5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) pro posed -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at half-past 10 o’clock a.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Military Forces - Financial and Allowance Regulations Amended (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1914, Nos. 83-37.
Tasmanian Mail Service - Agreement between the Postmaster-General and the Union Steam-ship Company of New Zealand Limited, and Huddart Parker Limited, for the conveyance of mails between Melbourne and Launceston and Melbourne and Burnie.
Debate resumed from 29th April (vide page 455), 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: -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fishes 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.”
– During the last fortnight honorable members have listened to a considerable number of speeches. This side of the House, it seems to me, has been called on simply to answer the charge contained in the few general words that the Leader of the Opposition wishes to add to the Address by way of amendment. He asks the House to declare that it regrets to have to inform His Excellency that his Advisors “ deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.” The charge levelled by that amendment is based mainly, if not solely, on the statements made in the Speech delivered by the GovernorGeneral to Parliament. If we refer to this Speech we find that it states that a considerable number of public works have been carried out by the present Ministry, and a considerable number of Bills brought before Parliament. Amongst other things, the Government managed last session to put through this Chamber a Bill to prohibit the giving of preference to unionists in Government employment, and a Bill to restore the postal vote provisions of the Electoral Act. The Liberal party, when before the country, told the electors that those Bills formed part of their policy, and a majority of the electors supported that policy by placing the present Administration in power.
– The main charge against the Labour party was extravagance.
– That charge has been dealt with, and I think that when another opportunity presents itself, the people will reaffirm their decision of twelve months ago, and return the Liberal party to power with a larger majority than it has now.
As to what has been done by this Government, as outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, let me mention first the arrangements for the transfer of the debts of the States to the Commonwealth. Every one who views our politics from the national point of view must admit that this is not a party matter, but one that concerns the whole people, and that the proposed transfer would benefit the whole community. An agreement has also been made for the abolition of dual control in connexion with the Savings Banks of the people, for the floating of new loans, and for the strengthening of the Commonwealth Bank. Surely our honorable friends opposite must applaud what has been done in this direction. Then the unification of railway gauges, which has been dangled before the people for so many years, seems now to be on the point of being arranged for. For that, this side is entitled to some credit, and I think that the people of Australia will give us that credit. With regard to the waters of the Murray, there has been on the part of this Government one of the finest acts of statesmanship that has taken place in Australia; I speak of the agreement with the States for the conservation and impounding of the Murray waters for the improvement of irrigation and navigation. Should the present Government have to hand over the reins of power to its opponents, it would be entitled to great credit for having brought about an agreement in regard to a matter of so much moment. What has been done will lead to an improvement of the land3 of the interior and greatly assist settlement. Do honorable members say that the Government’s proposals regarding immigration are not worthy of consideration ? Will any one affirm that we have now sufficient population in Australia? Is it not well that immigration should be dealt with by the National Parliament on national lines? We ought not, like dogs in the manger, to say, as honorable members opposite say, that the country must be kept for those who are here now. We should keep this country for Australians, and for persons of our own. flesh and blood who may be willing to come here from the other end of the world to help us to build up a great nation. We have room here for millions more than our present population, and it is only by systematic immigration, encouraged and controlled by the National Parliament, that we can build up the nation that we hope for.
The Governor-General’s Speech promises a Bill for the control of combines affecting trade, and if our honorable friends opposite give us the opportunity, it will be introduced.
– The Labour party was in power for three years and did nothing. Its motto was not “ byandby,” but “never-never.” Have the Opposition any fault to find with proposals for dealing properly with defence? The report of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice on Westernport and the Naval Bases should lead to the saving of hundreds of thousands of pounds. If it is followed the money spent on defence will be expended in the right direction and not wasted, and everything done under our defence schemes will be on practical lines. There will not be the frittering away of thousands of pounds that we see taking place in other countries.
The development of the Northern Territory is also touched on in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and if we are given the opportunity, there will be reproductive works there to enable the people whom we are enticing there, and those who are there, to have a better chance of making progress.
The mention of the transcontinental railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta shows that the Government are sincere in continuing that great national undertaking. I understand that there are 150 miles of line already completed.
The main line of attack on the Government is in regard to the Teesdale Smith contract, and when the whole of th’e speeches delivered on the censure amendment are boiled down the sum total of the charges made is that, because, possibly, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs has made a small error - which is questionable - in regard to administration, the Government should. hand over control to the other side. I ask honorable members opposite whether the exMinister of Home Affairs - the honorable member for Darwin - had he been in charge of the Home Affairs Department, would he not have acted in a similar way, had reports and information been furnished to him in the same manner as they were furnished by Mr. . Deane, the EngineerinChief of Commonwealth Railways, and Captain Saunders to the honorable member for Wentworth? What would have been the attitude of the people of Australia and our friends opposite if the honorable member for Darwin had said, “ Although my advisers advised that we should give this contract for this intermediate portion so as to construct the line at once, because time was the essence of the work, and that, if this particular piece was not carried out, other great national works on the route would be held up, I did not accept their advice ? “ As a matter of fact, in the circumstances, they would have applauded him for adopting the same attitude as the honorable member for Wentworth adopted.
Although we have had this flood of oratory from the opposite benches it has only had the tendency of delaying the business of the country. If honorable members are sincere when they say that they wish to get on with the business so that we may go to the electors, the censure amendment should not have been tabled. Seeing the peculiar constitution of this House, it is only right and proper that, instead of delaying business by tabling a censure amendment, honorable members should be prepared to go to the electors, who are our masters, and give them the opportunity of saying whether they desire a continuance of the present rule or not. I am afraid the people will say that it is a case of -
I am the King of the castle,
And you’re the dirty rascal, and that whoever gets into office, others wish to pull him down. They will regard it in the light of a few individuals trying to get back to an exalted position where they had made themselves very comfortable, who were very surprised at being turned out, and would like a further period of office.
– It was love of country.
– I think it was a case of love of office. No doubt the honorablemember, if he had the opportunity, would be an aspirant for one of the seats on the front bench.
– Why not? I have done more for the country than you have done.
– Assuredly the honorable member would rule the country and control the whole of the public works with satisfaction to himself - if he had the chance.
Let me deal with some of the administrative works of the present Government. First of all, in regard to the Northern Territory, they are not erecting freezing works, but are negotiating with private enterprise; they have abandoned the idea of a Government laundry; they have reduced the number of officials, and have abolished the offices of Director of Agriculture £650, Director of Lands £800, Inspector of Schools £500, and Chief Protector of Aborigines £600.
– They got rid of everybody they suspected of having Labour tendencies.
– Were all those Labour sympathizers?
– I cannot say whether they were all Labour sympathizers. I leave honorable members opposite to answer that question. The Government have called for tenders for rails and sleepers for the Pine
Creek to Katherine River railway. The only appointments made, so far asI can ascertain, are the appointment of a mining engineer, and the appointment of an officer in connexion with developmental works. I have had conversations with the Minister and with officials of the Department, and I find that a scheme proposed for the development of the Territory is one that commends itself to me, and I think it should to honorable members. The Government have initiated a scheme of cross country railways to connect with the western Queensland system - a national undertaking - and are dealing with the question of opening up stock routes, putting down bores to make the country trafficable, and providing a battery, to cost several thousand pounds, to aid the mining industry. By these means we shall probably find population attracted to the Territory, instead of being kept away as it was during the term of the Labour Government. The money expended in the Territory is directed to the development and opening up of the country; and we shall find probably the miner and the grazier as the pioneers, with the farmer to follow. Under the scheme initiated by the Labour Government, farmers were attracted in small numbers, but while they could obtain certain lands, and were able to raise produce, they found no market available.
In Papua, Mr. Keele, of the Sydney Harbor Trust, has reported on wharf extension, and his report is under consideration, while the railway from Port Moresby to Astrolabe is being surveyed.
As to the Panama Exposition, our friends opposite should be gratified to know that the Commonwealth is to be represented, with Mr. Deakin as chairman of the Commission.
In the Home Affairs Department, which the Opposition, during the last few weeks, have attempted to drag in the mire, we found one of the first administrative acts of the present Government to be the abolition of preference to unionists in Government employ - a determination to give equal opportunity to all and special privileges to none. We are told by honorable members that there must be preference to unionists for two reasons, namely, to prevent sweating, and to keep up the rates of wages. But sweating does not occur in the Government service, because the hours are fixed, and, as to wages, the Government, who have no competitors to placate, fix their own rates. This disposes of the two objections to the abolition of preference to unionists, and the only reason remaining for its maintenance must be a political reason, and for political purposes, and nothing else.
– The man who does not look after his friends ought to be kicked !
– The honorable member for East Sydney evidently believes iu the old policy of “ spoils to the victor,” a policy which he would be prepared to perpetuate.
The Government have also substituted contract for day labour, and have marked the departure by accepting an offer for work on the transcontinental railway. Our friends opposite have not much to say in this connexion now; but it seems to me that, whether the Honorary Minister made a mistake or not, he did precisely what any other person would do in a similar position with expert advisers to guide him. We now find the contract principle adopted wherever practicable in preference to day labour in Government works. As to the TeesdaleSmith contract, it has been asserted that it does not contain the ordinary business provisions in regard to breaches. Honorable members will see, however, that although the contract amounts to only £30,000 or £40,000 the Government hold £1,000 deposited by the contractor, that only 90 per cent, of the actual money earned is paid over to the contractor, and that a fine of £5 a day is exacted for any excess of the contract time. Assuming that the work amounts to £40,000, there will be £4,000, or 10 per cent., retained by the Government, and if the work is not finished until six months after the specified time, the contractor will have to pay £750 in fines. These sums are in addition to the £1,000 deposited.
– The £1,000 is not’ a penalty at all.
– The Crown Solicitor says it is, but the “ bush lawyers “ opposite say it is not.
– It was an honorable member opposite who gave the estimate of £750 in fines; and assuming that to be correct, the Government will have in hand £5,750 on this contract of £40,000.
– It could not be impounded.
– No doubt the honorable member for Gwydir, who is a “ bush lawyer “ - very “ bush “ - would be prepared to dictate to this House, and to the Attorney-General, as to the law on the subject.
– I have beaten better men than the Attorney-General in the Law Courts.
– Evidently the honorable member for Gwydir is getting “ out of his cage “ again, but I ask to be allowed, to proceed.
The present Government dismissed Mr. Chinn from his position on the transcontinental railway, and have grappled with the Federal Capital question, appointing Mr. Griffin to superintend the carrying out of his design connected therewith. Mr. Bell, who comes to us from Queensland with big credentials, has been appointed to the position of EngineerinChief on the transcontinental railway, in succession to Mr. Deane; and there has been passed, in spite of a certain amount of opposition, a Public Works Act, for the appointment of commissioners absolutely free from political control, so that the expenditure on national works will be safeguarded. The electoral system has been re-arranged; and in this Democracy of ours a fundamental principle of parliamentary representation is, it seems to me, to have the Electoral Act in proper order. Do my honorable friends approve or disapprove of the appointment of permanent Divisional Returning Officers? Applications are being invited for these positions, some of which have been filled; and the successful candidates will be stationed permanently in particular electorates, and be held responsible for clean rolls and clean administration of the Act - in short, the Government have set themselves the work of cleansing the Augean stable.
The Government have been charged with doing nothing in regard to the Customs Department; but, as a matter of fact, an Inter-State Commission and staff have been appointed to correct anomalies and remove hardships under the Act, and are at present doing good work.
As to the Sugar Excise and bounty-
– Is the honorable member a Free Trader or a Protectionist?
– I am not like my honorable friend, a cross-bred. I do not mean that in any insulting way, but some people-
– Is the honorable member a Free Trader or a Protectionist?
– I shall not allow the honorable member to draw a “ red herring “ across my track. The Government have collected the sum of £150,000 in Sugar Excise, which was outstanding to the Labour Government.
– What is that?
– The honorable member says that the Government have corrected the bungling of the Labour Government, and collected revenue which was outstanding.
– That is not what the honorable member said.
– For the benefit of the honorable member for Barrier, I repeat that the Government have collected £150,000 in Excise revenue which was outstanding to the Labour Government when they left office.
– That is absolutely wrong - a misstatement.
– It is absolutely right.
– This is a very unpleasant subject, no doubt, for the honorable member for Yarra, who was the Minister responsible.
– Why, it was I who pointed out the blunder to the present Government.
– I admit that it is perhaps better these matters should not be stirred up, but, at the same time, the people of Australia have a right to know the facts.
– We shall see that they know them. The Minister of Trade and Customs does not desire that much shall be said about the matter.
– There is nothing to be ashamed of in correcting your mistakes.
– Order ! I ask that the honorable member be permitted to proceed without interruption.
– No doubt these home truths are not quite palatable to our honorable friends opposite. Truth is stranger than fiction, and when we quote these figures, which cannot be disputed,the Opposition feel the pinch.
I come now to the question of oldage pensions, which must appeal to every right-thinking man, whether he be on the Liberal or the Labour side of the House. The payment of old-age pensions is one of those acts of true Socialism, in the proper acceptation <of the term, which tend to uplift us as a nation, and the proposal by the Treasurer, now, if possible, or at a later date if our honorable friends will allow us, to introduce a Bill to increase the pensions commensurate with the increase in the cost of living - must commend itself to all parties.
– The honorable member’s leader says that the cost of living has gone down.
– The honorable member for Gwydir no doubt would like to have the honour of being with the party introducing an amending Bill to provide for the payment of higher pensions. We are honest in regard to this proposal, but the Opposition would like to throw dust in the eyes of the people. They would have them believe that we are not sincere. The people, however, know that the Liberals have always worked to uplift their fellow men, and, when the opportunity offers, we shall show our sincerity In a practical way.
I have no desire to monopolize more time than is absolutely necessary, and I shall, therefore, turn now to the question of defence. This Government, soon after taking office, obtained the services of Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice, and, as the result of his report in regard to the Naval Bases at Westernport and Cockburn Sound, it has effected a saving of expenditure to the extent of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Defence works will now proceed along proper lines, without any of that frittering away of money that was taking place when the present Administration assumed office. Then, also, we find that Senator Pearce, as Minister of Defence, made provision for the erection of residences at the Naval College at Jervis Bay at a cost of as much as £10,000 each. The present Administration has decided, however, to erect less expensive residences - residences which, while being on a less sumptuous scale, will still be quite sufficient for the purpose. Better treatment is being meted out to the future defenders of this country - the cadets who have to attend drill under our universal training system. In parts of my electorate, where we have frost and snow, boys of tender years, in common with others living in country districts throughout Australia, are compelled, in some cases, to travel a distance of 5 miles in order to attend night parades. Those boys were provided with only an ordinary pair of trousers and a woollen shirt, by the late Administration. In many cases, their parents could not afford to buy overcoats or macintoshes for them, with the result that they were often drenched through to the skin while attending parades and drills, and had to walk home 4 or 5 miles in that condition. I am pleased to say that the Minister of Defence has now authorized the issue of a cape to each of these boys. Our cadets have always worked loyally; they will now carry out their duties with far more comfort than was previously possible.
A step in the right direction has also been taken by the Minister with regard to the Light Horse Regiments - a line of defence of which we are justly proud. Whilst the Labour Government were in office, these men received a horse allowance of only £1 a year. Each man has to find his own horse and shoe it, and, in many instances, provides his own saddle; yet all that these men received under the late Administration was £1 a year in excess of the amount paid to the Infantry. A new regulation has been issued by the present Minister of Defence, under which they are to receive £4 per annum, instead of £1 per annum as heretofore, for horse allowance.
In the Governor-General’s Speech we are also promised that a comprehensive naval and military pension scheme will be introduced by the Government as soon as the tactics of the Opposition will permit. Honorable members opposite are our detractors, but I suppose that they will, at least, give us credit for carrying out the Defence Act, and the regulations under it, in a proper spirit. In spite of a certain amount of opposition, the system is being maintained. The taxpayers have to find the necessary funds; they have to nurse the baby, so to speak, and to a considerable extent they are feeling the pinch ; but they know that they are getting something in return. I may be pardoned for quoting the eloquent words of Sir John Colomb, who wrote, in 1906-
Resolute and persistent purpose, necessitating sacrifices during long years of peace, preserves empires in war, which can be neither prevented nor prosecuted with success by child-like trust in thu last man turning uput the last moment with a shilling in his pocket.
And so the system of defence is being grappled with by the present Administration. The people are looking to us to carry it out effectively, and, if the present Government remain in office, they will soon see that we have no intention of doing anything that is calculated to make the service less effective.
Coming to the Post and Telegraph Department, I learn that it is proposed to introduce a Bill to place the Department under Commissioners; and that the re-organization of the telephone system throughout New South Wales, which is very badly needed, is to be expedited. So far as the country constituencies of Australia are concerned, there is no stronger cry than that for the provision of improved telephonic facilities. Many and many a life would have been spared in up-country districts had there been a prompt means of summoning a medical man. The people are prepared to pay for what is not a luxury but a necessity, and, that being so, the Department, as the purveyors of these different systems, must encourage the construction of telephone lines throughout the country. Four additional central telephone exchanges and nine automatic exchanges are to be installed in Sydney, and these, when completed, will give us one of the best systems in the world. The Ministry have liberalized the conditions under which telephone lines can be provided in country districts. They have agreed to be.ar a considerable part of the loss, and the Department is pushing out these lines to the farmers and settlers. Long may they continue to do so.
– New South Wales is not-
– I shall deal with the Beef Trust later on. I did not hear what the honorable member said, but I presume he was referring to the Beef Trust. I did not catch his remark, but I am sure that he is quite right.
– That is more than the honorable member is.
– I am prepared to admit when I am not right, but my honorable friend opposite, although often not right, has not enough brains to recognise that fact.
We find that the work of the telephone branch in New South Wales is two years behind, the Department having been unable to obtain experts. I do hope that some extra effort will be made to put that Department on a proper commercial basis. Although I do not advocate the private control of telephones, it is a fact that in the United States of America, when an application is lodged for the erection of a telephone line - even in the rural areas - the work is commenced within a week, and is carried out with expedition. I am glad to say that a good many of these lines in the Commonwealth are now being erected by contract, and that under that system we are getting better results than my honorable friends secured under the system of day labour. If local residents will undertake the erection of country telephone lines according to Government specifications the Government will now defray the cost of the works. It has occurred to me that it would be a good scheme to advocate that shire councils and other local bodies in the different centres should carry out these works, and that the Government should pay for them. That is all I have to say in regard to matters of administration.
During this debate quite a number of speeches have been delivered in regard to trusts and combines. Now the first combine with which I intend to deal is the Tobacco Combine. We know that during the past twelve months the tobacco growers in Australia have been much agitated because they have been unable to obtain a market for their produce. In the Tamworth district in my electorate, I have attended meetings of different associations with a view to discovering why the Tobacco Trust will not purchase the Australian-grown leaf. I am satisfied that one reason is, that while we are undoubtedly able to produce leaf of the requisite quality, the process of harvesting and drying that is adopted here is not all that it should be. I have seen leaf that had been dried in an ordinary open barn, almost worthless for manufacturing purposes. Our people require to be educated to the fact that the leaf must be properly harvested and cured. But is there any other reason why the locally produced leaf is not purchased by the Tobacco Trust? I find that in the Tamworth district during 1904 there were 153,476 lbs. of leaf grown, whilst last year, in the same district, the production amounted to 776,192 lbs. The Tobacco Combine affirms that the quality of the leaf is bad. It we overcome that defect, and if we then find that the combine is not prepared to give the growers a fair deal, the matter is one which will merit the serious consideration of this House, and I hope that in such circumstances we shall get the support of the Opposition. It will then become necessary for us to decide whether it is not advisable to reduce the Excise on the home grown leaf and to increase the duty on the imported leaf. If we wish to keep the industry going that is a question which will have to be grappled with. I trust that ere long this promising industry will be placed upon a proper footing, so that the growers will obtain a reasonable return for their labours.
– Not now, O Lord, but by-and-by.
– No doubt my honorable friend would like to monopolize the whole of the time of this Chamber, but, fortunately, the rules governing our debates prevent that.
Some of us know a good deal about the Beef Trust, and I wish to place before the House some figures which will provide us with food for thought, and will, perhaps, enable us to deal with this difficult question better than we have dealt with it hitherto. I quite admit that foreign trusts are operating in Australia. Since they have commenced to operate here I am free to confess that the price of meat has increased considerably, and that there is a likelihood for some time to come of the prices of stock being greater than they have been. But up to the present moment nobody can justly affirm that the operations of these trusts have been harmful to any person or any body of persons in the community. Indeed, they have in every instance been of benefit to the people of Australia. I admit that the prices of meat for home consumption have increased. The honorable member for Oxley said the other night that owing to the operations of the Beef Trust twenty butchers’ shops had been closed in South Australia. He also stated that in Western Australia, where the meat trade is controlled by the Government, meat was being sold cheaper than it was in South Australia.
– I did not say that.
– In regard to the shops which have been closed in South Australia, I find that recently the municipal council there took over the control of the abattoirs. The butchers who formerly killed in their own abattoirs are now under municipal control, and as a result several of the smaller men who had not the capital necessary to pay for this treatment have been forced out of the business. Upon every beast that is now slaughtered in Adelaide there is a charge of about 25s. for killing. I admit that the prices of stock have been abnormally high, and that the little men who were not possessed of the requisite capital have been obliged to go out of the butchering business.
In regard to the price of meat, I find, from the Commonwealth Statistician’s publication, that between July and September of last year, sirloin of beef sold at 7d. per lb. in Sydney, 6½d. per lb. in Melbourne, 4½d. per lb. in Brisbane, and 6d. per lb. in Adelaide, whereas in Perth, where the trade is under Government control, its price was 7d. per lb. In other words, the price of beef in the Western Australian capital was the highest in the Commonwealth. For rump steak during the same period the prices were as follows: - Sydney, 9½d. per lb.; Melbourne, 9d. per lb.; Brisbane, 6¼d. per lb. ; Adelaide, 8½d per lb. ; and Perth,11½d. per lb. So that the price of rump steak in Perth was 3d. per lb. higher than it was in Adelaide. The corned round-
– Those figures are faked.
– I beg my honorable friends to do me the justice of believing that I am trying to put the position fairly, and will give chapter and verse for everything I say.
– Where do you get your figures?
– I refer the honorable member to the Pocket Compendium of Commonwealth Official Statistics, issued by Mr. Knibbs, page 123.
– Those are the figures to the end of 1912.
– They are the figures for the months of July to September, 1913. With regard to the prices of the corned round-
– I am afraid I shall have to interrupt the honorable member. He is now going into details in connexion with the high price of meat, and I see that among the notices of motion on the business-paper of the House there appears a motion in the name of the honorable member for Oxley containing the following words, “ And also to protect the consumer against the extortionate prices now being charged for meat.” I am afraid that in the circumstances I am compelled to ask the honorable member to refrain from going into details on that subject.
– On a point of order, sir, I submit that there must surely be some mistake. We all listened last night to the figures quoted by the honorable member for Ballarat, who went into all kinds of details regarding prices.
– He was pulled up.
– Not on that matter. The honorable member for New England is now giving the reply to those statements.
– I must confess that if that was so it certainly escaped my observation.
– It was not so.
– If it has been done in one case, it makes it somewhat difficult for me to enforcethe standing order in another case. It may have happened during my temporary absence from the Chair.
– The Prime Minister is wrong.
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in interrupting the Speaker. If I had heard the honorable member for Ballarat going into all the details about prices I should certainly have reminded him of the notice of motion standing in the name of the honorable member for Oxley, but I was not aware that he did so. I must ask the honorable member for New England to refrain as much as possible from going into details on the subject.
– The honorable member is not dealing with extortionate prices. He is dealing only with the prices that are payable to the producers.
– The honorable member for New England is dealing with the figures in a way entirely different from what I did last night.
– Hear, hear! He is giving the facts.
– That is not so. When dealing with this question yesterdayI dealt only with the prices in Perth. I made no comparison between Perth and other cities. The honorable member is now going into a detailed comparison.
– Had I observed that the honorable member for Ballarat was going into details with regard to prices I should have felt bound to intervene. The honorable member for New England has certainly gone into several very detailed statements on the subject, and I must remind him that, under the terms of the standing order, he cannot proceed along those lines.
– Without giving the detailed figures, I may state that the position is that of all the capitals of the States of the Commonwealth, including Hobart, in Perth - the one city where a great portion of the retail meat trade is controlled by the State Government, having been handed over to a State Department, which is working somewhat on the lines of the Harbor Trust in New South Wales - one class of meat is 3d. per pound dearer, and other classes of meat are 2d. per pound dearer than in the other capitals of the Commomwealth. It is admitted that the operations of the combine do not extend to Western Australia, so that the argument that has been advanced in that regard accounting for the rise in price is not applicable. Although I am not permitted to quote the prices of corned round, leg of mutton, and loin chops, I may say that the same difference of prices exists. In every case Perth tops the retail price, and the question of quality has also to be taken into account.
In seeking to ascertain the reason why meat is dearer in Australia, we must remember that to-day we have only 10,000,000 more sheep in the Commonwealth than we had eleven years ago, and we have only 3,000,000 more cattle than we had ten years ago. As a matter of fact, there are fewer sheep in New South Wales to-day than at any time during the past twelve years, while the 1,000,000 more cattle in New South Wales today than we had twelve years ago are largely made up of dairy cattle, so that the number of beef cattle in that State to-day is practically the same as it was then.
The forces that are operating to raise the price of meat in Australia are manifest. In 1901 the export of mutton and lamb from the Commonwealth amounted to only £726,186 worth, while in 1913 it amounted to £2,896,532 worth. Four years ago the value of the export was £1,231,035. During the last four years the export of mutton and lamb has doubled itself, and between 1901 and 1909 it also doubled itself.
Of frozen beef we exported in 1909 £733,210 worth, and in 1913 £2,652,275, or nearly four times as much. Do not these figures largely account for the extra price of meat to the consumer in many parts of Australia to-day? In order to pay our national debt it is necessary to export beef, wool, and wheat, and the higher the prices we get for our exportable products the easier it is for us to pay our interest bill, and the less gold goes out of the country. The honorable member for Macquarie said last night that, in order to keep down the price of meat to the consumer in Australia, we should put an export duty on meat. If that policy is carried out in its entirety, the result will be that the export will hit one person only, and that is the producer, the man who has been hit to leg in Australia for a great many years. If the honorable member’s argument is correct, we should have an export duty on our wheat, and so reduce the price of our loaf, and an export duty on our wool, but we know that the price of our loaf in Australia is regulated by the price that our wheat brings in the London market, whilst the price of our clothes and other woollen goods in Australia is regulated to a great extent by the prices that we obtain for our wool on the London market. Similarly, the London market is regulating the prices of meat, and as our exports have doubled and quadrupled in the last few years it naturally follows that the Australian consumer must pay more for that product, in the same way that he has to pay more in the case of wool and wheat. In 1893 the great financial crisis in Australia was brought about to a large extent by the low prices of wool and stock. As the producer himself is getting a bigger price for his stock to-day, the whole of the community feels the benefit. More gold is in circulation, and so the whole community prospers.
In dealing with the question of trusts and combines in connexion with the beef and mutton trade, one would think” to hear some honorable members that Australia supplies the Home market very largely. We know that trouble for Australia can arise in this connexion only when the Beef Trust manages to corner the London market. So far as I can see, no amendment of the Constitution is necessary to enable us to deal with the operations of the trust in Australia. No amendment of the Constitution would put us in one whit better position for this purpose than we occupy to-day. No trouble has yet occurred as the result of the operations of a beef trust in Australia, and if trouble should occur, it can be dealt with by the Commonwealth under our present statutory powers. We have control of the means of transport, the railways, and while we retain this power of controlling the railways, before a trust could operate to our detriment in Australia it would have to corner the freight on the railways, the whole of the cold storage in the country, and the means of sea and other transport. Further, as the honorable member for Wakefield reminds me, we could deal with such a trust through the Customs. I say that we have full statutory powers to deal with these difficulties should they arise. So far, no trouble of the kind has occurred, and honorable members cannot point to one act by the trust in Australia - so far - which is to the detriment of the people, although, in response to the ordinary law of supply and demand, the consumer may be paying a little more for his beef to-day than he has had to pay heretofore. Danger as the result of the operations of a beef trust can arise in one way only. So long as the London market is kept free from the control of the combine, the operations of the trust in Australia will continue to be for the benefit of our people.
– Does the honorable member not think that they have control of the London market now?
– No, they have not, though they have been trying to get it. In 1912 I find that of the meat consumed in the United Kingdom 37.61 per cent, was imported from abroad. That represents a little more than one-third, and the remaining two-thirds was grown in the United Kingdom. Of the 37.61 per cent, imported from abroad Australia furnished only 14 per cent., or but 5.35 per cent, of the British consumption. This means that only five sheep or five bullocks out of every 100 consumed in the United Kingdom were Australian grown.
– Let the honorable member tell us how much came from the Argentine, which is under the control of the Beef- Trust.
– I shall deal with the Argentine if the Speaker does not stop me for going too much into detail. I had said that of the meat imported into the United Kingdom from abroad Australia supplies 14 per cent.; New Zealand supplies 18.17 per cent., and South America 64.09 per cent. South America supplies four and a half times as much meat to the United Kingdom as does Australia. Other countries supply 3.74 per cent, of the imported supply. I find that 38 per cent, of the South American output was shipped by three firms operating there. That represents about onethird of the supply from South America. We know that the Argentine freezing works are mostly in the hands of North Americans. Three companies in 1912, in South America, supplied between them 24.55 per cent, of the total imports of meat into the United Kingdom. That is about one-fourth of the imported supply, and represents only 9.23 per cent., or between one-tenth and one-eleventh of the total consumption of the United Kingdom. So that these South American companies, forming a trust, supply between them only one-tenth of the meat consumed in the Old Country. We know that the total available Home supply and imported supply of meat in the United Kingdom does not vary from year to year to the extent of more than 2 or 3 per cent. I know that the trust could flood the London market if it wished.
– The honorable member admits that?
– I admit that the trust could flood the London market if it wished, and that would mean cheaper meat to the consumer.
– I rise to a point of order. I desire, sir, to draw your attention to the fact that, yesterday, I was scarcely allowed to utter a word in connexion with anything that appears on the notice-paper. The honorable member for New England has been talking for nearly a quarter of an hour about the American Beef Trust, and there is a motion on the paper in the name of the honorable member for Oxley dealing with that trust.
– On the point of order, I submit that the honorable member for New England is not talking about the Beef Trust, but about the imports and exports of meat.
– I am perfectly prepared to give a ruling on the point raised by the honorable member for Ballarat. I have listened very carefully to the speech of the honorable member for New England, and he has not once in my hearing mentioned the American Beef Trust. He has spoken of Beef Trusts, but I have no official knowledge of the Beef Trusts to which the honorable member referred, and the notice of motion in the name of the honorable member for Oxley deals specifically with the American Beef Trust. It was only when the American Beef Trust was specifically mentioned in the debate in its relation to Australian operations that I previously intervened.
– I purposely avoided any reference to the American Beef Trust, because that is the particular pet of the honorable member for Oxley, and I wouldnot think of trespassing upon his preserves.
– They would be glad of a few sympathizers like the honorable member.
– I admit that the trust could flood the London meat market.
– What trust?
– That would mean cheaper meat to the consumer. By their operations, and with the £6,000,000 they have at their command in South America, apart from other capital which we know nothing about, they would be able to flood the London meat market. But that is not a matter over which we have any control. If by their operations they arc able to reduce the price of meat in London, I quite admit that they will be able to stamp out the small fry and other competition. If they corner the London meat supply, they can then get cattle at whatever price they like in the Argentine and in Australia. So far as we are concerned, if the price is lowered in that way, I fail to see how we can deal with it by any amendment of our Constitution. If the operations of a trust in
Australia are in restraint of trade, we have the machinery at hand to deal with the trust. We have the power under the Constitution to deal with it, since, as I have said, we control the means of transport, export duties, and other things. But we have to look further afield than Australia for the ultimate trouble, should any arise, from the operations of the trust. If they ever do get to work, their field of operations will be the London meat market, and, if they force prices down there, our producers must suffer, and no legislative Act of ours can prevent that. But we should, in that case, do what the authorities of the Argentine Republic are to-day proposing to do. They propose to confer with the British Government. They are proposing a conference between representatives of the Governments of the two countries, in order to see how the meat trade of London may be regulated. By adopting the same course, I have no doubt we shall find that the English Parliament, having the power, will control the operations of the trust should trouble arise. In furtherance of that, I quote the following from the Times of 19th June, 1913, which in my opinion sums the position up to a nicety. It is an authoritative report dealing with the Meat Trust and its operations.
– Which Meat Trust?
– I shall not be drawn.
– The honorable member is alluding to what the honorable member for Ballarat was not allowed to refer to.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member for Yarra to withdraw that imputation upon the impartiality of the Chair.
– I withdraw it, sir.
– The Prime Minister said the same thing a few minutes ago.
– The London Times, of the 19th June last, published this report -
The three American companies engaged in the River Plate meat trade are engaged primarily in the United States trade, and we need do no more than cite the plain fact that Armour and Co., Swift and Co., and Morris and Co., possess financial resources immensely greater than those of their competitors in the Argentine business. The Americans have only to continue their present policy of shipping meat in excess of market requirements here, and, as a sequel, to sell that meat at a loss to bring the other companies to the end of their resources, for those companies have only the Argentine business to subsist on. If this were accomplished, the Argentine meat trade would become a monopoly in the bands of the American houses. The natural result - all the more natural after a period of trading at a loss - would bc a fall in the cost of cattle in the Argentine,
– That is referring to the motion on the notice-paper.
– a restricted output of chilled beef, and substantially higher prices for the product shipped to the United Kingdom. The losses made during the continuance of the present conditions could be made up for in a comparatively short time once monopoly was attained. With the control of nearly two-thirds of the foreign meat supply of this country in the hands of three houses, it requires no very quick imagination to foresee what effects concerted action would have with regard to the prices to be paid by the consumers, nor, on the other hand, with regard to prices to be paid to the Argentine breeders and fatteners. For the American companies-
– There you are, “American companies,” which are dealt with in the notice of motion.
– I want to put this position fairly and squarely before the people.
– Of course you do, but do it at the proper time, when the motion of the honorable member for Oxley is before the House.
– Order ! I wish to again emphasize the terms of the notice of motion. I explained to the honorable member for Oxley that he would be perfectly in order in dealing with the operations of what is called the American Beef Trust in other countries, so long as he did not deal with the operations of that trust as affecting the pastoral industry of Australia. The honorable member now speaking is not doing that. I made that distinction very clear when the honorable member for Oxley was speaking.
– Let him go.
-In order to make the position perfectly clear, I wish to point out that as long as the honorable member does not refer to the effect of the American Beef Trust on the pastoral industry of Australia he will not be exceeding the limits of his right of speech.
– I do not see the point of his speech if he is not doing that.
– Its operations in other countries have nothing to do with the notice of motion.
– The report in the Times continues - then to pass to Australia and New Zealand would not be a great step, or, without some governmental check to such a policy, the comparatively small works in these southern portions of the British Empire would fall an easy prey to such combined tactics as we have sketched. If the control of the Australian trade were obtained-
– Give the honorable member a free hand.
– I cannot allow the honorable member for New England to do what I would not allow other honorable members to do.
– We are at a disadvantage. The honorable member is giving us some valuable information.
-Order! I cannot help that.
– Does the report deal with the losses sustained by the trust on its importations from Argentine to the London market?
– I will let *he honorable member have these papers afterwards. I have not seen a reference of that kind.
– It is made in the report in the Times.
– It is such a lengthy report that I will let my honorable friend see it by-and-by. I will now quote another passage in the Times -
In the course of evidence recently given before the Empire Trade Commission, sitting at Melbourne, it was stated to be “ well known “ that the same American interests were securing sites and plant in Australia.
– Order! The honorable member will now perceive that he is distinctly anticipating the debate on the notice of motion. I ask him to eliminate from his speech all reference to the operations of the American Beef Trust in Australia.
– Put in “ blank “ whereever ‘ ‘ Australia ‘ ‘ occurs.
– Order !
– I shall not quote further from this publication. We recognise that honorable members on the other side knew, or could have known, during the three years they occupied the Treasury bench that there was a meat combine operating in Australia. Th«y knew that certain works were being carried out on the Brisbane River two years ago and over, and although our honorable friends had the opportunity they did not take one step to combat that proceeding. They asked for certain amendments, of the Constitution. It seems, to me that the amendments were absolutely unnecessary, and that we shall have no further powers if we do amend the Constitution. Seeing that I cannot touch any further on this trade, I wish to say, speaking on behalf of the occupants of this side, that directly it is seen that the people of Australia, apart from paying a little extra for their beef, are being squeezed, we shall be prepared to do our duty to the pastoralist as well as to the consumer. But that state of affairs has not arisen yet to cause us to take action. The producer to-day is getting a benefit; he is getting a bigger price for his commodity, as the grower of wool is doing. Surely our honorable friends do not want to rob the producer of that extra price by levying an export duty on beef !
After the lapse of three weeks in this National Parliament it is about time, I think, that we got on to national affairs. “We’ should be here to deal with national “ matters. We should not be here to have party bickerings and party disputes, individualism being stamped on practically everything that is said. We should remember that we are here to legislate for the people, our masters. Under the present constitution of the House, and having regard to the way in which the other House is constituted, it seems to be a matter of impossibility to pass measures which appeal to us and to a majority of the people. Seeing that our hands are tied, are we not adopting a right and proper course by seeking the very first opportunity to go before the people, our masters, and ask them to say whether the present state of affairs shall be allowed to continue or not ? For my part, and speaking, I think, for the Liberal party as a whole, that is a duty which we are prepared to face. The sooner we go to the people and give them the opportunity of repeating the dose they gave our honorable friends twelve months ago the better for all concerned, and when we come back, let us hope that we shall have this House and another place so constituted that measures dealing, not with one section of tha community, but with the whole community - good, broad national measures - will be passed with the applause of not only the honorable members on this side,, but our friends on the Opposition benches.
.- I think it will go without saying that noGovernment, whether Liberal or Conservative or Labour, are as a rule anxious to call Parliament together before it isabsolutely necessary to do so. In fact, I think it is rather an unusual proceeding to cut short the recess. There arereasons, of course, why that should be done. Sometimes it is done because of the great urgency of public affairs, but in the Speech which has been presented to us from the Government we can find no matters of very great urgency for which this Parliament has been called together. It is admitted, I think, on both sides that the reason why we havebeen called together now, instead of being summoned at the end of Juneor the beginning of July, is that the Government might be in a position to ask for a double dissolution. I take it that we are all agreed upon that point. We on this side believe that before a double dissolution can be brought about it is necessary that this Houseshould have twice passed a measure which another chamber either rejected or failed to pass. I am prepared, however, toadmit that there are many on thisside - it may be merely because w6’ belong to the kindergarten class - who believe that after that has been done His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has something to say as to whether there shall be either a single or a double dissolution. Apparently there are some people in this country who think differently. I was reading an extract from a speech delivered by a member of” this House who has been spoken of asthe rising hope of the Liberal party. He is not only the rising hope of the Liberal party, but is also the chief Government Whip, and consequently, I take it, would’ be in a position to speak with a certain amount of authority. In speaking at Murwillumbah some time ago, Mr, Massey Greene said - that the Cook Ministry, when it took office,, did so with the deliberate intention of appealing to the country. They had made up theirminds to secure a double dissolution, whichwould come this year, but he could not say exactly when.
If that is correct, it appears to me that His Excellency the Governor-General is quite out of the matter. But we need not deal merely with the honorable member for Richmond. The Attorney-General, who, we all admit, is the great leading force of the present Ministry, is reported to have said at a meeting held in Melbourne that “ there must be a dissolution.” Some one in the audience asked, “ Does that mean a double dissolution? “ And the honorable member’s reply was, “ Yes, certainly it does.” I asked the Attorney-General in this House whether that was a correct report of his speech, and the honorable member was good enough to say that, although he had not read the report, he thought it was a fair version of what he had said. Then I asked him whether, when that statement was made, he was in the possession of a promise from the Governor-General thathe would grant a dissolution. The honorable member answered that I was wrong in inferring in any way that His Excellency had given any promise.
– I said that the words reported did not bear that inference.
– That is a matter of opinion. The honorable member was asked whether a dissolution meant a double dissolution, and he replied that it certainly did. If that is so, and the Governor-General did not give that promise, and yet the Ministry can say there is to be a double dissolution, either the Governor-General has no voice in the matter or the Attorney-General made a statement at that time which he was not warranted in making. I do not hesitate to say that at the present juncture a double dissolution isabsolutely unthinkable.
– By that you mean it is unpleasant to think about.
– Not at all. I think a double dissolution is improbable, and as far as its unpleasantness is concerned, I do not think it would worry me very much. I may be wrong, but I say that a double dissolution at the present moment is unthinkable, and if that is so it appears to me that the Government have absolutely and deliberately wasted the time of Parliament. Of course, it does not follow that because I think a dissolution unthinkable it will not take place. But the reasons I have for thinking such a course improbable, and almost impossible, are these : In the first place, some regard must naturally be paid to those who framed the Constitution, and to the specific object of placing a double dissolution provision in the Constitution. It would be extremely interesting to read the debates that took place in the Convention on that subject. I started to read the debates, and found them very interesting. If time permitted I could give to honorable members some very informative extracts from the proceedings of the Convention, but I may, perhaps, be permitted to quote a remark by Mr. (now Sir George) Reid, who was a very prominent member of that Convention. When discussing the franchise of the Senate Mr. Reid said that manhood suffrage should be adopted. Turning to the members of the Convention, he said that the election of delegates to the Convention had been eminently satisfactory, and, consequently, the people could be trusted with manhood suffrage for the Senate. I can quite understand that members of the Convention were very well satisfied with the results of the voting at that time, because, with the exception of Mr. Trenwith, who was not a fully-accredited Labour representative, although he had been for many years associated with, and had rendered distinguished service to, that party, there was not one delegate in the Convention who could be deemed a representative of the Labour party. So we can quite understand that members of the Convention thought that the results of the proposed franchise would be all right when the whole State was one constituency. Consequently, manhood suffrage was adopted. It is rather interesting to read one extract from a speech by the present Minister of External Affairs. Mr. Glynn went so far as to say that he believed in the principle of allowing the Upper House to amend money Bills. I am prepared to admit that is rather a long way to go.
– It is a little stiff.
– I quite admit that but in the Convention the present Minister of External Affairs was prepared to go to that extent.
– The Senate was prepared to do it last session, and somewhat radically.
– Did the Senate ever try to amend money Bills?
– Yes; in the Loan Bill. They suggested an amendment, and that was practically the same thing.
- Mr. Glynn’s remarks on that occasion continued -
Mr. O’Connor would not give the Upper House co-ordinate powers, and in that I differ from him. The Senate as a body is distinct from the Upper House in a consolidated form of government. … I say, further, that if a dead-lock occurs in connexion with a money matter in the Appropriation Bill, and if the Upper House insists upon interference, and a dead-look ensues, it will open up the way to a revolution. The fear of such a thing occurring will operate as a sanction to prevent it. As regards other matters referred to by Mr. O’Connor, and with reference to dead-locks, it is simply to postpone public opinion on that point for the time being. Should there be a temporary dead-lock, I do not think there would be much evil resulting from that, and I shall trust to the good sense of the people to rectify matters.
I am prepared to admit that we have to deal with the Constitution as it is, not with the opinions of those who framed the Constitution, nor the speeches delivered at the Convention, nor the reasons which influenced the delegates. We have to deal with the Constitution as it exists.
– That is too often forgotten.
– I admit that. I make this charge, and, in my opinion, it is a farmore serious one than that relating to the Teesdale Smith contract, that there is a deliberate attempt on the part of the Government to bring His Excellency the Governor-General into the turmoil and sordidness of our political strife. No Government has ever attempted to do that since the Federation was formed. Why is the double dissolution provided for in the Constitution? The desire of the framers of that instrument was not to force the Senate to acquiesce in every proposal of the Government of the day, and to merely echo the decisions of this House.
– The object was to enable the public to decide between the two Chambers.
– I shall mention presently what has been said on the subject by the honorable gentleman’s leader. Personally I am not in favour of the bicameral system. The deadlock provisions of the Constitution were adopted in order that the people might ultimately have their own way. When the people have spoken in no uncertain voice, and there is a difference between the two Houses, it is right that the Senate as well as the House of Representatives should be sent to the country so that effect may be given to the will of the electors. But I ask, have the people spoken in an uncertain voice! The Prime Minister stated last Monday night that on the floor of this House - the people’s Chamber - the Government has not a majority. Those are the Prime Minister’s words, not mine. I think that the Government has a majority. But in the present position of parties, it can hardly be said that the Government speaks for the people. The Prime Minister, on the occcasion to which I refer, told his audience that the Government has not power even to close a debate, because it has not a majority on the floor of the House.
– We have not the heart to close this debate.
– The Prime Minister did not say that the Government has not the heart, or the will, but he says that it has not the power to do it, that is, it does not command a sufficient number of votes. The constitutional provision to which I am referring was framed to meet serious disagreements between the two Chambers. The Australian Natives Association is a big and powerful organization in Victoria, which played no unimportant part in the bringing about of Federation, and, naturally, may be thought desirous of seeing effect given to its Constitution. Speaking at a conference of this Association at Wangaratta, the Prime Minister said, very properly, that at a non-political gathering such as he was addressing, - he could not discuss political questions, but that, as reference had been made by a previous speaker to the double dissolution, he would say that -
If a double dissolution did take place, it would not be an appeal from the Constitution; it would be in the very essence of constitutional procedure, and part of the machinery for resolving serious troubles.
Twenty-four hours later, the honorable . gentleman was addressing a party meeting at Prahran, and was at liberty to express himself freely as a politician. He then said -
I am alluding particularly to a speech which I read this morning, in which I am solemnly warned that when we go to the country, we should not go on small questions as the postal vote and prohibition of preference to unionists. Who, in the name of Heaven, ever suggested that wc should go on that alone? The notion is preposterous, and how it should have got into the brains of the people I cannot understand. I think it would be absolute folly for us to go to the country on such questions as these….. These two simple measures are intended to enable us to fulfil the conditions of the Constitution, and to get an appeal to the people.
According to the Prime Minister, the measures to which he referred are not serious and great measures, but simple measures, and merely means to an end.
– A question may be very simple and yet very serious.
– Speaking as man to man, I ask the Attorney-General whether the Prime Minister dealt with these Bills as serious measures?
– I think that he did, but that he intended to convey the idea that the Government must put before the people, not merely these two Bills, but a comprehensive policy.
– My point is that His Excellency the Governor-General is to be asked to grant a double dissolution, not to solve an important disagreement between the Houses, but on the off-chance that new elections might give the Ministry a majority in both Chambers which would allow it to put its policy into effect. The Governor-General is not to be asked for a double dissolution to settle some great question at issue betwen this House and the Senate, but on the off-chance that the Government may thereby obtain a parliamentary majority. There was never before such a flagrant attempt made by any Ministry to abuse the high position of the Governor-General. I cannot believe that this unholy and unhallowed attempt will succeed. If it does, something more than the position of the Senate will be in question.
– That sounds very serious ; what does it mean ?
– It is unthinkable that this attempt will succeed. The eminent and distinguished individuals who have been sent from the Motherland to govern us have been men who have always stood high above our party warfare. It is unthinkable that a double dissolution is to be secured from the GovernorGeneral merely for party purposes. I wish now to refer to a speech delivered in Sydney by the honorable member for Lang. The Prime Minister has stated -
I think rightly - that you, Sir, have rights and privileges as the Speaker of this House, and rights and privileges as the member for Lang. I do not differ from him on that point. I have no desire to take from you your rights and privileges, though I am anxious that you should not have more than you ought to have. Parenthetically, I may point out that, at St. Kilda, the Prime Minister took exception to something that had been said at Rockhampton by the President of the Senate, “ who,” he said, “ was supposed to be impartial, and to divest himself of party feelings”; but I take it that the President of the Senate is also a member of the Senate, and has the privileges of a senator as well as the responsibilities of the office he holds. At a meeting in Sydney the honorable member for Lang said -
The only thing wc can hope for is that circumstances may work in the direction of bringing about a double dissolution.
As this speech was delivered before this Parliament assembled, before even the policy of the present Government was known, and before it was known whether the proposals of the Government would be thrown out by the Senate, the idea of having a double dissolution is not to settle some great difficulty, but is to be used in order to bring the Senate into agreement in all things with the present Government. It is unthinkable that the GovernorGeneral should do such a thing. If he grants a double dissolution to the present Government on a measure that the Prime Minister admits is not a serious matter, but is only a means to an end, then for all time it will be a precedent, and all Ministries will have the same right. If a Labour Government should come into office with an adverse majority in the Senate, they could bring down anything they chose, in order to force a double dissolution; and if the GovernorGeneral refused their request, it would be a very serious matter ; because, if there should be the faintest suspicion that a Governor-General favoured one side more than another, it would tend to strain the connexion between the Motherland and the Commonwealth.
– Do you think you are justified in using an argument of that kind?
– I say that if the GovernorGeneral did so, the people of Australia would feel very strongly on the matter.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot pursue that line of address.
– Under what standing order am I prevented from doing so?
– It is not customary to bring the name of the King’s representative into debates in this House. I ask the honorable member to refrain as much as possible from speculating on consequences likely to follow the decision of His Excellency the Governor-General in certain circumstances.
– On a point of order, the honorable member for Barrier was dealing with something that might occur in the far and distant future, when a Labour Government might have a minority in the Senate.
– It is the practice in all British Parliaments to refrain as much as possible from bringing the name of the Sovereign or his representative into debates unnecessarily.
– Hear, hear! I shall endeavour to refrain from doing so. I have no desire to drag the name of the Governor-General into this debate unnecessarily. I have the highest respect for the office of Governor-General. I have always been in favour of the GovernorGeneral being sent to us from England, unlike the Prime Minister, who has advocated that the Governor-General should be chosen in Australia. Surely there is nothing unfair in saying that once a double dissolution is granted on the grounds put forward by the Government, it must always be granted on exactly the same conditions. If it is granted on these conditions to a Liberal Government, it must be granted on absolutely the same conditions to a Labour Government; if not, there will be an upheaval in this country which will be even more serious than that in connexion with preference to unionists.
– I think the honorable member is going too far in anticipating what the Governor-General will do, or the consequences of his decision.
– I do not think such a thing would happen. It is unthinkable.
– It is unfair to the Governor-General to make these speculations.
– I beg to differ. I am not going beyond the bounds of fair debate in saying that if the present Government get a double dissolution on certain lines there would be certain effects the first of which will be that the Senate will have gone.
– Remarks of that character may be construed into an attempt to influence the decision of the Governor-General, on whom alone rests the responsibility of granting a double dissolution.
– I am glad to hear you say, sir, that the decision rests on the Governor-General alone; but we have heard so much about “ hoping for a double dissolution.” For instance, the honorable member for Lang said -
The only thing we can hope for is that circumstances may work in the direction of bringing about a double dissolution.
I have already quoted the honorable member for Richmond, the rising hope of the Liberal party, as saying that there is to be a double dissolution this year. Is not that anticipating what the GovernorGeneral is going to do ? Yet I am not allowed to put the other side’ of the question.
– I have never made a statement in those terms.
– The statement of the honorable member, as it appeared in the press, was that the Cook Government went into office merely to get a double dissolution, and that there was to be a dissolution this year, but the honorable member could not say when.
– I never made a statement in those specific terms.
– That is what appeared in the press. I recognise that people are sometimes misreported.
– It was probably a very condensed report of what I said.
– It does not matter what words are used so long as they express what is meant. The AttorneyGeneral said exactly the same thing.
– I dare say that the honorable member for Richmond meant what I said; but there was no reference whatever to the discretion of the Governor-General.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so, for there has been considerable talk to the effect that there was to be a double dissolution, ‘ because the Attorney-General had said so,” and because the rising hope of the Liberal party, the Government Whip, had said so.
– Do me the justice of admitting that, on every occasion on which I have spoken in public, I have pointed out that the Governor-General would have his responsibility, with which I would be the last to interfere.
– I have not seen it, but I accept it now from the honorable member. I have heard a great many speeches from the honorable member, and I confess that what he says now is news to me. I am glad to hear that the GovernorGeneral has a little to do with this particular matter. I had intended to say a word or two more about the Governor-General, but I shall merely ask whether, if a double dissolution be granted under the present circumstances, it does not mean Unification, which when the referendum proposals were before the people the Labour party were accused of advocating. Of course, it is no crime to believe in Unification, and, personally, I “am a Unificationist; but the great argument used was that if the referendum were carried, it would have that result; and I now submit that if, as is suggested, the Senate is practically done away with, it will help to bring Unification about in giant strides.
– Does the honorable member say that the provisions of the Constitution as to a double dissolution are intended to kill the Senate?
– Then why does the honorable member say what he has just said ?
– The provisions are in the Constitution to meet serious difficulties, and not to enable a Government which has not even a majority on the floor of the House to ask for a double dissolution. If the present attitude of the Government is right, it means that at all times this House can place a pistol at the head of another Chamber. Of course, if this House carries a Bill which is rejected by the Senate, and, after an appeal to the country, is again rejected, there ought to be a double dissolution; but if, without first making an appeal to the people, the Government may put forward any proposal as presenting a serious difficulty, we might as well do away with the other place altogether. Not only am I a Unificationist, but I do not believe in the bicameral system. The method suggested at present is not, however, a fair way of bringing about the single House system. Mr. Deakin,- who did a great deal for Federation, and whom weall respect, discussed this question to the House when there was a serious difficulty between the two Houses.
– A serious difference between the two Houses.
– When there was a serious difference on the Tariff. The House of Representatives was Protectionist, whereas the Senate was a FreeTrade House and altered the Tariff very considerably. The suggested amendments of the Senate were sent down, returned, and once again sent down, and there weresome honorable members who desired to fight the other place. Mr. Deakin, although a Protectionist and a member of the Government, and naturally anxious to carry the proposals, took the standthat if we attempted to bring about a double dissolution in the way suggested it would tend to Unification. That gentleman stated then that, in his opinion, Unification ought not to be brought about by a “ side wind,” but only after a direct appeal to the people. If any added proof be necessary - though I donot think it is - to show that the present is not an attempt to settle difficulties on constitutional lines, but merely to bring the Senate to heel, I appeal again to the Prime Minister who took part in the debate to which I have just referred. The honorable gentleman then said that we must support the Senate because it had a right to do what it had done, and that the people of New South Wales would take the same view. In order to show that the proposed double dissolution is merely for party purposes, let me ask the Attorney-General, and the honorable member for Richmond, “ the rising hope of the Liberal party,” what would have been the position if, in 1910, the Labour party, when it was returned, independent of any outside help, and with a swingeing majority, had carried their land tax proposals and the Senate had rejected them, and they had suggested a double dissolution. Would the Attorney-General have said that we ought to have been granted a double dissolution?
– The honorable member may say so now, but he would not have said so then.
– Is not that rather an assumption 3
– -Would the Prime Minister have said so, in view of what he stated when Free Trade or Protection was the question!
– Under the circumstances, as set forth by the honorable member, the Labour party had come here with a distinct mandate from the country - as I think it had - for the imposition of a land tax, and if the Senate had rejected the measure, the obvious course, if the Labour party were in earnest, would have been to send it up again, with a view to a double dissolution.
– If we had been in earnest, we should have asked for a single dissolution.
– What is the Senate there for?
– But the Labour party came back from the country with a distinct mandate in regard to the land tax, just as we have done in regard to preference to unionists.
– I am pleased to hear the Attorney-General talking like this; the time has indeed come when ‘ ‘ your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.” We now hear the Attorney-General say that there is no need for a second Chamber, for that is practically what he does say. I do not believe, as I have said, in a second Chamber, and I voted twice against the Constitution Bill in New South Wales because of the provision for a Senate. But what is a second Chamber for? To give the people time for reflection. I should now like to read what the newspapers say on the matter, for besides Parliament we have a press in the country; and the Argus is, I think, the official organ of the Liberal party. What Mr. Maling writes to-day, the Prime Minister does tomorrow.
– The Liberal party has no organ.
– Then they take dictation from the newspapers without having an official organ among them. On the 5th February, the Argus had a very interesting article dealing with New South Wales politics. The Labour Conference in that State had passed a resolution in favour of doing away with the Legislative Council, and asking the Government to bring about its abolition, and in the Argus there appeared an article in which the following occurs: -
A Parliament without a Chamber of review, a Chamber to insure time for cooler thought and calmer reason, is still less a Parliament in the true sense of the expression.
– Surely -that does not apply to the Senate.
– That is the trouble - the Senate is a Democratic Chamber.
– The extract does not appeal to one exactly as an accurate description.
– However that may be, the Argus went on to say -
The only possible safeguard against mob tyranny in a responsible system is the existence of a strong Chamber, free from the influences which make and unmake the Executive of the hour.
On 6th February, it was announced that the Commonwealth Parliament were to be called together early in April, and the Argus expressed itself as delighted that there was a Government with backbone enough to force a double dissolution. Why? The Argus said - 0
Responsible government cannot be carried on with a majority of one in the dominant House, and a large adverse majority in the Senate.
The “boot is on the other foot” how. There ought to be a Legislative Council in. New South Wales, because there the Upper House is a Conservative Chamber ! To ask for a double dissolution on the two test measures is, in my opinion, to ask for a straining of the Constitution. What are those Bills? One of them - that relating to postal voting - originally formed part of the Electoral Bill, which the Prime Minister last session appealed to us to pass, as it was merely a Committee measure. I interjected, “What! A double dissolution on a Committee Bill?” The Prime Minister replied, “You do not believe it will bring about a double dissolution.” I answered that I thought it would not, and the Prime Minister’s rejoinder was, “ There is my answer to you.” The Electoral Bill, which provided for a great deal more than the restoration of the postal vote, was then declared by the Prime Minister to be merely a Committee measure, and he also said at Prahran that the Bill for the abolition of Government preference to unionists was not a very serious one.
It is time that we had from the honorable gentleman a definite statement as to the reason for his opposition to preference to unionists. In the New South Wales. Parliament, at a time when he was a member of not the Labour, but the Liberal party, he said that it should be not optional but mandatory that the Judge of the Arbitration Court should grant preference to unionists. The honorable gentleman gave as one reason for this belief the fact that unionists objected to work with non-unionists, because, they realized that non-unionists were reaping where they had not sown. Another reason put forward by him was the victimization of unionists. At that time he represented Lithgow, and he told of six local miners who a little while before had been dismissed from their employment. He stated that whilst he could not say that they were dismissed because they were unionists, the fact remained that they had played an active part in an effort which had been successful to secure better wages for the miners, and that it was a remarkable coincidence that they were dismissed. Another ieason why, he declared, preference to unionists should be given was that employers in Australia did not treat their men as well as did employers in England. These were then, in his opinion, sound and strong reasons in support of preference to unionists, but the Prime Minister to-day, although still a member of the Liberal party, is opposed to the principle, and would ask for a double dissolution, because of the rejection of a Bill to do away with preference to unionists.
– In order that unionists may be victimized.
– Exactly. Where in the annals of political profligacy is there to be found an instance of more barefaced apostacy than that which is exhibited in the career of the honorable member for Parramatta? I am inclined to question the statement made by the AttorneyGeneral that he is opposed to preference to unionists. I think that he is against preference to unionists so far as carpenters, miners, and shearers are concerned, but that he believes in preference to unionists where the lawyers are involved. In the absence of the Attorney-General, the Minister of Trade and Customs, who is also a lawyer, will correct me if I am wrong in the statement that I am about to make. I understand that the AttorneyGeneral would decline to appear with hiscolleague the Minister of External Affairs in any case other than a Constitutional case before the High Court. Thereason for this is that the Minister of External Affairs is what the lawyers term, in polite phraseology, an “ amalgam,” or what we, in the mining camp, or theshearing shed, would describe as a “ scab “ lawyer. I understand that neither the Attorney-General, nor any other member of his profession practising only as a barrister in Victoria, will appear in a case with a man who is practising as a barrister and solicitor. That being so, if I were so unfortunate as to be involved in a case in the High Court or in theVictorian Supreme Court, I should not be able to secure the joint services of the Attorney-General and the Minister of External Affairs. If I were in such a situation I should be glad to have the distinguished services of the AttorneyGeneral, and I believe that he would prosecute my suit as ably as he would that of his greatest friend. But if I told him that I also desired to retain his colleague the Minister of External Affairs, he would say, “ No, you can have either of us, but not both of us. I will appear with Friend Arthur or Mr. Hughes, since they practice only as barristers, but I will not appear with a man who is practising both as barrister and solicitor.” If that be correct, can hypocrisy sound a falser note than is sounded when the Attorney-General declares (Eat he is opposed to preference to unionists, but is prepared to do what I have stated. In a speech which the honorable gentleman delivered a little time ago, he said -
That is the basis of what was known as the law of conspiracy, and every individual had a right to say whether he would work or not. But it was a very different thing when a number of persons came together, saying that they would combine together and enforce their demands by inflicting injury on others.
If that be so, what is the difference between a man who, by the force of his intellect, does an injury to a colleague, and the individual who inflicts an injury upon his fellow men merely by brute force? If the Attorney-General, by the force of his intellect, prevents his1 brother Glynn, under certain circumstances, from earning a livelihood, what is the difference between him and the shearer who refuses to work with a non-unionist ? Let us suppose that the Government Preference Prohibition Bill becomes the law of the land, and that the Ministry are defeated at the polls, what will there be to prevent the granting of preference to unionists ? Whilst the present Government would undoubtedly prefer to grant preference to non-unionists, they have not the courage to say so. What they say is, “ Let each man be dealt with on his merits.” In such circumstances, what will there be to prevent the successors of the present Ministry from saying that the unionist is the best man every time?
– No penalty is contained in the Bill, and there is no machinery to enforce its provisions.
– Exactly. Yet, upon that Bill, and upon the Postal Voting Restoration Bill, the Governor-General is to be asked to grant a double dissolution. I come now to a matter of administration. Ever since the Government took office there has been a pathetic cry on their part that a wicked Senate will not allow them to legislate, but that, so far as matters of administration are concerned, they are supreme. At Mount Gambier, the Prime Minister made a rather celebrated speech, in which he said -
Ministers have not been idle.
I believe that they have not. They have been dealing with Teesdale Smith.
They had taken some important steps in administration. Ministers were endeavouring to get a little business element into the conduct of important undertakings.
One cannot help smiling at these words -
Ministers were endeavouring to get a little business element into the conduct of important undertakings.
What was their first great achievement? It was the sugar fiasco. We were told to-day by an honorable member opposite that one of the Ministry’s achievements was the collection of £165,000 by way of sugar Excise which ought to have been collected by the Labour Government. But everybody knows what happened. The present Ministry proclaimed the Sugar Excise Abolition Act, and did not know what they were doing. Immediately the effect of their action was pointed out in this chamber an amending Bill was introduced .
– - Instructions were given for that Bill to be drafted before the subject was mentioned in this House.
– I am prepared to accept the Minister’s statement. But were instructions given for the drafting of the Bill before the Sugar Excise Abolition Act was proclaimed ?
– No; there was no necessity for that. On the day the Act was proclaimed, instructions were issued to officers to take stock of all sugar in bond, so as to enable the Department to collect the proper amount of Excise upon it.
– The Act must have been proclaimed without Ministers knowing what they were doing-
– The Minister cannot make me believe that. Had it not been so, there was no reason why the proclamation should not have been withheld for afew days. Both branches of this Parliament had already met.
– No; but the Houses had been called together.
– I will accept the Minister’s correction, and say that the Houses had been called together. Had the Minister known before the Sugar Excise Abolition Act had been proclaimed that it’ was necessary to introduce an amending Bill lie would have held back the proclamation of that Act. He would have been only too glad to go on the public platform and say to the people, “ I held back the proclamation because of the blunder that had been committed by a Labour Government.”
– We thought more of the interests of the farmers. We gave them relief at the earliest possible moment, and carried out the undertaking of the Government of which the honorable member was a member.
– The trouble is on the other side now.
– Surely the honorable member will listen to the facts.
– The Minister would have been only too pleased to say to his hearers from the public platform, “ See what would have happened but for our advent to office. The late- Government would have proclaimed that Act, and would thus have lost £150,000.” I say that retrospective legislation is dangerous.
– It was justifiable in the circumstances.
– Had there been in existence a Liberal instead of a Labour Senate, I very much doubt whether it would have approved of retrospective legislation. When the present Prime Minister was a member of the Reid Government in New South Wales, that Government introduced an Income Tax Bill. After a start had been made in collecting the tax, a quibble was raised by some lawyers, . and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company appealed against the payment of the impost.
– Why say a “ quibble “ ?
– Then I will say that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company raised a technical point. It won its case in the Courts of New South Wales on the ground that it was not making any profits in that State owing to the fact that its smelting works were located at Port Pirie, in South Australia. There was a technical flaw in the Act, which required to be altered. The Reid Government, therefore, introduced an amending Bill, and sought to make it retrospective. The Legislative Council of New South Wales, however, passed the Bill, but rejected the retrospective clause, on the ground that retrospective legislation was dangerous. Upon appeal to the Privy Council, the action of the New South Wales Government was upheld, and consequently there was no need for the amending Bill. I mention this matter only for the purpose of showing that the Legislative Council of New South Wales held that retrospective legislation was dangerous. Surely a Ministry which comprises five lawyers ought to have recognised that. I am quite prepared to believe a good deal that my political opponents tell me, but I am not prepared to believe that if Ministers had known what would be the effect of their action in proclaiming the Sugar Excise Abolition Act, they would not have deferred its proclamation for a week in order to get the requisite amending legislation . through this Parliament. That was his first great administrative achievement, and the Minister in whose Department that happened is called upon to-day to look after the Beef Trust. It is he who has the operations of that body “ under his consideration.” The most unscrupulous and powerful business men in the world to-day are to be looked after by the Minister of Trade and Customs who made that blunder at the beginning of his present term of office.
– Arising out of a mistake in your own legislation - a mistake which we corrected.
– The honorable member cannot deceive anybody but a few members of the Women’s National League on that question. The Government came in claiming to be great administrators. That is their cry. They cannot legislate. They say, “If we were only able to legislate, we should surprise the world with our beneficent measures.” I think one Minister, some time ago, made a statement to the effect that the Government would be “ the wonder of the world “ if they could only legislate, but that the Senate prevented them. I believe that if a man only goes on long enough stating that he is an administrator, he begins to believe it himself. Even a scoundrel, if he only goes on long enough telling people that he is an honest man, will begin to believe it himself, whatever others may think of him. In considering these great administrators, we come to the Teesdale Smith contract. The Assistant Minister of Home Affairs felt rather hurt that his honour had been impugned. No man in this House ought to object to that less than the honorable gentleman should. If he did not accuse me again and again of dishonorable conduct in connexion with the contracts with the Telefunken Company, he went very near the border-line. Did not he, and one or two others, accuse our party, again and again, of corruption in connexion with the Tobacco Combine ? May I tell the honorable member that there are men on this side of the House who, although they are Labour members, think as much of their honour as does any one who may have the most aristocratic of drawls, and be the chief est of snobs? I do not make day labour a fetish, nor do I say that contract labour is necessarily anathema. It is a proper thing to deal with each case on its merits. If a Minister can save money to the country by a contract, and have the work equally well done, it becomes his duty to have the work done by contract. I go even further than some of my friends. It does not necessarily follow that a Minister should call for tenders, even if he is going to have the work done by contract. It all depends on the circumstances of the case. A Minister must take risks. I do not think it would be possible to carry on the government efficiently if we were to pass a resolution that, in no circumstances, must a contract be entered into without calling for tenders. I saw in yesterday’s paper that the Minister of External Affairs had accepted, without tenders, a contract for coal in the Northern Territory. I venture to say that it was a good bargain, and am not questioning it in any way. Everything depends on the circumstances. I am sure the Postmaster-General often does what the late Mr. Frazer and I and others have done - accepted contracts without calling for public tenders. We have to do it in order to get the work done; but the necessity has to be proved. I may be pardoned for digressing for a moment to refer to a statement made recently by the Prime Minister at St. Kilda, to the effect that I had given a contract without calling for tenders for some survey work in the Northern Territory, and that our Government had treated the contractors so well that they were prepared to accept £1,000 less than I offered. The Prime Minister did not say it was a bad contract ; in fact, he said it was the right thing to do to let the contract in that way, because the work had to be done, but the point with which I wish particularly to deal is the statement that I had treated the contractors so liberally that they had taken £1,000 less than I had been prepared to give them. I am somewhat handicapped in this case, because I am not in a position to ask for the papers to be laid upon the table of the House; but I shall do so immediately the debate is over. I should have been still more handicapped in dealing with the matter but for the fact that most casually I came across Mr. Lawrence, of Lawrence & Chalmers, the firm in question, in Collins-street, just after he came back. He said, “I want to see you, because if you can spare a few minutes we may possibly be able to save a lot of time. I have been asking the External Affairs Department for money, and there is some difficulty about some of it.” I said, “ Are they paying you all that is down in black and white?” I understood him to say “Yes.” “But,” he added, “ do you remember that you had a conversation with me to the effect that if in certain circumstances some work was done I was to be paid extra?” I replied “ I cannot be responsible in any way for any private conversations as a Minister. I was dealing with perhaps a dozen men a day. Is what you are asking for down in black and white?” I understood him to say that it was not, and that the Department had paid everything that was down in black and white. I shall be glad to know from the Minister of External Affairs if this is so.
– We paid at the full rates for everything except 337 miles, with regard to which there was a dispute as to whether the Department should allow the same rates as for the rest of the survey. Mr. Lawrence was paid £6 a mile except as regards those 337 miles.
– Was he paid £1,000 less than was down in black and white in the contract?
– As a matter of fact, I think he was.
– Then he got less than was down in black and white?
– I cannot answer definitely. I remember that one afternoon I said there was an ambiguity in the contract, and the Treasurer, who has a pretty good knowledge of these matters, considered that that particular part of the work was not worth the amount it was alleged had been contracted to pay for it. I said that if the lower rate for the 337 miles were not accepted that day the matter would have to be referred to the Law Department as to whether the contract for £6 in the wording applied to that stretch. The lower rate of £3 was accepted.
– Was it settled as laid down in black and white in the contract?
– Oh, no, because in that case “the black and white” was ambiguous in its expression. You accepted the recommendation of the EngineerinChief, which was to provide £6 a mile, as if it was a recommendation to contract to pay that rate. The £6 was a limit to be provided, and not necessarily a sum to be fixed in a contract.
– Did the contractor get everything that he claimed on the contract ?
– No, he got less than he thought he was entitled to by £1,000.
– He may have got less than he thought he was entitled to, but if he went into Court with his claim, does the honorable gentleman think that he would have been able to get the extra £1,000 ?
– I say that there was a doubt, due to the wording of the contract, as to whether he was entitled to it.
– The honorable gentleman admits that there was a doubt.
– Do I understand the Minister of External Affairs to say that he got £1,000 less than was down in black and white?
– No, I do noi? say anything of the sort. The phrase “ down in black and white ‘ ‘ is very deceptive, as are all parliamentary phrases.
– Did he get less than the amount stated in the contract?
– No, less than he thought he was entitled to on the wording of the contract, and the merits of the work done.
– I take the stand that in certain circumstances a Minister is justified in calling for tenders and making a contract. I even go so far as to say that he may be justified in making a contract without calling for tenders, but I say that if he does that he must accept the fullest responsibility, and should not shelter himself behind the coat tails of officials. In making a contract without calling for tenders a Minister takes upon himself a serious responsibility. If the contract could be proved to have been a good one because of urgency or cheapness, the Minister would have justification for his action. I want to ask honorable members whether it has been proved that in this case it was cheaper to have the work done by contract than by day labour. It was proved conclusively in this House that it would have been cheaper to have the work done by day labour. Was it a matter of urgency? It has been proved conclusively that it was not a matter of urgency, because the plant was not there. The case presented from this side has been proved up to the hilt, I will not say by honorable members on this side, because it may be claimed that they are partisans, and prejudiced in the matter. I will not say that it was proved even by the statements of the honorable member for Parkes, because since that honorable member was refused office I believe he has become an Independent and a patriot. But the strongest condemnation of the Government in this matter has come from the Honorary Minister himself, who has said that off his own bat he prevented the construction of another 9 miles being given to the contractor under the wonderful conditions of the contract. If the ‘ work could be done more cheaply by contract than by day labour, why was not the construction of the extra 9 miles given to the contractor ? When the Leader of the Opposition was speaking, the Prime Minister interjected that Mr. Teesdale Smith was losing money over the contract. If that were so, why did not the Government let him, as a philanthropist, lose money over the extra 9 miles? I repeat that the strongest condemnation of the Government has come from the Honorary Minister. What is the defence put up by the party opposite - by the Ministry, the honorable member for Werriwa, and to-day by the honorable member for New England? The first excuse is that the last Government did exactly the same thing, and the second that the Minister accepted the advice of the men appointed by the last Government. Let us take the first excuse. I say that, even though the last Government did exactly the same, assuming that they did, it does not necessarily follow that the contracts they entered into were bad. But, supposing they were bad, we know that on a hundred and a thousand platforms during the general election the Liberal party denounced the Labour Government for maladministration. They did not attack our legislation. They did not say that they were going to repeal the land tax, to do away with the note issue, or to do away definitely with the maternity allowance. We were condemned from their platforms because of our maladministration. I suppose that honorable members opposite were able to influence some poor, benighted people on that ground, and that is why they are where they are. But now they come along and say, “ Our defence in this matter is that we did what we condemned you for.” There is, then, a second defence that they skulked behind officials appointed by the late Government. I remind honorable members that during the election what they said from all their platforms was that our appointments were corrupt appointments; that we did not appoint men on their merits, but because they happened to be political brothers. They stated that officials were appointed by the late Government not because they were competent for the positions to which they were appointed, but that, incompetent as they were, we appointed them because they were members of unions, and our comrades in the political battle. Yet we find the Government taking the advice of those very men, and sheltering themselves behind them.
– Mr. Deane was not a member of a union, was he?
– “Was it not the cry of honorable members opposite that we appointed only “brothers”?
– That was not said about Mr. Deane.
– I am glad that there is one ewe lamb who was not a political brother.
– Ryland and Jensen.
– Mr. Ryland is a better man than the honorable member has ever been. He is a clean and honorable man. The honorable member for Lilley knows that.
– If the present Government may shelter themselves on the ground that they did the same as we did, and accepted the advice of the officers we appointed, what justification was there at the time of the last election for any change of Ministers? On the platform honorable members opposite justified their claim for a change of Government on the ground that there would be better administration, and yet their plea to-day is that they did exactly the same as we did. I wish now to call attention to a display of wonderful generosity which has been exhibited during this debate. It will be remembered that the Minister of Home Affairs asked that the debate should be adjourned at a certain hour on the Friday, in order that the Honorary Minister, against whom charges had been made, might have a full opportunity to reply to them on the following Tuesday; and the honorable gentleman said, “ I want this House to understand that I stand behind these charges. I am with him.” That was an amazing display of generosity. Who is the Minister of Home Affairs? What have we to do with an Honorary Minister? It is a mistake for any references to have been made to any Honorary Minister in this connexion. The man who draws the emoluments of the office, and is Minister of State for Home Affairs, is the honorable member for Parramatta. In the Constitution there is no such person recognised as an “ Honorary Minister.”
– Or a Prime Minister.
– The term “Honorary Minister “ is accepted here as a matter of courtesy and convenience. The man who is on his trial to-day is not an inexperienced lad like the honorable member for Wentworth, but the Minister of Home Affairs himself. My time is drawing to a close, or I should have liked to be able to deal at some length with the question of the Northern Territory. I am unable to do so now, but, seeing that the Minister of External Affairs is present, I may be permitted to congratulate him upon the little work he has done since he has occupied that office. He has had a great deal of time in which to do something, and as a Minister has never been worried or harassed by the Opposition. I believe that a pamphlet is coming out in the near, or distant, future to explain what he is doing. One of the charges made against the party on this side is that we have blocked legislation in another place. We are told that the present Government would be able to do something if they were not blocked elsewhere. Let us consider the Northern Territory, and the Loan Bill and Railway Bill in connexion with it, which were passed last year. The Minister of External Affairs introduced a Bill to authorize the construction of a railway . in the Northern Territory. He carried the Bill, but he has not done much with it, as I think the railway has not been started yet. He also introduced a Loan Bill, which was carried here and sent up to another place, where the proposed vote of £400,000 for the construction of the railway was defeated on the first division by one vote. Of the supporters of the Government in another place - and they have four gallant supporters there - only one was present on the occasion, and he voted against the Government. Of the three Ministers there, only two were present. It is idle to say the Labour party were doing this thing, when if only the single Ministerial supporter who was in his place had voted for the Government, the item would have been carried. The Bill was returned to this House; we sent it back unanimously to the Senate ; Labour senators came in, and, in spite of the lack of support from Government supporters, the loan item of £400,000 was passed.
– But all the Labour men up there voted against it, did they not? 1
– How could it have’ been carried if they had done so? Has the honorable member been to school? We were told in the press the other day that the Government cannot carry on, because an adjournment for two weeks was moved in another place, and that a hostile Opposition increased the period to three weeks. One of the Ministers of the Crown voted for a three- weeks’ adjournment. Yet nien will go on to a platform and say that we are stopping the Government doing their work. Look again at the Bureau of Agriculture Bill, under which two blades of grass were to be made to grow instead of one. We were told the other day at a meeting in Sydney by the Prime Minister, that the Government tried very hard to carry the Bill. But is it not known to every one. in the House that towards the end of last session the Bill was purposely held up by Government supporters making long speeches in favour of it, waiting in order that some business might be done in another Chamber? Yet we are told that the Labour Opposition obstructed the measure from being passed, when members of the Ministerial party, put up by the Government Whip and Ministers, made long speeches in its favour to delay its course through the House. As a people, we cannot get the Liberal policy from the Prime Minister. As a party man I do not object to that, although I do think it is a little unfortunate for the country. When the policy is asked for, we are told that it will be forthcoming at some other time. There are reasons why, in my opinion, a party do not announce their policy. The first reason is that the party have no policy to give. I suppose every honorable member knows that once upon a time a king was travelling through his country, and the mayor of a place did not ring the bells. The mayor was summoned before the king, who said, “Why did you not ring the bells?” The mayor said, “ There are twenty-two reasons why we did not. The first reason is that we have no bells.” The king replied, “ We will dispense, for the sake of time, with the other twenty-one reasons.” There is another reason why the Liberal party are not prepared to give their policy, and that is because they want a blank cheque. f Chey want to come back with power to I carry out a policy. They are afraid that their policy will not appeal to the Democracy, because it is in favour of the classes, and not of the masses. When we ask the Prime Minister for a policy he turns round and gives us a dissertation on the generalities of the age, the necessity of freedom, and all that kind of thing. We ask the Prime Minister for a policy, and he replies with a lecture. He was good enough at St. Kilda to refer to Mr. Holman, and to say that he was caucus-driven. He went on to say that any man who received dictation from a Labour Council or from a caucus of Labour men “was deserving of the utter execration of a free people.” He said -
It was ordering him to perpetuate the will of the Political Labour League, and to cease to act for himself; to subordinate his own powers, and cease to think for himself; to sacrifice all personal judgment. Any man who did that was deserving of the utter execration of a free people.
When I read that statement in the press I was rather surprised, because the career of the honorable member for Parramatta was a complete denial of it. Rather have I thought of the honorable member that, instead of having such views, his views were that the people have their passions, and that it is the duty of public men to adopt sentiments with which they do not sympathize, because the people must have leaders. When we ask the Leader of the Government for a policy, we are told to wait. But the policy of the Liberal party has been enunciated. A little while ago Mrs. Moss, of the Women’s National League - a lady of whom I speak in the highest terms, for a most charming lady she is, and one who, I think, presents her case as fairly as it is possible for any person belonging to that league to do - made this statement -
The Prime Minister said to her, “If we men want to succeed, and to remain in Parliament, we must be up-sides with the women of the National League.”
That is the policy of the Liberal Government.
– What did he mean by that phrase?
-“ To be up-sides,” I take it, is to mouth their sentiments, and to express their views, because no political party are prepared to support you unless you do voice their sentiments. So to be the servants of the women of th»
National League is patriotism ; to do their bidding is the policy of the Liberal party; to look after their poodle-dogs is worthy of the Prime Minister of Australia; but to accept any dictation from or to voice the sentiments of humanity as expressed at a Labour Conference or a Labour League, deserves “the utter execration of a free people.” Leaving aside mere party views, I rather regret that in the interests of Australia we have not heard less about going on our knees to the Senate, and about men of principle and character not being prepared to accept any dictation from a House that has been elected upon a free franchise, the same as we have been. If we had heard a little less about that, and there had been submitted to this House legislation which was good, wise, and beneficial, I venture to say that it would have received the support of the Opposition. However, that is a question for the Liberal party to decide. An appeal may come very shortly. If it comes, I do not fear the result, for I cannot imagine that the propaganda of mendacity which served the Liberal party so well at the last elections will play the same part again, and I cannot but think that an outraged public will dismiss from office a Government who have subordinated the national welfare to the interests of party.
– Before I call upon the honorable member for East Sydney, perhaps the House will grant me indulgence to again deny the accuracy of a newspaper report, which was quoted by the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, of a speech which I . made some time ago. I assume that the honorable member was not aware that the report was incorrect, and I take this opportunity of saying that I have more than once previously denied the accuracy of the report, which, being very much condensed, did not correctly convey my meaning.
– May I say, sir, that I had not seen or heard your denial, or I would not have made use of the report.
.- I rise with the greatest pleasure to support the amendment moved by my worthy chief, and I do not know of any duty in my life which I have been more pleased to perform. Unfortunately for the people of Australia, they made a blunder at the last elections, and from the day the poll was declared up to the present time the present Government have proved themselves to be nothing more or less than a Ministry of blunderers. In my first address after the. elections, I christened them the “Blundering Ministry,” and I think that name will go down to history, and will be appreciated by future generations. When we heard His Excellency’s Speech to Parliament, the party to which I belong had no hesitation in deciding to launch this amendment. Indeed, I think it would have been a pity, and virtually a great crime, if an opportunity had not been afforded to Parliament to discuss the amendment which has been moved. Let me remove some of the cobwebs surrounding the Ministry by dealing firstly witu the Teesdale Smith contract. It matters not whether we try to save the reputation of the young Honorary Minister or not; he has certainly by his action shown to the people of Australia that any Government in the future will be very chary about placing him in charge of a Department. I am quite satisfied that if the same circumstances had surrounded a Labour Minister, the press of this country would not have been able to find type large enough with which to condemn the Minister’s action. The present Ministry have to rely upon the press of Australia. If it were not for the press, this Conservative Ministry would not be in power, nor would they have held office as long as they have done after the exposure of their conduct in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract. When I entered this National Parliament, and took my seat on the Government cross benches, I had to suffer the insinuations made by honorable members, who were then in Opposition, that I had no education, and was lacking in business capacity. The same charges were levelled against other members of this party, and I often thought how pleased I would be to have an opportunity of returning those vile insinuations. Since the present Government have come into office, their administrative incapacity has been so exposed, that, in my opinion, it will be a long time before the people of Australia will suffer the likes of them to come into office again.
– I am just leaving the chamber to look at a statement made by Mr. Verran in regard to the Teesdale Smith contract. .
– This is nice treatment to receive from the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately for the Government, members on this side of the House have business capacity, and have a greater knowledge of how to administer a Department than has ever been displayed by members on the Ministerial side., When the Leader of the Opposition went north from Sydney to explain this contract, he did a good thing for the people. The honorable gentleman ferreted out the fact that the contract had been accepted without public tender at a price never previously heard of in Australia. As one who has had transactions with Government Departments, both as an employer of labour, and as one in charge of work for others, I say that the price paid to Mr. Teesdale Smith has never been heard of previously in connexion with similar work in Australia. The payment of 4s. 6d. for the cuttings and 2s. 6d. for the banks, having regard to the fact that the material taken solid from the cutting measures 33 per cent, greater when it is placed on the’ banks, really means that Mr. Teesdale Smith is receiving 7s. lOd. a yard. I am not relying upon my own experience, or on hearsay evidence. I took it upon “myself to ascertain the price paid in connexion with railway construction in New South Wales, where, in various parts of the State, they have to deal with sand, loam, and rock. I find that the Government have fixed a minimum, and a maximum price, and not even for falls or breakaways - that is for the removal of soil beyond what is mentioned in the specifications - do they pay more than from 2s. 3d. to 3s. a yard. I asked a high departmental officer whether that price included payment for the formation of the earth that had to be removed, and his reply was that the Department never paid more than 3s. ^ and in one case only 2s. 3d. I then inquired about the wages paid, and he told me that the price he had quoted was based on a wage of lis. per day. Can members like myself be asked not to call the Government to account for letting this contract, when the Department, which was so derided during the reign of the last Government, carried out similar work by day labour at prices that were much less than 2s. 3d. or 3s. ? Then a contract has been let to another contractor for the making of a tank which I understand is to be 23 feet deep, but although the soil in that, instance has to be raised over 20 feet, and carted away, the price to be paid is only 2s. 5d. a yard. The Prime Minister, according to a report which appeared in yesterday’s Age of some remarks that he made at a meeting of ladies, appears to be trying to dull the public eye. He puts me in mind of a man who, having told one lie, has to tell twenty others to get out of the consequences. I do not know whether he has sent a letter thanking the editor of the Age for the headlines and large type which preceded the report, but no doubt the ladies were very much impressed with what he said. He told them, in the first place, that Mr. Teesdale Smith is to receive only 90 per cent, of the amount due to him for work performed, until the whole contract has been finished. Those who have built houses know that it is the universal practice, with both private and public contracts, to pay not more than 75 per cent, on work done, until a job has been finished. The Prime Minister told his audience, too, that Mr. Teesdale Smith had paid a deposit of £1,000. He seemed to wish it to be thought that that was a sort of fine. But every contractor has to pay a deposit. I do not suppose that Mr. Teesdale Smith has actually paid any money out of pocket. What a contractor Usually does is to give a bank cheque as security for the deposit, and to lodge with the bank deeds, mortgages given by other people, scrip, and other securities which bear interest. The making of the deposit costs nothing to the contractor. There is .this excuse to be made for the Prime Minister, that he has no capacity for business, and there has never been at the head of any Australian Government a man with less knowledge of business. A deposit is always asked for to insure the bona fides of the contractor, but it is paid only when the contract is not carried out and a new contract has to be made. The Prime Minister next dwelt on the fact that a penalty of £5 a day can be demanded for delay in completing this contract, and he has said that Labour members have declared that this meant a possible payment of £750. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition that the contract is virtually safeguarded by no penalties at all is absolutely true. It was signed on the 5th February, and terminates on the 5th June, covering a period of eighty-eight days, of which thirteen are Sundays, and only seventy-five working days. If Mr. Teesdale Smith had to pay £750 in fines, he would be 140 days in arrears with his. work; that is, the performance of the contract would have taken 190 per cent, longer than the period stipulated for. Virtually, if Mr. Teesdale Smith had to pay £750, he would be nine months on the contract. A Ministry making a contract of this kind should not be given another opportunity to commit the country in this way. I cannot say anything stronger than that. The Prime Minister pointed out that 10 per cent, held back would amount to £4,000 on a sum of £40,000. As I have shown, 2n per cent, is the usual amount to hold back. Mr. Teesdale Smith, as a business man, will make arrangements with his bank under which this provision will cost him nothing. The attempt of the Prime Minister to deceive the people of Australia in this matter is not creditable to him, and the electors will express their opinion of his conduct by wiping his party out of existence at the first opportunity. The Leader of the Opposition in exposing this contract deserves the praise of the people. It shows that, though in Opposition, the honorable member is keenly alive to the best interests of Australia. I have christened Ministers “ a Government of blunderers,” and at every opportunity I shall not be slow in making it known to the public. Their first blunder was in regard to sugar. The Minister of Trade and Customs can have no business capacity, must be very thoughtless, or can not give the attention requisite to administer a Department; otherwise before issuing the proclamation repealing the sugar Excise he would have assured himself that the payment of Excise on sugar in bond at the time would be secured to the Treasury. It is of the utmost importance to any country that a Government should see that the revenue is not depleted, and that a Government should be so careless and disregardful of the revenue as present Ministers were in this connexion is a serious matter. Ministers afterwards brought down an Indemnity Bill for the purpose of getting the money from the sugar companies, and, fortunately for them, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who are their friends, complied with their request, but I doubt whether the Government could have enforced their de- mand had the matter been tested in the Courts. The Government made another blunder in regard to the proclamation of Sydney as a quarantine area. This was a most unjustifiable and unnecessary step. I cannot understand how the Minister of Trade and Customs could have taken such an action. I was told that something serious, so far as Sydney was concerned, was about to happen in Melbourne, and I informed the honorable member for South Sydney that he and I had better be in Melbourne, and that, seeing that Ministers in power were incompetent, we should be alive to the interests of our constituents. Within half-an-hour we were on the train for Melbourne, and, on our arrival here, we pointed out to the Minister the mistake he was making. But he was led away; he had no backbone. Dr. Cumpston was not the real moving spirit in the matter. The mischief was being done by the Health Board in Melbourne, who got the ear of the Minister in connexion with that unfortunate and uncalled for act of administration, the stigma of which was cast, not on the people of Sydney, but on the whole of Australia. It showed that in this climate, and in a country with the opportunities of Australia, a city of the size of Sydney was not fit for people to live in. It went forth that Ministers had no* regard for the fair name of Australia, or to the injury likely to be done to the trade and commerce of Sydney, and of every one affected, by the totally unnecessary application of the quarantine laws. The next blunder was that of the Minister of Defence. I do not know what actuated him to let it go out that the boilers at the dock on Cockatoo Island were liable to explode when they were no more dangerous than they are to-day. Notwithstanding what our previous views of the Government were, they are more justified now that Ministers have been in office without making a single attempt to deal with the national questions for which this Parliament was established. When I think of the midnight oil I burned, and the streets I tramped at night, and the tar barrels from which I spoke, in order to bring about this great National Parliament, I am ashamed to see what is contained in the Speech from the Crown. What can men, who have spent their lives in trying to bring about the Federation of Australia, and the creation of a National Parliament to deal with national questions affecting the vital interests of the people, say when they see a programme like this so soon after a general election attended by its huge expenditure of public funds? However, the cost of a general election is nothing when put against the effect an election has on all the ramifications of the productive and industrial resources of Australia, when the people are all aquiver to know what the result will be. The Attorney-General seeks to have another election for the benefit of Australia, when it is really all for party purposes. The honorable member, however, is merely an ornament in the great evolution that is taking place throughout Australia. His ideas of Democracy do not affect me. I know the honorable member too well to expect any great improvement in him in the future; and, indeed, we cannot expect improvement on the part of any honorable members on that side of the House. What was the attitude of honorable members on the Government benches when we were trying to get an efficient electoral law, and secure the secrecy of the ballot? As a matter of fact, they have ever done their best to secure that land and bricks and mortar shall have more political power than human beings; and the people of Australia cannot expect them to bring forth an electoral law satisfactory to the intelligent Democracy of the country. The Government had not been in possession of power more than a few minutes, so to speak, when they introduced an electoral measure providing that the electors should be numbered like convicts in a prison, and should sign their names on the butts of the ballot-papers; and this, despite the knowledge they must have that our fathers, and, indeed, many members of this Parliament, have in the past fought so hard for the secrecy of the ballot. That a democratic electoral law should be introduced by the present Government is as unthinkable as an elephant playing a Jew’s harp. An honorable member opposite has stated in this House that, in 1911, there were 144,000 persons convicted in the Police Courts of Australia, and that they were those who voted for the Labour party. It is not possible, with such a belief in their minds, for the Government and their supporters to introduce an electoral law acceptable to the community at large. Further, the members of the
Liberal party have always been the* strongest opponents of the representation of the Democracy; and we may be sure that any alterations they make in the electoral law will be to remove those rights and privileges which are so dear to the people, and . for which we have fought in the past, namely, adult suffrage and the secrecy of the ballot. The other nations of the world view with admiration the work and legislation of the Labour party, and envy us our system of election, as is proved by the eulogistic articles that appear in this connexion in so many journals and reviews. We who are returned to this Parliament in the Labour interest are determined to use every legitimate means at our disposal to defeat those who desire to amend, in a retrograde manner, a law which is admired by the whole world,’ and which we regard with pride. I cannot understand why there is such an anxiety on the part of the Federal Government to rush into a Premiers’ Conference. I call it a “Conference “ out of respect, but it was really a picnic and a smoke concert, as the Bulletin very neatly pictured it in a cartoon. By whom, and with what authority, is this Premiers’ Conference constituted? Whence arises its right to interfere with measures that are the business of the National Parliament? I can see neither authority nor right, and, personally, elected as I am by the people of Australia, I do not feel myself in any way answerable to the State Premiers; in any case, I do not see that the Conference can enforce its resolutions in any effective way. What is the moving spirit in the Premiers’ Conference ? It is certainly not to be found in the Democracy of Australia; and, considering that any agreement it may come to is not worth the paper on which it is written, the position is ridiculous enough to be the theme of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera. Any resolutions of the Conference have to pass twelve Houses of Parliament in the States, and then be decided by this Parliament. We have further to -remember that six of the State Houses of Parliament are Legislative Councils; and we may look in vain for any democratic legislation from this source. To me, it is a sad sight to see representatives of the Commonwealth Parliament “kow-towing” to the Premiers in Conference. But there is some consolation in the fact that at least one man, in the person of Mr. Scaddan, Premier of
Western Australia, rose to the occasion and refused to be influenced by the parish pump brand of politics, and told the assembled Ministers what the people of Australia really desire and expect from the National Parliament. The Governor-General’s Speech contains several paragraphs relating to the Premiers’ Conference, which proved a godsend to the Ministry. Without it I do not know how they would have filled up His Excellency’s Speech, and it is difficult to know what the people of Australia would have thought of those who are in charge of the National Parliament. As to the two test measures, it is idle, in my opinion, for the Government to think for one moment that they will obtain a double dissolution. Neither is of national importance, and I am satisfied, from my personal acquaintance with such men as Sir Edmund Barton, and the late Sir Patrick Jennings, and Mr. R. E. O’Connor, that the framers of the Constitution never contemplated that the provision for a double dissolution should apply to the rejection of such trivial measures. Last session this House, on the casting vote of Mr. Speaker, carried the Postal Voting Bill. Another place amended it, and no one can deny that it was quite within its rights in doing so. It was also within the province of this House to reject the amendments made by another place ; but a dissolution would not be granted upon the failure to pass such a Bill until the possibilities of this Parliament had been completely exhausted. The Cook-Irvine Government are now in power, but the Opposition has not yet had an opportunity to conduct the business of the present Parliament. There is no case in the history of the State Parliaments where a dissolution was granted until the possibilities of Parliament had been exhausted. Whoever is called upon to deal with this question must be guided by precedent, and there is abundant precedent to support the views which I have just enunciated. If I remember rightly, during the Parkes-Robertson trouble, it was declared that the House must first be exhausted before a dissolution could be granted. As to the Bill for the abolition of Government preference to unionists, a double dissolution in connexion with it is not within. the realm of reason. I do not suppose that” the Attorney-General will look beyond the law for guidance in this matter; but sometimes even a lawyer may obtain from outside a lead as to the course he should follow. I would commend to the honorable gentleman two articles in the Melbourne Age dealing with the question of the dissolution, for they are well worthy of his consideration. Coming to the Premiers’ Conference, I am at a loss to account for the love existing between Mr. Holman and the Prime Minister. The professions of friendship seem to be a little too strong to be genuine. The Prime Minister has gone out of his way to eulogize Mr. Holman. Why, I cannot say; but the alliance is one which I view with some suspicion. I do not hold with the proposal in regard to the Commonwealth Bank which was put- before the Conference by the Treasurer. I still adhere to the view that I expressed many years ago, that banking should be wholly and solely under the control of the Commonwealth. The preservation of the credit of a country is one of the most important matters with which its Parliament can deal ; and the best way of insuring sound credit for the Commonwealth is to have the whole banking system under Commonwealth control. That would lead to economy in regard to both administration and distribution. I would not be averse to the Commonwealth handing back to the States the savings effected in order to enable them to - conduct their State functions ; but it is absolutely essential, if the credit of Australia is to be maintained, that the Commonwealth Parliament shall have complete control, lt was urged by the advocates of Federation that the range of climatic influence in Australia was such that, while one State might be affected by drought, which would tend to bring about depression, the remaining States might be enjoying good seasons, and that with the whole of the banking business of the country under the control of the Commonwealth, any State suffering from such a visitation would secure the assistance of the rest of Australia in maintaining its credit. I put this forward as one sound reason why the National Government should control the banking of the Commonwealth. During the Federal campaign, I pointed out that it would mean that the security of the Commonwealth would be behind every piece of paper money issued. Who can dispute that the first duty of this National Parliament is to see that the depositors in our banks are absolutely secured, so that we shall not experience a repetition of the financial disaster which overtook us in 1893? These are the sort of questions that we ought to be threshing out - questions involving the economic and social welfare of the people. To me it is heartrending to be obliged to sit here with men who cannot rise to a higher conception of their responsibilities, and who are content to wrangle over such comparatively trivial questions as the granting of preference to unionists. We all know that at the recent Premiers’ Conference the subject of the transfer of the State debts was brought up for consideration. I am sorry that the members of this Parliament do not possess sufficient backbone to enable them to boldly face this complex problem. So far we have not been told what are the intentions of the Ministry in regard to it. Personally, I think that this Parliament ought to take over the whole of the State debts, and all future loan transactions on behalf of the States should be undertaken through its agency. If we have the courage to express our opinions on this question, I am satisfied that the people will stand behind us. They are always prepared to support sound and honest administration.
– There is Sir John Forrest over there. Get on to him.
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman will be long enough in office to deal with the taking over of the State debts. Before I entered this Parliament I read the utterances of Sir George Turner and of other Commonwealth Treasurers upon this question. I say unhesitatingly that their views are worthy of every respect and consideration. So also are the opinions expressed by Mr. Nash, and by Mr. Edmunds, of the Bulletin, who is one of the best informed men, and one of the ablest journalists to be found south of the line. Honorable members may differ from the avowed policy of the journal which he edits, but I venture to say that the articles which he has written upon the proposed transfer of the State debts, and upon finance generally, are worthy of the closest study. If this Parliament did nothing else but deal with the first of these questions it would have rendered great service to Australia. The sooner we approach the problem, with an earnest desire for its solution the better it will be for all concerned. I recognise that I am giving utterance to views which are unpopular; but I say God help future generations if we are not prepared to assume the management of the State debts existing today, and to lay it down that all future borrowings shall be conducted through the agency of this Parliament. The gentlemen who attended the recent Premiers’ Conference in this city were animated by very optimistic views. They wanted the Commonwealth to assume control of the State debts to the extent of more than £300,000,000. I am afraid that we are only empowered to take over the debts which existed at the time the referendum upon this question was taken.
– We can take over the whole amount of the debts.
– I think that we ought to do so. I think we ought to take over the whole of them, but if we do so, we ought at the same time to protect ourselves, because, we shall be answerable for them. I believe it was Sir George Turner who said that if the Commonwealth took over the State debts it ought to take over the State railways also, because any one who takes over a debt generally takes over the assets with it, and very few business men would take over a big debt without corresponding assets to cover it.
Colonel Ryrie. - Does the honorable member advocate the taking over of the State railways by the Commonwealth?
– I am too.old a politician to let the ‘ honorable member put words into my mouth. I have the courage to give utterance to my opinions, and when the time arrives for the Commonwealth to take the State debts over I shall be quite prepared to explain what my views on that question are. One matter that is troubling the minds of a large number of people is the attitude of the present Government towards the military and naval defence of Australia. Personally, I believe that while the present Government are in power, our military and naval defence system is in danger. One of my reasons for saying that is that at no period of the existence of the party opposite have they shown a love for an Australianownedandcontrolled Navy.
– It is not fair to say that.
– The records of this House are sufficient to justify me in making that statement, and since the present Government came into power, I have seen no evidence of a disposition on their part to continue the bold and useful work done by the late Government in the matter of defence. For instance, they had no sooner got into office than they closed the Cockatoo Island Dock. There was no justification to. any one who knows what a boiler is, or who has helped to test a boiler, for the allegations that were made as to the dangerous condition of the boilers there. They were tested up to 160 lbs., and one up to 180 lbs., with cold water, and stood for twenty-four hours. No harder test could be devised for a boiler, but these successfully withstood it, and knowing the opinions of honorable members on the other side of the House, wo are quite justified in coming to the conclusion that this matter was only part of a policy initiated by them to discredit the defence system established by the previous Government. When the honorable member for Wilmot the other night was advocating the employment of the Defence Forces, if necessary, in the settlement of industrial disputes, one honorable member on this side interjected to the effect that if ever that happened, it would be the end of the Citizen Forces so far as Australia was concerned. I hold the same opinion, and nobody can accuse me of not being in favour of local defence, both naval and military. I spent ten years on a Defence Committee in Sydney with the honorable member for West Sydney,’ Mr. Watson, Colonel Campbell, and others, before ever the present defence system came into existence. We worked very hard to bring about Australian defence on proper lines, and I still hold the opinion that we should be prepared to defend ourselves. It would be despicable for us to try to hang on to our mother’s apron strings for protection in” time of trouble. We should have the manliness, with the resources that we have, to defend ourselves. At the same time, I am firmly of opinion that any Citizen Force that we create should not be employed to coerce the workers in a time of industrial unrest. I base my opinion in that regard, to a great extent, on a famous utterance by the late Mr. Speaker Brand, one of the greatest Liberals that Great Britain ever knew. , In 1866, when, at the time of th Fenian riots, one of the walls of Clerkenwell Prison was blown down with gunpowder, and a period of great public excitement ensued, the Duke of Cambridge, who was then in command of the Household troops, asked Mr. Speaker Brand if he would accept the services of the military to protect the Houses of Parliament. The Speaker absolutely refused the offer, in words on which I should like to rivet the attention, both of honorable members opposite, and of the people of Australia generally. He said, “ I will not accept the guard of the military. I look to the police to protect me, and when the police are no longer able to do so, it will be time for the Government to step in and remove the cause of the trouble.” That utterance ought to be committed to memory by the honorable member for Wilmot, and others, who talk about bringing out the troops to shoot down the people at a time of social upheaval. In more recent years, when the wharf labourers of Dublin were getting only from 15s. to £1 a week, and living under most unhealthy conditions in hovels that, in many cases, were owned by the Dublin City Council itself, Mr. Larkin, as a Socialist, to his credit be it said, tried to bring about a better state of things ; but the Government called out the troops to clear the streets and to do escort work.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I waa endeavouring to impress upon the Government that they should retire from the position they have assumed, and introduce measures dealing with great national questions, in the settlement of which honorable members on this side are prepared to assist them. If they still persist in pressing upon our attention their measure against preference to unionists, we must adhere to our principles. I should imagine that every person who watches events taking place not only in Australia, but in other parts of the world, must be prepared to admit that our present civilization is based upon organization. Every calling and every profession has its organization to-day. We have a Chamber of Commerce and a Chamber of Manufactures, and we have organizations connected with all the learned professions. Honorable members opposite, hoping to get a blow to the ribs of honorable members on this side, have twitted them upon their organizations, and the fight that they have put up for what they believe to be a good cause.. It is strange that they never for a moment consider the attitude adopted by members, for instance, of the medical profession. If a doctor who is not a member of the Medical Association, attempts to practise his profession, a member of the association will not enter the same room with him, though the life or death of a human being may be at stake. Members of the association will not enter a hospital with or be seen in the company of those practising their profession who are outside the ‘association. What stronger attitude of unionism could be assumed than is assumed by* members of the Medical Association 1 There are some very able men sitting in the press galleries in this chamber, and every one of them is a member of an association. They have found, as have others, that that is necessary in order to preserve the status of the profession to which they belong. No matter what profession, trade, or calling a man may belong to, he knows that it is absolutely essential, not only in his own interests, but in the interests of those who are dear to him, that his calling shall maintain its position in the world. Honorable members opposite assert that honorable members on this side, in endeavouring to uphold the organizations to which they belong, are doing something which is dangerous to the community. We have been told by honorable members opposite that we do not possess education, and are lacking in qualifications essential for the government of the country. But I say that the school in which we were brought up - the school of experience - is a far greater school than any to be found connected with a university. No university education can fit men so well to look after the interests of the people as can the practical experience of men who have risen from the lower rungs of the social ladder, and who, by their perseverance, and by burning the midnight oil, have made up for their lack of education. When such men obtain positions in Parliament, they are better able than are those who have not had their experience to bring into effect the noble principles by which we hope humanity will benefit more from legislation in the future than it has in the past. Honorable members from rural districts are prepared to deprive rural workers of the right to appeal to the Courts of law established by the country, and they tell honorable members on this side, who advocate the rights of the rural workers, that we ought to get our heads read and our bumps felt. The man who sweeps the gutter, and the corporation labourer who removes what, if left on our premises, would become offensive and dangerous to life, is a necessary and useful servant of society, and should be able to live under proper conditions. What we have done as trade unionists to improve our conditions has benefited the whole community. We have no desire to improve our position at the expense of any one else. People engaged in the same calling should be prepared by co-operation to improve the conditions of that calling. I have known the time in my young days, when, working on a building, a fellow member of my union working alongside of me has asked for my advice, and I have been glad to give it to him. How could it be expected that I should have the same feeling for a man working on the same ladder or scaffold, who, while he is prepared to take advantage of all the benefits which may be secured by the work of members of the union, who sit up at night at their meetings to devise means for their improvement, will not pay the paltry sum which is asked of any person joining the union ? Honorable members who ask members on this side to give up their union principles, and their , belief in a mutual understanding between those following the same calling, cannot” have watched the signs of the times. Trade unionism is not confined to Australia, and unions are essential in the interests of all men, whether they be servants of the Government, of a corporation, or a private citizen. When the Labour party were in power, and decided that members of unions should be given preference, there was a hue and cry throughout the country, and honorable members opposite said, “ Our liberties are being interfered with.” What a position to take up !
– Who said that?
– It was said by one gentleman whose parents were able to give him a college education. I only wish that my parents had been in a similar position, because I feel satisfied that if I had been sent to college I would not have put my * education to such a base use as to condemn men who try by organization to improve the conditions of their comrades and of the community in general. My composition would not permit me to do that. I regret, for the sake of Australia, that miserable sham measures are to be laid before a Parliament of intelligent men, who should be, if they are not, the cream of the intellect of Australia, and who are sent here because of their knowledge of the wants of the community. To ask us to sit on these benches and to occupy weeks in discussing whether those who belong to a union shall be deprived of the privilege of serving the Commonwealth and make way for those who are nothing more or less than nonunionists
– Is it in order to call any measure a sham ?
– I do not answer conundrums, and my honorable friend knows enough to supply the answer. I trust that, even at this late hour, the Government will reconsider their position. The honorable member for Parkes seems to be possessed of inner knowledge. He said that the two test measures will pass through the Senate. I do not know where - he got this information from. I am absolutely ignorant on the point. I think that, coming from ‘a follower, his criticisms of the Government were rather severe. At any rate, he seems to be in the inner running. Perhaps, by reason of his long knowledge of parliamentary life and his acquaintance with the people of New South Wales, he may be able to induce the Government to bring in the measures in such a form that they can go through both Houses. The Government may see the folly of their action, and the measures as foreshadowed in the Governor-General’s Speech may differ from the measures which will ultimately be submitted. That is quite possible, I think, from the trend of the discussion on this amendment. There are many honorable members on the other side who are not looking so pleasant as they did at the beginning of this debate. Many of them are searching for loopholes in which to hide their heads, and also to smother the Ad dress-in-Reply. Perhaps the honorable member for Parkes is really in the inner running, and has had a forecast of the intentions of the Government not to press the measures they outlined in the opening speech. I am glad that good advice is offered to the Government in some newspapers. It must be recognised that without the assistance of the press Ministers could not occupy their seats as long as it would take me to write my name. In more than one newspaper very sensible advice has been given in connexion with the proposed vote of censure. Perhaps the advice may be accepted. It is, of course, very hard for a Government to withdraw any proposal or measure which they have put forward. I quite recognise that it is rather humiliating to Ministers to act in that way, but if they will withdraw these test measures I -guarantee that I will not annoy them or cast any reflection upon them. There is very little doubt that nobody was more surprised at the results of the last election than were the leaders of the Liberal party. They were not prepared at the time to take office, and the longer they remain in office the more direct evidence do they give of their unfitness to be there. If they desire to deal with the question of industrial unrest, the question of high prices, the various matters that are so detrimental to the public, surely they will acknowledge that it cannot be done by means of the test measures they propose to bring in. If they are not prepared to deal with the great questions of social reform, they should be manly enough to retire from the Treasury bench and make wag for those who, during a period of three years, showed capacity of administration, and a knowledge of all the measures which are essential to insure the national progress of Australia. Another matter to which I think the Government should have paid attention is the question of the railway gauge. I know that honorable members on this side and members of another place are prepared to tackle this question if the Government will only give the opportunity, and I believe that the people of Australia would like the question to be dealt with. Every day’s delay in adopting a uniform gauge will involve the country in greater expense at the time of conversion. The early Parliaments, as we all know, did nothing in this matter. It was not until the 13th
April, 1910, when the Labour party was returned with a magnificent majority, that anything was thought of being done. I think that all unbiased persons will admit that the Fisher Government did a large amount of work in this direction, and that it was impossible for them to put more legislation on the statute-book than they did. If the people had not made the serious blunder of putting that Government out of office, I feel satisfied that the introduction of a uniform railway gauge would have been taken in hand long ago, because they virtually adopted the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge. All the engineers and all the commissioners you like to create will not, I believe, alter that decision, because it is beyond -doubt the gauge generally adopted throughout the world. , The 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is impracticable, the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge is unnecessary, because a 4-ft. 6^-in. gauge will carry the heaviest locomotive and the heaviest train it is possible to use. It is not so much a question of gauge as a question of laying rails sufficiently heavy, and preparing the roads, to take the loads. If the roads are prepared with sufficient ballast, I am rather in favour of 9-ft. sleepers being used. Judging from all I have read and heard, heavy rails laid on 9-ft. sleepers will carry the heaviest load and the heaviest locomotive likely to be used for some years. The adoption of a uniform gauge is not only essential to the purposes of military defence but also to the commerce of Australia. Undoubtedly our commerce will have to be hauled by the iron horse. We have not the advantages of water carriage that America enjoys; and, therefore, we should, if possible, make our railways such that the road may be open without a break from one end of the continent to the other.
– Do you suggest the New South Wales gauge?
– I am not expert enough to answer a question like that, and I am too much of a Nationalist to be wedded to any particular State’s gauge. I am sent to this Parliament by one of the premier constituencies of Australia, and its people are broad-minded enough to realize that their representative is all the time a big Australian, and not a parish-pump politician. Whatever we do should be in the interests of Australia as a whole. If the
Government are in earnest, they do not want a double dissolution, or even a single dissolution.
– Nobody does.
– Too many elections do not tend to the prosperity of Australia, or make for the country’s progress.
– Let us abolish them.
– Elections produce too much excitement, and the electors’ thoughts are concentrated on them, instead of on the interests of the country. There is plenty for us to do if we are desirous of dealing with national questions. The measures which the Government have promised to bring forward are beneath the contempt of men, and they should be wiped aside.
– What has the AttorneyGeneral to say to that?
– I say wipe them aside, and get on with business.
– Unfortunately, the Attorney-General cannot help his environment. He has not a’ mind broad enough to look at social questions as we on this side of the House do. I do not want to be offensive. But how is it possible for the honorable gentleman to have the same knowledge as I and others who have been through all phases of life ? From sixteen years of age I was in the East End of London, and saw its poverty compared with the wealth of the West End. How could any one with such experience refrain, when the opportunity came, from endeavouring to do what he believes to be in the best interests of the country.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I conclude by expressing the hope that wisdom will prevail with the Government, and that they will show a better appreciation of the needs of Australia than they are doing in the sham measures they are proposing to again bring forward.
.- I shall try to make my remarks as brief as possible. At the outset, I desire, as one who was a representative of certain organizations prior to having the honour to be sent into this House, to express my regret that the first, and probably the most important, measure to be submitted to members for their consideration, is one which is being brought forward solely because of the great influence wielded by the Attorney-General over the other members of his party. I refer to the proposal to remove from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that section which gives the President of the Court power to grant preference to unionists, and also to that other proposal to prohibit preference to unionists in the Government service. As one who has been for some considerable time actively engaged in the industrial movement, I am positive that the majority of those connected with that movement believe in the principle of preference to unionists. In the first place, we base our claims for preference to unionists on these grounds: We have a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and in that Act provision is made for the formation and registration of industrial organizations. We know that, unless an organization is registered under the Act, the machinery of the Act cannot be put into operation. A great deal of work is entailed even in the formation of a union. We have learned from experience that when a union has been formed there are many difficulties to overcome before the union can reach the Court. Even when the Court is reached, there are obstacles to be surmounted, including the responsibility of satisfying the Court that there is an actual dispute in existence. In certain instances organizations have gone into the Court, the question of jurisdiction has been argued for weeks, and then the claim has been thrown out of Court, and the matter in dispute between the employers on the one hand, and the workers on the other, has never been considered. When the organizations have come from the Court, they have been faced with expenses, sometimes including legal expenses, ranging from £500 to £7,000 in one particular instance. It cost the members of one body of workers £7,000 to obtain an award from the Court. As members of trade unions, we say that if the moral and financial responsibility of obtaining an award from the Court has to be undertaken by the trade unions, they should be given preference in regard to the benefits resulting from the appeal. We are met with the argument that it is not right that any individual in the community should obtain preference over another. We say that the unionist has paid for the preference for which he asks, by shouldering the expense and responsibility of bringing about improved conditions in the industry to which he belongs. We believe, too, that preference to unionists will tend to bring about that industrial peace which is preached by the supporters of the Government, although they use every opportunity to make ineffective the legislation likely to secure it. I consider the AttorneyGeneral chiefly responsible for the Bill outlined in the Speech addressed to Parliament by the Governor-General last session, which was to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act by taking from the President of the Court the right to give preference to members of unions whose funds are devoted to political purposes, and by preventing those employed in the rural industries from applying to the Court for awards.- The honorable gentleman has in my time interfered seriously with industrial legislation. The Kyabram reform movement returned him at the head of the Victorian Government with a very big majority, he having advocated certain constitutional reforms. But, at the dictation of the Employers Federation, he set himself to alter the then Wages Board system, which had given general satisfaction to the workers of the State. He caused the law to be amended by the insertion of the so-called “reputable employers provision,” and by making it impossible for a determination to be arrived at by a Wages Board unless seven-tenths of the members of the Board were in favour of the proposals submitted to it. The result was that the Wages Boards were called upon to ascertain in every case what was the average wage paid by reputable employers in the trade which their inquiry affected. Naturally, the . question arose, ‘ ‘ What was a reputable employer?’1 It was pointed out that every employer who paid 20s. in the £1 was reputable in the business sense. Such an employer, if a man offered his services for 3s. a day, might pay only that rate ; and a Wages Board, in fixing the rate for an industry, was prevented from exceeding the average wage paid by “ reputable employers “ in the trade concerned. The result was that the rates fixed by the boards were so low that dissatisfaction spread among the workers. As to the other amendment that I have mentioned, originally the chairman of a Wages Board had a casting vote which decided any question on which the members of the board were equally divided. After the law had been amended in the manner I have spoken of, it became necessary for the workers to obtain for their proposal the support of all the employes’ representatives, and of two employers’ representatives, or of one employers’ representative and the chairman. These facts naturally cause us who are connected with the Labour movement to look with suspicion on the proposals of the AttorneyGeneral for the amendment of the industrial law of the Commonwealth. When he had the power to injure the workers, we know, from bitter experience, that he used it, and absolutely shattered the Wages Board system; so that, subsequently, the Victorian Parliament had to practically repeal his amendments and bring back the law affecting Wages Boards to something like what it was before the honorable gentleman interfered. The AttorneyGeneral’s interference with the oldage pension system occurred about the same time. He utilized the great majority given to him to bring about constitutional reform to alter the payments to old-age pensioners. No workers in Australia need more protection from their employers than the rural workers it is proposed to exclude from approaching the Arbitration Court; but the Attorney-General, at the dictation of the employers in the rural industry, is doing to-day exactly what he did when, at the dictation of the Employers Federation in Victoria, he wrecked the Wages Board system. These workers are badly housed, badly paid, and, in many instances, badly fed. One of the things that struck the Scottish Commission of Agriculturists which toured Australia a year or two ago was that practically no pro- vision was made in the country districts of Victoria for the proper housing of rural workers. The members of the Australian Workers Union engaged in the pastoral industry are well paid for their work, well victualled, and well housed in accordance with the decision of the Arbitration Court, but they obtained these conditions by reason of the right they had to approach the Federal Arbitration Court, and the privilege extended to them should be extended to every worker throughout the community.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral ever done one good thing?
– Yes ; the AttorneyGeneral did a good thing for the workers of Victoria by resigning his position as Premier of the State, for until that time he had used the power he had as Premier to injure the only useful social and industrial legislation there was in operation in the State. When a Premier uses his position and power to do this, depend on it the workers of the community will have no affection for him. No doubt he was applauded for the stand he took in connexion with the railway strike in Victoria - when the strike actually took place - but had there been a reasonable man in the position of Premier, that strike would not have taken place. The Attorney-General was applauded because of what the press and his friends described as his backbone; but, as I said, the strike would never have taken place had any other individual been Premier, because the demands made by the men were only fair and reasonable. The AttorneyGeneral probably thought it would be beneath his dignity to meet representatives of the men and deal with the matters in dispute, and later on he showed that strength for which his friends gave him credit by suppressing the strike with what will go down to history as the Irvine Coercion Act.
– Did he not meet the representatives of the men?
– Yes; after the strike had virtually collapsed; he attended the funeral.
– I suppose that is a fair example of your accuracy. You might say that I had a conference for three days with the men before the strike took place.
– Yes, and told them they had more hard knocks to come.
– The AttorneyGeneral knew that he could not please the Conservatives of the State or the people he served better than by putting the thumbscrew on the railway men; and knowing that in the present Ministry he is the man of power, when we hear of proposals to deal with the existing Commonwealth industrial laws, we naturally come to the conclusion that they emanate from him, and we look upon them with some suspicion. At St. Kilda on Eight Hours night, the Prime Minister emphasized the statement that the Liberal party were responsible for the whole of the industrial and social legislation in operation in Australia. He went on to point out that there never yet has been a Labour Government in power in Victoria, but that, nevertheless, certain forms of industrial and social legislation are in operation in this State. But I ask the Prime Minister whether there was a single form of social or industrial legislation in operation in New South Wales before he was elected as the representative of the miners of Lithgow ?
– Oh, yes, many!
– Was there any of that social and industrial legislation for which both parties now claim credit? Was there any Early Closing Act ? Was there a maternity bonus, old-age pensions, or arbitration and conciliation in operation at the time the honorable gentleman first entered the State House?
– Let me ‘ tell the honorable member that, when I entered the Parliament of New South Wales, every Labour member at that time was dead against compulsory arbitration - against compulsion of any kind. Perhaps the honorable member does not know that?
– I am not prepared to accept the statement of the Prime Minister.
– It is a fact, none the less.
– I admit that at that time I was not taking an active part in the industrial movement ; indeed, I do not think I was even entitled to a vote.
– I may tell the honorable member that the first Court of the kind was a Conciliation Court presided over by Dr. Garran; the Labour party would not have compulsion.
– In 1885, and in 1887, trade unions congresses, representing the workers of Australia, met in Victoria, and the principle of social and industrial legislation was considered and indorsed. The political Labour movement as we know it in Australia to-day was practically the outcome of those congresses; and, from the inception of the movement, we stood for all forms of social and industrial legislation. The Prime Minister says that when he entered Parliament the Labour members were in favour of conciliation, but opposed to. arbitration.
– As the Labour representatives are now in Great Britain.
– The Labour representatives of Great Britain are not opposed to arbitration.
– They are against compulsion.
– There is probably a majority of unionists in Great Britain today in favour of industrial laws.
– But not in favour of compulsory arbitration.
– I was living in New South Wales just about the time that the Prime Minister was first elected to the Legislative Assembly. The other night, at St. Kilda, the honorable gentleman told his audience that the particular form of legislation to which he was referring had come into operation within a certain number of years, and that the whole credit for it must go to the Liberal party. I am prepared to admit that the Liberal Government of Victoria have passed different forms of social and industrial legislation, but that has only been, so to speak, at the point of the sword. There is not one form of such legislation operating in this or any other State to-day but what has come into existence since the Labour party and trade unions asserted their right to take political action. No doubt, to a certain extent, the Prime Minister is correct when he says that, although there has been no Labour Government in Victoria, such legislation has been passed. I have, however, a clear recollection of how, as a lad, I worked at a place in South Melbourne, starting at half-past 7 or 8 o’clock in the morning, and continuing until 8 o’clock at night, while on the Saturday I was not at liberty until half -past 11 at night, and on some occasions got home on the Sunday morning. At that time there was no political Labour party in Victoria, and the agitation had just sprung up in the Labour movement for political action. I well remember how, when it was stated by the leaders of the movement that it was their intention to press for industrial laws compelling certain rates of wages, regulating the hours of labour, and so forth, it was prophesied that that would mean ruin to every existing business. But the agitation went on, not only in Victoria, but in every State or Colony of Australia. That agitation had for its object the betterment of the conditions of the working masses of the people, and we have lived to see industrial laws operating throughout the country. It was said that it would be impossible, without ruin, for shops to close at a reasonable hour; but now, in almost every State, shops close at 6 o’clock, and thousands of men and women enjoy the benefit of the Saturday half -holiday.
– It was Sir John Lubbock, afterwards Lord Avebury, who was the father of that movement in the Imperial Parliament, thirty-five years ago.
– I believe that the two persons who first agitated for effective industrial legislation were Sadler and Ostler, more than thirty-five years ago, and that they later on were joined by Lord Shaftesbury in their efforts to obtain factories laws for England. In Australia, the real agitation for social and industrial legislation sprang from the Labour movement, and the brunt of the battle was borne by the men and women of the Labour ranks. We had many difficulties to face. Men who carried our banner appeared as candidates; but the people were told that it would be impossible for ordinary working men from the factory or the mine, who had no commercial or business education, to enter Parliament and get laws passed under which business could be conducted. Indeed, as late as the last election, it was said that what we required in the National Parliament were men who were “ captains of industry “ - that it was impossible for those who comprise the Labour party to deal with the great financial and national questions that come up for consideration in this House. That statement was made throughout Australia. And what is the position to-day? On the Government side of the House we see a number of honorable members who have had conferred upon them university degrees, and others who claim to be captains of industry. We see in them the combined intelligence of what is termed to-day the great Liberal movement of Australia. I term it the great Conservative movement. But the Liberal party, with all its captains of industry and its university men, selected as its leader a man who was first raised from the coal mines and placed in Parliament by the party to which we have the honour to belong. Is he a captain of industry?
– We are proud of him.
– I am pleased that the last two men to hold the highest posi tion that can be conferred upon a man in Australia to-day came from the coal mines. I am more delighted to know that there is a distinction between the two. Both, at different stages of their career, have been connected with this party. One of them - our worthy leader - in the midst of all his success has remained loyal to the people who were the first to place him in Parliament. The other - the Prime Minister - who also owes to the movement with which we are connected his elevation into public life, instead of remaining loyal and true to the cause, has, for reasons of his own, betrayed the party and the trust that was reposed in him, and has gone over to those who are bitterly opposed to us.
– He may yet come back -
And while the lamp holds out to burn
The vilest sinner may return.
– I hope that he will not. We have reason to congratulate ourselves upon the fact that but very few of the men whom we have placed in public life have been led by their success to betray the confidence placed in them. Any individual member of our party, no matter what his position may be, may betray the cause - may cross over to the other side or retire from public; life - yet the movement will still go on.
– The Labour party have had two or three in exchange. Do they call those who go over to their side “ Judases “ ?
– Every man is free to change his opinions, but we expect men to progress, and not to go back. A great deal of attention is being devoted to-day to the question of voting by post. Last session, when the Postal Voting Bill was before the House, we were told that the action of the Labour party in abolishing the system had deprived something like 70,000 people of the right to record their votes. The Woman Voter, a paper issued by the Women’s Political Association, in its issue of 7 th October last, reports that at a deputation which waited upon the Prime Minister, the speaker on behalf of the association was Miss Goldstein.
– She did not say anything there about the cigars we were smoking.
– No. Dealing with the question of the amendment of the Electoral Act, Miss Goldstein said, according to this report - -
Wo ask that the clause disfranchising an Australian woman who marries an alien be struck out, and that postal voting should not be restored. As a non-party organization we have special opportunities for getting into touch with women of all parties and all shades of political thought, and we say, unhesitatingly, that the postal vote undermined the political responsibility of women, that it was a class vote, and that it fostered political ignorance and a bitter party spirit. It was used chiefly by welltodo women, women of leisure who had no idea of politics, but voted as they were told, animated only by party bitterness, a fierce hatred of the Labour party. The restoration of the postal vote is not being asked for by publicspirited women, but by the women who openly boast that they did not want the franchise, that it was thrust upon them, and that they only exercise it under protest as an unpleasant duty. It is said that the abolition of the postal vote is a grave injustice to women in whose interests it was introduced, especially in the interests of maternity cases. An analysis of the figures for 1910 shows that women did not use the postal vote to a much greater extent than men. I have analyzed the figures for typical constituencies.
She quoted figures showing that in respect of the whole of Australia, 13,490 men and 15,759 women voted by post at the last Commonwealth election, to which the system applied. In other words, the number of women voting by post was only 2,269 in excess of the number of male electors who did so. A remarkable feature of the analysis of the voting is that the highest percentage of postal votes was recorded by women in electorates where the best facilities existed for going to the polling booths.
– What would it matter if every one voted by post, as long as they did so honestly?
– It would be a matter of much consequence. We as a party say that we are not opposed to granting reasonable facilities to enable the sick and infirm to exercise the franchise. But we are absolutely opposed to the restoration of those facilities for voting by post that were operative at the general elections in 1910. We believe that many of the postal votes recorded on that occasion were not the votes of free individuals, but were recorded under pressure. Honorable members opposite appear to resent the idea that any pressure can be exercised upon electors to-day. But many of us who have had to toil in certain places know that pressure is brought to bear upon voters. There are certain individuals in the community who are contemptible enough to utilize the power which they exercise over others for their own personal good, and to the detriment of their victims. There is another matter to which I desire to refer. Prior to the last election, the AttorneyGeneral made a great deal of political capital out of his proposal to give effect to a scheme of compulsory insurance. At one of his meetings, he was asked whether his party, if they triumphed at the polls, would have sufficient power under our Constitution, in its present form, to give effect to the compulsory insurance scheme which he was advocating. His reply was that he believed they had sufficient power, but if they had not, they would take steps to secure it by an amendment of the Constitution. Since then, the AttorneyGeneral has had many opportunities of considering the provisions of our Constitution, and I would like to know whether he thinks that, under that charter of government, the’ Ministry have power to give effect to that scheme.
– The Prime Minister will not allow me to answer questions. Dispose of this motion, and we will talk about questions.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral believe that the Government have power under the existing Constitution to give effect, to his compulsory insurance scheme 1
– The honorable member has abused the Attorney-General all night; now he asks him questions.
– I do not consider that I have indulged in abuse at all. As I am reminded by an honorable member, I have merely given a statement of facts. I have simply said that the AttorneyGeneral, when he was Premier of this State, was responsible for certain action being taken. I do not think that he denies the accuracy of my statement. He and his Government were responsible for effecting certain alterations in the then existing social and industrial laws.
– I do not believe that honorable members opposite know when they are abusing us. I have been listening to abuse for a fortnight.
– The Prime Minister ought to be an authority upon that subject.
-I do not consider it is abuse for an honorable member to refer to the public acts of another honorable member, so long as his statements are accurate.
– If they areaccu- rate.
– While he was Premier of this State, the present AttorneyGeneral was responsible for altering certain social and industrial laws in a direction which was detrimental to the interests of the people. The honorable gentleman has not denied the accuracy of my statements.
– I never do. It would take me the whole of my time to deny the accuracy of all the statements which are made concerning me.
– I ask the honorable gentleman to say whether my statements in regard to the action which he took in relation to the Wages Board system in Victoria are true or untrue?
– Order ! The honorable member is not in order in asking questions at this stage.
– I have made certain allegations regarding the action taken by the Attorney-General when he was Premier of Victoria in relation to the Wages Board system and the system of old-age pensions, and I claim that those statements are accurate in every detail.
– Does not the honorable member think that it is time to stop this grave-digging ? We are living in the year 1914.
– I think we are perfectly justified in referring to the past. Immediately the Attorney-General obtained office in the present. Ministry, he set to work on exactly similar lines to those which he followed when he was Premier of Victoria. He is opposed to the existing Commonwealth industrial laws. He intends to attack the existing system of payment in connexion with the maternity allowance.
– Meantime he is paying better wages and giving better conditions than your Government did.
– In what way?.
– The present Government are treating the workers better than your Government did.
– The fact of the matter is that in Western Australia there is a. strike in existence against the present Government.
– The men there worked for your Government for11s. 8d. per day, and will not work for us for 12s. 6d.
– From my knowledge of the Prime Minister and his previous history as a trade unionist, if he were in the position of those railway men in Western Australia to-day he would be among the strikers.
– I should be at work. Your Government made the workers in the Northern Territory go back at 10s., and be glad to get it.
– We did nothing of the sort. As a party we stand always for the best conditions.
– You are strikebreakers and sweaters.
– I am confident that every one of the three hundred odd’ sweaters that have recently been proved to have broken the Factories Act in Victoria voted on the 31st May lastfor honorable members sitting on the opposite side of the House. Nearly all the sweaters in Melbourne can be seen in Collins-street on election night looking up anxiously at the returns, praying to Heaven for the downfall of every Labour man in the community. Thank goodness their prayers are not answered. The Government are refusing the men in Western Australia reasonable conditions, and they have gone out on strike. Did the Prime Minister ever see an. unreasonable strike?
– They were striking against reasonable conditions because we were continuing to pay the wages that your Government paid. We have since given them 10s. a week more.
– The Prime Minister tells only half the truth. According to the conditions operating in that State, there are certain wages for certain districts. When men go beyond a certain district the rates of wages are altered,but the present Government have refused to give the men the recognised union rates for the district in which they are working.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– I must again remind honorable members that there is a timelimit to speeches. The honorable member who is addressing the Chair is entitled to the full use of his time, which should not be encroached upon by repeated interjections.
– The Prime Minister may deny them, but those are the facts in connexion with that case. He has refused to give the men the recognised union conditions.
– That is incorrect.
– Order !
– I submit that a statement–
– Is the Prime Minister rising to a point of order?
– Of course, I am. My point of order is that it is customary in this House for an honorable member’s denial tobe accepted, and that, therefore, the honorable member should not persist in repeating a statement which he knows is absolutely incorrect.
– I would inform the honorable member for Fawkner, who is a new member, that it is customary, when the accuracy of a statement has been denied, for the honorable member making it to accept the denial.
– I say again that the Prime Minister’s statement is only half a truth. It is a fact that the Fisher Government paid11s. 8d. a day; but, according to the custom in and around these districts, it was generally known that when men got beyond a certain distance from a town their wages automatically increased. In view of the distance at which these men are now working from a town, and according to the district they are working in, they are entitled, according to their union conditions, to 13s. 4d. a day; but the Government, as is usual with Liberal Governments, do not want to pay the union rates, and desire to strike a bargain. They are, therefore, offering the men 12s. 6d.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
Several honorable members interjecting
– I must again appeal to the House for order; and take this opportunity of informing honorable members that I do not propose to make myself hoarse in calling for order. If honorable members will not obey the direction of the Chair to maintain order, I shall reluctantly be compelled to have recourse to another standing order in order to enforce my authority.
– I am glad the Prime Minister has referred to the strike of the railway men in the West. No Liberal meeting to-day is complete without a reference to the present industrial unrest. During the last election it was stated on numbers of platforms that the Labour Government even wentso far as to appoint pickets in connexion with a strike. As a party wesay that we do not encourage strikes. On the contrary, we use every means at our disposal to avert them; but occasions arise when a strike cannot be avoided. It is only a last resource; but we are told that we, as a party, being responsible for the management of the industrial movement, should see to it that no strikes take place in our community at all now. The other side say that our industrial laws should be such that trade organizations desiring to improve their conditions should be able to do so by taking advantage of those laws without resorting to a strike. The fact remains, however, that our existing laws are insufficient to deal with the industrial disputes taking place in our community to-day. As a political party, we have at all times been desirous of improving our industrial legislation so that the workers may obtain something like economic justice without being called upon to strike in order to better their conditions. We know that when a strike takes place, it is not the manufacturer or other employer who, as a rule, is called upon to make any sacrifice. The sacrifices are made by the members of the organization who have gone on strike. No reasonable man is prepared to cease work, which practically means the stopping of supplies for himself and those dependent upon him, without a substantial reason. The cases are very rare in which a strike takes place in Australia without the members of the organization who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of going on strike having solid reasons for their action. What has the party on this side done in the effort to avoid industrial strife? We have made every reasonable sacrifice to have put into operation the laws which we consider necessary for the purpose. Honorable members opposite are always prating about industrial peace, and taunting members on this side with being responsible for the action of all unionists who go out on strike. But our friends opposite are prepared to do what the AttorneyGeneral did when in the Victorian Parliament.
– Who passed the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– It was passed by a Liberal Government, but they were able to pass it only by the solid support of every Labour man sitting at the time in this Chamber. What did we find when the Act was brought into operation ? Men appealed to the Court to obtain u decision, and, immediately it was given, these people who were always prating about industrial peace secured the best legal advice that money could purchase to discover some legal flaw in the proceedings on which they might appeal to the High Court. In many instances, their appeals to the High Court have been successful. These appeals have not been made by the unions, but by the people who preach industrial peace. These remarks apply with equal force to the operation of the State industrial laws. Members of a union go to a Wages Board to obtain a determination. They may have to wait for fifteen or eighteen months for it, and in the interval the members of the union continue their work peaceably awaiting the decision of the Board. When the determination is given the employers at once appeal to the Industrial Appeal Court, a Court which was brought into existence by the present AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth, at the instigation of the Employers’ Federation.
– That is a State matter.
– That is so; but the State industrial legislation to which I am referring was the work of the honorable gentleman who is practically at the head of the Commonwealth Government today. At the present time, in this. State, an organization is awaiting the result of an appeal by the employers from the determination of a Wages Board to the Appeal Court, and, while they are waiting, the employers have locked out every man who was in their employ. In the first Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act provision was made for what is known as the common rule. Under the existing Act a union has to serve a plaint on not one or two ‘ employers, but it may be upon 300 or 400 in some trades.
– I think we have about 800 in the miners’ case already.
– The honorable member for Batman reminds me that, under the existing Federal law, in one case, it has been necessary for those appealing to the Court to bring between 800 and 900 employers before the Court as respondents before the machinery of the law can be set in operation. The intention originally under the Federal Act was that an organization might take certain employers before the Court, and, on obtaining an award from the President of the Court, make application to have it made a common rule for Australia. As the result of an appeal by the employers to the High Court, it was declared that that particular section of the original Act was unconstitutional. As a result of this decision, if the rural workers decided to submit a case to the Court to secure an award which would operate throughout Australia, it would possibly be necessary for them to cite some thousands of employers before the Court. Honorable members opposite have laid a great deal of stress upon the existence of industrial strife, but, I repeat that we, as a party, want industrial peace, and in this Parliament, and in each of the State Parliaments, the members of the Labour party are prepared to assist any Government that will bring forward legislation that will assure to us industrial peace. The Attorney-General knows that it is impossible to pass effective industrial legislation without an alteration of the Constitution. The only possible method of making the existing Act effective is to empower this Parliament to re-insert the provision dealing with the common rule. By such an amendment, the difficulties that lie before the organizations to-day would be wiped out for all time. The question of the common rule is a very important one to the unions. We know that, without an alteration of the Constitution, there is no possibility of getting the defect in the Act remedied.
– Unionism is the hope of the world.
– Yes. Unionism has done a great deal for the people in our community.
– It started in the Garden of Eden.
– Unionism started in the Garden of Eden, ‘ as the honorable member says; but, up to date, the intention of the Government is to keep the rural workers out of it. I would have liked this Parliament to be invited to give all its attention to the consideration of our industrial legislation, because I believe that no legislation is of more importance to the general community than it is. But, instead of being asked to overcome the difficulties which we are faced with to-day, we find the AttorneyGeneral trying to work the Act as it exists. In his speech the other day, the honorable member for Wilmot, in dealing with defence and industrial matters, made a reference to. the necessity of calling out the members of our Defence Forces in the time of industrial strife. I hope to see an amendment placed in the Defence Act which will prohibit such a thing from being done.
– What could the Government do, then ?
– Get the police, if there was anything to be done.
– I believe that in no other country in the world would the working classes have so readily agreed to their children being brought under the compulsory training system as they have done in Australia. Judging from the feeling which I know exists in the minds of a large section of our workers, I believe that, whilst they are willing to allow their children to undergo the training, from the time that a Government agree to the calling out of the military in connexion with an industrial strife will date the ending of our system of compulsory training as it is known to-day. I hope that the necessity for calling out the forces will never arise, and, further, I hope that the workers of the community will be protected against the act of any person who may happen to be in power by the insertion of a provision on the lines adopted at the Hobart Conference of 1912, and that is one to prohibit, under any circumstances, the calling out of our forces during an industrial strike. We hear a great deal of the violence used by the workers in the community. I believe that less violence in connexion with industrial disputes exists in Australia than exists in any other part of the world. Take our experience of the Broken Hill strike, the Newcastle strike, the implement workers’ strike, the great building trade strike, and the maritime strike.
From our experiences of these strikes we know that, so far as the workers were concerned, violence was almost totally absent. We know that even at Newcastle, where the State Government openly tried to provoke the strikers to break the law so that they could deal with them, the strikers absolutely refused to be drawn into acts of violence with the police, and in that way defeated the desire of the authorities. But in the heat of political battle at election time the electors are told that at every strike acts of violence are perpetrated by the workers. Those who take an interest in industrial matters are aware that the organized workers are practically free from acts of violence. We have every reason to be proud of their conduct to-day. In conclusion, I wish to say a few words regarding the maternity allowance. There is a proposal of the Government to alter the existing Act in such a way that persons desiring the benefit of it will have to make a declaration that they are in very poor circumstances - they will practically have to acknowledge that they are paupers. I believe that the whole of the members of the Labour party are unanimous in hoping that there will be no alteration in the existing Act. It has done a great deal of good, despite what may have been said at the ladies’ meetings during the recent elections. Many statements were made by ladies holding prominent positions in connexion with the Women’s National League, and some went so far as to say that the maternity allowance was a bribe given by the Fisher Government for the purpose of capturing the votes of the women of Australia. They further said that it was an insult to the motherhood of Australia to ask them to accept a £5 note at that critical period of their lives. I read the names of many of the ladies who made those statements, and inquired into their condition in life, and I came to the conclusion that the majority of them had never gone through the true experiences or responsibilities of motherhood.
– They have not the time.
– There is a good deal of truth in that interjection. Those ladies who criticised the Fisher Government for introducing this bonus’ had no experience of the true responsibilities of motherhood.
A month or two before that particular period of life when they might want the benefit of the Act, they retire from their social activities, and four or five weeks after their confinement they are doing the round of social life again. During their time of illness those ladies have the best attention, so far as doctors and nursing are concerned, that money can purchase. But what is the position of the other women who are scoffed at for having to accept this money? What is their position compared with that of the people who criticise them? In many homes no doctor, in many homes no nurse, sometimes a nurse without a doctor, sometimes a doctor without a nurse, and the mothers relying for attention solely on the assistance give,n to them by their good-natured womenfolk living near. That is their condition at that time of life, compared with that of those ladies who, throughout the land, were criticising the action of the Fisher Government in making that allowance to the motherhood of the country. Of course, the objection that has been voiced on the Government, side is that the bonus is now being paid to women who are not in need of it; and it is said that the money should not go to those people. The present Act does not ask them to collect the money. If they do not desire the bonus, they need not apply for it. What is desired by the Government is that the wives of the workers shall apply for that money, just as people had to apply for the old-age pension in Victoria some time ago, by making a declaration in the open Court practically (hat they are paupers. That, in effect, is the proposal which is emanating from the present Government.
– Is it wrong that they should go before magistrates? That is the position of the majority of pensioners to-day.
– Every pensioner has not to do it to-day. That is the difference between the present Act and that which was in operation at the time I have referred to. But the proposal which has emanated from the present Government is to have the effect of putting our womenfolk back to the same system as operated when the present Attorney-General was Premier of Victoria. When all is said and done, I do not think the Government would have the courage to bring such a proposal before this House. They have certainly shelved it for the time being. After all their tales to the farmers, they have not had the courage this session to proceed with the proposal to strike out that portion of the Arbitration Act which gives the rural workers the right to approach the Court. They have” not the courage to proceed with the striking out of the section which gives the Court power to give preference to unionists. But they come forward with a proposal which the honorable member for West Sydney rightly referred to as “ the shadow of a sham,” a proposal to abolish the principle of giving preference to unionists in the Government service. They know that the abolition of preference to unionists in the Government service would not affect 3,000 people. In regard to the other question of postal voting, they know that the abolition of that system does not affect a great number of women in the community to-day. After the criticism I had to undergo when fighting the last election, I naturally believed that the Liberal party, to which the press of Victoria was giving whole-hearted support, would introduce as their first measure a Bill for the revision of the Tariff. Every morning the press told the electors that the only hope of a revision of the Tariff was the return of the Liberals to power; but the question of Tariff revision, so far as the Liberals are concerned, is to-day as dead as Caesar’s cat. An attempt is being made to hand our responsibilities in regard to the Tariff to the Inter-State Commission. So far as I, and, indeed, the majority on this side, are concerned, we shall not be bound by the recommendations of that body in regard to the Tariff. We shall recognise the claims of those who are desirous of fostering and encouraging Australian industries, and shall accord them the assistance that they deserve.
– An eminent Persian doctor once said, “ If you want to avoid indigestion, shun the man who is always telling bad news.” When I hear those on one side swear that we are .going to ruin, and those on the other side saying that we have already got there, I do not know what hope there is for me. I notice in reading the newspapers that the fighting blood of the Prime Minister rises to its highest temperature when he is addressing a Sisters’ meeting and Brother Fisher is far away. I object to my friends on this side continually pulverizing the AttorneyGeneral. They say that he is the brains of the party opposite. Then they praise the Prime Minister for having by sheer, indomitable pluck and determination risen to his present position from the estate of a coal miner.
– It is to his credit.
– To his eternal credit. The great grandfather of His Majesty the present King hanged in Belfast the great-grandfather of McKinley, the ex-President of the United States, which shows how things are changing. In my opinion the Attorney-General does not represent the brains of the Ministry.
– Who does?
– I think that they are a fair average lot. I do not know why my honorable friends on this side are making the Attorney-General the Napoleon of Australia. Let me tell you that it is dangerous to have a Napoleon in a Democracy. It does not take long before these “ roosters “ get control. I have no such desire. What about the Minister of External Affairs, one of the leading lawyers of Australia? That great American, Bret Harte, said that “ for ways that are dark and tricks that are vain,” nobody can beat the Chinaman. So far as the games of politicians are concerned, the Prime Minister could give the Chinese 40 yards, and then beat them home. This is a wonderful game that
Ave are playing, and until Ave reach that high state of civilization in which we shall recognise that this great Commonwealth is not to be run purely for the directors, without the shareholders receiving any dividends, we shall go on battling as Ave have been doing, one-half of the House trying to pull down the other half. There is in America an animal called the woodchuck. This animal is about the size of a cat, but once he gets into a hollow log, with his head to the front, all the dogs in the universe cannot get him out. We have got the Prime Minister into a hollow log, and Ave are trying to get him out.
-Howis the honorable member going to vote ?
– Against the Govern ment. But I am trying to show the folly of the business. We can fight each other as much as we like outside, rousing the country to vote for us. Butwhen Ave get here, we ought to be like the directors of a big corporation. Weshould form committees and get towork. Ifwe do not, Australia will rise in her indignation, and hunt us some day like wild dogs. I can see her coming. I have got tired of quarrelling. During the few years that we have on this earth,we should get together and try to do something. I believe in team work; in collective energy. The other day I saw that one of our honorable friends opposite had said that some proposition that I had made was twentyfour days behind April Fool’s Day. I have been sixteen years in the parliamentary life” of Australia, and I have never known a day thatwas not a fool’s day. In fact, to mo, as a business man, every day is a fool’s day. We race over thewhole of Australia; Ave battle against each other, and we tell all sorts of stories. Do not forget that the cheerful liar never attracts such universal attention as the vicious slanderer. Then we come here and fight for three years as towho is going to run the House. The directors of a great corporation do not do this. We are the directors of the Australian corporation. We could get towork here for the next two years, and could take up the Tariff. We could put a great rural credit into Australia connected with the Commonwealth Bank.
– How dare you speak of the bank in that way. I shall tell Andrew.
– I tell Andrew things myself. We could take the platform of the State Premiers and deal with subjects like irrigation, the break of gauge, and that magnificent River Murray scheme. I congratulate the Prime Minister on having met the State Premiers and talked matters over with them. It is wonderful what you can do if you sit down at a table and have a yarn, even though you wipe up the dishes occasionally. I also congratulate the Government on appointing permanent Divisional Returning Officers. On this side of the Chamber we appreciate any sign of progress on the part of our friends, but I seriously object to calling those on the Government side Liberals, because in
Old England the grand word “ Liberal “ signified something mighty. I can remember my father talking of things that happened in the old days when the Liberals were fighting the Tories. He was a Tory, but in the wrong shop - in the north of Ireland. Think of Gladstone, Bright, and all those men who fought to strike the chains oft human limbs. To find in Australia a series of segregated elements calling themselves Liberals is like comparing a singed cat to a Bengal tiger. I am reminded of a Yankee who went to buy a horse for his wife. He said, “ I want a good horse,” and the dealer said, “ That is a beautiful horse.” The Yankee replied, “He is too reaching.” In regard to another, he said, “ He is too high in the wither.” Finally, the dealer said, “ Here is a horse that my wife thinks more of than she does of me. I. would not take 2,000 dollars for it. We have a steel engraving of the horse that George Washington rode at the battle of Brandywine, and General Banks declares that this horse is a facsimile of that.” “ Yes,” said the Yankee, opening the horse’s mouth and looking at its teeth, “ I swear it is the same horse.” Look at the gums of our friends opposite and you will see them stamped “ Conservative “or “ Tory.” My name has been brought in a great deal in connexion with the Teesdale Smith contract. I take the responsibility for everything I did when I was Minister in the Home Affairs Department, in which I think every one will admit I made great reforms. But Australia is run, not by Ministers, but by public servants who cannot help colouring matters to suit their operations. Unless the Minister going into office has a complete system of digests, he must depend on the Secretary to his Department, who, though honest enough, cannot help colouring things to suit the Department. I admit at once that I gave an order for 100,000 powellised mountain ash sleepers, but there was no analogy between that order and the Teesdale Smith contract, seeing that just previously we had advertised all over Australia for tenders for sleepers, and we had the tenders in the Department. When I returned from Queensland, or wherever I was fighting the recent election, this matter was put in front of me, and I wrote across the recommendation that the Department should not pay more than the price of jarrah. The Engineer-in-Chief could not agree with me as to the use of Tasmanian timber. I was anxious to give a contract to Tasmania, but he did not think it was suitable.
– You were a “ rubber stamp “ on that occasion.
– I admit it. When a man is in a hurry, he may be. The Engineer-in-Chief stated’ that he required these powellised sleepers, and that there was no other company’ supplying them.
– Tasmanians offered to supply them.
– Not 100,000. sleepers. They offered to supply 300,000. I signed the order to negotiate with the Powellising Company. It is quite true that the Engineer-in-Chief sent them a letter that did not contain any reference to specifications, or anything else, but I have no doubt that, engineer or no engineer, when it came to the pointy King O’Malley was not a man who would sign a contract without specifications and without a bond. If the Prime Minister will turn up the savings book in the Home Affairs Department he will find that in the bargains I made, and in the business I did, I saved Australia £194,000. The Western Australian Government gave us certain concessions over their railways, and in every possible way they could they met us.
– But they made you pay 9d. a 100 superficial feet more than they paid themselves.
– They did not make me do that. When the Powellising Company first went to Western Australia they gave the State Government a concession to get them to introduce the process, just as people get in on the ground floor at first at a cheap rate, but when the population comes along others do not get in at the same price.
– Brother -Scaddan would not pass on the concession to you. That was not Socialism.
– The Western Australian Government gave us many concessions in transportation, in water rights, and everything else. No one claims that we did not call for tenders in regard to the original sleeper contracts, but it is said that I did not call for tenders for these mountain ash sleepers.
– You paid 6d. per sleeper more for them than you paid for jarrah sleepers.
– But I wrote across the paper that the Department were not to pay more than was paid for jarrah. The Prime Minister had gone into my electorate at that time, and I had to get to work. I had no time to do anything but keep him out. I was the woodchuck then. If I had gone back to the Department as Minister I would never have signed that contract with the Powellising Company for the 100,000 mountain ash sleepers unless they complied with specifications, irrespective of whether the Engineer-in-Chief had written them a letter or not. And that ends the. analogy between the two contracts. However, the Powellising Company made such a bad bargain that they were glad to get out of that contract.
– They need not have agreed to the specification, all the same.
– I should have seen that they agreed to it, and, in any case, we know that no company wishes to fight the Government. . If the Engineer-in-Chief made a bit of a mistake, that should not bind the Minister.. When I was at the Department of Home Affairs, I laid it down that I was the Minister - that there was only one head in the Department.
– And now there are three; so that the honorable member must have been doing the work of three men.
– I am not complaining of that, because, perhaps, those at the Department did not have my. American experience. In reference to the Teesdale. Smith contract, there was another tender or proposal, only, of course, the Minister did not know anything about it. There is no honorable member on either side of the House who entertains the idea that one man here is not absolutely honest; and we ought not to allow ourselves to utter any slanders, and talk of “ Tammany.” The state of affairs in America is not half as bad as people are led to believe; but the newspapers there have a great latitude, and if a man in the House uses his privilege to make a charge, all the world is informed of the fact. Had I thought of it, I could have brought some American newspapers here in which it is stated that, at the last general election in’ Australia, there were millions of votes recorded in the names of people who were not in the country at all. In New York, during’ the Tammany regime, I remember that at one booth, where 1,000 electors were supposed to vote, 33,000 votes were recorded. The danger of the position lies in the fact that, after these two poisonous test Bills have been introduced, and we have devoted our time to fighting and tearing out each other’s hair, Parliament will not be in the humour to proceed with the consideration of good measures - our livers will be bad, and our tempers nasty. That is the reason why I suggested the other day that both sides should come together, and see if we could not manage to transact some useful business. Then, of course, if we like, we can go outside and give each other “ what for “ ; if the game is to becarried on, why, let us carry it on. The representatives of Australia in this Parliament are chosen by the people after terrific battles, great worry, and a bit of expense. I am sometimes told that, as a member of Parliament, I enjoy a free pass on the railways, but this I deny, because I contend that at my election I paid for that pass in one lump sum. Cannot we come together and do some business ? One honorable member urges a double dissolution ; another favours a single dissolution ; and a third would have no dissolution at all. Good heavens ! Do not honorable members think that the people are about sick of our going amongst them as candidates ? I am against any dissolution, and I have always been an anti-dissolutionist. The country sent me here after a great contest, in which we polled 81 per cent, of the electors. However, as I was saying, we ought to combine, for we then might be able to introduce a splendid, Tariff, which would give Australia true Protection, and enable our industries to flourish. There is another point to which I desire to call attention. Why is it that the revenue has started to fall ?
– Because the present Government are in power.
– At any rate, I ask the Prime Minister to search his heart and see whether something is not wrong
– Search my heart ! I am told I have not one.
– Are the Government watching the Customs revenue as closely as the honorable member for Yarra did when he was Minister? It is a remarkable fact that in New York, after Roosevelt’s private secretary took charge of the Customs, the revenue went up by millions, simply because he got at a lot of the “ boodleers “ who were smuggling diamonds in their pockets. The watch-dogs of the Treasury ought to be set to work, so that there can be no smuggling, even by means of balloons. I see a danger in the Attorney-General attaining power, because he means to wipe out the equality of representation in the Senate. For thirty years, I remember, the question used to be asked in the United States of America why Delaware had equal representation with the great State of New York; why Connecticut and Nevada should have equal representation in the Senate, and so on; and it has taken all the intervening years to solidify the American people and make them realize that the small States help to make the big States bigger. It is the intelligence of Tasmania that has made Victoria and New South Wale’s; and for years this House has, virtually speaking, been run by the smaller States from which some of the leading men have come. One of the greatest crimes that could be committed against the Australian people now would be to hand over the smaller States to the tender mercies of the two big States; but that is what will be the result if the Attorney-General gets the power. I do not think for a moment that the Prime Minister is in favour of such a step; but if the Attorney-General is “ running the show,” as he is said to be, though I do not think he is-
– The AttorneyGeneral is only speaking for himself.
– That is what I think.
– The “ show “ is “ running “ him.
– Could the AttorneyGeneral do what the honorable member says, even if he desired to do it?
– We do not know what a lawyer can do. I knew a lawyer in America who burst up the title to a brewery that had been there for 300 years, and #5,000,000 had to be paid for the ground.
– Was the honorable member “ in it “ ?
– No; but I know the “ rooster “ who got the money. As to the Electoral Act, there is only one way - to come down to solid business and make the measure practical. The Prime Minister has got stained on the work, and he ought to go ahead and finish it. We ought to provide for compulsory voting, which is a corollary of compulsory enrolment. Further, we should dispense with the 4,000 or 5,000 poll clerks, and employ paid scrutineers - one for each side.
– How would the honorable member enforce compulsory voting?
– It is wonderful what the law can do. I remember some years ago, when I used to collect my own rents, I rapped at a door, and said to the little girl who answered, “ Tell your mother the poor landlord is here.” She said, “ Mother’s gone to register the dog; it is the last day for registering it.” I got no rent that week. But people do not forget the law. The power of the law is wonderful ! Furthermore, we should have the courage to pay for the conveyance of people to and from the polls on the day of election. If any one brings out his motor car, we should commandeer it, but pay him for its use. With permanent scrutineers and permanent Divisional Returning Officers, we could do away with the printing of rolls until about a month before a general election. We could also extend the payment of members of Parliament, as Queensland has done, from election day to election day.
– No one cheers that suggestion.
– Some one has to “ bell the cat.” If what I have just suggested were done, a great improvement would be secured. A. sympathetic Minister does not like to arrange for the dissolution of Parliament much before the date on which it expires by effluxion of time, because it is not fair to members to do so. The result is that it is often put off until the last moment, and there is hardly time to have a really complete election.
– There is no doubt that that accounts for a lot of the overloading that takes place.
– It does. When I was Minister of Home Affairs, I consulted with my colleagues from time to time, but not one of them thought that we should arrange for the Parliament to be dissolved too early, because every member is entitled to his £600 a year, and with an early dissolution he does not get it. Honorable members are frightened of their own shadows. I am speaking, as I always do, for myself.
– The honorable member is saying what a lot of us think.
– I believe that I am. Then, again, we ought to save from the waste on militarism sufficient to enable us to increase the old-age pensions to 12s. 6d. or 15s. per week. My honorable friends must have brains; but, on this question of militarism, they seem to have gone beyond reach of salvation. I do not object to compulsory drill on reasonable lines, so that the boys will not suffer, but I do object to the waste ot money on warships. The expenditure on war vessels is wholly unproductive. Every penny that we put into a warship is, so to speak, on the scrap-heap in a few years.
– Everybody silent !
– My troubles ! I have my own mission in this world, and I mean to carry it on I have always been opposed to heavy naval expenditure. In the first place, I favoured the purchase, if necessary, of 200,000 rifles to be distributed among the young men of the country, who, I hold, should be taught how to shoot. As for training, men cannot fight nowadays in solid squares. Put a solid body of men in front of a Gatling gun and they would all be dead before they could get near enough to successfully resist attack. I would take the guns out of our Dreadnought, and other war vessels, would load them all with Australian produce, and send them to the Panama Exposition at San Francisco. I would either do that, or send them into every port as a great peace exhibition. We could keep the bands on board, engage Hie best travellers in Australia, f.nd, with the Australian flag flying, send the Fleet with our produce to other countries, where the travellers would pay their way. There is no money in our warships at present. When I looked at our Dreadnought the other day, my heart nearly bled as I thought of how we should be taxed a few years hence to keep the Navy going. Why do we keep these vessels? Merely to fire a salute when a gentleman of note comes to the country now and again. Could we not keep for the purpose a gun like the sunset gun in New York, which is fired from Washington by electricity every night. An Irishman was once landing at New York, just at sunset, when the gun went off with a report that shook the ship. “ Good Heavens, what’s that?” he asked. “Ah,” said a friend, “ that is the sun going down.” “ Faugh-a-ballagh !” said Pat, “ does she go down every night with a clap like that?” ‘ ‘
– This is infinitely better than listening to Harry Lauder !
– The trouble is that you have to pay to hear Harry Lauder. I should like our ships to show the world that we are a producing nation, and that we have a higher mission in life than that of studying how to kill Christians. The rest of the world to-day is looking to Australia, walled in as she is by mighty seas, self-contained and distant from other lands, for a lead in the great movement for national disarmament. In building warships we shall mortgage ourselves for all time, because money so expended is unproductive. I am strongly opposed to anything of the kind. Onefourth of the money that we are now devoting to economic military waste might well be expended on extending postal and telephonic facilities throughout Australia. Some of it could be used in giving better payment to the men and women in charge of small post-offices in the back-blocks. By extending the telephone system and increasing mail facilities we should help to bring the people of Australia together. The people of the cities have their beautiful theatres, their libraries, their bands of *music, and their “ stagger-juice “ establishments; but the farmers in the back-blocks have to gather for a talk at the little store, just as Abraham Lincoln and his friends used to do. If we had courage, these are some of the things that we would take in hand. As to the spending of money on the Navy, I would remind honorable members that most of the vessels of the American Fleet which visited Australia about seven years ago are now obsolete. In the list of the fifty-two ships that have sailed for
Mexico, I do not see the name of one that was out here. Are we prepared to enter upon a like course? The defence of this country ought to be provided for by submarines and aeroplanes, unless it is our intention to set out to conquer territories.
– We shall never do that.
– That is what I am thinking. The Premiers’ Conference dealt with the question of the national Bank. My own opinion is that the Commonwealth Bank ought not to be separated from the State. Banks. Concentration means bringing things to a centre. There is only one place at which we can have the centre of a concrete whole. It was never the intention of this country that we should have seven centres to a concrete whole, and yet, if we separate the Savings Banks of the States from each other we shall have seven centres. I am still of the opinion that I held in 1908, when I drafted a scheme under which our financial organizations should be one, and under which the State and Commonwealth Banks should not be separated.
– What can we do if they will not join us ?
– That is not the question. The parson who starts out to convert a sinner keeps hammering away at the sinner, but if he separates the sin from the sinner he loses both. On the next occasion that the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Treasurer meet in conference, an endeavour should be made to persuade the Premiers to make the Chairman of the Saving Bank in each State a director on an Australian Board. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank should be the Chairman of the Board of Directors, and it would be the function of the State delegates to keep him continually posted as to their financial requirements, and also as to the requirements of their municipalities. They would keep him informed of when they would require redemptions, renewals, and extensions.
– How would the honorable member divide the voting power of the Board ?
– I suppose that the voting power would be the same as it is in a Cabinet. Each director would have a vote, and the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank would also have a casting vote, which he would very rarely be called upon to exercise. I venture to say that the Prime Minister has not used his casting vote once during the past ten months. I know that the late Prime Minister very rarely used his casting vote, because the Cabinet is a wonderful place in which to argue matters out. If I, as a private individual, had £20.000 to-morrow, and commenced to loan money upon property in Bourkestreet, so soon as I had loaned the full amount of my capital I would have to stop operations. But if 1 complied with the banking laws of Victoria, organized a banking corporation, and exercised banking functions, I might loan out £1,000,000, arid still have more than my £20,000 left in the bank every afternoon. One can pick up the balance-sheet of banks in Australia with a capital of only £1,000,000, and see that they have £20,000,000 on loan. The principle involved is one which is recognised by all safe bankers, and it will be admitted that there are a few bankers in America. For instance, there is Morgan, and Forgan, and Stillman. They aTe all bankers, and, indeed, the biggest bank in the world is the National City Bank in New York. It is bigger than is the Bank of England or the Bank of France, although it is only a private bank. If a private bank had £5,000,000 by way of a balance every afternoon, and that balance had a tendency to increase, it could loan £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 on credit, because it must always be remembered that banks do not lend cash, but only lend credit. London is the chief exchange city of the world, and England is the banker of the world. But does anybody suggest that England has the capital of the “United States? The whole paid-up capital of all the joint stock banks of Britain, including the Bank of England, is only about £75,000,000. The gold reserves of .England are about £120,000,000. They may go up to £150,000,000. It is possible to run a bank in Australia today without having any gold whatever, so long as another bank will act as a bank of exchange for it. If the Commonwealth had the whole of its financial organizations centred in this one banking corporation, and if the States and municipalities, and the various trusts, did their business through that bank, it could organize a system of rural credits in this country, and it could utilize the
Post Offices, and various other institutions in the country for the purpose of lending farmers credit. The whole system of overdraft in Australia is of no use except to a rich man. When one has an overdraft, it is always at call. If we turn up the balance-sheets of the entire Australian banks, we shall find that they have millions of pounds at call in London. That means stock exchange collateral security, which is not in the nature of liquid assets. The reason we have to utilize the Stock Exchanges of London, Paris, and Berlin is that we have no rediscounting bank in Australia, and never have had one. But, if all these financial institutions were brought together, and if the Commonwealth Bank had £50,000,000 or £80,000,000 on deposit, it could become a great re-discounting bank. Then all the other banking corporations and financial institutions would know that they could go there, at any time, hypothecate their securities, and transform them into liquid assets to meet their obligations. They could take the securities of their customers, which they guaranteed, to the Commonwealth Bank. But the Commonwealth Bank is operating without capital. It is wonderful that in the circumstances it has shown a profit in its second or third balance-sheet. In all my experience, I have never known of any other banking corporation starting without capital, and reaching such a splendid position as the Commonwealth Bank has done in so short a time. We ought all to encourage it. I hate to hear Australians abuse their own country. If an American abused America, he would be lynched. The danger of the present short-call system is that it is not of much use to the small farmer. A farmer’s overdraft ought to be for five years.
– But the English alternative system is worse, because if you ask for an overdraft to-day, you have to pay interest on it from to-day, whether you use it or not.
– That is bad. The overdraft in Australia is good only for the well-to-do farmer. Our object should be to encourage men to settle on the land, but how can we do it if immediately a farmer has a bad crop, the banker calls in his money ?
– And the trade union fights him?
– I can assure the honorable member that he is labouring under a multiplicity of hallucinations, because the trade unions do not fight the farmers. No people have better hearts for the cause of the farmers than the Labour men have. We Labour directors tell our people never to aspire to the exercise of tyrannical powers. We never demand one law for the employe and another for the employer, nor do we ever try to palm off less than a full day’s work for a full day’s wage. We do not want a rigid governmental mastery of capital, if we are not willing to submit labour to it also. We ask for no laws against capital with which we are not willing that labour should comply. Here and there., I admit that you will find a man who will not do a good day’s work, but you will also find another man who will charge more than the legal rate of interest. He gets out of it by saying, “ I do not lend on interest, but if you make out your promissory note for £100, I will give you £70 for it.” A farmer’s wife in Tasmania told me that she got two other farmers to guarantee a promissory note for six months at 6 per cent, for one of the big men of the Liberal party in Tasmania - one of those calamity howlers that howled against me - and that he charged them 20 per cent, discount. If I did that, I should be lynched. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
. -I desire to ask your advice, Mr. Speaker. I have on the notice-paper a motion for an increase in old-age pensions. It appears next in order, and I understand that there is practically no opposition to it. In the circumstances is there no possibility of having it put as formal business before the resumption of the adjourned debate on the Address-in-Reply, so as to give these deserving people relief?
– I am afraid that that does not lie in the discretion of the Speaker.
Question resolved in the affirm ative.
House adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 April 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140430_reps_5_73/>.