5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented -
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway - Paper re surveying portion by contract.
Debate resumed from 24th April (vide page 342), 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 Moat 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 wordsbe 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.”
.- Before dealing with the subject to which I propose to devote some attention, I offer a word of congratulation to the Prime Minister in respect of at least one announcement made by him yesterday at St. Kilda, in the course of a long speech in connexion with the celebration of the Eight Hours movement. The speech was. not distinguished by painful accuracy, but it is a matter of congratulation that it should contain the honorable gentleman’s public assurance that he does not propose to gag this House upon the casting vote of the Speaker, or to put the Speaker in the position of having to exercise his casting vote.
Mr.Thomas . - Did he say that!
– I did not say it, and it is not in the report.
– I think that it is unseemly, in a debate of this kind, to involve the Speaker unnecessarily, and I ask honorable members to refrain from doing so as much as possible. The Speaker is not responsible for statements made by members outside the House.
– No one desires to saddle you, sir, with responsibility for the utterances of the Prime Minister outside the House. The honorable gentleman takes exception, apparently, not to the substance of what I have said about his remarks, but to the language in which I quoted them. He did not speak of “gagging” the House on the casting vote of the Speaker, but he intimatedin the most polite way that he did not propose to closure this debate by any such method.
– That is an entire misrepresentation.
– When, through the courtesy ofthe honorable member for Yarra and the messengers, I have been furnished with a copy of to-day’s newspaper, I shall be able to quote the report of the speech and to ask the Prime Minister whether that report is true. While we are all disposed to congratulate the honorable gentleman on the position he took up, we can hardly see the necessity for saying what he did. If we cast our minds back over the short interval that separates this session from the last, we shall remember other methods adopted by him for securing a majority in the House. There I leave the matter. I propose today to address a short sermon to the Government, and to take my text from the political gospel according to the Attorney-General, employing for the purpose these touching and pregnant words, “We are going for a double dissolution; that is our policy.” Those words are part of a speech delivered by the honorable and learned gentleman in the course of this debate. I shall set myself to prove that he has failed in the performance of the most sacred trust committed to him by the people. Those words are not mine. Being a man of peace, I would not employ such a hard phrase; I quote the Minister’s own words as applied to himself. I shall show, too, that two other lawyers - the Minister of External Affairs and the Minister of Trade and Customs - are also responsible for this abandonment of public duty.
– What about the PostmasterGeneral 1
– I do not exclude him from the ranks of lawyers, but I exclude him for the moment from this charge, except so far as he must shoulder the responsibility as a member of the Cabinet. Later, if time permits, I shall have a little to say as to the probable result of this quest of the Holy Grail, this seeking of a double dissolution. It is a proposition that will be generally accepted on both sides, that, if there is work of far-reaching national importance to be done which can be done by Parliament, the Government, unless defeated on a division, should not seek a dissolution, either double or single. There is no virtue in a dissolution. We were not sent here to dissolve. We were given a three years’ ‘ commission to do the work of the people, and until it has been established to demonstration that we cannot do useful work, we ought not to surrender that commission.
– The honorable member’s colleagues say that they want to go to the country.
– That is, in face of the statement of the Attorney-General that the whole policy of the Government is a double dissolution. We want to go to the country because of the barrenness of the Government in proposals of legislation. I intend to show, not only that there is work of great national and farreaching importance to be done, but that an opportunity now presents itself to the occupants of the Treasury bench which is unique and may never come to them again. I refer to the opportunity for the amendment of the Constitution to which the strongest members of the Ministry are deeply and irrevocably committed. There .is no virtue either in an amendment of the Constitution; but it is something of far-reaching and great importance which has to be done before we can go on with those matters of immediate direct interest to the people whose representatives we are. If we are to understand that the Attorney-General feels himself not only entitled, but bound, to subordinate his views to the necessity for maintaining the solidarity of his party - if it is a fact that the lawyers associated with him in the Cabinet also feel themselves not only entitled, but bound, to subordinate their own views upon this great public question in order that the interests of party may be preserved - then my argument falls to the ground. But, although as good a party man as any one, I think there are considerations which rise even superior to those of party, and that an honorable member, having once committed himself to a policy as SOme.thing of the gravest and greatest importance, cannot, and dare not, abandon it in order that he may preserve his majority - if there is a majority on the Ministerial side - or to preserve his seat in the Cabinet. During the course of this debate, the Attorney-General delivered a very facetious, very interesting, and, at times, very solemn, oration on the question of the amendment of the Constitution. He was listened to with all the respect and attention to which his posiion at the head of the Bar, and as the Chief Law Officer of the Crown, entitled him. But the speech was an entirely critical one. It may have been destructive^ - I think I shall show that it was not - but what I desire to bring home to the honorable gentleman is that the time has gone by for mere criticism. He was on this side in 1910, and was somewhat of a thorn in the side of his party. He was then an independent member sitting in Opposition. In 1912 he was still in Opposition, and still critical, although he changed his front on this question of the
Constitution; but now, in 1914, he has assumed the mantle of Ministerial office; he has assumed all the responsibility which office brings with it; and we must have from him something more than a criticism of the referenda proposals of the late Government. We must have, we insist on having, his own proposals for an amendment of the Constitution; and, if he does not give them to us, we shall insist upon placing him in the pillory. The honorable member for West Sydney, early in this debate, delivered an address with all his characteristic ability; to that speech the Attorney-General delivered a reply; and, on the principle of pleadings, with which the Attorney-General will be more familiar than I am, I venture to offer a rejoinder. In the course of this debate, the honorable gentleman recalled the referenda proposals that were put before this House by the Labour party, when in office, in regard to an amendment of the trade and commerce powers of the Constitution. He said that the Labour Government proposed so to amend the Constitution as practically to give the Federal Parliament complete power over trade and commerce, but to exempt from that power trade and commerce on the railways of the States. Nine-tenths of the commerce of Australia, he declared, was to be excluded from the operation of the Federal power, and only one-tenth, that which was not carried on the railways of the States, was to be left within the ambit of the Federal authority. That, he declared, was the misshapen and misbegotten creation of a Labour syndicate. Let me remind honorable members at this point why commerce on the railways was excluded from our proposed amendment of the Constitution. Can I too often remind the Attorney-General that it was excluded to placate the narrow prejudices of the men who sent him, and his friends on the Ministerial side, into Parliament? It was excluded, not because we desired to exclude it, but because in the interests of Australia we wanted to make a legitimate compromise to that extent, at least, in order that we might gain for the Commonwealth an amendment of the Constitution which would have gone some, if not the whole, of the distance that we desired to go. That is why it was excluded from our proposals of 1912, and not excluded from those which we put before the electors in 1910. But the Attorney-General proves too much. He went on to say thai while we committed this absurdity, while we had to admit the paternity of this misshapen, misbegotten creature,- we desired at the same time to give servants of the State Railway Departments access to Federal tribunals. In other words, he said, we desired that the Federal body should control wages and conditions of employment on the State railways whilst the States themselves should pay. As he put it, we desired to divorce power from responsibility. The States were to find the money; we were to exercise the power. With that delightful imagery which characterizes him, the honorable gentleman went on to say - I do not pretend to quote him exactly - “ What master of the operatic stage, what Gilbert could suggest anything more fantastic than this proposal on the part of the Labour party ? ‘ ‘ Let us hold up the two proposals. I can see the Attorney-General trying to explain the difference to my honorable friend, the Acting Minister of Home Affairs, but it is a difference which will take some explaining before he has done with it. The honorable gentleman is a master of subtle distinctions. The more I read the reports of his speeches the more I admire him for his ingenuity, and I advise the clients to consult him, since, in his ingenuity, no one can excel him. Here, he says, is our misshapen creature - our proposal to give the Federal Parliament control over commerce, and yet to exclude from that control commerce on the railways of the States. Our Gilbertian proposal, he says, is to give to the Commonwealth control over wages and conditions of employment on the railways of the States while allowing the States to find the money. And so, we find that if we are to amend the trade and commerce* power in the way suggested by the honorable member, all commerce on State railways will be under Federal control. Every bullock entrained at Bourke for Sydney, every bag of wheat sent by rail from the Mallee to Melbourne, every sheep sent from the western plains of New South Wales to the metropolis - in short, all the conditions relating to every pound and ounce of produce shipped on the State railways - will be under Federal control, whilst the States must find the money to run the railways. That is his misshapen, misbegotten creature! What operatic artist-
– I was not referring to the honorable member. What operatic artist could adequately describe the position taken up by the Attorney-General, in which he suggests that it is utterly absurd, on the one hand, to divide power from responsibility in regard to the State railways; and, on the other hand, in regard to commerce, to give the Federal authority complete and absolute control over all commerce carried on the railways of the States? Of course, there is no difficulty from our point of view. I am speaking from the point of view of the Attorney-General. We know that there is no divided responsibility. It is merely a question of separate agencies being employed by the same people. We merely propose to employ separate agencies in the general interests of the community. The Attorney-General says that we have misshapen this thing. Se has pointed out the inconsistencies of our position. He has criticised us; he has held us up to ridicule. Now I would remind him that the fashioning of this thing is in his own hands. He can give it, if he chooses, the limbs of an Apollo; he can, if he so wills, impart to it the frame of a Hercules. He can invest it with what a former leader of his called a “bold contour.” In fact, the only limitation that I place upon his power in this connexion is that he cannot make of it a “ gelatinous compound.” While the honorable gentleman was speaking the other day, the honorable member for Bourke, quick to see the weakness of his position, at once put the point of his sabre beneath the honorable member’s guard. He asked the Attorney-General, before he passed from the matter be was discussing, to say what he himself proposed. The Attorney-General saw the question com-‘ ing, and was prepared. He replied, “ I am thoroughly convinced of the necessity for these constitutional changes,” whereupon all his friends behind him cheered, and he then added, “but I am also satisfied that the heat of a general election is not the proper time to propose constitutional changes.”
– It is the proper time to propose them. It is not the proper time to ask the people to ratify them. It is the time that we intend to propose them.
– I will accept the Attorney-General’s own statement of theposition. He says that a general election is not the proper time to ask the people to ratify constitutional changes, and, therefore, he argues, with his inexorable logic, “ Let us have a general election at once - in fact, let us have two general elections.” That is the position to which he is driven. He does not desire a dissolution of this House, but a double dissolution. I wish to prove how deeply committed the Attorney-General is upon the subject of an amendment of the Constitution. The honorable member for West Sydney has already culled some sparkling .gems from his speeches upon this matter. I do not propose to repeat them. They are on record in many places. The Attorney-General says that he is flattered every time that he hears his inconsistencies revealed. I intend to flatter him some more. In speaking in this House, in 1910, the honorable gentleman said- *-
I tlo not hold that we ought to be bound by any sacred reverence to the Constitution - that instrument that was finally brought into being. . . . This momentous change -
He was then referring to the amendment of the Constitution as we proposed it - us it undoubtedly is, ought to have been made the subject of a single Bill. This House has not, and cannot have, and the country will not have, any proper opportunity to consider the proposal, unless it can be dealt with by itself; but we are now in a position in which we have to deal with the proposal as one clause in a Bill. I have come to the conclusion, as I said previously, that this amendment of the Constitution ought to be made.
– What is the date of that speech ?
– It will be found upon page 177 of the official report of the debates in this Parliament in 1910 upon the proposed amendments of the Constitution.
– It had reference to the Commerce amendment as it first appeared.
– Undoubtedly. In 1910, the Attorney-General said that years before he had felt the necessity for an amendment of the Constitution on those lines.
– While the AttorneyGeneral never changes his opinions, he often changes his attitude.
– I will do him that full justice. Then, upon page 179 of the same debates, the honorable gentleman is thus reported -
The matter he had been discussing -
He was then referring to a constitutional writer, namely, Mr. Prentice - was the Sherman Act of 1890, which, as I pointed out on a previous occasion, has to a very large extent been hampered and partially paralyzed in its operation by the very distinction which it is now proposed to withdraw from our Constitution.
There was paralysis, at least, to a certain extent in 1910. No cure is to be attempted in 1914. Then, upon page 180 of the same debates, the Attorney-General is reported as having said -
Could anything bo imagined more helpless to meet the evil - if it be an evil - of those great combinations than that, under the strongest Act that could possibly have been passed, the Sherman Act - of which our Antitrust Act is in many parts literally a copy - the Court had to hold that it was powerless to deal with the operation of a huge monopoly which was found to be injurious, except so far as oho particular class of its trading was concerned? Could there be anything showing more effectually the helplessness of the Constitutional power which enables only Acts of that ineffectual kind to pass?
A little later, at page 181, he apologizes, and he might well apologize. He says -
I apologize for dealing with an aspect of the subject which, as it necessarily involves referring to legal matters, is more or less dry; but Iwish to place before the Committee, as shortly as I can, the reasons which have induced me for a very long time - that was in 1910, and he had then come to a decision on the matter for a very long time - for a considerable time before these proposed amendments of the Constitution were even formulated as part of the policy of the Government - to come to the conclusion that this commerce power ought to be generalized as far as the Commonwealth is concerned. . . I have always thought, and I am the more convinced, that the more I go into the matter that as a matter of convenience, and of the avoidance of sources of litigation, and from every other point of view, some change ought to be made in the law.
In the Age of 27th March, 1914, a speech is reported as having been delivered some time before by the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman in that speech referred to the recent decision of the Privy Council on appeal in the Sugar Commission case. I do not propose to go into that at very great length. The honorable member for West Sydney dealt with it in his usual masterly fashion, and my learned friend from Bendigo will have something to say about it later on. Suffice it for me to say that in 1914 the present Attorney-General showed that the necessity for the amendment of the Constitution, and the case for the amendment as it was in 1910, was immeasurably strengthened by the decision of the Privy Council in that case. That decision shore down those implied powers whichwe believed we possessed, and which we actually did possess under decisions of our own High Court up to the time of the Privy Council’s decision. When the urgent necessity for this amendment of the Constitution is thus brought before the honorable gentleman again, he comes to this House, and says, “ The whole policy of the Government is a double dissolution. Close the shop, lock the doors; there is nothing further to be done - a double dissolution.” Now I come to the honorable gentleman’s speech on the industrial question. It is admitted by every honorable member opposite, and throughout the country, that if there is one question of greater importance than another, it is the questionof industrial unrest. That is admitted rather more readily on the other side of the House than on ours, because we regard this matter with philosophy to some extent. I am one of those who agree entirely with my right honorable leader that industrial unrest is very largely a sign of the times. All these industrial upheavals which our friends opposite rightly deplore so much are movements upwards and onwards to better conditions, and better things, and whatever we have to suffer in the course of their action, every one of them leaves us a little better off than we were before. The honorable gentleman quotes the section from the Constitution, and explains that we are given by the Constitution the power to legislate for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. He goes on to say that no words have been more discussed, that they have formed the battle-ground of many cases. I cannot remember the honorable gentleman’s exact words, and I do not wish to quote them without remembering them accurately, but I know that he said that no words had been more continuously discussed, and none had been more fought over in the Courts than the words, “ prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.” What did the honorable gentleman say about the matter in 1910?-
The people of this country properly demand that the experiment of attempting to regulate wages and conditions of labour shall be honestly and fairly carried out on all sides. That being the desire, we ought not to oppose technical objections to prevent it from being carried out.
I heartily agree with the honorable gentleman, as the result of my short experience in regard to these words. I need hardly say that we do not agree with the Attorney-General when he says that the Court has been a failure. We admit that there has been much litigation upon those words, and assert that the responsibility for it rests with the friends of the honorable gentleman who have fought the men in every Court in the land, m order to prevent them getting the awards for which they sought. They are still at it, and will be at it to the end. I think that so far as the usefulness of the Court is concerned, the answer which Mr. Justice Higgins gave the AttorneyGeneral from the Bench was a complete answer. He showed that within the limits of its powers, the Court had done good work, that there had been numerous agreements filed and uniformly respected, that awards bad been given which covered a very wide area, and they have been uniformly respected. He showed that in a general way the work of the Court has been useful work, and tended to better and more healthy relations between employers and employes. But while we do not go so far as the honorable gentleman, and do not admit that the Court has been a failure, we recognise that the view which he takes makes a stronger case for the amendment of the Constitution even than ours does. Now I come to the final stage of this matter, namely, the proof out of the Attorney-General’s own lips that he has betrayed a sacred trust delivered to him. It is sometimes dangerous to use these fine rolling sentences, because they may be remembered in after days, and especially if they have not been respected. The honorable gentleman said -
We on this side should not be afraid to give this Parliament a wider power, because the governing political party is strongly opposed to us on these matters.
A little later he said -
We have a great jury to appeal to - the people of Australia.
And later on -
And, as we arc asked in a time of peace and rest to consider deliberately a fundamental constitutional change, it is our duty to put out of our minds who sits on the Government benches, and who is in Opposition. If we fail to do so, we shall fail in the performance of a most sacred trust committed to us by the people of Australia.
– Good sentences, and well pronounced.
– My honorable friend had been waiting for 1912. He was restless when I was quoting his speeches for 1910. I have now to quote what JM said in 1912. At page 113 of the bound volume of the Debates, I find he is reported to have said -
The extension of the commerce power to the extent which, speaking purely constitutionally, I think it should go, is one thing, but to extend that power in the hands of a party having such immediate aims as are admitted by the Labour party is something of a totally different character.
Mr. Archibald, the honorable member for Hindmarsh, at this stage interposed and said -
It would be right enough if the Opposition were in power, but not if we are in power?
By the way, we were in power at that time. The honorable member for Flinders replied-
Quite so. It would be safe if we were in power. It is unsafe since honorable members opposite are in power.
– The honorable member has given the whole case away.
I say “ Hear, hear “ to that interjection.
– If it will help honorable members on the other side, I am prepared to make the admission that my reason for opposing these proposals is because I do not trust honorable members opposite.
Yet in this House the other day, speaking in this very debate, he said, “ I have never, so far as I am aware, varied one inch from the views which I expressed in 1910 and 1912.” Where is the grand jury to which he was to appeal? Where are the sacred traditions which he had inherited from the British people? All gone into that thin and nebulous atmosphere of Liberal broken promises. The grand jury to which he was making this great appeal treated him, let me tell him, better than he expected, and better than he deserved. He then would not trust the grand jury that brought him back tq power. He accepted office in the Ministry of which he is such a distinguished ornament. He accepted office with his hands tied, and finding himself robbed of a power which he said he ought to have had, and would have had if he had trusted the people to whom he had made his great appeal a little while before. A little later we heard from him of Syndicalism as being “ Labour’s ugly brother.” The honorable member for Bendigo reminds me that the Attorney-General characterised it as “Labour’s ugly brother, with blood in his nostrils.”
– You are mixing your metaphors.
– The metaphors are the honorable member’s, not mine. He carefully made them up himself. I *want to say, in all seriousness, that there is a real danger in Syndicalism. Syndicalism represents a party of direct action. Labour represents the party of political influence, and the settlement of industrial disputes by any reasonable lawful method of industrial arbitration. On our one hand we have the party of direct action, and on the other hand the party of inaction and reaction, .and we occupy a position intermediate between the two.
– The real creators of Syndicalism are on the opposite side.
– The position could not possibly be put more fairly than the honorable member for East Sydney has just put it. If the great battle, the resort to force, that is expected, ever takes place, as I believe it will, perhaps not here - although, I believe, that, in countries older than ours, it is bound to come sooner or later - my honorable friends will be shocked and surprised if we express the slightest sympathy with the syndicalist or the striker, or with whatever form his direct action may take. We, of course, as the champions of orderly and lawful settlement of disputes, cannot throw in our lot with those who resort to brute or main force. Nevertheless, we cannot help having sympathy with those who have resorted to the rude weapon of the strike, and the organized force of the syndicalists, because they have been denied by the friends of honorable members on the opposite side of the House the right to resort to the Courts of their own country for the settlement of their disputes in an orderly and lawful manner. The honorable member for West Sydney has already in this debate, I think, revealed enough of the AttorneyGeneral’s attitude towards the amendment of the Constitution, so far as it relates to trusts and combines. The Attorney-General has been pilloried sufficiently in regard to that matter, and, therefore, I shall not deal with it further. The Attorney-General has admitted that the question of monopolies is largely bound up in the question of commerce, and that if the Federal Parliament had full power over trade and commerce it would probably be sufficient to enable us to deal with the question of monopolies. I hope the Attorney-General will not be offended if I leave him for a moment, and devote a little attention to the Minister of Trade and Customs and the Minister of External Affairs. Both those gentlemen are also deeply committed to an amendment of the Constitution on similar lines of this kind. As reported on page 63 of the Debates for 1910, the Minister of External Affairs said -
The matter of corporations is , fairly elaborately dealt with in the memorandum which I submitted to the honorable member for Ballaarat, when Prime Minister. I think the corporation power ought to be assumed by the Federal Parliament by an amendment of the Constitution. Had the last Government remained in power, I should certainly have made a suggestion to Cabinet that, so far as concerned the creation and dissolution, and I might even say the regulation, of corporations, the power ought to be national, because it is inexpedient that the status of a corporation with operations throughout the length and breadth of the continent should have to be determined by seven laws.
With regard to trusts and the industrial question, he said -
I was of opinion that probably the last Government should have asked for an amendment of the Constitution in order to deal with trusts, combinations, and monopolies in restraint of trade.
– And higher industrial powers as well.
– I cannot speak for all, but I think that a good many members of this party would be willing to go that length. It is recognised that we cannot have a division of power amongst seven governing bodies in regard to various combinations and monopolies which are growing up too fast in Australia. I looked through the synopsis of evidence in thirty-four or thirty-five cases -
The honorable member - was ever industrious - and I do not think there were more than five or six that could be regarded as properly falling within the commerce power of the Federal Parliament. But some trusts might operate in six States as well as between States; and it would be ridiculous to have seven different laws applying to one body. In the interests of the trusts themselves -
That is good coming from honorable members opposite - it is desirable to have some unity of law and administration; and I think I have suggested the limits of reason in the matter of constitutional amendment. In regard to industrial matters, the difficulty which faced Mr. Justice Heydon, President of the Arbitration Court of Now South Wales, and Mr. Justice Higgins, of the Commonwealth Court, of declaring a fair rate of wages where there was unfair competition from the same industry in another State by reason of low wages, that could be got over by amending the Constitution giving power to “an authority like the Inter-State Commission. In the memorandum which has already been quoted, there is a draft of the necessary amendment of the Constitution, and the outlines of a Bill giving tlie power to that body; and it is one of the only matters that cannot be dealt with by either States or Commonwealth. In my opinion an amendment of the Constitution is better than asking the States to delegate their powers.
In the same way we find the Minister of Trade and Customs is committed to an amendment of the Constitution on similar lines. At page 5 of a memorable memorandum which was written by the Secretary to the Attorney-General, and which the honorable and learned member as Attorney-General indorsed, there was a recommendation sent to the people of South Africa, who, it will be remembered, were at the time entering into a union, strongly advising them not to do what Australia had done in regard to the trade and commerce power, but to give to the central body an undivided power in that regard. That was affirmed in most unmistakable language by the present Minister of Trade and Customs. I am well aware that he has before in this House attempted, to some extent, to disclaim responsibility for his own memorandum, but it cannot be supposed, seeing the way it was brought before his mind there, that he failed to appreciate the full effect of what he was indorsing when he signed the memorandum of the Secretary to the Attorney-General.
– Where is it?
– The passage I have read appears on page 5 of a memorandum addressed by the honorable member for Darling Downs, as Attorney-General, tothe Government of South Africa at the time when the people of that country were entering into their union.
– It was addressed to the Prime Minister, was it not?
– There was a good deal of correspondence on the matter. A letter was addressed to the Prime Minister, and despatches passed between the Viceroy of South Africa and, the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth. There was a fairly ample memorandum prepared, which included some notes by the then Prime Minister, Mr. Deakin, who had dealt with this very same matter, urging that the Union Parliament of South Africa should have undivided power in regard to trade and commerce, and pointing out that we had made the mistake of following the lead of the American Constitution. There was a much longer and more ample memorandum added to that prepared by the administrative head of the Department in which he not only indorsed that view, but amplified the argument in favour of taking greater trade and commerce powers. That was minuted by the present Minister of Trade and Customs with a note in which he expressed his approval of tlie whole document. In the course of his speech, he said -
May I frankly confess that I should like to see the Commonwealth vested with express power, and also with power to deal with the dissolution, of companies? We do not need such a wide power as is asked for in this Bill, but I should certainly like to see the Commonwealth given clear power to regulate the formation of Australian companies, so that the incorporation of a company would leave it free to carry on its operations all over the States, just as any Australian citizen may do. We should have power to enable State corporations to be converted into Federal corporations, and we should also have power to define their status and their capacity, and to regulate the terms of their dissolution. There should be one uniform winding up throughout Australia, so that Australian creditors may all be dealt with on the same basis.
– That means an enlargement of the power of the Commonwealth.
– Our powers go a long way in this direction, but I should be prepared to support an amendment enabling us to deal effectively with legislation of that class.
A little later in the same volume he is reported to have said -
This Parliament, in my opinion, should have complete and adequate power to deal with combines and trusts, whether Inter-State or Intra-State. My experience in administering the Australian Industries Preservation Acts has convinced me of the necessity for an alteration in that direction. In the first place, there is no difficulty in the way of the amplification of our power arising from existing laws, since the States have passed no laws on the subject. They have taken no action for the regulation of trusts, but the Commonwealth has done so. When I held office as AttorneyGeneral, it fell to my lot to have to administer for the first time the Australian Industries Preservation Acts.
– What volume are you reading from?
Mr. BRENNAN . 1 am reading from the bound report of the Constitution Amendment Debates of 1910.
A great many cases were brought under the notice of the Department, and the vast majority of them were of a purely Intra-State character, and the Commonwealth therefore could not deal with them. It is very easy for a trust to evade the operation of the undoubted Federal law. Combines, at times, are an evil, and wherever combines of that nature exist there should be power to deal with them. There are many articles of consumption dealt with by combines which go beyond the confines of a State, and the exercise of the national power is, therefore, called for. My own experience in this respect is entirely in accord with that of the honorable member for Angas.
My last quotation is taken from page 615 of the bound report of the Constitution Amendment Debates of 1913. The Minister of Trade and Customs there said -
The Leader of the Opposition has very properly pointed out that the Liberal party have consistently expressed their willingness by all the legislative means in their power to deal with injurious trusts and combines, and are willing to accept an alteration of the Constitution which will give effect to that principle.
– That is the amendment we submitted, and you voted against it.
– We proposed in this Souse an amendment to meet that.
– I know that the honorable member did propose a halfhearted amendment.
– We proposed to give the whole power.
– I am not aware of that. I am merely concerned to show that lot only the Attorney-General, but the Minister of Trade and Customs, has reali zed the urgent necessity of amendments o f the Constitution. I am more particularly concerned to show, and I have shown, thatthe Attorney-General is committed absolutely to the proposal as submitted by the Labour Government at the time, with two exceptions, namely, one in regard to corporations, and the other in regard to railway servants having access to the Arbitration Court. “ From the first,” he said, “ I voted against them because these two things were included.” But, as regards the rest, he is absolutely committed to them as being of the highest importance and sufficient to satisfy him. The Attorney-General made a speech in which he asked for an answer to his criticism. I have endeavoured to give him an answer; I have endeavoured to show him that, if ever a man in public life had his duty clearly marked out to him, that man is the Attorney-General. He has invoked the great name of Chief Justice Marshall, a man who, according to himself, by a process of judicial audacity, did so much to liberalize the Constitution of the United States and strip it of those shackles and manacles which in its earlier history operated so much against its usefulness. He has done that to demonstration. May I remind him that an opportunity now presents itself to him, as a statesman, of promulgating these amendments and having them carried, for they must be carried in this House, if proposed by the Government. It is only necessary for him to support them, and we must carry them if the rest of his party turn against him, a thing which they would not do, as he knows perfectly well. He has so strongly urged that these should be regarded as non-party questions that he cannot now go back on that view. It is a unique opportunity which presents itself to him now to do useful work for Australia. We have moved a vote of want of confidence, and amongst the things we have charged against the Government is the letting of a contract in respect to the trans-Australian railway. That is important enough in its way, but great questions of national importance, which are not only for our time, but affect succeeding generations of Australians, loom out in importance far transcending anything like the Teesdale Smith contract. That contract is a mere objectionable application of a vicious principle. There is nothing surprising in it. We knew that the Government would do that when they came into office. We knew that they would subsidize their friends the contractors. We realized that they would take the contractors to their bosom; we knew that they would give away the work which Australia had to do to subsidize private employers, who were friends of theirs. I do not want to give the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs the opportunity of coming here again, as he did last week, smiting himself on the breast, and saying, “My reputation is attacked, and you must not do that.” And the AttorneyGeneral supported him in asserting that there was some attack on the personal honour of Ministers. There was no question of personal honour; it was merely a question of maladministration. There was the well-known fact that the Liberal Government had abandoned the policy of Australia doing its own work, and had given that work away to private persons, and it was a natural corollary of that action that the private person, who was a party to that game, should get the best of the bargain. We expected that, and we were not surprised at the result. It was merely the application of a vicious principle, which is so deeply rooted in the minds of the Liberals that we cannot expect in our time to eradicate it. But that matter is nothing compared with the questions about which the Attorney-General spoke so long. That contract was merely a waste of a few thousand pounds; but this other question is one of vital interest to the people of Australia, and every year that passes over our heads, every decade that goes by, will make the amendment of the Constitution more difficult of accomplishment. And here it is that my honorable friend has seen the light. He is one who has the capacity to grapple with these questions; but, because of the cramping power of party, or for some less worthy reason, he is unwilling to grapple with them now when the opportunity presents itself. I do not mind the Prime Minister turning his back upon principles which he espoused many years ago; I am not surprised at that. The honorable gentleman has run the whole political gamut, and like a man lost in the bush has wandered round in a circle, knowing not where he was, until he has passed from advanced republicanism to anarchy to-day. I say “ anarchy “ because obstruction to the operations of law is equivalent to the disregard of law. The honorable member has been in turn an advanced Labourite, a unionist, a Socialist, and, to-day, an anarchist. Through all these stages he has passed, and as I said once before, applying the words of the poet, although not in the sense in which the poet intended them to be applied, he has risen “on stepping-stones of his dead self to higher things. Still we cannot object to that. It is a long time since the Prime Minister was a Republican, and it is a long time since he was a Socialist. But in the case of the Attorney- General, all the changes in his mind have taken place within the last couple of years. Compared with him the wind is constant, and stable is the sea. I do not intend to open up any new matter today.. The whole purpose of my speech was to say that I consider it will be an absolute national disaster if we as a Parliament can do nothing in the present circumstances better than dissolve into nothingness. Dissolve we must, of course, unless a programme of useful legislation is brought before us; but while there is so much of real importance to be done, I cannot understand honorable members, who are so deeply pledged to these reforms, talking of a double dissolution before they have even laid their hands to the plough. In conclusion I venture to quote, not from the debates of a past time, but from the Age of to-day, to show that I am right in what I have been saying in regard to the attitude of the Prime Minister. The Age contains this passage in the course of the report of the honorable member’s speech -
One of their mentors said that in one House the Government wasall powerful to control andset the business. A statement like that made him smile. He would stop the debate on the motion of censure next day if he could. But he had not the majority even in the one House to do it.
After referring to what the President of the Senate said, the Prime Minister continued : -
It was absolutely helpless to stop any debate, as no Speaker had yet attempted the closure of the House from the chair, and he (Mr. Cook) had no desire to see that done.
I take that as a most deliberate expression of intention on the part of the Prime Minister to not attempt, on this occasion, to closure any debate, or apply the gag, by virtue of the Speaker’s casting vote.
– Order !No such attempt has been made hitherto, and the honorable member has no right to say that.
– Very well, sir; I accept your direction absolutely. But the Prime Minister challenged the accuracy of something I said at the beginning of my remarks.
– That is not what you said before.
– I assume that the honorable member will accept the passage 1 have read as being an accurate report. But there I will leave this question, and 1 shall conclude by expressing the hope that, even at this late hour, the Government may see their way to retrace their steps, and depart from that vicious policy which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is their whole gospel, “ Our whole policy is a double dissolution.” That is no battle cry to take to the electors. That will do no good to them. In a sense it will not do good to us, because, while we have the permission of the people, we would rather do something definite in regard to these national questions, and try to achieve something which will be of some permanent benefit to Australia. The Attorney-General has listenedto me with great patience, but as I cannot hope that my remarks this afternoon have sufficiently affected honorable members opposite to induce them to alter their vote or their policy, I have no option at the present time but to express my determination to vote emphatically for the amendment which has been proposed.
– On a personal explanation
– This is the hundredth personal explanation.
– I will not have my words twisted, even if this makes the hundred and fiftieth explanation.
– You are always explaining things away.
– Order !
– I have to continue explaining, with a lot of twisters and torturers like you talking.
– Order ! I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them.
– By direction of the Chair, the Prime Minister has withdrawn the words he used. I would remind the House, however, that the expression used by the Prime Minister was provoked by interjections from honorable members opposite. I ask honorable members to refrain from interjections which, in turn, provoke disorderly personal references.
– I take exception to the interpretation placed by the honorable member on the reference he quoted just now. Last night, in answering an argument that the Government had control of this House, I pointed to the present position, and asked if any one could say how I could terminate the debate that is now proceeding. I pointed out that in this House we had even numbers on either side, and that when Mr. Speaker was in the chair I had no majority.
– You have altered your tune now.
– “ More insulting observations!” I should not mind if I had only the opportunity to reply to them.
– Order ! I have already asked honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– I went on to say that I had never known a Speaker to closure a debate from the chair, and that I, for one, had no desire that any Speaker should ever do so. My friends can take what they like out of that argument.
– By way of personal explanation, I may say that I do not think the Prime Minister heard what I said, not having paid me the compliment of listening to my speech, except in regard to the opening and concluding remarks. He is reported in the Age today as having said -
He would stop the debate on the motion of censure next day if he could, but he had not the majority even in the one House to do it.
And a little later he is reported to have said -
It was absolutely helpless to stop any debate. No Speaker had yet attempted to closure the House from the chair, and he (Mr. Cook) had no desire to see that done.
It is really unnecessary to add anything. I congratulated the Prime Minister, at the outset, upon what I conceived to be a change of policy, namely, that he had determined on this occasion not to attempt to closure a debate by that means, and I referred to this newspaper report as proof of it.
– There is the implication that I had tried to use Mr. Speaker to closure other debates. It is odious and insulting.
– On the contrary, I pointed out that from the Prime Minister’s point of view this was not necessary, because last session he had resorted to other means apart altogether from resorting to Mr. Speaker, for instance, throwing a member out of the chamber.
.- During the course of this debate, we have heard a great deal about a double dissolution, and, both inside and outside the House, from honorable members and tlie press, about the desire of the Ministry to get to the country. There is no one preventing tlie Ministry from going to their masters as soon as they wish to go; but when one comes to boil the whole question down, it is ‘found that there is only one honorable member on the other side who is desirous of going to the country. That honorable member is, I believe, true to his convictions, and means every word he utters. I speak of the real leader of the Conservative party, the Attorney-General. During the last election we heard from honorable members of the Ministerial party that if they were returned to power they would immediately cheapen the cost of living. Their great battle cry was the cheapening of the cost of living. They blamed the Labour party for the rise in the price of commodities during the previous three years. Yet we have had twelve months of the present Ministry, and I do not know of a single item on the foods-list, or among the necessaries of life, the price of which has been reduced to the people. Ministers have had tlie opportunity to do something, ur pretend to do something, to cheapen the cost of living, yet they have not even made the pretence of doing anything. They introduced measures such as the Bureau of Agriculture Bill, tlie Government Preference Prohibition Bill, the Postal Yoting Restoration Bill, and the Norfolk Island Bill, and suchlike Bills, but can they show me in any of those measures anything that would tend in any way to cheapen the cost of living? Another great cry at the last election related to the extravagance of the Labour Government. It was said that Labour Ministers had squandered money right and left, and our opponents claimed that if they were placed in office they would alter all that, and reduce “ this wanton waste that is going on.” Today we find that, instead, of spending some £22,000,000 in the upkeep of the Commonwealth, by the end of the present financial year they propose to spend something like £27,000,000, or nearly £5,000,000 more than the Fisher Govern ment spent in 1912-13. After the elections there was a great deal of talk about double voting. It was said that one man had voted nineteen times in one electorate, and that men in other constituencies had voted three or four times, and we were told by the daily press, and by some of the Liberal writers to the daily press, that in the Oxley electorate one aud a half votes had been recorded for every voter on the roll. Later on tlie Assistant Minister of Home Affairs brought down a Bill with the object of doing away with what the Minister termed fraudulent voting, and one clause of that Bill provided for a ballot-paper with a block, which was to bear a number and the signature of the elector making application for a voting paper, which, I maintain, was a step towards doing away with the secrecy of the ballot. When the Leader of the Opposition moved his amendment he quoted from one of the world’s magazines to show that the present Ministry had been slandering Australia. The Prime Minister and other honorable members have in this House denied this statement, and declared that nothing of the kind has been given utterance to by any one of their party. However, we have the records of the House, which show that the Honorary Minister, when he introduced this measure last session, said -
We had in 1011 - the last year for which particulars are available - 144,764 convictions in the Police Courts of this country, and 2,631 committals for trial. Those were not serious offences; they were trifling Police Court offences. But the fact remains that a proportion of these men who will commit trilling offences against the law, might be led to commit what they might regard as trifling offences against the electoral system if they thought that honorable members opposite were in danger. Nobody believed at the last general election that honorable members opposite were in danger. The honorable member for West Sydney himself told the people, as reported in the Sydney newspapers, that his party, instead of losing any, was going to win more, scats; and people who did not know him believed him. They thought they were in no danger. There was, in other words, no inducement to do any of the improper things that can be done with absolute safety under the existing electoral system. Since then some of these people have, unfortunately, found out the way to commit these petty crimes, and have learned of the safety accompanying any such breach of the law. We have had thu newspapers full of the opportunities for fraud given by the present electoral system. Every one is” now educated up to the opportunities for fraud which it offers.
That is a slander on the people of Australia, because the honorable gentleman likens the people of the country to those 144,764 persons who appeared before the Police Courts in 1911. The honorable gentleman went on to say -
The point I am making is this: Admittedly honorable members opposite will see that it ought to be worth the while of a man who, perhaps, takes a drink too much, and gets into trouble with the “ beak “ in the morning, to give an extra vote, or to give a vote, and do ti is best for the Labour party.
The honorable gentleman accuses the Labour party of going around the country and seeking the support of men who happen to appear before the “beak” in the morning in consequence of having had a drop too much on the previous night, and he declares that that type of man, and that type only, will be found voting for the Labour party, and voting three or four times if they feel inclined. If that is not a slander on the people of Australia, I should like to know what a slander is The Prime Minister has said there has been no slandering, but, as a matter of fact, these statements have gone forth to the world; and for the slander, which is all on the side of the Liberals, the Honorary Minister is responsible. We were told that during the last election, and we have been told it since in the House, the ex-Minister of Home Affairs, the honorable member for Darwin, issued orders that squatters and others in a similar station of life should not be appointed as presiding officers or poll clerks. Last session I moved for the production of the papers connected with the appointment of a gentleman as presiding officer at Woonona, in my electorate, and amongst those papers wa3 the following - “ Camrose.” Wollongong. 2nd November, “1010.
Returning Officer, Wollongong.
Dear Sir, - Federal Election 1010. - Acting in the capacity of agent for the Hon. G. W. Fuller, it was my duty to spc that our party bad a fair fro.” Rumours having reached me as to Returning Officers and Poll Clerks actively taking part on the Labour side, I inquired of you if vcm were selecting non-party mcn as officers. “ Later on, after one of our meetings at Woonona, and from what I. gathered from authentic sources, I inquired of you if Mr. Horan was one of your officers, when you replied that in all probability he would be appointed. I then said I did not intend appointing scrutineers to sit in the booth, but that I should have to appoint one to watch Mr. Horan. Afterwards, I was informed no appointment was given that gentleman, and I did not appoint a single scrutineer for either one of the booths. The police confirmed my suspicions, and I felt it my duty to challenge any such officer who took sides against my candidate. Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) W. H. Rees.
I happened to visit the polling booth at Woonona, and I found that the gentleman who had been appointed in the position denied to Mr. Horan, had always been an ardent supporter of the Liberal party, and had taken a prominent part in Liberal movements ever since I began to take an active interest in politics. It will be seen, however, that no exception was taken to that gentleman acting in the capacity of presiding officer, although he had happened to take sides on behalf of the gentleman whom Mr. Rees represented. On the other hand, Mr. Horan, because it was thought he had pronounced Labour views, was not accepted as presiding officer or permitted to take any official part in the conduct of the election. One gentleman said that the reason Mr. Horan had not been appointed as a scrutineer was because he had signified his intention to become a candidate in the interests of the Labour party. I did not know at the time that Mr. Horan was even a supporter of mine or of the Labour movement, but when I saw him subsequently he told me distinctly that he had never given anybody any authority to tell the newspapers that it was his intention to seek election, his idea being that it was impossible to win the seat. In the press, and on the public platform, we find the ex-Minister of Home Affairs criticised for having, so it is said, sent out orders that squatters and others who took sides were not to be appointed as presiding officers or poll clerks, though it would appear that if a Labour man is objected to, nothing further is heard about it. I do not know how any Government can hope to obtain presiding officers or poll clerks if partisans on one side or the other may not be selected. Nowadays, when we have the press morning after morning, and evening after evening, pouring forth political news and opinions, people have to array themselves on one side or the other, and necessarily partisans must be appointed as officials.
– Paid scrutineers could do all the work.
– I quite believe that, and then we could do away with poll clerks. We have heard from the Prime Minister that we need clean rolls. We ought to have clean rolls; but the cleaning should be done by departmental officers, it should not be left to the representatives of political organizations. If we allow the roll to be purged in that way, the representatives of one section of the community will challenge the names of members of another section simply to serve their political ends. Just before the beginning of the session, I obtained a copy of the latest roll for the Illawarra division, and compared it with the certified roll used at the election on the 31st May of last year. It contains 1,439 names less than were on that roll. On inquiry, 1 have ascertained that the names of many persons who recorded their votes on 31st May are not on the present roll, although those persons are still entitled to be enrolled. I have learned, too, that quite recently an organizer of the Liberal party lodged at Kiama a list of seventy-nine names, which he said should be struck off the roll forthwith, and that many of those names were the names of persons still residing in Kiama. Just before Christmas, in company with the honorable member for Bendigo, I visited that city to address a week-end meeting, and no fewer than forty persons came to us during our stay - that is, between the Friday night and the following Monday morning - with forms which they had received telling them that if they did not reply within twenty-one days their names would be struck off the roll. The Liberal organizers had been at work. What the Liberal party desires is to strike” off the roll the names of Labour electors, so that the party may succeed at the poll should there be a double dissolution.
– The rolls are being cleaned under regulations framed by the Labour party.
– No. The Electoral Act passed at the instance of the Labour party requires a deposit of 5s. with every objection to an enrolment, but this fee is not being paid.
– The law is being broken.
– Yes. Although Ministers swore to administer the law as they found it, they are not giving effect to this provision, and, for that reason alone, deserve to be severely censured and removed from office. After it was found that statements like that about the man who had voted nineteen times at Ballarat were untrue, the Government decided to appoint a” Royal Commission to tour Australia, in the hope of unearthing something smellful ; but, up to the present time, the Commission has found nothing. It has not discovered the double voting, or other fraudulent practices that the people were told would be discovered. Nothing has come to light yet.
– The honorable member will look very foolish later on.
– I know that the Commission has not yet been to Ballarat, which is where the Liberal party expects to find out something. But, when it goes there, it will merely discover a mare’s nest.
– Has the Commission yet been to Wakefield?
– lt might find something there. It went to Fremantle hoping to unearth something, but discovered nothing. It would not surprise me were the Government to withdraw the Commission on the ground that the inquiry is a waste of public money. It is not only in my division that persons are being disrolled. No doubt, throughout the Commonwealth, 50,000 or 100,000 names have been struck off the rolls since the last election. I want to know what right any Ministry, or any organization, has to purge the rolls in this manner ? All names objected to should be displayed in a public place so that the persons affected might have an opportunity to object to the action proposed to be taken.
– It was promised last year that that should be done.
– It is not being done. We are said to be on the eve of a big fight. Two test Bills are to be proposed to us again - two shams.
– The honorable member is not in order in referring to two proposed measures of legislation as shams.
– They have been so referred to before.
– Then I did not hear what was said. It has been ruled in this House, and in the House of Commons, that to apply the term “sham “ to any measure brought before the House is distinctly disorderly.
– Should I be in order if I called these measures the shadows of a sham ? ^
– Then, for the sake of my argument, I shall call them shadows. I wish to know what is in these measures. If they became law, what would they do for the development of the country ? Would they put a solitary penny into the pockets of the people, or improve the position of the people in any way ? No. They are a pretence, and are to be introduced merely for the purpose of deluding the people into the belief that the Government is desirous of doing something. It has only one desire, and that is to hang on to office. Ministers will cling to office with their teeth, so to speak, if they can do so in no other way. They neither desire nor intend to go to the people, because they know that if they do they will come back but a shattered remnant of their present strength.
– They will stay with the people when they go to them.
– That is one of the truest statements that has been made during this debate.
– If there is nothing in these two measures, why not pass them ?
– Why waste time in passing measures that will benefit no one, and in which there is absolutely nothing? We are sent here to legislate in the interests of the people, and we all know that the Government have already done by administrative order that which they propose to accomplish by one of these Bills.
– Then reject the Bills, and let us go to the people.
– I am prepared to go to the people to-morrow. The Prime Minister told me the other day that he was going to defeat me - that he was going to put up against me a better man than I was. My answer to him is that I beat that man at the last elections, although in one part of my constituency, embracing 18,000 electors, I was practically unknown.
– I did not say I was going to beat the honorable member.
– The honorable member said that he was going to bring along a man who was more respected than I was and who possessed better manners. I do not object to the honorable gentleman holding such views of the man concerned.
I have nothing to say about him. I have met him on several occasions, and we are personally the best of friends. Apart from his political opinions, I have no quarrel with him. The Prime Minister, however, need not think that he is going to “ bluff “ me. I do not care who comes along. I am prepared to contest my seat with the Prime Minister himself. If he comes down to my electorate he will find some of his old workmates - men who worked with him at Lithgow, and who know something of his political career. In reply to the honorable member for Wilmot, who asked a few moments ago, “ Why not pass these Bills if there is nothing in them?” I would ask why the Government do not bring down the measure which they foreshadowed in the Ministerial statement of 1913, in which we were told that -
It is proposed to amend the law relating to conciliation and arbitration in such a way as to prohibit preference being granted by the Court to members of any organization, any part of whoso funds are directly or indirectly applicable to political purposes; and also to restore the ‘exemption of rural workers from the operation of the Act, believing that the conditions of their employment ought to be left to the Status.
Why do you not bring that measure along? You are not game. You know perfectly well that at the last election some rural workers were deluded by the false statements that you made regarding your intention to cheapen the cost of living.
– The honorable member must withdraw the words “ false statements,” and I ask him also to address the Chair.
– I shall bow to your ruling, sir, and say that some rural workers were deluded by the inaccurate statements of the Ministerial party. It has been said in this House that the rural workers should be dealt with by the State tribunals. A little over two years ago Mr. Beeby introduced in the Parliament of New South Wales his Industrial Disputes Bill, which included a clause enabling rural workers to secure the redress of any grievance by going before the Courts of that State. What happened ? The Legislative Council, representing the friends of honorable members opposite, wiped out that clause, and in not one of the States to-day can the rural workers avail themselves of a Wages Board or any other industrial tribunal. In the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act there is a provision relating to the rural workers, but the Government, in the interests of their friends, or masters, the farmers and settlers, say that they are going to repeal it, and that the States should be left to deal with the whole question.
– If the provision is there, why have they not taken advantage of it?
– There is a dispute at present at Coolamon, and in other parts of New South Wales; but, since the employers will not register, or go to the Court and meet the men in conference, nothing can be done. The men are prepared to meet them in conference to-morrow, but they cannot drag the other side before the Court.
– That is not so in relation to any other dispute.
– It is with regard to the rural workers.
– That is the position. The Attorney-General, in speaking last session on the Address-in-Reply, said -
If I had my own way I would say that Parliament should wipe off the statute-book, as the ugliest blot ever put upon it, a provision which enables a legal tribunal to grant a legal preference to unionists in any shape. But this proposal is only one short step; it may be an important step.
Since then he has said that this is the thin end of the wedge”. Why not drive the wedge right home ? Why quibble or dally with the question ? Why waste the time of Parliament by bringing in these fragmentary legislative proposals? If my honorable friends opposite wish to go to the country, why do they not make the issue one of preference or no preference, not merely in regard to the Government service but also in regard to private service ?
– Does the honorable member believe in preference?
– The honorable member for Werriwa is a regular political jackinthebox. In fact I do not think that politically he knows where he is.
– The honorable member is in favour of granting preference to one citizen over another.
– I am not in favour of granting preference to private contractors without calling for tenders.
– The honorable member’s party was.
– I am not responsible for anything my party did prior to my advent here. In various speeches which he has delivered the Prime Minister has told his hearers that the effective wage has tended to decrease the cost of living, and that the effective wage was better now than it was prior to the present Government taking office. I wish to know where there has been any cheapening in the cost of commodities?
– That is what Mr. Knibbs says.
– Any increase which has taken place in the wages paid to workmen has been due to the efforts of industrial organizations throughout the Commonwealth. Yet the Prime Minister says that the Government are responsible for that increase. It is the industrial courts which have granted any increase that has been given.
– The courts do not touch effective wages, but only nominal wages.
– They touch the effective wage of a worker. If a man is receiving 50s. per week, he has only purchasing power to that amount, but if he gets an increase of 5s. per week he has purchasing power to the extent of £2 15s.
Mr.Joseph Cook. - I am afraid that the honorable member is a bit mixed over that.
– I happen to know what I am speaking of, because, before entering this Parliament, I got an increase of wages myself, and as a result I was able to purchase more of the necessaries of life than I was previously. Thus my effective wage was better than it had been. Yet honorable members upon the opposite side of the House tell us that they are responsible for the betterment of the conditions of the people. The Prime Minister has declared that in those States in which Liberal Governments are in power the effective wage of the worker is better than it is in States where Labour Governments are in power.
– Where did he say that?
– At Parramatta, I think. Quite recently the grocers’ assistants obtained an increase of wages as the result of an award of the court. Almost simultaneously the grocers in Victoria, where a Liberal Government are in power, increased the prices of groceries. The Age newspaper thereupon took it upon itself to take these people to task for their action. It exposed the whole business, and by the publicity which it gave to the matter it succeeded in bursting up this so-called ring.
– Hear, hear ! Rings cannot live under our government.
– The Age does not say that the collapse of the ring is due to the Liberal Government. It takes the credit to itself. According to Mr. Knibbs the cost of living between 1901 and 1911 increased by 25 per cent., the increase in house rents being 17.8 per cent. A decent house in Sydney that could be obtained for 17s. a week some four or five years ago will to-day command from 25s. to 27s. 6d. per week - an increase of more than 33 per cent. Many persons who could secure comfortable houses a few years ago are now compelled to live huddled together - sometimes there are as many as three or four families in one dwelling, and in some instances in Sydney there are two families living in one room. I find that a similar condition of affairs exists in Melbourne, because I learn from the Age of Saturday week that -
In Providence-place, McCormac-place, Cumberlandplace, Union-place, and elsewhere in the neighbourhood, there are small, dark, forbidding tenements that virtually have no yard room. Yet each of these vile rookeries is a fine rent-producer. Two small rooms, about 10 x 10 or 10 x 8 each - dark and rotting - yield 10s. and 12s. per week. Three rooms, no more spacious, give 12s. Gd. and 15s. Some of the lanes have been asphalted, and a few of the wretched habitations are tidily kept, but taking them in general, a respectable person would shun them for fear of contamination.
That is the condition of affairs in the city of Melbourne within a stone’s throw of this Parliament.
– The City Council is responsible for that.
– Who are the representatives on the City Council? Who are the voters for the city councillors? They are the very people who support the Liberal party, and who sit cheek by jowl with my honorable friends opposite when they are enunciating their political views from the public platforms.
– The honorable member knows that we cannot deal with that question.
– I am quite aware of that. I am dealing with it because the honorable member’s party is responsible for it. The people whom I represent are compelled to live in these hovels, and I am here to champion their cause and endeavour to secure an improvement in their conditions. If I fail to do that, then these people have the right to turn me down, and put in my place somebody else who will see that justice is done to them.
– Tell them what the State of Victoria is doing in the matter.
– I will tell the honorable member what New South Wales is doing. I talked last session about tlie hovels in which the people of Sydney were living. The Government of New South Wales today are building places out at Daceyville, and they have consolidated the two State Savings Banks so that workmen in the cities can get money at a cheap rate of interest to build their own homes away from the slum areas. But what are the Victorian Government, representing the same class of people as the honorable member represents, doing in that direction ? They are not assisting the workmen in the building of their own homes, but are leaving them to the tender mercies of the landlords, who can filch from them as they will.
– There are members of your own party on a Board investigating the matter now.
– They are investigating the matter and collecting evidence so that my party may be able, to deal with the question when they come into power. The time is not far distant when my party in this State will occupy the Ministerial . seats in the State Legislature, as they already do in Western Australia, Tasmania, and New South Wales. So far as regards the cost of living, one of the chief commodities that the workers have to live on is meat, the price of which in the city of Sydney has gone up during the last twelve months most fabulously. A piece of prime beef or prime steak costs the working man lOd. or lid. a lb. there. The same condition exists in all the large towns of the Commonwealth, and this in a country where we grow beef.
– Not in Perth.
– No; because in Western Australia the State Government, in order to grapple with the question, have started meat supply shops, so that the people can get meat as cheaply as it is possible to give it to them.
– What is the price there ?
– 2d., 3d., and 4d. a lb. less than in New South Wales. Some time ago a Commission was appointed to go into the question of the cost of living in New South Wales. One of the witnesses was Dr. Arthur, who represents the aristocratic constituency of Mosman in the New South Wales Parliament, and considers himself a great authority on the question. He said, in his evidence, that a family of five ought to be satisfied to reside in a house of three rooms, and that 22s. 6d. per week was sufficient income for a man, his wife, and three children to maintain themselves on.
– Is the honorable member quoting correctly? I know Dr. Arthur, and am quite sure that those are not his sentiments.
– I am quoting his evidence, as given in the daily press. If the daily press has misreported him, he has his remedy by replying by way of a letter, contradicting the statements.
– Would the honorable member mind saying on what date that evidence was published ?
– I could not give it from memory, but it was just before the last New South Wales election. Dr. Arthur went on to enumerate what articles he thought were necessary for the upkeep of a family, and what this 22s. 6d. per week ought to buy, whereupon Mr. Connington, Secretary of the Trolley and Draymen’s Union, who was representing the Trades Hall on that Commission, said, “ But, Dr. Arthur, you did not mention tea.” “ No,” said the doctor, “ I did not mention tea, because I consider tea is a luxury.”
– The last organizer of one leading Conservative body in Victoria said that beer and marriage were luxuries for the worker.
– Yes; we have heard that long beers and marriage are regarded as luxuries. That evidence shows what the Liberal party want to bring into existence. They want to go back to the old times. The Liberal party opposite, if they had their way to-morrow, although they say they have done a lot for the people of this country, would work it so that trade unionism would have no place so far as the laws of this country are concerned. According to the Sydney Morning Herald of 15th July, 1913, a gentleman called Dr. Robertson gave evidence before a Royal Commission on industrial legislation appointed by the Labour Government. I know him well, having, as a representative of the Colliery Employes Union in the Illawarra district, met him in many conferences. He said, in his evidence before that body -
In regard to the evidence as to the cost of living, few, if any, chairmen over suggested that this was not diminished by the expensive ways and luxuries now considered necessary by workers, or by their excessive attendances at theatres, picture shows, football matches, and racing fixtures, with which of late the workmen had become obsessed.
Here is a man who says that these things are luxuries. He says the worker should be denied them, as they were denied them in days gone by. Many workers could never attend a theatre in those days, or a race meeting, or a cricket or football match, because they could not afford the expense. Dr. Robertson, however, says that that is the reason of the increased cost of living. I hold that, as these people are the creators of the wealth, they have the most right to say how they are going to spend it, and the most right to the luxuries of this world, whatever Dr. Robertson or anybody else says. They create the wealth ; they are the people who should utilize it and enjoy it. God knows how little they get of the wealth that they create. They build the motor cars and the palatial mansions, and all the other good things, but they are the people who have to live in hovels, to take refuge in slums, and to use all the rejected food-stuffs that are not fit to send abroad. The producers of this country, whether on the land or in the cities, are the people who should have the best of everything, and all the enjoyment of that which is good. But many of these things are denied to them, and they are not in a position to get them. It is for that reason that trade unionism has come into existence, and has come to stay. It is for that reason that this great industrial unrest is going on to-day. So long as we have on one side the “ Haves,” and on the other side the “ Have-nots,” so long will industrial unrest continue, and all your legislation, and all your talk, will not stop it one iota.
– Does the honorable member think that trade unions have only lately come into existence ? Some of them are 4,000 or 5,000 years old.
– I am very pleased to have heard that interjection. I am prepared to admit that trade unions have been in existence for 5,000 years, but I want to say that the party with whom the honorable member is associated have fought trade unions all along the line. They have been responsible for the gaoling of trade union leaders, and the victimization of trade unionists. They have boycotted the leading members of the trade unions because they have dared to stand up for their rights. In this country less than thirty years ago they circulated the photographs of honest working men in order to prevent them securing employment. They sent photographs of men round to the various mining fields, and those looking for a job found that their photographs had reached the field before them. This Dr. Robertson, whom I have just quoted, has hounded men out of the Illawarra district because they dared to stand up for their rights, and took an active part in trade unionism.
– The honorable member said it was Dr. Arthur, and he now says it was Dr. Robertson !
– I refer now to Dr. Robertson, the gentleman whom I quoted on the subject of working men attending picture shows and race meetings. In 1887 and the early nineties the present Prime Minister was taking a prominent part in connexion with trade unions in the Lithgow district. He could say something about the number of men who were victimised in that district. I say that the great maritime strike was brought about because of the victimization of men engaged in responsible positions as captains and mates on boats trading on the coast of Australia. They attempted to better their conditions by joining the Trades Hall Councils in the various capital cities, and for this were discharged from their employment. That is what brought about the great upheaval which is known as the maritime strike. The other night the Prime Minister was told that he was once connected with our party and with the unions, and by interjection the honorable gentleman said, “The unions I was associated with were of a different class from the unions of today.” What is the difference between the unions then and now, the unions of 1890 and those of 1914? All the difference between them is that to-day they have advanced and strengthened their position. Their power in the early days was infinitesimal, and they were unable to put up a fight for their rights. Their leaders were sacrificed. Any man who dared to stand out and take a leading part in unionism knew that it was as much as his job was worth, and that his wife and children would be left in want whilst he travelled to fields afar to seek employment. But that is all changed now. We are told that trade unionism in those days was trade unionism pure and simple, but that in these days the members of trade unions are compelled to pay something to a parliamentary fund. We were told in 1890 that the only way in which to secure redress of our grievances was through the Legislature. The Prime Minister is himself one of the results of parliamentary action by trade unionists. He owes his present position in this House to the trade unionists of the Lithgow district of 1890. * But if they could have looked into the future, and if it could have been foretold how the honorable gentleman was going to treat them, no Joe Cook would have been their selection - not much ! The honorable gentleman would probably today be delving his eye-balls out down in the bowels of the earth getting his little bit of coal for a few pence per ton, instead of being Prime Minister of Australia, if it could have been foreseen that he would turn against the men who were the ladder by which, he climbed, and the bridge that carried him over in the days of his adversity. I know the position the honorable gentleman was in, because I know something of the troubles of the miners at that time. The conditions of the coal mining industry were then very bad, and the men had to work short time. I have seen men in the Illawarra district going home with 30s. for a fortnight’s wages, and I have seen them going into the mines in that district, and taking with them boiled turnips to eat for their crib, leaving the small piece of bread, the bit of butter, and the little bit of meat that may have been secured, in the home for the children. T say that we have had to fight our way from those conditions up to our present position, and we were successful in doing so only because we came into the political field and took political action. We were thus able to send men into Parliament to give publicity from the public platform, and in our legislative halls, to the conditions to which workmen were subjected.
– And the legislation of honorable members opposite has robbed the worker of a large part of his earnings by taxation.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Werriwa should be so blind. He reminds me of a story I heard of a boy who had some puppies that he wanted to sell. He met a certain fat gentleman, to whom he said, “ I have some puppies for sale, will you buy them?” The gentleman asked him, “ How much are they, and what is the breed?” The lad said, “They are Liberal puppies, and I will sell them for half-a-crown.” The gentleman said, “ I do not want them; take them away, my boy.” The boy went home for a bit of lunch, and when he came out again in the afternoon he thought he ought to get a better price for the puppies. He saw two gentlemen standing together, and, going up to them, he said to one, “ Will you buy these puppies?” The gentleman said, “How much are they?” and the lad said, “ A guinea each.” He then found that one of the gentlemen to whom he offered them was the man he had approached in the morning. The gentleman said, “ You young scamp, you told me this morning that the price was halfacrown.” The other gentleman then asked, “What is the breed?” and the boy replied, “ They are Labour puppies.” The first gentleman then said, “ You told me they were Liberal puppies this morning.” “ Yes,” said the boy, “ but they have had their eyes opened since.” I say to the honorable member for Werriwa that if he lives long enough, I have no doubt he will have his eyes opened to the economic position of this country.
– That joke is about four million years old.
– If it is, it is about as antiquated as is the honorable member for Henty. We have heard a great deal about the desire of honorable members opposi te to go back to the people. If any party ought to have a desire to go to the country it should be the party on this side of the House.
– We on this side want to go to the country, and the sooner our opponents go there the better shall we be pleased. Let us glance at the trend of the Labour movement during the last few years. In three of the States to-day a Labour Government is ruling. In New South Wales, for instance, there is a Labour Government with a majority of ten. Three years previously they had a majority of two, and sometimes they were without a majority. After three years of office they went to the country, and came back with a majority of ten. Again, in Western Australia, Labour is ruling. I do not know the exact majority, but I know it is a big one. Then, take the results of by-elections held recently in various States. At Normanby, in Queensland, where we never before had a possible show of getting the seat, the majority of the Tories was almost wiped out. Again, at two recent by-elections in Victoria Labour increased the number of votes it had received at the general election, and the majority of the two successful Liberal candidates, both of them Ministers, was substantially reduced.
– Simply because the poll was held in the middle of the holidays.
– If it had not been holiday time, it would have been a case of Lord help the Liberal party !
– If you knew anything at all about the matter, you would know that that statement is not correct.
– I do know something about the matter because I happened to take part in the elections. Recently Labour was successful in winning the Denison seat in Tasmania by a substantial majority and so bringing the two parties up to the same number, with the result that the Liberal party went out of office and the Labour party to-day holds the reins of government. In Western Australia the Kalgoorlie State seat was retained by a majority of nearly two to one, while the Kalgoorlie Federal seat we won without a contest. In the contest for the north-east Council seat, which was formerly held by the Tory party, we beat them by a majority of two to one. Again, in New Zealand, at the last two byelections two seats which were previously held by Tories were won by the Social Democratic party, formed on the same principle as the Labour party of the
Commonwealth. In South Africa Labour was successful in winning 23 seats in the Provincial Council of the Transvaal. Labour is on the onward march, and because it is we are never afraid to go to our betters and leave them to decide whether the country shall be ruled by the Labour party or the Tories. I am pleased that the Minister of Trade and Customs is here, as I desire to elicit some information. For about fourteen years both Houses of this Parliament were engaged in discussing a Navigation Bill. It rested with a Labour Government to pass the measure.
– And a most disgraceful measure it is to create trusts.
– Order !
– The Navigation Bill had not received the Royal assent when the Labour Ministry went out of office. The present Government have been charged with the responsibility of administering the affairs of the country, and they are sworn to administer the laws. I have pointed out that they are not administering the Electoral Act as it ought to be carried out. I understand that about nine months ago or thereabouts the Navigation Bill received the Royal assent and was returned to the Commonwealth. I want to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs when the measure is to be brought into operation. The honorable member for Werriwa has said that it is a most disgraceful measure. It does not matter whether it is disgraceful or not-
– I take the honorable member on his own assertion.
– You are on the side of the trusts, then.
– This measure is the law of the land and has a right to be put into operation whether the Government agree with its provisions or not, because they are sworn to administer the law. What is the Minister of Trade and Customs doing, or what has he done in this matter ? Is he delaying the proclamation of the Act in the interests of the large shipping companies of this country because certain provisions will give to the seamen and third class passengers better accommodation than they have received under previous legislation 1 Is that the reason why the measure is hung up 1
– No, and you know it.
– If the Navigation Act contains any flaws, why do not the Mini sters in decency bring down an amending Bill so as to rectify anything which in their opinion may not be right? I ask, again, when is this measure to be put in proper working order. The Minister of Trade and Customs and Ministers in general are wanting in their administration, and because they are not carrying out that administrative work which they were sworn to carry out they deserve the severest censure of the Opposition and the people of Australia in general. Because the Government are not administering the Navigation Act, the people ought to have an opportunity of putting somebody on the Ministerial bench who will see that that and other Acts are administered in -.he interests of the people for whom they were framed.
– You want to see the Act put into operation on behalf of the Shipping Trust.
– The honorable member for Werriwa seems to have trusts on the brain. Sometimes his trouble is smallpox, sometimes vaccination, sometimes trusts, and at other times the single-tax.
– I have never spoken on the single-tax in my life.
– The honorable member seems to have hallucinations troubling his mind all the time, and he ought to undergo medical examination, in order to ascertain what really is the matter with him. I spoke in the early part of my address about the growth of taxation. We find that the defence expenditure is becoming too great, and something will require to be done to curb it. We are going too fast in defence expenditure. The country went mad on defence, and the time has arrived when those members who are opposed to this form of expenditure should take steps to curtail it in some way
– Your party brought it forward.
– The Liberal party has been bugling about it throughout the country.
– I opposed it all through.
– I quite agree with the motion which has been framed by the honorable member for Perth in connexion with the raising of the age limit. In my opinion, it is possible to properly train and discipline young men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years, and
I want to raise my protest against the manner in which some of the boys are taken from their homes at all hours, regardless of whether they are in the position to go, and forced to attend drills at most inconvenient times. Recently I received a letter from a lad who had been forced to attend the late military encampment. He had no objection to going into camp, and he asked his employer for the necessary -time off. The employer paid off the lad immediately, but did not say that he was discharging him. When the lad returned from camp and presented himself for work, he was told that he was no longer required. The military authorities in Sydney promised him that they would make inquiries ; but that lad is out of work to-day, although he has the responsibility of assisting to maintain the household. At the recent encampment at Liverpool, some thousands of boys were forced to remain under canvas during some of the most trying wet weather that [New South Wales has ever experienced. I saw a photograph of the camp at Liverpool taken five hours after the flood waters had passed through, and the lads were then standing knee-deep in water, and their clothing and blankets were so wet that they were unable to use them. Without being allowed sufficient time to dry their clothes, the lads were ordered out on a forced march, on which they carried more weight than they ought to have carried. Yet the commanding officer said that everything possible was done for the comfort of the lads. In decency the authorities should have struck camp immediately and despatched the boys to their homes. I understand that some of the boys in my district were stricken down, and were incapacitated from work for some days. If the country is obliged to keep up expenditure on defence, the lads ought to be given all possible comforts during a trying camp of that description. Again, I want to emphasize that the training period is too long.
– The speeches are too long.
– I have never said anything when the honorable member has been speaking. I have always listened to him with a great deal of attention. The honorable member has had the opportunity of attending a college, and then the University, partly at the public expense. I had to go to work when I was only nine years of age, and what little education I gained I had to acquire unassisted by candle light. The period that the lads are required to train is too long.
– Sixty hours a year!
– I am referring to the number of years over which they are required to train: If they cannot learn the rudiments of soldiering in five years, they are not worth their salt. I believe they could do, and would do, in five years what they are now required to do in eleven years.
– What would you do if you were in Europe?
– If the honorable member had his way, he would introduce in Australia the conscription system which obtains in Europe.
– You have already introduced it here.
– I contend that fourteen years is too early an age at which to send these boys into camp. A number of the boys have widowed mothers of whom they are the sole support. I have two or three cases of the kind under my observation. Lately I had to write about a case, and I received a reply that other days were to be set apart for these boys to attend drill. Boys who are the sole support of their family, and who have to work hard five or six days in the week, ought to be exempted from attending such drill. These poor people must grow their own vegetables, and probably the boys are obliged, to do gardening at home in order to maintain the house, and take the dead father’s place; but the time set apart for that work is denied them through their being forced to go out to attend these drills.
– The total drilling hours amount to three months only in eleven years.
– But there are a number of additional parades which they are forced to attend, and it is those that I am against. Then,, again, the officers have too much power. We need to clip their wings a little, and see that they have not the power that they have had in the past. I ventilate this matter so that something may be done for the boys who are the sole support of widowed mothers and families, and so that they will not be forced to attend these drills on Saturday afternoons or week nights, as the case may be. My vote is to be cast for the amendment. So far as I am concerned, the vote can be taken right away. Whatever the result may be, I am not afraid of it. I do not care if Ministers get a double dissolution to-morrow. I am prepared to go back to the people who sent me here eleven months ago. I feel satisfied that the result will be the same as it was on the last occasion, so far as I am concerned. I hope the time is not far distant when the present Government will be removed, and opportunity will be given to a Government that will do as they did during their previous three years of office, that is, something towards the uplifting and benefiting of the great mass of the people of the Commonwealth.
– I am very disappointed to find supporters of the Government remaining so silent. The honorable member who moved the adoption of the Address-in-Reply could not find in the Government’s policy any material on which to speak, and the honorable member who seconded the motion spoke for eight minutes only. It makes one feel that those sitting behind the Government are not altogether pleased with the policy brought down. Can we feel otherwise when we find them sitting silent and not offering a word in support of that policy? At the beginning of last session, Ministers brought down a statement or programme containing twenty measures, but they only attempted to bring forward one or two of the Bills, and they were successful in passing only one small non-contentious Bill - the Norfolk Island Bill. Taking that as a criterion, we need not hope for much legislation during this session. Had it not been for the Conference of State Premiers, I think we would have had a very poor policy Speech from the GovernorGeneral. These things do not appear to worry the Government to any extent, but I would like to hear the opinions of their supporters in connexion with the policy put forward in the Speech now before us. It is .all very well for these honorable members supporting the Government to tell the people in different parts of their electorates, or through the columns of the newspapers, what they proposed to do immediately the House met; but, when they have had an opportunity of carrying their proposals into effect, they are conspicuous by their silence, and I think they propose to remain silent throughout the balance of the session. Last night, at St. Kilda, we were treated to a speech from the Prime Minister, and we can take it from his remarks that if the Government cannot carry on it is their intention to go out of office. We know that they cannot carry on, and therefore we can expect them to go out of office immediately. The Prime Minister would hardly go to a hall in the neighbourhood of Melbourne, and deliver such a speech unless it was his intention to appeal to the country immediately; and the sooner he brings about the crisis the better pleased honorable members of the Opposition will be. The Prime Minister knows that he is not in a position to carry on the affairs of the country in a satisfactory manner, so that we can expect an immediate appeal to the people. The Post Office has not been touched upon by many speakers, but I propose to bring under the notice of honorable members the poor pay the officers of our postal service receive. I asked the Prime Minister the other day whether he was aware that the Post Office was doing more than 50 per cent, of the work in connexion with the Electoral Department, and, in all probability, the officers of. the Postal Department will be loaded with a great deal more work in connexion with the recently altered administration of electoral matters. Permanent Returning Officers have already been appointed for every electorate throughout the Commonwealth, with the exception of Tasmania, but these officers will merely act as additional clerks in the Electoral Office, and the whole of the information they get will have to be collected through the Post Office. In my opinion, the amount to be spent in salaries for these Divisional Returning Officers could well be divided among the different post-offices as an addition to the emoluments received by the postal officials doing electoral work. In that case, I am confident that we would have a much better service, and a much cleaner roll, while we would be served much more satisfactorily than at present. However, I understand the Government have already made the appointments, and a suggestion for any departure from their present system of obtaining nar_«s and cleaning the rolls is a little late, though on some future occasion, I am sure Ave shall need to connect the Electoral Office with the Post Office. The Postmaster- General when he is preparing his Estimates for the coming financial year should, I think, take into consideration the advisableness of increasing the salaries of our postal officials. I understand, on very reliable authority, that the Deputy Postmaster-General in Western Australia is so dissatisfied with his present position and salary that he has applied for the post of Chief Clerk, which has recently become vacant in New South Wales.
– I believe he has got the post.
– If so, it only shows that the Deputy Postmasters-General throughout the Commonwealth are not receiving that consideration to which they are entitled. It was the intention of the late Government to increase the salary of every Deputy Postmaster-General. This fact is, I think, within the knowledge of the present Government; but any item with that object in view was religiously omitted from the Estimates of last year. The salaries of these officers should be brought up to the standard observed for similar positions in the various Public Services throughout Australia; because, if they are not, the Commonwealth will not receive that return to which it is entitled. Of course, I know that, from a financial point of view, the Postmaster-General is in a difficult position, but it only requires courage to inaugurate a different system in the administration. For instance, business firms are allowed to use the Post Office as a branch of their undertakings, and many of them extensively do so for the purpose of furthering their own interests. They publish big catalogues which are posted to all their clients every year, and the cost of delivery is, to them, very small indeed. No doubt, the Post Office perforins a very valuable service for those firms, and I think it would be only fair and reasonable if they were called upon to pay additional postage. I have, on previous occasions, brought this matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General; and if he is not prepared to take some steps, he ought to give us some sound reason for his attitude. We are told that our telephone system throughout the Commonwealth is very bad; and yet the Government have not the courage to levy any additional charges. The Government ought to be prepared, in this respect, to show us those keen administrative powers of which they tell us they are possessed, instead of contenting themselves with declaring that they require £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to bring the Department up to date. However difficult the position of the PostmasterGeneral may be, he could be relieved of much worry if the Government were to give him a grant to enable him to put the Post Office on a satisfactory revenue-producing basis. We all recognise that something must be done in this direction ; and unless the Government come to the assistance of the Department we shall not receive that revenue which we are entitled to expect. My hope is that the Postmaster-General will take into consideration the remodelling of the whole of the service. In many of the States the Deputy Postmasters are, we know, doing their best; but the conditions are of such a nature that it is absolutely impossible for them to do what they would like to do, or what they know should be done, to raise the service to a fair and reasonable standard. As I said before, the Postmaster-General has a big contract on hand, but he may rely on the assistance of honorable members of this House to better the conditions. We ought to see whether it is not possible to levy some additional charge in connexion with the telephones. We are told that there are not sufficient funds at the disposal of the Department for the provision of the telephone lines that are so much required, and if the Government are not prepared to provide additional means by way of grant or allowance, the only alternative is an additional charge for the use of the telephones. Many of the officers of the Postal Department are so badly paid that they are looking for new positions. Deputy Postmasters, Secretaries, Chief Clerks, and other officers have probably as much work and responsibilities as have officers in similar positions in the United Kingdom; and I should just like to compare the salaries paid in the two countries. We are underpaying our staff to a very large extent, and that probably is one reason why there is not the initiative on the part of the officers that is so desirable. The Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral at Home starts at a salary of £1,750 a year, and rises to a maximum of £2,000 in five years; the second Secretary starts at £1,250 a year, and rises to £1,400 in three years; the third Secretary starts at £1,200, and rises to £1,300 a year; six assistant secretaries start at £1,000 a year, and rise by annual increments to £1,200; and nine principal clerks start at £700, and rise by annual increments of £25 to £900 a year. In Australia, however, we can afford to pay the Secretary to the PostmasterGeneral only £1,000 a year, and there is no indication that the salary is likely to be raised. The Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney receives £850; in Melbourne, £800; in Brisbane, £750; in Adelaide, £650; iii Perth, £650, and in Hobart, £500. I understand that the late PostmasterGeneral, Mr. C. E. Frazer, made provision for the appointment of ten principal clerks, and, though I am not aware of the salaries attached to the positions, I know that it was his intention to increase the salaries of all the Deputy Postmasters. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral will keep in mind the intention of his predecessor in this regard. These officials are managing one of the biggest Departments in the Commonwealth, and no public officers are asked to accept such a responsibility as that placed on our Deputy Postmasters, who are paid such poor salaries. My own opinion is that no Deputy Postmaster-General should receive less than about £1,000 a year, and some of them - say, in Sydney and Melbourne, and, probably in Brisbane - should be paid even more. Unless you pay decent salaries, you cannot expect good service. These men are at present receiving paltry salaries. I shall leave what more I have to say about this matter until later in the session, as 1 feel that the Postmaster- General will take into consideration the need for providing increases for these men on the coming Estimates. Those whom I have mentioned are not the only persons in the service who should receive increases of salary. Our country postmasters form the poorest paid class of public servants. In some of the suburban offices in Sydney and Melbourne there are supervisors, having under them eight or ten persons, who receive only £3 or £3 2s. 6d. a week. There must be something radically wrong when the Post Office will pay only salaries like that. Probably the PostmasterGeneral will be able to look into the matter, and deal more liberally with these officers, who are justly entitled to increases, which cannot come too soon.
– Does not the honorable member think that some of those in the lower grades are more entitled to increases than are those whom he has mentioned ?
– The Deputy PostmastersGeneral are entitled to increases, but the whole of the service is underpaid. I say that the Postal Department is lending itself to the business houses, and not asking them to pay enough for the services that it renders to them. The PostmasterGeneral should take into consideration the advisability of either reducing the amount of work done in this way or increasing the charges. At present large firms send out an immense number of catalogues through the post. Great parcels of postal matter have to be handled in every capital and large town, and distributed throughout the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth receives very little for the service.
– The rates were fixed by Act of Parliament. I cannot alter them ; though, if I could, I would do so.
– They could be altered by Act of Parliament, and I think that tha honorable gentleman would receive the support of the House if he proposed an alteration. Our business houses are in a flourishing condition, and able to pay for the services rendered to them by the Post Office. It is only just, therefore, that they should be made to pay.
– Increase the telephone rates. We are losing more on the telephone service than on any other branch of the Department’s work.
– That would be false economy.
– I do not think that it would be false economy. We are told that one of the reasons why the Department cannot construct new telephone lines is that it has not enough money at its disposal.
– The honorable member is referring to capital expenditure. We cannot be expected to pay for construction work out of income.
– All I know is that we need a better service, and that our officials should be paid better salaries. If the present rates are retained, I do not think we shall get good results. I wish now to refer to something that has been already mentioned several times, and is well known to Ministers, that is, to the Beef Trust.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The applause comes from those who are in sympathy with the public because’ of the extortionate charges which the Beef Trust will make the people pay. I began my attack on the AttorneyGeneral by putting to him questions about the Beef Trust which he side.stepped by passing the matter on to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I was anxious to get information of the Government’s intention regarding the trust, and therefore directed my questions to the Minister of Trade and Customs. But he was always evasive, and never satisfactory. The members of the Cabinet, including the Prime Minister and the AttorneyGeneral, have repeatedly mentioned the Beef Trust at public meetings, and have told their hearers that it was under the careful observation of the Minister of Trade and Customs. The Minister should therefore have made a statement to this House as to the legislation it is proposed to pass to deal with the trust. We on this side are satisfied that Ministers are in sympathy with the Beef Trust, and not desirous of bringing forward legislation to interfere with its operations, or to prevent it from spreading its tentacles all over the Commonwealth. Instead of interfering with this octopus, they prefer to stand by it. Of course, they will not suffer by its presence in Australia. But the people will suffer. We are daily told by Ministers and supporters of the Government that the trust has no influence in Australia, and that its presence here has nothing to, do with the present high price of meat. I assert that the Beef Trust alone is responsible for the increase in the price of meat. There is a shortage of cattle, but tlie Commonwealth statistics show that that shortage is not so great as to account for the increase in the price of meat. This is a matter for which the Government will have to answer to the people. Whether it has or has not the power to deal with the Beef Trust is another matter. In my opinion, Ministers could intimate to the trust that they intend to put themselves in a position to prevent it establishing branches in every State of the Commonwealth and in every cattle-rearing district. The AttorneyGeneral has admitted that the Beef Trust has a history, but has told us that it will not repeat here what it has done in other countries. The history of its doings in America is well known to every honorable member. The Beef Trust is composed of Messrs. Swift & Co., Messrs. Armour & Co., Messrs. Morris & Co., Messrs. G. H. Hammond & Co., the National Packing Co., and Messrs. Libby, McNeil, and Libby. This trust is operating in Australia as well as in the United States, the Argentine, Canada and Great Britain. The Beef Trust proposes to operate in South Africa and New Zealand, and is already operating extensively in Australia. The Attorney-General has said it is no longer a trust; that some time ago criminal proceedings which were instituted against members of the trust in America failed ; that civil proceedings were then instituted, but that the trust, to avoid further litigation, admitted that it was a trust, and then dissolved. The honorable gentleman told his audience at Warrnambool recently that the trust had dissolved, but he did not mention how it was dissolved. What took place was merely that each member of the trust agreed to take upon his own shoulders a certain proportion of its responsibility ; and, save that it did not have a central office, the trust went on as before.
-The honorable member has on the business-paper a notice of motion relating to the American Beef Trust. I therefore ask him not to go into detailed particulars regarding the American Beef Trust, since, by doing so, he would anticipate the discussion of his motion. That would be contrary to standins; order 274. The honorable member « will be in order, however, in making a general reference to the subject.
– On a point of order, do you rule, Mr. Speaker, that, on a censure motion, we cannot discuss something that is the subject-matter of a notice of motion on the business-paper ? I am familiar with the standing order in question, but would submit that the widest latitude should be allowed on a motion of censure. If a common-sense interpretation were not given to the standing order, the position under it would be very serious. For instance, if some one had moved for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the TeesdaleSmith contract, that matter could not be discussed on this motion if reasonable latitude were not allowed.
– While it is true generally that, on a motion of censure, a great deal of latitude is allowable, such a motion does not overrule the Standing Orders, and the standing order distinctly provides that anticipation of the subject of a notice of motion cannot be allowed. The honorable member for Oxley will be able to go into all the details of the operations of the American Beef Trust in Australia in discussing the motion of which he has given notice ; but he may not do so in this debate. He can make a general reference to the matter, but must not go into it with detailed particularity.
– The trust, having “dissolved” in the way I have outlined, went on its way gaily, and was quite as strong as before the civil proceedings were instituted. The only change made was that the central office was abolished. In its stead a secret method of conducting its business was adopted at some private place, which has not yet been discovered. The Attorney-General has, perhaps, a better knowledge of the history of the trust iu America than has any other honorable member, and, had he wished, could probably have supplied us with information such as would have caused most of us to shudder. We feel confident that the history of the trust in America is going to be repeated in Australia. The Attorney-General referred to the existence of the trusts in the Argentine. Bie told us that the trust entered into a compact with certain local meat companies to control the export trade of the Argentine, and that, up to a certain period - in other words, until it found that it was able to double its shipments - the trust observed the agreement. This compact remained in force until 5th April of last year. Up to that time the American Beef Trust had been preparing to increase its shipments. As soon as it was in a position to control the whole of the live stock trade as well as the dead meat market of the Argentine, it disagreed with the other parties to the combine, believing that it could do better by acting independently. Immediately after the combine in the Argentine had dissolved, the Meat Trust shipped from the Argentine, during the first twelve days of May, three times the quantity of meat-
– I am sorry to intervene, but the honorable member is now going into very detailed particulars regarding the American Beef Trust. The terms of his notice of motion are as follow : -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is desirable that immediate steps be taken to protect the Australian pastoral industry against the predatory operations of the American Beef Trust: and, also, to protect the consumer against the extortionate prices now being charged for meat.
The honorable member will recognise that he is traversing the terms of that motion. Standing order 274 provides that -
No member shall digress from the subjectmatter of any question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any other subject, which appears on the notice-paper.
The honorable member will be in order, as I have said, in making a general reference to the American Beef Trust, but if he goes into detailed particulars regarding its operation here he will be anticipating the notice of motion standing in his name on the notice-paper, and that, according to standing order 274, may not be done.
– On a point of order,, sir, I wish to know whether you rule definitely that the honorable member is out of order in referring to the American Beef Trust. The honorable member’s notice of motion relates, not to the Beef Trust, but to the protection of Australia, against the trust. It is humanly impossible to say whether the honorable member is anticipating what may be said regarding the protection of Australia against the Meat Trust. I think that the greatest latitude should be allowed to honorable members in discussing this motion. I submit that it is impossible for anybody to say whether the honorable member for Oxley is anticipating debate, and I also maintain that the standing order to which you have referred does not apply to a no-confidence motion. If it does, in order to prevent discussion on any subject, the Government would lm ve merely to induce a number of their followers to give certain notices of motion.
– I desire to point out that the Hansard report of the AttorneyGeneral’s references to the American Beef Trust, in discussing this no-confidence amendment, occupies some three or four pages. He referred to various finns by name, and declared that it was impossible for any action to be taken by the Commonwealth unless fresh legislation were introduced. If the honorable member for Oxley is to be prevented from discussing the American Beef Trust, a similar embargo should have been placed upon the Attorney-General. I understand that there is a notice of motion upon the businesspaper relating to the powellising contract. If effect is to be given to the standing order which you have cited, no honorable member will be at liberty to debate that matter on this motion. I recollect an occasion on which the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs occupied five hours in discussing a question, and I also remember several occasions on which one and a half hours would have been all too short a period for you, sir, to express your views upon various subjects. At the present time we are allowed to speak for only one hour and thirty-five minutes, and if standing order 274 is to be rigidly enforced, our position, sir, will be rendered extremely difficult.
– Seeing that our Standing Orders are of a temporary character, it is manifest that when a motion of censure is submitted it must dominate everything else. I hope, sir, that you will not adhere to the ruling which you have given, because it will tend to create a feeling that honorable members are not at liberty to adequately express themselves.
– The honorable member for Kennedy was mistaken when he said that the motion of the honorable member for Oxley contains no reference to the American Beef Trust. It specifically refers to the American Beef Trust and to its operations in Australia. Had the honorable member for Oxley spoken of trusts broadly and. without the particularity that he did, I should not have intervened. I have abundant authority for the ruling which I have given. Honorable members are mistaken in supposing that I desire to unduly limit the scope of the discussion. But I am bound by the Standing Orders to intervene in certain contingencies. The honorable member for Oxley will be perfectly in order in making a general reference to the American Beef Trust, or to discuss Beef Trusts in general, but he will not be in order in entering into all the details that are covered by his notice of motion relating to the American Beef Trust.
– I take it that the honorable member for Oxley or any other honorable member will be at liberty to refer to the operations of the American Beef Trust in the United States, in the Argentine, or in other parts of the world, and at the conclusion of his remarks to draw the moral as to its operations in Australia.
– That will be permissible, as long as the reference goes no further.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45 p.m.
– The Attorney-General is labouring under the impression that, even though so many new companies have, as we know, established works in Australia, there is little fear of our being treated, in connexion with our meat supply, as the American people are being treated to-day. I do not agree with the Attorney-General’s view in that regard, because I feel, and my feeling is shared bythe majority of the people of the Commonwealth, that we are on the verge of having our meat supply controlled by a monopoly, and it is the duty of the Government to take a more serious view of the position than they appear to do. When we hear Ministers saying that there is nothing to fear in that direction, I am inclined to think that they are treating the matter far too lightly. The Attorney-General has told people in different parts of Victoria that there is nothing to fear, as the Federal Parliament has sufficient power under the Constitution to deal with the matter. It is the duty of the Government to tell the people what their ideas are, and then possibly we may be able to offer some suggestions that may be an improvement on the legislation which they are contemplating. This is one of the most serious matters that have been dealt with in this Chamber. The Government must recognise its seriousness when they know that an American firm like Swift and Company has spent £1,750,000 on works on the Brisbane River. I am not going to say that they are members of the trust, but I shall refer to them in the same manner as the Attorney-General is prepared to refer to the meat dealers of the world by saying that they also have a history, and that that history is likely to berepeated in Australia. The history of Swift and Company, of Armour and Company, Morris and Company, G. H. Hammond and Company, the National Packing Company, and Libby, McNeil, and Libby, is sufficiently known to the world to make it clear that their presence in any new country is not going to be very beneficial to the people of that country. Judging by his remarks at the St. Hilda Town Hall last night, the Prime Minister appears to recognise that there are certain people in the Commonwealth to-day who have caused a feeling of fear in the hearts of many of our citizens that they may be robbed of some of the food supplies which they have hitherto been able to purchase at something like reasonable prices. He said that much had been heard of a Beef Trust, but that the Ministry had taken care that there would be no repetition of what had occurred in America, and that the Government believed that that end could be secured without tearing the Constitution to pieces. He added that already a Bill had been prepared, and was ready to be submitted to the House. We on this side are looking for that Bill. The honorable gentleman also observed that, so long as the trust kept within the law, did not hurt the public, gave it meat as cheaply as, or cheaper than, before, and treated its workmen well, it would not be interfered with ; but that if it hurt the public, then the law must hurt it. The point he wished to make was that all big businesses were not necessarily corrupt. I think the latter part of those remarks proves conclusively that the Prime Minister is in possession of knowledge that we have in our midst to-day people who are establishing a certain business here, and whose presence he is well aware that the people of Australia should not tolerate. If the Government are contemplating legislation to deal with these people, it is only fair that they should give the members of the House some intimation of its nature. If they are not prepared to do so, although a censure motion has been before the Chamber for about two weeks, and only three Ministers have dared to speak, we must naturally conclude that they are afraid to tackle this important question. It will, however, be found that the members of the Opposition are thoroughly convinced of the presence in our midst of certain people whose operations are not going to be beneficial to the Commonwealth, and I hope that we shall be able to handle them in such a way as to keep the competition that now exists in Australia in a healthy and permanent condition. At the same time, the history of some of the firms who are proposing to establish works here is sufficient to make the Australian public feel afraid of what may happen if they get a footing here. Firms like Swift andCompany, and Armour and Company, have caused prices to rise in America to a prohibitive height, so far as the workers are concerned. They are now concentrating their attention on the London market, which our opponents tell us is the market that is going to govern the price of meat throughout the world. I am convinced that Swift and Company, Armour and Company, and other firms I have named, have at present almost complete control of the London meat market. We are told, day after day in our cable news, that these people have given big prices for stalls in the Smithfield Market, and when we know that they will give a price that is not compatible with any legitimate productive business, we must conclude that the object of their presence in London is something other than legitimate trade. Sir George Reid, our High Commissioner in London, has told the people of the Commonwealth, and no doubt has told the Minister of External Affairs, of the great evils that these people are going to inflict on the Australian public. He has not felt at all timid about telling the people here, through the press, his opinion of the Beef Trust, and he expressed his views, not only to the present, but to the preceding Government. I should like to read, for the information of the House, Sir George Reid’s opinion of a few of the firms operating in other parts of the world, which he fears are going to visit Australia and work ruin to the people here. He received a letter from Mr. Benjamin, a wool commission agent, of Broadway, New York, United States of America, from which the following are extracts : -
Referring to your recent visit to United States, and to ray interview with you on the subject of the Beef Trust, I would like to bring under your notice that the evidence given before the Commission recently appointed in Sydney must be very misleading to the members of that Commission from an American stand-point. Tlie representative of Swift and Company stated that they know the firm of Libby, and were very friendly, but the firm of Swift and Company is not interested. While that part is true, Louis Swift, who dominate? and controls the Swift and Company corporation, is practically the sole owner of Libby’s Canned Meats, and, furthermore, the same gentleman is a very large manufacturer of soap, so that if he started in Australia, with their usual methods adopted in this country, there would be very few soapmakers or meat exporters in the country. I know that their aim is out to exploit Australia for the benefit of the Chicago concern, and the representative that is now in Sydney, Mr. Malkow, I met in Chicago four years ago, and he stated that the Australian meat was not of sufficiently high standard to suit the American people, which, as you know, is absolutely untrue. Everywhere I have placed the Australian meat it has received a most favorable report, but has been hard hit by Swift and Company and the National Packing Company, which arc the interests of the Beef Trust. lt would bo impossible for me to convey to -Australia how dangerous it will be for them to encourage this corporation, but I am sure your flying visit to this country roust have convinced you that they practically own and control everything appertaining to meat, butter, eggs, soap, and other such commodities which Australia produces.
I have suggested to Australia that they have that Commission take evidence here, and I can then place before them facts that would certainly astonish the people of that country.
I quote this to show that Sir George Reid was impressed by this letter, and by what he learned concerning the operations of these meat companies in America. He has given his opinion on the subject to the Australian people through tlie columns of the Age. In order that I may renew his attack, I shall read a portion of an interview with him which appears in the Age This is what he has to say about these American meat dealers -
In tlie course of an interview on Monday, Sir George Reid said, in reply to questions, “The effect of all that I have learned of the operations of the Beef Trust, which for the purpose of this question may be called the American Beef Trust, is that the danger from it is increasing. The trust companies are quietly and steadily endeavouring to undermine all their competitors. To do this they .often sell meat below current quotations, incurring temporary losses cheerfully, so long as they can beat” their rival off the .field. They are prepared to give any amount of money in order to secure the tenancy of any of the stalls in the .Smithfield Meat Market in Loudon. I cannot say of my personal knowledge, but I was told on good authority that one of the American companies offered to pay £8,000 for the weekly tenancy of a stall which would bc considered a very small shop. This act obviously had a motive beyond ordinary business.”
In another portion of the interview, I find the following statement made : -
Turning to the Imperial aspect of the Beef Trust’s operations, Sir George Reid said - ““From the Imperial and from the naval and military points of view, the position is full of interest. If the Empire were at any time brought within reach of war or in danger of war, these trusts would be able to charge anything they liked for their own purposes. They would be able to levy what prices they chose on the Navy and Army for supplies. I think, therefore, that it would be a calamity if they were allowed to become the sole meat authorities of the world. There is no despotism in the world worse than that of the trusts. Apparently, the winning of millions in trade does not slacken the appetite for profits, but seems rather to increase the appetite for greater profits.”
– What does the Minister of Home Affairs say to that?
– I believe that this information is in the possession of the Minister, and he knows that many applications by new people in the Commonwealth have been made to the Minister of External Affairs for great tracts of country in the Northern Territory, and for the permission to erect freezing works there. It is therefore plain to me that the present Government are not prepared to deal in any way with the combines that are in existence in the Commonwealth to-day. On the other hand, they are doing everything for the encouragement of these people, whose desire is to monopolize our meat trade.
– What does the right honorable member for Swan say about that?
– The right honorable gentleman knows that the agents of these people are at work in Australia at the present time, and have secured great tracts of country. We may not be in a position to give absolute proof of this, but we know the tactics of Swift and Company and Armour and Company. Their agents are operating all over the Commonwealth in taking up large tracts of country, and opening up businesses in every part.
– Senator de Largie?
– The honorable member for Gippsland imagines that no one on this side of the House should take up land at all. He believes that the taking up of land should be the monopoly of the party on the other side. We are told by our honorable friends opposite that the meat markets of Australia will be governed by the London meat markets, but we have some idea as to the persons who will control the London meat market in the very near future. We know that those people will come to Australia, and that they will not bother about the retail price that meat is likely to bring. They will first of all set to work to capture the fat stock market, and to do that we know that they will resort to any trick. Many of the firms I have named have agents travelling throughout the Commonwealth, and, despite the opinion of the honorable member for Riverina, we know that those people have already entered into contracts for cattle, and have paid as much as £7 10s. deposit on cattle which they may lift at any time during the next twelve months on payment of an additional £7 10s. The honorable member for Riverina has ridiculed the statement that- these people are trying to make contracts for unborn stock, but I may ten him that they have made every endeavour possible to make such contracts, and that they are paying £1 per head on unborn stock in Queensland. Whether it has occurred in New South Wales or not I am not aware, but I know that it has occurred in Queensland, and will occur wherever these people are given the opportunity to enter into contracts of that description.
– Two farmers told me that in Brisbane.
– It is well known that the agents of these people are operating all over Queensland, and it is their buying up of cattle that is causing the depression in the meat markets in the southern cities of the Commonwealth. According to the statistics of the different States, Queensland produces more than half of the cattle that are produced in the Commonwealth, while New South Wales enjoys the distinction of producing about half of the sheep that are raised in the Commonwealth. These people from America are not able to pay very much attention to the mutton trade of the northern State, but they had hoped to capture the mutton trade of New South Wales. A representative of Swift and Company, who is supervising the erection of the meat works on the Brisbane River, had an interview with Mr. Trefle, Minister of Lands in New South Wales, to find out whether, if Swift and Company erected an abbatoirs on Cook’s River, the Government would interfere with them or not. He informed the Minister that he was a representative of Swift and Company of Chicago, and the Minister told him that the State hed an abattoirs that served the population within a radius of 14 miles of Sydney, and that if the meat company dared to establish any works outside of that radius, the Government would so amend the law as to extend its provisions to the whole of the State. He thanked Mr. Trefle for his frank reply to his question, and proceeded immediately to Queensland, where he found a more sympathetic Government, and immediately proceeded to erect meat works on the Brisbane River.
– In Queensland they were welcomed with open arms.
– The Queensland Government have not only received Mr. Malkow with open arms, but have lent every possible assistance to enable the company to erect meat works as rapidly and as perfectly as possible. The State Government have placed their dredges at his disposal to deepen the water opposite the works, and so enable the biggest ships that trade to our shores to be loaded there. It will be seen that, whereas in one State the Government were inclined to the belief that the presence of Swift and Company, or of Armour and Company, would not be beneficial to its people, in the other State, the Government were in sympathy with the company, and offered them every possible assistance.
– Swift and Company are not registered in Queensland as the owners of those meat works.
– The company are not registered as the owners, but does the honorable member think that they do not own the works?
– I say that it is an Australian company, registered in Brisbane.
– The honorable member has a vague idea that he is the only man in the world who knows the shareholders in Swift and Company, of Brisbane.
– I am merely taking the information from the share-list.
– The share-list of the company is composed of seven law clerks in the office of Thynne and Macartney. These young clerics managed to save cut of their earnings a million and a half, and they sent to America for an American expert to erect meat works.
– Do you suggest that it is a fraudulent registration ?
– 1 suggest nothing. 1 let the honorable member draw his own conclusion. What is passing through his mind may be right. At an interview, the gentleman who will manage the works immediately they are started, gave the estimated cost of erection as £1,750,000. 1 might tell my honorable friend, too, that these seven law clerks in all probability were responsible for the £2,000 or £4,000 that passed from that law office to tlie Liberal party’s fund previous to the last Federal election. I do not say whether these clerks were responsible for -subscribing that money or not, but the meat company was formed in the office of Thynne and Macartney, and their seven clerks are the registered proprietors. I hardly think that our honorable friend opposite will conclude that these young men could possibly find that amount to start meat works. In all probability the Union Gold Storage Company, that has bought four stations in the Northern Territory and North-Western Australia, and proposes to establish freezing works in the Territory, is constituted in the same manner as Swift and Company of Brisbane are. We are not in possession of sufficient information to satisfy us as to who the new people are who have come to Australia recently. But we must conclude that a great amount of capital has come here during the last eight or twelve months. It is not customary for capital to follow a trust into a new country. It is usual for capital to try to get out of a country where Swift, Armour, Hammond, and Morris go.
– What has the AttorneyGeneral to say of this matter?
– The AttorneyGeneral has given his opinion to some people, but we are not prepared to accept it, because we know where his sympathy lies. Of course, he will have something more difficult to explain in a short time.
– The Government have entered into an arrangement with that company to erect freezing works at Darwin.
– I was not aware of that. Probably in the absence of the Minister of External Affairs, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs may be able to tell me whether the interjection is correct or not.
– I cannot tell my honorable friend.
– I hope that the interjection is not correct. It is bad enough for this Government to give to a foreign company of any kind the privilege of erecting works there, because the time is not far distant when they will regret not having secured a sufficient area of cattlegrowing country in order to provide the Australian people with ample food at a reasonable price.
– Is your objection to the erection of freezing works, or to asking some particular company or companies to erect works ?
– My objection is to the control of these freezing works, and the conditions under which they are likely to come into existence. It is only since the advent of Swift, Armour, and Morris to Australia that these stations have changed hands, and that freezing works are to be built in the vicinity of the stations those people have bought.
– Are you still speaking of the Northern Territory ?
– Yes. The reason why we are so concerned about those people coming to Australia is that we know they have exploited the Argentine, they have exploited Canada, and they are about to exploit South Africa and New Zealand ; whilst, so far as Australia is .concerned, they are here, and have been here for a considerable time. Mr. Malkow, manager of the works in Brisbane, admitted under cross-examination during his evidence before the Meat Commission in Queensland - and this is something I forgot to mention for the benefit of the honorable member, for Hume - that he was managing director of the Queensland Meat Export Company. But he went to Sydney a few weeks later, and, when giving evidence before the Cost of Living Commission, he admitted that he was manager for Swift and Company, and was erecting works for them in Brisbane. So honorable members will see that there is no doubt about the presence of the company in our midst.
– I think you will find that Mr. Malkow has been in Australia for about eight years.
– The gentleman admits having been backwards and forwards between Australia and America for about eight years, and he has been travelling backwards and forwards for the purpose of studying the growth of the cattle trade.
– No; for the good of his health !
– Well, perhaps he is travelling for the good of his health.
– We have not yet seen any evils resulting .from the presence of the company.
– I am going rather beyond my story; but I will show the honorable member that during the last two or three weeks twenty butchers in Adelaide have closed their shops because of their inability to get a supply of meat. That has been brought about by the presence of Swift and Company in Queensland. Queensland was South Australia’s main source of meat supply, and Swift and Company having secured all the cattle in the northern State, the overlanding of stock lias been stopped, and, consequently, South Australia is robbed of her meat supply, and many butchers’ shops have been closed. It is possible to buy beef in Adelaide at lOd. and ls. a pound, but it is almost impossible to buy mutton at all.
– Armour and Company are exporting beef from South Australia.
– Mr. Kidman, the “ cattle king “ of South Australia, has admitted having sold cattle to Armour and Company on several occasions. On the last occasion he admitted having sold 5,000 bullocks to that firm, and those cattle were treated and shipped by the South Australian Government on behalf of Armour and Company. If my honorable friend is not prepared to admit that the presence of Armour ‘and Company is detrimental t8 the best interests of our people, I hope he will be able to convince us that what I am saying is not correct. We do not want to stop the* export trade, nor do we wish to interfere with the grower obtaining a reasonable price for his cattle.
– Are Swift and Company responsible for beef being sold at 45s. a cwt. in Sydney?
– Tes; and the honorable member knows that to be so. I wish now to read an extract from the Adelaide Daily Herald, in order to convince the honorable member of the scarcity of meat in Adelaide, and the serious position in which Australia is placed in regard to the supply of this important article of food.
– Is that a Liberal paper ?
– No; if it were, it would not publish these facts. This is an article published in the Adelaide Daily Herald of the 22nd April, and is headed “ The Grip of the Trust ; Meat becomes a luxury; No reduction for three months; Twenty butchers forced to close their shops.”
– Did no butchers ever close their shops before this ?
– Certainly butchers’ shops have been closed before this; but not in the wholesale way they are being closed at the present time. The article says -
The Meat Trust has now a tight grip of the South Australian meat trade. From the numerous cattle-raisers it is buying all the stock it desires, and with regularity it sends shipments of prime meat to the Continent, lt has left for the public the meagre quantities that it cannot cram into the holds of the departing deep-sea vessels, and, as these are not nearly large enough for local requirements, the master butchers are scrambling for supplies, and this staple product has become aluxury. South Australia, the land of undulating pastures, has denied itself the right of supplying its inhabitants with a cheap meat market. So prohibitive are the prices charged that the working man has to deny his family the amount they require. The poorer classes are forced to live on short rations, while large shipments of meat are being sent out of the State. This state of affairs has been developing so rapidly that within the last twelve months the price of meat has been doubled. The consumption has been cut down to a very large extent, and, in some cases, master butchers are suffering heavy financial losses. In fact, one prominent butcher knows of over twenty small shops in the metropolitan area that have had to close their doors and refrain from carrying on business. The oldest members of the meat industry do not remember such a state of affairs to have existed in the trade on any previous occasion. The most serious aspect of the position is that throughout the winter mouths no decrease in the exceptionally high prices is anticipated; but, on the other hand, there is a likelihood of the prices becoming even still higher.
– The honorable member for Boothby said the same last, year.
– We have evidence toprove the existence of the trust. We haveevidence that the people of Adelaide are practically on the verge of starvation, so far as meat is concerned. There are other extracts, which I do not propose toread, because I have not sufficient time- to do so; but the honorable member for Hume may read them or any other honorable member may peruse the paper. The people of Adelaide are practically in a state of starvation for lack of meat, on account of the operations of Swift and Company and Armour and Company.
– Do the same conditions obtain in Brisbane?
– They do not exist to the same extent as in Adelaide, although the conditions in Brisbane are very bad, and the outlook is getting serious. Queensland can grow just double the number of cattle that the rest of the Commonwealth can produce, and that is why these companies have concentrated their operations on the northern State; they know that they can get in Queensland an unlimited supply of cattle.
– How is it that the railway men at Ipswich - 400 of them - can get a meat meal for 4-Jrd. ?
– One reason is that if you can go to the Redbank Meat Works, between Ipswich and Brisbane, controlled by John Cooke and Company, and buy a large quantity of fresh meat, you can get it at wholesale prices. Also I am given to understand that tlie dining-room to which the honorable member refers is managed by the men. But let me tell the honorable member of the experience of the President of the Tenterfield Agricultural Association, who recently returned from America. According to this gentleman, it cost him 8s. or 9 s. to get a decent meal in America. But ho was not so disturbed at what it cost him to get a meal as he was concerned to know the price the Meat Trust were paying for cattle.
– I was wondering whether Swift and Company were responsible for the low price at Ipswich.
– I am wondering whether the honorable member will get the permission of his leader to make a speech. If he will do so I shall applaud him, because it will be a novelty to see one of the team on the other side of the chamber addressing a few remarks to Mr. Speaker. It is on record in many papers circulating in the north of New South Wales that the gentleman to whom I have referred said that the deplorable thing about the whole matter was that the price paid for cattle in America was no more than what pastoralists were getting for their stock in Australia. We are told that the introduction of the Beef Trust to Australia will mean additional competition among the fat stock dealers here. A few words as to the methods employed at the Chicago fat-stock saleyards, the largest in the world - they cover 360 acres - will show tlie amount of competition in America. Immediately the yards are filled each day the representatives of Swift and Company, Armour and Company, Morris and Company, Hammond and Company, and any other members of the combine inspect the cattle. Each proceeds separately through the different pens and makes notes. Then, after the tour of inspection, these representatives of the firms disappear for a little while, and that mysterious voice on the telephone we hear so much about speaks, and they are given the price to offer for the cattle. Whereupon, these men immediately return to the saleyards, but there is only one bid made for every beast in the yard, because each day there is only one firm buying. Yet we are told that these people are going to bring about competition in the fat-stock market. If the drover or ranch-owner in charge of the stock is not inclined to accept the offer made by the representative of Swift and Company, and makes an effort to induce Armour’s man to submit an offer, the latter will say, “ No, I am not buying today.” Swift’s man has already told the ranch-owner that if he does not consider the offer satisfactory he knows what to do. The unfortunate stock-breeder must either accept the price offered or take the cattle back to his ranch, and allow them to rot there.
– And he is charged double rates for railing them back.
– Armour’s man will not make an offer because Swift and Company have all the cattle in that day’s yarding, and if an endeavour is made to induce the representative of Morris and Company to make an offer, that gentleman will reply, “ My cells are full, and I have not room for additional stock.” The same parrot-cry is made by the representatives of the other firms. Only one bid is to be made for the cattle in the yards on that clay. The same thing will occur in Australia in a year or two, nO’ matter what .our squatters or pastoralists may imagine. Immediately the firms 1 have mentioned have competed in an illegal manner in our markets, and squeezed out other competitors, they will compel our pastoralists, no matter how wealthy they may be, to accept the price they offer. The members of this combine, which is operating throughout the world, have more money than the Bank of England. Of course, our squatting friends may say that they will not accept any unreasonable price, and that they will start works of their own, but this will not concern the Beef Trust in the least, because they will have a sufficient supply of meat from other parts of the world. Our squatters may kill a quantity of meat, and propose to dispose of it locally, or ship it to some foreign market. In other countries cattleraisers have made similar attempts to start operations on their own in order to defeat the combine, but their every effort has been blocked by the methods of the trust The trust has followed up every pound of meat to every market to which it has been shipped, and has flooded that market with meat, so reducing the price that other people engaged in the cattlegrowing industry were soon prepared to give up the fight. If we allow this trust to get a footing and squeeze out the competition now existing in the cattlegrowing industry in Australia, though the squatters get a temporary increase in the price paid for their stock, they will have to doubly repay the trust immediately the latter in that way secure the power of control they are seeking. It is a matter to which the Government should give serious consideration. So far they have treated the trust as a myth. They propose to allow these people to come to the Commonwealth and destroy the hearts and souls of our workers by reducing them to a state of starvation. There is ample evidence of what is taking place in Adelaide, and of the big increase in prices in Sydney ; and it will be only a week or two before the effect is felt to the same extent in Victoria. As a matter of fact, we are feeling it now in Queensland, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Hume may say. I ask permission to be allowed to continue a little longer in view of the interruption that occurred before the adjournment for dinner.
– The apathy of the Government in connexion with this matter is something that the people of Australia should regret - something that the present Government will certainly seriously regret in the near future, and which their supporters in this House will deplore for all time. This is going to be a burning question for the Australian people to decide; and it is only necessary to arouse them to a clear understanding of the situation to obtain their enthusiastic support for the referenda, which will give us power to deal with the Meat Trust in the way they desire. Until this power is given, we shall not be able to take any effective measures. It is, however, possible for us to do as the people of Argentine are doing, namely, impose a slaughtering tax. This, to my mind, presents the only method by which we shall be able to reach those responsible foi the present position.
– We have no power to impose such a tax - it is a State matter.
– I am sorry that we have not the power to deal with the Meat Trust in that way.
– We are seeking the power. ‘
– That is so. So far as the Queensland Government are concerned, it would appear that they are not going to raise a hand to block the operation of this octopus; but the New South Wales Government are going to deal with it in the most drastic way whenever it appears.
– How are they going to deal with it ?
– Just as the electors will deal with the honorable member at the next election.
– This is the true toreador style !
– The honorable member who interjects is the “ toreador “ who was going to do so much for the people; but the “ two blades of grass “ of which he spoke will prove of no avail, because statistics show that our stock is diminishing so rapidly that there will be no use for the fodder. In Queensland, there are nineteen meat works in operation, and those, I think, would be sufficient to keep the trade in a healthy condition. Competition is keen, and prices were on the increase, though not so rapidly as since Swift and Company came here. I might mention that that firm has secured all the best men available, including the manager for Moorehead and Company, at a salary of £3,000 a year. That gentleman is not paid the salary because he is thought to be worth it, but because the firm knows that he will be of some little value for a year or two in the way of obtaining cattle. The same firm have also secured all the best fat stock in Queensland, and have extended their operations to New South Wales. We have been told that Swift and Company have not commenced in New South’ Wales, but we understand that some attempt is being made to establish works on the Hunter River. I am -confident, however, that immediately the New South Wales Government become convinced of the presence of the company within their borders, they will introduce legislation to deal with it in an effective way. In conclusion, I should like to point out that there are nineteen meat works in Queensland, ten in New South Wales. not including the Glebe Island abattoirs, and eight in Victoria, and that there is a suspicion that some of these works are connected with Swift and Company and Armour and Company. We are not aware whether this is so or not; but, judging by events, the trust will operate in both New South Wales and Victoria in the very near future. I hope that the Government will seriously consider the question immediately, and do something to prevent the trade passing into the hands of American meat firms.
.- I desire to clear the decks a little before I address myself to the motion. As some reference has been made to the exGovernorGeneral, it is only right to give my view of him as I found him. I always found Lord Dudley a manly man, and a fearless fighter for his political opinions; and, through this, he certainly made many enemies in Australia. A glance at Who’s Who will show that he was one of the most popular Lieutenant-Governors Ireland has had for twenty years. I desire to compliment the Postmaster-General on the introduction of the system whereby lettergrams of forty words in length may be sent for ls., and, further, I find that a good many of my constituents appreciate the great convenience of being able to send parcels by post over the railway lines. The week-end cablegrams bring us all a little nearer to England, and they enable per sons of moderate means to communicate rapidly with their friends at Home. No fewer than seven farmers in one district in Victoria have expressed to me their satisfaction at the prospect of being able to send small parcels of eggs, poultry, vegetables, and other produce, through the post on the Friday night for delivery on Saturday morning, thus doing away with the intervention of the middleman.
– Is that to be done?
– If I were PostmasterGeneral, I should be able to tell the honorable member at once. In justice to the Honorary Minister, I must say that, in my opinion, he has saved the national honour by the appointment of Mr. Griffin, that genius who won the greatest competition for the design of a city that the world has ever seen. At all events, this Government turned down what was done by a body of experts from the Government offices, some of whom could not design a dog-kennel, let alone a Federal city. I have been informed that some of these men made a journey to the Federal Capital, and charged £50 for doing so. An individual making a charge like that should go back to the State school to learn arithmetic. I hope that the statement of the Age is true, that a body consisting of the greatest designers in the world will be formed to consider the plans of the Federal Capital, and that the best man in a competition of al] the great architects of the world will be given the work of building the Parliament House.
– It is not so much architecture as ventilation that is needed.
– Among those who went to visit the site of the Federal Capital is the architect who assisted in spending thousands on the ventilation of this chamber, which is one of the unhealthiest buildings in this city. You cannot have a healthy chamber if you place buildings on each side of it, and at each end as well. For a chamber so situated, proper ventilation is impossible.
– I think that this chamber wa3 designed by a butcher.
– The honorable member, when Minister, adopted the farseeing policy of providing for Australia a capital that will be unequalled by any other in the world. He gave Australia a great advertisement, and I hope that a greater will accrue when the whole world is asked to compete for the designing of a building for the housing of the National Parliament. I wish now to refer to a contract that was recently let by the Acting Minister of Home Affairs. It was let without giving a chance to any tenderer in Australia to compete with the favoured individual who got it. It is worthy of consideration that the Attorney-General was linked with the letting of this contract. I accuse him of not having denied what has appeared regarding it in the public press. The following statement I take from the Melbourne Argus of the 23rd February last. The Argus has hardly ever supported the party to which I belong, and, in an article headed ‘ Transcontinental Railway - Arranging the Contracts “ it said -
Since the time when the Federal Ministry decided that the remainder of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway should he constructed by contract instead of clay labour, the Honorary Minister in charge of the Department of Home Affairs (Mr. Kelly) has, with the assistance of Mr. Deane, who is retiring from the position of Engineer-in-Chief of the Commonwealth railways, spent considerable time preparing the details of the specifications for the contracts. At the present time it is undecided whether contractors will be asked to undertake the task of construction as one contract, or whether more than one contract shall be let; but the details in connexion with the matter will be finally arranged during the present week. On Saturday morning Mr. Kelly, the Attorney-General (Mr. W. H. Irvine), Mr. Deane, Mr. Poynton, and Mr. Hobler (of the Commonwealth railways branch) conferred with regard to the details of the specifications, while during the morning several well-known contractors were also present discussing various phases of the matter with the Ministers and railway officials.
– That is Tammany all right.
– Those statements do not refer to the Teesdale Smith contract.
– I do not know to what other contract they can refer. The article speaks of “ contract or contracts.” My honorable friend, as a Liberal, would never support the letting of a contract without giving all tenderers fair play.
– Certainly not.
– The honorable member for Batman, alluding to the AttorneyGeneral, complimented, or spoke in depreciation of, him when he accused him of having great ingenuity. The man who can twist the truth skilfully is more dangerous than the common prevaricator. Yet the A Argus, which accused him of being in this contract, said, in its leading article of Thursday last -
Many members of the Opposition are angry with Mr. Irvine for his exposure of their tactics, though they do not use the language of the gutter to express their resentment. His charge is, no doubt, aggravating, scathing, destructive; but it certainly is not a lie.
If it is not, it is the most skilful twisting of the truth one could have, and in keeping with the life-long parliamentary record of this honorable gentleman.
– Let us hear that record.
– I had intended to leave the Attorney-General to the last, because I shall have a long walk home, and I wish to have an easy conscience in thinking of what will happen to him when he gets into the next world. Honorable gentlemen will remember how his eyes coruscated and scintillated when he uttered the word “ Tammany.” I accuse him, as the legal adviser of this Government, of doing more to bring about Tammany here than has ever been done before. I would advise contractors before: they send in their specifications to this gentleman - who will represent the trusts so long as they fee him, and allow them to buy his services, even against the country which he has adopted - to apply to themselves the words which, according toDante, are written over the gate of the inferno, “ Abandon hope all ye contractors who dare to enter here,” unless, of course, they happen to be the favoured ones. The Minister could, if he likes to sweep-aside these two little absurd measures which are to be put before the House, propose a motion declaring that from this time forth no Minister shall dare to let a contract without calling for tenders, so that every contractor may compete. The Attorney-General has applied the word “ Tammany “ to theLabour party. This is what Tammany means. Tammany is a term which coversall the evils associated with the tarnished infamies garnered from brothels, bludgers, and murderers. The Attorney-General, as a reader, must know that. He knows, that Tammany levies blackmail and tribute net only upon the rich, but also upon theprostitutes. Our unfortunate sisters in the cities of Amercia pay to it for their shame. All the keepers of drink shops, all the gamblers, all the violaters of law, can purchase immunity by paying Tammany for protection. Who ever, even inVictoria, heard of barristers - with the> exception, perhaps, of Judge Higinbotham - and his mantle has not descended upon the Attorney-General - refusing fees from men whom they knew to be as guilty as Hades? All road contracts, all bridge contracts, all waterway contracts are, subject to Boss Murphy, to be had in New York to-day for large money payments. Yet this superfine equity barrister comes to this Parliament and accuses the Labour party of bringing in Tammany. Has he not been the means of dismissing, or has he not assisted to dismiss, every man having any Labour tendency whatever who was appointed by this party? For a man in Government employment to say that he is a Labour man is to bring upon him the all-seeing eye of the Attorney-General, or of some other Minister, and out he goes. Can it be said that the contract let to Mr. Teesdale Smith was a fair one? If the departmental side door was open, why did not the Attorney-General close it ? Why was it not closed by that honorable member, whom I accuse of having accepted the largest sum of money ever paid to a Liberal or Conservative politician in Victoria ? If he denies what I say, I can read him a certain opinion, but I do not desire to quote it since the name of a lady is attached to it. Why did the honorable member fail to get a man to take the money, so that we could hit him as he deserved to be hit? Mr. Prendergast, then Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Legislative Assembly, did not hesitate to speak his mind when discussing the humbugging motion which was submitted to the House, on the eve of the Attorney-General’s retirement from State politics, expressing regret at his withdrawal. Every one who was in the confidence of the late Sir Thomas Bent is aware that he submitted that motion with contempt for the man whom he was really pushing out of the State Parliament because he was tired of him. It was reported that the honorable gentleman was to be elevated to the Supreme Court Bench. I do not say that he was not given an opportunity to refuse a Judgeship, but a friend of mine told me that he informed the late Thomas Bent that he would not believe him if he took an oath on a pile of Bibles that he gave Mr. Irvine more than a chance to refuse. If he had been appointed, every public servant who had been dishonored by him when he had the power would have been aggrieved. The same Mr. Irvine, as Premier of Victoria, deprived public servants of the right to vote where they resided. He thus lowered their position as citizens below that of a thief who has served his sentence. And this is the man who speaks of all being equal before the law ! In the Argus of 15th August, 1913, the honorable gentleman is reported to have said that his party stood for liberty. Lovely liberty, is it not? He went on to say that it desired that every man should have the fruits of his work. Does any man outside believe that statement? In answer to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who is reported to have interjected at this stage, “ You belong to the privileged class,” the honorable gentleman said -
One thing felt by everybody in all parts of the world was an appreciation of liberty; and everybody should have the benefit of being able to stand equal to others in law.
I ask the honorable the Attorney-General what became of the men who accused the late Silas Harding of committing perjury in every Court, although he was not sent to prison because he had money ? What about the treatment of the Rev. J. B. Ronald ? We know that the man who has money can delay the law, and delay it till the poorer man is hounded out of Court. I accuse the Attorney-General of aiding and abetting the Bar Association - an illegal union which was formed to defy and defeat an Act of Parliament. I have nothing to say against the AttorneyGeneral in his private capacity, I am referring now only to his political career. Had he been honest and honorable in his political career, then, as Premier of Victoria, he should have repealed the State Legal Profession Practice Act. I believe that he is the chairman of a Bar Association which was formed to destroy and defy that Act.
– In restraint of trade.
– Absolutely. As a member of that association, the AttorneyGeneral would perhaps prevent another man from earning his living at the Bar by refusing to appear with him. The lawyers in the Parliament were good enough to pass the Legal Profession Practice Act without providing any penalty for breaches of its provisions. If every breach of that Act were punishable by a fine of £50, even the AttorneyGeneral could not dare, by resorting to. a subterfuge, to break the law, as he is now doing. The late Sir William Zeal, a well known Liberal, for whose memory every one has the greatest respect, when discussing the Bill in question, said -
If in the practice of my profession I undertake to do certain work for a constituent, and fail to carry out my undertaking, my constituent can obtain heavy damages from me in a Court of law. Why should the barrister who fails to do bis duty be exempt from similar liability? Barristers have at times to defend mcn who are in peril of liberty, if not of life, and I have known such clients to be deserted by their barristers at the eleventh hour.
I accuse the Attorney-General, who is sworn to uphold the law, of defying and breaking a State law. The Argus of 5th December, 1891, in discussing this question, said -
It is by no means compatible with the dignity, nay, with the honesty of the Bar, to seel now to neutralize by direct and underhand means that will not bear the light of day - perhaps not even the light of the criminal law.
In putting a question to the Victorian. Attorney-General of that day - the late Mr. William Shiels - in regard to the action of a coterie of barristers in illegally and unjustly defying this Act of Parliament, I said that this report in the Argus was followed up by a statement in the Agc of the same dale to the effect that-
The tactics of the Bar Association had been demonstrated to be of a desperate and thoroughly despicable character, that “ no trade union has ever attempted to go so far in the direction of prohibiting freedom of contract,” and that the members of the Bar Association, while claiming to embody the conscience of the profession, were “ really looking after their own fat fees.” He trusted that the honorable gentleman would not allow what struck him as a layman to be an infringement of the rights of Parliament, and, he might also say, a certain amount of contempt offered to this House.
Mr. Shiels, who opposed the Bill, in speaking to my question, said that the Act in question was the law of the hind, and should be obeyed by barristers. Returning to the question of the contract let to Mr. Teesdale Smith, the Attorney-General must admit that it was very different from the contract which we let to the Government of Western Australia for the supply of powellised sleepers. It is true that there are four powellising companies, but all are working the same patent. There are in Australia hundreds of contractors who might have desired to tender for the work let to Mr. Teesdale Smith. Let honorable members ask the man in the street his opinion of this contract, and he will say that the letting of it was dirty and shady. I accuse the AttorneyGeneral of being the king-pin in this matter. I accuse him of avoiding a radical reform of the Legislative Council when he had the opportunity to effect that reform - when lie was backed by the Age, then the mightiest political power in Australia, and by the largest majority that ever sat behind a Victorian Premier. What has become of the Kyabramites who were elected to the Parliament of this State at that time? The honorable member for Echuca is the sole surviving representative of them.
– I was elected to that Parliament, and the majority of those men are in the Victorian Parliament to-day.
– My honorable friend is so inaccurate that he does not know what he is talking about. There are not three left in the political life of Australia. I went through the figures only yesterday.
– The honorable member must have been dreaming at the time.
– With the powerful Age newspaper behind him, the AttorneyGeneral was going to alter the composition of the Legislative Council. Up till that time I had been a great admirer of his, and, indeed, a follower. The honorable gentleman entered the Victorian Parliament as a land reformer, and we did expect good work from him. But I recollect one occasion on which I told him that the Legislative Council, which we called the “ Fossils’ House.” in those days, had done a certain thing. His reply was, “Really.” Then he added, “Doctor, those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.” I accuse the Attorney-General of pointing the finger of scorn at the Senate, which is elected on the broadest franchise in the world. The United States Senate is not elected direct by the people.
– It is now. It is all right.
– Since when?
– The change has been effected during the past three months.
– Then the United States Senate is following the good example that we have set it. I hold in my hand a card in which the word “gerrymander” occurs. There was a man in America known as Governor Gerry, who altered the boundaries of the constituencies in such a manner that 50,163 of his supporters returned twenty-nine senators, whilst 55,766 Federalists returned only eleven senators. He thus had a majority of eighteen. It seems to me that there is a conspiracy between Mr. Peake, the Premier of South Australia, Mr. Watt, the Premier of Victoria, and Mr: Denham, the Premier of Queensland, because only in those three States is an attempt being made to give country electors double the representation that is granted to electors in the towns. Such an infamy would not be possible if the referendum and initiative were in existence. In South Australia 122,780 electors in the metropolis and the Wallaroo and Port Pirie districts return only nineteen members to the House of Assembly, while 102,000 electors in other districts return twenty-seven members. The Attorney-General, I venture to say, would not sweep away the Legislative Councils of the different States.
– How could we sweep away the Legislative Council of this State without its consent. The honorable member should talk sense.
– Whenever I take it into my head to talk sense I will not address the honorable member because he cannot assimilate it. Then I accuse the Attorney-General of having voted on every occasion to degrade the old men and women of this country. I accuse him of saying that they should be able to live on 7s. a week. What was the infamy of the Victorian law relating to old-age pensions? It was that these old men and women were dragged into Court to witness their sons being cross-examined as to whether they could contribute ls. or ls. 6d. per week towards their support. Two human lives were lost as the result of that infamy. One of these persons mistakenly swallowed a quantity of liniment for medicine. Another man, who was threatened with imprisonment because he did not contribute to the support of his parents, fled to Beech Forest, where he contracted pneumonia and died. When I told the late Sir Thomas Bent that men were being sent to prison because they did not support their parents, he denied it. But I proved my case, and he had to admit it. Later on the old-age pension in this State was raised to Ss. per week. Of all the acts of my political life, there is nothing I am more thankful to the Almighty for than the fact that I was able to knock out of politics the two men who gave their votes at that time.
– Hear, hear, and we will knock him out, too.
– He has never dared to go down to the constituency that loaded him with golden sovereigns to the extent of £2,000, as honorable members can read in the speech in which Mr. Prendergast expressed his opinion of him.
– If falsehood and continued misrepresentation could do it, it would have been done years ago.
– Misrepresentation ! Is it possible to misrepresent the honorable member ? Has he not refused to give up his retaining fees from various trusts, combines, &c. ? Is he not, as it were, in the market for sale to any one who will pay the necessary fee to induce him to fight against his country? °
– Yet he talks about Tammany Hall !
– I dare say he would have risen very high in that body if he had been one of its members, because he is very cool headed. He voted to reduce the total amount payable for old-age pensions in Victoria to £150,000, no matter if the amount of the individual pension came to only 5s. per week. The Federal Parliament, with’ the full approval of practically every citizen of Australia, pays now £791,316 per annum in old-age and invalid pensions for Victoria alone, yet this superlative individual, being so high above other human beings, wanted the old-age pensioners to live on 7s. per week, or less. At that time we, as a. Labour party, had initiated a proposal for a land tax which would have helped to provide the necessary money. A land tax has since been imposed. The honorable member, as Premier and . Attorney-General at the time, could have suggested to his Treasurer to raise a quarter of a million by means of the land tax. More than that amount is being raised in Victoria at the present moment by the State land tax, and another £370,000 by means of the Federal land tax. That quarter of a million would have helped to pay a decent sum to old-age pensioners, and so have avoided reducing the amount paid to those poor old human beings, whose hair was whitened by their length of years.
– Can the honorable member bring forward any evidence of my having actually deprived any oldage pensioner of a penny ?
– Not personally, but by the honorable member’s actions.
– By actions, or by law. Give the reference to it.
– There is” the resolution by which the old-age pension payments were” to be reduced from £216,000 to £150,000.
– I was just coming to that point. I shall not be unfair to the Attorney-General, and I do not want to hit him unfairly at any time, but I shall hit him as hard as I can. Politically, he knows what I think of him.
– What the honorable member is referring to is all ancient history.
– Nothing is too old to refer to in the case of a Minister who wants to face the country without a platform,. and expects the people to trust him with power which he might even use to rob these old people of their rights. However, I will give the honorable member the reference. Does he deny that he voted to make £150,000 the limit for oldage pensions ?
– I did not ask you to ask me a question. Will you give me the reference, so that I may have an opportunity of looking it up? This is something new.
– It is not new. On 1st December, 1903, Mr. Premier Irvine moved* “That the Old-age Pension Bill be read a third time.” The object of that Bill was to reduce the amount of money payable for old-age pensions annually to £150,000, or less. Previously it had amounted to £216,000. I therefore accuse the honorable member of voting as Premier of Victoria to reduce the sum payable for old-age pensions to that extent, although the amount had to be divided amongst the same number of. people. On 25th November, 1903, the principal clause of the same Bill was divided on. I have the following note on this-
This clause proposed by the Government waa for the purpose of reducing the amount of the annual vote to meet old-age pensions to the sum of £150,000 or less. The effect of this can be gauged from the fact that over f216,000 . was paid during the previous financial year. The amount available was thus reduced by £60,000. This was a step in the direction of abolition of old-age pensions.
The Attorney-General, as a legal man, has always tried to make the High Court of Australia supreme over Parliament. I am going to quote the wise words of Mr. Asquith with regard to this proposition. When it was sought to copy into the Irish Constitution a similar provision copied from the United States of America, Mr. Asquith said -
I do not want to see this clause put into the Irish Constitution. If you adopt this clause, you are enthroning your Judiciary as the ultimate tribunal of appeal. You must not limit the powers of the Legislature which you intend to create. No Government is sound unless the lawmakers have the supreme power. We in England cannot afford to. give our Judges the power to say that the laws we make arc bad. Judges arc too far away from the people, and they understand too little of the people’s wishes and difficulties to give them such power. Look at the trouble the United States are having about this very matter.
There is nothing supremely sacred about a Judge when he puts on his horsehair emblem of dignity, and yet we are asked to regard him as the embodiment of superlative wisdom. A Judge is simply an average man gifted with fair ability to win the high place that he has got, and it is too absurd to say that he whose duty it is to see that the laws are enforced shall be greater than those who make the laws. In seeking to destroy the equal representation of the States in the Senate, the Attorney-General would make the small States the vassals of the large States. He would make the small States appear to have joined the Federation under false pretences, and I am justified in saying that no contract would be considered sacred “by’ such a lawyer. ‘ If the honorable gentleman’s views were to be given effect to, the small States should have the right to secede, otherwise they would bc only the dependents of the large States. In view of the Attorney-General’s desire to give effect to his views in this connexion, I accuse him of being the great repudiator of contracts in seeking to destroy the Federal compact under which the small States have equal representation in the Senate.
– Where did the AttorneyGeneral suggest that?
-In this very chamber. If honorable members will look at the map of Australia, they will find’ that Victoria represents but a small mouthful when compared with this huge continent. Some day, with her mighty potentialities, Queensland will have double, treble, or four times the population which New South Wales and Victoria have to-day. In that time, this small mouthful will require to have six representatives in the Senate. The necessity will be even greater in the case of Tasmania. I am satisfied that no representative of that State in this -House would dare to face his electors, and admit that he had supported a Government, or an Opposition, that had advocated the robbing of Tasmania of her right to equal representation in the Senate.
– Before Federation, I heard the honorable member fulminate from the platform against the equal representation of the States in the Senate.
– I dare say the honorable member did; but the honorable member at one time assisted me to secure my election. I suppose that both of us regret having made some mistakes. No one would now dream that the honorable member for Henty had been a good lieutenant of mine in the past.
– It was the one mistake of my life to have ever been on the honorable member’s platform.
– Never mind. The honorable member did his work as my lieutenant very well. The Prime Minister is not present, or I might quote at length from evidence given before the Electoral Commission to which he has himself referred. He challenged the honorable member for Denison to quote from the official report of the evidence given before the Commission, but I shall not do so. I can quote from newspaper reports of that evidence. I continually asked two questions: “Do you personally know of any double voting?” and “ Do you personally know of any impersonation?” and I never found one witness who said “ Yes “ in reply to those questions. That is my record on the matter of electoral irregularities, and with that I leave it. I may, however, inform honorable members that, owing to the action of Mir. Prendergast, when Chief Secretary in Victoria for a few days, 100,000 names have been placed on the rolls in this State which, but for his action, would not be there. I can refer to Queensland for a further instance of the work of this conspiracy of which I have spoken in South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland to give electors in the cities only half the representation of those in the country. If the rolls in Queensland are correct to-day, then, according to one of the best officers in the Home Affairs Department, that State is being paid £130,000 too much by the Treasurer under the Agreement for the payment of 25s. per head of the population ; and if the State has lost so largely in population, it should be represented by one member less in this House, and the additional member should be returned to Victoria.
– Hear hear ! We are now in agreement.
– Perhaps I am wrong. I am sorry that the Prime Minister is not present; but the Treasurer may undertake to tell him what I have to say. I suggest to him that a leading article appearing in the Age of 27th April splendidly describes the ridiculous nature of the two little measures which the Government put forward as their policy. I may say that, by the initiative and referendum, we might, even in the middle of this session, do splendid work for the Australia that we all say we love. The Age of the 27th April says -
The one and only tangible outcome of the censure debate up to the present has been to show the people that the Cook Government are firmly resolved to force a double dissolution.
Knowing that I received a majority of over 11,000 votes, no one will accuse me of being afraid to seek re-election. My friend, the honorable member for Henty, whatever our political differences may be, will agree that I have never been afraid of a fight.
– If I were the honorable member, I would not quote from the Age. I remember the time when he burnt it publicly on a town hall platform.
– Sometimes, even a great newspaper is wrong, and if the Age was wrong at that time, I was quite right in doing what the honorable member has said. Later, in the article to which I have referred, the Age says -
But the Cook Government appears to have no other aim immediately in view than to press forward with its two so-called “test” Bills, which were rejected by the Senate last session. In other words, it is blindly intent on fabricating what- it supposes to be the constitutional prerequisites of a double dissolution.
Speaking of these two Bills, the Age describes them as “A couple of perfectlytrumpery and trifling little questions.” It says, further -
Both “ test “ Bills are absolutely destitute of the substance that is essential to the formulation of a national issue.
The Age further says that these Bills deal with- a couple of questions which are not worth the trouble of discussing.
No Government can compel contractors not to take the best of men. Every contractor I have ever spoken to on the subject has told mo that he always likes to employ union men, because they are generally the best workers.
– It is the same with union lawyers.
– I have a great regard for lawyers; they are not as bad as barristers, though there are some exceptions amongst them. Mr. T. P. Mottram at the Trades Hall the other night, dealing with this question, said -
As labourers the operation of preference to unionists in the Government service affected them very slightly.
As the Age very justly says, the Government have no platform and no policy, unless it be “ Keep your eye on your father, and he will pull you through.” They hope that the electors will return them without any promises, and they will then be able to do what they please. Under a law of the Commonwealth, the members of a registered union are entitled to ask the President of the Arbitra tion Court for preference to unionists. The unionists in the Commonwealth number between 400,000 and 500,000.
– In to-night’s Herald, the figure is given at 700,000.
– Then my figures are well under the mark. If the Government had dared to introduce a measure affecting 500,000 or 750,000 electors of the Commonwealth, there is no doubt that we should have to go to the country, whether by a double or a single dissolution. What does Mr. Knibbs, with a worldwide reputation as a statist, say? He says that in 1911 there were 15,175 permanent officials and men employed in the Government Departments. This preference to unionists fudge that has been talked by the Government can not apply to permanent officials who have obtained their positions by examination. In that year there were 3,867 temporary employes. The men who are exempted are retained longer than the period of nine months for which temporary men are employed; that is to say, they are employed until the works on which they are engaged are finished. These numbered 15,000. In 1914 there are 19,000 permanent officers who cannot be touched by this principle; only 2,000 temporary employes to whom it might be applied; and 18,000 officers who are exempt from the provisions of the Public Service Act. It is ridiculous, therefore, for the other side to say that this measure is as powerful as they allege it to be. They can settle the matter by bringing in the initiative and referendum; but I dare them to do so, because they do not dare to trust the people. I accuse the Government of not caring to trust the people, because, with the aid of the referendum, the people would very soon handle the question of the trusts, and would not let a gentleman, who can manage to twist the truth very skilfully, or a good, genial, old gentleman, do as they please. Let us see what the Age said about the present Ministry. In its issue of the 10th January, 1913, copying from the Sydney press, the Age said -
Mr. Cook’s fiscal views are badly in his way, and further long years in opposition have made him acid, and have developed in him the ability to obstruct rather than to construct. Mr. Irvine is icy of brain, coldly suspicious of Democracy, and without one glowing instinct of progress in his mind.
As this applies to the Treasurer, he might as well listen to it -
Sir John Forrest, a bluff old warrior, lacking the habit and faculty of thought, is simply a joke.
That is said of the man who dares to say that the maternity bonus will ruin the country. I accuse him of having accepted the equivalent of over one hundred maternity bonuses from the Government, which the people of the country who pay him never had a chance of voting. He draws a pension, or has the right to draw a pension, of £500 a year. That is equivalent to one hundred maternity bonuses. Yet he has the audacity to say that the maternity bonus will ruin the country.
– Does he explain how?
– The Treasurer does not know how. He simply blurts out these remarks, and does not understand what the meaning is. Perhaps honorable members would like to hear what the Sydney Daily Telegraph thinks of him.
– How does the right to draw a pension, which the Treasurer does not draw, affect the country ?
– Does the honorable member say that the right honorable gentleman does not draw a pension ?
-He has drawn £2,000, and is big enough to take his own part, without the aid of my honorable friend.
– You draw £600 a year yourself.
– Yes; but the people sent me here to draw it, whereas the right honorable gentleman never gave them a chance of voting a pension of £500 a year to him.
-It is authorized by an Act of Parliament.
– Fancy the right honorable gentleman trying to wipe it out.
– You ought to be suppressed.
– Be careful, or I may read out the challenge I gave in the Argus.
– You can have the chamber to yourself. I am not going to listen to you.
– That from a man who was returned once with seventy-six votes.
– You can have it to yourself.
– Let us see what the Sydney Daily Telegraph says of the honorable gentleman -
What must have been the most humiliating experience for Sir John Forrest was the continual laughter with which every point that he endeavoured to make was received. There was hardly a sentence that he uttered that was not punctured by some form of hilarity. He denounced. Members laughed. He criticised. Members laughed. He tore a passion to tatters. Members laughed. He poured his sarcasms on the Prime Minister. Members laughed. He attempted to be jocular. Members laughed. In fact, they then laughed ironically. Of all the distresses that he experienced when he was being ‘driven by the Labour party during his Ministerial years he must have felt that there was nothing like unto this.
So much for the right honorable gentleman who says that the maternity bonus will destroy the country. I now come to the question of the referendum.
– Give the Prime Minister a turn now that he has entered the chamber.
– I want to try to persuade the Prime Minister to do a sensible thing. In his absence, I have quoted what the Age has said with reference to the two trumpery test Bills, and 1 have quoted the Commonwealth Statistician to show that there are only 2,000 temporary hands employed by the Commonwealth who might be affected by one of these measures if passed. I ask the Prime Minister to bring in the initiative and referendum. He is a reader of literature, and has given some thought to the question. Possibly, he may think that the wide space of Australia would not be so convenient as, is the smaller areaof Switzerland.
– I would like somebody to show me how the initiative could be worked in Australia.
– Our continent is embroidered with cities round the littoral, while the great spaces in the centre are unoccupied ; we are in ready communication from Perth to Brisbane, and also with Tasmania, and the referendum could easily be applied if we were willing. Any way, whether its application would be difficult or easy, the Prime Minister will agree with me that the people who pay for everything should have the right of controlling.
– I am not talking of the referendum, but of the initiative.
– In Switzerland, 30,000 electors, that is, 1 per cent, of 3,000,000 people, can initiate legislation. In Australia, with a population of 4,800;000, 48,000 electors could do so.
– That would mean that any organization outside could absolutely neutralize any legislation passed in this Parliament.
– They could initiate legislation; and, if they could get the required number of people to support ih, why should they not do it?
– Why should a small minority stick up this Parliament?
– If the majority of the Government, the honorable member for Gippsland, is firm in his desire - and it will be as much as his seat is worth if he votes against it - then I think that the Prime Minister will have reason to believe that it is worth while to accept the principle. Why should he not be willing to introduce the referendum ? I assure him that, on the question of trusts, no one will be a keener voter than will the mother of a family when meat goes up 2d. per lb. There will be no keener politician than a grown-up daughter who has to manage for her father, when she has to pay a grocer 6d., or ls. 6d., or 2s. a week more. No electors will be keener than those who are- following the breadwinners. What is the peculiar lesson taught now in centres of population ? Today, with flour at £8 10s. a ton, bread is selling at 7d. a loaf; whereas, formerly, with flour at £12 10s., bread was sold at that price. Then take the case of meat. There is a combine, or a trust, or a syndicate - call it what you will - that is manipulating the prices. I personally desire to pay my heartfelt appreciation to the honorable member for Oxley for the contribution he has made to Hansard ‘ in regard to the operations of the Beef Trust. Two farmers who stayed at a lodging-house with me in Queensland, told me that every farmer could get a sovereign for every unborn calf, whether the calf lived or not. What is meant by that? Simply that the purchaser is looking forward so that four years afterwards he will get the full prime market price for that stock. Reverting to the subject of the initiative and referendum, it is ridiculous for the Government to ask seventy-five members to go to the country for the sake of the two twopennyhalfpenny measures which they propose to bring forward. If it were the great question of preference to unionists that was at stake, I would he prepared to go out of political existence if I could make that principle stronger by so doing, but we are asked to go to the country on a trifling thing brought forward by a legal man, who is clever in twisting the truth about so as to make it appear what it is not. Is it any wonder that the people outside say, “A plague on both your Houses; why do you not bring in useful legislation ?” I am going to suggest to the Prime Minister useful legislation that he can bring in. The honorable member will agree with me that every one of the seventy-five members wishes to do well for Australia. Honorable members see their duty in different ways, and then the cursed party system operates, and keeps some members on one side and some on the other. Why cannot we call a truce for a little while, so that we may pass some useful legislation ? Amongst other important questions to be dealt with is that of divorce. I am in possession of 150 letters from barristers, solicitors, and legal men of all kinds, and from Judges in every Court in Australia and New Zealand, some from the highest Judges in the land, and all agree that there should be one divorce law for the Commonwealth. With only one exception they agree that the domicile should be made uniform for both sexes. The woman and the man are equal as citizens, and they should have equal rights in divorce. Why should the domicile of the . wife follow the husband as his shadow? Every one who will investigate the matter must agree as to the justice of uniformity for both sexes. Then there is the further question of defence and finance. We cannot continue spending money as we are doing. If we estimate one breadwinner in every five of our population of 4,S00,000, our defence expenditure is borne by only 900,000 people. Or if we allow one breadwinner in every four of the population, 1,200,000 people bear the whole of the cost of defence of this country. The policy of the
Labour party is direct taxation and payment for defence from revenue. As human beings, we are only visitors for a brief time on this rock we call the earth, but the land is here for all time, and Sanded property should pay for the defence of landed property. The Commonwealth has paid £2,000,000 for a Dreadnought cruiser, and another £200,000 for its equipment, whilst two protected cruisers cost £1,000,000. We have built enough of that class of ship. Australians do not want to invade any country, and this expenditure is simply waste. We cannot hope to compete with Japan’s population of over 40,000,000 in her expenditure on ironclads. Let us spend the whole of the money we are spending on defence, and let it be broad written on the Australian escutcheon that we do not desire to fight any nation, but desire simply to defend our own country as the heritage of the white race. Therefore, I would suggest that we should retain the six destroyers of the River type, and also the submarines, and build only such vessels as they. And let us expend the price of one Dreadnought unit on aeroplanes and dirigibles, and we will have the best defended country in the whole world. I asked in a former session how many aeroplanes could be made for the price of one Dreadnought cruiser, and the reply was that we could build 600 aeroplanes at an average cost of £350. One aeroplane with a crew of only two men might sink a Dreadnought costing two and a quarter millions, and no Admiral of a fleet would dare approach a country which he knew possessed many dirigibles or aeroplanes. The amount we have spent or are spending on the construction of war vessels is £4,274,000. I prophesy that the majority of those vessels will be scrap iron within ten years. And it is ridiculous for us to think that we can build ironclads to destroy any other nation. We do not want to do that. Our problem is to develop and populate the untold spaces in our midst, and that is where we ought to build up our nation.
– Hear, hear; we are defence mad.
– We are so far as ironclads are concerned. In answer to an interjection, I may say there are worse people in the world than the Chinese. I have in my possession a letter from Mr. Henry Gyles Turner, stating that never did the Chinese do any harm to his bank, not even during all the crash of the land boom.
– Hear, hear; they are good tenants.
– The referendum has been described as the greatest effort of genius for government that the brain of man has yet evolved. Any honorable member who cares to turn up the Age of 3rd May, 1913, will see published there a map of the United States of America. If honorable members can picture the map of the United States of America in their mind’s eye, and divide it into two sections, they will see that on the left side every State, with the exception of two, and every town and city, has adopted the initiative and referendum. On the other side - where, perhaps, the population is more Conservative - there are seventeen States that have not the initiative and referendum in operation, but altogether there are twenty-three States, every city of which uses the initiative and referendum in one form or other. That silent revolution, so to speak, by the means of evolution, will break down the strong Senate and the strong Supreme Court of the United States of America. Holding a majority now, they will ultimately give to that great land of our brothers, speaking the same language as ourselves, the glorious privilege of the referendum and the initiative. Why should not this Parliament give it also? Every member of the Labour party is pledged to it; it is No. 14 of the platform of the party ; it is now on our fighting platform; and at least one member on the Government side is man enough to trust the people. The history of the world has never shown that the people have refused power when it was offered to them. The people will not refuse the referendum. I have quarrelled with the Age, and I have had to fight the Argus, theHerald, and the Daily Telegraph nearly all my life, but I have never yet accused the Age of doing a wrong thing with reference to two matters: I have never questioned the honesty of its convictions and its unswerving fidelity to the cause of Protection. It has been unceasing in its efforts to build up the manufactures of Australia, and give our boys and girls here the means of living. But when the Age has attacked our party, I have fought it as hard as any man could possibly do. Since last year the Age has adopted the highest acme that political thought has given to the power of man, that is the referendum and initiative; arid I venture to prophesy that, as surely as night follows day, the people of Australia will claim their own, and will no longer permit a Ministry to rob them of their right to be powerful throughout. The Prime Minister, who is the cleverest man I know of at getting out of trouble, and making yes mean no, cannot deny the right to the referendum. Twenty years ago, when dear John Hancock, now passed through the shadows, and Judge Higgins and myself, were the leaders in the fight for the referendum and initiative, I was unable to persuade that “grim old man and stern who controlled the Age - the late Mr. David Syme - to advocate the referendum and initiative. The Daily Telegraph in Sydney at the time was wavering, and did support the referendum for the settlement of vexed questions, but had Mr. David Syme, in his matured years, grasped the question of the referendum and initiative, it would have been on the statute-book to-day, and Australia would have had a much better Constitution. Why is it that our Constitution is imperfect? Because the right honorable member for Swan, the Treasurer, led to the Conventions a body of men who were not elected, but were merely nominated, and we have only to go through the Convention debates to find that everything democratic was tinged with conservatism.
– Sir John Forrest put the old-age pensions clause in the Constitution - he and Mr. Howe.
– Then there must be some good in somebody, and I pay the Treasurer that meed of praise; but I would like a little proof.
– I shall turn it up, and show it to you to-morrow.
– I have been handed the following by the honorable member for Darwin Theodore Roosevelt, in bis autobiography, which has just been published, says -
I think that every American ought to have a hearty admiration and fellow-feeling for Australia. I believe that America should bc ready to stand at the back of Australia in any serious emergency. The reception accorded to the
American Fleet in Australia was wonderful, and showed the fundamental community of feeling between ourselves and the great Commonwealth of the southern seas.
Greater words than these left the lips of Admiral Sperry at New Zealand, when he said that New Zealand - and therefore Australia - was safe as long as the Stars and Stripes floated over the Pacific seas. Any one who cares to hunt up the sworn evidence given by Mr. Rennick, the ‘ Engineer-in-Chief of the Victorian Railways, will see the saving of money brought about by the daylabour system. I ask the good-tempered Postmaster-General, who is the only Minister in the chamber, what was the saving through letting this contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith. Were any officers discharged from the permanent staff? No. Were not the same officials still employed and paid ? Contracting is more convenient, and, may I say, it is easier to give palm oil, easier to bribe, when there are only one or two officials to deal with, whereas if a Government officer goes over the work he is answerable, because he is in a permanent billet, and anything wrong can be traced to him. In the Queen’s hall in this building, vaunted as the most splendid hall in Australia, there was bad work put in, and the architect would not condemn the contractor. There was one exception, and I pay a meed of praise to Francis Gunn, who refused to pass that bad work. He refused to be bribed, and was dismissed. Tap the wall anywhere, and it is what is known in the trade as rotten. The inspector who was sacked stood in the gallery of this chamber asking himself whether he should shoot the Minister who attacked him. Had he done so, I do not think he would have been very far wrong, considering how badly he was treated. The same man took me to the Law Courts, and any one can see what he pointed out to me. The stones on the lower story are splendid, but nearly every stone on the second story is spotted with decay like the carriage dogs that used to follow carriages. The explanation of it was that the model stone had been stolen, and was not discovered, though the Government offered a reward of £500, and the contractor also’ offered a reward of £50. When the stone disappeared, bad stone could be put in the second story. At the back of this very Parliament House, where Sir Thomas
Bent nearly lost his life, we have the only building in the world where stone work is supported by wood. That was contract work. I shall now read a few items in that regard which I think worthy of putting into Hansard. Here is the report of Mr.Rennick, Engineer-in-Chief of the Victorian Railways, dated1901 -
It saves in cost of management and supervision.
The following is an example of extra claims by contractors : -
In addition the Department had to meet expenses of £30,000 in contesting the claims. A few comparisons -
In Queensland the maintenance for day labour lines was only half that for contract lines.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140428_reps_5_73/>.