5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Can the Prime Minister say when the official report of the proceedings of the recent Premiers’ Conference will be available to honorable members ?
– I do not know when it will be available. Probably the convener of the Conference, the Premier of New South Wales, has charge of the matter. As soon as the report is received it will be laid on the table.
– Have copies of all the papers relating to the Teesdale Smith contract been laid on the table, or are any of them missing?
– I shall be glad to let the right honorable member, or his secretary, look through the official file. There may be one or two papers which, in view of possible legal complications, it is not considered advisable to make public, but I shall be only too glad to show him the office file.
– Glancing hurriedly through the proofs of the official report of my speech of yesterday, I find that I omitted to inform honorable members of a matter which I should like to take the earliest opportunity to mention. What I am about to say has no direct bearing on my blameworthiness, or the contrary, in giving approval to the contract; but I should like to say that I found out afterwards that it was not correct that Mr. Teesdale Smith had the full requisite plant ready at hand to carry out the work.
– As the Minister has made a personal explanation, I am constrained to wonder whether he or the Prime Minister saw in the reports of all my meetings that have been referred to that, in every instance, when replying to an interjection or misapprehension, I stated that there was no corrupt motive imputed by my remarks.
– I did not see the statement in the reports in the daily press, but I am only too happy to accept the right honorable member’s assurance that he did not impute corrupt motives.
– The following passage occurs in to-day’s Age: -
Mr. Webster was told, tohis intense indignation, that he was the last man in the world who should voice suspicions as to contracts.
I strongly object to the report as it stands, because it does not set out what occurred. If either the Age or the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs can prove one dishonorable act against me, in either my public or my private capacity, I shall resign my seat in this House.
– We all recognise that, in the heat of the moment, things are said which are regretted as soon as they are uttered. I thought yesterday that the honorable member was, by his interjections, continuing to voice insinuations which I keenly resented, and after he had made several interjections I made a remark which, at your direction, Mr. Speaker, I withdrew, and which now, without any direction whatsoever from the Chair, I withdraw unreservedly.
-Several times during my period of service in this House I have complained about the quality of the stationery, which seems to be going from bad to worse, and at present is hardly fit to wrap sausages in, almost every sheet being imperfect in some way or other. It is time that we had stationery of a quality which we need not be ashamed to send out.
-I shall make inquiries, with a view to ascertaining whether a better class of stationery can be secured.
– I shall be glad to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether the writing desk and inkstand that the Commonwealth is presenting to The Hague Palace of Peace are yet finished, and whether they will be exhibited in the Queen’s Hall, so that we may have an opportunity to see them?
– The table is finished. I saw it at Robertson and Moffat’s about a fortnight ago, when it was arranged that it might be exhibited in the Queen’s Hall, so that honorable members could see it.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow, at half-past 2 o’clock p.m.
. -I again ask the Prime Minister if he has taken into consideration the desirability of reducing our sitting days to three a week; if not immediately, at a later period of the session.
– Next session.
– No; this session. I have always entered my protest, both here and in State politics, against too frequent sittings, and if I could have done so would have prevented last session the arrangement under which we sit four days a week. I do not wish to discuss the matter now, but I should like to obtain some expression of opinion on the subject.
.- I support the honorable member for Kennedy in this matter, and the Prime Minister can set his mind at rest if he has any fear that the proposal will not be supported on this side. Because of the statements in certain morning dailies, the general public has the idea that members have nothing to do but make a few speeches and listen to the debates. I wish that that was all we had to do. We have a great deal of correspondence to which to attend.
– And departmental work.
– On Monday last ^ I answered twenty-five letters.
– I wrote twenty-three letters to-day.
– I sent . away 10,000 letters in three years.
– In addition to replying to correspondence, we have to attend Caucus meetings, which are necessary for the carrying on of the business of the country as it should be carried on. When one attends a Caucus meeting in the building at 10 in the morning, and leaves after the House has risen at 11 at night, he has done, not one day’s work, but two. I hope that the Prime Minister will not pay any attention whatever to the criticisms of some of our critics in the press gallery, who would like to run this country, and are endeavouring to mould public opinion to permit of the press running the country, and to do away with Parliament. I ask the honorable gentleman not to be afraid to move a resolution in favour of this Parliament sitting three days a week. I have no doubt such a motion would be carried, and we shall be quite prepared, and well able, to explain the situation to our constituents.
– In order to show that the feeling expressed by the last two speakers is not confined to the opposite side of the House,
I have only to say that last session I endeavoured to induce the Government to bring about this reform. The impression is becoming general with the public that members of this House have nothing else in life to do but to attend to their parliamentary duties in this chamber. It is an easy matter for men who are Ministers to be prepared to sit four days a week, for their official duties demand their presence here ; but it is different with private members who come from the other States, and who have some profession or business to follow. Last session, after being engaged for two months in preparing for the election, we had strenuous sittings here for six months, so that eight months of the year were occupied. We have now met at an unprecedently early date in this year,, with a prospect of going on for many months. If the intention be to drive men of substance out of this House - and by that I do not mean men of wealth, but men having some other occupation in addition to their duties in this House - the best means to adopt is to require them to be here every day in the week except Saturday. Honorable members residing in other States have to leave on the Monday - some early in the morning - to b& here in time for the Tuesday sitting; and by leaving Melbourne on the Friday they do not return to their homesuntil the Saturday. It is absolutely impossible for any man who has any respect for the interests of his family, or has a business or a profession, to continue that for any great length of time. I recognise that the arrangement of the business of the House is a matter for the Government; but, in view of the fact that it is the wish of the whole of the Opposition, I do think that the Government might devise some means of putting thisParliament upon a level with all the State Parliaments of Australia in this matter, especially in view of the fact that our functions are much more limited than are those of the State Parliaments.
– On the subject of the correspondence which honorable members have to undertake, I may inform the House that during the three years prior to 1913, I filed over 10,000 documents, representing answers to correspondents and persons making claims for old-age pensions. The documents referring to old-age pensions numbered 1,320 in the three years. Correspondence represents a very big item in the work of a member of Parliament.
.- I think that I voice the opinion held on both sides of the House when I say that a considerable number of members would favour three days’ sitting in each week. When every State Parliament in Australia can get through its business sitting three days in each week, this Parliament should be able to do so if honorable members make up their minds. If we sit for five days in each week we shall do no more work than if we sat for only three days a week.
.- I think that some honorable members consider that in this matter I am the culprit for having endeavoured to compel them to sit for long hours and many days in each week, but the last Government were very desirous of getting business through, and they did get some through. While agreeing to some extent with those who favour three sitting days in each week, I think that if that course be followed we should be prepared to sit in the daytime. There is no earthly reason why a man’s days and nights should be taken up sitting in this or in any other Parliament. If the Government view with favour the proposal that we should sit only on three clays in each week, I hope they will agree to commence each sitting early in the morning and finish, if possible, before dinner time.
– We never did that.
– The Attorney-General says that that has never been done, but that is not an insuperable objection to commencing to do a sensible thing.
– We tried it.
– Yes, we tried it, but because, unfortunately, honorable members now on the Government side wanted to talk, we had to find them an opportunity to do so, as we did not apply the closure. If we are to have only three sitting days in each week, honorable members should be prepared to devote themselves to the work during the daytime, on at least one or two days, with the under- standing that the sitting shall not extend over the dinner hour.
– There ought to be no question about the adoption of this reform. If we axe notgoing to follow the suggestion which has been made, we should have some room here in which we can keep a few coffins and shrouds, so that as each man drops off we shall be ready to bury him without any trouble. Some men are jagging around only to save funeral expenses. There is no question that many men have gone to their graves because of the atmosphere of this chamber. I have tumbled over several times myself, but I am not prepared to die, because I am not yet prepared to pay the expenses ofmy funeral. I shall vote with all the other Christians for three sitting days in each week.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we should endeavour to sit in the daytime. I think that we should sit four days a week and shorten the period of the session. I think that honorable members should be given an opportunity to go beyond the State in which they live. One of the difficulties in connexion with this Parliament is that honorable members generally know nothing about any portion of Australia but that which is close to their own homes. I think it would be better if they had opportunities to do a little travelling in the various States. If ray suggestion were followed, Ministers during the recess would be able to give more attention to their respective Departments. Many mistakes made by the Departments are due to the fact that under existing conditions Ministers have not sufficient time to devote to their departmental duties. We have had some evidence of this in the few days since this Parliament met. Ministers should have the time to give more attention to the Departments for which they are responsible. It is of no use to put the blame on officers of a Department if the Minister does not view seriously enough his Ministerial responsibilities. If they had more time to give to the work of their Departments, errors of administration would be avoided and the country would benefit largely. I am in favour of sitting four days a week and in the daytime. I would make the parliamentary session shorter, and so give honorable members a better opportunity than they now have to know what Australia really is.
.- I do not know that it is now an opportune time to have only three days of sitting in each week in view of the flood of eloquence with which we are threatened from the Opposition, but I hope that eventually this Parliament will sit only three days in each week. Unless this is done, no country representative can continue to attend this Parliament.
– What would you do if you had a home in another State?
– He lias !
– During Inst session we practically could not .get home to attend to our business fit all. Besides reducing the days of sitting, 1 think that we might also shorten the period of time for which an honorable member may speak. After five or six honorable members have spoken from each side of the House the sort of stuff that we have to listen to is merely repetition and reiteration ; there is nothing fresh or new that is said. I feel sure that wo would have better speeches delivered if honorable members knew that they had to condense their remarks, and to say a thing once. We have a complaint from honorable members who deal with thousands of letters. I represent a fairly large electorate in which a lot of development is going on, and I get five or six letters a day, and I can easily answer them all in the day. Those honorable members who spend so much time in corresponding must be engaged in electioneering.
.- At the risk of being attacked by the honorable member for Riverina, I wish to enter a protest.
– How long is this discussion going to last? This is not encouraging, you know, for shortening the number of sittings.
– I arn not aware that the Prime Minister has at any time held himself in check when the necessity arose for him to give expression to such thoughts as he had in his mind. He has never considered the House in any way in that regard, so far as my short experience is concerned . I regret that in this matter I cannot associate myself with the leader of my party. I think that the honorable member for Parkes has put the position in a most pronounced way. T know that only quite recently I, coming out. from a hospital after a month’s illness, had to sit for three days dealing with correspondence. I know, too, that
.- I only want to say to the honorable member for East Sydney that, if he bad had a longer experience of the Federal Parliament than he has had, he would probably have come to the same opinion as I have, and that is that the more opportunities there are for speaking the more speaking we have. I was one of those who at the outset had the same idea as he now h is, and that, is that if we sat four days a week or more the session would be shorter, and we would get back to our constituencies for a. longer time. I find from experience, however, that such has not been the case, and so I have changed my attitude. I believe that with three sittings a week -we shall get through as much business in the year as we now do, and it will afford honorable members opportunities of doing that portion of their work outside of the House which many of us cannot overtake at the present time. I, for my part, am not able to do, during the week, all the work that I am called upon to do outside of this House. I shall welcome any change that will give me more opportunities in that direction.
.- I would not have risen to speak but for the remarks that fell from the honorable member for Riverina. He indicated that the work of a country member, according to his experience, is of a very light character, and that he receives on an average five or six letters a day. I do not think that there is another country member who is so fortunate as he is.
– I am.
– If what the honorable member for Riverina said is a fact it proves that his predecessor must have attended to the electorate in a very thorough and intelligent way, because, evidently, he so far mastered the wants of the electorate as to leave very few requests to be made to his successor, who has paid him a big compliment indeed in indicating that his own correspondence is of so small a character. With regard to the question of holding three sittings a week, I think that honorable members are sent to this House, not to carry on other business, but to attend to the affairs of this country. And, what is more, I maintain that honorable members are paid an allowance sufficient to enable them to act honestly to their constituents, and to keep themselves and their families from the borderland of want. I hold that the primary obligation on a member of Parliament is to attend to the duties he has undertaken, irrespective of whether the work takes three, or four, or five days in the week. I am not quite convinced that if we limit the sittings to three days a week we shall not have to curtail some privileges that will cut into the efficient doing of the work of this Parliament. I fully realize that there are men in a big way of business who want to run this Parliament. I fully understand that my honorable friend, on the other side, will, at a later period, be in favour of sitting perhaps only two days a week. By his remarks he indicated his hope that, later on, the House will be constituted of men like himself, who can depend upon some other source of income than that which they get from the Federal Treasury, and when they come here he will be quite pre pared to make things as easy as possible for them, knowing that no legislation will then be put forward.
– So far as I can gather from the remarks that have fallen from the honorable member for Gwydir, and others, they have practically come to the stage of the unionist. They want as little work as possible between meals; they want the highest pay they can get; they want less to do and something in the way of free drinks to encourage them to stand up to it. The honorable member for Riverina was perfectly correct. I do not believe that the average member of this House receives more than five or six letters a day. But assuming that he gets ten letters a day, how long does it take him to answer them? I know that I receive five or six letters a day, though sometimes I get eight or ten, but it does not take me more than an hour a day to answer them, and I reply straight away.
– You are lucky.
– I am lucky because, possibly, I get more letters than does the honorable member, and have a lot more to do than he has.
– That is your presumption.
– It is of no use to make any alteration unless honorable members are prepared to curtail their privileges and limit the right of speech to twenty minutes. If they will do that, I shall be perfectly agreeable to a curtailment, so that we may sit from 10 o’clock in the morning until 8 or 10 o’clock at night on three days in the week. Sitting three days in the week would be quite sufficient if honorable members would curtail their speeches to a maximum of twenty minutes. Honorable members do not get the number of letters that has been stated, and the Postal Department can prove that. They do not receive on the average; six letters a day on six days of the week, and they know that. Yet they come here with their tongues in their cheeks and make statements which are absolutely incorrect. I am opposed to any reduction of sitting days at the present time, because I consider that such reduction would be absolutely inopportune.
.- It is quite in accordance with my view of Parliamentary work to see members on both sides in agreement on this question. My experience is that much more work can be done by sitting three days than can be done by sitting four days in the week. When members have been sitting for long hours ou four days of the week they get tired and cross, and say ugly things which take a long time to explain away. Therefore, I think we are doing the right thing in proposing to curtail the number of sitting days. I do not agree with the honorable member for Riverina in what he said about members’ correspondence. I wish my experience was similar to his, but I get as much correspondence as I can deal with. Any one who represents a large, growing, and progressive district must have a considerable amount of correspondence, and I do not think it is a good sign if he does nob get it. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that to sit through the day three days a week is quite enough. When disagreements occur in the House, they always occur at night, and that only helps bo prove that day sittings are advisable. I hope the Prime Minister will agree to the proposal which has been made. There are some members who, like myself, leave their homes early on Monday morning, reach Melbourne on Tuesday, depart again on Friday, and only regain their homes at 8 o’clock on Saturday night. Like the honorable member for Dalley, I also have a lot of interviews. My house is open to any of the public Who care to come to me for information, and I am only too pleased to see them come. In addition, a member of Parliament has to perform all sorts of civic duties, including those of a magistrate, and his long experience is certainly worth something to his constituents. If the constituents cannot make use of their member’s knowledge and experience, he is not of much use to them. Of course, when we have elective Ministries there will be no fighting, and we shall see smiling faces turned to the Prime Minister, even when he cannot give us what we want. I again express the hope that the Prime Minister will agree to the proposal to sib on only three days.
.- I desire to support the statement of the honorable member for Grampians-
– Is it not possible to wait until the question comes before Hie Chamber?
– Having regard to the fact that both sides are bent on a double dissolution, I think the present would be a most inopportune time to make any alteration in our days and hours of sitting. I am not surprised at members of the Opposition advocating a change, but it is ridiculous for supporters of the Government to hint at any such change at the present time. We should have some limitation of the length of speeches; they are far too long. I think it was Lord Salisbury, who, when asked how long he would require to. prepare his speech if he intended to speak for four hours, replied that such a speech would require no preparation, but if he were to speak for two hours he would require two hours for preparation, and, if he were to speak for twenty minutes, at least two days for preparation. My advice to honorable members is to take two days to prepare their speeches and to deliver them in twenty minutes, and the country will benefit.
.- The attitude I take up in advocating that we shall not sit on more than three days in the week is not new. For nearly twelve years I have pointed out that, in my opinion, the proper duty of a legislative body is to sit on, perhaps, a couple of alternate days in a week - one day to be spent in discussing the measures, and the next day in reading up the history of other countries, learn- ing what has been done elsewhere, and also trying to mould the measures themselves into shape. Had that been done we would not have had before us the awful fact that every Act which hasbeen passed by this Parliament has required to be considerably amended. It must be remembered that amendmentsare not brought forward until an Act has caused trouble, and, as no Ministry gains by introducing amendments, they are not introduced except in response tostrong pressure. That in itself is proof, if proof were wanted, that this House is sitting much too long. Three days weekly is the most that Parliament should sit, and that is evident from the mere fact that the present Ministers are not able to remain in the chamber any more than were their predecessors. I am surprised at members of the Opposition, who have had Ministerial. experience, not realizing that the House sits too long to enable Ministers to attend to their Departments. We fall into the error of blaming Ministers for not sitting here, when we should know they have their administrative work to do. If Parliament comprised only one House it might be possible to permit Ministers to absent themselves, and attend to their administrative work; but this Parliament, being a dual body, it is perfectly clear that we sit too long. Nearly all the mistakes that have arisen in administration are attributable to that cause, because, too often, Ministers have been unable to pay proper attention to their Departments. If it were contended that Parliament is able to exercise through its Ministers administrative control, there might be something in the argument that we should sit longer. I ask any honorable member if he is prepared to sit here on four days in the week for eight hours on end.
– I am often here for twelve hours.
– We make a pretence of sitting here, but we all. know that we do not, and cannot, do it. It is pointed out that the time is not opportune, but if the thing is right the time is always opportune, and as I believe that this thing is right, I maintain it is an opportune time to bring about the change.
We must remember that the four-days rule was introduced by the first Minister of Customs, who controlled the Ministry of the day, and thought that honorable members’ brains were where they sat, and that the longer honorable members sat the greater would be the display of brains. Since then, Parliament after Parliament, and session after session, the House has continued the same bad rule. But what Parliament are we that we should try to teach a lesson to all the other Parliaments of Australia, who find that they are unable to sit four days a week? Each Ministry has had a chance to deal with the matter, but each has seemed afraid that when the question is raised before the country honorable members would be charged with shirking their work. But we do not get good legislation by keeping a lot of men sitting in this chamber. It is idle for any one to pretend that men can do efficient work sitting eight hours a day four days a week on end, listening to wrangling and discussion, and at the same time attending to their correspondence. Last session, on my return, after an absence of seventeen days, I found I had 274 letters to answer, and I was obliged to employ assistance to deal with them. To-day ‘I have had to write no less than eleven letters. Administrative work continues to increase, as it has done, since the commencement of Federation, and eight or nine Ministers, who should be the cream of the intellect of the House, will, in these circumstances, always be debarred from attending to their legislative work. During this session there have been many important speeches made, but the Ministers have not been able to remain in the House to listen to them. Even the Honorary Minister was not able to remain in his place while the honorable member for Grey was speaking on a subject that particularly concerned his Department. We do not blame Ministers, because we know that it is impossible for them to remain in the House all the time, but I blame the humbug and sham of pretending that we are in the House all the time, when we do nothing of the sort. If Ministers for the time being have not the courage to bring about this change, it is high time honorable members themselves took it in hand. Ministers would be, in reality, thankful from the bottom of their hearts. It will be impossible to sit each morning as suggested. The true test of legislative work is when a man sits in the House, and hears the discussions, and studies each Bill so closely that he is able to see whether any suggested amendment fits in with other clauses of the Bill as brought forward. But no man can do that while we sit as we do. For a month or more past each honorable member has had a copy of the defence regulations, but I have not met one honorable member who has been able to go through them. I have not, although I take a strong interest in the matter. It is time all this sham and humbug passed away, and time we set forth to the public that sound legislation does not mean sitting in seats, or dawdling outside the chamber. The public must learn to judge us by the results of our legislation, and not by the amount of time we sit. If Parliament can achieve all the wonderful results we hear of everywhere by sitting so long, let us have three Parliaments working eight-hour shifts, and then the necessity for all effort, industry, and striving on the part of the people would pass away. I say unhesitatingly that the time has come for honorable members to take the matter into their own hands, and sit only a reasonable number of hours a day, giving to those who have the inclination for study the opportunity for so doing.We cannot do proper legislative work by sitting in the chamber. No man can draft Bills and at the same time attend in the House. The hours of the Courts are from 10 to 1 and 2 to 4, because legal men find that this is the only time they can so occupy each day in order to do really good work; and frequently they take holidays, because they get brain fag. I have pointed out for years past what has been done. An honorable member, who is made a kind of parliamentary agent for a growing locality, cannot spend too much time in the chamber, because he has a lot of outside work to do ; and it is wrong to make him rise to speak with a feeling of irritation that he is not as conversant with his subject as he should be. It also causes a feeling of irritation on the part of some of his listeners when it is known that he has not prepared his subject, and that a few hours’ study would have saved the exposure of his ignorance. In fact, I admire the repression of many sensible men in the House who remain silent because they are conscious that they do not know all about the subject under discussion. It is good, sound sense. Some of the quietest men in the chamber, whose voices are heard the least, have the soundest judgment on many questions. Who would not be glad to prepare speeches, having time to do so, in order to deliver them to a body of men who would remain seated in the House all the time, instead of part of the time, and would try to weigh what fell from the lips of the speaker? There are many honorable members whose remarks would be of advantage to Parliament from the point of view of administration, and clearly equally of advantage from a legislative point of view, and consequently from the point of view of the interests of the whole community.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) words of wisdom to this very interesting debate. I sincerely hope that the sitting days will not be altered from four to three days a week. Of course, I am charged at once with selfishness, but allow me to retort that they are equally selfish who seek to bring about a change. The easiest time of my life is when the House is sitting, and it is my desire to keep the House going. The seats in my home are not nearly so soft as they are in the House, or in the rooms outside the chamber. I have often chuckled with delight when I have read in the newspapers that the only work members of Parliament do is while the House is sitting, and with the honorable member for West Sydney I say, “ O Lord, keep it so ! “ What are the actual facts? We all know that when the House is sitting we have opportunities to reach Ministers that we cannot get when the House is not sitting.
– The Ministers cannot get away !
– Exactly. I am rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Riverina speak of the small correspondence he receives. The exmember for Riverina had an enormous correspondence, and he attended to it; but the circumstances are so peculiar that the present representative of that constituency may not be compelled to follow in his footsteps. I rose mainly to reply to the honorable member for Werriwa, who says that if we sat on fewer days a week honorable members would remain about Parliament House to consider what they should say in their speeches. All I can say is that if some honorable members who address the House consider what they intend to talk about their consideration boxes must be of a peculiar composition. At any rate, I object to be compelled to sit here and listen to the honorable member for Werriwa on the subjects of small-pox and Free Trade. As to allday sittings, I disagree, and, perhaps, not for the first time, with my respected leader. How could we possibly do Departmental work if the House met in the morning? I may be an exceptional worry to Ministers and Departmental heads, but I know that ifwe were to meet in the forenoon it would be a matter of impossibility for me to attend to my correspondence and visit the Departments. These communications with the Departments cannot be made over the telephone, but the business must be attended to personally. I am gratified to observe that this is not being made a party question. Notwithstanding the statements of the newspapers, we have shown to the world that it is not only in the House that the work of members is done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented: -
Contract Immigrants Act - Return for 1913, respecting contract immigrants admitted or refused admission into the Commonwealth, &c.
Immigration Restriction Act - Return for 1913 showing - (a) persons refused admission to the Commonwealth; (b) persons who passed the dictation test; (c) persons admitted without being asked to pass the dictation test; (d) departures of coloured persons from the Commonwealth.
Public Service Act -
Promotion of A. B. Smith as clerk, 4th class, Tasmania.
Debate resumed from 21st April(vide page 189), on motion by Mr. Kendell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this House : -
May it please your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed address: - “but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
– At the adjournment last night I was referring to the Teesdale-Smith contract and to the small penalty imposed for any failure in point of time. The Prime Minister then interjected, “ But there is the forfeit of £1,000 besides.” I have gone carefully through the papers available this morning, and I notice that that £1,000 is mentioned altogether apart from the penalty clause; and, in my humble opinion, it is the ordinary sum deposited to show the bona fides of the contractor. If the contractor were to fail to carry out his agreement within three months he would not forfeit the £1,000.
– That is true.
Colonel Ryrie. - The law officers say he would.
Mr.LAIRD SMITH. - The Prime Minister admits that what I have said is true, though last night he desired to tack the £1,000 on to the £750 which would be incurred by the contractor if he exceeded the time by six months.
– Quite right. What is there wrong about that?
– Simply that the contractor may go on for all time, and, providing he carries out his contract faithfully, he will not forfeit the £1,000.
– Who told the honorable member that?
– Let the Prime Minister wait until he gets “ up against “ Mr. Teesdale Smith, and he will see. As a layman I speak subject to correction, but what I have said is my opinion after perusing the papers.
– It is the honorable member’s opinion against that of the law officers of the Crown.
– That may be, though, at the same time, I cannot see that the law officers of the Crown take the same view as the Prime Minister. As I say, I am subject to correction, but I make the statement so that honorable members may keep careful watch as the contract goes on. I feel certain that the contractor will exceed his time, and it seems strange to me that the penalty and £1,000 should be dissociated.
– Has the contractor signed this document?
– There is no signature on the particular document, but it is really an agreement similar to that entered into on all contracts. It is said that the saving of time was the reason for this contract being so hurriedly entered into, and we were told by the Minister that there were no other contractors in South Australia able to undertake the work. Will the Honorary Minister state whether Mr. Baxter or Mr. Joseph Timms, both of whom I understand to be reputable contractors in South Australia, were approached or askedto submit prices? As a matter of fact, they were not, though another gentleman, Mr. Falkingham, was. What large work has Mr. Falkingham carried out in Australia? Is he a contractor in such a position as to be capable of carrying out the work within reasonable time? Has he the necessary plant? We find now that the gentleman who did get the contract has not, or had not at the time it was entered into, the requisite plant; and we may hear further in regard to this as the debate goes on. I do not wish to infer that Mr. Falkingham is a “ straw “ man, because really I do not know the gentleman. The Minister has thrown the responsibility on the engineer; but supposing the engineer, to clear himself, asked some unknown man to put in a price? Would that course not have been very useful in a case like this ? Hence, I submit that tenders should have been called in the usual way; and the paltry excuse of saving time is not worth the consideration of the House. The present Ministry were going to do wonders in the way of reforms in administration; and in this connexion I point out that there was no one in the House more bitter in his criticism of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs than was the present Honorary Minister. I have looked up that gentleman’s speeches, and no doubt they have caused me to put a little “ginger “intomy remarks to-day. I could not, however, use language emphatic or strong enough to compare with that used by the Honorary Minister when he sat on this side of the House. We now find that gentleman trying to “ sidetrack “ honorable members; and in this there is a great art. When we find a man concentrating his mind too much on one question, it is well to endeavour to induce him to direct his attention elsewhere, and honorable members opposite have not hesitated in this instance to introduce all sorts of side issues to divert the attention of honorable members from the real point involved. An attempt has been made to side-track the House by referring to the action of the ex-Minister of Home Affairs in purchasing a traction engine for use at the Federal Capital. The ex-Minister told me this morning that the engine in question secured first prize at the Royal Show, Sydney; and that it was strongly recommended By experts. It wastaken to the Federal Territory, where, carrying five tons in excess of the prescribed load, it gave an entirely satisfactorytrial before the Min ister and others, doing everything that was asked of it.
– And finally went into the river.
– I am glad of the honorable member’s reminder. When the Minister’s back was turned they ran the engine into the Molonglo River, and left it there for some time, with the result that the bearings were rusted.
– Who did that?
– The men in charge, I presume.
– It was run into the river while the bearings were hot.
– Quite so. I read the other day of some motorists who, when returning from a race meeting, had to cross a river which had suddenly risen, with the result that the water got into the bearings and the engine immediately stopped. And so with this engine. The reference made by the honorable member to the purchase of this engine by the ex-Minister of Home Affairs was a lame attempt to excuse the huge mistake he had himself made by imputing that his predecessor in a paltry case had been guilty of an error of judgment. The honorable member for Bass and others who were present when the test was made will bear testimony to the fact that it was entirely satisfactory, and showed that the engine was capable of doing all that would be required of it. Another point to be remembered is that the danger of bush fires in the Territory was considerably minimized by the purchase and use of the engine in question. It is a matter for regret that not only the ex-Minister, but the honorable firm of engineers who had built this engine, should have been vilified for purely party political purposes.
– Is not nine-tenths of nearly every political speech nowadays but a vilification of other people?
– That is no excuse for the action of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, and I regret that he should have resorted to such a subterfuge in order to try to shield himself. He and his party, by the weakness of their arguments, show that they have a very bad case. The Attorney-General, solely with the object of side-tracking the House, yesterday likened the Labour party to Tammany Hall. No one knows better than he does that there is no justification for such a statement. Honorable members know that Tammany Hall is run by one nian. There are in Australia to-day institutions that are conducted by one individual. We have not to go far from this chamber to find an institution that is being run by one man, arid only one.
– Who is he?
– The AttorneyGeneral. He is the real Prime Minister of Australia at the present time. It is he who has “ put the acid “ on the honorable member. Notwithstanding that the honorable member would like to talk on this subject he dare not do so because the Attorney-General lias said, “ We want to go to the country. You must sit down quietly and let the Opposition say what they like. You must think as I think, and do as I do. Your very soul is not your own.” Tammany Hall used to be run by Boss Croker, and it consists of wealthy men. But has any honorable member ever heard of a working man who has to toil hard to support his wife and little children having sufficient to enable him to go to a Minister and to offer him money to secure him a certain position? No. Is it not a libel on the workers of Australia to suggest that they are going to bring their savings to a Minister to get the right to earn their daily bread? Such a suggestion could have been made only with the object of side-tracking honorable members.
– In what part of any speech does the honorable member find any suggestion that workmen had to bring their money to Ministers?
– I heard the honorable member suggest in his speech last night that the action of the Labour party, when in power, was similar to that of Tammany Hall. If he denies that he made such a statement I shall, of course, accept his denial.
– I repeat it; but I say there is no foundation whatever for the statement made a moment ago by the honorable member that I suggested in my speech that working men would go with their money to Ministers to ask them for a job. The honorable member cannot find even a hint of such a suggestion in my speech.
– What other interpretation could be placed upon the honorable member’s remarks? Why did he liken the Labour party, when in power, to Tammany, and talk about our adoption of the policy of “ spoils to the victors”? When we were in power- there was nothing of the kind. But any public servant who has even a semblance of Labour feeling must keep very quiet under the present regime. Returning to the action of the Honorary Minister in giving Mr. Teesdale Smith this contract without calling for tenders, I appeal to honorable members opposite to say whether they think that he has made out a good case. His contention was that he gave Mr. Smith the work in order to save time in constructing a section of the line, but the departmental correspondence proves that there is no guarantee that the work will be carried out within the time specified. The honorable member for Wakefield is most emphatic in his approval of the contract system, and I should like to ask him, as a practical man, whether he agrees with what the Honorary Minister has done. Is this the kind of contract system of which he approves ? Does he believe in a system under which the Minister, or an engineer of his Department, may ask a gentleman to carry out work at a certain price, and let that work to him without calling for tenders? Is that the kind of contract system which the practical men in the party opposite favour?
– Then the honorable member should vote with us on the censure motion. He, and his party, however, have not made any protest. Honorable members opposite sit there to keep in power a Minister who has violated one of the chief principles that they say they have enunciated upon the platform. Again, if the Honorary Minister had such confidence in this contractor, as would be implied by his speech here yesterday, why did he not ask him to do the whole of the work that he was first asked to carry out? Is he going back on the contract system ? Why have the labours of Mr. Teesdale Smith been considerably curtailed if the contract system is so good? What are the Government going to do? Are they going to revert to the old system? Ministerial supporters ought to ask the Government that question. Again, I would ask the Honorary Minister how much money Mr. Teesdale Smith has already received on account.
That is information to which the House is entitled, and I hope the Minister in replying will make it clear to the House. No doubt the contractor has done a lot of work, in view of the fact disclosed by a return or letter given to me last night by the ex-Prime Minister, that he is actually ploughing the stuff out in places. He does not have to take it out by pick and shovel, but is simply scooping it out, and taking it a chain and a half away, to deposit it on the banks. For this work he is getting 4s. 6d. and 2s.6d. respectively, or 7s. per cubic yard altogether, a thing unheard of before in the history of contracting in Australia. Will the contract ever be finished under such conditions? Do honorable members think that, with a good tiling like that on, the contractor will ever give up the job ? Will he not want to keep it on for a considerable time? Yet these are the gentlemen who, when they came into power, were going to bring about an immediate reform in this respect, and save huge sums of money to the Commonwealth, of which it was being fleeced under the day-labour system. I want the people of Australia to realize the facts of this case, and think for themselves. If they do so, the sooner a single or double dissolution is brought about the better for them and us too.
– Did the honorable member say he was getting 7s. a chain ?
– He is getting 7s. a cubic yard for shifting what we technically called “ muck.” The thing is absolutely ridiculous.
– The honorable member is on a subject that he understands now.
– I know something about shifting earth, but it is when the honorable member opens his mouth that we see the other thing. He should be the last to speak about it.
– What has become of the two blades of grass?
– The honorable member for Wannon is simply sitting here waiting for them to grow. I wonder if two blades of grass are growing under this contract system. I think there is only one blade, and all the good in that is going to a private contractor. I want to ask a serious question.
– The Minister is not in the chamber to give you the facts.
– Perhaps he is ill, as no doubt he is having a trying time, and I firmly believe that when so many Ministers were out of the chamber last night they were having a Caucus meeting. I want to know if the Teesdale Smith contract is the only contract entered into under similar conditions. Has another contract been entered into with Mr. W. Morris, of Kalgoorlie, to do similar excavating work along the line at the Kalgoorlie end? I do not know whether it is so, but I am credibly informed that it is. Were tenders called for that work?
– That is the butty-gang system.
– Here is a new disclosure. We are getting by degrees the information that we want. The buttygang system involves a body of men doing work under direct labour, which is really day labour. I should like to ask the honorable member for Henty, who is a keen business man, if he would like to pay 7s. a yard for shifting the stuff that Mr. Smith has been shifting? Does he think that the Honorary Minister, that he is sitting behind and supporting, has, even with the aid of the Attorney-General, put up a good defence? Has he put up any defence at all? I do not charge him with having been guilty of corrupt practices, nor has any honorable member upon this side of the House done so. All the talk in that connexion has merely been an attempt to side track us, I would like to know from the Minister whether Mr. W. Morris is carrying out a contract at the other end of the transcontinental line?
– He was. I do not know whether he still has the necessary labour, but I think so.
– Were the tenders called for that work ?
– The approval which I gave to it was that piece-work should be allowed on schedule rates.
– I understand from the Minister that he did not call for tenders, but that he let the work on day labour.
– The honorable member has no right to make that suggestion. I approved of the late Engineer-in-Chief having the right to enter into piecework contracts on that section of the railway. That is what is done in Queensland and in other States.
– That is the daylabour system as we know it. I am pleased to learn that the Government have adopted the system which we have always advocated because of the huge failure of the old contract system. I intend to vote for this amendment. After the indictment which the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs brought against his predecessor in office on the ground of maladministration, he himself should have been prepared to administer his Department more efficiently than he has done. But instead of accepting full responsibility for his actions he has attempted to saddle the late Engineer-in-Chief with that responsibility. No Minister of the Crown should do that. When he entered into the contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs had before him the sworn testimony of Mr. Deane at the Chinn inquiry that the work of rock-cutting on the transcontinental line could be done for 3s. per cubic yard.
– I have had inquiries made as to the prices paid on the railways in South Australia, and by telegram Mr. Bell informs me that they are identical with those which are being paid under this contract. However, the schedules which are being forwarded to me will be laid before the House at the earliest possible moment.
– I have no desire to be unjust to the Minister. I merely wish to point out that two months before the acceptance of this contract Mr. Deane had stated on oath that rockcutting on the line could be done for 3s. per cubic yard.
– That statement was made in reference to cuttings nearly 1,000 miles distant in Western Australia.
– He implies that it can be done on any portion of the line. He was careful to make that perfectly clear. I would remind the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs that it is the biggest mistake in the world to hurry unduly. I blame honorable members opposite, who have the question of contract on the brain, for the violent hurry which the Minister displayed in this matter. He was so anxious to retain their support that he rushed into this contract without adopting proper safeguards. A careful, shrewd gentleman came along, and said to him, “ Will you walk into my parlour?” and the Minister straightway walked in. I ask the electors of this country whether the Government have redeemed their pledges to reduce the cost of administration and to curtail expenditure? As a matter of fact, we know that during their regime the expenditure of the Commonwealth has increased by leaps and bounds.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- During this debate a good deal has been said iu reference to the TeesdaleSmith contract, and I have something to say in regard to it myself. That is really the base of this motion of censure which has been submitted by the Leader of the Opposition. Upon former occasions I have remarked that it is a very great pity that honorable members of this National Parliament do not - as the honorable member for Parkes once observed - endeavour to live up to the glowing anticipations of the founders of Federation, by occupying a higher plane and breathing a rarer atmosphere. I say that insinuations such as have been indulged in here are most unbecoming and discreditable to this Parliament. Honorable members opposite are responsible for having originated that practice. I have a vivid recollection of what was said in regard to this ‘ ‘ You are another ‘ ‘ practice, when the late Minister of Home Affairs commenced the erection of the Treasury buildings close by. He was then accused of all sorts of things, but those who know anything of the circumstances will admit that he made one of the best bargains that have ever been made by any one occupying the position which ‘ he held.
– I know values.
– The honorable member appreciates his own actions, and I, too, appreciate what he did in that connexion. I say, further, that he has saved the Commonwealth a great deal of money in other ways because of his business acumen.
– It is a pity that the like business acumen was not displayed in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract. I shall not blame either the Prime Minister or the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs; but the latter should have taken care, before agreeing to the contract, to acquaint himself with the facts. A certain cock-sureness is characteristic of him, causing him to believe that he knows all about a great many things of which he cannot know everything. Had he acquainted himself before letting this contract, not with what had been done by the South Australian Government, but with what had been done by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line so far as it has been made, it would have been better. Had he ascertained the prices paid for work in that part of the line that has already been made, he would have found that on letting the contract he would be paying at least80 per cent. more than the work has already cost.
– The representation of my expert advisers was that the country to be dealt with was entirely different from that with which we have dealt already.
– No trial holes had been put down in that country, and the Minister’s expert advisers did not know what it was like. Although we have asked to see the section ever since the beginning of the session, we have not seen it yet.
– I have a copy of it ready to lay on the table.
– It was asked for only last night.
– The Leader of the Opposition asked for it a week ago, and we have rung up the Department on several occasions to know if it could be produced. Is it not obvious that the departmental officers knew nothing about that country when the contract was made, seeing that it is only at the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour that a copy of the section of it is being produced.
– It is on the table now for honorable members to see. It is not a small section.
– Fourteen miles of country cannot be called a small section. Those who are acquainted with drawings of this kind are aware that the heights are drawn on a scale very much larger than that on which the distances are drawn, so that a few rises coming together may look at a glance like so many Alpine peaks. For that reason, it is necessary to have time to study the section.
– The only test of the nature of the ground would be the sinking of trial holes.
– Trial holes were not sunk until after the contract had been let. Neither the Minister nor those who advised him knew anything about this country. The first cutting made on the line from Port Augusta contained 90,000 cubic yards of comparatively hard material, and material which was possibly as hard to shift as anything in the Teesdale Smith section will be. The distance that the material taken from a cutting has to be carried from the mouth of the cutting to dispose of it is technically called the “lead.” In Queensland the lead is usually 440 yards, that is 20 chains; under the contract made with Mr. Teesdale Smith it is 1½ chains. A contractor gets a certain price for taking material out of a cutting. That material must be deposited somewhere. Sometimes, when cuttings are close together, and when there are no banks in which the material taken from them can be made use of, it has to be put somewhere out of the way, and that is called “ running it to spoil.” Would the Minister pay 2s. 6d. a yard for running material to spoil? Yet practically that is what he is doing. He is paying 4s. 6d. for the taking of stuff out of the cutting, and 2s. 6d. for placing it in a bank. But when put into a bank, the material is practically run to spoil, so far as the contractor is concerned, because he must get rid of it somewhere.
– One and a half chains at each end of the cutting is to be done for nothing.
– I have had experience on railway work since I was eighteen years of age. In Queensland material from a cutting which has to be taken more than 20 chains is paid for specially if used in a bank, hut not at 2s. 6d. a yard. The 90,000 cubic yards taken from the first cutting on the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie was “run to bank,” some of it being taken 6 miles. The work was done with day labour, and it may surprise the Minister to know that it cost only1s. 9d. a yard. Under the contract it will cost 4s. 6d. a yard to move material beyond 99 feet. There were cuttings for about 19 miles along the line, the highest price paid being 10d., and some of the work costing only 5¾d. a yard with day labour.
– Day labourseems to be cheaper than contract labour.
– It would seem so on the facts before us. The Minister had all this information at his disposal, because an officer has been employed to ascertain the cost of all the work done. The Minister should have studied this information before letting a contract. Instead of being a condemnation of day work, nothing more favorable to the daylabour system could be cited than the work on this line.
– The Minister has already abandoned the contract system himself.
– This contract is one of those evils from which good must come. I venture to say that, after this experience, the Minister will hesitate before he enters into any fresh contract, no matter what the prices tendered may be, and he will take care that if he lets work on the butty-gang principle he will let it at fair and reasonable rates, and will not allow any one to “get at” him. I should like to know whether the Minister is aware that the agreement under which this contract is being carried out states that it is to commence on the9 th February. That being so, the contractor has now only seventeen days, which includes two Sundays, and has, therefore, only fifteen working days in which to complete the contract before the three months within which he has undertaken to complete it will expire. How is he getting on? Seventeen days from now the penalties under the contract will be payable. I wish to know if they are to be enforced. There is one clause in the agreement which, so far as I know, has not yet been tabled. It is not in the papers handed to me by the Leader of the
Opposition, which, I understand, are from official sources.
– The draft agreement has been tabled.
– I am going to compare them.
– The Clerk tells me that the honorable member has the file himself.
– This agreement, commencing on the9 th February, was signed on the 18th April, or only a few days ago. Does the contract time commence from that date, when the agreement w as signed by Mr. Teesdale Smith?
– He is bound by the correspondence leading up to the agreement.
– We shall get into the Courts over this.
– The Minister cannot play kindergarten with Mr. Teesdale Smith.
– No ; he is no new man at the contracting game.
– If the honorable member will look at the file he will see that Mr. Teesdale Smith’s offer was accepted on a certain date - I think the9 th February - and that offer was to complete the contract in three months. It is by that he is bound. That is what the honorable member for Barrier calls “ kindergarten.”
– He has fifteen working days in which to complete the contract, if that be so. But there is a proviso to the contract. I quote clause 6a of the agreement -
That no claim of any kind whatsoever for extras will be entertained or paid by the Minister unless such instructions shall have been ordered in writing by the Minister, or said Engineer-in- Chief, nor shall the Contractor have any legal claim for any delay, howsoever arisen, during the carrying out, performance, and completion under this agreement : Provided, however, that should any delay be proven to the satisfaction of the Minister to have been caused by any act or default on the part of the Minister or the said EngineerinChief, the Minister will grant to the Contractor extra time for the carrying out, performance, and completion of the work to be carried out, performed, and completed, under this agreement equivalent to the loss of time caused through such delay.
– Is there anything unfair about that?
– No, there is nothing unfair; but I point out that if the Department does anything which occasions delay on the part of the contractor and prevents him finishing his contract within the stipulated time, he can claim extra time.
– I should think he would be entitled to do so.
– What have we done to occasion delay?
– The Minister has quarrelled with the contractor about the quantities.
– Does the honorable member think we should have given way to him at once?
– I will tell the honorable gentleman why this provision is a good thing in the interests of the contractor. In making the contract, no provision whatever is made for waterways in what is described as rough country. Consequently, the Department will have to make all waterways. They will have to put in whatever bridges, culverts, drains, or pipes may be required to carry water accumulating on the upper side of the line to the other side, and to an outlet. If the Department has not completed any of these waterways when the contractor comes along to do his earthwork, he will say, “ I am delayed ; I cannot get on with my work.”
– What nonsense!
– The honorable gentleman will find out all about the nonsense later on.
– I am advised on that point now.
– I will tell the honorable gentleman how I think he has been advised.
– It is clear that honorable members opposite have Teesdale Smith on the brain.
– The honorable member will find in the beginning of the contract that the phrase is used, “ The work shall be carried out under the direction of the Engi neer-in-Chief . “
– I am going to say how I think the Minister has been advised in this matter. If the Department is not ready with the waterways when the contractor comes along to do his earthwork, they will say to him, “ Never mind, we will do this ourselves.” Is not that the advice the honorable gentleman has received ?
– No. What we propose is to say to him that he must heap up the soil, and we shall shove it in afterwards.
– That is exactly what I have said. Much will depend on the opinion which the contractor will hold about the matter. If he says that he does not agree with what the Government propose, there will be a lawsuit straight away which may cost half as much as the whole contract. All these things were left out of consideration, because the Minister took the advice of his expert officers. It has allbeen due to the honorable gentleman’s lack of practical knowledge. There is only one man on the other side who has any practical knowledge, and I am glad to see that he is here now. I ask the Treasurer to say whether he was consulted in this matter? He is the only man in the Government possessing any practical knowledge. Under his régime hundreds of miles of railway were built in Western Australia. He is the man to whom the Minister should have applied.
– I was in Western Australia.
– The honorable member will recollect that when the recommendation was approved of by me, and at the time it was submitted, I was naturally under the impression, from the very terms of the recommendation, that the contractor had all the requisite plant immediately available. The fact that he had not is responsible for all the difficulty.
– Within three weeks of the signing of the contract the whole of the plant he had on the ground was twelve ships’ tanks.
– I was foolish enough to accept the absolute facts of the officer appointed by honorable members opposite.
– It is worthy of remark that when that officer was being appointed he had been Chief Engineer in New South Wales, and a man of high reputation, and not a single voice came from honorable members opposite, who were then on this side-
– Yes, there was a voice. The present Prime Minister said he was a very good man.
– I was going to say that no word to his detriment was spoken. No one then on this side of the House objected to his appointment.
– What the honorable member is charging me with now is that I did not immediately suspect the facts submitted to me by the gentleman whom honorable members opposite appointed.
– No. It was further stated that Mr. Teesdale Smith had his plant within about 100 miles of where his section was to commence if he got the contract, but I am credibly informed that his plant was 280 miles away.
– He had no plant.
– The little plant he had was that distance away from the commencement of the section. No offer, it is stated, was made by anybody. I am not blaming the Minister for taking the advice of his expert officer when he was dealing with a firm of railway contractors who were reputed to include some of the ‘cutest men in the Commonwealth. But I do blame him for not acquainting himself with the facts of the case.
– That was the mistake he made.
– That was the initial mistake the Assistant Minister made in not calling for tenders. These political chameleons, who do not change their beliefs, but the colour of their beliefs, were so anxious to deal what they hoped would be a death-blow to the daylabour system, that they rushed into this contract almost blindfold. This thing is being done in other places. It is being done too, at the Federal Capital, where men are being knocked off. Tenders have been called there for works. One tender was £5,000 higher than the departmental estimate, and in another case the Department received no tender at all, and the work is being held up, not because there is no money, not that there is no desire to do the work - for the Prime Minister is most anxious to placate New South Wales in that direction - but because the Government, want to kill the day-labour system. However, they have gone just a little too far, and will have to revert to the system as soon as Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract is finished. The Argus of last Friday, writing in regard to this contract, said “ after the Leader of the Opposition had made his speech everybody knew the facts,” and it went on to detail what were the facts from its point of view. What I say is that nobody was acquainted with the facts. They are only coining out, by degrees, and by slow degrees, too. Yesterday the Assistant Minister admitted that a deviation had been made which would shorten the line, but increase the. quantity of earthworks in Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract. But, on the 11th February last, the Argus, whether it was inspired or not I do not know, said -
The transcontinental railway does not actually pass through the Pines, but passes between that place and the coast, and this arrangement has been made, it is stated, because of the fact that Mr. Smith, who is a railwaycontractor for the South Australian Government, has at present a full plant near the Pines and the work can therefore be expeditiously and cheaply carried out.
An arrangement was made, it will be seen, to accommodate Mr. Teesdale Smith, so that his plant would be handy, and that possibly accounts for the deviation to which reference was made yesterday.
– No. The deviation is onlya few hundred yards in width, whereas you are talking of a deviation for hundreds of miles. The thing is ridiculous.
– Was it ridiculous that this arrangement was made to accommodate Mr. Teesdale Smith? Was it ridiculous that an arrangement was previously made for which the honorable gentleman was principally responsible, by which the level pegs were altered so that the Castle excavator might work ?
– That machine was bought by the previous Administration. I have clone my best with it, and it is now out of order.
– The members of the present Ministry said it was the best thing that ever was.
– The Assistant Minister went to Port Augusta to see it.
– Some of your incompetent blundering.
-Where has the blundering been ? Last session, I asked some questions’ on the subject.
– You let a large contract for the Castle excavator, and, unfortunately, it has not been able to carry out the work, but you must not blame us for that.
– The question is, Who is to pay the £5,000 which it has cost the Commonwealth?
– That debt on the Castle excavator was incurred during the régime, of the previous Administration.
– Not all of it.
– The ex-Minister of Home Affairs admits that. He is not trying to resort to this sort of thing.
– We have not half cleaned up your mess, yet.
– You have brought Mr. Tesedale Smith in to help you to clean up.
– Order ! I ask that these interjections across the chamber shall cease.
– I intend to briefly refer to the question of penalty. For a breach of this contract, the penalty is £5 a day.
– Will you compare this penalty to the penalty under the powellising contract for half-a-million of money ?
– Well, make a comparison.
– I will make a comparison, and to the disadvantage of the Government, too. The Prime Minister inflicted on the contractor for the supply of sleepers the highest possible penalty that could be inflicted on a contractor, because he cancelled the contract. He cannot cancel the contract of Mr. Teesdale Smith, though. Notwithstanding the legal advice which the Assistant Minister said he had yesterday, I submit that he cannot cancel this contract.
– I say that, under similar conditions, we can.
– Are you holding a brief for Mr. Teesdale Smith? You seem to be doubting the Crown Solicitor’s word?
– I feel sorry for the trouble into which the Assistant Minister has got himself. I believe that this contract embraces 200,000 yards of excavation, but that does not include side cuttings, drains, &c. I am credibly informed that, out of that quantity, there are 30,000 yards of cuttings which we call hard. The other excavation, for which 4s. 6d. a yard has to be paid - 7s. a yard for some of it - is soft, most of it, I believe being sandstone, and, as is reported by Mr. Hobler, one of the engineers, some of it being pure sand. I ask, again, Why not have compared these prices with the prices for the work which was done ? The price to be paid for side cuttings we do not know. Will the Minister tell me what price is to be paid, because, where there is no cutting from which a bank can be made, it has to be made from a side cutting, that is, by taking material from the side of the line sufficient to make the bank. I would like to know, also, what price is being given for side drains ? We know nothing about that; presumably, it has been left for Mr. Teesdale Smith to fix his own price. The principal reason assigned by the Minister for letting this contract is that the Department wanted the work done hurriedly. Was there any delay in connexion with the work done up to the 60-mile post, and, if there was, whose was the fault? I do not accuse either the present Minister or the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, but I say that the Department has throughout adopted a ca’ canny policy. The officials have delayed the work by every means in their power for the purpose of damaging the day-labour system. There are millions of pounds to be spent on these works, and the contractors and others were shut out. Members on the Government side represents the Employers Federation, which has been always opposed to day labour. These millions of money are not flowing through what the Employers Federation considers the proper channels, and, consequently, influence is brought to bear so as to occasion every delay possible. Yet, in spite of all this delay, the work has been done at an exceedingly cheap rate. Platelaying has been done for 5d. per lineal yard, which is cheaper than it has ever been done before with the same weight of rails.
– Are they changing that system ?
– Not so far as we know, but, possibly, if it had not been for this bungle - if it is not more than a bungle - the platelaying also would be let by contract. I was very much opposed to the track-laying machine, because nearly as much work was being done by hand as the machine was doing, and the hand labour was costing less. The machine work has, I understand, cost 5½d. per lineal yard, whilst the platelaying by hand cost only 5d. a yard; but I am informed, by men competent to give an opinion, that if the machine were given a fair trial, if the material were fully supplied to it, and everything were in good working order, the work could be done for less than 5d. per yard. The exMinister of Home Affairs deserves every credit for having brought that machine into operation on this job; it is doing excellent work.
– I brought it from America.
– It is a pity that the honorable member did not at the same time provide locomotives to feed the machine with material. It is one of the misfortunes of the job that, so far, the haulage power has been entirely deficient. The Minister says that he had to rely upon the expert advice of his officers, and his predecessor had to do the same, because I do not suppose the honorable member for Darwin is competent to express an opinion upon the capabilities of a locomotive. Consequently, he, too, would have to rely on the advice of his experts.
But, from the very inception of this work, the idea has been to damage the day-labour system in the eyes of the public - to make it as costly and slow as passible - so that the contract system might be introduced. The authorities have succeeded in a measure in doing that, in so far as a contract has been let, but I suppose they are sorry for that contract at the present moment. The Treasurer has said that he was not invited to give an opinion on this matter, and, therefore, could not give it. But another contract has been let. I understand that, originally, Mr. Smith was one of the principals of the firm of Smith and Timms, but nobody knew when the firm was Smith, when it was Timms, or when it was Smith and Timms in partnership. A contract for making a dam at Gibson’s Camp has been let to Mr. Timms, but we donot know whether Mr. Timms is in partnership with Mr. Smith, or Mr. Smith with Mr. Timms. This contract, also, was let without tenders being called.
– You are incorrect. Tenders were invited, and the lowest tenderer was Mr. Timms, who got the contract.
– Where were they invited; in the Government Gazette?
– I will produce the papers.
– I hope the Minister will, because it is asserted that no tenders were invited.
– Very many thingsare asserted, but I will show you the papers.
– I have a friend who was anxious to tender, and he informs me that he never had an opportunity of doing so, because no tenders were invited .
– They were invited all right. Your friend must have been blind.
– I have asked the Minister the price of the side cuttings, and I want to tell him for his own information that the side cuttings may be done on another contract altogether. There is no schedule for side cuttings, but only for centre cuttings and banks. For side cuttings, from the commencement of the line bo the 36-mile post, the average cost was 9d. a yard, whilst the highest cost was1s. 9d. a yard. From my experience, 9d. is a very low price indeed, and1s. 9d. in that country would not be too much. For side drains the average cost has been 6d. per cubic yard. Something was said yesterday about formation, i.e., banks andcuttings less than 12 inches in depth. A contract for this formation work has been let at 45s. per chain, whilst that which has been done on the line, so far, cost 15s.10d. per chain by day labour, a difference of 29s. 2d.
– Is that a fact?
– Will the Minister admit that?
– I do not know whether the Minister will admit it. I want to compare the cost of day labour on that job with what has been done in Queensland. Formation in Queensland., on an average, costs 15s. per chain, but the fact has to be taken into consideration that, whereas formation in the northern State, with its 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, is only 14 feet wide, that on the transcontinental railway is 17 feet wide; also, that whereas wages are 8s. and 9 s. per day in Queensland they are 10s. per day on the transcontinental line. Yet it only cost10d. per chain more to do this work by day labour on the 17 feet formationthan it cost in Queensland to do it on the 14 feet formation. That speaks very highly indeed for the day-labour system, and why the Minister should desire to abolish it in favour of contracts is a thing one cannot understand.
An Honorable Member. - I thought the wages were 12s. per day in Western Australia ?
– For the first 69 miles the wages were, I believe, only 10s. per day. It must also be remembered that dedays were caused, as the honorable member for Grey pointed out yesterday, owing to the absence of plant. The man in charge of the construction was never supplied with sufficient plant, such as scoops, ploughs, &c., to carry on his work. This is all part of the policy which has been initiated for the purpose of delaying the work. When the Minister went to Port Augusta with Mr. Deane, in July last, he authorized a deviation at Yorkie’s Crossing.Up to that time the earthworks had been held up on the excuse that they were getting the Castle excavator, and would not want this other plant. Thai machine is now lying derelict at the 33-mile post. When it was triedit could not dothe work, andthey hadto get other plant in ahead But the platelaying was held up at Yorkie’s Crossing until the Minister -I give him credit for it - authorized the deviation which had been suggested months before. When they got past Yorkie’s Crossing 59 miles of rails were laid in 118 days, averaging exactly halfamile a day, which was very good work indeed. No fault could be found with that, considering that the men had to shift camp, and that water is scarce in that country. It reflects great credit on the gentleman in charge.
– That was Captain Saunders.
– The contract was supposed to be commenced on the 9th February, and I am informed that on or before the 5th March a progress payment of £10,000 was made to Mr. Teesdale Smith. What measurements were made? Upon what basis was that money paid ?
– Has it been admitted that the £10,000 was paid ?
– There was a progress payment account put in, and the EngineerinChiefsaid that he would see that the measurements were properly checked before the money was paid. That is all I know.
– Were there any supervising officers?
– There are no less than seven engineers on the job at this end of the line. I shall give the names. There is Mr. Bell, the EngineerinChief
– Is he over there?
– I suppose he goes over there.
– He has not yet had a chance to do so.
– Besides Mr. Bell, there are Mr. Hobler, Mr. Prophitt, Mr. Edgerton, Mr. Chadwick, and Mr. Weeks. All these men are on the job, besides foremen at high rates of wages, and I am told that they are supplied with horses, buggies, and motor cars, and that they rush about doing nothing.
– Would you prefer that Mr. Teesdale Smith should not be supervised in the exercise of his contract?
– But why need seven engineers for 14 miles of railway ?
– Mr. Bell has never been there. You mentioned Captain Saunders. He is not on the job. Mr. Hobler is doing the work now.
– There should not be much supervision required for 14 miles of work. In fact, after the surveys are made, and level pegs put in, one engineer with, say, two inspectors, should be sufficient. I am also informed that Mr. Teesdale Smith has a large staff. He has two engineers, two timekeepers, paymasters, &c., &c. However, that is his affair, not ours. I suppose that he imagined he would get another contract. I come now to an estimate I have had prepared as to what this line would cost based upon Mr. Teesdale Smith’s price -
KALGOORLIE- PORT AUGUSTA RAILWAY.
Actual quantities of earthworks, according to Schedule of Quantities accompanying the specification issued by the Home Affairs Department in the event of tenders being invited for the construction of the railway : -
1,709,341 cubic yards, excavation from cutting to embankment.
331,977 cubic yards, excavation from cutting to spoil.
638,992 cubic yards, excavation from side cutting to embankment.
Note. - Excavation from side ditches, inlets and outlets to culverts and waterways, road approaches, and station yards, not included in above.
Teesdale Smith’s Contract Prices.
Excavations in cuttings, 4s. 6d. per cubic yard.
Excavations from cuttings into banks after the first 1½ chains is reached from mouth of cutting, 4s. 6d., plus 2s. 6d. extra for banks - 7s. per cubic yard.
Actual cost of excavation in rock in West Australia, including making banks - 4s. per cubic yard.
Actual cost of excavation in centre cuttings in West Australia, including making banks -1s.11d. per cubic yard.
These prices include carting water, explosives, shifting camp, walking time for men, &c., &c.
What earthworks would cost for the whole length of line if done by day labour as per actual cost of work already executed-
What the cuttings and banks would cost for the whole length of railway if the work be carried out at the prices already contracted for with Teesdale Smith -
So that by allowing the actual cost of cuttings to be for rock and hard material all through at prices for work already executed by day labour, the cost would be £450,862, whilst if the work be carried out at the prices given to Teesdale Smith the cost would be £699,416, a sum equal to £248,554 in excess of what it is now being executed for; whereas if a fair proportion of the material is classified as hard and soft, which it is, the cost by day labour would be £354,873 less than if carried out at Teesdale Smith’s prices.
If the work already done at the Port Augusta end had been carried out at the price Mr. Teesdale Smith secured, it would have cost £350,000 more, or 82 per cent. over the departmental cost.
– If Mr. Teesdale Smith had done what has been done by day labour, it would have cost 82 per cent. more.
– The work that Mr. Teesdale Smith is doing is actually costing82 per cent. more than would the same work done by day labour. There is no doubt that the Government have made a serious mistake, but, as I have said, it is one of those mistakes out of which good will inevitably come, for they are not likely to again fall into the same error. It has been a complete bungle owing to the Honorary Minister’s cocksureness. When the Labour party occupied the Treasury bench our opponents here told us repeatedly that it was a great pity there were no business men in the Ministry. That was the cry all the time ; and when the present Government came into power they were hailed with delight. “At last,” said the press, “we have got somebody who will attend to the affairs of the country ; we have a business Ministry of captains of industry, men who have had big undertakings under their direction.”
– Men who would make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before.
– The press evidently forgot that little phrase, but we can use it now. The press and certain sections of the community were loud in their expressions of delight that there was at last a Government in the Commonwealth which would do things properly. And this contract of Mr. Teesdale Smith is the outcome of the business acumen of Ministers! Even the Age, one of the strongest “ barrackers “ of the Government - a newspaper which helped to put the Liberal party where it is now - had something to say about this business this morning, and, indeed, has something to say pretty well every morning. One would imagine that the Honorary Minister would be almost ashamed to come into the House, or to walk down the street, after what the Age has said in the past few days in connexion with this particular contract.
– If the Honorary Minister were in the party on this side of the House he would resign !
– On the side of the House where he is the Honorary Minister should resign; I am afraid there is not much toresign on the Opposition side. In this connexion, I may be permitted to read what was said by our worthy Speaker on one occasion when a debate was proceeding in regard to the erection of the Commonwealth offices in Melbourne. Mr. Speaker, as member for Lang, made use of the following expressions, and I may say that I indorse every word : -
While I sympathize cordially with the Minister of Home Affairs in having to bear the brunt of the attacks in connexion with a great deal of the expenditure proposed in the Works estimates, I would remind him that he is singled out for this distinction because he happens to be the Minister in charge of the Department responsible for the spending of the money on public works. Criticism of the manner in which work is carried on must necessarily be brought under his notice. But it does not necessarily mean that the attacks are levelled against himself. That will be determined by his own attitude. The object of these criticisms is to bring matters under the notice of the Government, in the hope that works will be carried out in a proper manner in the future.
In addressing myself to this question I do not desire to impute anything to the Honorary Minister. On a previous occasion, when there was a debate on certain sugar Excise moneys owing by particular companies, certain statements were made in regard to the Ministerial attitude that I deprecated ; and I take up the same position to-day. I regret very much, and always have regretted, the casting of insinuations or innuendoes from side to side of the House. It is a serious reflection on the National Parliament, which should set an example, not only to the Legislatures of Australia, but to Legislatures everywhere. It is no wonder, when we accuse each other of certain actions, that the outside public should be only too willing to indorse our sentiments. It is left open to the public to say, “ Well, if you challenge each other and make accusations, can you blame us for doing the same?”
– Let the honorable member lecture his leader, who needs it !
– These insinuations and innuendoes do not all come from this side of the House, for they originated among honorable members opposite; and things have been said which, were I to read them, would make honorable members, in their cooler moments, blush. We on this side have been compared to Tammany; but, standing in my place here, 1 challenge the world to say that there is one honorable member of the House against whose political honour individually any charge could be levelled.It is a serious mistake, therefore, for honorable members opposite to associate any party, or any individual, on this side of the House with Tammany.
– Tammany is a corrupt municipal organization.
– Yes; and is principally confined to New York andChicago. To associate honorable members on this side with Tammany is a reflection on the whole House; and, personally, I should be very sorry to sit in any Chamber where Tammany proceedings were for one moment tolerated. I now desire to say a few words in reference to the proposed double dissolution - a painful subject to me, I can assure honorable members. I regard a double dissolution with a great deal of disfavour, and a single dissolution with still more.
– Hear hear ! We wish for no dissolution !
– I indorse the sentiments of the honorable member for Darwin. In the first place, I think a gross impertinence has been perpetrated by the press, and certain people, in this connexion. The Leader of the Government, from his utterances in the press and on the platform, would seem to have arrogated to himself the right to grant a double dissolution. In other countries, say, in a country like Germany, such impertinence would be regarded aslèse majesté, and the persons offending might be called out and shot. All along the line, the Government have entirely ignored the Governor-General. They forget that the Constitution provides that the Governor-General “may” grant a dissolution, and seem to think that at any time they choose they can have a double dissolution. If a double dissolution were granted, we might as well at once abolish the Senate, because, if a precedent is established on such frivolous and trumpery questions as those shortly to come before us, the Senate will become the plaything of the Ministry in power. Any Ministry faced by a hostile Senate would need only to send up a Bill which it knew the Senate would reject in order to secure a dissolution. I have been reading lately some of the debates at the Federal Convention, and have noted theattitude which was then adopted by the Treasurer, who was one of the delegates. I find that he consistently opposed the dead-lock provisions of the Constitution. He did not believe in the proposal for a double dissolution.
– Quite right!
– The right honorable gentleman was quite right then, and I believe that he is still quite right. I understand that when Judges experience great difficulty in interpreting an Act, because of its ambiguity, they sometimes turn to the debates in Parliament in order to learn what was in the minds of those who framed it, and so to get at its exact meaning. And when we get behind the Federal Constitution - when we look at what was said by its framers in reference to this particular question - we see at once that it was never intended by them that the dead-lock provisions should operate in respect of such trumpery issues as those now raised by the Ministry. The whole of the debates on the dead-lock provisions of the Constitution centred round the right of the House of Representatives to deal with money Bills without any interference on the part of the Senate, and it was undoubtedly the intention of the framers of the Constitution that the dead-lock provisions should apply only where a dispute arose between the two Houses owing to an attempt on the part of the Senate to amend a money Bill. Ex-Senator Simon Fraser, who was a delegate to the Convention, when speaking on the dead-lock provisions of the Bill, said straight out, “ We do not want anything of a trumpery character.” Could anything be more trumpery than are the issues shortly to be raised by the Ministry? Then, again, I find that the late Sir Henry Wrixon, another Victorian delegate, proposed, as a means of overcoming a dead-lock, that there should be a joint sitting of the two Houses. At that time there was no thought of the personnel of the Senate being what it is to-day. During one of the Convention debates reference was made by a delegate to Democratic representation in the Senate, and Sir George Turner at once remarked, “ There will be no Democrats in the Senate. It will cost too much to contest an election for that House, and no Democrat will stand.” I wonder how he views the composition of the Senate to-day. In conclusion, I should like to point out that now, if ever, is the time to try the experiment of an elective Ministry. There is actually very little difference between Mr. Joseph Cook on that side of the House and Mr. Andrew Fisher on this side. When the Leader of the Labour party was on the Government side of the House he passed certain legislation, which has received the indorsement of the present Prime Minister.
– The present Prime Minister has denounced our legislation.
– He has denounced some of our legislation, but has not at tempted to repeal any of it. That shows that our legislation must be palatable to the present Ministry.
– Does not the honorable member think that the present Prime Minister would repeal the land tax if he could do so?
– No. I do not think the Treasurer would allow him to do so.
– Ask the honorable member for Riverina what he thinks of the land tax?
– The honorable member for Riverina supported it on the public platform.
– There is no constitutional obstacle in the way of the adoption of the principle of elective Ministries.
– Why should not the whole House be the master of its own legislation ?
– It would be if we adopted the system of elective Ministries, but with thirty-seven on each side of the House and an umpire, so to speak, in the Chair, it cannot be.
– Does not the honorable member think that an elective Ministry would be chosen wholly from the side which had a majority ?
– I do not.
– I guarantee that it would if we had a majority of one, and I am satisfied that the position would be the same if the other side had a majority.
– I think not. There are, on both sides of the House, fairminded men, who would be prepared to recognise and to vote for merit.
– Does not the honorable member think that with elective Ministries strict party lines would absolutely disappear ?
– Undoubtedly. And what, after all, is the use of the party system ? What is the country to gain from it when a proposal is made to go to the people on such trumpery issues as those now set up by the Government? What are we doing for humanity ? What, as the honorable member for Bourke asked last night, are we doing forthe progress of the country? What does it matter to the people whether the two trumpery Bills so often referred to be passed or rejected? Absolutely nothing. This great continent of ours requires to be developed. What are we doing to develop it? Are we nob frittering away our time in discussing useless measures, which can be of no benefit to any one ? We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. If the body politic could watchthis House at work, and know what we are actually doing, it would sweep us out. Parliament is costing the country a lot of money, and if, as proposed by the Government, another appeal be made to the people, it will cost it a great deal more. A single dissolution would cost £100,000. It is most pitiable that there should not be some attempt to promote the best interests of the country, instead of wasting time, as we are doing, in practically useless debates, which lead nowhere, become occasionally very acrimonious, and oftentimes create ill-feeling, which is sometimestoo lasting.
– We could refer all these questions to Committees, as they do in the United States of America.
– That might be a very good system. I shall not occupy the full time to which I am entitled, since I desire to practise, to some extent, what I preach. I certainly do not wish to fritter away time. Every word that I have said in regard to the Teesdale Smith contract is absolutely correct, and I should have been glad if the Honorary Minister had been present to hear the whole of my statement. Finally, let me say that if we are to have a dissolution, then the sooner we get it overthe better. I frankly admit that I do not want one, although few honorable members have less to fear from a dissolution than I have. I do not think that a dissolution will alter by one iota the present situation. If a dissolution does take place, and the position of parties remains unchanged, what then ?
– Another dissolution ?
– Are we to have yet another dissolution while the country is waiting for something to be done?
– And the taxpayers will have to pay.
– If a single dissolution take place, with the result that the elections for the Senate and House of Representatives do not synchronize, the cost of our elections will run into something like £200,000. We take credit to ourselves for being sensible men, and, as sensible men, we should review the whole position calmly and dispas sionately, and endeavour to find some means of bridging over the difficulty that has arisen in regard to the two trumpery issues raised by the Government.
– One of my reasons for rising to speak is because, apparently, the AttorneyGeneral’s supply of acid was not sufficient to go round on our side. I should like to reply to certain things said by honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Bourke made some statements about the financial position with which we were faced, remarking that it would be judicious to allow us to remain on these benches to grapple with it. He spoke as if it were something fresh; but I should like to tell him that the financial position was foreseen. Personally, it was the subject upon which I practically got into Parliament, for I pointed out that the Labour Administration had sent up the Commonwealth expenditure at a tremendous rate, and made absolutely no provision to meet it. The increase of expenditure in public works, naval and land defence, and the Postal Department has been enormous; while in their purely domestic policy, such as the maternity bonus and the extension of old-age pensions, the expenditure was largely increased without any business-like proposition being laid before the House as to where the money was to come from. I should like to say a word or two about the Teesdale Smith contract, and about the profits that contractors make when they take Government work. If it shows anything, it shows the incompetency of certain Government officials when they know they have a perpetual lease of their jobs. The defects in the specifications and in the brains of these men whowould control the expenditure of millions of money would never be shown up but for occurrences of this kind. If it had not been for the Teesdale Smith contract, we should never have learnt the manner of man that Mr. Deane is. We do not object to day work. Personally, I have nearly all my work - and I do a good deal of improvement work - done by day labour; but I have an efficient supervisor, or I think so. I do not put a Government official, who is interested only to the extent of his salary, in command of it. We object to day work, as we understand it, in the Government service, because the supervision is not adequate, and the men who do the work practically control, by means of their votes, any Labour Minister who may be in power.
Mr.Higgs. - According to you, the Government official has no honour, because he is a Government official.
– I do not say that at all. I say he has not the keen personal interest that a man has who has to stand or fall by results. The honorable member for West Sydney told us that the phrase, “We have done those things which we ought not to have done, and we have left undone those things whichwe ought to have done” came from the Litany. I always understood that it came from the General Confession. He also told us that he was in favour of law- that he was an evolutionary Socialist, and did not believe in Syndicalism. As a matter of fact, the very union that put him into Parliament adopted Syndicalism. They had to be whipped up by the Judge of the Arbitration Court to go to work, or he would not judge their case.
– The opposite is the truth. They whipped up the Judge of the Arbitration Court to hear their case.
– Another thing that throws some light on this matter is the resolutions which the Political Labour Conference adopted as regards the Defence Forces. Lest it might be thought that I am prejudiced, I shall read what the Age newspaper said about them. I think it was the Age that, about three years ago, really put the Labour party into power. One of the resolutions was - “ That no State Government be allowed to raise, arm, or use any force against the workers in the time of an industrial dispute” The Age comments -
If authority were as numb and helpless as the Labour Conference would provide, then we might as well abolish all restraint and let the criminal and the larrikin indulge their mad humour unhindered as long as they can shelter themselves under the plea that they are engaged in a strike demonstration. The whole report is significant of the crude, ill-balanced judgment brought by ignorant minds to the consideration or vast and far-reaching issues. It is a pity that a body of men, some of whom are actual legislators, and the rest members in ambition, are not inspired by the lessons of human natureand the dictates of common sense. What ideals of national eminence may be cultivated in a narrow, cramped environment such as that existing in the Political
Labour Council, where all the lessons of history are disregarded and passion and prejudice and quack nostrums take the place of gravely pondered counsel and serious thought.
– Do you believe what the Age says about the Honorary Minister?
– I believe what it says about the Labour Conference resolution. I should not have drawn attention to this matter had not the honorable member for West Sydney paid some attention to the class of men who were members on this side. We may not be all that we should like to be, but we have some qualifications for our membership, and, therefore, I thought it was well to throw a little light on what an outside critic thought of the gentlemen in opposition. I should like to touch on the question of industrial unrest. Whilst the honorable member for West Sydney was speaking of industrial unrest, and of the social and economic conditions which require alteration, I looked round at honorable members upon this side of the House, and thought, “ Surely these men realize the position.” I was, indeed, quite concerned until my eyes rested upon the honorable member for Maranoa, who was softly sleeping through it all. Then it occurred to me that the honorable member for West Sydney was only indulging in rhetorical fireworks.
– That is a bit “ below the belt.”
– So long as my honorable friends opposite can persuade a certain section of the community that the present state of society is wrong, they are not doing badly. There are 223 Labour members in the various Parliaments of Australia. At the present time, they get an annual income of £113,000. If they reach the Ministerial benches in the different States, they will receive another £33,700, or a total of, approximately, £146,000 a year. In the light of these figures, they surely derive some profit from advising the people that the present state of society is altogether wrong.
– That is shabby. I did not think the honorable member would descend to that kind of rubbish.
– I regret that the honorable member did not sum me up accurately. I do not say that some honorable members opposite have not honest convictions. But, while that profit is to be obtained, there is some inducement for them to advocate that discontent which is called divine.
– When we started agitating, there was no payment of members.
– I repeat that the profit to which I have pointed is a big inducement to men to advocate that the present state of society is wrong.
– The honorable member should recollect that that doctrine cuts both ways.
– Is that why the honorable member for Riverina came into Parliament? Was he not satisfied with what he was getting out of his sheep?
– Does not the honorable member know that, since the Labour party came into existence, the price for shearing sheep has been doubled - that it has risen from 12s. 6d. to 25s. per 100?
– Apparently, it is impossible to satisfy that particular section of the public which my honorable friends represent, otherwise the eightythree Acts of Parliament which were passed during the term of office of the late Government would have satisfied it. In reply to the honorable member for Maranoa, I merely desire to say that I never opposed the payment of 25s. per 100 sheep to shearers. But the shearers get that price to-day because the pastoralists have been able to double the quantity of wool which the sheep formerly cut. It was not altogether the shearing price to which the pastoralists objected; it was the conditions which the Shearers Union wished to impose. That was the source of the trouble. A pastoralist may be willing to pay a certain price for his shearing, but there are some conditions with which it is impossible to comply.
– The shearers required decent accommodation.
– That was provided for in the Shearers’ Accommodation Act. The honorable member knows that.
– Order ! I must insist upon honorable members observing the direction of the Chair. When the Speaker calls for order, order should be maintained, and interjections should not immediately follow.
– It is quite true that this Government have not done much, but what could they be expected to do in the face of the flood of eloquence with which they were confronted. They have, however, stopped the creation of Government factories and the increase of Government employes. Under the Fisher régime the number of Government employés was mounting so rapidly that had it not been checked those employés would soon have had control of the political machine. The Ministry have also put a good gold reserve behind our note issue, and have stopped the granting of preference to unionists in the Public Service. An attempt has been made by my honorable friends opposite to discredit the attitude taken up by the Prime Minister at the recent Premiers’ Conference. Need I remind them that the Commonwealth Bank, whose existence up to the present time has been a farce, may - if it succeeds in obtaining the business of the States - eventually become a source of strength and a credit to Australia. Then the agreement concerning the Murray waters, which was entered into at that Conference, was one which was required, and required urgently. Apart from the benefits that we shall derive from it, viewed from an irrigation stand-point, I may mention that in the country between the Murrumbidgee and the Lachlan, there are millions of acres where water cannot be obtained by sinking. That country will undoubtedly be benefited by the scheme which has been approved. I need scarcely point out that water is also required for the towns of Junee, Cootamundra, Wyalong, and Temora - both stock and domestic supplies are needed all through that area. The agreement which has been arrived at will do justice to South Australia, because, when the differential railway rates were abolished, she was undoubtedly entitled to the trade which would naturally flow down the river. We have been told that the Tariff was the great question upon which the last election was fought. I say that it was not so in the country districts. There the issue was that of the primary producer versus the city factory hands.
– What have the Government done for the primary producer?
– We have heard something about trusts and combines, and we have heard a lot of the Beef Trust. But one of the trusts which is worrying the primary producer just now is the Labour Trust - that combination of 150,000 men, headed by Labour poli- ticians, which, we are told, is pregnant with possibilities, politically and industrially.
– There will be halfamillion of them soon.
– It does not matter how many there may be - the primary producer is going to keep a watchful eye upon them. Now about the Beef Trust. The honorable member for Boothby did me the honour to couple my name with that of the cattle king, Mr. Sydney Kidman. I have about £1,600 invested in a station in the Northern Territory on which there are cattle, but my occupation in life is the breeding of stud sheep. I have never said anything in public about the Beef Trust, though it was printed in one of the newspapers that I winked when a Labour member was talking about it. I did not even wink ; that statement was a fiction of the journalist. I smiled when the honorable member for Oxley took our part, as if the pastoralists are not capable of looking after themselves ! We have it on the authority of the Attorney-General that if a Beef Trust exists we can deal with it by the exercise of our present constitutional powers.
– By means of an export tax?
– Not necessarily, but by the stoppage or control of exports.
– I should like to see the Government that would be game to do that.
– I shall not supply the House with bush law. The pronouncement of the Attorney-General is good enough for me.
– Would the honorable member advocate dealing with the trust?
– Yes, if necessary. Some honorable members cannot realize that a man may advocate a course which may appear to be opposed to his own interests. I have been twitted in this Chamber about the land tax, butwhen a candidate for election I said that I heartily believed in the principle of limitingthe size of estates. I do not wish to speak of my own affairs, but I may say that I believe in the land tax, although it costs my firm £10,500 a year. We could not afford to pay that if we were not breeding sheep which we sell for guineas when other people are selling sheep for shillings. If we were not putting our land to the best use, we could not pay the tax upon it. The Attorney-General has told the House that this Parliament can control and regulate the export of meat, and that is the only way in which we can deal with any meat trust in Australia. I anticipate that the trust could hit us far harder inthe London marketthan in Australia, and if the position should arise, we shall have to seek the co-operation and aid of the Imperial Government to save ourselves. The present high price of cattle and sheep in Victoria is not duetothe operations of a meattrust. Until cattle and sheep got so scarce, the only ring here was the ring of exporters to keep prices down. I sold some bullocks in this market on 16th April, and have taken the troubleto find out who bought them. I naturally expectedthat the meat trust, or a representative, would be among the buyers; but one brought £16 15s., being sold to a local country butcher. A lot of eight, which brought £15 7s. 6d., was bought bythe same man. Then came a lot of ten, of which two were bought for £16 15s. each by a gentleman named Ginger. Then came nine, which were bought by a man named Morris. Twenty of the best bullocks were bought by local butchers. Some of the cattle were bought by Angliss and Company, local butchers and exporters. The price of cattle and sheep has gone up because the supplies have decreased to an extent of which those who are not in the business have no idea. In 1891, when I was a boy, and commenced to look after a station, there were 100,000,000 sheep in Australia, and sheep were then practically unsaleable; the more you had, the harder up you were. We sold 14,000 or 15,000 in that year for 4s. 6d. each on a twelve-months’ bill, and gave the wool firm that bought them a clip of wool for sale. Now, according to the latest figures, there are only 83,263,000 sheep in the Commonwealth, a falling off of about 20,000,000, although the population has greatly increased since 1891, and the purchasing power of the people has much improved. We have to-day, roughly, only 100,000 more cattle than we had in 1895.
– Is not that accounted for bythe fact that they are now killing cattle and sheep younger than used to be the case?
– That would prove the scarcity of supplies. If stock were not scarce, the animals would be allowed to mature. An article which appeared in the Age recently, after giving figures for different countries, says -
The returns for South American countries are more encouraging, but, on the whole, a survey of the figures provided -
American, European, and Australian - does not suggest any immediate probability of lower prices for meat.
I assure honorable gentlemen opposite that, as soon as the Meat Trust shows itself to be in any way injurious to the people of Australia, whatever Government may be in power will take prompt action to suppress it.
– Does the honorable member think that the trust is here?
– So far as I know, it has done no injury to the consumer. We have been told in this Chamber that it has erected works on the Brisbane River. I do not know if it is so, but I know that the statement that the trust is buying unborn calves for £2 a head is treated with ridicule by all the cattleowners to whom I have spoken.
– It is a fact, nevertheless.
– Calves can be bought in Tasmania to-day, twelve months old, for £1 a head.
– Let me deal now with electoral reform. I do not say that men voted twice under the same name at the last election, and I have never thought that they did, but, as an employer of persons of nomadic habits, I know that such persons work under halfadozen names at as many places. Without imputing dishonesty to any one, I saythat we need a clean roll. I have been told that on the roll for my division the numberson page 31 are the same as those on page 69, and a member of my committee has sent me the names of ten men and women which appear on the divisional roll for Riverina and also on that for Echuca, which is on the other side of the Murray. I know, also, of one or two instances of the names of dead persons, to whom we objected at the last election, still remaining on the rolls.
– Does the honorable member attribute that to any political motive on our part?
– No; but I say that the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department should see that these things are not possible. I advise honorable members of both parties in this House to interest themselves in securing the identification of every elector whose name is on the rolls. I have been told that I will not be here after the next election. That may be so; I am not here from choice, but from a sense of duty. I am here because I was asked to come here and try to do a little for the country in which I and my family have been able to do a great deal. That is the only reason I am here.
– Why should the honorable member say that honorable members on this side are here only for the money they can get?
– I did not say so.
– The honorable member said that that was the reason why we were here.
– I said that the amount of money available was a great inducement to men to preach discontent. I did not refer to every honorable member on the other side ; but, if they all wear the white flower of a blameless life, God forbid that I should say they should not wear it. All I want is a fair go, and I shall do my best to get here again. As regards the policies of the different parties, let me say that I think honorable members on the other side give us too much of generalities. I was reading the other day a book called Problems of Modern Industry, by two Socialist writers - the Webbs. It concludes with a statement to the effect that, if Socialists want to get on, they must explain in a large dialect, and in a definite way, what are their aims, and where they are going. It is with these definite details we are never supplied.
.- I have listened to the honorable member for Riverina with attention, and there is one remark I should like to make to him before I pass to other matters. The honorable member inferred that the men in the West manage to get their names on different rolls because they work under different names.
– Not in the West; in Riverina.
– When we speak of the “ West,” in Queensland we refer generally to the pastoral parts of the country. The honorable member for Riverina knows, probably better than any other man in this chamber, why men go under different names at different places in the western parts of Queensland and New South Wales. It is because they have been boycotted to such an extent by the pastoralists who were prepared to send them out into the world and practicallystarve them out, because they took an active part in the work of the unions. It is because the pastoralists of the country sent round black-lists from station to station, and when a man’s name was black-listed, he could not get work from one end of the country to the other. I know all about this matter, because I have been through it.
– No black-list was ever sent out in Riverina. I have never seen one. The changes of name are due to the fact that a bad shearer will take the name of a good one, and thus secures a pen under false pretences.
– These black-lists have been produced in this House.
– From Riverina?
– I am not talking about Riverina. That is not the only spot in this great continent. Let me tell the honorable member that the little district in which he lives is not Australia. I know all about the black-lists, and the way in which they were prepared and sent throughout Queensland and New South Wales.
– Were there any in New South Wales?
– They were sent throughout Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria as well. They are in existence, and we can produce them to-day. When the honorable member for Riverina talks about the organizations, let me tell him that before they were started the conditions under which men were asked to work in the western parts of Queensland, and in pastoral districts generally, were such as were not fit for swine. They were accommodated in places that were simply damnable. In such circumstances, how can honorable members wonder that the men were discontented ? It is well known how the men were treated until their organizations became so powerful that they were able to enforce their demands for better conditions from the pastoralists.
– In some places.
– I admit that my remarks do not apply to all squatters alike. I do not say that they apply to the honorable member, but I speak of the conditions generally in the pastoral districts throughout Australia. It is idle, in the circumstances, for the honorable member for Riverina to come here and say that the conditions were all that they should have been. In commonwith other honorable members, the honorable member has said that unworthy motives ought not be attributed, but I remember the motive which he attributed to honorable members on this side. I regret very much that the honorable member said what he did, because I do not believe that he is a man who really feels in the way in which he spoke. One of the wrong motives which he imputed to honorable members on this side was that they are here, not, as he claims to be himself, in order to do their duty to the country, and not to influence Parliament by the views they hold, but simply because there is a certain amount in salaries to be distributed amongst the members of thisHouse. I say that no baser or more improper motive could be attributed to the members of any political party. Let me tell the honorable member that the Labour party came into politics when there were no emoluments attaching to their position, and when members of the party had to fight, to suffer the pangs of starvation and imprisonment, and to be dragged in chains from one end of the country to the other simply because they desired to better the conditions of their life and work. The honorable member for Riverina must know that. I always feel strongly when I remember how many unfortunate men had to suffer because they dared to stand up and demand better rates and conditions. I pass from that to give some attention to the AttorneyGeneral, the Honorary Minister, and the Prime Minister because of statements they made here a night or two ago. The Attorney-General prefaced his remarks by saying that, with rare exceptions, he personally did not believe there was any corruption in political life in Australia. I agree with that statement. I believe that Australian political life is as pure as the political life of any other country in the world. But what did the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs say?
He said that the charges made by the ex-Prime Minister practically meant that his reputation and his honour were at stake. Undoubtedly his reputation as a Minister was at stake, and that is what was meant by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable gentleman defended himself in most indignant terms against the charges, and the AttorneyGeneral spoke in a similar strain. Nobody knows better than does the AttorneyGeneral that both the Assistant Minister and the Prime Minister, as well as a number of others who formerly sat on the Opposition benches, were the greatest slanderers that could be found of public men in this country. I remember a man who, unfortunately, has passed away, having to hear from the Assistant Minister all the insults, innuendoes, and slanders it was possible for a man to have to sit under. I heard the Assistant Minister make the charges and throw out the innuendoes, and when I looked at the grey ‘hairs of the man who was ill at that stage, I felt that it was one of the most scandalous and contemptible things which I had ever known a young man attempt to do.
– The right honorable member for Swan was ashamed of that.
– Even the right honorable gentleman regretted the incident very much; but undoubtedly the charges were hurled across the chamber. After the Assistant Minister had made a stupid blunder in connexion with this contract, one of the first things he did was to get up here and talk about his honour being impugned, when that was never intended. Then we come to the Prime Minister himself. When he was speaking; of the slanders that were uttered to Australians concerning Australia, he denied them. He turned round and said, “ Who is the slanderer?” The honorable gentleman has aided the slanderer more than any one else in this country has done. Although he had in his pocket a letter which bore the name of the man who had written the slander which had been sent broadcast throughout the world, as well as throughout Australia, yet he never took a solitary step to contradict that slander concerning the conduct of the last elections. He knows that that is true. The Attorney-General talked about imputing motives. But what did he do? In finishingthe first portion of his speech, he exclaimed, Now I am going to make a charge,” and turning round he said, “ I charge the right honorable member, Mr. Andrew Fisher, with using public fund’s for private gains.”
– For “ private gains “ ?
– Not exactly for private gains, but under the Tammany system, with giving support to those who supported him outside. The only deduction to be drawn from the honorable member’s remark was that my leader was using the public funds for party purposes. Taking his own line of reasoning, if that is so, would I not be justified in using exactly the same language as he did ? Would I not be justified in turning round and saying, “ This Government, the whole of them, are guilty of using public funds to give contracts to certain persons for party purposes “ ? That is a fair retort, if the Attorney-General is prepared to go on those lines. He spoke about Tammany practice. He talked of our giving spoils to the victors when we gave preference to unionists. I ask where are the spoilstothe victors? Am I not equally justified in turning round and saying that this contract was given to Mr. Smith simply because it was a case of spoils to the victors? If that is the line of reasoning which the AttorneyGeneral isto follow, that is the line I intend to take when I go outside. If it was good enough for the honorable and learned member to adopt that line at several places at which he delivered the same old speech, just the same remarks may be applied to his speech as he attemptedto fasten onthe Leader of the Opposition. So far as the contract of Mr. Smith is concerned, I am not going to attribute dishonest motives, but what I do attribute is blundering on the part of the Assistant Minister. When the Government were going to depart from the day-labour system, andto initiate one calledthe contract system, what did they do? The Minister in charge of the Home Affairs Department did not even take the trouble to look over the documents, or to go near the Department. He came down to the House, and not knowing anything at all about the matter, he delegated his powersto an Assistant Minister, who has not even authority to sign his own name to a contract, but can only sign such a document on behalfof the Minister himself. Here was a contract sought by a gentleman, who not only attempted to ‘ ‘ get at ‘ ‘ the Department, but did “get at” it. I do not hesitate to say that, from a perusal of the papers that have been tabled. The Assistant Minister’s later action in dealing with the contract showed either that Mr. Smith “ got at “ the engineer or that the engineer “got at” the Minister, one or the other. I do not know which it was, but according to the evidence there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that Mr. Smith “ got at” the whole of them. The proposed alteration from the day-labour systemtothe contract system involved a question of policy in relation to the Government. If there was one question more than another which should have been discussed in Cabinet, and decided, it was that question. But what wasdone? The PrimeMinister delegated the matter to an Assistant Minister, and saidto him, “ Nowyou can go on and deal with this matter.” That was the act ofa gentleman who either pays noattention tohis Department,or is merely,as my honorable friend in the corner would say, a rubber stamp in the Department,” and did nottake the care he should have taken to look over documents in order to see that they were in proper form. What he did wasto come along and say, “Let us give this contract.” Mr. Smith asked for a contract, and got it. Mr. Dearie referred the mattertothe Assistant Minister. Mr. Deane then told the Government that this offer was a good thing, and ought bo be accepted; that, in order to prevent thegreat Machinery that the Government have for carrying on their day-labour proposals from lying idle for any length of time, and beforethey got to a bad and difficult part, it was necessary to have this contract completed. What was the result? The Government signed a contract.The Minister evidently did not look over the document till after it was signed, and then he discovered all the faults in it. A few days afterthe documenthadbeen signed the Minister started to make inquiries and get information from other officers, and then he began toseethat therewas something fishy about the contract. He suddenly discovered that it embraced, not only the section of14 miles first mentioned, but another portion of the line to be constructed at a latter date.
– That was not in the contract. It was before it was signed.
– That was not in the contract, but it was in the arrangement that wascome to,and it was not discovereduntil some daysafter the original agreement had been arrived at, and then the discovery was made by the Assistant Minister.
– Not by the Minister.
– If the honorable member will read the papers he will find that I am correct.
– The Minister repudiated it.
– Time seemedto be the essence of this contract. Mr. Saunders never recommended the price whichwas agreed to be paid, although the Minister tried to make out that Mr. Saunders also recommended it.
– He said he could not do the work.
– The Assistant Ministerfinished up his speech yesterday by telling us that hewas guided, not only byMr. Deane,but by Mr. Saunders andothers. Mr. Hobler, first of all, said the work could be donemore cheaply by day labour. Mr. Saunders never agreed to the price at all.
– Indeed, he did.
– What he said was that in consideration of the time it was worth payingthe price, but he never said that it was a fair price forthe work.
– What else is it?
– It was only a fair price in the eventof the work being completed in three months. That was the point.
– Yes, a fair price having regard to the time.
– It was a fair price, having regard to the time. We have the sworn evidence of Mr. Deane that the hardest cutting along the line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie can be removed for 3s. a yard.
– He says nothing of the kind.
– The honorable member will findthat evidenceon page 129 of the report of theChinnCommittee - that the hardest cutting along the line could be madefor 3s. a yard.
– It has been removedat that price.
– Under those circumstances, how comes it that Mr. Deane recommended that 4s. 6d. should he paid for the cuttings, and 2s. 6d. a yard for the banks? I am not going to deal with this contract any further, because it has been dealt with very ably by Mr. Bamford from a technical point of view. The honorable member, as an old contractor, knew exactly what he was talking about, and his exposure was a very strong one indeed. How comes it also - and the Minister never gave us this information until it was dragged out of him to-day - how comes it that the country did not know that the contract was not signed until 18th April, although the agreement was secretly entered into on 9th February?
– I thought it was twelve months from the time that the powellising agreement was made that the contract was signed.
– When that contract was signed is a matter of indifference to me. The honorable member cannot cover up the misdoings of his Government by reference to other things. He may seek to evade responsibility by recourse to his old turnings and twistings, by sheer bluff, and by saying that the other fellow did it, too; but I would remind the honorable member that if he were up before a Judge on a charge of embezzlement, it would be no answer to the charge to say that “ the other fellow did it, too.” That answer would not get him out of his trouble, and it does not get him out of his trouble in this case. We want to know why the contract was not signed at an earlier date, and, also, when it starts, and when it ends.
– Whatdo you think?
– I do not know; that is what I want to know. Unlike the Attorney-General, I do not go before the electors and say, “I hope there are a few Labour men present this evening, because I am going to talk sense.” If the honorable member had not told his audience that, they would not have realized what he was talking. We find the honorable member going to Warrnambool and saying, “I am the AttorneyGeneral “ - the great Irving, one would think he was, to judge by his appearance and his mock heroics - “ and I am going to talk sense andgive you something to think about.” Just fancy the AttorneyGeneral - a man with the standing which the honorable member is alleged to have - descending to talk of that description ! I could understand such remarks coming from some people, but I cannot understand them coming from the AttorneyGeneral of the country. Let me tell the Attorney-General that, when he speaks in the House in mock heroics about the amount of. funds used for political purposes, he ought not to forget that he still receives a retainer from a big private company.
– I said I did not know.
– The honorable member must know his own business, and he ought tobe the last to talk in that strain, considering that he receives a retainer from a certain company which is in deadly conflict with the Commonwealth in an action which may cost this country thousands of pounds. Although the honorable member is receiving a large salary from the country for his services as AttorneyGeneral, his mind is practically closed to the Commonwealth, so far as advice on that particular action is concerned. Therefore, I say the honorable member ought to be the very last to criticise the action of other honorable members. Further, let me remind the honorable member that, whilst he and his Government are negotiating with the States in regard to the Savings Banks and the Commonwealth banking proposals, he is still a director of a private banking institution.
– It is horrible, and if such a position were to be taken by a member on this side, he would be denounced throughout the country by Liberal members. There is no harm in an honorable member being a director of a bank, but, when his directorship comes into conflict with his public duties, the honorable course for him to adopt is to resign. Let me draw a comparison between two members of the Ministry - the AttorneyGeneral, whose actions I have just alluded to, and the Postmaster-General, who resigned from the directorship of a bank because he said he could not carry out his public duties and remain in that position. While the Postmaster-General does that, the Attorney-General accepts a position as a bank director, and we find that the Prime Minister, and other members on the Government side never lose an opportunity of endeavouring to damage the Commonwealth Bank. Even this afternoon, the honorable member for Riverina made a contemptuous reference to this national bank. It is a contemptible action for members to use every opportunity to belittle and damage that institution.
– Where? Name one instance.
– The honorable gentleman is always against the bank. He has been against ft from the very beginning. Using every effort to try to blacken the Bank is a peculiar way of trying to make a success of it.
– I deny that.
– The right honorable gentleman has never lost an opportunity of pointing out that the Bank should never be run by one man. When present Ministers were in Opposition they fought as tenaciously and fiercely as men could possibly fight to try to prevent political influence from getting into the control of that Bank, and they hurled charges that all sorts of political influence would be used, even going so far as to say that probably Labour members would be able to get overdrafts. Now, however, we find that the men who opposed any attempt at political influence in the Bank, are trying to use it for political party purposes. At the Conference of State Premiers, the whole of the debate was an attempt to use the savings bank portion of the Bank for political party purposes, in the hope that at an approaching election they would be able to say, “ See ; we have done all we could to give the State Governments a little more pocket money to go on with in the matter of advances to farmers.” Didwe not have the Prime Minister the other night scoffing and sneering at the fact thatwhen the last returnswere published the surplus of the Bank was £1,500 only?
– Did I sneer at it?
– The honorable member is fond of sneering at these things. If there is one manwho should be proud of his position it is the Prime Minister.
– Are you sure it was a profit of £1,500? Therewas no allowance for capital invested.
– The honorable member implies that he knows more about the matter than the Governor of the Bank, who signed a statement that for the half-year there was a surplus of £1,500. I next come to the great question of preference to unionists, the question with which we are to be flogged from one end of the country to the other. It is prettywell known that every member of the Opposition is in favour of preference to unionists.
– Thenwhy have you not the courage to put it in your platform?
– If the honorable member had any knowledge of political life in Australia he would know that a Labour Government has actually been turned out of office on the question of preference to unionists. Why the need to put it on the platformwhen it is ad- vertised on the housetops that the Labour party are in favour of preference to unionists? The honorable member for Wannon had better go back to try to make those two blades of grass grow where one grew before.
– We are getting sick of that expression; let us have something fresh.
– The honorable member is probably sick of it, but most likely he will be knowvn for the rest of his political life as the twobladesofgrass man. The Labour party have never lost an opportunity of telling the public that they are in favour of preference to unionists. In spite of the AttorneyGeneral, who seems at the present time to be running the Government, or, at any rate, the Prime Minister,we are going to stick to that principle.
– In the Civil Service?
– We cannot touch civil servants; they are under a special Act; so the honorable member need not get on that line. But for the casual labourer in Government employ we are in favour of preference to unionists. Unionism has done more for the industrial life of Australia than anything I know of. No one can bear me out better than the Prime Minister. Had it not been for a Labour organization strong enough to enforce preference to unionists, the honorable member would not be where he is to-day. Theywere shrewd men; they showed their wisdom at the time by tak- ing him from the position of check weigh man, right away from the pit, and putting him into Parliament; but, if they had known that he was going to turn on them in the way he has done, I do not hesitate to say that he would never have seen the inside of Parliament.
– There were 300 unionists at Lithgow at the time, and I polled 1,100 votes to get in.
– In the Kennedy electorate there are not more than 3,000 or 4,000 organized unionists, yet I polled 17,000 votes. I realize that, were it not for the organization and the unions, I would not have been here or seen political life at all. I am prepared to own up; why cannot the Prime Minister ?
– I own up to the facts, and all the facts. I am very proud of their support, and would get it again to-morrow.
– Let the Prime Minister resign Parramatta and try Lithgow. I do not think he has the moral courage to do it. I would not do it if I were in his position ; it would be too risky.
– If I went back tomorrow, I would be returned to Parliament. No one knows it better than the honorable member at present representing the district.
– If the honorable member has so much influence there, why did the Liberals not win the seat at the last State election. They made every endeavour to do so, but failed. So what is the use of him telling us of his influence? It is nil.
– You are of a very generous type.
– I have not received generosity from my opponents. I have been hounded from one end of the country to the other, and libelled and slandered in every possible way that the human mind could conceive, and by the same class of people who support the honorable member to-day. It will be seen that, so far as I am personally concerned, I have nothing to be thankful for to honorable members opposite or their party.I was speaking of preference to unionists, and saying that unionists had done more, not only in this country, but in every other civilized country in the world, for the working classes than had my other section of the community I know.
The better conditions and higher wages enjoyed to-day are owing to the organization of trade unionism, which has rendered reform possible in industries where previously it was considered almost unattainable. The time is not far back when women, and also little children, practically naked, were employed dragging coal trucks in England; and it was trade unionists who found means to alter that state of affairs. At the same time little children were employed in factories supervised by overseers armed with whips to keep them awake. We can remember the Prime Minister pathetically relating the fact that at one time in England children had to go to work at 4 o’clock in the morning - little children who would wake up in the early hours and say, “Daddy, is it time to go to work?” Again, it was trade unionists who liberated those children.
– If it will do the honorable member any good, I do not mind telling him that when nine years of age I had to go to work at 4 o’clock in the morning.
– And yet to-day the honorable member is prepared to do alt he can to break down the organization of unionism.
– That is quite untrue !
– The honorable gentleman has not left a stone unturned to attain that object. At Dandenong the Attorney-General declared that what was desired by him was to get back to where we were fifty years ago in the industrial world. He did not say so in so many word’s, but that is what he desired - to return to the period when no political effort was used by the organizations of the workers. The honorable gentleman said he was not in favour of giving preference to unionists where trade unions took political action, and his wish was to revert to the conditions when political action by such organizations was not allowed.
– I never said that, nor anything like it.
– That was the whole intention of the honorable gentleman’s speech, which I read not less than a day ago - that was the impression it left on my mind.
– Would the honorable member mind reading the speech now?
– I do not happen to have the speech at hand.
– And, therefore, no doubt, the honorable member feels at liberty to make that statement!
– I can produce the speech, if necessary.
– I am responsible for my speeches, bub not for the impression they leave on the honorable member’s mind.
– I should not have thought that a gentleman who, when he addresses the electors, says he hopes there are a few Labour supporters present, would make a statement like that under the circumstances. The whole efforts of honorable members opposite are directed to breaking down trade organizations; and if they were honest they would tell us that that is their object. But we shall never get back to the conditions of twenty or thirty years ago, when, so far as Australia is concerned, at all events, trade unions started to take political action. It was realized that the old form of unionism, good as it had been in the past, and however great the benefit it had conferred on the working classes, had outgrown its usefulness, and that some other action should be taken. From that time onward trade unionists have sought to make their organizations political ; and I do not hesitate to say that to-day they are political, because it is felt that by no other means can the aims of the working classes be given concrete form. It is this political action by trade unions that has led to all the trouble to-day. While unionists remained impotent, unable to enforce their demands, the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister were quite at one with them ; but to-day, when they have taken political action on the advice given by Sir Thomas McIlwraith and others in 1890, to redress their grievances by constitutional means, it is sought to destroy their organization. I have not the slightest doubt that those organizations, in their political aspect, are going to grow bigger. The latest movement is in the direction of the amalgamation of unions; and to-day some of the organizations in Australia are nearly 100,000 strong. This is the only effective way in which the unionists can hope to cope with the com bined organizations of capital against them, and it is idle to suppose for a moment that there is any prospect of our going back to former conditions.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45 p.m.
– On the question of preference to unionists the AttorneyGeneral is perfectly candid. He never misses an opportunity of telling us frankly and distinctly that he is opposed to all forms of preference to unionists. I should like to know how he reconciles that attitude of mind with the action of the Government in letting a contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith without calling for tenders or making any such inquiries as were necessary to protect the interests of the country? While the Government are opposed to preference to unionists, they are quite prepared to give every possible preference to contractors. Mr. Blackwood, who was a prominent member of the Employers Federation - one of the organizations supporting the Ministerial party - delivered a speech in London, in which he described the method adopted by our opponents to break clown, if possible, the old trade union organizations. In the course of this speech he said -
It must be borne in mind that this movement is in no way a strike-breaking machine. It is simply a bonâ fide attempt to establish true trade unions such as existed before the Socialists captured the old one. . . . The respectable men’s names are entered in the register, and employment found for them as soon as possible; but before taking up a job they must become members of “ The Independent Workers “ by paying1s. down, and agreeing to pay the subscription of 6d. per man per week.
He was referring to the Independent Workers Union, one of the organizations established for the express purpose of breaking down Labour unions, and ho pointed out that preference was given to the members of it. But, while that is done, preference is denied to the members of the organizations that were formed to better the conditions of the working classes. This Independent Workers Union, which has the support of honorable members opposite - and, I understand that the Prime Minister, once a strong trade unionist, delivered an address in support of that organization-
– I understand that the Prime Minister has addressed meetings in connexion with Mr. Packer’s union.
– The Liberal Workers Union.
– I care not by what nameit is called; the fact remains that Mr. Packer is the organizer of the union. Mr. Blackwood explained that it was called at first “The Free Workers Union,” but that it was found that with such a name men were not prepared to join it. At the last conference, therefore, the name of the organization was changed to that of “ The Independent Workers.” Behind honorable members opposite is the organized capital of Australia; behind them are the Federated Employers Association, the Federated Manufacturers Association, the landed proprietors of Australia, and the financial institutions of the country. These are the people who found the money at the last election to fight the referenda, and they are now behind our opponents on the Treasury bench. Let us consider for a moment what they would do if they had the power. I do not hesitate to say that if they had complete power trade unionism would have very little opportunity to demand better conditions, or even to maintain the conditions which they at present enjoy. I make that statement emphatically, so far as the AttorneyGeneral is concerned, and in support of my contention I propose to quote from a document coming from South Africa. It may be said that it can have no application here, but my reply to such a contention is that the men behind the Government in South Africa to-day belong to the same class as do those supporting the present Government of the Commonwealth. The document is as follows: -
Office of the Sub-Inspector.
Benoni, 31st January, 1914.
Re meeting Engine-drivers and Firemen’s Association. Permission is hereby granted to the Engine-drivers’ and Firemen’s Association to hold a meeting at 4 p.m., 3rd February, 1914, in the Inglis Buildings, Benoni, for the purpose of electing two delegates for the annual council of the said association. The said meeting to be conducted under the supervision of the police.
Again, on Tuesday, 10th February, 1914.
This document serves to show how far our opponents would go if they had the power. I do not hesitate to say that the very influences which prompted this action in South Africa would cause the present Commonwealth Government to do likewise if it were able to do so.
– But even that is not so bad as the Victorian Coercion Bill.
– Quite so. When the present Attorney-General was in power in the State he introduced one of the worst Coercion Bills of which we have ever heard. He embodied in it the worst sections of the Irish Coercion Act, and sought to apply them to Australia.
– It served the purpose.
– Honorable members opposite would do the same thing to-day, if the trade and labour organizations were not as strong as they are. May I pit against the views expressed by the Attorney-General the opinions of another mind quite as great as his own. May I quote from the famous pamphlet entitled Wealth and Want, which was published by the present Chief Justice of Australia, Sir Samuel Griffith -
The sweating system, which is only a following out of the principle of industrial competition to its natural and logical conclusion, shows that sometimes the price charged to the producer for his food is so high that he cannot pay for enough to keep him alive - and so he dies, and the weakest goto the wall. … Is such competition really free? Is it any more free than any other competition of the weak against the strong? True, it is not a direct competition of the weak against the strong, but it is the competition of the weak among themselves for what the strong will of their pleasure give them. … In what essentia) particulars does the so-called “ free “ competition differ from slavery? So far from being free it is the complete domination of the weak by the strong. . . . No wonder then that the producers have, for their own protection, established the system of trades unions, which are daily assuming greater importance in our social and political system. But they cannot do all that has to be done. The struggle is severe, unequal, and often disastrous.
I make this quotation - just as I propose to make another - to show the AttorneyGeneral that a man of Sir Samuel Griffith’s great intellectualability was not ashamed to express his opinions in relation to industrial matters. Speaking on the Queensland Eight Hours Bill of 1890, he said-
Some people affect to think that there is nothing in this after all, and what is called the great social movement of the age - it is called by various names, some people call it Socialism -is only the noise of a few agitators here and there, and that there is nothing beyond. They never made a greater mistake. It is a most serious question that the world has to face at the present time. We hear about strikes, and trades unions, and disturbances in trade, as if they were the end that was being aimed at. Trades unions, strikes, and these disturbances, Mr. Speaker, are, in my mind, nothing more than the breaking of the crests of the waves of the great tide that is flowing.
The present Chief Justice of Australia was not ashamed to express his opinions respecting what is often spoken of as the great industrial struggle. Our opponents nowadays, however, seem to think that all that is necessary is to try to stop its progress. They never made a greater mistake. It is utterly impossible to stop the progress of the great industrial movement. I regard the industrial struggles of to-day as one of the signs of the times. Why do we educate our children? The object is to make them better citizens. When they reach the age of citizenship, they are given the right to vote. That does not mean that they are going to remain where they were twenty or thirty years ago. Industrial unrest is, I maintain, one of the greatest signs of progress that the world knows of to-day. If it were not for that we should start to go back, and no one can tell what the end would be. This brings me down to the question of day labour versus contract. It has been admitted that even in the case of the contract that has been under discussion the work could have been carried out cheaper by day labour. Mr. Hobler, one of the engineers, has stated that it could be done at least 2
– I do not know whether the Commission sat during my time, but I have always admitted that the Newport workshops have been very successful. It was I who gave the first job in engine construction to the Newport workshops.
– When I quoted the Commission’s report some years ago in this House I obtained a clear admission from the Attorney-General that it was one of the best cases I could produce in favour of day labour.
– In favour of Government construction.
– Yes, as against private construction. The Government at that time wanted a number of engines constructed. The Phoenix foundry produced one at a cost of £3,841. The Newport workshops constructed a similar class of engine for £3,364. It was immediately claimed by private enterprise that the Newport workshops were cutting prices, and omitting certain charges, and that if these were allowed for it would be found that the work could be done a great deal cheaper by private enterprise. A Commission, comprising four Liberals and one Labour man, was appointed. Expert evidence was taken, and the Commission, after charging against the Newport workshops everything that could legitimately be charged, had to admit that locomotives could be made by day labour at Newport for £477 per locomotive cheaper than they could be made by the private firm. The experience of Queensland in railway construction is interesting. Prom 1881. to 1893 the work done by contract cost £4,796 per mile. From 1900-11, the work performed by day labour cost £2,982 per mile, or a saving of 37per cent. Wherever day labour has been applied to big works, they have always been constructed considerably cheaper. Mr. Barnes, the Queensland Treasurer, who is undoubtedly a Conservative, told the House and the country that the Queensland Government had been able to save hundreds of thousands of pounds in the construction of railways by using the day-labour system. In all, during eleven years they have saved over £2,000,000. New South Wales had an exactly similar experience. Surely in these circumstances there ought to have been sufficient evidence to show the Government that the substitution of the contract system for day labour would land the Commonwealth in an enormous expenditure. Why it. was done I do not. know, but it is a striking fact that in their very first attemptto introduce the contract system this stupid blunder should have been made. The AttorneyGeneral andthe Prime Minister seem to assume that we have no reasonto be afraid of trusts, and will be able to deal with them as they come along. I can only look at a matter of this kind from a layman’s point of view. I ask the Attorney-General whether it is not a fact that in the United States of America during the past twenty or thirty years some sixty-nine Acts have been placed upon the statute-book - Acts which were designed to regulate the operations of these trusts?
– Congress has passed only the Sherman Act and three or four other measures. The Statutes to which the honorable member refers may be State Acts.
– Probably. I understand that our constitutional power in regard to trade and commerce is practically based upon that of the United States of America. That being so, how is it that the shrewd lawyers of that country have been unable effectively to regulate these trusts?
– The means of transport is the key to the trouble.
– The means of transport may have assisted these trusts to become established a little faster than they would otherwise have been established. But seeing that to-day they have complete control of certain branches of industry, the explanation of the; honorable member forKooyong will not suffice. It must be recollected that thegreat bulk of our trade in Australia- is carried by sea, and not by rail.
– Not the stock.
– I do not saythat the squatter is getting too; much forhis stock. To-day in Queensland fat stock is realizing 22s. 6d. per 100 lbs. The average beast weighs about 750 lbs. Now, if 22s. 6d. per 100.lbs. is a fair price for the squatter to receive, how is it that in many towns where cattle are purchased at that figure the people are required: to pay 9d. per lb. for their meat? As a mat- ter of fact, the cattle buyers not only get that price for the beef, but they receive from 27s. to 30s. each for the hides, besides 70 lbs. of tallow per beast, and 3s. or 4s. worth of manure, not to mention horns, shank-bones, &c. It is clear, therefore, that some persons must be making enormous profits out of this trade, especially as the same class of meat, after being taken to London, is sold there at4d. per lb. This great Beef Trust is spending £300,000 upon the erection of works in Brisbane, notwithstanding that we have not sufficient stock in Australia upon which to operate. The honorable member for Riverina touched upon a most important point in dealing with this matter. Last year we killed about 560,000 head of cattle, but only 300,000 or 400,000 hides can be accounted for. What has become of the balance? The fact is that cattle are now being killed soyoung that the hides are not classed as stock at all. In Australia today we have big establishments which can absorb meat at a faster rate than the stock can be produced. Cabbie are now being killed very much, youngerthanthey were a few years ago.
– And a good job, too. Formerly they were too old and tough.
– That may be so. But, so far as the age at which cattle are slaughtered is concerned, there is a point below which it is not wise to go.
– Beasts are being killed down to 600 lbs. weight.
– I am speaking from information which I have acquired from cattle-buyers in the western part of Queensland - from men who are as shrewd in their business as men can be. If it were not so, they would scarcely be receiving £1,000 or more a year for their services.What is this organization which the Government say they are going to control? Mr. C. E. Russell, in his work on The Greatest Trust inthe World, referring to the Meat Trust, says -
Of some of the most important industries of this country, it has an absolute, ironclad, infrangible monopoly; of others, it has a control that, for practical purposes of profit, is not less complete. It fixes at its own will the price ofevery pound of fresh, salted, smoked, or preserved meat prepared and sold in the United States. It fixes the price of every ham, every pound of bacon, every pound of lard, every pound of prepared soup. It has an absolute monopoly of our enormous meat exports, dressed and preserved. It has an absolute monopoly of the American trade in fertilizers, hides, bristles, horn and bone products. It owns, or controls, or dominates every slaughter-house, except a few that have inconsiderable local or special trades. It owns steam and electric railroads; it owns the entire trolley-car service in several cities, and is acquiring the like property elsewhere. It owns factories, shops, stock-yards, mills, land and land companies, plants, warehouses, politicians, legislators, and Congressmen. It defies Wall-street, and all that therein is. It terrorizes great railroad corporations long used to terrorize others. It takes toll from big and little, it gouges millions from railroad companies, and cent pieces from obscure shippers. To-day, it is compelling a lordly railroad to dismiss its general manager, tomorrow it is black-listing and ruining some little commission merchant. It is remorseless, tireless, greedy, insatiable, and it plans achievements so much greater than any so far recorded in the history of commerce that the imagination flags in trying to follow its future possibilities.
If fixes for its own profit the prices the farmer of the West shall receive for his cattle and hogs, and the prices the butcher of the East shall charge for his meat.
It fixes the price that the grower of California shall receive for his fruit, and the price the labour of New York shall pay for his breakfast.
It lays hands upon the melon-grower of Colorado, and the cotton-grower of Georgia, and compels each to share with it the scanty proceeds of his toil.
It can affect the cost of living in Aberdeen and Geneva as easily as in Chicago and New York.
It has, in the last three years, increased, for its own benefit, the expenses of every household in America. It controls or influences the prices of one half the food consumed by the nation. It has its share in the proceeds of more commodities of daily consumption than all other trusts, combinations, and monopolies together, and the prices of these it seeks to augment for its own profit.
It can make, within certain limits, the price of wheat, of corn, of oats, what it pleases; it willshortly be able to control the price of every loaf of bread.
Its operations have impoverished or ruined farmers and stockmen, destroyed millions of investments, caused banks to break, and men to commit suicide, precipitated strikes, and annihilated industries.
Our opponents tell us that the trust can be easily controlled. How can it be controlled in Australia when it has not been found possible to control it in the United States of America ? It will get the same hold here as it has got there. It is necessary for it to do so to prevent our exports from interfering with its prices in London and elsewhere. This organization controls half the food supplies of America, and yet the Attorney-General tells us lightly that he will deal with it when the time comes. I have yet to learn how we can deal with it under the Constitution as it stands, seeing that we have to rely upon a provision which is. identical with that of the United States Constitution, and in America they have failed to deal with it.
– What ought to be done ?
– The proposed alterations of the Constitution should have been carried last year. If there is another referendum, they will be carried by majorities of tens of thousands.
– Then what remedy would you apply?
– Our proposals for the alteration ofthe Constitution were opposed by our opponents at their full strength, and all the money that could be obtained was poured out to defeat them, because it was known that the Labour party would use the powers it had asked for to deal with the trusts.
– What would the party have done ?
– I am not here now to deal with details. It is for our friends opposite to satisfy the people that they have power to control these trusts. I have here a letter, dated Brisbane, 27th March, 1913, which I should like to read. It is headed. “ The Queensland Liberal Fund,” and addressed from “No. 10 Kent’s Buildings, Adelaide-street.’’’ Followingthe heading come the names of the trustees, and the letter is addressed to the Hon. D. F. Denham, M.L.A. The writer says -
Prior to the departure of Mr. John Reid, on holidays, he instructed me to furnish you with particulars of the total amount that has been contributed towards the Federal campaign that is now upon us, exclusive of the sum recently received from you; and I have now to advise you that the amount of subscriptions paid into the Liberal fund, and donated to the various branches and sections of the People’s Progressive League throughout the State, reaches the sum of £930 13s. 2d., since 23rd November, 1912, to date.
Mr.Reid instructed me to ask that you would be good enough to arrange for subsidy on that amount to be placed at the disposal of the above funds.
The letter is signed “ Osborn J. Fenwick, Secretary to the Trustees.” Across it is written -
My Dear Macartney,
Will this be satisfactory as certificate?
Macartney is the attorney and the agent for the Meat Trust in Queensland.
– What about that?
– Is it not a remarkable and significant fact?
– The Beef Trust was originated in Mr. Macartney’s office, in Brisbane. His clerks were the original shareholders.
– Yes. They formed the members of the company to enable it to be registered in the ordinary way. Yet honorable members wonder where funds came from to fight the referenda. I shall not proceed further with this matter tonight, but I shouldlik e to know from the Government how Ministers intend to deal with the financial difficulties with which the Commonwealth is faced. The Treasurer might give us some information on the subject. When the first Fisher Government went out of office it left a surplus of £600,000; but when it took office there was a deficit of £500,000 - the Fusion Government having gone to the bad during nine months, at the rate of a little over £100,000 a month. When the second Fisher Government went out of office it left a surplus of £2,600,000. Then the Treasurer tells us that, at the close of the first year of their existence, the present Government expect to have to face a deficit of £1,200,000.
– Not a deficit, a loss of revenue.
– Judging by the figures of reduced revenue to the end of February, it would appear that, if the revenue continues to decline at the same rate, we shall have to face a reduction in the revenue collected through the Customs of from £1,000,000 to £1,200,000 this year as compared with the revenue from the same source last year.
– The Government are not doing any work, and are saving money in that way.
– They are not doing any work, and they are not making any attempt to meet the financial difficulties in front of them. They are starving the Departments, and have issued instructions that work, in some branches of the Post and Telegraph Department at any rate, shall not be proceeded with.
– Then some one must be lying. I do not know who it is. The Government are starving the Departments, and we have a right to know from them what they propose to do to meet the expenditure to which they are committed. We shall have a further increased commitment in connexion with defence of about £300,000, for old-age pensions and maternity allowance a considerable sum, whilst the increased per capita payment to the States will also amount to a considerable sum. I do not hesitate to say that, at the close of the next financial year, the Treasurer will be face to face with a deficit of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000.
– Oh, no.
– What is the honorable member going to do to prevent it?
– I will tell the honorable gentleman by-and-by, but not now.
– Do the Government propose to take the course which was followed by the Attorney-General when he was a member of the Victorian Parliament ? That honorable gentleman is the leading man in the Federal Ministry to-day. He is the man who is guiding the party opposite. I admit that the party is split up into factions. Sir John Forrest leads one faction, the AttorneyGeneral another, and the honorable member for Parramatta a third. The three are fighting for leadership, and, if they can only get the honorable member for Parramatta out of the road, and the honorable member for Swan away as High Commissioner when Sir George Reid retires, the road will be clear for our friend, Mr. Irvine. When the AttorneyGeneral was in office in the State Parliament of Victoria, and desired to make revenue and expenditure meet, one of his proposals was to reduce the old-age pension from 10s. to 8s.
– Who proposed that?
– The present AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth.
That will be found at page 1356 of volume 106 of the Victorian Hansard. Let us see what one of the honorable gentleman’s own Liberals had to say concerning it. I find that Mr. Toutcher said -
They can strike down with a bludgeon the poor old-age pensioners and the civil servants, and when they are down they rifle their pockets. That is the principle of this Government.
The reference was to the Government led by the Attorney-General in the State Parliament. That appears to me to be the course which will be followed by the present Federal Government.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the 2s. 6d. rise in the oldage pension proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro?
– Yes, and I should vote for it cheerfully. I regret that many of the statements made on the other side were made. I have resented, and will continue to resent, very strongly all such statements. I was surprised and astounded at the statement made by the Attorney-General when he twitted the exPrime Minister with having used public funds for political purposes. I say that that statement was quite unwarranted. Such a statement should not have been made, and the last man in this House who should make it is the AttorneyGeneral. In the circumstances I am quite satisfied in repeating what I said in the early part of my remarks, and following the lines of reasoning adopted by the honorable gentleman, I have a right to say that the present Government should be charged with giving contracts to certain individuals, and so using public funds for party purposes. Those are not my words. I am following exactly the line taken by the Attorney-General.
– Does the honorable member make that charge?
– That is the charge which the Attorney-General made against this side, and I return it in the same language. If the charge is sound as applied to one side, it is equally sound as applied to the other. I again express my regret that a man like the AttorneyGeneral should descend to such things. Usually the honorable gentleman is fair, but I maintain that he was far from fair last night in making the statement I have quoted.
– Is that why the honorable gentleman returns the AttorneyGeneral’s language ?
– I do not know whether I have used the exact language of the Attorney-General. I am not prepared to quibble, and have given the purport of what he said. It is not by any means the first statement of the kind that has been made.
– Any impartial person, watching our proceedings this afternoon, must have come to the conclusion that - figuratively speaking - the bottom has dropped out of this proposed vote of censure. The honorable member who has just spoken managed to work himself up into a condition of anger and passion against everybody. By reading partisan extracts from a partisan book, that very few of us ever heard of, he has been “able to pump a little interest into the debate on his own side of the House. When a novice like the honorable member for Denison is put up as their fifth speaker in a debate of this kind, from what we are frequently told is “ the great Labour party,” one cannot help feeling that the interest on the other side is ebbing considerably. The public will draw their own conclusion from this state of things, and will be satisfied that either there are divided counsels in the Labour camp, or they have seen the error of their ways and wish now to abandon the motion which was intended to challenge the existence of the present Government. The honorable member for Wide Bay has been going through the Commonwealth for a considerable time, making charges against that Government. But it was quite evident to me, when I read his speeches, that this contract with regard to which the Assistant Minister spoke last night has been a perfect god-send to that party. It is about the only thing that stands out now with regard to their indictment. We used to hear of the Commonwealth Bank, out of which millions were going to be paid; we hear very little about it to-day. since its two balance-sheets have shown a loss of many hundreds of pounds. We heard a great deal about the note issue, which the Labour party treated as if it were going to operate as a sort of chaffcutter by which you could turn out an unlimited supply of notes, and thereby put the people in possession of an unlimited quantity of money; thathas gone by the board. Trusts were for a long time brought out from their magazine as a sort of bogy to frighten the people, and, although the Labour party had a substantial majority and were three years in office in which to bring the proprietors of the trusts to book, after making two vain attempts to do something with those which they believed were most glaring in their wrong-doing, they utterly failed. After three years of futility, they now turn round and endeavour to couple with this question of the contract the old bogy of trusts again. The public will gauge from that the depth, the intensity, and the real value of the Labour programme. We hear nothing about Socialism to-day. We hear nothing about the good time coming when everybody shall have as much money as his neighbour. We hear nothing about the vulgar wealthy, since a great many of the Labour party have managed to place themselves in the same condition as those whom they have been in the habit of abusing. The public will, as I say, judge for themselves as to how much sincerity there is in this amendment ; and they will see that the Labour party’s primary purpose in this charge - this half-hearted charge, because until the honorable member who has just sat down had pumped himself up into an apoplectic condition - it looked as if the whole thing had boiled over.Until that was done, it was quite evident that the Labour party had regretted the step they had taken, and were going to abandon it. If it had not been for one or two honorable members on this side having taken part in the debate, my own opinion, from appearances and from long experience, is that it would have been closed, probably to-day. The Labour party have, as I said, found a god-send in this contract. They have taken it up and used it for the purpose of charging the Government, not with inconsistency, but with ignoring the interests of the public in entering into a contract without calling for tenders. The public have a pretty good memory. They know very well that the Labour party themselves entered into a huge contract with the Western Australian Government without calling for tenders from anybody
– That is not correct.
– Although they knew that in Western Australia there were many men who would have been prepared to tender with the State Government. They entered into a. contract with the company which had to do with the powellising process.
– No, that is not correct.
– They entered into a contract with the Powell- Wood Process Companywithout giving anybody a chance of competing with any other process, and now they turn round with a new-found virtue and say, “ This Government are really not considering the interests of the people at all, because they have accepted a contract without calling for tenders, and thereby lost a percentage of 2½, which they might have made if they had only resorted to day labour.” The logic of this situation seems to me particularly shallow. If the Labour party will look to their own record they will find that they have a perfect category of occasions on which they have done the very same thing. Their charge should not have been,” You have accepted a contract without calling for tenders”; for they themselves are guilty. It should have been one of inconsistency. They might well have pointed to the Liberal party’s traditions and said, “ The Liberal party have hitherto called for tenders, and done their business in the open. But here is a case at last in which they have come round to our way of thinking.” They might have based upon that a charge of inconsistency; but they knew very well that if they went on the principle of inconsistency we could turn round and simply occupy a night in enumerating instances. Can you have any greater occasion of inconsistency than the vulgar abuse that has been heaped upon well-to-do people in this country for years? Yet, we find a very large number of the Labour party doing their utmost to grow rich and to entitle themselves to this vulgar abuse. Do we not know that the Labour party are constantly complaining of combinations? Yet the biggest combination in this country is that of the Trades Hall and the trade unionism of Australia. Have not the Labour party, again and again, charged combinations with producing the effect of raising the prices of food and the necessaries of life ? Have not their unions, by their combination, which they always leave out of the calculation, had the effect of raising the rents of the people, the prices of food of the people, the prices of clothes of the people? Yet, there is this new-found virtue by which they say the effect of the present Government letting a contract instead of calling for tenders is to involve the public in some extra expenditure.
I pass now from that to the question of the contract. I am perfectly prepared to admit that it was an administrative blunder. I think it was quite contrary to Liberal traditions.
– That is worse than anything that has been said.
– That is the biggest joke yet.
– When the laugh is over, I should like to say that,
As long as I have been connected with the Liberal party, either in the States or in the Commonwealth - and it covers a period of thirty-two years - it has always been the practice to do business of this kind in the open. That is the principle of Liberalism. It is the principle of the Equity Court with trustees. We treat a Minister as a trustee who is dealing with trust funds and trust properties. We say that a Minister must do everything in the open; that there must be no “ side doors,” as it has been called in this debate; that all must come in by the front door; and that, whatever is to be done in exchange for money, must be submitted to public tender, so that all the world may be able, not only to compete, but to see what the competition is, and to be assured that the best value is being got for the people. That has been the tradition of the Liberal party; there has been no side door in the Liberal party; and, therefore, I join with the Labour party, only in less violent terms, in speaking of this act of the Assistant Minister as a great error of judgment. I think that one wants to remember clearly that that honorable gentleman has not had much business experience. He was evidently attracted by what he thought to be a good bargain, but he made the error of mistaking administrative functions for professional functions. It is quite regular for a Minister to accept the advice of his officers on professional and technical matters ; but, when it comes to a question of policy, to a question of administration, it is right for him to turn round to an officer and say, “ You may advise me on your professional matters, for I am not an engineer; you may advise me on technical matters, for I do not understand them. I look to you for technical advice; but I reserve to myself, as a Minister of the Crown, the right to administer this Department according to the traditions of the party to which I belong.”
– He did not know the difference between the two.
– That may be, and I do not know whether the honorable member would be much wiser if he were in that position.
I desire now to say a few words about the Western Australian contract. As a member of the Liberal party, I think that a great error was committed in attempting to cancel that contract. I do not know whether all honorable members are aware of it, but I know that the contract contained a clause which enabled the Government to buy an unlimited number of jarrah sleepers where they liked, and at market prices as they pleased. In that way they could have debited the Western Australian Government with the whole cost consequent on their failure to fulfil their contract, and there was, therefore, no possible use in cancelling it.
– Another blunder.
– What does the Treasurer say?
– I am not proposing to answer for the Treasurer, or any one else. As an independent member of the Liberal party, I think it was a very great administrative mistake to cancel the contract, having regard to the clause it contained, which gave the Government all the remedies they needed. I shall be candid enough to say that I believe that it will do our party a good deal of injury in Western Australia. It has already done so, and I do not think that our position will be recovered by the attempt to patch up another contract in order to salve the sore which has resulted from the feeling that the Commonwealth Government have done an. injustice to that State. I want to now say a word about the despatch which was sent by Senator Millen to the Imperial Government. In my opinion, that was an ill-advised paper. As an electioneering piece of writing it was admirable, but the honorable gentleman seemed to forget that the movements of the Imperial Navy are not a matter for the man in the street. We know very well that Great Britain has lately passed through trying times in preparing herself for a possible attack by on p of the biggest European powers; and we know, further, that every two or three months the situation has been so changing that the Imperial Government never knew, from week to week, or month to month, exactly what the disposition of the Navy would be. Therefore, it was quite possible, quite feasible, quite allowable, and quite forgiveable that the Imperial Government may have entered into a certain arrangement at the Conferences in 1909 and 1911, and found it necessary at a later date to change their tactics.
– Then why did they not let the Minister of Defence know?
– The honorable member cannot say that the Minister did not knew. These despatches are confidential, and are not for the man in the street.
– There is nothing to show that the Minister knew. .
– The honorable member knows very well that these communications are not of a public nature, nor is it desirable that they should be so. If there were a gang of bushrangers in the neighbourhood it would be absurd to allow the public, and through the public the bushrangers, to know exactly how the police were being disposed. That information would be kept perfectly secret. Therefore, I think it was a crude and unstatesmanlike act on the part of the Minister to publish that despatch, in order to try to expose what he regarded as an unforgiveable inconsistency in the attitude of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The despatch I agree with in some respects, although it might have been couched in less truculent terms and treated diplomatically. Another feature of the despatch, from which I desire to dissociate myself, is that portion which spoke in disparaging terms of the Japanese people, who, whatever some members may think of them, are the international friends of Great Britain, walk arm in arm with the Mother Country, and, with her, are the guarantors of the peace of the East. For a Minister of the Crown to send out this philippic, so as to hurt the feelings of the Japanese people, if they think the Australian Minister important enough to take notice of, was very illadvised, and I wish to say that I dissociate myself from the spirit of that despatch and the attempt to belittle
Japan as a factor in assuring our safety in the Pacific.
– I do not think the honorable member can find anything im the despatch to substantiate that statement.
– I read terms in the document, which, I think, are distinctly disparaging to Japan.
There is another matter I wish to touch upon. The Attorney-General yesterday, and on many other occasions, elaborated his own ideas upon the subject of constitutional reform, and he has also elaborated his ideas upon the reform of the constitution of the Senate. Of course, each one of us has a perfect right to form what opinion he likes. The Attorney-General, as the honorable member for Flinders, has a. perfect right to form his opinion, but I in no way hold myself bound by the opinion he expresses, and I want to say, as a member of the Liberal party, that the honorable member’s opinions are no» part of the Liberal policy, and they should have no place in an ex cathedra utterance by the Attorney-General. I have no objection at present to the views of the honorable member. He is a constitutional! authority, and is at liberty to form what ideas he likes for the future as to the way this difficulty is to be overcome. It is a matter of great consequence, but te so talk of altering the representation of the different States in the Senate, simply means to talk of cutting at the very taproot of the tree of Federation. For my part, whilst I have every respect for the honorable member’s opinion, I think that any scheme, which has for its primary purpose, or as a necessity of effecting its purpose, interference with the equal representation of the States - that being the condition upon which the States entered into Federation - would be utterly futile, and no Government who attempted such a scheme could last after the fact came to the knowledge of the different States that such a result was sought to be effected.
I des’ire to refer just briefly to the subject of trusts. The Labour party have been, for years past, bringing this subject before the public and endeavouring to frighten the people, and I notice that, whenever the price of a commodity rises, they immediately attribute the rise, not to the fluctuation of the market, but to those- dreadful trusts. We were told years ago - and the then Government acted as if they believed what they told the public - that sugar was one of the commodities upon which the trust machinery was being exercised; and. the Government, having a majority of twelve, with the assistance of Sir William Lyne and Mr. Wise, passed a Bill which appointed a Royal Commission to thoroughly investigate this question. I will, not go into the details, because everybody knows what happened. The Royal Commission found that there was no combine at all, that the sugar company was producing sugar at a cheaper price than it could be produced by the State, and that nothing whatever was to be gained by nationalization. Then during the next three years the Government moved on to another bogy with regard to coal. There was a great combination between the coal-owners and the shipowners, we were told; the coal people were drawing so much heart’s blood, in the shape of extra price, from the people, and an investigation would have the effect of exposing this great abuse. What was. the result? An action, costing scores of thousands of pounds, was entered upon by the Government, and it resulted in the coal companies being held blameless, and being allowed all their costs, whilst the money which had been deposited by them in some instances, on the supposition that they had lost the case, was handed back to them.
– Who started the prosecution ?
– It was started by the Liberal party, it is true, but it was continued by the Labour party. If I start an action, and somebody, who comes into office after me, and makes later inquiry, continues it, does he not become equally responsible with me? Therefore, I say that the Labour party, in continuing this prosecution, showed that there was no trust controlling that commodity. We used to hear a great deal too much about tobacco, and I really felt that when so many complaints were made the thing would boil over in some mysterious way. We know that the Tobacco Trust was not prosecuted, and now we hear all sorts of encomiums on that Trust. They pay their people good wages; they give them good and cheap meals, and they are actually distributing a large sum of money among their employes. All the charges of the past went by the board, and after three years of Labour,, being in office and effecting no purpose, exposing nothing with regard to trusts, it is now found that the price of meat has gone up, and we are told that there is a great octopus in our midst which is. producing this effect.
– Where are the cheers on the other side now ?
– Let us examine this position. The alterations that have taken place in the American Tariff have made great changes in the outlook. American people are beginning to look abroad for some means of satisfying the meat requirements of their great population ; and having discovered a splendid source of supply in Australia, are coming here in the form of large organizations to buy our meat. The other day that authority on stock, Mr. Kidman, called the Cattle King, ridiculed the whole thing.
– Of course.
– I hope the honorable member does not think that, because a man has a few thousand cattle, he is going to turn completely round on his own convictions. I am inclined to credit a man, in the first place, with telling the truth until I find he is telling an untruth. The conditions in America are quite different from those in Australia.The enormous Tariff of the United States of America built up a veritable wall behind which these trusts could operate. There is no such thing in Australia with regard to certain requirements of life, and there is not the same opportunity for these trusts to operate. The only evidence we hear of as to the existence of this great trust in Australia is that the price of meat has gone up. Honorable members hail with pleasure the great growth in our production. Prices must go up as things progress, and the higher the prices the more our producers get from people outside. I am as anxious as any honorable member of the Labour party to detect the trust which is injurious to the people, and when the time comes that evidence is forthcoming to show that there is an octopus in our midst which is injuring our people by interfering with competition, and with the free play of commerce, honorable members of the Opposition will see that I am as willing as they are to join in throttling it, in order to prevent its reaching the injurious condition the Meat Trust has reached in the United States. Dr.
Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States, in his book, called The New Freedom, points out very clearly the1 condition of things under which the trusts of America have been able to throttle the whole of the trade of the United States and stifle the individuals or groups of individuals desirous of entering into competition with them, and he expresses his determination to do something in that direction. I think that bis performances already in regard to the Hay-Pauncefote treaty are an earnest to us that we have in President Wilson a man who is determined to establish the principles of justice in the United States in all internal and international relationships, and that he will prevent the continuance of this terrible state of abuse which has brought the meat business in America to its present position. I have no fear of trusts at the present time, and when the Labour party are able to lay their hands on some tangible evidence to show that competition is being interfered with, or that private individuals are being abused in regard to their own production, I shall join heartily with them in taking some rational steps to prevent it. However, we must not forget that in every State of Australia there axe Statutes under which a State can prosecute in any shape or form these organizations, it is not to be supposed that because we do not have a Commonwealth Act which satisfies some honorable members, we are unable to do anything. My opinion is that the laws that now exist are capable of dealing with the matter. If they are not, and it can be shown in this House to any impartial man that there is need for legislation, and that any legislation can be framed and brought before the House which will effect the purpose of killing these abuses, I shall be one of the first to assist in bringing about that result.
– Is not our Federal Act one of the most drastic in the1 world?
– In this debate I do not wish to enter upon a detailed discussion as to the laws dealing with trusts. Ifr would be out of place. I have only referred to them because I have seen the old bogy brought up in this amendment of want of confidence in order to frighten the people again over a fourth commodity after it has already’ utterly failed in regard tot three commodities during the three years of Labour administration. The position! in regard to the Senate is very serious. The Labour party are utterly failing tolook at the- matter- from a democratic stand-point. I know that Democracy isa laughing matter when you are on the* right side ; and that seems to he the attitude of the Labour party. Ever since- 1890, when the Labour party cameinto the Parliament of New South Wales, I have been accustomed to hear the cry of Democracy, “ one man one” vote,” “one vote one value,” and all those platitudes that tell so well on the public platform ; but when the chance comes of modifying some power so as to approach more closely the ideal of Democracy, we have laughter and guffaws that are not creditable to, or thoughtful on the part of, the party who give expression to them. We have the House of Representativeselected by the people on the oneadultonevote principle, yet we have another House in the position of putting a packing case against the wickets in a game of” cricket and calling on the House of Representatives to continue bowling. Any Government would be hopeless in such a> position. Is that a realization of the ideal of Democracy? Has not the time* come for the Labour party, at all events, to try to satisfy the public that when they talk of Democracy and one adultone vote, and one vote one value, they arenot merely talking with their tongue in their cheek, but that they mean to do everything to put our Constitution in such* a condition that the people’s House will have some opportunity, at all events, of having its legislation considered upon, democratic principles? We are not going to make much progress, I am sure.. I do not believe there will be a double dissolution. I am satisfied” that those two Bills, upon which our’ party are relying, will be passed by the Senate. They will be passed with modifications, but. they will be such modifications that this House and the Government can accept. It stands to reason that that will be so.
– Are you fishing?
– No; I have done ray fishing in the matter. I have my fish in my creel. I know what my conclusions are-. I undertake to sa.y that: when it is all over we shall find, these two-, measures, accepted by the* Senate on very, national grounds, so- as to avoid the: possibility of a double dissolution. Notwithstanding the paralyzed condition of our public affairs at the present time, I find more consolation than most people in the fact that we as a party, who profess to do everything in the open and above board, and to deal out fairness, apart from favoritism and preference, to every man in the community, have charge of the purse-strings of the country. The finances are in the hands of a man in whom ‘ I, at all events, have the greatest confidence. He is a sure check upon reckless expenditure; and I am satisfied that the public are assured that the finances, however difficult they may be to administer, are being handled by an experienced man under- the advice of a Liberal Government; and that this is a substantial ground for the feeling of confidence that the affairs of Australia are perfectly safe.
.- As a new member, who has never had the pleasure prior to this of speaking in a House of Parliament, I may be excused if I am somewhat diffident on this my first appearance. I have listened with interest to the debate so far as it has gone ; and the utterances of the last speaker in particular have struck me as being exceeding peculiar. I hope I may not be regarded as trying to be witty if I say to him, “Come over here,.” because he has’ added to our side’ of the argument. Like all Conservatives, however, he has taken up an attitude that really represents the acme of Conservatism, in his final remarks, he commented on the construction or personnel of the Senate; and it can be easily seen that with him it is a case of sour grapes. We on this side have fought the battle of the Labour party, and there are some honorable members amongst us old enough to be my father who have been in the movement from the very beginning. We have had- to fight step by step, until to-day the Labour party are predominant here; and that is what hurts honorable members opposite. We did not set the tune that we are forced to play to-day. At the framing of the Constitution, there was not one Labour representative. It was conceived as the correct thing, in accordance with the Federal compact, that each State, to preserve its identity,, should have equal representation in another place. To that conception., the: Federal Contention, was. driven by the’ force of. the embryo Labour party - by the true Liberals, and Democrats; - and to-day we find that the Senate represents, the party that heretofore, right throughout the ages, has. been on the other side of. the fence. The Liberals are not. presenting the case fairly to the’ country when they say that the Senate has blocked legislation necessary to the good government- of the country, although the Senate- has certainly blocked those two things that our opponents call Bills. Honorable members opposite have, so to speak, stepped up and tweaked our noses, and it is not to be supposed that we are going to take that “ sitting down.” If I may be allowed to use a vulgarism, honorable members opposite have- got the “ wrong pig by the ear.” When our opponents say that the Senate is wrongly constructed- on. the- first occasion on which it has proved powerful enough to put the present Government im the position that the Labour party have, been in from time immemorial, so far asresponsible governments are concerned, it only shows their weakness. All that theLiberals say to the Senate is, “ If you will not give us what we desire, we shall’ go to the Governor-General and get you: kicked out.” Let our opponents accept, the. position like men. We have a perfect right to take up our present attitude, seeing that there is not a majorityof votes with the Government here, bub. only a majority of members returned at; the last election. Under the circumstances, we are equal in this House, and’ Democracy is represented in the- Senateby twenty-nine votes to seven-. Taking it by and large, the Labour party are thedominant factor, and yet we have thispuerile thing that is called a Bill to prohibit preference to unionists presented to us. I did not intend to open my remarks by touching on the observations of previous speakers, but rather to discuss^ the position as it appears to a new member. I came here with a thoroughly open mind, apart, of course, from the bias I have in the direction of the Labour party. I do not wish to pose as an unbiased individual, because I am as good a party man as any who sits on the otherside. Never mind how Conservative any one of our opponents may be, I am justas much a Labourite as he is a Conservative; I- am perfectly clear as to where I- stand. I was much interested in theGovernorGeneral’s Speech, which it wasmy pleasure to hear for the first time;. and I did anticipate that it would contain something of the policy of the present Government. Regarding the whole Speech, in one glance, from my point of view, I think that the policy of the Government is simply set to the tune which the State Premiers have called, and which the Government have to pipe. I had expected some explanation of the policy from the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply.
– Were both Labour Premiers wrong when they assented to what was done?
– One of the Labour Premiers, if the newspaper reports are correct, said he was not at the Conference to make a policy for the Prime Minister, and, as to the other Labour Premier, it was not an easy matter to get him to go in the way desired, because he is not a man to be driven sheep-like. I do not say that all the deliberations of the Premiers’ Conference were not in the best interests of Australia as a whole; but I did expect some little explanation from the two honorable members to whomI have referred. I naturally looked to them to deal with the salient points of His Excellency’s Speech, and anticipated that after I had heard them I, as a new member, would have been conversant with the intentions of the Government during this session. I was much amused at the way in which the honorable member for Robertson jumped forward to the table and said, “I am game to deal with paragraph 3.” I really thought that, like a man I knew, he meant to “ deal “ with the subject, and that, after he had done, we should have felt the sting of his blows. But, as a matter of fact, the whole gist of his utterance was that preference to unionists was opposed to British justice and fair play. As the son of a Britisher, born at Home, I am not too proud of British fair play and British justice. In my opinion, British justice would not stand the light of day if it were dissected by an unbiased mind.
– By the honorable member’s mind, for instance.
– Yes; if I bad to administer British justice, I should put the motor-car man and the man in rags and tatters on the same plane ; and this is, not what has been done, according to the records of the past. The honorable member for Robertson told us that it was on the principles of fair play and justice that the Empire had been built up; but I say, nothing of the kind. When the Old Country was an empire builder, the working men, who had to fight, made it possible for us to be in the handsome position we are, as an Empire only. If the honorable member for Werriwa is true to all the stories printed in his Bible - the Standard - he must know that Great Britain is owned by a mere handful of people, and that, as Campbell Bannerman told us, there are from day to day in Great Britain 12,000,000 on the verge of starvation. Do we want that sort of British justice and fair play? Thank God Australia knows nothing of it. When honorable members opposite twit us with the statement that preference to unionists does not conform to the principles of British justice I am rather proud to reply that we have got out of that particular rut, and that we have found something better than Great Britain has found for those who fought and bled for the Empire to which the honorable member for Robertson, patting his chest, acclaims that he is proud to belong.
– Over 200 Arbitration Acts were passed in Great Britain.
– The honorable member for Robertson said that the late Government adopted the principle of preference to unionists, which was opposed to British principles of fair play. The honorable member for Werriwa now intimates that there are twenty-two Arbitration Acts in Great Britain.
– I said that 200 were passed.
– I do not know whether all of them are yet operative; but if my honorable friend’s statement is correct, I hope that those Acts will have upon the 12,000,000 on the verge of starvation in Great Britain the same beneficial effect as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act will have, if it is administered as it should be, upon the people of Australia. For the benefit of the honorable member for Robertson, I propose to make a quotation, not from what the honorable member for Parkes has described as newspapers biased in our direction, but from the British Shoe and Leather Record of 7th November, 1913. The quotation is as follows: -
An indication of the trend of things in the industrial world is given by recent happenings in the coal trade. It will be remembered that last year Parliament enacted a law for coal miners, which provided (subject, to local conditions) a statutory minimum wage for all men who worked under ground. This was the expedient which brought the national strike in the coal-fields to an end.
Is the honorable member listening? Has he heard the statement that it was the passing of an arbitration law which brought this strike to an end? In giving up the right to strike, the workers of this country assisted to secure by legislation that industrial peace which honorable members opposite say they desire, but for which they are unwilling to give anything in return. The quotation continues -
But, as we pointed out at the time, the principle thus established in relation to a great industry was sure to have results not to be foretold at the moment, and one of them we now see in the action of the colliery owners of North Staffordshire.
– The Prime Minister came from Staffordshire.
– I, too, came from Staffordshire - from a village not far from the birthplace of Sir Edwin Smith, one of the greatest patriots the British Empire has ever known.
– Is that why the honorable member decries British justice?
– I am not decrying the British people. The people of Great Britain have never had a chance of making British justice. The honorable member for Robertson coupled his reference to British justice and fair play with equal opportunity at the ballot-box. Is he aware that only about 7,000,000 of the people of Great Britain have equal opportunity at the ballot-box? That is the position in the beautiful British Empire. In speaking thus, I wish it to be understood that I am referring to the Empire only as an industrial world, since we are fighting now a great industrial question, and that I am not comparing it as a nation with other nations. I hope my honorable friends opposite will be quite clear on that point. The quotation continues -
In order to avoid a threatened strike against the employment of non-union labour the coal owners in that field have joined hands with the unions by recognising that “in the interests of employers and men alike, all the workmen shall be members of a trade union.”
This was done in the interests of the coal mine-owners themselves -
This soundsstartling, yet it is the natural consequence of the fixing of wages by Boards of Arbitration whose decisions have the force of law.
All men equal in the eyes of the law -.
There is obviously no business reason - and this appears in black type - why employers should add to their troubles by insisting upon using non-union labour, which has to be paid at the same rate as union labour. It is probably true in industries, where union labour is predominant, that the non-unionists are chiefly those who wish to avoid paying their weekly dues - and at the same time receive trade union wages.
Those, Mr. Prime Minister, are the sneaks of society. Our honorable friends opposite knew full well what the leader of the Opposition meant when he referred to the sneaks of society, and whether it be palatable or not to them, I am going to repeat the statement. Such men are the sneaks of society. They are the camp followers in the industrial war,- who are not game to come into the fighting line to secure better conditions for themselves, but who will come in after the fight is over and gluttonously gobble up everything that has been gained by it. We have no hesitation in hitting these men hard, as they ought to be hit. Although the fight of the workers to obtain their rights in this regard may be long and strenuous, the Labour party will not be found falteringor hesitating to say that every man in the industrial world who takes any advantage that has been gained for him by his fellow workers ought to be prepared to foot the bill and to help to bear the burden.
– It will mean another 2,000,000.
– Keep quiet.
– Order ! It is an old parliamentary practice, and, I think, a very good one, that a new member shall be listened to in silence.
– The article continues -
How long it will be before the movement to which we have called attention spreads to the trades with which we are especially concerned: no man knoweth. But it can only be a question of time. It is felt to be intolerable that the best employers should have harder conditions imposed on them until the entire industry is brought into line. In other words, the federated manufacturers cannot meet competition in the open market unless all the centres where the trade is carried on are organized and controlled alike, or as nearly alike as local conditions will permit. And so we see the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives and the Federation of Boot Manufacturers working together within the past few months as they have never worked before.
I hope that that statement will sink into the minds of honorable members opposite, who tell us that preference to unionists is not in accordance with British justice and fair play. In that very country in which British justice has been built up the members of the Boot Operatives Union - the employes - are working in conjunction with the masters in the industry, the employers realizing that they have no right to assist the sneaks of society who are not game to fall into the fighting line. The Ministerial party say that we do not control the whole industrial community, because only a proportion of the workers are unionists. We recognise that that is so, but there are many industries in which it is not possible for the men to join a union. If suitable avenues were offering, then, instead of the number of unionists being what it is to-day, nearly every one who votes for us at election time would be a member of a union. Even if every worker is not a paying member of a union, the fact remains that we must have the sympathy and support of every one who votes for us at the ballot-box. The Leader of the Opposition stigmatized as “ the sneaks of society “ the camp followers who take all the advantages of unionism, but are not prepared to do anything for it, and, our opponents now wish to make it appear that he applied that appellation to every individual who does not contribute to the funds of the Labour party. They know they are giving out to the general public something that is not a fact. That is often the way they fight their battles, and when we tell them of it, they say we are impugning their personal honour. It is not their personal honour, but their methods that we impugn, and it is their methods that give them whatever power they may have. Let me finish this quotation -
Each organization sees the need of strengthening the other before much can be done to either raise wages or shorten working hours.
The Trades Boards Act, which regulated wages for certain sweated industries, created a precedent which was followed by the measure enforcing minimum wages in coal mines. The public conscience, having approved of these most revolutionary laws, must now be prepared for others. The principle having been established that wages in certain industries must be settled by combination of masters on one side and the men on the other, the extension of the same principle to other trades can scarcely be resisted. How far this movement will spread it is impossible to say, but it will go much farther before reaction sets in. And on the whole we are disposed to encourage the new movement. When it has spent its course we hope that relations between employers and employed will be on a better footing than they are to-day. But the need of the movement is to prevent industrial strife by providing legal means for settling disputes and regulating - wages and hours or labour.
I assert that preference to unionists does make all men equal under the law. The other side say that our unions are close corporations. They are nothing of the kind, so far as I know them. There may be one or two specific trades in which a man has to serve a certain number of years of apprenticeship. Indeed, it is necessary, to conserve the interests of these trades, to fix a fairly stiff entrance fee. I do not see that that is wrong, because it has, perhaps, taken a good many years to raise a trade to its present level. In the circumstances, I am disposed to support the view that a man who wants to enter a union of that sort should pay the price that the union demands. No one could enter the legal profession without paying the necessary fees, nor can a man become a member of the British Medical Association without paying the prescribed amount. If a man wants to get into the Pelt Hatters Union, he must pay the entrance fee required. If he wants to get into other skilled trades, in which the unions have a fair amount of good work to their credit, and are now beginning to reap the benefits of that work, he is rightly called upon to pay the amount specified as an entrance fee. But no man is prohibited from joining a union, and we have no desire to shut anybody out of the benefits of the legislation that has been brought about by the Labour party in politics. The majority of unions, and I have come into close touch with a large number of them, have their organizers going round. As soon as a man takes a job in the industry covered by an organization, he is waited upon by the organizer and asked to join. If a man goes into a shearing shed, either as a labourer or a shearer, the Australian Workers Union will not ask him to pay a higher subscription than its oldest members pay. Whatever the honorable members opposite say about wool rising in price, it must be remembered that the Australian Workers Union, by the strength of its organization, has brought about greatly improved conditions for these men. Newcomers can enter on the terms I have stated, and after they have been in the union for a certain time, they can get an old-age ticket, which carries with it funeral benefits. I am proud of the great unions, and am confident that the general public will refuse to allow themselves to be blinded with the dust that certain people try to throw into their eyes, but will see that preference to unionists is the right thing. The Liberal organizers, when they go round, will tell a woman who has ‘a promising son that when he becomes old enough to work, if he does not join a union, he will not, no matter how clever he may be, be able to get a job. That is all nonsense, and they know it. If ib was said in ignorance, we could forgive them j but they go round with these stories knowing that they are untrue. During the last referenda campaign, one lady canvasser told one of the constituents of a member of this House that “ If these proposals are carried, they could tell you that you must not grow that tree in your front, and must shift it to the back, and you would have to do so.” That happened at Mitcham, a suburb of Adelaide. It is a positive fact, which shows how the other side will distort things. My honorable friend opposite, who quoted British law and justice, and said that sometimes unions may penalize a man, must admit that the community often has to penalize some of its members because they will not observe the laws. We have laws in our unions, which must be observed, and no one knows that fact better than the Prime Minister. Every effort you make, and every step you take in a trade union, you can see where you are going, and you know what the result is going to be. No one knows better than the Prime Minister the benefits of trade unionism, because he has been in it, and has been elevated by it. I often think, when I hear him reviling us and our methods, that the honorable member for Parramatta has to thank that old unanimity of membership for placing him where he is to-day. As other speakers have said, the Government Preference Prohibition Bill is a mere delusion and a sham. It contains nothing. What is asked for has already been done by the Government as an act of administration, and the real object of the measure is to set the Senate at variance with this House. Honorable members opposite know there is nothing else in it. They know it will not make one unionist less in the whole of the Government service. They know that the spirit of unionism has come to stay, and the party opposite want to cripple it. They know that every day hundreds of youths are reaching the age of twenty-one, and are breaking away from the old Conservative traditions in which their fathers were brought up. Consequently, every day brings fresh recruits to the ranks of the Labour party. We fear no double dissolution. Personally, I do not. I feel that South Australia would do to-morrow the same as it did on the 31st of May. The electors of Adelaide realize all that the Labour party stands for, and have been made to love the party through the efforts of the man to whose seat in this House I have succeeded. Brother Roberts made the electors of that constituency worship him, and he so inspired them with a regard for the principles for which we strive to gain recognition that, out of very honour to his memory, they would not see that seat lost to Labour. I do not mind one whit the result of any election which may take place in the immediate future. Somebody said this afternoon that there was not enough acid ladled out by the Attorney-General to go round. But, so soon as the acid is put upon my honorable friends opposite, they squirm like a snail which has had salt put upon ‘ it. There is not one of them who, if he were transferred to a State Parliament to-morrow, would advocate the application to the Legislative Councils of the same treatment which it is proposed to mete out to the Senate. The Attorney-General has suggested that true Democracy should prevail, but I take it that, if the Liberal party were fortunate enough to secure a majority of seats in both Houses of this Parliament, their very first endeavour would be to throttle the Democracy. They would then go back upon the Federal compact. In South Australia, at the recent general election, we were inundated with literature which accused us of being Unificationists. Our opponents had prepared a map of Australia, containing no State boundary lines, and with only one little spot marked upon it, namely, Canberra. “ Vote for the referenda proposals, and this is what it means,” they proclaimed. I repeat that if, as the result of an appeal to the people, my honorable friends opposite secured a majority in both branches of the National Legislature, they would resort to gerrymandering practices, such as were tried in South Australia, and with very successful results. In that State they gerrymandered so successfully that certain constituencies are practically in the bag, and the “Ikey Mo’s” can do with the Labour party just what they choose. When we come to analyze the arguments advanced by my honorable friends opposite, it will be seen that they are inherently unsound. During this debate a good deal has been said in regard to the slandering of Australia. Personally, I am proud of this country, and I would not wittingly malign it. I believe that Australians know too much about their own welfare to resort to unclean electoral practices. Though there may be a greater number of names on the rolls than there should be, I say, without hesitation, that, no matter what system may be adopted for purging those rolls, within a very few months - owing to migration and deaths - the discrepancies will be as great as ever they were. We have been asked who are the slanderers of Australia. I say unhesitatingly that they are the Fusion party. I do not say that that party is composed exclusively of the Liberal members of this Parliament. But the slanderers of Australia consist of the men who are to be found within its ranks. When it was discovered that the Labour party had been so successful on 31st May last year, the newspapers had most horrible tales to tell about rollstuffing, and about dead people having voted. In this connexion, I propose to make a quotation from the best Liberal organ in South Australia, which flogged the question for all it was worth. It had been stated that we could not regain the Boothby seat, which had been wrested from us by Mr. D. J. Gordon. We put our heads together, and did a little bit of solid organizing. We followed the person who had told a lady elector that, if the referenda proposals were carried, she would be compelled to remove a tree which was growing in front of her house to the rear of her dwelling. The other side did not always remember what they had said, whereas we always told the same tale. As a result of our efforts, the winning of Boothby was a staggering blow to our opponents. The electors had put the acid upon them in no unmistakable manner. We had regained Boothby ; that electorate had returned three Labour senators, and it had also carried the re- ferenda proposals. There is no doubt that by his deeds the present Prime Minister must be judged. He is of the Fusion crowd, and underneath the insinuations which were made of malpractices at .the recent election undoubtedly lies the accusation that our electors were corrupt. The Register, of 15th June last year, said -
Allegations of oft-repeated votes in the name of the same person have come in, not from a” few isolated parts, but from practically all of them. There is no smoke without fire. Scrutineers of long experience have declared that they have never known an election so fraught with suspicion and irregularity as the one which was held last Saturday. People were seen to enter three or four polling booths. Why should Goodwood residents have to go to Wayville and Parkside voters to Hyde Park? What was the meaning of this topsy-turvydom and deliberate inconvenience? The suggestion is that there is a motive.
I can give the reason for that. The reason is that the honorable member for Boothby now sits in this Chamber on the Labour ticket. That is what hurts. The statement was made that a motor car was kept employed from 7 in the morning until 7 at night, carrying persons round to vote as often as they could. Those who said that forgot that the polling booths did not open until 8 a.m. We know that Parkside voters went to Hyde Park, and Goodwood voters to Wayville. I know the individual who took them. But there would have been chaos if he had not done so. The polling booth at Goodwood was crowded, and he took voters to a booth where there were fewer electors attending. Electors were also taken from Prospect to Nailsworth because the Prospect booth was taxed to its utmost. In many of the booths the crowd was so great that, it was difficult for the officers to carry out their duties properly. Our friends on the other side suggested, in regard to this action of taking electors from a crowded booth to one which was not so busy, that where there is smoke there is fire. The fire that burns them is the fact that we won the seat. They are really in opposition, because in this House parties are equal, and in the Senate we have a large majority. A leading article in that august journal, the Register, a very bitter article occupying a column and a quarter, printed on the 13th June last, contains inter alia this statement -
A few days ago numbers of South Australians, perfectly honest in the ordinary affairs of life, made thieves of themselves by stealing votes.
Had persons stolen votes, the Register would have been right in condemning them, but Mr. Harris, the Divisional Returning Officer for Boothby, told the Electoral Commission, during its recent visit to Adelaide, that he did not think that there had been one case of personation in the division, and that the apparent cases of personation were due to clerical errors. The slandering of the electors of Australia started with the Liberals, and there was no limit to those slanders, not only South Australia, but every other State, being maligned, until we had to go to the expense of appointing the Commission which is still sitting. This mountain of slander, after its labour, has not even brought forth a small mouse. There is nothing in the Governor-General’s Speech that indicates that the Government intends to be very vigorous during the session. Apparently when two Bills which have been mentioned have received their despatch in another place, we shall be sent to the country if Ministers have their desire. There is little in the Speech to guide a new member as to the intentions of Ministers. I am not opposed to the Commonwealth supporting the Murray waters scheme by granting £1,000,000 for the development of irrigation, though I hope that when the Bill necessary to sanction this arrangement is introduced, it will be found to contain the proper safeguards to protect the Commonwealth interest, and to insure the proper carrying out of the work. South Australians like myself have heard the Murray waters question discussed from the time they commenced to understand politics. Mr. Simpson Newland is a South Australian patriot who has taken a very active interest in it, as has also our worthy Minister of External Affairs. There have been reams of talk printed about it, but nothing tangible has resulted. To use the quotation of the honorable member for West Sydney, it has been a case of, “ Not now, O Lord, not now,” with one Government after another. To the credit of the Labour party be it said that when Tom Price came to be Premier of South Australia, he took such active steps to develop the navigation and irrigation of the Murray that to-day no Government dare ignore the subject. I do not wish to be regarded as parochial because I support the agreement which has been made between the Commonwealth and the States interested. I feel sure that if the River Murray is used as it can be, great things will be done for the development of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made this agreement. As to the transfer of the State debts, I shall wait to hear a further statement from the Government before expressing an opinion. T have read various schemes, and am afraid that, like the Murray River question, the State debts question will have to wait years for its settlement. Great prominence has been given to the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway by the action of the Minister of Home Affairs in making a contract with Mr. Teesdale Smith, which he has sought to justify by producing ali the papers, and showing that he acted on the advice of his officers. Being a young member, I shall not criticise what the Minister has done, but if I come back after the dissolution that has been so much spoken of, I hope that on some other occasion I shall be able to subject to criticism Ministerial action of this kind in the way in which this action has been criticised from this side during the debate. Members of this party have shown their anxiety for the interests of Australia, and have amply justified the Leader of the Opposition in proposing to add to the Address-in-Reply the statement that the Administration has not safeguarded those interests. I was in Port Augusta on 2nd February, and took the opportunity to go along the line as far as it was completed, about 68 miles. Mr. Teesdale Smith had been in the neighbourhood a day or two before, and I believe that Mr. Baxter and Mr. Timms were on the spot. It was common knowledge in Port Augusta then that the daylabour system was coming to an end. I was told that all the heads had been along the line, and that they knew it. I shall not criticise the Minister of Home Affairs for the contract that he made. His carefulness in noting the last paragraph, which was Mr. Teesdale Smith’s great move, is to be commended. But I would point out that the negotiations originated in a telegram from Captain Saunders, in which it was stated by Mr. Teesdale Smith that it had come to his knowledge that Mr. Deane would accept the proposal for a contract. When the proposal was made Mr. Deane submitted it. This shows that the acceptance of ‘a contract must have been in Mr. Deane’s mind some weeks before the telegram was despatched. He must have had .the assurance of the Minister that he would be empowered to do so. I feel that when these gentlemen could get the whisper, so to speak, and be out on the railway route spying out the land, it should have been possible for the “Minister of Home Affairs to have called tenders for .the contract prior to that time. T was rather surprised, when we got to the end pf the line, to find that the track-layer had stopped working. There was then a stretch of loose sand, then the lagoon, and from there we started to rise over the hills, and nothing was being done with the track-layer. I watched the men at work, and had some sympathy for them. I hope that preference to unionists in regard to construction work on that railway will be carried out, if only for the sake of those men. No person who is interested in the welfare of his fellow-man would .desire to see men compelled to work under conditions under which he would not care to work himself. I “had my midday meal at the side of the line, with the heat up to 110 degrees in the shade. The water Ave used had been carried, out on the train, and poured from the train into tanks which stood in the open without anything to shelter them from the sun. I do not know what that water was like at 6 o’clock in the evening. Any man -who desired a cool drink from the tanks would have to consider a temperature of from 98 to 100 degrees as cool. If a man could imagine that water to be ice water, then he might be able to refresh himself with it. I sat there with a friend under a mulga bush, and joined in conversation with the men while they were enjoying their crib. We had to be brushing away the flies all the time. The Treasurer knows the conditions, and I suppose he considers it was nice for the men to work under such conditions. If only honorable members saw the flies there, they could imagine what the conditions are like. I had a pannikin of tea, and when a gust of wind came along the sand gritted on one’s teeth after he drank his tea. Those are the conditions under which these men have to work who are asking for 13s. 4d. a day, and I say that they earn every penny of it, es- pecially when it is remembered that they have to send the bulk of their wages to their wives, who -may be in Adelaide, or some1 other city of the Commonwealth. When I got to “the end of the line, ‘I found that no preparation ‘had been made to go further. I do not know who was to blame for that; but it seemed to me that the engineers at both ends of iiic line should have had sufficient foresight ‘to have prevented the track-layer from being allowed to lie idle. The riding ganger said to us, “ We are sorry we cannot show you the tracklayer in operation, but you see we Have come to the end of the ballast, and, consequently, cannot go any further.” ‘I feel sure that the engineers must have known the position as it was then, and the Minister has, I think, been to some extent misled by them as to the necessity of the work, inasmuch as time is the essence of the contract, and it is to be carried out in “three ‘months. I feel satisfied that when the contract is completed the track-layer will be where I saw it, at the 68-miles peg. Even if the contract is completed in three months, we shall not be making the progress with the line that I think we ought to make. T do no’t contend that the Honorary Minister has knowingly done anything which he should not have done, “but I do say that, in connexion with this matter, the Ministry collectively are deserving of the vote- of censure which the Leader of the Opposition has moved. In the opinion of the members of this party, and I think of the country generally, it has been amply demonstrated that day labour is cheaper and more in the interests of the community than is the contract system ; and, on the ground of their departure from the daylabour system alone, I feel that the Government are deserving of censure. I should like to refer now to some of the remarks of the Attorney-General. He is very anxious that he should not be charged with saying what on their face his words do not mean; but I have yet to learn that the honorable gentleman is not adept at scarifying his opponents by innuendoes in the manner which he so much disapproves as applied to himself-. Speaking of the honorable member for West Sydney, and his connexion with Socialists and Syndicalists, the AttorneyGeneral had no hesitation in telling the general public that Mr. Hughes, as Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federa- -tion, was simply, offering the members of the Federation a dog biscuit. The honorable gentleman said, “ Could you not -see the blood in his nostrils?” What does :he wish the general public to infer from that ? Why such lurid language in speaking of a gentleman who was doing his best to better the conditions of Che waterside workers? “The blood in his nostrils.” “ He was driving the mastiff back into the kennel.” In these words, the AttorneyGeneral was comparing the Socialist and the Syndicalist members of the Labour party to a mastiff. Then the honorable gentleman used the old shibboleth about the marriage tie and the sanctity of the home. I repudiate that insinuation, and have often repudiated it before. The members of the Labour party respect their women folk quite as much as do the members of any other section of the community.
– More so.
– Yes, more so. How often, when the father has been stricken down and the mother left almost destitute with her children, do we find the eldest of the family, whether a boy or a girl, taking up the responsibility of the breadwinner? Thousands of such cas:: could be enumerated. If we look at the other side of the picture, we shall find that when the breadwinner is taken, there is generally enough left .to keep the widow and family until the children are old enough to care for themselves, and they usually have servants to wait upon them. I say that it is a base calumny to suggest that we would interfere with the sanctity of the marriage tie or of -home life. The suggestion is the more base, in view of the fact that, speaking of the party collectively, we have risen from the 12,000,000 who are always on the verge of starvation. The first trade unionists in Great Britain were sent out to Van Diemen’s Land for seven years, and the Judge, in sentencing them said, “ It is not for anything you have done, but as an example.” He said that he must, in the interests of the general community, transport those men for seven years. That is what we had to put up with. When I hear this talk about our interference with the marriage tie and the sanctity of the home, I am reminded of the way in which the cormorant bosses used to work the kiddies so that a youngster waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning would say, “Is it time to go to work, daddy?” Who dragged the women out of the mines ? Who claims equal .pay for equal work by women ? Who is -it that ha$ always stood for making the members of the general community better off than when they came into the world ? It is our side. When we are told that we would interfere with the marriage tie and the sanctity of the home, that we have blood in our nostrils, and are shoving the mastiff back -into the kennel, I say that it ill-becomes a gentleman who uses such language to twit honorable members on this side with imputing motives.
– And a cultured man, too.
– Yes, a man of high mental attainments gained in avenues that are not open to the working man. In the light of his disadvantages in this connexion, the working man should be commiserated upon his shortcomings rather than condemned. Let me say a word now on the question of the referenda. I was rather amused .to hear the Attorney-General on that question. He told us what the referenda proposals were from bis point of view. He took them line by line and item by item, and said that the whole of the “ children,” as he termed them, were misshapen and paralyzed from their birth, would be inoperative, and could achieve .nothing. Had they been carried, he said, we could not have attained the object at which we aimed, and from his point of view, they were not worth much consideration. I am prepared to accept his knowledge as a legal man on that question. If our referenda proposals were not what we thought, they were, at least, an earnest of our desire to give to the Commonwealth Parliament greater power. Even the honorable and learned gentleman himself will admit that, under the Constitution as it is, this Parliament has not the requisite power to deal with a number of circumstances that may arise from time to time. If our referenda proposals were misshapen, or deformed, or inoperative, they still showed that we desired to make the Constitution what it should be - a living thing, and not a thing controlled by the dead hand of the past. We went into the movement whole-heartedly, and, although I accept the Attorney-General’s definition of what he believed our proposals to be, I am not going to say that we shall not resubmit them to the people. No matter how misshapen they may be, or how puerile he may say they are, they will be resubmitted. That is the point I want to make. It was very funny indeed to hear from him that they were misshapen, deformed, paralyzed, inoperative proposals. We have only to turn up the newspapers issued at the time of the last general elections to find how much type was used in fighting our proposals. The people who thought that our proposals were no good very nearly went down on their bended knees to ask the electors to vote “ No.” South Australia was inundated with literature. Money was poured out like water. The organizers for the Liberal Union had money placed to their credit. They did not have to say how it was used or spent. There was the £100 note, and space in every newspaper was filled with big type - space measuring 10 inches by 4 inches - setting out the reasons why the electors should not vote for the referenda proposals. In this space the electors were told how the referenda proposals would cripple the Commonwealth, stop industry, kill individual effort, and result in every industry becoming a State-controlled affair. If our referenda proposals were no good, as the Attorney-General told us, if there was no power in the first, if the second was no good, if the third was no good, if they were not required, why did he not tell his friends on the other side, and the Liberal Unions generally, “ Save your money for. a better purpose. Let the people pass the proposals, as they are no good “ ? He, for his part, dare not go out to the country and fight them in the interests of the party to which I belong. I do not intend to detain the House much longer. I have made an effort to express my views, and I trust that, as time goes by, I shall become more accustomed to the methods of the House. I shall be very keen in watching the course of events, but I do hope that, if we are to have a dissolution, at least the true position will be put before the country.
– The honorable member for Parkes says that we are not going to have a dissolution.
– I was pleased to hear that statement. If the Government remain in power for another month or two, and enact one or two more things which call down upon them his condemnation, I expect that he will come over to this side, and, when the memorable vote is taken, the Government will be found in a minority, and must either resign or be content to remain in their present parlous position, making out to the country that they are doing something when- they are not. But, if there is to be a dissolution., I am quite prepared to face the country, and I hope that the Government will put the position clearly. I trust that they will not go to the country with two sham Bills and say that they are test measures, because they are not. The Government have not altered one iota of the legislation carried out by their predecessors. If it is necessary to test our legislation, to ask the people to speak on some issue, why do not the Government alter the maternity grant? Why do they not do what they would desire to do, and that is to convert the old-age pension system into an insurance scheme? Why do they not repeal the land tax? Why do they not come straight out and say that the note issue is not in the best interests of the people? They have raised the gold reserve in order, I suppose, to damage the note issue in the eyes of the public, and so get them to say that it is no good. Why do not the Government interfere with the Commonwealth Bank? They have admitted that it is going to be a useful institution, and the method by which they propose to attain that aim is to give way to the States. Some one has said that the Prime Minister went to the Premiers’ Conference on his bended knees, hail hardly think that he is going the right way to make the Commonwealth Bank what it should be. I am rather inclined to think, with the honorable member for Hindmarsh,, that there will be no progress made in regard to the Commonwealth Bank until it becomes- a national bank in the proper sense of that term; until it does all the business of the Commonwealth and controls the whole of our finances. I feel positive that when the public have become accustomed to what the power of the Commonwealth Bank is they will put greater force behind honorable members on this side, and that, when we commence to make a move in the direction of expanding its functions, with that power behind us we shall more than justify its utility, and the people will bless us for that enactment. I will not concede that it is possible, constitutionally, to dissolve the two Houses.
When it is a matter of being on the losing side for once, our opponents cannot stand it. They do not like being in the position in which they have had us for years, and that is with the other House against us. Consequently, they must make an appeal to the country, and put the .futile question which was answered ten months ago, when the people said in no unmistakable terms how the Senate should be composed. I feel positive that when an appeal is made to the people we shall get a mandate, not only to manage the affairs of the Commonwealth, but to initiate those reforms for which the country is waiting.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Higgs) adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
Correspondence with reference to an offer made by Mr. Joseph Timms in connexion with the construction of portion of the line.
Permanent Working Plan and Section of portion of the line. (Sheets 62-71).
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- There is a little matter to which I should like to draw the attention of the Prime Minister. It may be another error, but still it is right that the public should know about it. The following passage appears in the’ Treasurer’s Budget speech of last year, in the course of a reference to naval matters -
The Commonwealth has been, active in providing its unit on practically the above basis; but, for some reason or other, of which the present Government is unaware, two units of similar strengths on the China and Bast India stations have not as yet been provided. This important matter is now the subject of correspondence with the Imperial Government, and a conference has been requested, with a view of deciding upon a further increase of construction, in conjunction with the Mother Country and the other portions of the Empire.
I presume that is correctly reported, and that the Treasurer believed the statement to be true when he made it.
– It was absolutely true.
– Yet I find in the Herald of this evening the following cable message : -
Naval Conference : Mr. Cook’s Attitude : White Paper Issued. [Published in the Times this morning.]
A White Paper that has been issued shows that the Cook Ministry in August last agreed to a naval conference should the British Government consider this necessary; while in November Mr. Lewis Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, asked Mr. Joseph Cook why he had told the Commonwealth Parliament that he had suggested a naval conference when no such suggestion could be traced.
On 13th March, Mr. Lewis Harcourt again inquired whether a naval conference was desired, and Mr. Cook replied that it was impossible for a Federal Minister to visit London this year.
The point is, that if the cable message is accurate, the Prime Minister allowed the Treasurer to put into his Budget speech an inaccurate statement.
– If there is not in this cable statement a reflection on the honorable member, nothing can be a reflection. A statement was made here by the Treasurer that the honorable member had asked for a conference, whereas the Secretary of State for the Colonies is reported to have said that no trace could be found in the Colonial Office of any such suggestion having been made.
– How does the honorable member interpret the pronoun “ he “ - does it mean Mr. Harcourt or Mr. Cook?
– I am giving the Prime Minister the earliest opportunity of correcting this statement. The cable message says : - ‘ ‘ While in November Mr. Lews Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, asked Mr. Joseph Cook why he had told the Commonwealth Parliament” - I presume Mr. Harcourt did not tell the Commonwealth Parliament
– No, but read on.
– The cable continues- “ that he had suggested a naval conference when no such suggestion could be traced.” I think that the “he” must mean the Prime Minister. I agree with the honorable member that it may mean Mr. Harcourt, but what would be the purpose of issuing that White Paper if that were so? At any rate, this is one of those interesting inter-governmental matters which the Prime Minister, with his Attorney-General, might try to clear up as soon as possible. Apparently the good name and common sense of the people of Australia are involved in this matter. We do not want published ou the other side of the world statements of this kind. The Prime Minister knows whether the message is correct or not, and I have given him an opportunity of saying so.
.- I am sorry that the Minister of Trade and Customs is not in the House, because I wish to bring under his notice a communication which I have received from my electorate in regard to tobacco growing. The growers have been told by the Tobacco Trust that they are not to go in for any further extension of planting, and they are in the queer position that, if they grow tobacco, they do not know whether they will be able to sell it, because there is only the one buyer in the Commonwealth. It is all very well for the Minister to say that he does not know of any victimization, but, if this is not victimization, I do not know what it can be called, seeing that these men cannot get rid of the tobacco when it is grown. The Government could remedy the difficulty in 24 hours, and insure that these people will be able to sell their produce. The Government, particularly the Minister of Trade and Customs, pose on every occasion as friends of the farmer.
– I rise to order. I submit that the whole of these proceedings are highly irregular and out of order. Three distinct and separate debates have arisen to-day. We have had one relating to the hours of sitting; then we have a censure motion which covers everything else, and now, on the adjournment, another debate is developing which could be just as well discussed on the motion of censure. I have never seen debates interposed as they are here, and I do not know where we are going to end. I submit that when a motion of censure is on, these debates are highly irregular, and have no justification under any standing order.
– The practice is that on a motion for the adjournment of the House members may ventilate any matter, so long as it does not infringe upon the debate which has been already adjourned. There is nothing in the Standing Orders which enables me to intervene in this discussion, unless there is a distinct reference to the adjourned debate. So far there has been no such reference, although it does appear at times that some of the matters discussed are so closely related that it is difficult to draw a dividing line. However, so far I have heard nothing this evening to cause me to intervene in the present discussion.
– I do not want to delay the House, but my constituents want some remedy, and I desire the Government to give them a remedy. The Minister of Trade and Customs has from time to time promised them a remedy, but, so far, none has been given. This action of the combine involves the bread and butter of these men, and their solvency or insolvency. They grow a crop, but there is only one buyer for it, and that market is not open to them. I do not want to labour this question, but I ask the Government to do something to protect these men from the vile ramifications of the Tobacco Trust.
.- I understand that the Labour Government paid casual employes for gazetted holidays, but I am informed by certain individuals employed in the Postal Department that, though casual employes were paid for the 1st January and the 3rd January of this year, the amount they received was deducted from the following pay.
– Do you know that to be a fact?
– I have this information from men in the employ of the Department. If the statement is wrong, I leave it to those responsible to investigate it.
– Where are they working ?
– At Footscray. I do not desire to give the names of the individuals. Formerly, it was the custom to allow men travelling expenses within a reasonable distance of the city; but, since the present Government have come into power, it is the custom not to allow travelling expenses to such a place as Footscray, and as this means a reduction of 4d. or 6d. a day in the wages of men receiving 8s. 6d. a day, it comes to a considerable amount. It was my desire to ‘ get information upon these points by asking a question, but, because of the no-confidence debate, I am precluded from that course; and, therefore, take the earliest opportunity of bringing the matter before the House. If there is any class in our community that can ill-afford to be treated in the way I have indicated, it is these men. I do not think the finances of the Commonwealth are in such a state as to justify the Liberal Government abolishing the practice established by the Labour Government of paying for gazetted holidays, or in practising economy to bring about reforms of that description. If they seek to do so, I hope it will be at the expense of individuals receiving more than 8s. 6d. per day.
.- This is all the reply the honorable member will get at the present time : The Government have treated their employés at least as liberally as they were ever treated by our predecessors. With regard to the various matters raised, I fall back upon the constitutional position. If the Leader of the Opposition will get his censure amendment out of the way, I shall give him every information that can possibly be given concerning the matters referred to in the cable mentioned. The same remark applies to the question of the tobacco monopoly. Though it has been broken through, I regret to say, there is one rule which is never contravened except on very exceptional occasions, and that is that, when a motion of censure is before the House, no questions are answered, and, as a rule, information of this kind is not given. The Government are on their trial. That is the position. Also, there is not one of the questions submitted which could not just as well be debated or discussed or asked on the motion for the adoption of the. Address-in-Reply as on the motion for adjournment.
– The Lewis Harcourt matter is very important.
– The honorable member, as an ex-Minister of External Affairs, could have discussedit on the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply. I am not aware that it is an urgent matter.
– The tobacco matter is urgent.
– Then, why has it never been mentioned during the debate?
– It has been mentioned.
– If that is so, it should not have been discussed on the motion for the adjournment. I call attention to the fact that the honorable member’s remarks are out of order as being opposed to Mr. Speaker’s ruling. The matter has been discussed in general debate.
– It has not been discussed.
– It was not discussed on the general debate, but we shall get the Minister of Trade and Customs to answer it when he gets on the Darling Downs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140422_reps_5_73/>.