the line, some 60 miles from Kalgoorlie, in uninhabited country, far removed from all the conveniences of civilization, could not be said to be working under Kalgoorlie conditions. Kalgoorlie is practically a city, offering all the advantages and con veniences of a settled community, but these men, working in this remote region, were peremptorily required to accept the rate paid to men doing the same class of work in and about Kalgoorlie. That, to begin with, was an unreasonable proposition. Then, in the second place, the Government, instead of entering into negotiations with the men, for some reason or other submitted to them a hard and fast schedule of rates, and practically said, “ This is what we are going to give you. You can either take it or leave it.”
– That was after they had gone out on strike.
– Even so, the Prime Minister’s knowledge of working men should convince him that that is not the spirit in which a settlement should be approached. Like all other sections of the community having something to sell, the workers are entitled to expect the buyer of their labour to negotiate with them.
– Quite so.
– The Treasurer, who was at the head of the line early in February last, will bear out my statement that the men were working under very trying conditions. The heat was intense, and flies and dust combined to make life a burden. It would be difficult to conceive of more trying conditions than those under which they were labouring. I think that the right honorable gentleman will not only support that statement, but will go further, and admit that even in his exploratory work he had never to face harder conditions than those under which these men were labouring.
– Good water is available there.
– There is plenty of food and water, but the weather is exceedingly trying.
– It was certainly very hot when we were there.
– The wind blew as hot as if it had come direct from a furnace. The right honorable gentleman admitted on that occasion that the Government should be an ideal employer of labour. In that connexion, I should like to point out that a few chains in advance of -the point at which the track-layer was working, there were men doing similar work for a private contractor and receiving a considerably higher rate of pay than the
Government were paying. Surely that is not fight. If a private contractor can pay his men a fair wage, and still make a profit, surely the Government should be able to pay its employes doing similar
Work the same rate. That is all that the Government were asked to do in this case. As to the allegation that this contractor has adopted the task system, Ministers may accept the assurance that they have been absolutely misinformed. The Minister has said that men were discharged by the contractor; but the fact is that the contractor has working for him men who were discharged by the Government. Those employed on the line seriously contend that if there be a taskmaster there at all it is the Government official, and not the private contractor. That is the actual position. The Honorary Minister, probably because he was not fully acquainted with the facts, endeavoured to confuse the issue a little today by stating that men were working at Kalgoorlie for the State Railway Department for a wage of 10s. a day. So far as I know, there is not a man in Kalgoorlie working at railway construction for 10s. per day.
– Indeed, there is. Mr. Scaddan himself told me the other day that there were men so employed.
– Then they are not doing the work that these men were doing.
– I do not say that.
– Nor are they working under the same conditions. A few permanent men may have been drafted up to Kalgoorlie to do certain work for the time being, and may be receiving the wages ruling at Perth or Fremantle; but some of the reports on which the Government are acting, according to my information, are not correct in all their details. I suggest that the Government should invite the men to appoint representatives to meet them in conference. The Treasurer knows that they are a reasonable body of men.
– How many are involved ?
– About 300. Another consideration is that, while this strike continues, valuable Government machinery is lying idle. A very expensive tracklayer, which was putting down rails at the rate of a mile a day, together with engines and1 a lot. of material, are lying idle in Kalgoorlie..
– How long has this continued ?
– A little over a month. I have no wish to elaborate this question, but I assure Ministers, without any desire to make any threat, that they will not build any more of the line unless they give the men a fair deal. I appealed to the Treasurer some time ago in regard to this matter ; but, instead of dealing with it as a public question, he replied to me in a private letter.
– I should not mind its publication. I marked the letter “ private “ because the matter was not in my Department. It would not have done the honorable member any good had it been published.
– It would not have done me any harm.
– Nor would it have done me any harm.
– Except that the Treasurer, in that letter, made some statements that were not in accordance with the facts.
– I understood that they were.
– If the right honorable member will allow me to refer to the contents of his letter-
– Why not publish both letters? Why this secrecy? Is this .a “ side-door matter “ ?
– It is useless for the Prime Minister to ‘ assume an indignation that lie does not feel. There was no secrecy on my part, and, as the Treasurer has given permission to say what was in the letter, I may refer to it. The right honorable gentleman complained that the men have not gone to the Arbitration Court. There is only ohe Arbitration Court in Western Australia to which the men could appeal, and we must remember that the Commonwealth: Government cannot be cited to” a State Arbitration Court. Moreover, these men are made up of so many kinds o’f workers that it would be very difficult for aft Arbitration Court to give a satisfactory award. There is, however, a way, and a very easy way, out of the difficulty ; and if the Government wou’l’d ta’ke the advice of the Treasurer, the matter could be settled in twenty-four hours. What I suggest is that a free conference of the men be called, and that whatever terms the Government ar’e prepared to offer shall be placed before them in a reasonable way- that the men shall be met in a reasonable spirit. If that is done, I believe that work will be resumed, and valuable machinery, now lying idle, put into use. There are 300 men out of employment, and their wives and children are suffering in the absence of wages.-
– They are suffering because the men will not work for 12s. 6d. a day.
– I do not think that the honorable member would work for £12 10s. a day.
– I will work against the honorable member any day.
– I have not much personal knowledge of the honorable member, and I do not know what kind of work he has been in the habit of doing.
– Any work the honorable member cares to choose.
– Then I am willing to engage with the honorable -member- although he seems younger than I am - in the particular work to which I have been accustomed. I do not understand the reason of the honorable member’s interjection, and I do not think he can have heard the case as it has been stated. I am making what I hope honorable members regard as a reasonable statement of a very strong case, which ought to appeal to both sides of the - House ; and I am sorry if I have said anything to trouble the spirit of the honorable member. I appeal again to the Government to meet the men in a reasonable way. I have no authority, I may say, to make any representations on behalf of the men on strike, but knowing them, as I do, to be reasonable individuals, I feel sure that if they are approached in a reasonable way there is every prospect of a speedy and satisfactory settlement of the present dispute.
– I desire to draw the attention of the Government to a statement issued by the Minister of Defence. Although this statement may, perhaps, meet with political support, I am quite sure that it. does, not meet with the intelligent support of any man who has studied the questionIn the. first place, isolated naval units can be> of no use by themselves, and a little force, like that in Australia, would be utterly helpless apart from the main fleet. Wherever there is a fleet, it ought to- be massed together to meet any pos sible foe. Of course there are two classes of objections to b’e met. The first of these is raised by those who declare, “ We are Australians, and we are not intending to have anything to do with any other country in the world, but will stand on our own.” In view of the present state of affairs, that can only be characterized as a grossly ignorant and unintelligent attitude. The Labour party could not have passed any of .their laws relating to aliens had it not been for the support of the rest of the Empire; and, if the Empire calls upon us to assist in its defence, wherever that call is, our ships ought to go. At present there is one possible, though, I hope, not probable, opponent, in the fleet of Germany; and, in the event of hostilities, any unit out here would be absolutely useless in time of war.
– Did not the Imperial authorities, through their blundering, give away half New Guinea, where Germany now has a naval base ?
– The bulk of the German fleet is stationed in the North Sea, and a naval base is useless without a fleet. While I hopeland believe, that there is no fear of hostilities with Germany, still Germany is the possible enemy to which attention is directed. There is no question that if war were to break out, our unit might - though it is not very likely, seeing that it is so small - be of great advantage at the scene of hostilities, though it would certainly be of no advantage out here ; and the war would be over and done with before our vessels could succeed in reaching the scene, If that war were decided against the British Empire, the defence of Australia would immediately go. A war with China is not likely; and as to Japan, we are assured in our relations by an alliance. But, should hostilities break out with any Eastern country, the first thing would be to order our unit, as fast as possible, to meet, say, at the Cape of Good Hope, the British Fleet which would be coming to our assistance; because, unless pur vessels were united with the main fleet they would be valueless. If the Russia^ Japanese war taught us anything, it taught us that fact. Russia made the mistake pf having part of her fleet at Port Arthur, part at Vladivostock, and part in the Baltic. United, the Russian fleet would have been irresistible; and there would have been no Korean war, no Japan in Korea, and Russia would still have possessed Port Arthur. The Vladivostock fleet was kept separate on the foolish advice of some persons who lived there, and who seem to have been the predecessors, in want of knowledge, of the Labour party here to-day. I do not ‘think that honorable members opposite who differ from me are the only persons who are ignorant in these matters. In plenty of places in the world will be found their equals in stupidity upon matters of this kind. If I may be permitted to point to a parallel case in the United States of America, I will point to the course pursued by Abraham Lincoln, who kept the land forces scattered instead of concentrated until Grant obtained command. Similarly it was a big mistake on the part of Jefferson Davis to decline to listen to the military men - Jackson and Lee - when they told him that it was imperative that his forces should be concentrated. It was because of this defect upon both sides that so manyserious mistakes were committed in thatwar. Had either side had at its head men who understood the value of concentration, that side would have been victorious within a very brief period, and the horrors of war would have been proportionately lessened. When we cultivate what some are pleased to call an Australian sentiment, I maintain that we are cultivating a purely local sentiment. There is a bigger sentiment which we ought to cultivate - the sentiment of Empire, of which honorable members in their speeches appear to have lost sight. I regret that iti has been reserved for a native-born like myself to teach others, who have come here from Great Britain and elsewhere, that when they clamour for the cultivation of an Australian sentiment they are unpatriotic, whilst those who are anxious to develop an Empire sentiment are patriotic. It is true that it is to our interests to act in the way that I have suggested. Nothing has so much excited my warmest approval as the very statesmanlike way in which the big heads on the other side of the world receive these petty ebullitions of so-called Australian sentiment. I do not believe, that such ebullitions represent the true thought of Australia. In my opinion, they do not. I recognise that a certain section of political thought is against an Empire sentiment, but we must kill that class of thought, because, if those who hold it are against the Empire, they are against a White Australia policy.
– Bunkum !
– Surely the honorable member must see that without the support of the Empire such a policy must disappear ! Does anybody imagine that our Navigation Act could . have been passed if we had not the fleet of Great Britain behind us ?
– Does not the honorable member advocate the introduction of foreign black-labour goods?
– I advocate the introduction of commodities of every kind with which to feed our people. The honorable member would let them starve. I say that if we can get other people to work for us, and to ship their goods to us, we shall be doing good business. In regard to our Naval Unit, I would point out that, where otherwise we might have had four submarines, to-day we have only two, because we have not the trained artisans to spare. What we require in this community is men. We can spare the money to pay for these vessels, but we cannot spare the men. When the Minister of Defence says that he is fighting for an arrangement which was entered into some five or six years ago, when there was no suspicion that a change of naval policy was ever likely to be made,- I say that he is stating what is incorrect. If he looks at the Admiralty despatch of the 10th February, 1908, he will find that in it the Admiralty authorities say -
The terms would be elastic and capable of adjustment from time to time by intercommunication between the two Governments.
It is further stated that -
In making the foregoing observations, my Lords presume that a satisfactory agreement may be capable of being arrived at with the Dominion Government of Kew Zealand, which is a party to the present agreement.
The . document in question points out that, after all, the control of the Naval Forces must rest with the central authority. That is where it should rest; otherwise, those forces would become a mere rabble. When the Minister of Defence declares that we must adhere to the Naval Agreement, which was arrived at several years ago, one would think that he was unaware of what developments had since taken place in the matter of aerial conquest. One would imagine that he was unacquainted with the important part that aeroplanes are destined to play in the fighting force of the world - a part which was undreamed of at the time that that agreement was entered into. Is not the Minister of Defence aware that since that agreement was signed submarines have been built which travel at the rate of 22 knots an hour on the surface, and which are capable of steaming 15 knots an hour under the water? The words of the honorable gentleman have been telegraphed to the other side of the world as representing the matured opinion of all Australia. They certainly do not represent the opinion of a majority of the party with which I am associated.
– The honorable member is not the majority.
– I am well aware that all thinking men upon this side of the chamber share the views which I have expressed, and I believe that some honorable members opposite entertain similar opinions. I atn convinced that there is a large section in this Parliament which believes that there should be one control over our Navy, and that it does not matter where our Fleet may be stationed so long as it is engaged in the work of defending the Empire from invasion. I have made these remarks for the purpose of allowing ft to go forth to the world that the practice which has sprung up in the Commonwealth of allowing Ministers to express their opinions without consultation with the rest of the Cabinet, is not a desirable one, in that such expressions of opinion do not always represent the real views of the people. I make the prophecy unhesitatingly that it will be proved more and more as the years go by, that the present scheme of an entirely Australian Navy will not work. I would have honorable members understand, at the same time, that I am entirely of opinion that Australia should pay for all she does in this way, but I say that it is a mistake to insist that the Fleet Unit should ultimately be kept here. I have pointed out that we must always depend on the rest of the Empire for naval defence, and that if a war took place with an Eastern nation, the first thing we should have to do would be to send our Unit round to the Cape of Good Hope, before it could be intercepted by the enemy, if it was to be of any value.
– Does the honorable member believe that we should be under the protection of Japan?
– Certainly not. What a stupid, silly question to ask any one.
– That is Winston Churchill’s idea.
– That remark is quite incorrect, and I am surprised that any one who has read what has been written on the subject should make such a statement. After all, it should not be forgotten that Great Britain is proposing, through Mr. Winston Churchill, £50,000,000 of naval expenditure this year, and that a great part of that is for the defence of Australia. Australia could not speak as she has done in her alien laws, and in her navigation law, were it not for the power of the British Navy behind her. It is our duty to support that Navy in every possible way. I– does not matter whether the men ar< taken from Great Britain or from Australia, any more than it matters in the case of our local Navy whether they are taken from Western Australia, New South Wales, or Victoria. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I do trust we shall not, in future, have these isolated statements made by members of a party. I certainly trust that it will not be laid, down as the policy of the Liberal party.at all events, while I am one of the members of that party, that Australia should be treated as separate from any other part of the Empire. That is not the Liberal policy, though it may be the goal on which some thoughtless members of the Labour party have fixed their eyes.
– I wish to make a few references to the statement made by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. The honorable member suggested that we should approach the men, and I can only say that the Government have already taken steps to meet what we understand are the views of the men, in order to submit what wages in detail the Government are prepared to pay for their consideration. I agree with the honorable member that these men are a very good body of “ men, whom any Government might seek to meet; but, of course, there is naturally a limit beyond which a Government charged with responsibility to the taxpayers cannot go in dealing with such matters. The newspapers gave us to understand from
Western Australia that the men wanted to know how far the schedule increase to labourers was being carried up to other grades. That information, I believe, is now in the West. I gave instructions that it should be telegraphed to the West, so that the men will now have absolute knowledge as to the increases due to the various categories of labour. I anticipate that the men will consider that the offer made by the Government is a very fair offer, and will agree to accept it.
– When was that offer made ?
– My offer of a considerable time ago of an increase of lOd. per day was intended to be increased proportionately in the higher grades. That was the burden of my instruction. Judg- ing from the newspapers, the men seem to have been in some doubt as to whether this increase would apply to more than the grade of labourer. That doubt should be set entirely at rest by the schedule which has been sent across to the West.
– Have they received the schedule yet?
– They should have received it before this. I wish to say, in reply to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, that I think his references to the contractors in the West are somewhat misleading. Judging from our reports, the contractor is undoubtedly getting more out of the men working for him than the Government feel they can get out of the average labourer, for which they are prepared to pay 12s. 6d. per day. That the men themselves take a similar view is very clear from the terms of the Port Augusta arrangement, because, while they were. perfectly ready to enter into an agreement with the Government to go as far as Tarcoola, 260 or 270 miles out, for the wage they accepted, lis. 8d. per day, they hold themselves at liberty to make other terms with any contractor who gets the business. Obviously, they feel that the contractor may ask more from them than the Government, and wish to be in a position to make the contractor pay more by way of return. That is something which, id my opinion, they are perfectly entitled to do. As regards the difference between contractors’ labour and Government labour in Western Australia, I strongly suggest to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie that on this subject he should have a heart to heart, talk with Sen*t9 Needham. Whilst the honorable member asks us to ‘ treat the men with the same generosity as the contractor treats them, Senator Needham has written in to the Department expressing his- abhorrence of the Government for placing these men a the mercy of such beings, as these conT tractors. There is some conflict of opinion between my honorable friends, and I suggest to the honorable , member for Kalgoorlie that, if he had a hear-t to heart talk with Senator Needham, they might settle the ques: tion between themselves as to whether or not the Government should follow the example of the contractors in dealing with the men. I can only add that we have taken all the steps that in us lie to see that the rights of these men are safeguarded, and that they should have an opportunity to consider our terms.
– It is a pity the ‘honorable member for Kalgoorlie is not here.
– That is not my fault. I can hardly be blamed for that. I can only say that before the trouble arose I fissured the honorable member for Kal.goorlie, and- he published the information, that any increase in the wages allowed should be retrospective to the date pf the representations. That was in .accordance with the ordinary practice. Having struck, they have waived all that, and I regret it. The action of the Government all through has been perfectly friendly. They have been anxious to make a fair deal with these men, and I think it is up to the men to show a similar spirit.
.- In the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, I. am disposed to bring under the notice of the Minister pf Home Affairs the matter upon which I asked a question ‘ this afternoon. Owing to the turn which events have taken, I think it is better that I should ventilate my grievance ber fore we adjourn this evening, as the members of the Government may not occupy their present position very long. I wish to call attention tq the contract let to Barbet and Son, of Ipswich, for the construction of eight underframes, and which they have constructed. Four of these underframes are now on the- wharf at Brisbane, but the firm Are unable Jo ship them, or to realize on the work they have performed. in the interests of the
Government. Probably the Honorary Minister, or the Minister of Trade and Customs, or, perhaps, the Prime Minister, has some knowledge of this matter. When Barbet and Son sent along their tender for the work they ascertained from the shipping companies what the latter were likely to charge from Brisbane to Port Augusta, and the price quoted was 43s. a ton, or £8 a frame. The price was satisfactory to the firm, but at some subse-quenttime the Adelaide Steam-ship Company, who, 1 understand, contracted to ship the frames, wrote to the firm stating that the price quoted was altogether too low, and that they would have to charge £28 per frame. The firm did not complain about that; they were agreeable to pay the price; but subsequently they received a letter stating that the Association considered that the price quoted by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company was altogether too low, and that it would be £44 per frame. As I have said, four of these frames are now lying on the Adelaide Company’s wharf, but the shipping company will not ship them at the price quoted to the firm, and which the firm were prepared to pay in order to get them off their hands. Another four frames are completed, and are lying at their works in Ipswich, but they are of no use to Barbet and Son, because of the action of the Shipping Combine. They can only wait until a shipping company is prepared to ship them. They do not consider that they should be asked to pay further freight. I understand that they tried to make some arrangement to charter a ship, load her with coal, and complete the loading by shipping these frames, and that they had almost completed the charter when some outside interests got to work .and prevented them from concluding it. If Queensland firms are to be confronted with this difficulty in connexion with works which the Commonwealth Government have to let, it will be useless in future for them to tender.
– As I understand my friend, the firm merely got quotations instead of arranging the freight beforehand.
– They possess correspondence arranging for this freight. In a day or two I shall have all the correspondence dealing with the matter. The prices I have mentioned are those agreed upon by the shipping company with this firm previous to the latter sending along their tender for these frames. They first obtained a quotation from the Adelaide Steam-ship Company at 43s. per ton,, or about £8 per frame. Some time afterwards the shipping company wrote saying that the price was too low, and that they would have to charge £28 per frame. Subsequently the shipping company wrote to say that the Association agreed that £2S was altogether too low, and that the price would be £44.
– What is the Association?
– The Shipping Combine.
– If my friend will bring me the correspondence when he gets it, I shall be very pleased to go into the matter.
– I intend to do so. I am merely bringing the matter under notice to-day to show the difficulty under which Queensland firms labour. There are big iron foundry firms in Queensland who would be only too glad to quote for Commonwealth work, but what is the use of their doing so? The firm I speak of had also a contract from the Commonwealth for underframes for hopper trucks, but they Had to ask the Commonwealth Government to cancel the contract because of the impossibility of despatching them to Port Augusta.
– Cannot they be sent by rail?
– No ; because of the breaks of gauge. .
– Probably the Minister has some correspondence on the matter. I bring this under his notice because I understand there are many firms in Queensland who are affected. I understand a Toowoomba firm is likely to meet with the same trouble. It also has received a quotation as regards freights, and the same thing is likely to take place as in connexion with this contract. This sort of thing is frequently taking, place in connexion with other matters, and I think it is high time the Commonwealth Government took into consideration the establishment of a line of steamers of their own on the Australian coast, iii order to give equal opportunity to these firms to compete for work which the Commonwealth Government require.
– It is Sydney influence.
– I do not know what influence is at work; but I know that it has a very bad effect on the Queensland firms, an effect which is likely to be very detrimental to them. Now that the matter has been brought under his notice, I trust the Minister will give it his attention. I shall bring under his notice any correspondence I have, and I hope he will see that the Shipping Combine will expedite the shipment of these frames. The firm I have mentioned cannot get paid until the Commonwealth Government have taken delivery of the frames.
.- I put a question to-day to the Prime Minister, and I feel that I should add a few words to make the position clear. A peculiar situation has arisen under the Federal Land Tax Act with respect to the treatment of certain persons living outside the Commonwealth, chiefly residents of India, who have purchased land in the Commonwealth. . Some have already selected their blocks, and have come here to reside upon them, but others have taken up land and have their agents at work getting the laud ready by clearing it and putting up buildings in preparation for their arrival. The chief reason why they do not now happen to be residents of the Commonwealth is that they have further terms to servo - twelve months or two years, as the case may be - before they can leave the Indian service. In my own district I know of several such cases. I take it that when we passed the Land Tax Act it was never intended that the definition of “ absentee” should cover such people. If so, I am sure we will lose many desirable settlers. When it becomes known that people are to be treated in this way, they will not take the trouble to consider the matter of emigrating to Australia, and it will raise a bad feeling. I am satisfied that no one who was in the House when the Laud Tax Act was passed had any intention of including such people in the definition of “ absentees.” Many of those people who have selected land who have not already done so will soon become residents of the Commonwealth. If action is not taken, we shall, as I have hinted, lose a number of desirable settlers, and many persons will lose work for which they are being well paid. The land that is being taken up is chiefly orchard country, and large numbers of persons are being employed in clearing it. As much as £17 10s. an acre is being paid for the clearing of some of this land on the Tamar River. That means that a good deal of money is being distributed among the workers. I hope that when this matter is being brought under the notice of the Land Tax Commissioner he will find it possible to exempt these land-owners from the absentee tax. If he cannot do so, the sooner this Parliament amends the ‘ Act to enable it to be done the better it will be for the Commonwealth. Personally I am not in favour of the definition of absentee which stands in the Act, but I do not raise that matter now. I think that honorable members will be unanimously in favour of exempting from absentee taxation those to whom I referred, and when we are agreed on anything for the good of the country it is as well that we should put our ideas into force. The extension of orcharding has greatly increased the value of land in certain districts. In my electorate, land’ which a few years ago could have been bought for 10s. an acre is now worth £5 and £6, and even £10 an acre, though still in its native state. Unless we deal generously with the persons I have in mind, a great deal of harm will’ be done to the country. As absentees they are not allowed any exemption; but, theblocks being small, none would be taxable as worth £5,000 or more if thepeople were present in the Commonwealth. The case of these persons is a hard one,, and I think only needs to be brought before honorable members to receive their wholehearted support for any attempt torelieve them.
.- I wish to support what has been said by the honorable member, for Maranoa about the extraordinary influx of Chinese which is alleged to be taking place in the northern parts of Australia.
– It is not merely alleged to be taking place; it is taking place.
– Possibly we should not be so nervous, nor attach somuch importance to the statements that are being made, had not the present
Queensland Government shown a decided partiality for aliens, having issued permits to work in the sugar-fields to over 1,000 coloured aliens. This Parliament has established a White Australia policy, but there is a feeling abroad in some quarters that by certain institutions and strong companies which have secured monopolies, attempts are being made to evade the restrictions which it imposes. We know how easy it is for Chinese to come to Australia, particularly to northern Australia. Only a few months ago the vigilance of a Customs official discovered an extensive and wellorganized conspiracy for the introduction of Chinese into the Commonwealth, and a few years ago Customs officials were found to be acting in collusion with a syndicate whose business it was to -bring Chinese here. The Customs officials in the northern parts of Australia are either incompetent, or have too large an areato supervise. The reporter of the Daily Standard, who was ferreting out information on this subject, received a warning letter, stating that he knew too much, and had better go slow and be careful. Evidently, therefore, the statements about a conspiracy are more than a shadow, and amount to veritable fact. The Customs Department should take some steps to assist its officials in the north. The honorable member for Werriwa, in his castigation of his own Minister of Defence, suggested the splitting up of the Australian Navy. I can conceive of no better use to which to put one of the torpedo destroyers than to engage it in patrolling the northern coasts, to discover, and, if possible, to put an end ‘to, this conspiracy. These vessels are small and fast; and better able to detect and stop this business than any others at our disposal. Why should not one of them patrol the northern coasts, as a watch dog and protector ? The Customs officials are possibly in league with those whose business it is to introduce Chinese. Two cases of that kind have been discovered already, and it may be that the same thing is going on in the north.
– Transfer the officials to the south.
– A judicious transference of officers would probably get rid of the difficulty. The matter is so serious, particularly to Queenslanders, that I hope that the Minister of External
Affairs will be able to make a statement which will reassure us.
– In reply to what has been mentioned by the honorable member for Maranoa and the honorable member who has just spoken on the subject of an alleged invasion of the northern parts of Queensland and the Northern Territory by Chinese, I may say that when my attention was drawn to the matter I at once communicated with the officials of the Territory, and also with the Commissioner of Police of Queensland, to have inquiries made as to whether the allegations of the newspaper could be sustained. I did so because similar allegations had been made before by newspapers, and did not seem to be justified in the light of subsequent inquiries. Nevertheless, the officers must be vigilant. I have had a reply from the Territory discounting the statements of the newspaper. In the opinion of the officials, it is improbable - in fact, they say it is fairly certain that it has not taken place - that any surreptitious immigration of Chinese has happened. For the reasons given, I think it is probable that the officers are correct. The Commissioner of Police has promised to make further inquiries, and let me know the result.
– How many officers have been looking after that particular business?
– I could not say that on the spur of the moment, because we use all the Customs officials, and we get information from the local police upon all these matters. I also apply in administering the Immigration Acts the test of the aggregate number of Chinamen in the Commonwealth, as far as can be ascertained at the end of each year, because the real test of whether these Acts are being administered according to the desire of Parliament is whether the numbers are declining from year to year. The statistics I have seen upon that point have shown that the Immigration Restriction Acts are effective. I assure honorable members that the utmost vigilance is exercised in this matter. I shall make further inquiries, and am always only too pleased to get information from honorable members to help in the administration of these Acts. Recently I sent the detective of the Department up to Queensland, not in connexion with ally leakage in alien immigration in the parts of Queensland where the patrol cannot be as effective as in other parts, but to see whether the statement that in some parts of Queensland there was an organization for bringing Chinamen in in defiance of the Immigration Restriction Act was correct. He has sent me a report on the question, and is going -back again. I do not want to say where he is going, but we are sparing neither time nor expense in seeing that there, is no substantial invasion of the provisions of the Immigration ‘ Restriction Acts. I shall welcome any information from honorable members to help me in the matter.
.- This afternoon, I asked the Honorary Minister, as representing the Minister of Defence, a question with regard to the Commonwealth Council for the arrangement of rifle matches, international competitions, and so on. He asked me to put it on the business-paper, saying that he would give me an answer later, but seeing the state the business is likely to be in during the next few weeks, I should like the matter to be attended to now. With a dissolution possibly following in the near future, we are anxious to get these matters settled. There are, in Queensland, two rifle associations - the southern and the northern. When a team is to be selected for Bisley, it is usual to give Queensland some representation, and the two associations arrange between them to have competitions and choose the best shots to help to represent Australia, It has been usual that two men should go ‘from Queensland - one from the south, and one from the north, as representing the proportions of the population. On this occasion Queensland has been given two representatives, and it is only fair that one should be taken from the north and one from the south. Recently, competitions have been held and it was proved conclusively by the shooting that one of the North Queensland men was entitled to inclusion; but two men from the south have been selected;, cutting the North Queensland man out altogether. We protest in the strongest, way against that. I want to know why this man, who has made a better showing, has been excluded? It surely cannot be be.cause he has a foreign name - Grosskreutz - but, if so, I assure honorable members that he is an Australian by birth, as I believe is his father, although his grandfather came from Germany. He is entitled to inclusion in the team as the representative of North Queensland. These selections should not be made on any other basis than that) of merit. Why has that principle been departed from ? Rifle shooting is very popular in the north; it is the only recreation that men have in many places on Saturday afternoons, holidays, and Sundays. They spend a considerable amount of money in purchasing ammunition, and of their time in practising at the butts, in order to qualify themselves for these competitions. lt would be very disheartening if any impression got abroad amongst these riflemen that unfair treatment has been meted out to one of their members. Had the shooting been carried out as hitherto, and the men selected on their merits, nothing would or could have been said; but the fact that favoritism has been shown by the Commonwealth Council, which has the direction of these matters, will have a very disheartening effect, and create a great deal of ill-feeling amongst the clubs” in the north. I feel that attention should be given to this protest. This Parliament votes money every year to send the team to Bisley to compete in international matches, and if it should be generally believed that unfair treatment has been meted out to any man, there will be very strong opposition to any future vote that may be put on the Estimates for that purpose. For a long time strong opposition was shown to such a proposal - that is, to send a team to England - and no money was voted for representation at Bisley by this Parliament; but private . subscriptions sent teams Home. I say, advisedly, that strong opposition will be shown to any further money being voted if the impression getsabroad that men have not been selected’ on their merits, but have been included through favoritism. That sort of thing will be very invidious and intolerable tous as northerners. The honorable member for Kennedy concurs with me in these expressions of dissatisfaction in regard to the action taken by the Commonwealth Council.
.- I had the pleasure, shortly after the Kalgoorlie strike, of visiting that centre, and. travelling 40 or 50 miles along the transcontinental railway. I have come to the conclusion that the Government are treating the present strikers on absolutely just lines. In order to substantiate my statement, I should like to point out to the House that, in Kalgoorlie, they have a very fine body of miners - some 6,000 men, all told - who have formed themselves into a very strong union. * The wages which that union has agreed to accept for unskilled labour by surface men on the mines is11s. 6d. a day. The Government have been paying for similar work to navvies and others working on the line 12s. 6d. a day, or1s. a day more. If the surface men on the mines were satisfied, why should the navvies be dissatisfied? Their conditions are better, because, living 60 miles out from their base, as they do at the present time, all the commodities which they use are carried to them. I noticed that 15,000 gallons of water were carried on the train for the free use of these men, whilst all their provisions were bought at cost price, and supplied to them by the Government. Members opposite have not an argument left. The conditions of these men are infinitely better than the conditions of the men working in the mines.
Mr.Riley. - What about thetwo homes they have to maintain?
– Certainly when men go as navvies to work on the railways they have to take that fact into consideration, but the wages paid to them to-day by the Government are higher than those paid’ in’ any other part of Australia for unskilled labour. I defy any member on the Opposition benches to point out a single instance where such unskilled labour is paid up to 12s. 6d. a day.
– Builders’ labourers.
– That is not unskilled labour. Of course I kept my eyes wide open on my trip, and I met one contractor who had working for him a fine lot of men, to whom he was paying 13s. 6d. per day. That gentleman informed me that many of his men completed their work at 2.30 instead of 5 p.m., three hours before knock-off time. This contractor told me that he measured out the land, and allotted to each man what he considered a fair day’s work. A great many of the men completed their task by 2.30, and, being anxious to save money instead of loafing in the tent, they went to the employer and asked him to be good enough to give them more work. Consequently, those men earned something like 17s. or 18s. per day.
– That is what the contractor says. Did you see any of the men?
– Certainly; I was moving about amongst the contractor’s men, and they informed me that a number of workers, who had been tooslow for the contractor, had been given employment by the Government. Surely if the Fisher Government considered that a fair wage for these men was11s. 8d.. per day, and the conditions have not altered since, the present Government’s offer is a generous one!
– The Minister said the conditions have altered.
– I do not care what he said. I went there to make inquiries for myself, and Mr. Sampson, who was with me, can confirm my statement that the conditions have not altered. I repeat that the Liberal Government have acted generously towards those men.
– The honorable member who has just spoken made the deliberate statement that contractors are paying 13s. 6d. per day for five hours’ work. If that is the truth, surely the Government should pay at least the same wage for eight hours’ work per day. When the honorable member tellsus that the contractor set so much work for a man to do, and that the worker was able to complete his task in five hours instead of eight hours, the honorable member ought to “have his head read,” to use a favorite expression of the honorable member for Hume.
– I said some of the picked men.
– I suppose they are the pacemakers.
– The men you object to.
– We do not object to those men. If the honorable member will make inquiries, he will find that every one of them is a good union man. The honorable member must realize that the statement he made originally, that the miners of Kalgoorlie are receiving only11s.6d a day, is wrong ; they are receiving 13s, 4d. under the award. I will say, further, that the men employed in the mines at Kalgoorlie earn every penny they get, and someof them ought to; receive a great deal more. It must be remembered that the men employed on the railway are away from the centres of civilization, and are working in the hot winds and the dust of Central Australia. The conditions of their employment are not conducive to health, and are a thousand times worse than the conditions of work in those other places to which the honorable member referred.
– They are wearing over-
– I have been in parts of the. honorable member’s electorate where the people require to wear overcoats at times; but I say that the Conditions prevailing for eight months in the year along the route of that railway are not conducive to the health of the men employed. ‘ The honorable member is one of those people who will say, “When I came here I had to work for 2s. 6d. per day,” and he expects other men to work for a similar wage. When the honorable member has had his leg pulled, he must not come here and dictate to us. I do not believe any other member could have had his leg pulled to the same extent, nor do I think that any other man would be stupid’ enough to believe the statement which the honorable member has just repeated to the House.
Question resolved is the affirmative.
House adjourned at 6.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140416_reps_5_73/>.