5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I ask the Prime Minister whether, in consequence of the wreck of the French steamer St. Paul last month, he has received any request from the Government of Queensland for the re-surveying and re-charting of Moreton Bay?
– The honorable member knows the rule of Parliament as well as I do. Until the debate on the censure amendment has concluded, we cannot transact the ordinary business of the country.
Debate resumed from 28th April (vide page 392), on motion by Mr. Kendell -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to by this HOuSe -
May it please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and ito thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address :- but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of “the people of the Commonwealth.”
.- The chief accusation that has been hurled against the Liberal party during the debate has been that a contract was made bv the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs without publicly calling for tenders. If tis action had been an altogether new departure, if nothing of the same kind had ever been done by honorable members opposite when Ministers, the matter would be of the gravest import. I hold that the acceptance of contracts, except after tenders have been publicly invited, as a very big mistake ; but this advantage will arise out of what has occurred, that the wrongness of such procedure has been recognised on both sides, and if the members of the Opposition were returned to power, what they complain of would not be likely to be done by them, and the mistake that has been made will not be repeated by the present Ministry. I am glad to have the assurance of the Leader of the Opposition that he did not bring against the Minister any charge .of -corruption, and that he is perfectly satisfied that no such charge should lie. It is a good thing for the honour and credit «of Parliament that that is so. The fact that on, perhaps, half-a-dozen occasions the party opposite did what it complained of during this debate is no excuse for the Minister. All contracts should be preceded by public advertising for “tenders. It is only thus that the interests of the public can be safeguarded. That course should be departed from only under very special circumstances, and with the sanction of all the members of the Cabinet; but, even with Cabinet sanction, I would not justify the departure in every case. It is better that some delay should happen than that a door should be opened to fraud, possibly of the worst character. That, in this case, blame is chiefly to be laid on one departmental officer does not excuse the Minister responsible, and I hope that in future there will be no departure from the rule now laid down by this House, that no contracts are to be entered into until tenders have been publicly called for. There has been a great deal of talk about the need for a double dissolution. If a double or a single dissolution would lead to the clearing of the political arena, and would so alter the constitution of parties that there would be a clear expression of the people’s will to which effect could be given, I should be in favour of such a course; but, generally, I object to dissolutions, chiefly on the ground that we already call too frequently on the people to elect representatives. The present state of affairs may arise from the desire of the people not to have any more legislation passed at the present time. The electors have been unable to make up their minds as to which side should rule, though at the last election they clearly expressed disapproval of the Labour party and its methods, and of the Acts which it has put into force. The Labour party was legislating a great deal too fast, and in nearly every case without a proper knowledge of the subject, or a proper discussion of its proposals. None of the legislation passed by the last Parliament had that full and careful consideration which should be given to legislative projects. The proposals of the Government were dealt with purely on party lines, and what the Cabinet submitted Parliament agreed to. Frequently members were not aware of what they were doing, and, therefore, did not anticipate the results that have followed their legislation. The Labour party has declared itself to be the greatest enemy of trusts and combines. Its members are continually posing before the country - posing is the proper word - as the only persons who recognise the dangers of trusts and know how to prevent them. Yet, under the party’s legislation, trusts- and combines have been allowed to arise which could not have arisen without it. I shall justify my statement by referring to one or two of the measures passed last session. Take, for instance, the sugar legislation which was passed, practically without discussion of any kind, on the 21st December, in the very last session of the Labour Government’s existence. When the proclamation was issued, the whole of the Excise was abolished, and last year, with 250,000 tons of sugar, a revenue of £1,000,000 thereby ceased. It is true that a large amount of this money was distributed back again, but it was collected from all over Australia, and returned to only a particular section in one State, for the few who benefited in New South Wales scarcely affect the argument. There was, however, nearly£750,000 returned; and surely the Labour party never understood that they were affording opportunities for trusts andcombinations to a larger extent than ever before in the sugar industry. What was the result of this act of the Labour party? Subsequent to the proclamation, the value of the shares in one company alone increased to the extent of over £800,000. I am aware that the bulk of the honorable members opposite did not intend that there should be any such effect. It was not their object to foster and add to the growth of wealthy companies; but, unfortunately, that was the result, and, so far from being the enemies and foes of trusts, the Labour party have done more than any other party in this House to encourage their formation and development. As to the Shipping Ring, we have five or six large companies, with a capital of £9,000,000, and these cannot be regarded as “ small men “ in whose favour the Labour party profess to legislate. A provision was inserted in the Navigation Act, the effect of which was clearly to prevent any outside competition with this Shipping Ring; and, although I believe that result may not have been foreseen by the Labour party, it is hard to understand why. Allowing something for well-meaning men, who do not consider fully the effects of their legislation, what did we find? As I have said, we found that the competition of other wealthy companies was excluded, and the field left to companies representing £9,000,000 of capital. As to the workers, however, immigrants and others might come in and compete; and yet this legislation was introduced by the party who declared that they were on the side of the people, and against the interests of capital.
– The honorable, member’s troubles about “the people”!
– The honorable member must remember that in some of the shallow ports of Queensland and New South Wales the effect of some of the provisions of the measure was to make boats absolutely unseaworthy. In the case of certain bars to harbors, a vessel had to be provided with double bottoms, and, as these would lift it further out of the water, it would, on going to sea, turn turtle and cause the death of the seamen. I mention this as an instance of the contempt shown for the true interests of sailors when the measure was considered. Perhaps “ contempt “ is not the proper word, seeing that it was rather ignorance that led to legislation of the sort.
– The honorable member is not in order in reflecting on the legislationof the House.
– I am pointing out how trusts and combines have received a decided lift at the hands of the Labour party. Some four years ago I pointed out, both at Bathurst and Orange, that the cry of the Labour party for a long time to come would be against trusts and combines, but that the natural result of much of our industrial legislation would be to force employers into what are called union combinations. My opinion then was that the natural trend of events was in that direction without any assistance from legislators, who ought to take care we did not revert to the conditions of the past, when there were huge bodies on one side and the other, each unable to cross the line of separation, and, consequently, prone to become actively antagonistic. Unfortunately the Labour party did not see that such must be the effect of much of their legislation. I prophesied, before the House met, that, if the Labour party were successful - and I was one of the few who believed they would be - they would, during the three years, legislate against trusts, and would find themselves unable to effectively deal with big combinations of capital without creating still more dangerous difficulties. I further foretold that, in the end, they would probably appeal to the country by means of the referendum for further power, utterly unaware of the fact that the Federal Parliament already possessed the necessary power. We may take it for granted that when trusts or combinations are formed it is always by corporations or big trading bodies. Of course, no one single individual could come under the law, nor could a combination of individuals who did everything by tacit agreement, seeing that nothing could be proved against them. The Labour party, apparently, were quite unaware of the effect of section 51, paragraph xx., of the Constitution, which gives the Parliament power to make laws with respect to -
Foreign corporations, and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth.
It is manifest that, under that section, we have power to forbid the existence or formation of companies or corporations.
– The High Court said there was no sich power.
– The honorable member for Bendigo has evidently not followed the first part of my remarks. What the High Court pointed out was entirely different, namely, that we had no power to legislate in regard to individuals, although we had power in regard to corporations.
– Let the honorable member read it again.
– The words of the section are perfectly plain.
– We thought the words of the section were plain, but the High Court thought otherwise.
– The High Court did not deal at all with the matter I am discussing. However, I have not time to go into a discussion of the law. I am merely pointing out that there is power, under the paragraph I have quoted, to forbid the existence of corporations - to limit their capital, or do what we please. It could be enacted, for instance, that no one should own a business yielding a profit exceeding £10,000 a year. The power goes as far as that. While I should hope that it would be held to be illegal to do so, I think that, under the sub-section as it reads, we could go to any extent we pleased. If, as we are told, the’ Labour party throughout Australia are equally in favour of’ the abolition of trusts, then, under section 51, paragraph XXXVI II. action could be taken by State Labour Administrations to deal with them. Any State is entitled to legislate as it pleases in regard to trusts, and, under the provi sion I have just mentioned, this Parliament has power to make laws with respect to-
The exercise within the Commonwealth, at the request or with the concurrence of the Parliaments of all the States directly concerned, of any power which can at the establishment of this Constitution be exercised only by the Parliament of thu United Kingdom or by the Federal Council of Australasia.
In other words, any State Parliament, or any two State Parliaments, could enact a law relating to trusts, and request the Commonwealth to take over the enforcement of that law. A Labour Government has been in power in New South Wales for over three years, and there is a Labour Government in office in Western Australia, so that honorable members opposite have failed to recognise that they are charging their confreres in both those States with neglecting the interests of the people of those States by failing to legislate against trusts. The States clearly have power to deal with trusts - honorable members opposite recognise that they have power to deal with them, and are asking them to give the Commonwealth a bit of that power - and the Labour Governments of Western Australia and New South Wales are, therefore, being charged by their confreres here with neglecting their duty by failing to legislate against combines. If that be true, then both those Governments are unfit to exist, and the Federal Labour party should join with us in condemning them. It is alleged in many cases that the increase in the prices of meat and other natural products is an indication of the operation of trusts. If there is one section of the community that ought to be thankful that increases have taken place in the prices of the great pastoral productions of Australia, it is the workers, because it is those high prices which alone make it possible for them to secure increased wages. It is the high prices now being realized for stock - I wish that equally high prices were being obtained for wheat- which make possible an increase in the wages of the city’ workers, for they are absolutely dependent upon the amount of profit gained from our natural industries. The fine increase in wages that has taken place must be welcomed by everybody. Those who pay. attention to political- economy recognise that, until there is an advance in the wages of the great mass of the workers of a country, there can be no true advancement of its interests. The material welfare of the great mass of the citizens is the first thing to be considered, as far as it can be considered, by Parliaments, and Parliaments can best conserve it by taking care that no man shall get any share of wealth beyond the result of his own work or the product of the capital that he has been able to borrow or invest. The Labour party say that capital keeps the country down. I challenge that contention. If it were true, then the natives of Greenland, where there is practically no capital, should be the wealthiest people in the world. Clearly, also, early residents of the Northern Territory should have been flourishing provided that no capital was sent up to keep them going. Do honorable members opposite realize where they place themselves when they denounce capital? In denouncing capital they denounce something that is absolutely essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth .
– We never denounce capital.
– I am glad to have that assurance.
– They all have some now!
– The statement that capital should not be decried is a new one so far as many members of the Labour party are concerned. As a matter of fact, very- serious injury has been done to the country by the outcry against capital. What we want is not less, but more, capital, and it is not capital, but the want of it, that is really keeping down the people. The Labour party, instead of running about the country and condemning capital, should be lamenting the want of it, and trying to introduce as much as possible into Australia. But, instead of doing anything of the kind, they availed themselves of the Bank Notes Act passed by them when in power to borrow from the great banking and trading communities of Australia something like £10,000,000, which they withdrew from avenues where it was getting good interest in order to put it where it would return but poor interest. The Labour party thus inflicted injury upon the poorer sections, of the. community. They benefited the capitalist, whose rate of interest was increased by at least, lj or- 2 per cent., whilst they inflicted an evil upon* the poor.
– The honorable member laughs at the idea that consideration* should be given to the poor.
– That is why we represent them, while the honorable member does not.
– The honorable member would legislate, not for the poor, but for the capitalist, whilst I would remove all the obstacles that stand in the way of men securing equal opportunities. I fail to understand how honorable members opposite can reconcile their professed regard for the poor with their legislation to prevent capital meeting with that competition* that it should encounter, and which is necessary to keep it in its proper place. In other countries the advantages which capital confers have been recognised. I admit that, in some instances, they had no intention of achieving the results which flowed from their efforts. But. the fact that they cannot see what will be theeffect of their legislation does not render that legislation any the less pernicious. The banking legislation, which was enacted at their instance, resulted in State and Commonwealth Banks being conducted side by side, and they were unable torecognise that the withdrawal of money from the former, and its deposit in the latter institution, did not increase the capital of the community one iota, whilst it had a distinct tendency to increase the rate of interest. Why did my honorable friends not endeavour to use the savings of the people, and, in connexion with all public works, why did they not introduce capital from abroad so as to keep down the rate of interest, and thus allow many thousands of the poor and needy to borrow a little money with which to build homes for themselves, or to improve their farms, or to expend it in a thousand and one other ways which would be to the advantage of the entire community, and not of the wealthy class alone ? I know it will be urged that they did not’ mean to bring about the result which followed their action. They did not mean to do half the mischief that they have done. In many instances they intended to produce an exactly opposite result. It may be argued’, perhaps, that the rate of interest, has risen, all over the world, but I would point out: that, during the crisis of 1907-8 - owing to the severe lesson which the banks had been taught - the rate, so far as Australia was concerned, never varied against the borrower. I am bound to say that, but for the foolish action of the Commonwealth Government in borrowing locally all the money they required and that of the New South Wales Government in emulating their example, there would not have been any pressure experienced “in the financial world in Australia, and borrowers would have been able to secure all the money that they required at a very much lower rate of interest. That is my complaint against the Labour party. When I see them making mistake after mistake, and when I know that all their errors tend in the direction of accumulating more wealth in the hands of the wealthy, it is difficult for me to pay them any tribute whatever. Their action only serves to recall the old saying that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
– There is no scientific evidence that there is a hell.
– So far as the big financial corporations are concerned, their rates of interest were never higher than they arc to-day. That is the reason why they all back up the Labour party. They give that party their full support. They say “ The Labour party may talk against us, but its members legislate for us.” We all know that, as the result of their legislation in regard to the sugar industry, much money has been poured into the pockets of big corporations. Possibly there may have been an increase in wages to the extent of a couple of hundred thousands of pounds a year, but £1,000,000 extra has been paid to those corporations for it. Consequently they exclaim, “What does it matter to us? Competition from the rest of the world is excluded. We will put this money into our own pockets. The Labour party may talk against us, but they legislate for us, and they are the boys for us.”
– According to the honorable member’s argument they should pour their money into the Labour party’s funds.
– They would be very foolish if they did not. The wealthy men who vote against the Labour party do not recognise that that party are the best friends they have ever had. When the honorable member for Oxley declaimed against the price of meat he quite forgot that the price quoted was that ruling the world over. He forgot that there are now over 11,000,000 sheep less than there were ten years ago, that during the past three years the number of cattle has decreased by 250,000, and that population has increased. He overlooked the fact, too, that, in America, the number of stock has decreased 30 per cent., while there has been a large increase in the population. It ill becomes a representative of Queensland, which is benefiting at the present time more than is any other State, to say that every farmer there has entered into a trust or combine. There is not a farmer who will not deny it. Some farmers are sending their meat to the markets of the world. The honorable member for Oxley ought to recollect that the man on the land is already taxed to the extent of 30 or 40 per cent. on his machinery, and that he is called upon to contribute largely to industrial works in the city. If the same farmer entered into a union, and said that he would insist upon the city dwellers paying 30 or 40 per cent. more for their flour, or their meat, than they are now paying, he would only be equalizing matters, and demanding what he has a right to demand. What is fair in the one case would be equally fair in the other. Honorable members who indulge in the wild talk that we have heard against the natural increase in the price of one of our great products, an increase which will allow of the formation of industrial unions, and still have no bad effect on the producer, because he will be able to pay it, are speaking without a knowledge of the facts beforethem. I know, of course, that for political purposes they intend to go about the country denouncing the Meat Trust, but I would ask honorable members to remember the interests of the people at large, and to remember also that there is no truth whatever in the statements they are making. Here is a small quotation from the American Government Bulletin, issued last year to the farmers -
The high cost of meat is a serious reality, and it is now obvious that the rise in prices in recent years is the natural result of an actual shortage in production. It is evident that the country is facing an era of short production- of meat. … In the last sixyears the number of beef cattle in the country has apparently fallen off 30 per cent., while the population has increased.
– Continue reading; what does it say about dairy cattle?
– The honorable member can have the whole of it if he likes. I know the honorable member has an anger and bitterness against every farmer getting any price for his stock. He would insist on his taking a halfpenny a pound for his sheep, and a farthing a pound for his beef, but let him do that in the country, and then see what will happen to the people in the towns. Let legislation of that sort be enforced, as the honorable member and some of his party would wish, against the farmers, and it will, more securely than anything else could do, kill the interests of the industrial workers in the cities, because, naturally, there can be no permanent increase in the value of the true primary productions of a country, whatever they may be, without the other members of the community in other classes of industrial work benefiting in proportion.
– What is the cause of the high price of meat in Australia now? Is it not drought?
– The year before last there was a tremendous drought. This year again, we have had such bad times that many men have been unable to get anything. Do not think that this increase is all going into the pockets of the farmers.
– The middleman is getting it.
– The middleman is not getting it, either. Those who are lucky enough to have fat stock to send in are getting it, because so many others of us have no stock to send in. Any talk of legislating in this way against the big natural products of this country will plunge it into confusion, trouble, and destruction, and, according to all the canons of sound finance, this would militate against any increase in the wages of those city workers whom the honorable member for Oxley alone seems to bear in mind. In the circumstances, these may be good electioneering tactics where people do not know anything about the subject, but I challenge honorable members opposite to go out and tell the farmers, or the people of the country generally, that a trust has been formed, and that they are in its grip, when there is not a group of them but knows that already we have our Farmers and Producers Associations, to some of which we can, and do, sell now, and have our meat shipped direct to London, so that it does not come under the control of these big corporations at all. We cannot even get store stock to stock up with at present. Just look at the prices - prices that were unheard of and undreamt of a few years ago. Many men of smaller capital are absolutely unable to stock up their places since rain has fallen, because of the high price of store stock. Who is most affected by a scarcity of cattle? The poorer man. That was the effect of the legislation of the party opposite. They did not intend it, nor did they intend to do harm by the Australian Notes Act, yet it caused the withdrawal of large sums of money from active circulation and destroyed the elasticity of commerce. The combination of these two causes has had a serious effect upon the prosperity of Australia. It is perfectly true that the big natural advance in the value of our products on the other side of the world tends to counteract this to a large extent, and, therefore, the full effect of the evil has not been so pronouncedly felt as it otherwise would have been, but that the evil is very great there is no doubt, and the pity of it is that it was done by men who, on the whole, meant well. But meaning well and doing well, when you come to legislation, are two entirely different things. Then in the matter of unions, and the advocacy of them that we have listened to in this House) only a short time ago we heard honorable members on the opposite side saying that preference must be given to unionists. Surely if they considered it from one point of view alone they would see that if preference were really given, and everybody had to join a union, the very advantage of unions would at once disappear, because if everybody was in a union, you would surely not single out particular unions for preferential treatment.
– What a happy day !
– The honorable member thinks it would be a happy day if everybody was in a union, and this reminds me of what happened some 900 years ago in Germany when King Otho was waited on by a deputation of men, who said that the fees of the unions in some of the cities were getting very heavy, and asked permission to live outside of them.
– The honorable member knows that they were not unions; they were guilds.
– They were guilds; but will the honorable member tell me that there was any difference except in the one point, that in that case they did make provision that a man should be a good workman, and tried to insure good, honest work ?
– - The honorable, member knows that they were bodies of employers.
– 1 know that the guilds collected funds from the workers, and put those funds aside to provide for the men in old age, sickness or unemployment. I should like to see a provision of that sort brought in by our party, and trust that before this session ends there will be a Bill introduced for that purpose. To-day large sums are being collected, and provision should be made that only a certain amount should be set aside for official expenses or cost of management.
– It would be better to mind your own business.
– I did not know that the honorable member was one of the secretaries of the movement. Of course, if he is I can quite understand his anxiety to force all the people into unions and make them contribute £1 per head per annum. By that means £2,000,000 a year more would be poured into the pockets of the union secretaries. That is something for them to fight for, and more power to them for fighting for it ; but it is the . duty of a Parliament to see that that tax is not levied on the people of the country.
– The union secretaries are doing good work, and earning every shilling they are paid.
– They may be doing good work, but they are also getting mighty good pay for it. The hard-fisted business men who compose the big corporations that have been referred to, and who are accused of screwing every penny out of the pockets of the poor, charge only 2s. in the £1 for the whole expenses of management, but these’ men who are said, to be overflowing with the milk of human kindness, with sympathy welling out from them for the poorer workers, charge, them 19s. 11¾d in the £1. Therefore, I say that when we get men masquerading in a business of this sort, it is high time thai they were exposed. When the unions did not seek the aid of the Courts to compel men to contribute to the union funds, whether they liked it or not, there was something to be said for the claim that every penny which the unions used was their own, and that they could do what they pleased with it; but when they begin to invoke the aid of the Courts, and even put men into possession to enforce the payment of contributions, at that moment it becomes incumbent upon this Parlia. - ment, and . the Liberal -party should see to it, in the interests of the public and for the benefit of the workers of the community, to take steps for safeguarding those funds. If that were done, and some union secretaries did not then care to register under, the Act because it would prevent them from manipulating the funds, that would be a matter for them to settle with those who make the contributions to those funds. While these contributions can be enforced by law, we must, at the same time, safeguard the funds of the workers by law. If there is to be preference to unionists, and everybody is forced into a union, we must consider the enormous sum that will have to be contributed. It will amount to £2,700,000 at £1 a year. In some cases we are told that it will be 30s., and as high as £2 12s. a year. We must bear in mind that the proposal is to take at least another £2,000,000 out of the workers of Australia. It shall not be done by law if I can prevent it. It may be done by terrorism; we cannot always pi-event that, but at least, so far as the powers of Parliament go, they should be invoked to put a stop to such a practice. If, then, the unions do not care to take advantage of the industrial law, and prefer not to set aside a fund for the sick, or for workers out of employment, that work which should be theirs alone, and should not be chargeable against Parliament. All the cry we hear about the necessity of giving preference to unionists is only another way of saying “ Contribute to the union secretary £1 or £2 a year, and then you will see the way in which the politicians are able to manipulate the funds for political purposes, and spend .them in such a way as to make our unfortunate dupes less able to meet the ordinary wants of life.” When that is the proposal of our friends opposite, they ought not to call themselves the Labour party unless it be in the sense that .they are the men who force others to work twice as hard as should be necessary in order that they may live at all. They say to the workers, “ You will labour, but in our way. Whereas you might live comfortably by working a couple of hours a day, we shall make you work four times as long.” They are the Labour party, because they make men labour and slave, and make them work hard to pay their dues and the taxes they have imposed upon the community. There does seem to be on the part of the Labour party a tendency to pass legislation of this kind. It may be true that it is only due. to an extreme section in the party. There are mem in the party who” have sufficient sense not to take that view, and that is the reason why, although they were in power for “three years, they never attempted to make everybody join a union. But these things are being perpetually put before the country as though they were to be the save-ail of the workers, when they would really do them the greatest injury possible. However, the party must be taken on its own valuation on these matters, and treated accordingly. I say that my. honorable friends opposite cannot be sincere in the course of conduct they have mapped out for themselves if they really intend to carry such legislation into effect.
– Let the honorable member get off that now, and give us a little about Free Trade and Protection.
– The honorable member would be unable .to follow me if I did. The honorable member would consider how the matter affected his constituents, and while his constituents are in favour of heavy taxes,’ I am sure the honorable member will be found, an active delegate in their behalf. When they learn that “ taxation is an evil I believe the honorable member will be against them for it. I wish to point out to honorable members what” might follow the “advice given to certain Australian Workers Union men and others. I do not refer .now to the honorable member for Darling, because, to do that honorable member” justice, I believe he is never in favour of ‘a strike if it. can be avoided. Certain, advice was given, and action was taken by which certain produce of the farmers was declared to be “black” to certain workers in the community. . Those who gave that advice did not see the full effect of it, because it is manifest that had they been able to carry out the advice, it would at once have led to reprisals by the Farmers and Settlers Union. If they had tried to. starve out the- Farmers and Settlers Union,, which has become a great union, by refusing to allow them to :sell their produce or get it to a market, .the farmers and settlers would have turned round and said, “We shall boycott the grocer who supplies you people with provisions. We shall boycott the baker who supplies you with bread, and, if the boycott of the baker is not sufficient, we shall boycott the miller who supplies you with flour by refusing to give him any wheat. We shall boycott the butcher who supplies you with meat. ‘ ‘ Then what would the case of these unfortunate men “be? An attack by one section leads to reprisals by the other, and it should not be forgotten that in the last resort the farmers of the community, if stirred up in this way, would” be forced to take action iri their own defence.- I can conceive of nothing worse than a union war starting and ending in that way. We can look to the experiences of the past in other countries, and I say that this is the reason why unions have been broken up in many places. In India and’ in China, where they were more prevalent than in any other country, there can be no rise in wages, because all the people- are banded together to resist the attempt of ! any class to emerge from the condition in which it at present is. The. free .competition and individualism, which honorable members on the other side are so much -in the “habit .of condemning, is the very last thing which, they should condemn,’ because it is all - in the interest of the worker. It -allows men of brains, courage, energy, earnestness, and industry to get to the front. It passes out the idle rich, just as it passes out the idle poor.
– Honorable .members opposite do not want that. They say, “ Slow down.”
– Yes, that is what they say. They are going to slow down, and that means the lessening of the amount of production. It is manifest that, if production- is lessened) there must -be a smaller share for- each worker in the” community. I could not help noticing the other day the decision ‘ arrived at that men- doing certain work should be paid lis. a day for eight hours’ work between 8 and 5 o’clock, 21s. a day if they worked eight hours at a different time, and 28s. a day for eight hours’ work between certain other hours. Under this proposal, a couple of men, supposing their average was 21s. per day, would get £12 a week. I wonder how many farmers there are who, working with their sons, would be glad to be assured of £6 per week each?
– How long would the workman be able to get that wage?
– The farmers would not be pleased to learn that other workers could earn so much over and above what they with their sons could earn, and it would be manifest to them that this would be but another tax upon them. I point this out to honorable members opposite in order to let them know where they are going.
– What a lot the honorable member knows.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance on the point, though I am not quite satisfied that his interjection should be taken in that sense.
– We sit chastened under the honorable member’s remarks.
– I am satisfied that the honorable member for Bendigo has the capacity to understand what I say, but, an” view of the fact that he is regulated by certain rules, whether he cares to consider it is another matter. Just think, for instance, how honorable members on the other side provided aid in the interests of the workers and poorer people when they passed the maternity bonus. ““In the interests of the poorer people,” they said, “ £5 for every one.”
– It is worth a “ tenner.”
– I always hold’ as a golden rule in these matters that the man who has the game should pay, but I go further and say the maternity system was drawn up in the worst way in which it could be drawn, because, in paying £5 indiscriminately to everybody, whether rich or poor, as the amount you have to pay out is limited, you limit the amount of assistance that can be given to the poor. There is no doubt that in many cases where the persons are very poor from £10 up to £15 would not be a very great sum.
– Make it £20.
– I am not going to talk of high sums, but I certainly . say that up to £10, in the case of some very poor persons, would not be considered very much in the way of charity or help, but my honorable friends make it impossible to extend that aid to the most deserving, because they give the allowance to rich and poor alike. They do not seek to explain that every penny that goes to any other member of the community is drawn from the pockets of somebody else. All that they are doing in effect is to cause large sums to be collected from the community, some of which money goes to those who have earned it, while a good deal goes to those who have never earned it. In other words, my honorable friends are unjust, because they have taken from the worker who has earned the money, to frequently give to the worker who does not earn it. We have, I repeat, so framed this system as to take from the poor to give to the rich in many cases. We have prevented sometimes the poorer people getting the amount which otherwise they could have got, because the amount that can be raised by taxation in any community is always limited. Another trouble with the Labour party is that they have not learned this big lesson, that all the taxes they call upon people to pay are not, as a rule, drawn from the wealthy, but from the workers of the community.
– Are you in favour of direct taxation?
– By some forms of direct taxation it is possible to make a call upon incomes without lessening what might be called the national product of the workers. But even then frequently, if the call is made too high, it increases the amount of capital that is diverted from productive purposes, and, therefore, indirectly again it is an injury to the rest of the community. All the large sums of money which my honorable friends collect are, I repeat, practically drawn from the workers of the community, because, as a general rule, there is no other source to get the money from, and while interest still has to be paid, while there are men willing to borrow money - and my honorable friends may be glad that there are such persons, because otherwise there would be no advancement in the communitycapital will always be able to get its price, and any taxes upon it will fall on the borrower, who is the poorer man in the community. This lesson ought to be learnt by my honorable friends : that, they cannot tax wealth without taxing the poorer people of the community. These are golden words for my honorable friends to learn: “You cannot tax wealth without taxing ten times more heavily the poorer people of a community.” There is no escape from that economic law, and nothing that my honorable friends can do or say can alter it.
– It is not absolute.
– In almost all cases it is. I am quite willing to grant that there are cases in which you can sometimes extract small sums from particular individuals without altogether interfering with what may be called the fund for national efficiency. But when my honorable friends do so, they destroy the sense of security which should prevail in the community, even amongst capitalists, who begin to withdraw their capital, as far as they can, and consequently a loss again infinitely greater than the sum derived has to be paid by the whole community. Mr. Holman, the Premier of New South Wales, had the’ courage to pointout that the abolition of the absentee land and income taxes was required for this reason, that it was tending to prevent the introduction of capital in the community, and that the introduction of money was for the benefit of the workers. That was a fine, sound principle to act upon.
– He is learning.
– It is a good thing that Mr. Holman has been able to learn.
– And to admit it.
– It is a very good thing indeed that Mr. Holman admits it, and that he was able to do it. I wish that the Federal Labour party had been able to do the same thing.
– He said that the cost of collecting the tax exceeded the amount raised.
– Yes. By discouraging capitalists from investing money in land - there are millions and millions of acres which otherwise would be available to the people of this country that are notavailable - look at the injury which the Labour party, as a whole, have, done during the last few years. When, years ago, I pointed out that we were diverting capital from its legitimate work in the production of things and the development of land, not one word I said was believed by a large majority of honorable members on the opposite side. There were a few exceptions, it is true, but the Caucus settled the question the other way; they determined that capital was not required on the land; that they would, as far as they could by legislation, divert capital from the development of land into the development of, perhaps, industrial works in the city.
– They never decided any such thing.
– Yes; the honorable member was here during the consideration of the Tariff, and voted accordingly.
– They did not decide any such thing.
– Well, they voted in that way, and the case is all the worse if they voted without coming to a decision. I have often been informed that they vote without thinking, and here is another proof of what I have been asserting all along, and that is that they vote against the best interests of the country. The big increase in the price of stock, hides, tallow, meat, and wool has tended to allow a big increase in wages, which otherwise could not have taken place. I hold, and all farmer’s willbear meout in my contention, that if there were a corresponding rise in the value of wheat, it would be an almost unmixed blessing to Australia. These are our great spheres of activity. Thousands of acres are still calling for clearing and ploughing. The opening up of this land would enable more stock to be carried. If capital had been allowed to flow in the proper direction on to land, the production of Australia to-day would be, instead of £205,000,000, at least £20,000,000 more - a very big yield when you consider the small size of this community. If we had legislated properly there would have been very many less taxes laid upon the people. I have waited in vain to see whether the party in Opposition had the slightest grasp of what their true duty was, and I thought to myself - “ Certain Returning Officers have been appointed, and the Opposition will make that a ground for a censure motion. They will argue that, instead of making these appointments, other servants of the States, such as postmasters, should have been made use of, or the Government could have come to an arrangement with the States. Every man who is an elector of a State is an elector of the Commonwealth, and the first thing to do , is to have only one Electoral Department for State and Commonwealth, and so save the taxpayers expense.” Yet in not one instance did I hear any honorable member opposite refer to that matter.
– You know that the States would not agree.
– These appointments will certainly mean an expenditure of £60,000 or £70,000, which will increase in five or six years probably to £100,000 per annum. If honorable members opposite had recognised the true duty of an Opposition they would have criticised all expenditure, and challenged the Government. They could have said that they thought a different arrangement could have been made. Of course, we could have retorted, “ Why did you do the same thing when you were in office?” But even then they could have at once turned round and said, “ That is no excuse. Because we did not do right is no reason why you should do wrong now.” In that contention I would have agreed with them, and so would many other honorable members on this side. Turning now to the question of a double dissolution, I am not one of those who believe that it is even advisable to try to secure a double dissolution. In the first place, I do not believe in frequent elections, because I do not consider it a great evil that Parliament should be unable, for the time being, to carry very much more legislation. We have had too much legislation in the past from this Federal Parliament. The second reason that actuates me is that to declare that it is impossible for a body of seventy-five men to meet together and frame laws, would show that party feeling had arrived at such an extreme stage as would almost take away all the pleasure of sitting in a House of Parliament.
– See how you added to the harmony this afternoon by abusing the Labour party.
– I was pointing out the mistakes of that party, but I am now pointing out what I consider to be a mistake on the part of the present Government. I never like to resort to dissolutions when we have to rely on the consideration of our opponents in order to get a dissolution. Of course, if our opponents choose to grant us a dissolution we’ can have it; but in no other way can that result be brought about. The decision rests with members in another chamber. Then, again, a question arises as to whether these proposed test measures, even if they were rejected by the Senate, would come within the purview of the section of the Constitution Act which we have been discussing so much of late. But, to my mind, the real difficulty is a constitutional one, and, therefore, can be met only by a constitutional amendment.
– What is the difficulty?
– Even if there were a double dissolution, parties might come back in exactly the same strength as at present. Or, to put the Government party in the best light, we will assume that they come back with a majority of eight or ten members. Yet, if splits in the Liberal party are to continue - and there is no proportional representation in the Senate - the Liberal Government might come back to power in this House, but be faced with an even more adverse Senate.
– The Government can get another dissolution then..
– The honorable member must recognise with me that dissolutions are things very easily talked about, but when each dissolution costs, roughly, £120,000, and involves a dislocation of business for the entire time, and the ‘destruction of that confidence and security which would otherwise prevail - because, after all, business people know where they are while one party is in power, and make arrangements accordingly - it will be seen that the talk of dissolutions is not always in the interest of the country, no matter how much it may be in the interest of a party. Therefore, I am bound to say that I would very much have liked to have seen effect given to a proposal I made once before to this House. Surely we must recollect that this is a Federal Constitution, and that the right of equal representation was given to the States, which right cannot be taken away without the consent of each State, and, therefore, of all the States ; and I am opposed to any other method, which would in effect preserve the letter of the law, but not observe the spirit of it. The spirit of the law was that this union of the States was a Federation, and within that spirit I intend to work. Whether my attitude is popular or unpopular, I stand up foi the Constitution, and, while that Con:”stitution prevails, it is my main ground for objecting to any referenda giving further powers of Unification to this Federal Parliament. “We must first persuade the people of Australia that the Constitution has broken down, and that a unified Constitution should be substituted. One of the great mistakes made by the Labour party, in my opinion, was that they entirely overlooked the fact that we have a Federal Constitution, and that they were seeking powers of Unification, which, if granted, would have destroyed the smaller States. I am not going to argue now whether it is well or ill that those powers should be granted. They were not granted in regard to many matters, but I consider that for all practical purposes we have all the powers we require. We have to remember that it is within the power of the State Parliaments to pass legislation, and ask the Federal authority to undertake the enforcement of it, and, on the other hand, this Parliament can pass a law and ask the States to accept it. For instance, we could draw up a Trusts law, and each of the States could accept it, thus obviating any necessity for interfering with, the Constitution at all. We have already those great powers, and to ask for further powers of that nature is not to act well or wisely. Remember, our Constitution is a Federal one, and let us not seek to destroy it by taking unified powers while we still retain a Federal Constitution. I am at a loss to understand why any mau arguing in favour of government by the people and for the people should ever be able to argue in any other way. Had the referenda proposals introduced by the Labour party been submitted by any other party, I can imagine the storm of opposition that would have been raised by the Labour party. I am sorry there is no provision in our Constitution requiring, at least, a two-thirds majority of either House to vote in favour of any change of the Constitution before submitting it to a referendum. The existing provision requiring an absolute majority only in either House means that a simple majority can carry proposals and submit them to the people. A majority, at least, of twothirds is requisite- to insure that a proposed change is not a party measure. Changes in the Constitution are among the few things that should be above party. If I introduced a measure for a change in the Constitution, and found I could not get almost the full support of members opposite, no matter how much I favoured the proposal, I would drop it. In no circumstances should a change inthe Constitution be a party matter. Oneway in which we could get over the difficulties a double dissolution may bring about would be to have the whole of theSenate elected on the same day as the House of Representatives. True, it would’ not insure mathematical accuracy, and thethree largest States - New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland - might returneighteen Liberal senators and a large proportion, say, fifty members of the House of “ Representatives in favour of Liberalism, while the three other States - WesternAustralia, South Australia, and Tasmania - might return eighteen Labour senators, in which circumstances, under section 23 of the Constitution, with the voting equal’ in the Senate, everything would pass inthe negative, and the House of Representatives, though having a large preponderance of Liberals, would be in the same position as now. If the Labour party returned fifty-five members to theHouse of Representatives and three Statesreturned eighteen Liberal senators, legislation would be equally blocked. Therefore, it is clear we should try to do something to amend the Constitution, that is,, if honorable members are anxious foi- a change. While the present method of slow legislation has its drawbacks,, it has many advantages. Holding the election for the whole of the Senate and the whole of the House of Representatives on the one day would probably be a very good step in advance; also, it would be a change in the Constitution requiring the assent of only four States. In State matters, senators could still vote qua States, so that the small States would preserve their full rights. Further, if we adopted a system of proportional representation for the Senate, there would be representatives of every party in the Senate, and they could have their views heard ; whereas, in the present circumstances, we run the risk, of the minority being totally unrepresented1 in the Senate. A double dissolution is hardly a satisfactory course for us to adopt. It will probably provide no way out of our difficulties, and we may come back in just the same position as we are now, but with a change in the Constitution such as I have foreshadowed, there would’ be>- advantage to all. It would also be of advantage to have Parliament sitting for four or five years. The period of three years is altogether too short. It leads to multiplicity of elections which are not in the best interests of the country, and to judgment being passed on men responsible for certain legislation before the effect of that legislation is seen. I think we should give up the idea of a double dissolution, and bring in the amendment of the Constitution to which I have referred, which would perhaps afford a solution of the difficulty confronting us.
.- Ministers have informed us that shortly we are to go to the country. They have fixed it up. They also say, “ Send the House which is representative of the States to the States, and see what the people in the States have to say about it.” The Government are the State Rights party, yet the States have declared against them, though, in the House of Representatives, they have a majority of one for the time being. Now they_ are going to try and see whether matters can be altered, and one is curious to know what new bogy will be raised by them. At every election they have run something to try to frighten the people. Particularly have they made a point of trying to catch the votes of the farmers. In 1901, at the beginning of Federation, the bogies varied in different States; we had the old stories about the marriage tie and that sort of thing; in New South Wales the argument was used that Mr. O’sullivan;, the Minister of Railways, was building railways, and paying 7s. a day, and that this was a wicked thing to farming districts, where men were being paid a. few shillings a week. In 1904 the bogy was that the Arbitration Act was going to ruin the farmers and everybody else. In 1907 the “socialistic tiger” was carted around the country. But all these things failed; every time the Liberals went to the country the Labour vote increased; the people were not frightened of these bogies. In 1910 the bogy was the land tax, which was going to ruin everybody; the farmer was. told that the Labour party intended to take away his land and nationalize it. Last year the Liberals managed to score a majority of one by the bogy of the rural workers’ log, which appealed a little de finitely to the farmers, so that we have representatives of fanners in the House. But now they are here they are not satisfied, and desire to go back and consult the people again, and they are looking for a battle slogan for the contest. Apparently, the Attorney-General has committed the party to a dissolution, which the party do not like. Reports - and I think with some degree of accuracy - told us that at the end of last session there was a Caucus meeting, at which the members of the party were opposed to a dissolution of any kind;, but during the recess we find them committed, dragged at the heels of the Cabinet, and, without a say in the matter, ordered to the country, whether they liked it or not. They had to vote solidly against the censure amendment, or else they would not have the chance of another fight. I shall not deal with the various points raised in this contest. There are ample grounds made manifest for a vote of censure. Fortunately some of the supporters of the Government have had the courage to speak during the debate, and, although they have opposed the amendment, they have not stood by the Ministerial action, on which it was based. No man who had the interests of the public at heart could support such action. Honorable members opposite are great in the use of word’s and phrases, such as “ British justice,” “Danger to the British. Constitution,” and now “Abolition of preference to unionists.” The. present appeal is to the anti-unionists. The Liberals are endeavouring to fool the people with theidea that they propose to abolish preference to unionists. They would have ample justification for abolishing it were it true-, as stated by the honorable member for Robertson in seconding the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, that preference to unionists is destroying the British Constitution. The statement rather amused me. The British Constitution is an unwritten one; it is a marvel that it has stood as long as it has, considering what has been done under it by kings and governments, and how bad has been the administration of justice’ for which it has provided. I admire the British people,, but I have certainly no admiration for British justice. Let us consider what history has- to say of the administration of British justice. I propose to give a few instances, and shall do so for a double purpose. My intention is to show that the attitude of this Government, a Conservative Government with a Conservative following, is consistent with the traditions of Conservative governments and parties for hundreds of years gone by. In spirit and intention the party opposite does not differ from the Conservatives of the past. Away back in the days of Edward III. we had wealth flaunting itself in the eyes of the poor. The Black Death came and decimated England. Following it, the law of supply and demand increased wages by 50 per cent., but the King, without waiting to convene Parliament - the members of which had cleared out from fear of the plague - decreed that no more should be given than Ihe miserable rates which prevailed before the plague. Later followed the imposition of conditions of all kinds on the workers, conditions respecting their food and .their clothing. Later still it was left to the justices of the peace to fix the wages that should be paid, and it was provided that workmen who accepted more than the rate fixed should be imprisoned, and that employers who gave more should be fined. The conditions of the workers have been so hard that from time to time the great mass of the people has rebelled against them. There was the revolt headed by John Ball, termed “The mad priest of Kent,” and Wat Tyler, who on the 5th June, 1381, knocked down a poll tax collector, and precipitated a civil war. How did British justice deal with those led by Wat Tyler? Their claims were very small. All that they asked was (1) The total abolition of villenage, which made the peasant practically the slave of the land-holder on whose estates he worked; (2) That rents should not exceed 4d. per acre; (3) That there should be freedom to buy and sell in all markets; and (4) That a general pardon should be granted to those making these demands. It does not matter how mild or fair the requests of the workers may be, they have never been given consideration. Richard II. granted the demands made by Wat Tyler, including the free pardon; but the Lord Mayor of London - a man whose rents were drawn from rookeries that were used as brothels - assassinated the popular leader. Of course, he was knighted for that, and the. promise made by the King was not kept. To show what revenge has been taken on the workers, let me call to mind the fact that John Ball, when arrested, was drawn to the gallows, half -hanged, disembowelled, and quartered, his members being sent to the four principal cities of the kingdom. The men of Kent rose later under Jack Cade, who, like all other Labour leaders, has been unjustly dealt with, by Conservative historians. His fifteen complaints were as reasonable as those of Wat Tyler. Honorable members know how he was dealt with. He died from his wounds, but the head was struck from his body, which was dismembered and the limbs sent through the kingdom. Henry VIII., the despoiler of churches, although there was in England at the time a population of only 2,500,000, hanged 72,000 “ sturdy rogues,” as he called them, men whose only crime was that they were out of work. One would not think that England was overpopulated in those days, but apparently he thought so. His successor, Edward VI., decreed that any man who was found to be out of work for three days, or who refused to work, should be branded with the letter “V,” and made to work for two years without pay for the informant who made known his offence. The man who ran away and remained uncaught for a fortnight was, when caught, branded with the letter “ S “ on his cheek or forehead, and made to work for nothing for the rest of his life.
– That was freedom of contract.
– No doubt. There are those who, at the present day, would like to see that kind of treatment meted out. The spirit of Conservatism has not changed, although we have Conservatives prating about wishing to do justice, and using terms of that kind. I come now to the times of the Chartists of last century, days so recent that they are within the life-time of men now living. The Chartists adopted constitutional methods, held public meetings, delivered lectures, and presented petitions. Their demand was for manhood suffrage, annual Parliaments, voting by ballot, no property qualification for candidates, payment of members, and equal voting districts; and, with the exception of annual Parliaments^ we have secured all those . planks, and more. And how were the Chartists treated. They were haled before
Judges and sent to gaol in the name of British justice. In 1839, Sir John Campbell, Attorney-General, who appeared for the prosecution in the case of Gregory McDonell, a Chartist, declared that Gregory’s “ eloquence, logic, and boldness are an incalculable proof of the danger of allowing a man of such talents to be at large.” I commend that utterance to the careful consideration of the present Conservative Government in Australia. This man, whose eloquence, logic, and fine character constituted, in the opinion of his prosecutors, a danger to the public, was interfering with the full control of affairs remaining in the hands of the rich of the period. In 1849, and that is since I was born, John McLaren, another Chartist, said at a meeting -
We men of England ought to protest against our wrongs. Where be our courage? Did Waterloo see the last of it?
This man was charged with violence, and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment with hard labour; and there was John Frost, later of New South Wales, who, as a supporter of the Chartists’ cause, was charged with violence, and condemned by Sir Frederick Pollock to be hanged, drawn and quartered, though this sentence was subsequently commuted to transportation for life. These are only a few samples of scores of cases. A number of unionists - the Dorchester labourers - were transported to Australia, and, although they were granted a pardon, the authorities took no trouble to acquaint them with the fact, which was only ascertained through one of them noticing an intimation to the effect in a, newspaper which ‘he picked up in this country. Then there was a most disgraceful period in the history of the Old Country, when children from five to nine years of age were taken from the workhouses, and, under the growing factory system, bound out as apprentices to manufacturers.
– Does the honorable member convey, that we on this side favour that sort of thing ?
– I feel sure that the honorable member would not be on the side he is if he were aware of the facts; and it is my desire that those facts should be made known to him. The children were kept at work for from sixteen to eighteen hours a day, and some of them died at their posts. They were flogged for faults, and, in the case of one little girl who was mangled in machinery, the employer deducted ls. 6d. from her wages, on the ground that she had not finished the week. This is a sample of the treatment at one time given to children, and of that British justice we hear so much about. There never has been justice for the poor, even in Australia, where we have freer conditions. The same penalties that were attached to unionists in the Old World have been attached in Australia, and will be- again if the opportunity be given. In South Africa, we know that unionists were deported; and that was merciful, compared to the sentences executed in Australia. In this country, unionists have been dragged with bare feet over rough roads, and have been put in chains - have been subject to punishments quite outside the law. We all remember the Coercion Act passed at the instance of the present AttorneyGeneral, when he was a Minister of the Crown in the State of Victoria, and his subtle mind, in the framing of that Act, did not leave a single loophole -for escape. Then the Coercion Act in Queensland has never been equalled, or, at any rate, surpassed anywhere in the Old World. In 1894 there were eighty-one men in New South Wales who suffered imprisonment because they were unionists. Some of our opponents take the ground that these men broke the law; and this is a favorite justification on the part of the Attorney-General. We must not forget, however, that those who made the laws in the past made them to suit themselves; and the workers are now having a say for the first- time. At the present time, indeed, many people do not have votes in the Old World, and not long ago those who had votes were compelled to return their own bosses and sweaters to Parliament, and did so until it was realized that representatives so elected never did anything for the poor, but only for tha benefit of their own pockets. As to lawbreaking by unionists, it is a fact that, many who in the past have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment,, such as seven years, were never near the scene of the trouble. This was proved at the trials, but it was said from the Bench that it did not matter so long as the accused were proved to have been in thecamp from which the nien who caused the trouble came - that such persons wereequally guilty, though they might have- been 100 miles away at the time. That is the kind of law that has been experienced in the past. No matter what Parliament says, the law is administered by biased Judges who are against labour; and yet we are told we must have respect for the law. If there is any body of men who stand for law and order in the true sense, it is that body of men who are in the Labour movement. We ought to have law and justice, but we have never received it in a case where the law could be used against us. No one would describe the honorable member for Wilmot as a bloodthirsty type of individual, yet the other day that gentleman admitted that he would be in favour of calling out the military in the event of industrial trouble. In my opinion, it is not safe for men with such opinions to be the lawmakers of the country, for they do not seem to realize the position.
– It will mean the end of the defence system in Australia if once the forces are called out in the event of industrial trouble.
– We know that, and we also know that the present Government - whose mismanagement of the country we may tolerate for a month or two, or a year or two - would call the military out under such circumstances. Indeed, the party opposite urged very strongly that the forces should be used during the strike at Brisbane, although such a step would mean shooting people down, as it “has meant in other places. Whatever faults we may find with the conditions in Great Britain, the authorities there are very chary about calling out the military in industrial disputes, although it is true the soldiers were used during the railway strike, and in Dublin. We in Australia ought to be clear of anything of the kind. The present Government have stolen the term “ Liberal,” but it does not fit them. Liberals have done some very creditable things in the past, but the present Government consists of the _ remnants of the old parties who were rejected by the electors. Conservative Governments have ever followed the same lines. lt is proposed to submit to us a Bill providing for the abolition of Government preference to unionists. We know that it is a farce, but it may serve the purpose of this Ministry. They have been able by a Ministerial minute to abolish preference to unionists so far as the few temporary employes to whom it would apply are concerned. The Attorney-General and other members of the Government have made outside statements that are without foundation to the effect that if the Labour party were in power they would give preference to those of their own political faith when engaging men. It is admitted that I know something of the trade union movement, and I do not hesitate to say that no union asks a man. when he seeks to join, what his political opinions are. Then, again, appointments to the Public Service are not made by a Minister. The temporary employes to whom this preference would apply are engaged by foremen, and the only instructions ^issued to them were that, other things being equal, preference was to be given to unionists. Many Government employes vote against Labour. It is a mistake to believe that every unionist votes for Labour. While it is true that a. unionist does so as soon as he gains common sense, the fact remains that there are many who do not. I wish also to correct the further statement that the Labour party describe as non-unionists all who do not belong to a union. We have corrected that assertion over and over again, but in this regard the Government and their supporters will not learn. They are utterly hopeless. The class to whom we object are the anti-unionists - the men who take the advantages of unionism, but decline to contribute to it. They are the bone of contention. We object to the hired man, to the agent of the employer, who is paid to disrupt labour. There are many men who do not belong to a union, but who are unionists in spirit. Those outside that category are limited in number, and certainly do not call for any legislation, lt would seem, judging from their present position, that the Government propose to take action to prevent any organization giving preference to unionists. They propose to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act so that rural workers shall not take advantage of it, and also, apparently, to prevent a judicial preference to unionists. The President of the Court has taken up the attitude that where the employers will pledge themselves not to discriminate, no order for preference shall be made, but that where they decline to give that pledge an order shall be made granting preference to unionists. That is a reasonable stand to adopt, yet the Government propose to disallow preference. There are many things which they say they are going to do when they get a double dissolution, but I think that in the event of a double dissolution being granted, they will be surprised at the result. In short, they will never come back. I hold very strong views regarding those who are ‘traitors to their country and to their fellow-men. A traitor to his country is usually shot on sight. The man who becomes the hired assailant of his own class, who tries to reduce wages and to make the conditions of life worse than they are, is the deadly enemy of society. Such a man is very like a sneak-thief; he would swindle his employer as well as any one else. There is, happily, but a limited number of these men, but it is against such men that we take a stand, when every means has been exhausted, without effect, to induce them to join a union. We are often asked by honorable members opposite why men should be compelled to subscribe to a political faith in which they do not believe. My answer is that no man who joins a union is asked to do so. In reality no unionist has to pay any contribution for the advantages which a union secures for its members more than counterbalances the contributions they are called upon to make to its funds. A union improves the conditions of its members, and the industry to which it relates is taxed with their contributions. In pamphlets I have written, I have given many instances where from £30 to £35 a year has been secured by way of additional wages as the result of joining a union, whereas the contribution has been only 20s. or 30s. a year. A man is asked to become a member of a union, and to stand by his fellowmen, while the industry itself carries his contributions to the union. Surely that is not unreasonable. Even if the Government do come back with a majority, they will not weaken by one iota the attitude of trade unionists. The only result of their campaign will be to strengthen the unions. The big unions are now enforcing the rule that their members shall not work with nonunionists. That, I think, is a very proper attitude to take up. I have the honour to be president of the largest union in Australia. Its members do not work with non-members, and yet no one ever hears of any fuss. What have the representatives of the farmers on the other side of the House to say concerning the attitude taken up by the Farmers and Settlers Association of New South Wales, which sent them here, as disclosed by the following paragraph which appeared in the Sydney Sun of 20th inst. : -
A meeting of the district council of the Farmers and Settlers Association has decided! to prepare a black list of the names of all farmers who have refused to join the association.
This action is resented by farmers who arenot members. They say it is an attempt to compel them to enrol or be boycotted. Many farmers are inclined to support the holding of a conference with the rural workers to savetrouble during next harvest.
The Farmers and Settlers Association is a purely political organization, and at one time some of its branches refused to admit Labour men to membership. I commend to the Government and their supporters the fact that this distinctly Liberal organization is trying to coerce Labourites into joining its ranks. Hundreds of farmers support the Labour party, and the Farmers and Settlers Association wishes to coerce those men into joining an organization with whose political principles they do not agree. Are the Government going to deal with this new development? The Australian Workers Union, which now embraces the rural workers, arranged some time ago a friendly conference with representatives of big chaff-cutting establishments, and at that conference it was decided that log rates should be paid. Later, however, the farmers and settlers at Wagga held public meetings, “ put on the” screw,” and boycotted the chaffcutting firms. They reduced their wages and thus lost the services of their expert men whose places were taken by a scratch team. The result is that they are now losing money. The Farmers and Settlers Association declined to meet the A.W.TJ. in Conference. We have the president of that body here-
– Who is he?
– The honorable member for Hume.
– Is he a law-breaker?
– They are all lawbreakers. The point I desire to stress is that it pays employers nowadays to arrive at amicable settlements with their employes. The pastoralists could have got better terms in a friendly conference with the representatives of the shearers than the Arbitration Court will grant them. I regret exceedingly that it is so difficult to get access to that Court. We have a case pending that will not be heard for months yet, although it has been eighteen months on the stocks. The Government, however, do nothing to hasten the settlement of these industrial disputes. What are regarded as beneficial Acts are passed, but, .through the subtlety of legal minds, those Acts are frequently rendered ineffective. In the case to which I have referred, the road to the Arbitration Court bristles- with difficulties. The statement of the employers that we can go to the Arbitration Court to-morrow is quite untrue. During recent times we have heard a good deal about industrial unrest. It has been spoken of as if it were a wicked thing. As a matter of, fact, industrial unrest usually heralds an increase of wages. That has been the experience the world over. Where quiet and peace reign there is usually a fall in wages. Then we have been told that strikes do not pay. In this connexion I propose to quote a few figures. From the statistics of the Labour Bureau of Washington I gather that during the twenty years’ period between 1881 and 1900 the total loss sustained in the United States of America as the result of strikes was £93,8S0,000. That seems a very large sum, and anti-labourites are fond of quoting it as a dead loss. As a matter of fact, it represents a loss of only three cents per month per inhabitant of the United States of America, and less than one day’s work per annum for every adult worker. Palgrave’s Dictionary of Political Economy states that in England the loss suffered in wages owing to strikes is not more than 1 per cent, of the total wages paid. If the loss of time sustained between 1901 and 1907 were paid for equally by every male industrial worker, it would amount only to a third of a day’s wages per annum. One-third of a day’s wages would pay for the whole of that loss, and, consequently, strikes are not so disastrous to the employes as some persons would have us believe. I happened to be in London when the great railway strike was in progress, and, consequently, I am able to supply some interesting figures relating to it - figures which were derived from an authoritative source, namely, the Board of Trade returns. I find that there were 95,000 employes on the British railways who were in receipt of less than £1 per week. In England and Wales there were 72,000, or 23 per cent, of the total railway employes in receipt of less than £1 per week. In Scotland there were 12,000, or 30 per cent, of the total employes, who received less than 20s. per week; and in Ireland there were 11,000, or 71 per cent, of the total employes on the railways there who occupied a similar position.
– They want Home Rule, then.
– Yes. Yet we find a supporter of the Government fighting against Great Britain in that matter. The strike to which I have referred resulted in a gain to the men of £1,000,000 per annum. But what happened? The railway companies in England at once raised the rates on their lines 4 per cent. On the Scotch lines freights and passenger fares were increased by 5 per cent. These increases meant an addition of £2,200,000 annually to the revenue of those companies. That is to say, they were required to pay £1,000,000 more per annum by way of wages, in return for which they put an additional £2,200,000 into their own coffers. Yet the honorable member for Wannon plainly indicated during the course of his remarks that if wages were not lowered it would be impossible to stop the increase in the cost of living. Of course, he did not make that declaration in so many words, but that is the only construction which can be placed upon his utterances. Some very big fights have recently been put up by the workers in Great Britain, and in particular a great number of men went out in the coal mines. Legislation raised their wages by about 8d. per ton, but the cost of coal to the consumer was raised by from 2s. 6d. to 4s. per ton! Exactly the same thing has been taking place in Australia. It will be remembered that 4d. per 1,000 was added to the cost of bricks by an increase in wages, but the public were charged an increase of 4s. per 1,000. That is what the employers call business. Let me give a little contrast to show where the money goes : The British income tax returns for 1901-2 showed that the tax was paid on an aggregate income of £867,000,000, while in 1910-11 the tax was paid on an aggregate income of £1,045,000,000, an increase of income in that short period of £178,000,000, Those are official figures. Now I” will show who has collared that increase. Incomes represented by the ownership of lauds and houses - and these are the people who are the rent-takers - went up by nearly 16 per cent., while the profits of business and professional men increased by over 20 per cent. ; whereas, in the case of wages, according to the Board of Trade summary, there has been an actual decrease. The only proper test is to take the aggregate, and not some minor section of the wage earners, and these figures show that the aggregate wages per week were less by £2,500,000 in 1912 than in 1901. Up to the beginning of 1910 the loss had been nearly £100,000 per week, and the drop in the annual income of the wage earners was £5,000,000. During three years the returns show a slight increase. That is the increase of wages that has been admittedly secured, and is confined almost entirely to what are termed the major industries. The great mass of the lower-paid industries does not share in them. The fact, therefore, stands out that the incomes of the rich have increased for the same period, or for one year less, by £178,000,000, whilst the wages of the workers have decreased in the aggregate by £5,000,000 per annum. Multiplying that by ten years, we get a decrease of £50,000,000 in the aggregate wages of the workers. What has become of this money ? There can be no question that the other classes have got it. lt is of no use to say that the workers have got it4 because it is evident that they have not. The honorable member for Hindmarsh, in a speech he made last session, showed that, in five years, using Chiozza Moneys’ key, there was an increase of £150,000,000 in the private wealth of Australia, proving conclusively that the same thing goes on here as was going on in the Old World. The profits of the great Standard Oil Trust since 1882 have amounted to £180,000,000. J. D. Rockefeller owns one-quarter of the whole stock, and has received £25,000,000 from that source. The profits of the trust for the last seven years have amounted to over £98,000,000. One-twelfth of the estimated wealth of the United States of America is represented at a meeting of the board of the United States Steel Corporation, and the profits of the Steel Trust exceed the total labour cost of their entire product. What, then, is the use of honorable members talking about wages having anything to do with the increased cost of living ? The increase in wages in these big trusts has not an atom to do with it. The evil represented by these enormous combinations of money is admitted by all economists to be growing rapidly. It is a menace to society to have immense wealth, or capital, as it is wrongly termed, concentrated in the bauds of a few men. It is asserted that the late Mr. Pierpont Morgan controlled capital to the extent of £1,250,000,000. The effect of this is emphasized by the Money Trust Commission that sat for some time in America, and their finding will apply to Australia just as it did to the United States of America. They said -
It comes about that the financiers who have the handling of great masses of money are more and more the masters of the business world, determining the development of territories, feeding or starving whole industries, making or marring the fortunes of populations.
It amounts to this, that America is a Democracy, and Australia is a Democracy, but these Democracies are not governing themselves. The great financiers - the great trusts and combines - are becoming our governors, and one of the greatest evils lies in the fact that the piling up of these enormous sums of money in the hands of a few means increasing profits every year. The £8,000,000 that Rockefeller takes per year is re-invested, and consequently he receives compound interest. If a man starts with £1,000,000, and gets compound interest for twenty years, it becomes a gigantic sum. That is an aspect of the matter which is too often forgotten. Whatever Rockefeller puts his money into, he gets bigger returns every year, because these businesses are so absolutely controlled that they have no failures. They exploit society at their own sweet will.
– At 3 per cent., £1,000,000 doubles itself in twenty-four years.
– These people get a good deal more than 3 per cent. The whole thing is a gigantic evil, from whatever point of view it is looked at. Let me take another test. In England, which we call the Home Land, brewers used to be the men who became millionaires; but that state of things has changed. All the big businesses are controlled now for the most part by companies, and it is the commercial men who are making the fortunes. What is going on in England to-day is another proof of the fact that the rich are getting richer, grabbing too much, and thus increasing the cost of living. Eight millionaires died in the United Kingdom last year, paying probate on £25,000,000. Five members of the Coates Sewing Cotton Combine have died during the last two years, leaving nearly £7,500,000.
– And they do not give 100 yards on a reel of cotton.
– They do not. They take it off the poor sewing woman, who is struggling for a living. She is compelled by those who employ her to find her own cotton, and it is she and others like her who are helping to make up the millions which the members of the Coates Combine are leaving. They left £7,500,000 behind them to be used to the absolute injury of the community that made it for them. Within the last few years six members of the great Tobacco Combine died, and left behind them estates valued at £15,500,000. Smokers say that the plug of tobacco has grown smaller, and it is clear from the fact that these six members of the combine left £15,500,000 behind them that the profits all went to them. To view the matter from a wider aspect, I may inform honorable members that since 1901 the owners of 104 estates in the Old Country have died, and have left behind them estates of the aggregate value of £191,852,935, or very nearly £192,000,000. That is an indication of a great change in the Old Country, and that there, as well as in America, the riches are getting into the hands of a few. The British people are not so ready to change as are the people of other parts of the world, but money is being made in these days by commercialism, and, as I have said, the owning class and business men take respectively 16 per cent, and 20 per cent, of the increased profits. The millions that are now being made by the few are re-invested at compound interest, and we are having a condition of things established that finds a parallel in the history of the lucas of Peru. The lucas made libations to the “gods of strength,” as they were termed, the Auaris or “ Great Ones.” These gods were the ancestors of the aristocrats. As time went on, naturally the ancestors increased in numbers, and the burden of toil eventually became tremendous upon the labourers, -who, by their labour, were called upon to make up these libations. To-day men are building up these tremendous fortunes by taking advantage of the masses, and the burden is becoming so great that, unless there is some change, we must have something in the form of a revolution. Very many in writing of America, and Upton Sinclair for one, have predicted revolution there. In Australia, with a new country and a wide area, we have more room for our present operations, but we cannot escape the universal law to which I have referred. There is another matter which we must consider. The fact that under these conditions the older countries have been able to carry on is because they have always been looking for new markets for their productions. We in Australia are doing the same. We are searching out for the world’s markets. The great competition going on between the big nations of America, Germany, England, and France in this direction must within a very short time, which is almost within sight, result in the glutting of the markets. Every new country, after a little time, begins, as we have done here, to manufacture for itself, and to reduce its imports as much as possible. When all these new markets are filled up, what will happen? At present, surplus products in one country are dumped into another where there are no manufacturers of those products, but when the markets are filled up we shall have thousands, and, perhaps, millions, of persons thrown out of employment. A great reason for this state of things is the advance made in the perfection of machinery. I can illustrate this by some references which may be interesting to those who are fond of scientific and mathematical accuracy. A tree may be standing in tha morning early, and you may read it as a newspaper in the evening. It is possible now to cut down a tree, make it into pulp, manufacture that into paper, and print the paper in six and a half hours. In Philadelphia they have shorn a sheep and made the wool into woollen clothes in six hours, four minutes. A steer was killed, its hide turned into leather, and the leather manufactured into hoots in twenty-four hours. In America in eight days they can make a Baldwin engine of 106 tons from the raw iron. One pair of hoots can now be completely manufactured in seventeen minutes from the leather to the finished product. In connexion with the rivetting of the great steel buildings that are now being erected, two bolts can be riveted in each minute by the electric riviting machine. They make 260 needles a minute in these days, and with the machines now in operation the beautiful little baskets that are manufactured for. holding berries or grapes can be produced at the rate of 12,000 in a day of nine hours, and a boy attends the machine. A machine attended by a boy cuts out 500 suits of clothes in a day, and another machine splits 10,000,000 wooden matches in a day. To put this in another way, one man can to-day make woollen clothing for 300. One man can make bread for 200. A man can make sufficient flour to last him a year in twelve and a half hours. One man can make sufficient boots for 1,000. I give honorable members another illustration which is given by Professor Hertzka, an Austrian, and a very reliable authority. His figures are based upon the experience of the Austrian nation, and he says that 615,000 able-bodied men, working eleven hours per day for 300 days in each year, can supply the whole of the requirements, luxuries and necessaries, houses’, food supplies, and everything needed by human beings for the whole of the 22,000,000 of people in Austria. This number is only 12.3 per cent, of the population of the country. Leaving out all women, and leaving out all under sixteen and over fifty, he points out that 5,000,000 men, working 300 days a year, could supply the whole of the requirements of the population of Austria by working for two hours and twelve minutes per day. Honorable members may ask how all that labour produces, working the long hours which are now worked, can be consumed. “With rare exceptions, we find it most difficult now to reduce the working hours below eight. The reduction of the hours of labour is opposed by the stupid people who are always fighting labour. They cannot be otherwise described, because they simply do not know any better, and are standing in their own light. Labour does not desire to injure them or any one else, and if working hours of labour are not immensely shortened there must be immense overproduction. I have spoken of the world’s markets for its consumption, but when they are filled up, there will be no outlet for this over-production. Honorable members may reasonably ask how it is that opportunity is afforded for so much employment at the present time. The answer is that it is due to the tremendous number of the idle rich, and the tremendous number of middlemen who produce nothing, and are not doing any good for the community. The burden on the workers is increasing all the time, and the money is being wasted; that is entirely unnecessary. That is the reason why Socialist writers - and I am a Socialist - say, “ What sense is there in having the whole energies of the human race devoted to buying and selling, and taking each other down ? It is time that we applied the science and the machinery of to-day, that we exercised a little sense and produced, not for profit but for use.” What is the object of producing now ? The whole object is to sell the product, and to sell it to advantage, to take the other fellow down every day if that can be done. I do not say that all people do that knowingly, but unless the exchange is on an equivalent basis one is taking advantage of the other. There is absolute ground for preparing the way for a universal change from the old system. We have arrived at the conclusion that the only one thing that) needs to be done is to make some change in the method of distribution. As it is now, we hear of people starving, we read that 12,000,000 persons in the Old Country are on the verge of starvation. There is no need for any person in this country to suffer hardship, but for the social system. Let me give a few illustrations of the waste which’ goes on. Take, for instance, our transport system, which is as stupid as it can be.” We have an immense waste there. Big firms send round commercial travellers, who call upon business men in the country and try to induce them to buy something which they do not want, and charge them accordingly. The system of commercial travellers is a very costly institution. They receive a very liberal salary or commission. All that expenditure is debited to the working expenses of the firm. The consumer, of course, has to bear that outlay. Again, the cost of advertising has to be borne by the consumer. With a properly organized society all that waste could be avoided. Let us take another phase of the waste which goes on. We hear sometimes of men with money, who see something which they think they can palm off on to somebody else. They form a syndicate, and proceed to float a mine, or a patent. They do not care what it is they offer to the public so long as they can induce some persons to take money out of their pockets and transfer it to theirs. If it becomes a going concern it is overcapitalized by the amount which these agents have taken out of it in the way I have stated. Then they have this lovely theory, that the capitalist must have interest on his money. Over-capitalization occurs with mines. It is notorious throughout America where men obtain franchises from municipalities. It is found in a lesser degree in Australia. Labour has to support the whole of that over-capitalization. These are . libations to the god of commerce. Next there is the beautiful invention, winked at by law, of watering the stock. The Milson’s Point ferry in Sydney is a good illustration. When the dividends rose to 15 per cent, the public said to the company, “ We are paying too much; we have been finding the money to build all your fleet; you are not putting any money into the business at all.” The shareholders quietly held a meeting and increased the share-list which made the shares worth a couple of pounds in the market, of course at the expense of somebody else. Again the dividends rose, and again the company watered the stock. If a man pays £5 for a share he demands interest on money which he never put into the concern, but into the pocket of somebody else in order to get that piece of paper. Labour has to carry the whole s>f that burden all the time. I ask honorable members opposite if they, think that the masses of the people who are now getting enlightened are likely to stand that burden very long? They are not likely to do so. They have kicked in all ages. When they suffered hanging, drawing and quartering, that did not make them afraid to fight for improved conditions. It does not matter what this Government may do about preference or nopreference; Labour organization is going to fight for more sweeping changes than simply the getting of an increased wage. It has to be busy to go on increasing the wage. The profit is plainly going to create rich men. Some of this money, of course, may be used in developing new fields. I cannot overlook the fact that the development of unused land is a good thing. Again, the taking out of latent riches may be a good thing. Those who are doing the work are entitled to the wages of superintendence, but the idle rich are a burden and a curse to society. We should stop the production of that class in Australia. We have millionaires already. We will always have them if we allow this system to continue, for they grow very quickly in number. It is evident to every student that within the past few years there has been an immense change in commercial life. Firms and men have become exceedingly wealthy by taking exorbitant profit from the consumer. There is quite a number of other branches where there is a big needless burden on the toil of mankind. I have mentioned a few cases in point. Talking of the big profits which are made, I again commend to our farmer friends the Agricultural Implement Combine and the Wheat Ring, which took out of them £1,090,500 in one year. Although that is being done, yet the so-called farmers’ friends who put the present Government in office fight against the Labour movement and Labour ideals. Such machinery is made in Western Australia now because it is ruled by a Labour Government, but it would not be made there if the Liberals had their way. The Liberal party seem to be a party who all the time favour the existing condition of things, that allows the building up of millionaires and the robbing of the poor, and oppose every step taken by the masses to improve their conditions. It is undeniable that that has been their attitude. The Harvester Commission, it will be remembered, found that harvesters were overcharged by £25 each, and. that 8,700 machines were sold in one year. That totals £217,500. Again, they found that seed drills were overcharged £14 each, and that 17,000 were sold in one year. That makes £238,000. In South Australia, a Royal Commission composed of Liberals declared that the farmer was robbed of 2d. per bushel on his wheat. That meant for that year’s yield in the State £167,000, or, in all Australia, £625,000. I obtained the figures from Knibbs I may say that this means £3,000,000 for the last five years.
– Are you referring to the middleman ?
– To a combine who do not do anything but get in between the farmer and the market, and charge him 2d. per bushel for getting in his road. Farmers, as a rule, have a shrewd suspicion that the middlemen are taking them down. But when we propose a remedy, they fight it. That is the quarrel I have with them. If the amounts I have mentioned are added up they total £1,090,500. There is practically a monopoly in the making of harvesters by tlie Sunshine firm. We imposed the duty of £12 per machine in order to give the Australian manufacturers the local market, on condition that they paid a fair and reasonable wage.
– Did you say that the Western Australian Government are selling the machines for £25 less.
– I am saying that a Royal Commission, after careful investigation, found that these machines were overcharged for to the extent of £25 each. In some cases as much as 53 per cent, extra was charged on deferred payments. One of the sources of profit to the big combines is to persuade people to take machinery on deferred terms, and charge them interest. In this way the farmer has been paying over £1,000,000 a year. There is only one method of counteracting that state of affairs, and that is the method which is being adopted by the Western Australian Government. I do not know what the Government are charging for the machines, and, in any case, we cannot expect them to effect a very big reduction at the very commencement of their enterprise. At any rate, they are not manufacturing for profit, but solely in order to assist the farmer. The Government of Western Australia assist the farmer in many ways, including the advancing of money through the Agricultural Bank, and the supply of cheap machinery.
– At a 40 per cent, reduction.
– The Labour Government in that State have dealt with that problem, and I am pointing out that the Farmers Association have always opposed anything of the kind. Apparently they prefer to be taken down by private firms. They growl about the prices they are charged, but that is all they do. They denounce tlie State manufacture of machinery as State Socialism, but one has only to read the reports of the Farmers and Settlers’ Conferences to learn who are the Socialists. There is no body of men that expects so much from the State or gets more. The farmer expects everything to be done for him, and is the last to do anything in improving the conditions of his employes. It is said that the farmer simply asks for railways and water supplies, and he pays interest on the whole of the expenditure. Let the honorable member who so interjects read the reports of the Farmers and Settlers’ Conferences, and he will see what they are asking for. They are the biggest Socialists in the community, because they want all sorts of things. The State provides for them railways and roads, water supplies, experimental farms, and information of every kind. I am not complaining about those forms of assistance, but I find fault with those who claim those benefits from the State and fight against any further proposals, simply because they emanate from the Labour party. Yet there is only one way for these proposals to be brought forward^ and that is for the Labour party to pro.mote them.
– The farmers guarantee a profit on everything they get.
– The farmer always grumbles, but he has not been doing too badly at all. I have been dealing with labour conditions generally, and, as I have said already, all history shows that an improvement in wages and working conditions generally has always been associated with industrial unrest. It reveals activity on the part of the masses to improve their condition. The Prime Minister stated in his speech that the commercial profits had increased under the Labour regime. They did increase, and that was because Labour has been working for an improvement of the conditions, and there has been an increase in wages considerably greater than tlie increased cost of living. I should say that the
Prime Minister was wrong when he stated that the effective wage, the sovereign value, was greater under Liberal rule than it was before. That is not accurate. In 1913 the sovereign value did not fall; that is all that can be said. It remained about the same as it was in 1912. We are told that there should be industrial peace, and that the workers have the Arbitration Court to appeal to. That statement could only be made by those who have no knowledge of the difficulty with which the Courts are surrounded. The Federal Arbitration Court, which has been the most successful, has been so only through the great ability, tact, and judgment of the President of that Court. It is not due to the Act, and the Act cannot be amended without an amendment of the Constitution. It is no use telling the workers that they are not to strike, unless we provide them with an effective Court for” the settlement of their disputes. The Court is not effective now. The method pursued by the presiding Judge is largely that of conciliation. He tries to get the parties to agree, and, when terms have been come to, he pledges both sides on their honour to observe the award. The Act itself is full of defects, and it is only the big unions which are able to police the awards and to carry them out. The Wages Board system of Victoria has practically run to its end, and a change will surely be required. We have an instance of one man, an ex-police magistrate, presiding over thirty-two Boards. Cases are brought before a Board, and cannot be heard, because the one man has too many Boards to preside over. The Government have given the workers something that is a sham. In some cases the employers refuse to appoint a representative, and even when he is appointed he often, does not attend, and delay takes place from month to month. Then, when a strike takes place, there is a howl from the people that the workers should observe the awards of the Court. Iu Sydney we have had considerable trouble. Some people asked why did the gas workers go out on strike, and why did the men on the ferries cease work. No wonder they took that step, when they had been waiting for a year for the Board to deliver an award. If the Courts are going to operate in that way, trouble must ensue. There is a danger, and I wish to emphasize it strongly. The workers have fought for the establishment of these Courts* but we want fair Courts, and a fair chance of getting a prompt settlement of any industrial trouble. A prompt settlement means everything. But if these obstacles are to be put in the way of the workers, if the Act is to be broken down by decisions of the High Court, and the subtleties and technicalities of the legal profession, Labour will have to resort to its old weapon. We had an instance in connexion with the butchers’ strike in Sydney recently of a dispute being taken entirely out of the hands of those concerned. The Employers Federation took charge; the farmers’ representative, Mr. T. I. Campbell, went on the committee. The workers are being encouraged to strike by the very institution that was set up to establish industrial peace - encouraged because the Arbitration Court is not an effective machine. When we passed the Arbitration Act, we expected that the parties would abide by the awards of the Court, and. that these awards would not be interfered with by any other tribunal ; but the* Court has not been given a chance; it has been interfered with by all sorts of legal quibbles and appeals. However, Labour is not going to stop in its progress; it will move forward in spite of everything. The Chartists, that fine body of men who were gaoled and crushed because they dared to ask for only what was fair, claimed that there -was an essential connexion between poverty and lack of political authority, and their contention has had fruition in Australia by Labour taking political action. We even have the farmers and settlers, backed by the Employers Federation, proposing to organize free labourers; but I am sure it will not get a footing. No such organization could succeed in Australia. Unionism is too strong. The opponents of Labour will get into deep trouble if there is any change in their present attitude towards unionism. Labour is getting restive, and its success at the polls alone delays trouble. Of course, if we secure control of the Federal and State Parliaments, matters can be dealt with satisfactorily; but, so far as the Federal arena’ is concerned, there must be an amendment of the Constitution before many ofthe big problems that I have touched on can be tackled. What is the use of the honorable member for Werriwa talking of there being laws in existence which enable us to deal with trusts? What is the use of taking action against trusts without being able to go further? The trusts of America laugh at the laws, they have so many honorable understandings. No shop here selling the little fountain pen I use dare take less than the price fixed by the maker in Great Britain. And yet it is claimed that there is plenty of competition. If this can be done in regard to such a small thing as a fountain pen, how much more will it be done in regard to bigger things? There is far more important work for the Labour party to do than passing a law declaring that a concern is a trust. It has to aim at that desirable end where all production is for use, the ceasing of all war, and of the poverty and trouble caused by the present economic system, and the securing of every measure of justice. The evolution is clear; the daylight is now appearing upon it, and much is now being done, some of it by voluntary co-operative societies. One-fourth of the British people are members of co-operative societies, and we have much co-operation in Australia. We have also muncipal Socialism, more of it” in the old world, and too little of it, I regret to say, here. We have also State control of public utilities. All these reforms we aim at will not come about in a day, but unless they are pushed on with there is likely to be catastrophe. Here in Australia there should be ideal conditions for Socialism. We have one of the finest countries in the world, peopled by one of the finest races - which we can say without egotism, because we come of a good stock - and by evolutionary methods here we should be able to avoid risks that other nations, notably the United States, may have to face. Socialism is the way out. ‘ No one has been able to convince me otherwise. In the States of Australia the Liberal party stands for stagnation. During the three years of the Wade Government in New South Wales the primary and manufacturing products of the country were lessened by £319,000; but after three years of Labour administration they have increased by £1,000,000. Under the Wade Government everything was starved, just as will be the case under the present Federal Government, because Liberals cannot help doing it, seeing that they are afraid of any increase of taxation on the rich. The Liberal Government struck off the income tax on the exceedingly rich, though nobody had asked for it to be done. I think it is creditable to the honorable member for Riverina that he says he does not object to the land tax. Very few of his class adopt that attitude. It was only by the expenditure of large sums of money on the duplication and improvement of the railway system that the Labour Government of New South Wales were able to take away the farmers’ wheat, because the economy of the Wade Government had so starved the rolling-stock that the Commissioners could not meet the demands upon it. Liberalism, if it means anything, means standing still and jumping on those who need the fullest consideration - the poorer class. The Liberals - I mean the Conservatives, who in Australia call themselves Liberals - are taking steps to prevent our having votes. They have already commenced to gerrymander electorates in South Australia, where the Premier is returned by 2,000 electors, and 7,000 city voters are required to elect a Labour man. I have not heard the Liberals denouncing this beautiful scheme. Surely no honorable member on the Government side could support such a step. These are the things the Labour party must watch. In the Old World the working classes could not get votes without fighting for them, and what we have had to fight for we do not intend to lose. The progress of Labour means better conditions for every one. I hate the capitalistic system. It is bad; it is ruinous and injurious; it is even a worry to the capitalist, for be would be better off in the condition where all production is for use, and every one is a millionaire, because no one can get richer. All this can be brought about in this wonderful age through the use of applied science and machinery. We are told that these ideals are dreams, but they are thoroughly practicable. It is only a question, of finding the way to bring them about, and it is with that end in view that Labour is working. There is no cutanddried way, but we seek to move in a given direction all the time, making the conditions of life better for those who need it. There must be a continuous increase of wages - it may not be in every industry - to prevent drifting, and other legislation will be required to stop the growth of millionaires in Australia. Ministers cannot complain of the action of the Opposition in moving this amendment of censure, because it will tighten up their support, and the debate has been interesting. There has been some looseness in the Government following, and this amendment will bring all the Ministerial supporters up to the scratch. Some of them - as, for instance, the honorable member for Parkes, whom we are generally delighted to hear because of his straightforwardness - have criticised Ministerial actions; but I do not expect that they will vote for the amendment. If there be a dissolution, I shall have no fear of the result. The Labour party desires the dissolution of this House, because it is here that the trouble is. I am surprised at Liberals, who, since 1856, have been ac-. customed to the Upper Chambers of the State Legislatures, blocking reform legislation, making such an outcry when, for the first time, they find themselves opposed by a second Chamber whose members do not see eye to eye with them.
.- I shall commence my remarks with some information regarding what is taking place ill connexion with the selection of Liberal candidates for the Senate which should be of interest to the Prime Minister and his followers. The facts justify the complaints that are being made that a ballot which is being conducted is not likely to conduce to the Liberal party’s success. The ballot-papers have not come into my possession, but 1 could obtain them if I desired to do so. The other morning, when coming to town, a gentleman closely connected with the Labour movement informed me that the day before his wife had received a ballot-paper and a stamped envelope to enable it, when marked, to be returned to a certain- address. To the honour of the lady in question it must be said that she realized that she was not entitled to vote on the question, though, had the ballot been for the selection of Labour candidates, she would have recorded her vote. She returned the ballot-paper unused, in the stamped envelope. I have been told that, should I desire them, ballot-papers could be obtained for me from several families.
– That is not correct. The ballot-papers have been sent only to those whose names are on certified lists.
– These ballot-papers are in the hands of Labour supporters, and have been sent to those supporters with stamped envelopes for their return to the proper authorities. I do not know whether plumping is allowed, but, should it be. and should the Labour supporters who have received ballot-papers be inclined to use them, they would, no doubt, plump for Packer. The honorable member for Wannon owes a great deal of his success at the last election to a certain organization-
– Practically the whole of it.
– To what organization?
– To the Women’s National League. What I have spoken of is no concern of mine, but I think that the honorable member should convey this information to the league. Of course, the greater the muddle that is made, the better it will be for the Labour party.
– What is the honorable member’s suggestion ?
– If I could get a crowded meeting of the Women’s National League to give me a hearing, I would instruct it as to the conduct of this ballot, and on other questions on which its members need enlightenment, because they have now to depend for information upon some of the members opposite.
With regard to the so-called stuffing of rolls and duplication of enrolment, let me say that the police have just finished collecting the names for the roll of the State electorate of Essendon, which comprises four subdivisions of the Commonwealth division of Maribyrnong, the State and Commonwealth franchise being the same. There are, on the Essendon roll, 5,500 names more than were on that roll when a State by-election took place at the end of January. The State roll is a little more recent than the Commonwealth roll; but, taking everything into consideration, the comparison is a fair one. It shows that, notwithstanding all that we have heard about the Commonwealth rolls being unduly swollen by the duplication of names and the presence of names which ought not to be there at all, the Commonwealth enrolment for the area to which I have referred is only 23,211, and the State enrolment 23,588. the difference, as I have said, being just upon 400 names. If electors are to be given until the last possible moment to have their names put on the rolls, the rolls must always be a little bit overloaded at the date of the holding of an election. Commonwealth electors can be enrolled up to the date of the issue of the writ for an election. Ordinarily speaking, the rolls close four weeks before an election, and, with compulsory enrolment, there is always a rush, which becomes greater and greater, until the last day. With such an interval, it is absolutely impossible for any man, or set of men, to clear the rolls in time.
– The time is too short.
– I do not say that. The honorable member, apparently, is desirous of following the lead of the Electoral Office, and of closing the rolls about two months before an election ; but I hope that Parliament will not sanction any such step, because it would deprive the young men and maidens who arrive at their majority in that month of their votes, and lead to considerable disfranchisement. While there may be some names on the rolls which, in a sense, have no right there, the rolls in May last were about the most up-to-date, the cleanest, and best of any under which a general election has been conducted.
I do not know whether the first report of Mr. Stewart, the Registrar under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, is in the possession of honorable members generally; but, in my anxiety to know the facts, I received permission from the Attorney-General to obtain what may. be termed a proof copy, which I have here. This report, especially in the beginning, to my mind, answers the AttorneyGeneral’s statement that the Arbitration Court has become the storm centre in industrial matters. I have expressed disagreement with that statement before, and I express it now, for if there is any instrument of industrial peace in Australia, it is that Court.
– The honorable member is very innocent !
– I refer the honorable member to the report of Mr. Stewart, who, apart from the President, has had more to do with the administration of the Act than has any other man in Australia. Mr. Stewart commences his report thus -
The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act (No. 13 of 1904) was assented to on the 15th December, 1904, and amendments were made by Acts No. 28 of 1909, No. 7 of 1910, and No. 6 of 1911. The original Act, with amendments, is now known as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904- 1911.
The chief objects of this Act are -
To prevent lock-outs and strikes in rela tion to industrial disputes.
To constitute a Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration having jurisdiction for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.
To provide for the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Court by conciliation, with a view to amicable agreement between the parties.
In default of amicable agreement between the parties, to provide for the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Court by equitable award.
To enable States to refer industrial disputes to the Court and to permit the working of the Court, and of State industrial authorities, in aid of each other.
The purport of the next paragraph ought not to be lost sight of, because it expresses what I think the Attorney-General has himself emphasized in times past. The honorable gentleman said, in effect, on the floor of the House that if this Act is to be the success we all desire, there must be organization of both employers and employes. Mr. Stewart’s report proceeds -
Mr. Stewart is a gentleman to whose expressions of ©pinion we must pay considerable regard whichever side of politics we may be on; and in those seven paragraphs he has, as clearly, definitely, and concisely as possible, set forth the real object of the Act. Paragraph 6 is one of which I particularly approve ; and, if I mistake not, the Honorary Minister, in addition to the Attorney-General, has expressed a similar sentiment. I have no complaint to make about the employers organizing; and, therefore, there ought to be no complaint made if the workers also organize.
– Does the honorable member believe in grocers organizing to raise the price of goods?
– That is a different case, which takes the form of a trust or combine injurious to the community; and I hope that the honorable member will help us to put down such combines by approving of the referenda proposals. I am not at present talking of that class of combination ; but if employers or employe’s should combine to the injury of the general public there ought to be the power in this Parliament to put them in their proper places.
– Has the honorable member got figures showing the industries working under decisions of the Court?
– The report of Mr. Stewart contains figures which show how the Act is appreciated, not only by employes, but by employers’ organizations; and there are now 105 unions and employers’ organizations registered. The figure is made up mostly of unions, which comprise a membership of over 250,000.
– A circular was sent out requesting employers to refrain from registering under the Act.
– That is being done now; and I understand that the difficulty in the rural workers’ case arises from the fact that the farmers’ organization deliberately refuses to register. If the farmers’ organization were registered, as the rural workers’ union is, the Registrar of the Court, or the President, could, when trouble arises, summon a compulsory conference, as was done in the case of the Mildura and Renmark fruit pickers, the seamen, and the slaughtermen, and might possibly save serious trouble by amicably settling the differences.
As to the Teesdale Smith contract, I question whether any greater condemnation of it has been uttered than that by the honorable member for Parkes, whose language was exceptionally drastic. The Leader of the Opposition was referred to by honorable members on the Ministerial side in anything but a complimentary fashion for having suggested that there may have been a “ side door,” but the honorable member for Parkes himself said, in words that were clear, that there seemed to have been more “doors” than one.
– No, I made no suggestion that there was any corruption.
– According to the Argus report - and the Hansard report is substantially the same - the honorable member said -
He was quite prepared to admit that an administrative blunder had been made, and that something had been done which was quite contrary to Liberal traditions. It had always been the custom of the Liberal party to do business in the open.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member admits that he made that statement, and, surely, it carries with it a very sweeping condemnation. The honorable member said that the traditions of the Liberal party had been violated by the action of the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, and, further, that the Liberal party believed in doing business in the open. That seems to convey the inference that something has not been done in the open.
– One can be honest in the dark.
– The honorable member’s condemnation of the action of the Minister was as severe as anything I have heard in this chamber, or outside of it, with reference to the Teesdale Smith contract. He went on to say -
Therefore, he joined with the Labour party in saying, but in a less violent manner, that there had been a great error of judgment made concerning this contract.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member indicated by his manner, as well as by his language, that the method of letting the work met with his entire disapprobation. He claimed to be an independent member of the Liberal party, and in his criticism of this action on the part of the Minister he showed as much independence as I have ever known him to display in this House.
– But with a tender attachment for the Treasurer.
– The honorable member seemed to think that whatever the Government might do, the fact that the right honorable member for Swan was in charge of the Treasury was a sheet-anchor quite sufficient for him.
– He wanted the right honorable member for Swan to be Prime Minister.
– I do not know all the caucus secrets of the Liberal party. I should have been glad if the honorable member for Wakefield had been present, since I desire to interrogate him. He and other members of his party appear to be sticklers for the contract system. Are all the members of the Ministerial party distinctly and avowedly opposed to the day-labour principle? Will the AttorneyGeneral or . the Postmaster-General answer that question.
– The honorable member is not in order in asking a question at this stage.
– I wish to obtain information on this point. Honorable members opposite remain quiet. I desire to know what is their attitude in regard to the whole Public Service, if, as it appears to me, they are opposed to the day labour system. It is not long since there was an agitation in regard to the “ Man on the job.” Honorable members opposite selected for their criticism men doing some of the most necessary and valuable work of the Commonwealth. They spoke disparagingly of them. Are they going to speak in the same way of the permanent members of the Public Service? Every member of the Public Service, from the Public Service Commissioner downwards, is really working on what is known’ as the day-labour system, and if the Ministerial party are averse to day labour, then to be logical they should let a contract for all the clerical, engineering, and survey work now carried on by members of thePublic Service.
– Is that not reducing the argument to an absurdity?
– No. Honorable members opposite have described as “ loafers “ day labourers employed in the telephone tunnels and on other works. In doing so, they have been disparaging the work of the salaried men in every branch of the Public Service. Even in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract, day-labour men have to be employed as supervisors. The honorable member for New England knows that if he let a contract to-morrow he would need to have it supervised by a man directly employed by him.
– I admit that we must always have supervision.
– The Commonwealth is now paying men to supervise the work of contractors, and those men could have supervised the carrying out of the same work on the day-labour system. Why did the Government let this contract without calling for tenders? Notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s protesta tions, it cannot be denied that Mr. Teesdale Smith is going to make out of the Commonwealth thousands of pounds that he would not have had an opportunity to make if the day-labour system had been adhered to. The Government and their supporters, however, believe in the contract system because the contractor is the middleman, and the middleman is their friend. They have been feeding the contractors. We now learn that a contract for surveying the line under discussion was let without calling for tenders.
– What would the ex-Minister of Home Affairs have done had be been in the same position as was the honorable member for Wentworth ?
– He would have called for tenders.
– If the honorable member for Darwin had delayed the carrying out of this particular work as long as the present Minister did, he would have been almost as remiss in his duty as was the Honorary Minister. The work now being carried out by Teesdale Smith was recommended months ago by practical men. The only excuse offered for letting this contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith is that the work was of pressing urgency. Time was the essence of the contract. The work should have been done last August.
MrMcWilliams. - Why did not the late Government arrange for the sleepers to be cut by day-labour?
– A contract was let for that work. I will give the honorable member full information about it, and I shall quote from the report of the very man behind whom every Minister is sheltering himself in connexion with the letting of this contract. Ministers have not the manliness to accept responsibility for their actions, but endeavour to hide behind a gentleman who is no longer an official of our Public Service. That is a most cowardly thing to do.
– The honorable member has not yet answered my interjection.
– I do not know exactly what it was. From the last report of the Public Service Commissioner I learn that the total number of permanent and temporary officers in the service of the Commonwealth is 39,828. Out of that number 34,696 are under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. The position is, therefore, very different from what it was represented to be by the Prime Minister just prior to and after the last general elections. From the Public Service Commissioner’s report I gather that on the 30th June, 1913, there were in our Public Service 19,483 permanent officers, and 20,345 temporary and exempt officers. These may be classified as follows: - Under the Public Service Act, 18,845 permanent officers and 16,051 temporary and exempt officers; officers of Parliament, 59 permanent officers and 13 temporary and exempt officers; Northern Territory. 120 permanent officers and 361 temporary and exempt officers; Papuan administration, 112 permanent officers and 19 temporary and exempt officers; Defence (including factories), 347 permanent officers and 3,162 temporary and exempt officers; Commonwealth railways, no permanent officers, and 739 temporary and exempt officers. These figures do not include the Naval and Military Forces.
– “What is the meaning of the term “ exempt “ ?
– It applies to temporary officers who can be employed in our Public Service for a longer period than nine months. From the figures I have given, it will be seen that that service embraces 19,4S3 permanent officers and 20,345 temporary and exempt officers. I am quite prepared, to admit that the number of temporary employes has since been considerably reduced, because it is quite impossible for us to give private contractors a “ look in “ and still to retain a considerable body of such employes. There are, therefore, only 5,132 employes who have to be dealt with by the heads of the various Departments. These are the men upon whose positions the Ministry have based their Government Preference Prohibition Bill.
-. - Only 5,132 out of 250,000 registered trade unionists?
– That is so. Out of these 5,132 employes, 3,162 are engaged in the various Commonwealth factories. Now, every honorable member knows that expert managers have been placed in charge of those factories, and that they are responsible for their proper working. Seeing that these managers have to select their own staffs, there is little doubt that they choose the very best men who are available. It will be recognised, there fore, that the abolition of preference to unionists is a wonderfully “big” question.
– A great national question.
– I do not like to mention the name of the new GovernorGeneral, but I can imagine him smiling at the suggestion that the Government Preference Abolition Bill is a measure of national importance.
Colonel Ryrie. - Do the figures quoted by the honorable member include all the casual employes in the Postal Department?
– They include the casual employes in every Department. The managers of the Commonwealth factories have a free hand to employ whom they like in those establishments.
The honorable member for Franklin interjected a little while ago, “ What about the contract with the Western Australian Government?”
– I did not. I asked “ Why did not the late .Government have their sleepers cut by day labour?”
– We cannot do everything. During the course of his speech the honorable member for Parkes said that a very grave administrative mistake had been made in the cancellation of the sleeper contract with the Western Australian Government. Does the honorable member for Franklin agree with him? The honorable member for Parkes also said that there was ample provision in the agreement to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, and the contract certainly need not have been broken. I wish now to draw attention to a report by Mr. Deane, which is dated 1st July,. 1913 - immediately after the Government took office. In that report Mr. Deane says -
Tenders for sleepers were called on the 21st March, 1912, returnable on 30th April. These could be of timber or steel. In the way of timber, the Western Australian Government submitted an offer for the whole quantity in powellised karri, and some of the small sleeper-getting firms gave prices for jarrah amounting in all to about 175,000 sleepers. Steel sleepers of pressed steel from Germany and Great Britain were offered, and others of the girder type from the United States of America, but these, chiefly owing to rise in prices, were not found suitable. As regards timber, all the jarrah sleepers offered were taken, and the Minister decided to take 1,500,000 powellised karri sleepers from the
Western Australian Government. It is to be remarked that Millar’s Timber and Trading Company Limited did not tender, and they never have tendered since. It was stated as a reason that the firm was too busy with other contracts.
After the time for the receipt of tenders had expired, Messrs. Lewis and Reid offered 600,000 jarrah sleepers, and subsequently orders for considerable quantities of jarrah sleepers from Lewis and Reid and others have been given. The Western Australian Government being unable to deliver karri powellised till the second half of 1913, an arrangement was made by which they would supply 100,000 jarrah sleepers in the meantime, the total of the karri sleepers ordered being reduced to 1,400,000.
The price of powellised karri sleepers delivered amounts to about 7s. 9d. per sleeper, jarrah unpowellised about 7s. With regard to the relative life and durability of the two kinds, it is confidently anticipated that, while jarrah sleepers are known to have an average life of only about fourteen years, karri powellised will last double this time.
That is from the Engineer-in-Chief .
– The man whose advice the Government took on the Teesdale Smith contract ?
– Yes, that is the reason I want to emphasize it -
Jarrah timber has the unfortunate peculiarity of shrinking away from the spikes, so that the latter get loose with time. Karri has the property of closing round the spikes, and holding them tight. I beg to refer to my report on these timbers, dated’ 28th October, 1912.
Under the later revised agreement with the Western Australian Government, the deliveries will commence November, 1913, and finish January, 191(5.
That is signed by Mr. Deane, who gives a very elaborate report of the work that has been going on. I am sure that some note ought to be taken of what he says, especially in regard to the sleeper contract.
– I see, but not in regard to the Teesdale Smith contract.
– Honorable members opposite are sheltering themselves behind an individual. They say that this contract recommended by Mr. Deane is altogether wrong, but that the Teesdale Smith contract recommended by Mr. Deane is altogether right. The Prime Minister stated with great gusto in this House the other day that the Government were going along humanitarian lines with respect to the men who are working on the transcontinental railway. I do not say that the honorable member is not humanitarian in his feelings towards the workers, but the following appears in a report dated 1st July, 1913, under the head of “ Medical Attention “ -
The conditions of this work are unique, in that the country lying between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta is practically unpeopled. There are no medical practitioners in the whole distance. As the workmen will soon be many miles away from the depôt at either end, it is obvious that some means must be adopted for insuring proper health conditions generally. It is proposed, therefore, to attach to the staff in each State a medical officer, whose duties will include the care of the health of the employes and their wives and families, the proper supervision of camp sanitation, and a general purview of water and food supplies from a health point of view.
That was written nearly twelve months ago, and I quote it simply because th« Prime Minister gave it out as though this was a new thing just evolved from the brain of the present Government.
– As a matter of fact, it is not done yet.
– That is quite likely, but it is one of the things that ought to be done. Even if it involves considerable expense, medical attention should be provided for the men.
– It has not been considered necessary until now.
– Large bodies of men working under those conditions - and some part of the work is sure to be dangerous - should be in a position to obtain immediate medical attention. Delays are dangerous, and human lives may be sacrificed while the Government are thinking about effecting this reform. Money should not be considered when human life is at stake.
– The nearest doctor is 90 miles away from where the men are working at the Port Augusta end of the line.
– The Prime Minister made what he considered an exceptionally strong point by accusing the Leader of the Opposition of referring to nonunionists as “ sneaks,” and read out the number of people who do not happen to belong to unions in Australia. He proclaimed to the world that the Leader of the Opposition had said that all those individuals were neither more nor less than “ sneaks of society.” The Leader of the Opposition said no such thing. I happened to be at the meeting at the Melbourne Town Hall on the 16th March, 1914, when the Leader of the Opposition spoke as follows - and this is where the
Prime Minister did not do the right honorable gentleman full justice, because he did not make the full quotation -
The abolition of preference to unionists meant preference to non-unionists, and men who were non-unionists were mostly the sneaks of society. Mr. Cook had said more bitter things against non-unionists than he (Mr. Fisher) had.
On 6th December, 1904, on the floor of this House, the present Prime Minister, according to Hansard, page 7846, said -
When I was secretary to a union, we always insisted on preference to unionists, and in a very summary fashion. . . . We had no difficulty in doing that, and I am free to tell the honorable member- the honorable member for Newcastle, who had interjected - that if I were in the same position to-day I should do the same again.
What did the honorable member call dealing in a summary fashion with nonunionists?” Did he put them down the shaft, or under the pump?
– I do not recollect the slightest difficulty on that score in all my experience.
– The honorable member also said -
If I were in that position again, I should adopt the same attitude. I have no sort of sympathy with the man who will work alongside another man and see that other paying every week of his life into an organization to protect his rights, and to maintain his position, whilst he himself is skulking, and deriving the benefit for which the other is paying and working. I have no sort of sympathy with that kind of thing.
I have consulted Webster as to the meaning of the two words “ sneaking “ and “ skulking.” According to that authority, “ sneak “ means -
To creep or steal away furtively. To act in a furtive or cowardly manner. A mean, sneaking fellow. while “ skulk “ has the following meaning
To hide, or get out of the way in a sneaking manner; to lie close or move in a furtive way. Skulk - one that skulks, hence an idle, goodfornothing fellow.
All I can say is that the two Words mean exactly the same thing, and therefore the Prime Minister applied just the same term to non-unionists in 1904 as the Leader of the Opposition applied to them in 1914.
– I have given the honorable member the meanings of the words, and he can look them up if he likes.
– The Leader of the
Opposition applies that phrase to 700,000 people, hundreds of thousands of whom cannot join a union.
– He does not. Even if he did, the honorable member did the same thing. The honorable member’s statement was even more sweeping than that of the Leader of the Opposition, and its meaning was just as bad, if not worse.
To illustrate the evil of letting contracts, I propose to make some quotations to show how contractors will often rob their own Government and their own people, even when supplying war materiel.
– All contractors are not thieves.
– I do not say that they are. Honorable members may have seen recently in the Age the following statement by a responsible man in the United States of America -
Some revelations with regard to the armour plate “ring” in America have been made by Mr. J. Daniels, secretary of the United States Navy Department, who is desirous of seeing the United States Government establish its own armour plate works.
It is only in that way that a Government carrying on big operations can protect themselves.
As the result of his inquiries, he came to the conclusion that there is an international agreement among armour plate manufacturers to keep up prices. In his report he stated that whereas in 1911 American firms supplied Italy with armour at the rate of £79 per ton, they charged the United States Government in the same year £84 per ton.
Imagine Americans taking down the Government of their own country in that way.
At the present time, American firms are supplying armour for the Japanese battle cruiser Haruna at £81 per ton, but the United States has got to pay from £88 to £100 16s. per ton for the armour required for its new battleships. Bight years ago the United States Government paid only £69 per ton for armour. There are only three armour plate firms in the United States, and it was the practice of the Government to ask for tenders from all three, and then divide the work equally among them at the lowest price quoted. It was not long before these firms decided to come to an amicable arrangement, and to put up the prices of contracts. Mr. Daniels has recommended that a Government armour plate factory should be established, “ in order to relieve a situation which, in my estimation, is intolerable, and at total variance with the principle of economy in spending Government money.”
This report of an investigator shows how contractors are prepared to fleece even the
Government of their own country, and proves that the only way in which to deal with such matters is to establish State factories.
There can be little doubt that Australia will eventually establish State factories for the manufacture of armour plate, gun mounting, and guns, but in the meantime it rests with the Commonwealth Government, in carrying out the national naval policy, to make every effort to prevent the Australian taxpayer being robbed to provide big profits for the shareholders of British firms engaged in those industries. To follow blindly in the footsteps of the British Admiralty in obtaining armour plates for battleships and armoured cruisers is to invite spoliation.
These comments may be applied to contractors as we have them in Australia today. The honorable member for North Sydney will bear me out when I say that in connexion with some Army contracts at the time of the South African War no end of robbery by contractors was carried on. When contractors will descend to rob their own nation in providing food supplies and horses for the men who are fighting for their Government, they will stop at nothing. No one will deny that such people are the greatest enemies of society.
I wish now to say a few words on the subject of the Tariff.
– It is dead. It is buried with the Inter-State Commission.
– That will not do me at all. The Tariff is not dead. I assert that if the electors had given a different verdict on the 30th May last an amended and more scientific Tariff would before now have been in operation.
– Speak up, Mathews!
– The honorable member for Wannon will have to speak up, too. When in the near or in the distant future he has to go before his electors he will have to explain to them why he remained silent behind a Ministry that has practically shelved the Tariff issue. I suppose that every honorable member could give examples from his own electorate of industries that are suffering by the competition to which they are subjected by importations from the cheap labour countries of the world. Japan, which is almost in our own seas, is supplying Australia to-day with a considerable quantity of goods that could be manufactured here. How can our manufacturers stand against competition with the productions of a country in which engineers are only paid 9d. per day?
There are millions of pounds’ worth of goods coming into Australia to-day which ought to be manufactured here, and whether honorable members are Free Traders or Protectionists they should be prepared to unite against such an encroachment upon our local industries as I have referred to. I have thought it necessary to make a protest to the Chairman of the Inter-State Commission in connexion with the way in which inquiries by the Commission are being carried out. He informed me that only a summary of the evidence given before the Commission would be submitted to Parliament with the recommendations of the Commissioners. I at once informed him that, as a representative of the people, that, was not enough for me. I say now, on the floor of this Chamber, that unless the Inter-State Commission submit the evidence they take as fully as they can, I, for one, will pay very little regard to any recommendations which they may make. The Inter-State Commission can do very valuable work for the Commonwealth, but the amendment of the Tariff is a matter which should be taken in hand by this Parliament. The Minister of Trade and Customs has now in his possession information upon which he could, in a week or two, submit a Tariff schedule to this House. Whether we restore the postal vote or give preference to unionists in Government employment are not matters which seriously affect the people; but they are concerned in the continuance of a Tariff which exposes our manufacturers to the competition to which they have now to submit. It would be better far for this Parliament to take the consideration of the Tariff out of the hands of the Inter-State Commission, and give that Commission other work to do.
– What work could we give them to do?
– We could charge them with an investigation into the cost of living, and their inquiry into such a matter would be of more importance to the people of Australia than is their consideration of the Tariff on the lines now adopted. It may be said’ that my criticism is premature; that it is scarcely fair that I should criticise a body that has not yet submitted any report to Parliament; but I can inform honorable members that some of the staunchest Protectionists in Victoria have already lost confidence in the Inter-State Commission, so far as any redress of their grievances as the result of the Commission’s inquiry is concerned.
– I have heard a contrary report to the effect that the investigation of the Commission is a most valuable one.
– I am free to admit that some of the work they have done is valuable. I am not making a wholesale condemnation of their work; but I repeat that some of the best Protectionists we have in Victoria say that they have already lost confidence in the Inter-State Commission so far as the amendment of the Tariff is concerned.
– Will the honorable member tell us why?
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the House rose for dinnerI was referring to the work of the Inter -State Commission, and remarking that some of the Protectionists in Victoria were already dissatisfied with that body from a Tariff point of view. I had stated that the House, instead of being engaged, as it will be, perhaps, next week, in fighting sham proposals, if the Government had been alert to the true interests of this country they would have introduced a Tariff Bill, in order that a considerable relief might be afforded to many industries that are now suffering. I believe that we would be engaged in much more national work in overhauling the Tariff and placing it on a scientific basis than we are at the present time, and will be for some days to come. One need not enumerate many subjects which the House in a non-party way might approach and discuss.
– Whose fault is it that this debate is in progress?
– It is just as well for the House to be engaged in this debate as in a debate on the two Bills proposed to be brought forward.
– Or on the AddressinReply.
– Yes. I may say, for the informations of the honorable member for Echuca, that no shorter time would have been taken had the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition not been moved. It is well known to hon orable members on this side that the honorable gentleman took a free and independent stand in the House on various questions when he sat in opposition; but at the present time he is Caucus-bound. He presents a very humiliating spectacle to his constituents. We might easily be engaged on some question for the national good. It may be asked by some persons what other work would the Inter-State Commission be engaged upon were the Tariff question taken from their purview at the present time. There is one question which might well occupy their attention, and one which would be of considerable service to the community should legislation be recommended - that is, if we have power under the Constitution to legislate, which I doubt. . I feel certain that were the Commission to inquire into the cost of living, one of the duties allotted to them, they would be able to obtain evidence which, in my judgment, would convince this Parliament that an amendment of the Constitution is absolutely essential in order to protect the people of this country. I cannot refrain from paying a tribute to the splendid service which the honorable member for Oxley has rendered by his exposure of the methods of the Beef Trust in this and other countries.
– He made many misstatements.
– The honorable member for Grampians may object if he likes, and the Attorney-General may smile and think that there is no danger to be feared from this terrible octopus that will lay hold of the Australian people.
– There is no law against smiling.
– I do not think that there is; and it is certain that if there was such a law the honorable and learned member would rarely violate it, because his countenance more often reminds one of a sphinx than of a smiling individual. Let me tell the honorable member for Grampians, who laughs and rarely ever edifies the House with a speech now that he is sitting on the Ministerial side, that the newspapers, which have a good deal to do with returning him and his colleagues, are taking up this question, because they realize that they cannot possibly leave it alone. They recognise that the Beef Trust is a great danger. In the columns of the newspapers that are in opposition to the Labour party throughout Australia you will find almost every week important articles on the Beef Trust. Those honorable members who sit by and laugh while the Beef Trust are entrenching themselves in a position of safety are acting something like Nero did at the burning of Rome. However, the people will know how to deal with them. I find from section 16 of the Inter-State Commission Act that there are certain matters put forward which the Inter-State Commission can inquire into -
In these few paragraphs which I have quoted there is ample work for the InterState Commission to investigate, and to deal with from time to time in a report that will lead to legislation, which must be of an exceptionally beneficial character. The Chairman of the Commission has intimated that he intends to supply the House with only a summary of the evidence taken, with their recommendations. A short summary of the evidence tendered on most important topics will not, I think, be sufficient to satisfy intelligent members.
– It will be very much more widely read.
– That may be so; but, with all due respect to the Commission, there are questions and answers which they may consider irrelevant, but which to the members of the House with a practical knowledge of certain trades and occupations are very relevant. For instance, take the report of the Tariff Commission. I remember being in the House in 1907 when nearly every one of the seventy-five members seemed to have, not exactly under his arm, but under his feet, a full report of the evidence and the recommendations madeby the Commission.
From time to time quotations were made from the evidence to controvert the very recommendations of the Commission, and in many cases little or no heed was paid to the recommendations. I can say that, had many of the recommendations been adopted by the House, industries which are now in a most flourishing condition, employing a large number of men, and turning out a very considerable quantity of goods, would not be in existence. The House, realizing that these industries were worthy of more Protection than was recommended by the Tariff Commission, placed higher duties on certain articles, which enabled the local industries to go ahead and employ a very large number of men. I believe that exactly the same thing will occur in respect to the recommendations of the Inter-State Commission; but how much more in the dark will honorable members be if only a limited amount of evidence is supplied for their perusal? Unless we have a full report, or as full a report as possible, of the evidence tendered in respect to various industries, the creation of that body, from a Tariff point of view, is not going to be the benefit that many of us anticipated. We are responsible to the people for the kind of measures that we pass. For any one to think that lobbying will be stopped, and that employers and others will not supply information, is idle. The Inter-State Commission, by their meagre reports, will practically invite manufacturers to do what they have done in connexion with every previous revision of the Tariff, and that is to supply information which has not been furnished to the House.
– I hope that we shall keep them out of the House.
– I am dissatisfied that the Chairman of the Inter-State Commission has not seen fit to guarantee to us as full a report of the evidence tendered as it is possible for him to furnish. The Commission have invited us to send them recommendations. I think that one of the best resolutions which the House could pass in the very near future would be one to remit to the Commission for their consideration the question of the cost of living. In a circular, which, I presume, has been received by nearly every honorable member, I find this passage -
While, however, the Commission is empowered to determine for itself what matters ought to be investigated in the public interest, it is probably more consonant with our parliamentary institutions and with responsible government that, as a rule, investigations should be undertaken, either in pursuance of the provision under which either House of the Parliament may refer a matter to the Commission, or at the request of the Executive, which is responsible to Parliament.
That is practically an intimation from the Inter-State Commission to us as a Parliament that, if we consider there is some matter requiring urgent attention - and certainly the cost of living is a matter requiring urgent attention - we can refer it to the Commission. In my opinion, the Inter-State Commission would be better employed in inquiring into the cost of living than in inquiring into the Tariff. “We ought to have had a Tariff laid on the table, and we ought to. be discussing it now. It ought to have been tabled in the first session of this Parliament, and it would have been had the Leader of the Opposition continued in power. However, we may have an opportunity later on, and we will then be able to test the genuineness of the opinions of many honorable members in regard to the cost of living, by submitting a motion that there should be an early opportunity of dealing with this important question.
– Is the Tariff going to decrease the cost of living?
– It is going to create fewer middlemen in Australia, and cause the people of Australia to manufacture for themselves many of those articles which they are now importing from cheaplabour communities. If the honorable member has studied the operations of the Tariff at all, he must know that there is coming into our ports now millions of pounds’ worth of stuff that ought to be manufactured in the Commonwealth. I will admit, on the other hand, that there are many articles on which we have placed an unnecessarily high duty. This should not be a party question; there are many members on the Ministerial side who are just as anxious to deal with the Tariff as are the members on this side, and why cannot we, as a National Parliament, undertake national work in the national interest? I am not one of those who anticipate much result, so far as the Tariff is concerned, from the investigations of the Inter-State Commission.
– Cannot we deal with the report when we get it?
– When will we get it? The Prime Minister does not know, and I do not suppose the Minister of Trade and Customs can tell us. It seems to me that this Inter-State Commission was appointed directly the present Government came into office in order that they might shirk the responsibility of dealing with the Tariff issue. There is a majority in this House in favour of the Protective policy of this country, and there is certainly an overwhelming majority in favour of the new Protection.
There are a number of members on the Government side who seem to speak of the working-men of Australia as if they were not responsible for the general conduct and welfare of society. Some honorable members act and speak as if the great masses of the people who do the world’s work are not absolutely essential to society. I hope and trust that those honorable members will have their minds disabused of that erroneous view.
– Mention some examples.
– I can best reply to the honorable member by reading a quotation from the first speech delivered by the Prime Minister when he entered polities in 1891.
– I thought you were referring to honorable members on this side generally.
– We judge members of Parliament, as we judge members of the community, by their words, and more so by their actions, and honorable members on the Liberal side who profess to be so sympathetic with the masses of the people are for ever blocking and thwarting measures that would bring incalculable benefit to the masses. The Prime Minister when he was a Labour man - it was a good many years ago, I will admit-
Colonelryrie. - Did not the honorable member for Maribyrnong submit his name for selection as a Liberal candidate?
– There was no such selection in those days. At any time when I stood for Parliament I stood as a Radical, and I have always received the support of the Labour people in that particular constituency. If it is any information to the honorable member for
North Sydney, I may tell him that I joined the Melbourne Typographical Society in 1885, and have been a unionist in spirit and deed ever since. The Prime Minister said on the occasion to which I referred -
I desire to refer to some statements which have been made by those who are very loud in their protestations of sympathy with the labouring man, who tell us that they fought the battle of Labour here long before we thought of coming here. If these honorable members are so sincere in their sympathy with Labour, why do they adopt such a hostile attitude towards the Labour party in this House on the present occasion?
Those words aptly apply to honorable members on the Ministerial benches at the present time. Whenever progressive measures have been brought forward to be placed on the statute-book, opposition of the most virulent character has been indulged in by members on the Government side.’ I need only instance the note issue and the Commonwealth Bank.
– What good has the Commonwealth Bank done for the working man?
– There issuch legislation as not only saves something to a man, but saves him from something. The Commonwealth Bank may not have brought to the working man as much as was anticipated from its operations, but it has saved him from something by regulating, the operations of the private banks.
– Money is 2 per cent, dearer.
– No other influence in the community has been so strong in keeping the financial institutions within reasonable bounds as has the Commonwealth Bank. I want to point out just exactly what position the working man takes. I was surprised at some figures whichI have read, relating to the conditions in Belgium, but applying, more or less, to every community in which there is a large body of workers carrying on operations. These figures show that in Belgium there are 2,500,000 people engaged in the agricultural industry, and, on an average, during every twelve months there are about 10,000 accidents amongst agricultural workers; but when we look at the industrial side of Belgium, we find that whilst there are 750,000 people engaged in industrial operations, less than onethird of the number engaged in agricul tural pursuits, the accidents average 40,000 a year. My reason for quoting these figures to honorable members is this: They are constantly complaining that the working man in every walk of life is making demands for higher wages and better working conditions. I want to know who are the men who take the greatest risks. Who are the men who scale the greatest heights? Who are the men engaged in the most dangerous work? Who are the men who go into the bowels of the earth, taking their lives in their hands every time they descend the shaft? The working man is taking practically all the risks in the community, and yet in that comparison between the agricultural worker and the industrial worker we find that there are ten times as many accidents in industrial labour as there are in the agricultural sphere. This article points out how many breadwinners are stricken down by accidents, diseases, and other causes connected with unhealthy occupations. It is time that we paid more attention to the rank and file of the workers. Do we want to see in Australia a repetition of what is occurring in other parts of the world? In the Homeland of our parents, and of some honorable members in this chamber, what has been the result? In Great Britain, the richest country in the world, with a population of 45,000,000, a country where the moneylenders have lent £4,000,000,000 to various parts of the world - in a country with all that wealth there are 13,000,000 people living below the poverty line. What does that mean ? Simply that from generation to generation there is a deterioration in the British people, and if that is not a national problem I do not know what it is. Whether in this House or outside of it, I intend to do all I possibly can to avoid the pitfalls and the state of society that obtains in other parts of the world, and which many of my honorable friends on the opposite side of the House seem, by their actions, to desire to see created here. We have only to look at the conditions in our principal cities. Some people say there is no poverty in Victoria ; there ought not to be. In this land of plenty, where we produce more than we can eat, city missionaries and those engaged in rescue work tell almost heartrending stories in regard to the poverty of the people in the cities. The maintenance of the physique of our people is absolutely essential to our progress as a race. Otherwise other nations who take more care of their people will leave us behind in the struggle for supremacy. Only recently, when it was necessary to fill up some of the gaps in the ranks of several regiments in Great Britain - though during the last twenty years the chest measurement has been twice reduced - out of 93,000 who submitted themselves for examination only 35,000 were able to pass into the ranks. I do not mention this in order to decry our nation - we are the greatest Empire in the world - but I bring it forward so that we may set our minds on doing the best for our people, and not go under, as older nations have done, through neglecting their people. Legislation reducing the cost of living, paying attention to the needs of the people, and ministering to their comforts, making their homes happier - all these things will improve the nation, and enable the bairns of to-day to be stronger and better able to meet adverse conditions when they in turn become the backbone of the nation as men and women. The Reverend Shroeder, Methodist minister at Boulder, in Western Australia, recently said that he went into the Boulder cemetery, and in half-an-hour picked out thirty-six tombstones of miners who had been killed, and that he was told by the caretaker that the average age of the men buried in that cemetery was forty -two, at which age a man has not reached his prime. This clergyman, who is not a Yarra-bank agitator, and not a Labour man, was- preaching from the text that a human being is worth more than fine gold, and he said that if it was the case of weighing a man’s life as against paying a dividend, the payment of the dividend would weigh down the scale every time in the eyes of the mining shareholders. Having been in several mining circuits, the Reverend Shroeder knows what he talks about. If those opposed to us in politics neglect the human being, they are neglecting what, in any community, is far more important than gold, bricks and mortar, or broad acres. Recently an investor said, “ Working men take no risks. What about investors and capitalists? “ I immediately replied, “Your pounds, shillings, and pence are dirt alongside the human being.” Our legislation should be designed for the health and comfort of human beings. I have not time to say much in regard to the maladministration of the Government, but their wrongdoing has furnished many texts on which one could preach many sermons. I do not know what kind of man the Prime Minister is in Cabinet, but if he has any conscience left, he should have indulged in heart-searching on Monday, when he saw the magnificent trades procession passing through the streets of Melbourne. Those who saw it must realize that the workers are more combined than ever - though not so much as they should be - and intent on having what they consider a fair share of the good things of the world, seeing that they are the creators of most of those good things. In regard to the matter of preference to unionists, the solidarity of his party was a vital point with the Prime Minister when he was a member of the Labour party. Speaking on the 22nd July, 1891, in the New South Wales Parliament, in reference to an amendment submitted by the honorable member for Eden, he said -
My own opinion is that, if the amendment cf the honorable member for Eden had included all the planks of the Labour platform, the Labour party would have adhered to the stand they have taken, not from any feeling of hostility to honorable members on my right, but from fear of breaking into the solidarity of the party.
Further on he said -
The Labour party refuse to be split up in any way whatever by the introduction of 1n matter whatever by any party whatever in the House.
He was very emphatic there about the solidarity of party.
– It was split to smithereens within six weeks of that date by the very men who are now the ‘ ‘ boss cockies “ in your show.
– I do not think that could have been the case. The honorable member was leader of that party three years later. How inspiring it must have been for an ardent Labourite to listen to the magnificent eloquence of the Prime Minister when he was a Labour man giving expression to these fine sentiments ! He was a great stickler for solidarity then; and, having come through this experience, I blame him more than I blame other members of the Ministry. Certainly the Attorney-General is a great stickler for unionism, as far as he is personally concerned, and, as one unionist to another, he should stand by unionism generally, but he does not. However, he has not passed through the same experience- as the Prime Minister, who has risen from boyhood with full knowledge of the toil and stress of the working classes in this and other countries; and yet we find the one-time Leader of the Labour party, and advocate of the solidarity of that party, sitting cheek-by-jowl with the most Conservative men in the community. Having come through his experience, how he can advocate preference to non-unionists - because that is what the Government’s proposal amounts to - I cannot conceive. I could understand such a proposal from the honorable member for Riverina, because he has not had the same experience as the Prime Minister. He has not had to fight his way upwards, but has had a comfortable time. What he has got has not been bought so dearly as what has been gained by men like his leader. I cannot understand how any human being could so change as to turn against the masses of the people and become the arch-leader of the Conservative forces of Australia, trying to do as much damage and hurt as possible to the working people of the country. The Prime Minister was one of the first products of the political unionism that he now denounces. The maritime strike occurred in 1890, and in 1891, elected by the Labourites of the Lithgow district, the honorable gentleman entered the Parliament of New South Wales. He says that political unionism is a new thing, but he has in his possession the official records of the Intercolonial Trades Congress held in 1884, at which the honorable member for East Sydney was present, which decided to take political action, and passed two resolutions of a very set character. The Prime Minister knows as well as any man in the community that political unionism is not new. The working man has to fight against great odds; against heapedup capital, and the best organization of the forces of wealth, not only in the Commonwealth, but throughout the world. Every interest is organized against him, and for the Prime Minister, an old trade unionist, an old Socialist, an old Republican, an old Labour leader, and an old Protectionist, to ask him to enter into a political or industrial battle with one hand tied behind his back is to give advice exactly contrary to that which he would have given in his old Labour days. Rut Labour is now in a majority. A considerable percentage of the community now supports this party. The very citadels of Torydom are being shaken, and so strong is the phalanx that is bound together by Labour organization that soon hardly a constituency will withstand its assault. I say to the industrial unionist, “ Use every power that you have, and use your political power too, so that you may have two hands instead of one with which to fight.” The Prime Minister came from Staffordshire, a mining district, where he was a miner. He knows that before they had payment in the British House of Commons the miners’ representatives there were paid by those who elected them. The miners of Great Britain and of other places long since began to take political action.
– Did the Prime Minister ever contribute?
Mr.FENTON. - Of course he did, and had it not been for the assistance of miners, he would never have entered the New South Wales Parliament. Some of these days he will come to his senses again, and will find that he is out in the wilderness. He will then say to himself, “ Why did I leave the. Labour party which now is triumphant?” To-day he is warmed with the blanket of Conservatism, and thus sheltered from the cold winds, which at no distant future will beat on his political body, and bring him to a realization of his miserable isolation. He will then say, “Why did I leave the Labour party - that party of progress, which as long as it existswill do all that it can for the Democracy of Australia?”
– I desire to make a personal explanation. It has been pointed out to me that as it appears in the press the report of what Isaid last night in reference to the acceptance by the AttorneyGeneral of a gift through another, with which I connected a lady, is open to misinterpretation. The reference was to Mrs. Irvine, who was made a public presentation , when her husband, our present AttorneyGeneral, having been in ill-health, resigned the Premiership of Victoria, and was on the eve of going for a trip abroad. No member of the House, and no one outside, will say that I ever willingly hit any man beneath the belt, or unfairly. I should be very sorry to have it thought that I sought to injure the AttorneyGeneral privately ; and it would be a deep regret to me if I said anything in regard to a lady which could be misconstrued in any way or give her pain.
– I did not understand the honorable member to make any suggestion of the kind to which he has referred.
.- I wish to refer to an incident that occurred last November. In the early hours of the morning, during the discussion of a Loan Bill, a question arose whether the Clerk had read the Bill a third time. You then said, Mr. Speaker-
-I remind the honorable member that there is on the businesspaper a notice of motion dealing with this very matter. Therefore he will not be in order in debating it at the present time.
– There ! A member of the honorable member’s party has done this!
– If that is your ruling, Mr. “Speaker, then I can imagine that the Government could prevent discussion on any question. Should I be in order if I referred to the case without mentioning names, and to the motion of which the honorable member for Barrier gave notice ?
– No. The honorable member would not be in order in doing so, and it has been so ruled many times.
– I am not referring to the motion of which the honorable member for Barrier has given notice this session, but to the motion of last session, which was in the following words -
In view of the following words, “ In the circumstances, I directed the Clerk to carry out the decision of the House-
– The honorable member would not be in order in debating that matter, because it is not only the subject of a notice of motion already on the business-paper, but it is against the Standing Orders to reflect on a vote of the House except upon a specific motion.
– I understand that the honorable member for Ballarat is debarred from referring to a certain incident last session because there is a notice of motion in my name. Could I withdraw that motion now ?
– Not at this stage.
– Last night, Mr. Speaker, I understood your ruling, in regard to a similar matter, to be that an honorable member could, in a general way, discuss a matter which was the subject of a motion on the notice-paper, but that if he particularized he would be out of order.
– The honorable member is under a misapprehension. The honorable member for Ballarat was proposing to debate matters specifically the subjects of notice on the business-paper. My ruling last night had reference to an entirely different matter, namely, to trusts, the operation of which I said might be discussed generally, but not those of the American Beef Trust in Australia, which formed the subject of a specific notice of motion: I have authorities here, but I do not propose to quote them unless necessary. There have been previous decisions on exactly the same point in this House, and these are in agreement with the procedure of the House of Commons. As far back as the 7th October, 1904, Mr. Speaker Holder said -
I cannot, in view of the fact that there is upon the business-paper a notice of motion dealing with the question, allow him to proceed further on his present line of argument.
I am bound to administer the Standin Orders as they are, and they absolutely prohibit the anticipation of a debate upon a motion set down for a later day. As there is upon the business-paper a notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Hume relating to preferential trade, I cannot permit the discussion on that subject now.
– Was that in connexion with a vote of censure ?
– Yes. It was in connexion with a no-confidence motion.
– I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you have allowed a great deal of latitude in this debate, particularly in regard to the Defence Forces, including the training of cadets at fourteen years of age, although I understand there is a notice of motion on the businesspaper dealing with that matter. There is also a notice of motion in relation to the increase of pensions to the old people, but that subject has also been pretty generally discussed on the question before the House, and no exception has been taken, by yourself. Then, yesterday, the honorable member for Oxley dealt very fully indeed with the subject of the Beef Trust.
– Is the honorable member traversing mv present ruling?
– No; but, as it seems inevitable that I cannot at this juncture discuss either your ruling or the action of Parliament last session, I shall simply state that, in the matter of my suspension, I consider I was very unfairly treated by the members of the Ministry and the Ministerial party. I claimed my right as a representative to take the public .platform and tell my constituents exactly what I thought was taking place in Parliament, and you, Mr. Speaker, when the matter was brought under your notice-
– The honorable member is now distinctly proceeding on lines on which I said he could not. I call his attention to the fact that there is on the notice-paper a motion in the name of the honorable member for Barrier as follows -
That a Select Committee of this House, consisting of three members of the Ministerial side, one from the Opposition, and the mover, be appointed to examine the officers and the records of this House to ascertain if the third reading of the Loan Bill was carried on the 31st October, 1913.
There is also another notice of motion dealing with the honorable member’s suspension, and that motion cannot now be made the subject of debate in anticipation of the debate which will take place when it is moved.
– Do I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you rule definitely that on a censure motion nothing can be discussed that lias already been placed on the notice-paper?
– I have already ruled in accordance with standing order 274. which is as follows -
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.
As I have already pointed out, Mr. Speaker Holder ruled -
I am bound to administer the Standing Orders as they are, and they absolutely prohibit the anticipation of a debate upon a motion set down for a later day. As there is upon the businesspaper a notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Hume relating to preferential trade, I cannot permit the discussion on that subject now.
That ruling was given during a debate on a no-confidence motion, which was moved in 1904, and the record will be found in Mansard, Vol. XXII.. page 5383. The ruling is in strict accordance with the procedure of the House of Commons in regard to anticipatory motions. In the Manual of Procedure (House of Commons), at page 107, it is laid down -
Debate on the subject of a motion of which there is notice for a future day, whether specified or not, must not be anticipated by previous debate on the same subject, on an amendment to u motion, or to the Address-in-Reply to the King’s Speech, or on a motion for adjournment, whether under standing order 10 or otherwise.
The honorable member for Kennedy when he occupied the position of Speaker in the last Parliament, also gave a ruling to the like effect in this connexion. The present Attorney-General had said -
If that be the rule of Parliament, it is possible for a Government supporter, or for any member, to prevent the discussion of Government appointments, or of any act of administration, by putting on the notice-paper a motion having reference to it. Surely no standing order can go so far as that? Because notice has been given of a motion asking for a Select Committee to inquire into a certain matter, are we now precluded from dealing with a subject only indirectly referred to?
On that occasion the honorable member for Kennedy, as Speaker, ruled -
Parliamentary procedure, which I have frequently seen applied both in the State Parliaments and here, prevents the anticipation of a discussion of any motion on the notice-paper.
– Was that on a noconfidence motion ?
– It was on the formal Supply motion on grievance day.
– If you, Mr. Speaker, rule that in a debate on the AddressinReply I cannot discuss my suspension, it appears to me most peculiar that honorable members may discuss the question of the cadets.
– The honorable member is not in order in traversing my ruling. He would be in order in discussing in any things, but not in debating subjects set down on the business-paper for future discussion.
– Then evidently I must talk about something else. The Prime Minister, when he spoke in this debate, made some remark in reference to a few words I uttered at Broken Hill. He drew attention to the fact that I there requested those of my hearers who were electors in Ballarat to remain on the Ballarat roll. It is quite true that I did so - that I did ask those who had not permanently removed from Ballarat to remain on the rolls for that constituency. There is some connexion between Ballarat and Broken Hill. Quite a number of men leave Ballarat for Broken Hill, where they remain for a few months, and then return home. They are entitled to remain upon the roll for Ballarat, since the Act permits them to be enrolled for the constituency in which they declare their homes to be. That being so, I do not think I did anything wrong. The
Prime Minister, in fact, admitted that he would do the same thing.
– He was quite fair.
– He admitted that there was nothing wrong in my action, but he made another imputation against the Ballarat folk to which I desire to draw attention. In the course of his remarks he said -
I know that a few of the names were given by the Liberal part)’, and I understand that they have hundreds of others in connexion with which there was what looked seriously like wrongdoing.
I challenge the Prime ‘Minister and the Liberal party, both of Melbourne and Ballarat, to initiate a prosecution against any elector of Ballarat, whether he be a supporter of the Labour or the Liberal party, who was guilty of wrongdoing at the last election. Notwithstanding the result of the investigation made by the detective and the declaration of the electoral officers who conducted an inquiry, that there had been no wrongdoing in connexion with the Ballarat election, the Prime Minister now comes along and, to some extent, repeats the allegation that there were hundreds of suspicious-looking cases associated with it. If that be true, then the Department over which the Prime Minister as Minister of Home Affairs presides has been neglectful of its duty. If there were hundreds of cases of wrongdoing, why did not the honorable gentleman as Minister of Home Affairs prosecute the offenders? The Prime Minister was charged by the Leader of the Opposition with slandering the people of Australia. I think that I shall be justified in saying that the honorable gentleman has been slandering the electors of Ballarat. Having regard to the exceedingly wet weather, which led to thousands of people refraining from going to the poll until after 5 p.m., very few mistakes occurred. This speaks well for the work done by the electoral officers. Believing that the weather would fine up, many electors waited until after 5 o’clock to record their votes, and between 5 and 8 p.m. there was an unprecedented rush. Notwithstanding that rush, the official inquiry disclosed only 175 cases in which there might have been duplicate voting, and the Chief Electoral Officer of the Commonwealth has declared that it is evident that most of those cases were mere clerical errors. I hope that the
Prime Minister will apologize, not only to the people of Australia, but particularly to the people of Ballarat, for this mistake. His apology is long overdue. These statements of which I complain were repeated for several weeks after the election. In connexion with the official inquiry, the Attorney-General connived at the breaking of the law. Envelopes containing the rolls were allowed to be opened, although the Act provides that they shall be opened only by order of a Justice of the Supreme Court. When pressed in the House to allow scrutineers to be present at the investigation, he was at first adamant in his opposition, and it was only after members on both sides had urged that we as candidates had a right to be represented by scrutineers at the official investigation that he consented to allow them to be present. Despite the result of that examination, and the inquiry made at Ballarat by the detective, the Prime Minister declares that he is going to the country when he has “ a clean roll.”
– What does he call a clean roll?
– A roll with all the Labour names off it.
– I do not hesitate to say that I should be glad if many names now on the roll for Ballarat were not there; but I certainly hope that neither the Liberal party nor the Labour party will be guilty of resorting to unfair means of removing names that should appear on the roll. The Labour party attained its present strength despite the restrictions that members of the Liberal party placed upon those who desired to be electors. It remained for the Labour party to bring in an Electoral Bill to provide for compulsory enrolment, so as to make sure that every elector should be enrolled. I remember when the Attorney-General, as leader of his party in the State House, placed all the restrictions he could upon the enrolment of the people. He and his party carried an amendment of the electoral law limiting the time within which persons might apply to be placed on the roll. The Labour Government determined that nothing of the kind should occur in connexion with the Commonwealth roll, and at the last general election nearly every name which should be on the roll was enrolled. The
Attorney-General has now decided that political parties may lodge objections or give information as to names that ought to be removed from the roll. Until that announcement was made, I was under the impression that a deposit of 5s. had to be lodged with each objection. I admit that, where the officiating postmaster or Electoral Registrar is very careful, not much harm will result from this determination on the part of the AttorneyGeneral. I know many electoral officers in Ballarat who are carefully watching the lists supplied to them by both parties. One states that 90 per cent, of the names supplied by the Liberal party as open to objection are those of people who have not changed their place of residence during the last ten years.
– Do the electoral officers at Ballarat tell the honorable member these things about the Liberals?
– I am not going to say where this electoral officer is stationed. I am not going to get an official into trouble.
– The Liberal party are doing it all round.
– If these methods are resorted to there is a danger of our getting a very clean roll - a roll which will mean the disfranchisement of thousands of electors throughout Australia. The Labour party has not the money to pay canvassers to go round the electorates to make sure that no name is improperly removed. The last thing that any Government should do is to make it easy to remove names from the roll.
– Why does not the honorable member bring his complaint before the Electoral Commission?
– That is a bogus Commission.
– How dare the honorable member say that?
– Are Mr. Laird Smith and Dr. Maloney bogus Commissioners?
– Order ! These interchanges must cease.
– I rise to order. Is’ it in order for an honorable member - an -ex-Minister of the Crown, too - to denounce a Royal Commission now sitting and investigating an important matter by calling it a bogus Commission?
– If the expression was used, it is certainly not in order. I will take this opportunity of reminding the House that the honorable member for Ballarat is a comparatively new member, and it is particularly unfair to unduly interrupt him, seeing that a time limit is imposed upon his speech.
– I hope that we have heard the last of these unfair statements in regard to the conduct of the recent general election. It ought to be apparent by this time to every fair-minded man and woman that those elections were cleanly conducted, and that there was no duplication of votes. Nobody can be found in any electorate who apparently voted more than twice.
– To vote twice is a pretty fair order.
– I became quite scared when the numbers were being counted at Ballarat. It was alleged by the writer of an article in the Argus that one man had voted nineteen times for McGrath.
– If the Electoral Commission can only discover the name of the writer, we will summon him as a witness.
– His name was attached to the article, so that there should be no difficulty in discovering his identity. Personally, I am very anxious to meet the man who voted nineteen times for me. The investigation, however, disclosed that nothing of the sort occurred. I am content to allow the matter to rest there, and I hope that, if the Prime Minister has not slandered the people of Australia, he will take steps to see that one of his colleagues in another place does not again slander them. I wish now to say a few words concerning the Prime Minister and an address which he delivered a few weeks ago. To-day the Liberal party are appealing to the workers of this country, declaring that they are their true friends, and that if they are permitted to remain in office they will enact legislation which will be beneficial to the working classes. At some place near Melbourne a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister delivered what was to some extent his policy speech. He was addressing the members of the Independent Workers Union at the time, which, as we all know, is led by a gentleman named Packer. The secretary of that union, before whose members the Prime
Minister made a statement of what is called the Liberal policy, not long ago wrote a letter to the manager of the Tramway Company at Ballarat. At that time the tramway employes had just established their union, and rumours were abroad that they intended to go on strike. I may mention that married men in the employ of the Tramway Company were getting 30s. and 35s. per week. Mr. Packer wrote the following letter to the manager of the Ballarat Tramway Company
Independent Working Men’s Club Labour Bureau.
Club Rooms and Offices, 226 Flinders-street, Melbourne. 13th February, 1912. [Private and confidential.]
To the Manager of
The Ballarat Electric Tramway Co., Ballarat. Dear Sir,
The Executive Officers of the Australian Independent Workers Federation are keenly interested in the present position of the tramway employes throughout the Commonwealth. We are daily receiving communications from local tramway men. We are anxious to know if , at its present juncture, we can be of any service to you in the securing of relief labour in the event of any trouble occurring. We always have a large number of men of different trades registered on our employment list. Every effort is being made to weed out the undesirables. I will be pleased if you think we can assist you in any way, and will have a private interview with you at your convenience. Awaiting the favour of a reply,
Yours respectfully, (Signed) J. T. Packer.
This union is apparently under the distinguished patronage of the Prime Minister, and its secretary in that letter offered to supply men to the Ballarat Company to take the place of married men who were getting only 30s. per week. It was not to the electors of Australia that the Prime Minister announced’ the so-called Liberal policy, but to an organization which is admittedly composed of strikebreakers.
– I did not deliver a policy speech, and I did not address that organization.
– I have not said that the Prime Minister delivered a policy speech. I have not charged him with doing that. I said that he announced the so-called policy of the Liberal party. It is idle for him to deny that he addressed a meeting of which Mr. Packer was the chief officer.
– He was not.
– The meeting was composed of the independent workers. Mr. Packer is to-day the secretary of that organization.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister does feel a little ashamed of himself. The very fact that he denies having been associated with Mr. Packer - after hearing me read the letter which that gentleman wrote - shows that he still retains some of the feeling which animated him in 1890.
– All I know is that I am paying the workers better money than the late Government paid them.
– The Prime Minister declares that he is as good a unionist today as ever he was. He says that he believes in unionism which does not take political action. Yet the Independent Workers Union has decided to take political action, and Mr. Packer himself is to-day a candidate for the Liberal selection for the Senate. The electors of this State cannot be made too well acquainted with the actions of that gentleman, who, being in the pay of the Employers Federation, and with a few dupes around him, is ever ready to assist the employers and to prevent their employes from bettering the conditions of their daily labour. I feel very strongly about the action of the Prime Minister, who by his appearance at that gathering would lead the public to believe that he is to some extent favorable to the kind of tricks that the members of that organization play. The Arbitration Act is in existence - an Act which the Attorney-General has to some extent admitted he would try to wipe off the statute-book. Owing to the fact that that Act does exist, and that we were strong enough to beat Packer in Ballarat, these men who were getting 30s. and 35s. a week, are to-day getting £3 5s. and £3 7s. per week. I will leave the Prime Minister to reflect in his cooler moments upon his action in connexion with Packer’s union. When he does reflect about it, and remembers, after the exposure of that letter, the character of the individuals with whom he has been associating, I am sure that he will feel ashamed of himself for having had anything to do with a body of men who were prepared to fight to prevent men with families dependent upon them, and earning only a paltry 35s. per week, from getting an increase which they well deserved. This union of Mr. Packer’s, as we have absolutely proved, is subsidized by the Employers’ Federation, and the Prime Minister goes before them and tells them what the so-called policy of the Liberal party is. I have mentioned this matter to-night to show that the Prime Minister has fallen from grace since the days of 1890 by associating himself with these people.
– And the Prime Minister tells the honorable member, in reply, that he is treating the working men better than the other side have ever done.
– That has ever been the cry. I heard one honorable member on the other side declare that the Labour party’s platform was a platform of nostrums impossible to carry out. I heard that declaration made fifteen or seventeen years ago, and I have lived long enough to see every plank that the Labour party then advocated become an Act of Parliament. I heard the Attorney-General, the other night, deny certain statements made by the honorable member for Bourke, who charged him with having moved an amendment reducing to some extent the pensions which the old people in Victoria were getting. He denied the charge on that occasion, and he denied it again last night. He then asked for definite particulars. Let me give them to him. On the 25th November, 1903 - I am quoting from a pamphlet compiled from the Victorian- Hansard - a division was taken in the Legislative Assembly on the principal clause in the Old-age Pensions Bill. It is stated that -
This clause, proposed by the Government, was 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 £216,000 was paid during the previous financial year. The amount available was thus reduced by £66,000. This was a step in the direction of abolition of old-age pensions.
Forty-one voted for the reduction and thirty-three against, and included in the forty-one was the present AttorneyGeneral, who was then Premier of Victoria. In fact, the honorable member himself introduced the Bill. He denied last night that by any action of his he had reduced the money paid to any old-age pensioner, or rather he demanded from the honorable member for Melbourne the proof that he had done so by any action or vote of his. He said it could not be proved that by any vote of his he had reduced the pension of any old-age pensioner in Victoria. I put it to him now that if £216,000 was paid in one year, and the amount was reduced to £150,000 in the next year, while there had been rather an increase than a decrease in the population, there can be no escape from the conclusion that the amount paid to each old-age pensioner was reduced. As one who was living in Victoria at that time, I know that it was reduced. There were some other very unfair things that the AttorneyGeneral permitted in connexion with oldage pensions. He would not allow a justice of the peace to hear an application for a pension, in case he might be too generous. All these matters had to be heard by a police magistrate. If an old couple had been thrifty enough in their young days to acquire a home, they had, when they applied for the old-age pension, to hand the deeds over to the Victorian Government. Sons and daughters were brought to the Police Court to pay for the old-age pensions given- to their parents. I know some who had a wife and children to support, and not getting more than £2. per week, who were compelled by the law Courts of Victoria to pay 5s. per week towards the pension of their parents.
– One girl who was getting 14s. per week had to pay 2s. 6d. per week.
– All those things show how the old-age pension was administered by the* Attorney-General when he was Premier of Victoria. He says that we are to some extent unfair in our criticism of him.
– I have not said you are unfair in your criticism. I say I do not mind your criticism.
– That shows what a hardened sinner the honorable member is.
– The honorable member’s party, at any rate, say that we are unfair in our criticism of them in this matter, but I honestly believe that if that party secured a double dissolution, and by any miracle obtained a majority in both Houses, the old-age pension system of the Commonwealth would be in danger. I make that statement because of the utterances of tlie Attorney-General. In the Argus of 16th May, he is reported to have said at St. Kilda -
Upon old-age pensions £1,497,000 had been spent in 1910-11; in 1911-12 the expenditure was £1,988,000, or an increase of 33 per cent. He would regard it as a national calamity if the principle of providing for the aged destitute by gratuitous doles from the public Treasury of Australia were to be made a permanent part of our policy. (Loud applause.)
That applause came from the residents of St. Kilda.
– I have always said that, and I say it now.
– All right, we will take it as the policy of the party.
– I am sorry the Prime Minister is not present to say whether he indorses that statement, but I take it as the policy of the party, because I recognise that the Attorney-General is the real leaderof the party.
– I have always pointed out that it is my own policy, and not the policy of the party.
– I remember when the honorable member declared himself in favour of the referendum Bills, but when the Argus cracked the whip, I know what he did with his policy. He immediately followed his party, and became subservient to them. He has to-day declared that certain alterations in the Constitution are necessary. He has declared for an alteration of the constitution of the Senate, but not one man in his party has supported him, and he will have to submit to his party.
Colonel Ryrie. - How can he be subservient to his party and the leader of it at the same time?
– He has said that he repeats the statements that he made at St. Kilda. They are worth quoting again, especially these words -
He would regard it as a national calamity if the principle of providing for the aged destitute by gratuitous doles from the public Treasury of Australia were to be made a permanent part of our policy.
I look upon the old-age pension as an absolute right. I believe that the old people of this and every other country have been in their time the creators of all the wealth. They have never got a fair deal, and in giving them a paltry 10s. a week now we are giving back to them only a little bit of what they earned in their younger days. The Attorney-General insultingly refers to the old-age pension as a gratuitous dole. He does not refer in that manner to the large pensions which the Judges of this country are getting, nor to the Imperial pension which the Treasurer was receiving. Evidently the pension is all right if it amounts to a few hundred pounds per annum, but when it is only £26 per year it becomes a gratuitous dole that the Commonwealth is giving to our old people.
– When he got £2,000 from the Employers Federation, that, I suppose, was another gratuitous dole.
– We have dealt with that before, and I am sure the honorable gentleman must recognise the inconsistency of his speeches. When referring to one section, he describes them as the recipients of charity when they are given a very small and miserable pittance, whilst he knows that, on his own side, and associated with him, there are men who draw very large pensions indeed, and he finds nothing wrong with that. In the honorable gentleman’s opinion everything is wrong with the poor, and with people who, in their working years, cannot earn sufficient to enable them to save money for their old age. The average wage earned by the miners of the community is not more than 30s. a week, when we take into account loss of shifts and periods of unemployment. When the wife of such a man has five or six children to bring up, how can she put by a sufficient sum to keep her husband and herself when they have arrived at the age of sixty years? It is absolutely impossible for her to do so unless the little children are denied boots, or some of the necessaries of life.
– No wonder men leave Ballarat very quickly if that is all they get there. They ought to leave it.
– I have spoken of the average wage through the year.
– What do they get in the West ?
– About £4 per week.
– The average is more nearly £2 10s. per week.
– On the average miners do not earn a great deal more in the West than in Ballarat. Illhealth, loss of employment, and loss of shifts bring down the average wage. How is it possible for these people to live without assistance after they have reached the age of sixty years?
– Who is against it? We introduced old-age pensions.
– The party opposite are most fortunate. When they are charged with being opposed to something, and or.e of their number admits that he is opposed to it, there is always another to say that he is in favour of it, and that the party introduced it.
Colonel Ryrie. - The Liberal party certainly did introduce old-age pensions.
– Order ! I again appeal to honorable members on both sides to refrain from unnecessary interjections, which- unduly curtail the right of an honorable member to occupy the full time limit of his speech.
– I hope that the day is not far distant when our old-age pension will be increased to at least 12s. 6d. per week.
– There is a motion on the business-paper now by a Liberal member to that effect.
– I hope the time is not far distant when that will be done. 1 notice that to-day there is great expenditure going on in connexion with defence, and a great deal of the money is, to some extent, being wasted at a time when the old people of the country are unable to live decently on 10s. a week. I wish to say a word or two now on the question of day labour versus contract labour. I have listened to the discussion which has taken .place in this House on the question, and, in my opinion, the young gentleman who occupies the position of Honorary Minister and Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has cut a very sorry figure in connexion with this matter. He is the young man who, when the charges in connexion with the matter were first made, spoke of honorable members on this side as persons who should 3 attend a kindergarten. The honorable gentleman insinuated that we are babies in politics. He is the young man who determined to put an end to the daylabour system”. When the present Government were returned to power they made all sorts of charges of extravagance against tlie Labour Ministry and the Labour party. One of their charges was that, by the adoption of the day-labour system, the Labour Government involved the country in a great deal of unnecessary expenditure in carrying out public works. The Honorary Minister determined to put the matter to the test, and to prove that works could be constructed more cheaply by contract than by day labour. He believed that he had a golden opportunity in the construction of the transcontinental railway and considered that, if he let contracts for the construction of sections’ of that line, by the time Parliament met he would be able to prove to the people of Australia that the present Government were carrying on this great public work as efficiently, but far more cheaply, than it had been carried on by the Labour Government. I had my doubts when I saw the statement made that he would be able to do what he proposed, because I was satisfied that the building of railways by the contract system would not be found to be cheaper for the people. Knowing what had occurred in other parts of Australia in connexion with railway construction, I was surprised to think that any one could for a moment imagine that he would save money by building railways by contract rather than by day labour. I have here a report issued bv Mr. Rennick, late Engineer for Railway Construction in Victoria, in which he deals very fully with the question and makes contrasts between railways built by day labour and railways built under the contract system. The information contained in this report was available to the Honorary Minister. He could also have been informed of the experience in New South Wales and Queensland, and practically in every State of the Commonwealth. They have all had to build railways and -have had, at different times, to substitute the day-labour system for the contract system. The figures in connexion with day labour in Victoria are somewhat startling, not only as regards the reduction in the cost of construction, but when contrasted with the exorbitant demands made by contractors. In this State we let to contractors the construction of ten railway lines, totalling 384 miles, for £1,293,000. We paid the contractors £1,320,000, or about £30,000 more than their tenders had been accepted for. One would have thought that that would have been, sufficient, but it was not so with these gentlemen. They put in claims for extras amounting to £416,594. We had to submit those claims to arbitration, and it cost this country £30,000 for lawyers and other expenses incidental to the settlement. Although the contractors claimed £416,594 for extras, the arbitrators awarded them £111,000. The Railways Commissioners considered even this amount exorbitant, and, finally, the contractors accepted £70,000 in settlement of their claims. When employes demand an extra 2s. per week, we read in the newspapers of the outrageous demands of labour; but what will honorable members say to the outrageous demands of contractors, who, though they received £30,000 more than the amount for which they had undertaken to do the work, claimed nearly £500,000 more for that work? There are some figures given in this report by Mr. Rennick which are worth noting. Figures have been quoted to show that in Queensland, upon the same mileage of railway construction, no less than £2,000,000 was saved by constructing railways on the daylabour system. But it has been stated that that comparison was not fair, because of the different nature of the country through which the railways were built. That objection cannot be taken so far as the Victorian railways are concerned. The line from Charlton to Wycheproof, constructed under contract, cost the Government £5,229 per mile, whilst the line from Wycheproof to Sea Lake, through similar country, cost only £1,459 per mile.
– But they are two different classes of lines.
– Mr. Rennick, the engineer, in his report, is contrasting similar lines, and if there had been any exceptional difference between the two lines to which I have referred he would not have included them in the comparison.
– They go through the same class of country, but one line was fully equipped, and the other was not.
– The comparison is decidedly in favour of the day-labour system. There is one item, however, which ought to be mentioned in favour of the contractors, and that is that on some of the lines which will be quoted later, secondhand rails were used. On this particular line, new rails were used, and by day labour it was built for approximately £3,600 a mile less than it could have been built by contract. The comparison with the day-labour line is taken six years after it was constructed. That is to say, for six years the maintenance is added to the cost of construction, but even then there is a saving of £3,600 in favour of day labour. The line from Korong Vale to Boort cost by contract £3,831 a mile, while the line from Boort to Quambatook by day labour cost £1,733 a mile, that is, £2,000 a mile in favour of day labour. New and secondhand rails were used in laying that line. On the line from Quambatook to Ultima new and secondhand rails were used, and the cost of construction by day labour was £1,462 a mile, that is just £2,400 a mile cheaper than the line from Korong Vale to Boort. These figures are calculated eighteen months after the railway was constructed by day labour. The figures I am quoting for a contract railway relate to the time when it was handed over from the contractors to the Commissioners, so that the Department have been maintaining the line, in some cases, six years, and, in othercases, eighteen months, and the cost of maintenance is added to the cost of construction. From Murtoa to Warracknabeal, the line cost £4.465 a mile by contract, while from Warracknabeal to Beulah, the line cost £2,358 a mile by day labour.
– Are these two pieces of work comparable?
– They are nothing of the kind.
– I prefer to take the opinion of the engineer. These are not my figures that I am quoting.
– You know perfectly well that it is not a fair comparison.
– In this paper, the engineer publishes on one side the cost of the line from Murtoa to Warracknabeal, and his own contrast is the cost of the line from Warracknabeal to Beulah, and his statement is that the lines are constructed in similar country. The railway from Ringwood to Fern Tree Gully was constructed by contract for £7,357 a mile, while by day labour the line from Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook, with secondhand rails, cost £2,932 a mile.
– That is a narrow gauge line.
– Yes; but it is more difficult country though.
– The engineer makes a note that this line was constructed on the 2-ft. 6-in. gauge. However, the difference in cost of construction is £4,425 a mile. That is not accounted for by the fact that the line from Fern Tree Gully to Gembrook was built on a narrow gauge, but it is largely accounted for by the fact that it was built by contract. The line from Lilydale to Healesville cost £13,404 a mile by contract, while the line from Lilydale to Warburton - not built on a narrow gauge - cost £3,692 a mile.
– Both were constructed through the same class of country.
– Nothing of the kind. On one line there are miles of bridging, while the other line has no bridging.
– There is a difference of almost £10,000 a mile in favour of day labour.
– Are these lines equally equipped?
– Yes, in some cases.
– They are nothing of the kind.
– The comparison ought to be in favour of the contractors, because the comparison is taken from the day they handed the lines over to the Commissioners. I will now deal with the question as to whether there were extras put on the cost of the line when built by contract in comparison with lines built by day labour, as mentioned by the honorablemember for Wimmera. For clearing, grubbing, fencing, crossings, station gates and cattle-pits, earthworks, timber bridges, metal and gravel on roads, ballast by contract, sleepers, and laying permanent way, the total cost per mile by contract, eighteen months after the opening, was £3,729, while the total cost per mile by day labour, eighteen months after the opening, was £1,396.
– You quote these comparatively.
– I am only giving what I consider to be a fair comparison. These figures have been supplied to me by the Railway Department. It is true that the lines were built by the butty-gang System. In my opinion, there is nothing to complain about in the system. There is nothing unfair about it. It is a method of co-operation which the Labour party approves of. We do not want anybody to be employed on a railway who is not prepared to give a fair return for the wages he is paid. We decidedly object to sweating the individual and underpaying him. When these railways were built by contractors in Victoria, 5s. a day was the ruling rate of wages for navvies. To-day, however, under the butty-gang system in this State, the wage is 9s. a day, showing an increase of 4s.
– The honorable member might remember that under the buttygang system the men made rather low wages.
– I remember that under the butty-gang system, until the Labour party became a power in the State Parliament, there was no minimum, but as the party grew in strength it insisted, first, on 7s. a day as a minimum wage. The party said that if a man could not earn 7s. a day he was not fit to be employed on the work. Later, after strenuous efforts, the State Labourites got the minimum wage increased to 9s. a day.
– As a matter of fact, the Labour party have never been in power in Victoria.
– They hit the other fellow, though.
– I remember moving in the State Assembly some years ago, that the minimum wage be increased from 7s. a day to 8s. I remember every Liberal by his lips professing to support my motion, but we had to accept a compromise and take 7s. 6d. I remember having to fight the question again next session, and getting the minimum raised to 8s. In the following session we had to renew the fight with the same gentlemen, and finally we got the minimum increased to 9 s. a day.
– You could not have got it increased without the aid of the Liberal party.
– The Labour party may not have been in office in Victoria, but to some extent we were in power at that time. We had a very strong influence in the Assembly, and the fact that these railway proposals required the indorsement of the State legislators, and that the Ministerial party was anxious to get the Railway Construction Bills passed, enabled the Labour party to insist on a living wage being paid to the men engaged in building the railways, and the Government realized that, if they were to pass those Bills, they would have to agree to the insertion of a living-wage clause. That is how we got the living wage adopted in Victoria. I would like honorable members to listen to what the late Engineer-in-Chief in Victoria, Mr. Rennick, a gentleman who would not be biased in favour of the Labour party, has to say on the subject of day labour. That gentleman stated -
It saves in cost of construction by doing the work direct - without the intervention of the middleman - no Teesdale Smith could get into it - thus saving the use of his capital, his time, and his profit. Often, having little capital himself, the contractor has to pay high rates for use, without good security, of borrowed money. It saves waste or loss on plant beyond mere wear and tear. The middleman, through uncertainty of tendering, generally buys his plant dear, and has to hold it idle, or sell it at a loss to a dealer, after finishing his contract. This must always be allowed for in his tender. The Department, being a continual user of plant, can wear it out, and replace it at any time when the market for its purchase is favorable.
The contractor cannot always get a Minister so susceptible as the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, and he cannot always dispose of his plant, or pretend that he has got plant available on the spot, and so obtain a job from the Government. Often he has to dispose of his plant at a sacrifice on the completion of a job, and Mr. Rennick says that is one reason why we can get work done cheaper by day labour than by the contract system.
It saves in cost of management and supervision. With a moderate addition to the usual Government staff of engineers, supervisors, inspectors, &c, that are required on a large railway contract, a great portion of the cost of the contractor’s staff of engineers, supervisors, clerks, and managers, amounting to 10 per cent. or 12 per cent. on the cost of the works, can be saved by the Department. It saves in cost of preparation of contract, documents, plans, sections, drawings, specifications, and conditions, which must provide for every contingency and detail under the contract system. It saves the extras and concessions which have invariably to be allowed under the contract system, where alterations in designs, works, and materials are necessitated by unforeseen circumstances and contingencies in carrying out large works. It insures work of a desired or known quality, without slumming or concealment of defects. The Department, being a prompt and reliable paymaster, can procure labour and materials on more advantageous terms than the bulk of contractors; and the workmen, as a rule, will be better and more fairly treated, the Department having no interest to sweat them. The Department is ina position to secure and pay for the highest skill and most competent service obtainable, and to retain in its service picked men of the greatest experience in all branches of railway work. The employes of a contractor, when thrown out of work on the completion of a contract, must seek another employer, often in another line of business altogether. It is admitted that the departmental officers have not the stimulus of increased profit to make them drive and sweat the workmen the same as a contractor has, and it is only in this respect that the contract system may be claimed to be superior in cheapening construction. Contractors have, in many cases in the past, taken railway works at nonpaying prices, either through ignorance of the value of the work, or in the hope of making up losses by claims for extras and concessions. In such cases, and even in many others, where the contracts were obtained at paying prices, enormous claims for extras and allowances were “made against the Department on the completion of the work, involving it in heavy expenses in investigating or resisting and contesting such claims.
I have already read to honorable members the claims that were made by these contractors -
This policy, combined with the fall in prices of permanent way and other railway materials, and in labour, accounts for most of the reduction in cost of the later lines.
He refers to the lines built by day labour.
The economy due to the butty-gang system will account for no more than about 12½ per cent. on the cost of work formerly done under the large contract system.
I think Mr. Rennick is most generous in his estimate, but even then he admits a saving of 12½ per cent. in favour of the construction of railway lines by day labour. In view of all these facts, which are so easily ascertainable, I should have thought that the Honorary Minister would have hesitated before departing from the construction of railways by day labour. But even after he had departed from that principle, I should have imagined that he would have brought a little business ability to bear in connexion with the contract system. Surely the honorable gentleman ought to know that in letting the construction of a railway line to contractorshe was dealing with some very smart individuals. When the honorable gentleman was having business transactions with a man like Teesdale Smith, who has made his fortune by railway contracting, one would have thought that this young gentleman, who, when sitting on this side of the House, was always lecturing Labourites because of their lack of business ability, would have shown some foresight and ability in dealing with this contract. But, on his own evidence, he admits that no tenders were called, and that the contract will amount to at least £41,000 or £42,000. The honorable member has had to further admit that where tenders have been called for similar work in the vicinity of this railway, Mr. Timms, the tenderer, has undertaken to do the work for 2s.10d. a yard, while this same Teesdale Smith is getting in some cases as high as 7s. lOd. on the excavation he is doing. He has also had to admit that where earthwork has only to be removed for a depth of 1 foot, Mr. Teesdale Smith is to be paid 45s. per chain, whereas that class of work has been done in that locality by day labour for 15s. lOd. per chain. In view of these facts, which there is no necessity for me to argue, I am satisfied that the people of Australia will pronounce judgment on the action of the Minister. Honorable members on this side have been most generous in their attitude towards the Honorary Minister. They have imputed no dishonest motives to him; no one thinks he is getting a financial benefit from the contract; but I do not think such generous treatment would have been given to a Labour Minister had he done the same thing. There would not have been insinuations of dishonesty, but direct charges would have been made against him on every platform. I have a report, which has been sent to me from Yarram, of a speech delivered by the honorable member for Gippsland.
– I rise to order. I would like to ask whether the honorable member for Ballarat, in dealing with the daylabour principle, has not been ignoring your decision, Mr. Speaker, in view of the fact that the honorable member for Maribyrnong has given notice of a motion for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into that subject.
– The motion of which the honorable member for Maribyrnong has given notice is - .
That a Select Committee of this House consisting of three members of the Ministerial side one from the Opposition, and the mover, be appointed to inquire into the merits of the day-labour and contract systems, having particular reference to recent contracts.
So long as the honorable member for Ballarat does not traverse the terms of that motion, a general reference to the matter of contract and day labour will certainly not be out of order. The motion mentions no specific contract. The other matter raised earlier in the debate had reference to a specific subject which is on the business-paper; that is the distinction between that matter and the point of order raised by the honorable member for Barrier.
– I was about to refer to a speech alleged to have been made by the honorable member for Gippsland, and reported in the Gippsland Standard of Wednesday, 18th April -
People’s Party. A Disappointing Bally. “ There is no public spirit in the people in this district,” remarked a lady enthusiast at the. rally social held in the Yarram Mechanics’* Hall on Friday evening. The larger hall was requisitioned, in view of a big gathering, but events proved that the shire hall would have more than accommodated the crowd. The first disappointment was the non-appearance of Mr. Patten, the member for Hume, New South Wales, who was refused a pair in the House, and had to stick to his party. However, Mr. Bennett did not fail. At 8 o’clock, there were comparatively few in the hall, and, after half-an-hour wait, the chairman, Mr. T. G. McKenzie, proceeded with the programme. It was a “medley” calculated to draw. First, the Lyric Orchestra gave a couple of selections, followed by songs from Mrs. Howes and Mr. Sutton Jones. Mr. Mortimer Cox recited “ Weary Willie,” an appropriate piece, aptly illustrating the lower rung of Labour.
Later on in this report the honorable member for Gippsland is alleged to have made some most remarkable statements. He said that it was proposed to pass an Act through relating to lettergrams. I suppose that was part of the policy of the Liberal party. He also said -
So much money was unaccounted for, that the Government had established a Works Committee of the House to inquire into and report on all public works involving a large expenditure.
Similar remarks were alleged to have been made by the honorable member in his campaign, but when he was challenged in the House in regard to them he denied having made them. After the castigation he received here then, I think he should have hesitated before making any further charges regarding the disappearance of public moneys when the Labour Government were in power. This statement has been in circulation since the 17th December last, and I have not seen any public denial by the honorable member. Similar statements are made by honorable members who know that they are absolutely incorrect, and published in country newspapers, where we have not the opportunity of seeing them, and as they are not denied, the electors think they are correct, and say, “ Mr. Fisher refused to give the keys of the Treasury to the Auditor-General when he desired to audit the books.”
– That is a lie; and he knows it.
– Is the interjection of the Leader of the Opposition in order?
– I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw the interjection.
– My interjection had reference to a statement made by a person not a member of the House, and it is true.
– It is necessary to refer to these statements, because if there is no contradiction of them, people will think they are true. It is well known that the finances of the country were never better administered than during the three years of the Labour party, and for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth there was a surplus. There has not been a. Liberal Government in power in the States, or in the Commonwealth, that has not gone out leaving a deficit; but the Fisher Government left a surplus of nearly £3,000,000. Yet, in the face of the report of the Auditor- General to that effect, the honorable member for Gippsland still declares that there is much money that is not accounted for. The statement has not a scintilla of truth in it. One would imagine that Labour Ministers had taken the money, when, as a matter of fact, they did not handle a shilling of it. It all went through the public offices, and was checked by the Auditor-General to the last penny. I trust that, during this debate, the honorable member for Gippsland will take the opportunity of speaking concerning1 the statement that I have read out.
– You were put out last session for less than that.
– For a good deal less. I was put out for telling the truth. The honorable member for Gippsland is also reported to have said at Yarram -
Taxation under Labour rule amounted to £1 163., and in the last year of that Government had risen to £3 12s. 9d. per head of the population. In the first year of the Liberal Government there had been a drop of 8s. 9d.
Taxation did not increase to £3 12s. 9d. under Labour rule. With the exception of the rectification of a few anomalies in the Tariff, the only additional taxation the Labour party imposed was the land tax.
– The Prime Minister said that taxation had increased by £12.
– But at that time the Prime Minister was not responsible for what he was saying. Is not the honorable member for Gippsland aware, when he talks of a reduction in taxation by 8s. 9d. per head of the population, that the estimated expenditure for the current financial year is £5,000,000 more than the expenditure of last year 1 Is he not aware that a Government that came in to give us economical management of our finances, who declared throughout the country how extravagant the Labour Government had been, and how the expenditure had risen to £22,000,000 in one year, who said, “ We are business men, with commercial training, and we shall soon show you how to reduce expenditure,” in the first Budget they brought in,- had not only to appropriate the surplus left by the Fisher Government, but also to bring down a loan proposal of £3,000,000 in order to cover the increased expenditure for their first year of office ? In the face of these facts, can the honorable member for Gippsland tell his electors that the present Government have reduced taxation by 8s. 9d. per head? Even the Prime Minister, who has made remarkable statements about taxation, in his cool moments would not go so far as to say that, during this year, the Liberal Ministry have reduced taxation by 8s. 9d. per head; and I hope the honorable member for Gippsland will take the first opportunity of going back to Yarram, and correcting his statement. Of course, the report in this newspaper may not be correct. Though I am told that the paper has a very large circulation in Yarram, I have been informed that no denial of the report has ever appeared. Apparently, the honorable member is satisfied with it. He has had a long recess, and ample opportunity to go back to speak in this centre, or at least to send a corrected report to the paper. I should be very glad if he substantiated his statement. If he can do so, he will show that I have been telling electors at Ballarat what is not true. I have declared that every penny spent by the Fisher Government has been accounted for, and that this Government are spending £5,000,000 a year more than that Labour Government spent during their last year of office. I wish now to say a word or two regarding the cost” of living. The Ministry is pledged to reduce the cost of living, which, we have been told again and again, is due to the awards of Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, the increase of -wages having increased the cost of commodities.
The honorable member for Wannon said, in effect, that, unless wages were reduced, there wouldbe no decrease in the price of commodities. He was not game to declare that there should be a reduction of wages; but the meaning of his remarks was “ Reduce wages, and the cost of commodities will decrease.”
– That is not what I said. My words are upon record. I said that you cannot increase the cost of production and at the same time reduce the cost of living.
– That statement is not correct. The increase of wages has very little to do with the increase in the price of commodities.
– I was not referring to wages.
– I have here figures issued by the Commonwealth, from which I shall take a few facts. Boots have increased in price of late, the increase being generally attributed to the increase in the wages of those employed in boot factories. But, according to the statistics to which I refer, for every £100 worth of the manufactured article produced by tanneries, the workers got in 1908 13.1 per cent., and in 1911, 13.5 per cent. In regard to boots and shoes, the percentages were respectively 28.4 and 28.9 ; in regard to apparel, 30.7 and 28.7 ; in regard to hats and caps, 35.6 and 33.7 ; and in. regard to woollens and tweeds, 24.9 and 22.7. Those figures show that, in most cases, the proportion received by the workers has decreased, and that labour is increasing in efficiency. With the new machinery now employed, more wealth is produced now than was produced four or five years ago, and the production costs no more than it did. Yet, nevertheless, prices are continually increasing. We have been asked how we would prevent this. I have recently taken a trip to Western Australia, and there a Labour Government are making an honest attempt to deal with the question. The members of the Labour party have always contended that they are the friends of the farmers, and I challenge any one to point to a vote given or to a speech made by a Labour member which has not been in the interests of the farmers. Every measure that we have placed on the statute-book has been for the benefit of the producers. The
Labour Government of Western Australia were determined to show the farmers that they are their friends. Let me read a letter written by a farmer to the Minister for Lands and Agriculture in the Western Australian Ministry -
Woodanilling, Western Australia, 27th February, 1914.
Hon. T. H. Bath, M.L.A.,
Minister for Lands and Agriculture.
Dear Mr. Bath,
I have yours of the 24th of February, with reference to harvesting machine purchased from the State implement works.
I have pleasure in stating that it gaveus every satisfaction. We worked it in new and very stony ground, and never had any breakages; in fact, it never cost us one shilling for repairs.
Our machine is a six-feet cut; price (three payments), £7515s. The best we could get from the leading firms (three payments) for this size harvester was £115, so you see we have every cause for satisfaction here.
As a bona fide farmer I take this opportunity of thanking you and your colleagues for this, which means so many thousands to the farming industry.
I am, &c,
R. Bell, for Bell Bros.
The price of the Sunshineharvester with a 6-feet cut has now been reduced to. £112, so that the Government machine costs £37 less. I have no doubt that within a year or two it will be possible to sell these harvesters for £40.
– The Government factory is paying good wages.
– It pays better wages to agricultural implement makers than are being paid in Victoria, and yet its machines are being sold to the farmers at a price about 33 per cent. less than that charged for similar machines made by private enterprise. The farmers of Western Australia so greatly appreciate what is being done for them in this way that the Government factory cannot cope with the orders that it is receiving. Reapers and binders have not yet been made ; but the Government have taken the agency for the Acme reaper and binder, and sell it for £8 a machine less than any agent can sell any other imported machine.
– Is the Government factory paying?
– The Government have appointed a body of accountants to draft rules for the preparation of a balancesheet, which will show the actual cost of every articlemanufactured in the factory. Rent is to be charged, and interest on the capital invested ; in fact, the concern is to be treated as a private firm would treat its business. The manager of the factory assured me that, at the prices at which its output is being sold, the State is making a handsome profit. The Government of Western Australia have also taken up the question of meat supply. In Perth three men own the abattoirs, and the butchers have to come to them for supplies. The Government, making an honest attempt to break up the combine, chartered three steamers, one of which has not been too successful, and opened meat shops. The following statement gives the prices of meat since the Government took this action : -
A few months ago rump steak cost from ls. to ls. 3d. per lb., and ribs 7d. Generally speaking, there has been a reduction in all lines of nearly 2d. per lb.
– The honorable member is talking “ tripe “ now.
– The remark comes well from the leader of the wealthy party in this country to whom it matters not that many children may have no opportunity of getting meat. He can only offer an insulting interjection. This is a matter of much concern to the working classes, and ought to be considered quite free from party politics. If the Western Australian Government think they can break up the Meat Combine, the Commonwealth Government, unless they desire to play into the hands of the trust, should be anxious to listen to what is being done to solve the problem of cheap meat. The Government of Western Australia are taking similar steps with regard to agricultural machinery and the milk supply, while we in the Commonwealth Parliament stand helpless and hopeless, with practically no power to deal with the matter of prices. There are combines on every hand, and it is of no use the Prime Minister saying it is not proved that they exist. The manufacturers of manure in Victoria stated on oath, only the other day, before the Inter-State Commission, that they are selling superphosphates at £4 5s. a ton in Victoria, and charging only £3 14s. 6d. per ton for the same article in New Zealand. The Government profess to be friends of the farmers, and yet do nothing to assist them. It has been declared that the Ministry desire a double dissolution, but I sincerely hope they will not get one, and I do not think they have much chance. I always understood that one of the questions the Governor-General has to consider when asked for a double dissolution is the possibility of the party requesting it coming back with a majority. I feel sure that the Prime Minister could not convince any GovernorGeneral that the present Government could obtain a majority in the Senate, and no one knows better than that honorable gentleman and the Attorney-General that if it is necessary to have a dissolution - and I am with the Prime Minister if that be his feeling - the House of Representatives should be sent to the people at the earliest date. The Prime Minister has made up his mind not to bring forward any measures that might be of benefit to the people at large, though I can conceive of much legislation of that kind; but I can tell him that if it is proposed to repeal or interfere with the humanitarian and social legislation of the Labour party, we, as a party, are just as determined that the Government shall not do so. We should be unfaithful to our promises to the electors if we allowed the Ministry to interfere in any manner, except to better it, with the legislation placed on the statute-book by the Labour Government.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member was interrupted in the course of his remarks by points of order, and I think that he might be allowed an extension of time for five minutes.
– If it is the pleasure of the House to hear the honorable member for Ballarat a little longer, I am in the hands of honorable members. I point out, however, that it would be awkward for any occupant of the chair to exactly determine how long an extension of time an honorable member should have on account of points of order and other interruptions.
– Under the circumstances, 1 think the honorable member for Ballarat ought to be allowed an extra quarter of an hour.
– We have rules regulating the length of speeches, and if there is a desire to extend the time, there ought, in fairness to the Chair, to be some alteration of the Standing Orders, or some instruction conveyed in the Standing Orders to the Chair.
– Last session, when I was speaking on the occasion of the want of confidence motion, I had been pretty considerably interrupted, and it was moved by the honorable member for Grampians, seconded by another honorable member opposite, that I should have an extension of time, but I refused the privilege, in view of the standing order. That motion was, however, accepted by Mr. Speaker, and I believe it was carried.
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent that being done.
– That is so.
– I point out that it is quite possible that an interruption on a point of order may last for an hour if Mr. Speaker thinks it worth discussing, and it would be an absurdity and an anomaly, not in accordance with the intention of the standing order, if that were to be counted as part of the time occupied by the honorable member in possession of the House. I understood from the first that Mr. Speaker would use his discretion, and that if there was interruption, for which the honorable member addressing him was not responsible, some allowance would be made.
– Is it the desire of the House that the honorable member for Ballarat be further heard?
– No, sir.
– There being an objection, I must rule that the honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I desire, by way of personal explanation more than anything else, to offer an observation or two on the statements made by the honorable member for Ballarat. Before doing so, however, I desire to refer to an interjection made by the Leader of the Opposition in the words, “ That is a lie, and he knows it.” I wish to know where the honorable member got his information from ; and I must say that it comes with ill-grace from him, or any one else, to make such a reflection.
– It is the honorable member’s Sunday-school record !
– Such men as the honorable member for Gippsland should not lecture others.
– The record of my life will bear the scrutiny of the honorable member for Gwydir, or any one else. I have had the fullest criticism levelled at me, and members of the Labour party have exonerated me from any charges made. The honorable member for Ballarat was good enough to tell me that he intended to refer to some statements of mine made at Yarram, and, at my request, he courteously showed me a copy of a newspaper report. I pointed out that that report was considerably condensed, and that in the condensation the real matter had been somewhat clouded and the figures considerably mixed. I certainly thought that the honorable member would accept that as an explanation, and that nothing more would be heard about the matter.
– Did the honorable member correct the report?
– As a matter of fact, I had never seen the report until the honorable member for Ballarat put it into my hands to-night.
– False statements attributed to the honorable member go about, and he never attempts to correct them.
– The honorable member for Kennedy may or may not peruse the reports of all his speeches, but if he had a constituency like mine, in which there are 36 or 37 local newspapers, he would find it impossible to do so.
– What about the Yarram business ?
– If I might be permitted to continue-
– I wish to get this in; I ask the honorable member to explain his scurrilous attack upon me.
– Order !
– What about the Yarram business 1
– I trust that the honorable member for Bourke will not persist in his present attitude towards the Chair, otherwise there is only one course for me to take.
– I apologize. By way of personal explanation, I may say that I am very sorry to have offended in any way.
– Order ! The honorable member for Gippsland is in possession of the Chair.
– Cannot I make a personal explanation ?
– Does the honorable member for Gippsland wish to continue his speech?
– I do, if I am permitted.
– Then no other honorable member can make any remarks at this stage.
– Well! What about that lying statement?
– Order !
– I understand that the honorable member for Bourke desires to know why I made what he describes as a scurrilous attack upon him.
– That is right. I have never referred to the honorable member in my life. Why did he tackle me?
– I have not made any attack upon the honorable member..
– Then I shall go out. Read the local papers.
– AU that I did was to quote the honorable member’s own signed editorial as published in the Labor Call. I quoted his own words, and I fail to understand how it oan be urged that by doing so I made an attack upon him. If honorable members opposite quote against me only statements to which I have signed my name I shall raise no objection.
– This is the champion liar !
– I’ object to that statement.
– I call upon the honorable member for Bourke to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw, and am very sorry that I have to do so.
– The honorable member will rise in his place ‘ and withdraw in the proper way.
– Yes, I will rise and withdraw, but I regret that I have to do so.
– The honorable member, as an old Parliamentarian, must recognise that there can only be one result when he adopts such an attitude towards the Chair. I ask the honorable member to rise and apologize.
– Good God ! I have done so, and in the most abject fashion, I think, having regard to the person to whom I have had to apologize !
– I regret very much that the attitude of the honorable member for Bourke towards the Chair is one that obliges me to name him.
– Do not go to that length. I will do whatever is necessary. I apologize. There you are ! Is there anything more I ought to do?
– Order ! The honorable member for Gippsland will proceed.
– I am afraid that the explanation which I proposed to offer will not be as connected as I had intended it should be. So far as my recollection serves me, what took place at the Yarram meeting was that I stated that the revenue of the Liberal Government which preceded the Labour Administration amounted to £1 16s. Id. per head of the population, whereas that received by the Labour Government increased to £3 12s. 9d. per head of the population. I said nothing whatever about taxation. I spoke of the increase in revenue, and went on to show that the expenditure of the Commonwealth under the Labour Administration had increased to the extent of 33 per cent., whereas the increased expenditure of the Liberal Government, on’ last year’s Estimates - Estimates which were prepared by their predecessor, but for which they have to accept the responsibility - was only 8 per cent. I do not propose to speak at length, but I think it well to refer to one other matter mentioned by the honorable member for Ballarat. The honorable member made a comparison of the relative cost of railway construction under the contract and day-labour system.
– He only quoted Mr. Rennick
– No ; the honorable member for Ballarat made the comparison.
– The comparison he made appears in a report by Mr. Rennick, the engineer. “
– I have a personal knowledge of some of the works to which he referred, particularly the line from Murtoa to Warracknabeal, and that from Warracknabeal to Beulah. I wish it to be clearly understood that the line from Murtoa to Warracknabeal, which was constructed under the contract system, was complete in every respect. It was fenced on both sides, gates and gatehouses were provided at every crossing, and raised platforms and station buildings were also constructed. On the other hand the line from Warracknabeal to Beulah, which was constructed by day labour, was not fenced, no station buildings were erected, only small offices being provided. Then, again, neither gates nor gate-houses were placed along the line; so that a comparison cannot fairly be made of the expenditure on the two works. The one line was built, if I remember rightly, in 18S6, and the other about 1900. The earthworks on the line between Warracknabeal and Beulah were comparatively light. It was classed as a light line, whilst that between Murtoa and Warracknabeal was considerably heavier, and was classed as a secondgrade line.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– May I be permitted to speak of something of which I know, and of which the honorable member, too, may know something, although, as to that there is some doubt. The honorable member for Ballarat also compared the cost of the line from Lilydale to Healesville with the cost of that from Lilydale to Warburton. Those who have travelled over those lines will know, however, that, while the embankments and cuttings are practically the same in both cases, there are miles of bridge work on the railway between Lilydale and Healesville, and practically no bridge work on the Lilydale to Warburton line.
– There is.
– Those who have travelled from Lilydale to Healesville know that there is a long bridge across the Yarra flat, which must have involved a very considerable expenditure. When an honorable member sets out to make a comparison, he should take care that it is an honest one, and should tell the House in what respects the subjects of the comparison differ. I have made my explanation regarding the statement that I made at Yarram, and think I have also shown to the satisfaction of the House that no proper comparison can be made between the cost of constructing the lines I have named by day labour in the one case, and under contract in the other.
.- May I suggest that the Prime Minister agree at this stage to the adjournment of the debate?
– It is too early.
– Very well; I do not object to proceed. I propose to deal with the indictment made by the Leader of the Opposition against the Government that they have failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. The outstanding feature of the indictment is the charge of remissness in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract, about which we have heard something, although, apparently, we have not yet heard all that is to be told concerning it. Details have still to be filled in. 1 observe that the contract provides that the contractor shall receive 4s. 6d. per cubic yard for cuttings, and 2s. 6d. per cubic yard where the earth is carted lj chains. That is a rate which is altogether unprecedented. I noticed the other day that the Prime Minister supported this contract by comparing it with a similar contract which is being carried out by the South Australian Government, and by declaring that the same prices were being paid in each case. I find, however, as the result of inquiry, that the conditions obtaining in the two cases are not at all parallel. In South Australia, instead of 4s. 6d. per cubic yard being paid for ex- cavating cuttings, and 2s. 6d. per cubic yard for shifting the earth a distance of 1½ chains, the payment of 4s. 6d. per cubic yard covers the entire cost of handling. Where the 2s. 6d. per cubic yard is paid under that contract it is paid for what is known as side cutting for embankment purposes.
– The prices paid in each case are exactly the same, and they are paid for the same kind of work.
– I am advised that that is not correct. The cases are not at all parallel, because in side cuttings for embankment work shallow holes have to be cut along the route of the line. Where embankments have to be made these shallow cuttings are carried out in order to provide the necessary dirt. Where the soil has to be dug for the purpose of making embankments 2s. 6d. percubic yard is the rate usually paid. But for a contractor to be paid that rate for moving dirt that he would have to move in any case is simply outrageous. I do not care what are the actual terms of the South Australian contract, I maintain that the price payable under the Teesdale Smith contract is an excessive one, and one which is a reflection on the present Administration.
– It was the price fixed in open contract.
– I do not see how the Prime Minister can say that, because there was no open market about the contract at all. Indeed, certain other tenders which should have come to hand were detained somewhere, and did not reach the Assistant Minister for Home Affairs. It is true that that gentleman was advised by the exEngineerinChief that he could not do otherwise than accept the offer. But had he been a man of the world he would not have accepted such preposterous advice. The prices payable under this contract are fabulous ones, and I am quite justified in speaking strongly on the matter, because if there is any claim which the Government have made in contradistinction to the Opposition, it is that they are better business men and know more of the affairs of the world. I am prepared to admit that in many cases they do, and consequently we have a right to expect from them something better than is disclosed in this particular contract. Apparently the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs is greatly to blame, and so also is the Prime
Minister for having nominated such a man to administer the Department of Home Affairs. I consider that blunders of this sort in high places are crimes, in that they result in the same loss to the community. Though they are committed unintentionally, their effect is just the same as if they were committed intentionally. I repeat that in high places blunders of this character should disqualify a person for Ministerial office. It seems to me that the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has not taken his position seriously enough.We know that he is something of a social star, and it seems to me that he has worn the honours of his office as he would wear a rose. He has regarded it as something which would add a little lustre to his personality in the social sphere. He has not assumed the burden of his office with that degree of sincerity which we have a right to expect from him. In my opinion, the Prime Minister is also largely responsible for the error which has been made. It was made by a gentleman whom he himself chose from his followers for Ministerial office. It was open to him to obtain better men - men who would not have made such an error, and who would have prevented this bungle. That there has been corruption is very evident. I do not accuse Ministers of having been corrupt. But corruption has occurred somewhere in the Department, and, in justice to themselves, the Ministry should have the whole matter thrashed out. The incident merely serves to show the truth of Pope’s couplet -
For forms of government let fools contest;
Whate’er is best administered is best.
The main items in the Governor-General’s Speech are the two test Bills which we are assured are to be brought forward early this session - the one dealing with the prohibition of preference to unionists in Government employment, and the other with the restoration of the provisions for voting by post. The weakness of these Bills is so obvious, that one wonders at men of the intellectual calibre of the present Ministry indulging in such an effort to precipitate a constitutional crisis. The whole thing is so unreal. The Bill relating to preference declares that -
No preference or discrimination shall be made for or against any person in relation to any employment by the Commonwealth, or by any Department or authority thereof, on account of his membership or non-membership of any political or industrial association.
The whole purport of this Bill is that the Ministry intend to shut their eyes to all industrial organization in the community. They will take no stock of it at all. Incidentally, the measure will bar even the operation of our present arbitration laws, because those laws very wisely provide that, in cases of industrial disputes, the Courts shall have the right to say when and where preference shall be granted. But when this Bill becomes law, the Arbitration Court will be set aside, because no authority of the Federal Government will then be allowed to discriminate on account of membership or non-membership of any political or industrial organization. It will, therefore, cut across the right of any section of the community to appeal to the Arbitration Court for justice. Such a measure stands branded as being unfair to a large section of the public. It may penalize anybody who happens to be a member of an industrial union, after having previously provided that where in the opinion of the Court preference should be given it shall exist. I am not one of those who regard the words “ preference to unionists “ as a shibboleth, simply because it may tickle the ears of some who may not have thought clearly about what the words mean. I recognise that preference to unionists per se means nothing. To pass a law saying that there shall be preference to unionists would be to do practically nothing, because there are unions and unions, and there are disputes amongst the unions themselves. There must be some tribunal, some method by which various questions that arise shall be tested on their merits. There must be some power to say where and when preference shall be given. Therefore, any law of that nature must have certain qualifications. The qualifications that have been embodied in the Arbitration Act seem to meet the case fairly, andshould appeal to all right minded men, but, here again we have the Government laying it down that the Court shall have no effect. I am aware that they say that preference was given by a Ministerial edict during the, regime of the late Government. That is all right. We hold that preference to unionists, other things being equal, is fair and reasonable, and that any one who believes in it has a right to give it. If the present Government do not believe in it, then they have a perfect right not to give it, and they do not give it. At the same time, while they do not give preference, it is still competent for the Court to make an order awarding preference in the case of any body of workers who have had a dispute. If the Government pass this Bill into law, they place themselves beyond the pale of the Court, which seems to be an unjust and unrighteous thing. The Attorney-General shakes his head, but the wording of the measure is clear enough, that “ no authority of the Commonwealth shall grant any preference.”
– There is no Bill before the House at present which the honorable member can discuss in detail.
– I am merely quoting what it is proposed to bring before the House. If I am out of order it will not matter so much now that I have made use of it, but the measure is undoubtedly mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. The measure in any case is of very little effect. We all know that it cannot apply to those on the permanent staff of the civil service. The standards of examination which candidates must pass before they can be appointed by the Government are already set. It can apply only to the actual day labourers engaged. No attempt has been made by the present Governmentto carry their antipathy to industrial or political associations to the outside world - to the larger combinations of men throughout the community. If they are really serious in their desire to press this matter, why do they not bring in a wider Bill, saying that no preference shall be given on any consideration to any form of unionism? If they do that, we shall have something to deal with worthy of our steel. Then we shall be happy to meet those gentlemen, but this measure seems to be brought forward merely as a subterfuge. The Government are simply using the term “ preference to unionists,” and saying that they are out to stop the Labour party from ever having the power to give preference to unionists over and above any other class of the community, as a blind. I venture to predict that many members of the Government will go so far as to tell the public that they are out to prevent the Labour party from attempting to substitute the union ticket for the established examination in the case of candidates for admission to the Public Service. I do not know whether that has already been said or not, but I know that when some of those gentlemen opposite get very heated on the platform in outlying districts, where they are not so likely to be fully reported, they are bound to put forward the argument that this abortive measure– which, at the same time, is absolutely unjust in its effect so far as it goes - has been introduced to prevent the Labour party from substituting the union ticket for the intellectual qualifications required by the present standard of examinations. That is why they want to fight under the cloak of this Bill. They can trade on the term “ preference to unionists “ as a shibboleth. Such tactics are totally unfair. They might just as well bring iu a Bill to declare that in this country the means of production, distribution, and exchange shall not be nationalized, and go forth to tell the public that such a phantom measure has been introduced to prevent the Labour party from ever passing an Act to nationalize the means of production, distribution, and exchange - a project about which I personally have no ambitions at all at present. In fact, they might just as well bring in a phantom measure decreeing that no Government shall pass any Act annulling the present system of matrimony, and then go out and tell the people that such a Bill is necessary in order that the Labour party may be prevented from ever having the power to undo the marriage tie. Those things would be on allfours with the measure that I am discussing. We all know that, after all is said and done, little will be gained by this phantom measure, because, seeing that it has been easy for the present Minister to undo by administrative Act what the previous Minister did in the way of preference, there is no need for a Bill at all. As has often been said, it would be just as competent for a succeeding Labour Government to repeal this Bill if it ever became law, as it would be for them to cancel the minute of the present Minister. It is, therefore, so much moonshine to bring iu in the form of a Bill what has already been done by a Minister by administrative act. The Postal Voting Bill is another of the test measures which so to show that the Government are simply sparring for wind. They are re-introducing in their entirety all those sections of the Electoral Act which our party repealed when in power during the last Parliament, and are thereby seeking to make possible all those grave abuses which cropped up under the original voting-by-post provisions. I do not say that the Liberal party alone abused those provisions. I admit that both parties abused them, and, in the interests of common decency and public purity, the Act cried aloud for amendment. It is not necessary to abolish postal voting entirely, and it will be found that the Labour party are prepared to meet the Government on the question so long as adequate safeguards against abuse are provided. It is only fair that those who cannot get to the poll should be given an opportunity to vote. There is really no fight in these measures at all. The fight is all in the minds of the Government. It is not even apparent on the Ministerial benches. In. fact, there is no pretence of fighting there; and I think we are justified in asking the Government to get a move on and do something, instead of indulging in these fiddling tactics. They are only pretending to undo some of our legislation in order to get a cry on which to go to the public. It is time they gave this up, and got busy on something. Let them do something genuine and substantial, on which we can put up a reasonable fight, or something on which we can meet them and get some business done. The proposals that are being put before us are simply a waste of time. They tempt the Opposition, as they have tempted me, to get up and protest. I suppose it will be said that I am wasting time in protesting, but I think it necessary to do so. I notice that, iu the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, there are proposals to take over the State debts, or to discuss with the Premiers of the different States what is to be done in regard to that matter. It seems to me that that is a wise move. I have regretted for a considerable time the fact that there has been a tendency on the part of the Federal authorities to treat the State authorities with contempt. I have held all along that the States as sovereign powers are really superior to the Commonwealth in many ways.
– It may be unfortunate, but it is a fact, and while the fact remains, a wise Government will recognise the equal authority elsewhere, and treat it in a reasonable way instead of with contempt. I regard it as a satisfactory sign of the times that some rapprochement is likely between the Federal and State authorities which will result in satisfactory financial arrangements. There is also a proposal to settle the Murray Waters question. That has been crying for settlement for years past. Why cannot the Government introduce measures like these instead of putting up these phantom measures? Why can they npt come along with these proposals upon which we could meet, and get something -done.
– Why do not honorable members opposite give us the -chance ?
– The honorable gentleman asks why we do not give the Government the chance, but we know what his game is. Do we not see that the Government are putting up these phantom measures, which mean nothing, but with which they hope to go to the country pretending that they mean something, in order that they may beat this party with a shibboleth by diverting the public mind from real to shadow issues. It is time for us to protest when we see this mimicry and shamfighting going on. I notice that mention is also made in the Governor-General’s Speech of the Northern Territory, and brave promises are made as to what is being done. What is mentioned in the Speech is in absolute contradiction to the reports we receive as to what is actually being done in the Northern Territory. We are told that everything tried there has been a failure, and the Government are wiping out all trace of Labour administration in the Territory. They say that that is necessary before they can do anything there. Nothing will make me believe that everything done there by the last Government needs undoing. It seems to me that there must be a point in their administration from which the present Government can start. Whilst the Government make us promises in the Governor-General’s Speech, their actions in the Northern Territory are anything but encouraging. Another matter to which I might refer, though it is not specially mentioned in the Speech, has a bearing upon the intentions of the Government. References have recently been made to the management of the Commonwealth Bank, and its connexion with the Savings Bank business of the Commonwealth. It seems to me that there are possibilities in this direction. I was never an ardent advocate of competition with the States for Savings Bank business. I am quite aware that many honorable members of my own party take an entirely different view on this matter. I go so far as to say that if it were not for the fact that we are running a national bank that needs support there might be more to be said for the transaction of Savings Bank business by the Commonwealth Bank. But the Commonwealth Bank, as a national bank, should be our first consideration, and we cannot expect to get support for it from the State Governments whilst we are running a Savings Bank business in competition with them. It seems to me that in the interests of our National Bank we might forego the Savings Bank business in order to secure the patronage of the State Governments.
– Where is Andrew? How dare the honorable member criticise his Bank in this way?
– Honorable members on this side are not compelled to shut up even if their leader tells them to do so. We have no instructions on this matter, and members of this party are absolutely free on all matters that are not included in the party pledge. I can assure honorable members opposite that there are many matters to which Ave are not pledged. Anyhow, there is room enough for me in the Labour party, I am pleased to say, but I do not think there would be room for me in the Liberal party. Something like £S0,000,000 is collected in Australia, and this money should be filtering through the National Bank. There are big possibilities ahead of the Commonwealth Bank if it is given control of these funds. If that be” brought about as the result of some compromise in the matter of Savings Bank business, it will be something to the credit of the present Government, and will make some amends for the errors they have committed. I do not intend to speak at any great length, but I should like to say that I realize that, so far as special industrial legislation is concerned, Ave are not on a par with, but are well ahead of, other countries of the world. I do not charge the present Government with neglect of any down-trodden section of the community. I realize that offences of the party opposite in this direction belong to the past rather than to the present, and I am not prepared to indict the present with what is dead and gone.
– Does the honorable member not think that the AttorneyGeneral would do those things again if he had the chance?
– I do not think that, whatever his inclinations might be, any public man would have the pluck to-day to undermine the democratic legislation which has already been placed on the statutebook.
– The honorable member does not know the Attorney-General.
– I know that while the present Government have the power to undo all that we have done in this House they would not dare to do so. I have already pointed out that all they have attempted is a mere pretence at undoing something which we did. To me the question of industrial emancipation is to-day rather an academic question than one calling for anything in the nature of an upheaval. I think we may be all agreed on that point. When economic pressure has been real and intense almost to the extent of the extermination of sections of the community, strong men have always arisen who have gripped the situation, and have turned the tide in favour of the under dog, and often to the great disaster of the top dog. We in this country live in a clearer atmosphere, which enables us to think calmly.
– Which is the “ top dog” nowadays; which is the under one? It seems to me that they are both pretty even .
– I am not saying which is which ; but, if there is an under dog, and he is being oppressed to a great extent, he will soon turn the table and become the top dog. In Australia, the process has been in course for some time, and we have reached the stage when the question is rather an academic one than one to be fought by any great stress or strain. In this clearer atmosphere of ours, we should be able to think on straight lines. We all admit that a better distribution of wealth is wanted iu the country. We have done much, with the legislation we have brought to bear to secure a better distribution; but I make bold to say that there will not be any complete and adequate distribution of the wealth of the community until the key to that distribution which is the control of production is held by those who are doing the actual work. I do not think that that goal is to be arrived at satisfactorily, in our day and generation, anyhow, by extending the Government service to any great extent. I have often said here, that the more I see of Government service, the less I like it. For making our own requirements, by all means let us employ our own service; but to expect to emancipate the industrial community by that method is to me out of the question. I hold that the control of the means of production will secure to men more of the full results of their labour when they have the brain, the energy, the capacity, and the moral fibre to own and control them of their own volition, by their own free effort. The cooperative system seems to me to be the only way in which the working community can help itself to any more of the results of labour. The constant increase of wages must have an end. We all realize that we cannot be continually taking money from one pocket and putting it into another pocket. When everybody is on high wages, everybody will be spending more. I make no bones about my attitude in this matter.
– No cheers for this on the other side?
– I am not by any means alone in holding this opinion. While laying down these lines, I recognise that the working community is better off, and has been able -to save more money, notwithstanding the increased cost of living, as the deposits in our Savings Banks show. We all realize that political or industrial emancipation does not lie in that direction. There are other things to be done. The working community has to become a thinking, active business-like machine of itself, and, of its own volition and capacity, to control on its own behalf the means of production; and then it will be clearing and ploughing fresh fields and reaping its own harvest. It is of no use to attempt to change” the system without first becoming part of it. There is one direction in which our Government should have moved, and that is in connexion with the Government Departments. Where we are manufacturing to a great extent, where we are controlling the means of transit, or communication, or supplies, we should have invested those engaged in the industries with some re- sponsibility of management. During last session. I put forward a proposal to the Attorney-General that, so far as the Post Office was concerned, one of the solutions of the trouble was to appoint a tribunal chosen from the ranks of the servants themselves, as well as from outside, a tribunal to which appeals should be made, and which should have some say, at least by suggestion, in the management of that big Department. In my opinion, the men engaged in these industries must be invested with some responsibility, so that they will be able gradually to shoulder the, burdon. I do not wish to encourage a Democracy which will ever lean upon the Government. “We want a selfreliant Democracy which will learn to lean upon itself. That could be done by this Government - it should have been done by the last Government - in the way of investing men with more responsibility in the management of the industries in which they are engaged. In my electorate there is a Small Arms Factory, and I make bold to say that men are engaged there who know quite as much as, if not more than, is known by any one in charge of the institution. Let the Government create a board of control, chosen from amongst the men, and impose upon them the responsibility for the good conduct, the management, and output of the institution. By that means we would he doing much to ease the industrial unrest. In thiB and other directions I hope to see steps taken. “We are told that the Beef Trust is being met in certain parts of Queensland by the -simple process of men running their own establishments. “No one is going to object to the workers doing things for themselves, and the more they do it, the more they will come into their own. Bigger things may follow; but it is of no use trying to do bigger things first. While I realize to the full that the Beef Trust is an institution that requires nipping in the bud, I still recognise that if we prohibit Swift or Armour from dealing in Australia, we shall soon have to prohibit Smith, or Jones, or somebody else. We cannot restrict men from purchasing cattle in the open market. What we shall have to do, it seems to me, will be to protect the growers against themselves. The essential greed of men is such that, because good prices are offered, they are willing to sell out their stock before it has had time to multiply. They are prepared to undo themselves in this regard. I admit that Jones and Armour have no soul in this matter. What surprises me is that concerns which are controlled by such brains should lend themselves to the decimation of their own supplies. But they do it, apparently, and when the supplies are decimated, and they have the market in their hands, they are ruthless in their operations. Our effort must necessarily be, then, to protect the growers against themselves, and by export duties - which is all we can operate - to see that our stocks are not depleted. Our farmers are not the brainy men they are supposed to be, or they would take care to see that they did not deplete their stocks. That they will do so is inevitable ; and legislation is urgently needed in that direction. In regard to tlie farmers, we are told that the Government are against any inclusion of the rural workers under the Arbitration Act. That is an injustice. There is no possible solution in the present circumstances of unrest unless it is by way of the Arbitration Court. We must offer them that olive branch at least; and to deny any section justice at the hands of the Arbitration Court is to deny to the citizen what was granted by Magna Charter hundreds of years ago; the right to justice should not be denied to or withheld from any man. The rural workers have the right to justice, and it will do less harm to them to concede that right than to let this constant unrest continue. I told the farmers in my constituency it was high time that they put their heads together and set an example, or learned from the industrial community that by combination they would get strength, and would be able to control their own products to such an extent as to prevent them being fleeced as they are, and get better prices with which to meet increased demands.
Debate (on motion by Mr. P. P. Abbott) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at half-past 2 o’clock p.m.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m. .
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140429_reps_5_73/>.