5th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 5th May(vide page 599), on motion by Mr.
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor- General be agreed to by this House : -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Mr. Fisher had moved -
That the following words be added tothe proposed address: - “but regret to have to inform you that your Advisers deserve censure for having failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth.”
.- The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment upon the motion for the adoption of an Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, and by it he accuses this Administration of having “ failed to safeguard the interests of the people of the Commonwealth;” but he and his supporters in their attempts to justify the charge have proved, not that we have failed to safeguard the interests of the Commonwealth, but that we have been alive to our responsibilities, and have done all we can to advance those interests. Especially has the charge which was levelled against the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs failed. Yesterday afternoon, the honorable member for Yarra, in supporting the amendment, declared that the Department of Trade and Customs, over which I preside, had unduly delayed certain matters of administration. If there is any honorable member who should not bring that charge, it is he. Ever since he entered this House he has posed as the archpriest of Protection, and has hardly made a speech without touching on the important fiscal question. I admit the importance of the question, but what did he do when in office to improve the Tariff? The Fisher Government, of which he was a Minister, was in office for three years. During that time it had a majority in both Houses, and could have given effect to any policy that it had the backbone to put forward. In their first session, the Labour Ministers dealt with certain so-called Tariff anomalies, and they dealt with a few more in the next session, but they did not introduce a large policy of Protection, their plea being that they could not do so until they could make sure that the worker would get his fair share of the benefits accruing from higher duties. Yesterday, the honorable member for Yarra boasted that, in dealing with Tariff anomalies, he made dredges dutiable, and increased the duties on pianos, and on several other things. As he could give the Protection necessary in connexion with two or three items, why did he not carry out the full policy of Protection that he has always advocated? He neglected entirely to propose any complete revision of the Tariff, and failed to propose whole-heartedly the policy that he has always strongly advocated. When he left office, there remained undealt with in the Department 117 confidential Tariff schedules; there were from 470 to 500 ap plications from persons who desired relief in connexion with Tariff matters, and, speaking from memory, there were the reports of some sixty or seventy deputations. I do not say that all the applicants were entitled to higher duties, but their representations merited consideration. The honorable gentleman did not even go so far as to appoint the InterState Commission. Had it been appointed seven or eight months earlier, it could have commenced its investigations sooner, and Tariff matters would then have been more advanced than they are to-day. What is the position of this Government in regard to the Tariff ? Immediately we assumed office, we took steps to fulfil one of our platform pledges by appointing the Inter-State Commission. It had been announced that the Liberal party would stand by the fiscal policy which had been affirmed by the people of Australia and embodied in our Tariff laws. We lost no time in appointing the Inter-State Commission. On the 8th September, 1913, I sent the following letter to the Chief Commissioner -
In the discharge of its duties to investigate and report generally upon the effect and operation of the Tariff Acts at present in force, I would invite the Inter-State Commission more particularly to investigate and report as soon as practicable upon the following matters : _
Any industries now in urgent needof Tariff assistance.
Anomalies in the existing Tariff which are either technical in character or are due to or arise from the incidence of the taxation.
The lessening, where consistent with the general policy of the Tariff Acts, of the cost of the ordinary necessities of life without injury to the workers engaged in any useful industry.
We organized the staff of the Commission, provided it with adequate accommodation, and it got to work as soon as possible. Ever since it has been giving consistent and persistent attention to the matters brought before it, and has now examined no fewer than 320 witnesses in respect of 149 different applications. It has received 463 individual applications, of which 200 are for increased Tariff assistance, and 219 for reductions of duty, abolitions of duty, or in opposition to increases. In some cases, decreases upon certain articles are asked for in order that the industry concerned may be better encouraged. The applications deal with 213 subjects and with 154 Tariff items, one item often including more than one subject. So far, no application has been based upon grounds of urgency.
– Has the Minister yet received a progress report from the Commission ?
– No progress report has been, or could yet be, received, because the Inter-State Commission has not been appointed to report upon the industries of only one State. It must take evidence in the various States.
– Its appointment was a nice way of getting the Government out of the Tariff difficulty.
– The Labour Government were going to appoint it.
– We were going to deal with the Tariff right away if we had the opportunity.
– The electors of Australia, having had previous experience of such an assertion, placed the honorable member and his party where they are today. As to the number of subjects covered byapplications to the Commission, and the States of origin, I find that the figures are as follow: - New South Wales, 113 subjects; Victoria, 127; Queensland, 19; South Australia, 17; Western Australia, 6; and Tasmania, 10. These figures clearly show that the people are appreciating our action in appointing a judicial and impartial Commission to investigate matters relating to the Tariff. I was rather amused by the effort which the honorable member for Yarra made yesterday to ridicule, as matters of small concern, several of the industries into which the Commission is inquiring. He did not go through the list and set out all the big industries which are the subject of the Commission’s investigation, but treated the applications so far dealt with as being apparently of no concern. Is that his view in regard to the boot and shoe industry, which is one of the subjects of inquiry ? Is that a minor industry in Australia ? Other subjects on which applications have been made to the Commission are - Leather; paper, printing and manufactured stationery ; shale oil ; matches and vestas; brushware and brushmakers’ materials; brassware generally; glassware and glass bottles; folding-box boards, strawboards, &c. ; the wattle-bark industry; timber; furniture; artificial manures; enamelled ware; marine engines and boilers; marine vessels; soap; apparel; cast-iron pipes and fittings; paints and colours; leather manufactures, travelling bags, &c. ; pianos; nails; barb wire; and corks. All these are industries of considerable importance. The facts I have given show conclusively that this Government were not slow in taking action to safeguard the interests of the public. It appointed a. properly constituted tribunal to investigate Tariff matters, and the people of Australia, as shown by these applications, appreciate the action which we have taken to protect the interests of the manufacturer, the worker, and the consumer.
– What have the Government done ? They have done nothing.
– We have been buta few months in office, yet the honorable member thinks that in that time we should have accomplished all things. Few Governments have accomplished in the same short period such a record as that to which we can point. The honorable member for Yarra referred to the sugar industry, devoting a considerable time to it.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Capricornia says, “Hear, hear!”
– Because it was a blunder for the Minister to let that sugar go out of bond without payment of the duty.
– The honorable member, who spends his time in studying Who’s Who, and whose record is to be found in What’s What-
– That is where I discovered the Minister’s history.
– I congratulate the honorable member on his capacity to discern the intellectual qualifications of his opponents.
– He says that the note in Who’s Who concerning the Minister was written by the Minister himself.
– He does not say that, but he supplied hisown biography.
– I did not say that the Minister wrote his own. notice, nor did I say that I had contributed anything to Who’s Who.
– This distinguished gentleman, whose record is to be found in What’s What, suggested that we made a blunder. What was that blunder? It was the blunder of honoring an agreement which had been made by two Parliaments - of honoring an obligation to which every honorable member of this
House was committed. Then, too, the honorable member says that we committed a mistake in remedying a defect; which, he must admit, was in the Labour Government’s own Bill. The right honorable member for Wide Bay admitted in this House that it would have been better had the late Government inserted in that Bill a clause providing for the collection of the revenue. We collected every penny of the £150,000 of revenue for which they had not provided. But this, after all, is but a minor point compared with the substance of the question at issue. The substance of the matter is that the honorable member for Yarra, without consulting the growers’ interests, as Minister of Trade and Customs, increased the wages of the workers engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland.
– Hear, hear!
– No one on this side of the House - neither the honorable member for Richmond, the honorable member for Cowper, nor I - questioned the propriety of the increase.
– Honorable members opposite did. I mentioned yesterday the names of some of those who did.
– What they did was to complain that, whilst the honorable member, as Minister of Trade and Customs, was ready to assist the workers, he gave no consideration whatever to the sugargrowers - the primary producers - upon whom the whole industry rested. Justice was alleged to be done to the workers in the industry, but an additional burden was imposed on the sugar farmers, and the honorable member for Yarra gave them no relief. The Queensland Government pleaded with him for help for the sugar farmers, and we on this side of the House also did so ; but since only farmers were concerned, the matter was of no importance to the Labour party. They are a class party. Their class party had to be looked after, and they said, in effect, “ Let the other bloke look after himself.” That is their policy. The Queensland Government asked that action should be taken to relieve the farmers; our party also pleaded for assistance for them, and finally the Labour Government agreed that as soon as certain measures were passed by the Queensland Parliament the proclamation should issue and relief should be given to the sugar farmers. The present Government came into power, and as soon as the conditions were fulfilled we took action, and gave to the primary producers the relief which the late Government had neglected to give, as they should have done. The honorable member for Capricornia represents a number of sugar producers, and the trouble, so far as he is concerned, is that he has not been able to show that, since he entered this Parliament, he has done anything of value for the farming community of Australia. The honorable member for Barrier has an unequalled record in the Postal Department. There were fewer milestones during his administration than in the case of any other Minister, and he got out of the Department as soon as he found that difficulties were arising, sheltering himself behind the excuse that he was taking control of a better Department - that of External Affairs. His record in that Department is well known. The real trouble with the honorable member for Capricornia is this: Last season showed the finest record for the sugar industry that Queensland has ever seen. Roughly speaking, 2,085,000 tons of cane were produced, and the relief we gave resulted in every grower being benefited to the extent of about 2s. 2d. per ton. In other words, we took action at the earliest possible date, in order that the growers might get the benefit of the legislation passed, and that benefit took the form of something like £225,000 more than they had received in any previous season. During the first few weeks, while the conditions were being fulfilled by the State, we could not give the additional bounty, but, as soon as the conditions had been met we were able to legislate, and, before the 1st January of this year, to give those growers who had not benefited by the repeal an extra £35,000 in cash, making in all, as I say, relief to the amount of £225,000. If in this Parliament I can, by committing sucha mistake, help the growers and primary producers to that extent, I am prepared to accept the responsibility. The trouble is that honorable members opposite have never done anything for the farming population. They talk a great deal about being the farmers’ friends - about their all being workers mutually interested as against the middleman - but they offer no practical legislation for their relief; on the contrary, the farmers’ and producers’ burdens are increased, and they are allowed to stew until they’ get relief in the best way they can. I should now like to make some reference to the honorable member for Brisbane. The other day, when addressing the House, he prefaced his remarks by expressing the hope that we would regard what he said as purely political - that he had no desire to introduce personalities of any kind - and, therefore, I hope he will take what I am going to say now in the same spirit. If the honorable member wishes to worthily represent, politically, that great constituency of Brisbane - one of the finest cities in Australia - it would be wiser for him to ascertain, in the first place, whether there is even a shadow of foundation for statements he makes in public. It is very unsatisfactory that an honorable member should go on the public platform, as the honorable member did at Ballarat, and make allegations - I do not wish to mention names - about threats made by the Government, and that, when challenged, he should retort by saying that he did not make the statements as representing facts within his personal knowledge, but that he was asking whether rumours he had heard were true. What sort of personal relations would we have in life if, when we heard any scandalous rumours about our neighbours, we circulated those rumours without making any inquiry as to their truth; and if. when, we were brought to book, we pleaded that we ‘did not utter the statements as true, but were merely asking whether they were true or not? The honorable member for Brisbane, when he was challenged, said that he had interviewed- a pressman, from whom he learned that there might have been other causes for the resignation of the Governor-General.
– The Minister is not quoting correctly.
– Then I shall read what the honorable member did say -
When lie returned to Melbourne and was interviewed by a pressman, lie learned that there might have been other causes for the resignation of the Governor-General…..
One of those causes he learnt might have been the differences over the New Year’s honour list.
– That is different.
– That was another rumour with just about as little foundation in fact as had the other one circu lated by the honorable member. I remind the honorable member that he takes a very dangerous course when he applauds, as he did, a statement of the Prime Minister that something like fiftyseven persons had obtained enrolment before being eligible. “ Hear, hear ! Good luck to them ! “ was his remark.
– Is the honorable member in order in quoting from Hansard of this session ?
– I am not quoting, but merely giving the figures. As a matter of fact, the words were uttered in the debate now in progress, and, therefore, I may quote them, but, as the honorable member objects, I shall not trouble further.
– I have not the slightest objection to the quotation.
– The honorable member has no objection; but it is to be regretted that he should publicly applaud the conduct of those who are acting directly against the desire of honorable members on both sides to have clean rolls. Of course it must be understood that I am now speaking purely in a political sense. Then the other day the honorable member referred to the Government as being morally responsible for the lives of those unfortunate men who perished in the disaster off Cape Moreton. The charge, he said, had been made in Brisbane; and no doubt it had, with, perhaps, some little “colouring. The honorable member said : -
The loss of that ship was entirely due to the absence of a light on Smith’s rock or of a sufficiently powerful light at Cape Moreton.
As a matter of fact, before the honorable member mentioned the subject I had drawn the attention of the Lighthouse Branch to the matter, and Captain Hood, who has been in the district and knows it well, reported, after giving reasons: -
For these reasons there is, in my opinion, no need for any additional lights at Cape Moreton or its vicinity.
We know from other reports in Queensland that the loss of the vessel had nothing whatever to do with the lighting of Cape Moreton ; and, therefore, the honorable member’s charge falls to the ground
– How is it that the Queensland Government have erected a light at the spot?
– I am not aware that that is so.
– The Queensland Government did so last week.
– Even so, it does not follow that the absence of a light was the cause of the disaster.
– The State Government have no right to do such work now.
– I am not aware that a light has been erected there by the State Government, but I shall make inquiries. The honorable member for Yarra is quite correct when he says that the State Government should not do this kind of work, which now is purely a matter for the Commonwealth. If a light has been erected there, it is against the recommendations contained in the reports of Captain Brewis and Captain Hood. The captain of one of the largest vessels which go to Brisbane discussed the matter with me, and he, too, said that there is no necessity for such a light; and inquiries show that the loss of the vessel was due to an uncharted rock. The honorable member, before he charged others with being responsible for the loss of human lives - before he tried to attach a stigma to the Government - might have had the courtesy to inquire at the Department, when he could have ascertained the facts.
– What does the honorable member for Brisbane want with facts?
– The facts are too strong for the Prime Minister in this case !
– The honorable member’s facts are so exceedingly strong that the aroma ought to be sufficient to prevent his touching them again. Since the honorable member represents a great city like Brisbane, he ought to have realized his moral responsibility to inquire as to the truth of charges before launching them; that is a duty he owes to his constituency, the country and Parliament.
– The honorable member is pretty safe at Brisbane; he defeated a Liberal Minister.
– A man’s safety in that way does not concern me so much as his political honour. The honorable member for Fremantle, speaking very temperately with respect to the Director of Lighthouses, said that while he did not question the capabilities of Mr. Ramsbotham as an engineer, he thought a man of nautical or navigation experience should be appointed. I would point out to the honorable member that, though in England Trinity House is controlled by the Trinity House Brethren, Sir Thomas Matthews, the Engineer-in-Chief, is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the lighthouses and for the maintenance of the lighthouse service, and acts generally as adviser to the Brethren. It is the same in Scotland, where the engineer, Mr. D. A. Stevenson, attends all meetings of the board and advises as to the sites of lighthouses, but is entirely responsible for the construction and maintenance of them. In the same way Mr. C. W. Scott, the Engineer, is responsible for the Irish lights. In Canada, Mr. W. P. Anderson, the Chief Engineer, is responsible for the maintenance of the lights, and in France, which has one of the finest lighthouse systems in the world, the administration is controlled by the Engineer-in-Chief, M. Ribiere. In Australia, three of the State officers are not men of the class the honorable member mentioned. I wish now to pass to the charge which the honorable member for Yarra, and other honorable members, echoing him very faintly, have levelled at me in regard to the transfer of lighthouses.
Mr.Finlayson. - How could honorable members echo the honorable member for Yarra when that honorable member was the last who spoke from this side of the chamber ?
– The honorable member mentioned the matter several times in public. He dealt with it at Ballarat.
– That was the only occasion on which I mentioned it.
– Let us see the exact position with respect to lighthouses. At a Premiers’ Conference held in Melbourne, in 1909, the State Premiers agreed that the Commonwealth should take over coastal lights, the control of lights in the ports being retained by the States, and the necessary Bill was drafted and passed through the Senate. It did not come to the House of Representatives because of the very urgent nature of the measures we were passing at the time. However, it was again introduced in 1911 by the honorable member for Yarra, at that time the Minister of Trade and Customs. The honorable member professes his great eagerness to secure Federal control of lighthouses, but, though he had a Bill. drafted for him, it took him two years to get it put on the statute-book, although he was not in any way hampered by lack of a proper parliamentary majority. After the Act was passed the honorable member appointed Commander Brewis to make reports on the location of lighthouses, but if he had been, as he said he was, eager to transfer the lighthouses to the Commonwealth, why could he not have appointed a Director of Lighthouses in 1912, while still allowing this officer to continue making his report ? It could have been done, but the honorable member did not do it. He did not appoint a Director of Lighthouses when he had the opportunity to do so early in 1912; he let the matter drift on, with the result that when the present Government came into office in July last I found that there was an advertisement appearing calling for applications for the position of Director of Lighthouses.
– If the honorable member is honest for once he will state the reason for that. He knows that the applications were closed before he came into office, and that the advertisement had to be put in afresh.
– The honorable member is quite right in saying that the position was again advertised, but he will admit that, though he had the whole of 1912 in which to make the appointment, the advertisement was not inserted - that is, the particular advertisement on which the Director was appointed about May, 1913.
– Commander Brewis had not, completed his report.
– Still, there was no reason why a Director should have not been appointed, and all the preliminary work taken in hand.
– Did it take the previous Minister eighteen months to advertise ?
– The present Minister knows the reason for it. He can state it fully so far as I am concerned. It was to shelter, not myself, but a man who cannot answer for himself.
– I am making no charge against my predecessor over that matter. I simply say that he could have appointed a Director in 1912 had he desired to do so. We appointed a Director, and he took up his duties on the 8th September, 1913. First of all, he had to prepare for the transfer of the whole of the State Departments, he had to inquire into the organization of those Departments, and into the question of light dues, and to lay down the whole basis of the carrying out of the works that were needed during the current year. The most important feature of the Federal control of lighthouses was not merely to take over the officers and continue the existing lights - the States had been doing that all along - but it was the addition of lights - the providing of better lighting on the Australian coast. With my sanction, and with full approval, the Director has given as much attention as possible to pressing forward the construction of all those lights that are necessary for the protection of navigation on our coasts, and the absence of the issue of the proclamation has not delayed in the slightest degree the progress of the lighthouse business. The Director has organized the staff. We have appointed district officers for two of the districts, and they have been to the different reefs and places where lights are to be inspected, and made reports and trial surveys on sites for lighthouses to be built. All the optical apparatus and the material required for construction have been arranged for. The ketches necessary to assist in the construction have been purchased, and the men who are to carry out the work have been engaged. In every way the progress of the erection of these lights has been advanced by the Director. The light at Wilson’s Promontory has been properly equipped. This work was arranged for by my predecessor, who also dealt with the improvements made to Gabo Island. New lights have been installed at Cape Liptrap and Citadel Island. We are making provision to press forward with the new optical apparati for Emery Point and Fort Point, in the Northern Territory. Surveys have been made, and the material provided. Very soon the staffs will be engaged in the construction of the lights on the Inner Barrier Reef, along the coast of Queensland, at Coquette Island, Dhu Reef, Heath Reef, Tih Tih Reef, Chapman Island, Piper Island, and Gierke Island. Also, investigations have been made in connexion with a light at West Point, in Tasmania. We have pressed forward the work of construction in every way possible, and we have endeavoured to take over the administration of the lighthouses, which is not the easy matter that honorable members might think. First of all, we had to make provision for light dues, and since taking office we have investigated this matter. We wrote to the State Premiers in December of last year, pointing out that, as the Commonwealth were taking over the coastal lights, it was not right that the States should continue charging the whole of their light dues, which, in the form of tonnage dues, had been imposed on the shipping of Australia and that from overseas, and we suggested to them that they should make a reduction of light dues corresponding to the relief of expenditure which we were giving to the States, so that the shipping of Australia should not be taxed twice for the same service. Of course, if this tax is imposed, it is going to be passed on to the people whose goods are carried, the farmers and consumers, and we do not want that to happen. We do not want an amount in the neighbourhood of £100,000 of unnecessary taxation imposed, and in order to prevent the imposition of those double dues we have asked the States to remit taxation to the extent that we shall be relieving their expenditure.
– And if they do not do it ?
– If they do not do it, the Commonweath will have to go ahead and impose taxation to provide for the cost of the service it is rendering.
– You will have to do that in the long run.
– Even if we do have to do it in the long run, that is no reason why we, as a Government, should not try to see that the right thing is done. That is the stand we take. Incidentally, I want to refer to the Navigation Act. The honorable member for Yarra found fault with the present Government because we had not brought the Act into operation. I say, deliberately, that there is no man in this House who knows more about the. practical difficulties in the way of bringing that Act into operation than does the ex-Minister, who passed the measure through this House. He knows as well as any other honorable member that there are 100 clauses providing for regulations; he knows that every one of those clauses involves more or less expert investigation ; he knows there are six different systems operating in Australia at the present time; and he knows that those different State systems have to be brought into harmony, that we have to devise regulations in harmony with the spirit of the law we have passed, and that those regulations will require to be considered by the expert Committee which is provided for in the Act itself. My honorable friend further knows that the Commonwealth will have to appoint its own staff, and it will have to establish relations with the different State officers, in order to find out how much is to be done.
– That is why I say you should get a move on, instead of doing nothing.
– The honorable member’s statement is not correct. He did not say that we should get a move on, but that we had not proclaimed the Act.
– The honorable member said we had not proclaimed the Act.
An Honorable Member. - Is the Act law to-day?
– It is law all right.
– The position is that the Act is law, but it is not in force. It was known to everybody, when the Act was passed, that months of careful investigation would be necessary before the measure could come into operation. It is easy in this House to pass clauses in a Bill declaring that something should be done, but it is more difficult, when dealing with the ramifications of the trade of Australia and the Departments of the States, to frame regulations that will bring the whole scheme into harmony and make proper and just working conditions for our shipping. So far asthe Government are concerned, that end is being striven for as fast as possible. Many regulations have been framed already, a mass of material has been collected as the basis for framing the regulations in their entirety, and we are in communication with the Imperial authorities in order to obtain information which will enable us to give effect to the recommendations of the recent conference for the regulation of the safety of ships at sea.
An Honorable Member. - What about exemptions?
– That is a matter to be considered when the Director is appointed. For that position applications have been invited, and here let me say that I regret that in this debate the name of any person who is an applicant should have been introduced. The honorable member for Yarra asked me if a certain gentleman had been offered the position.
– I read the paragraph.
– The honorable member wanted to know if Captain Davis had been appointed. I tell him now that no one has been appointed. I tell him, as a result of inquiry, that no offer has been made to anybody, and that the whole of the applications are at the present time with the Public Service Commissioner in the usual way. Speaking officially, I do not know that Captain Davis is an applicant, although unofficially I was informed that he was applying for the position.
– That cable in the newspaper should not prejudice his position.
– But it was definite enough.
– It was definite, but I am not responsible for that. The application of Captain Davis will be considered conjointly with all other applications which have been made for this position. I desire to make reference now to a matter which, as the speeches of honorable members have indicated, is of great importance to members on both sides of the House. I refer to the operations of trusts in Australia. First of all I desire to make some general remarks in regard to trusts. On both sides of the House strong expressions of opinion have been made that members do not desire to see trusts, which carry on their operations injuriously to the consuming public or to the industries of the community, carrying on those operations in the Commonwealth ; and, as far as the policy of the Government is concerned, we have never hesitated to declare our hostility to trusts of that description. I think that generally expresses the public opinion of Australia on this matter. But when you come to deal with the problem of trusts, and to decide as to the methods by which your legislation is to be carried out, you are confronted with a problem of a very, very serious character indeed, and one which, in the words of a very eminent American, “ taxes the capacity of the ablest statesmen that the United States can provide.” Roughly speaking, the remedies of the trust evil have fallen into three classes. Firstly, there are those who contend that the proper remedy is to restore competitive conditions, so that trusts shall not monopolize any trade or industry, or carry on operations in undue restraint of trade. The second method is to regard the existence of a monopoly as the natural outcome of economic conditions, and to assume that the monopoly must grow until it gets complete control of particular branches of industry, when the State shall step in and provide laws regulating the industry by fixing prices. The third remedy which has been suggested is that which has been proposed inAustralia alone, by any responsible body, and that is the nationalization of monopolies. Those are the three remedies which have been suggested. As regards trusts generally, what you have to examine into is the nature of the evil and the trouble that exists in the country. You have to find out what is the cause of the trouble. Then when you have discovered the evil, and ascertained what the wrong is, you must introduce a law to provide a proper and adequate remedy for the disease. That is the proper method of investigating a problem of this kind. It is not to be solved by mere academic considerations. It involves something more than that; it means a very close investigation of the conditions obtaining. TheUnited States Government have appointed Mr. Joseph E. Davis Commissioner of Corporations in the United States, and have instructed him to investigate trust conditions in that country. In the course of a very able and interesting address which Mr. Davisdelivered recently on this Subject, he pointed out and enumerated the various remedies which have been suggested.
– What Government appointed him ?
– Professor Wilson’s Administration. Mr. Davis says this -
The economic aspects of the problem, to wit : what is the fair, just, attitude of government to the capital invested in and the men interested in and directing these great enterprises, as well as to the public at large, what shall be done to preserve freedom of opportunity for business, is the problem Congress will address itself to in the immediate future.
Then he says -
There are wide variances of belief as to the treatment of this problem. Some maintain that the Sherman law, in its present condition, with a few amendments, is sufficient. Others there are who maintain that the Sherman law, even though amended, is negative in its effect, and not constructive in attacking the problem; that what is needed is not only a declaration of what cannot be done, but a definition of what can legally be done. Some offer in solution an Inter-State trade commission, to proceed upon the theory that monopoly should be frankly recognised and regulated, even to the extent of regulation and control of prices. Others advocate a similar commission, whose object and purpose, however, shall not be to regulate monopoly, but to regulate and control Inter-State business in supplementing the Sherman law by aiding the Courts in the restoration of competitive conditions, and in giving force to the decrees of the Court; charged with the additional power of defining what shall constitute fair and unfair competition, what shall constitute reasonable restraints of trade, and what agreements, now apparently in violation of the Sherman law are not, in fact, in restraint of trade, and should be permitted, together with other similar powers. Still another plan has been suggested which looks to keeping the control of this question more within the province of the individual States, by making it illegal for any corporation to do an inter-state business unless the requirements of its charter, granted by the States respectively, should contain certain inhibitions upon the activity of such corporation, looking to the prevention of the issue of watered stock, to the prevention of interlocking ownership and common directorates, and other similar conditions which are alleged to be the operating causes for the evils of the present condition.
In the United States the magnitude of the problem is realized, and various remedies have been suggested; but the most important thing is to determine the question of fact that lies in the background. Speaking on that subject, he says -
In the last analysis society is concerned with the question of which of the two types of industrial system is the more advantageous to the general welfare. The question resolves itself into whether the monopolistic system of large units or the competitive system confers the greatest advantage upon society. The advantages and disadvantages of each are questions of fact, and one of the paramount considerations therein is the question of cost of production. The efficiency of an industrial system will bo finally gauged by the people, in a large measure, by the difference in the cost of what they buy; and that system which produces most cheaply, and does not induce other and greater evils than those sought to be remedied, would be regarded as the final economic fact, in a large degree, by the consumer. One of the fundamental facts, then, to bo determined is the question of the efficiency of the trust - the question of whether increase of the size of capital and organization necessarily means a lowering in the cost of production and distribution, to the ultimate advantage of the people who buy.
He sets out clearly the questions of fact which have to be investigated before a remedy can be devised. The remedy of our friends opposite is the nationalization of monopolies. They consider that the State should nationalize these huge business institutions, running them as Government concerns. The honorable member for West Sydney, who was AttorneyGeneral in the late Government, has said -
Experience has proved that nothing short of nationalization will serve as a check to these great combines.
That is the view of honorable members opposite. They have also expressed the opinion that it is better to allow the trusts to grow as a necessary stage in the nationalization of industries, which is their ultimate policy. Let me quote the honorable member for West Sydney again -
Who to-day is able to sell the cheapest - the small man in a humble way, or the great combine or trust that controls, not only the inlets and outlets of industry, but the products and the markets in which they are to be distributed, the sources from which are drawn the raw material, and the most up-to-date machinery for dealing with all these that the civilized world can supply? Obviously not the isolated trader. The individual who has nothing but his brains and a few pounds of capital cannot hope to compete in such circumstances.
He adds -
It is sufficient here to point out that the Labour party views with equanimity the development of the trust, regarding it as a necessary stage in industrial and social evolution, and preparing the way for a more complete systematization of production and distribution by society for the benefit of the whole people.
Now we know why, during the three years that the Labour Administration had a majority in both Houses, the Labour party did not raise a finger against any of these trusts, which, they allege, are increasing the price of every commodity used by the people of Australia.
– What about the Coal Vend?
– Labour members encouraged the Coal Combine. They have stated in this chamber that it ought to continue.
– The Labour Government initiated proceedings against it.
– No. As AttorneyGeneral, I was present at, and held, the consultations to settle the initial proceedings in the Coal Vend case. Honorable members opposite hold that the great organizations of wealth are leading up to u state of things which will make it easy to nationalize industries, and they advocate an amendment of the Constitution to enable them to give effect to their policy of nationalization. In the address of Mr. Davis, to which I have referred, the arguments brought against the value of huge industrial concerns are set out very fully; but the time will not permit me to quote them. It is contended that many of these great organizations are successful only so long as the original organizing brains remain at the head of them, or so long as the trust carries on its operations -within a restricted area, because otherwise there is, as with Government control, too much centralization, with consequent weakness in administration ; so that a system which at first created cheapness by its economy in organization, in the end increases the cost of production. It is argued that, for various reasons stated, it is inadvisable to allow huge aggregations of wealth to be controlled by a monopoly. Summing up, however, the Commissioner says -
At the centre of this great system of trusts there is the question of fact to be determined, if possible. There is now no governmental or other agency engaged in attempting to get scientific information with reference to this fact. It is characteristic of the quality of mind of the President of the United States that he should desire facts upon which to base a judgment. It is the intent and purpose of the Bureau of Corporations, acting under tlie direction of the President of the United States, to make a survey of the industrial field, and an extensive investigation of this subject. We shall enter into this investigation with the sole intent of working out, in a scientific and fair-minded spirit, the facts absolutely as they are. So vital and so fundamental is this problem that to attack it in any other spirit would be criminal. What is needed is light - not heat. The problem bristles with difficulties; it seems a tremendous undertaking. It will demand an increased appropriation from Congress to enable us to have the men and means at our command. The results of this investigation may not coincide with all that we hope to procure. We can, however, obtain some facts that will at least contribute to a correct interpretation of industrial conditions as they exist.
The President of the United States lays it down as a fundamental basis that, before there can be legislation on this subject, there must be an economic inquiry to ascertain the facts. Honorable members opposite have continually attacked the Sherman law, and have stated repeatedly that it is inoperative; that it is useless as a means of restraining trusts, affording no remedy against them. But in 1911 Congress appointed a Committee to report upon the operation of the existing laws affecting trusts, and the Committee reported, concerning the Sherman law, that it should stand as the fundamental law on the subject, and -
That any supplemental legislation for more effectual control and regulation of Inter-State and foreign commerce should be in harmony with the purpose of the existing statute.
It reported further -
The Committee will not at this time enter upon an extended argument respecting the policy of maintaining competition or competitive conditions in the business of the country. lt is well understood that there are many distinguished students and highly-trained thinkers who believe that the age of competition is past, and that for the struggle which competition involves there should be substituted combination and co-operation, under such regulation and supervision as will protect the people from the oppression of monopolistic power. And added to the students and thinkers who have reached this conclusion through mere observation and investigation, there are many engaged in commerce, and who, therefore, speak from a practical stand-point, who have also concluded that some form of regulated monopoly or concentration should be adopted. All these men, whether theorists or otherwise, admit that if we abandon the effort to maintain competition the Government must undertake, directly or indirectly, to fix prices for the combinations or monopolies.
Then it adds this very important finding
The Committee feels that the time has not yet come for so radical a departure from the long established policy of the country, and it hopes that the time may never come when it will be necessary for the Government to assume the task of establishing prices for general commodities. It believes that the progress of the world depends in a large measure upon that fair, reasonable rivalry among men which has hitherto characterized the advances of civilization. It is frequently declared that the law cannot compel men employed in like business to compete with each other. There is a sense in which this is true, but it is only technically true. What is meant when we use the phrase “ maintaining competition” is maintaining competitive conditions. We can both create and maintain competitive conditions, and, until human nature is revolutionized, when competitive conditions exist, there will be actual competition; but if for some extraordinary reason that should fail there will be, at least, a potential competition tending to prevent undue prices and unfair practices. Without going further into the issue between regulated competition and regulated monopoly, the Committee reiterates its finding that the anti-trust Statute should stand, and that every possible effort to create and preserve competitive conditions should be made.
Coming back to the three points: the restoration of competitive conditions, the control of monopolies, and the nationalization of monopolies, the “United States Committee reported strongly in favour of the existing legislation, but urged that it should be amended in order to thoroughly restore competitive conditions in the country. In other words, the Committee advocated the continuance of the antitrust legislation of the United States of America. It would not consent to the regulation of prices, as advocated by honorable members opposite, and the question of nationalization is not even mentioned. When the Labour party are faced with an investigation into the question of nationalization of any particular industry, they will meet with only a reiteration of the findings of the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry.
– And the honorable member’s party said that that Commission was a biased one. They made that charge before the Commission presented its report.
– That does not alter its findings.
– The honorable member and his party now have faith in the Commission; but they said before that it was a packed Commission.
– If it was a packed Commission, then the importance of its findings in this respect is accentuated. If a Commission was packed by Labour men, and yet could arrive at these findings, what is to be said by the Labour party in favour of nationalization ?
– The charge that the Commission was packed did not happen to be correct.
– The Commission inquired into the suggested remedy of nationalization, and reported as follows -
Advocates of the public ownership of industry rightly dwell upon the avoidance of the wastes of competition. But, in the case of the refining industry in Australia, such wastes are negligible. Further, taking into consideration the various difficulties with which public ownership has to contend, and the high efficiency of the present refining business in Australia, we do not think that the public ownership of the refineries woud prove as financially successful as the present private ownership.
It proceeded to give its reasons for holding this view. First amongst these was the cost of nationalization. “Dealing with the items which go to make up the cost, it reported -
The cost of nationalizing the refining industry would involve an initial capital outlay of some millions by the time allowance had been made for the costs of refineries, goodwill, floating capital, &c. To secure a fair interest on this capital outlay without penalizing consumers would, we believe, be difficult, if not impossible.
The point is that nationalization, instead of cheapening the cost, of the articles to the consumer, would have penalized the consumer. The proposed remedy, therefore, would be worse than the disease. Finally the Commission reported in regard to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company -
Such profits’ as it does make on its refining are made under existing conditions - conditions which give to its plant a value in excess of earning capacity under the altered conditions which would be involved in nationalization. In the general result we cannot avoid the conclusion that the Commonwealth Treasury would be involved in a heavy financial loss, unless it were prepared to make higher demands on the consumers than is necessary under a system of ‘ private owned industry subject to appropriate regulation.
-; - It also reported that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company fixed the price of sugar in Australia, and that there was practically no competition between the refinery companies in Australia.
– The honorable member’s interjection reminds me that the honorable member for Yarra claimed that he had done a splendid thing in raising the wages of the employes in the sugar industry, and that the increase had been approved by the Royal Commission, as well as by the Queensland Court. The facts are that the Royal Commission, however, approved of an increase in wages concurrently with relief being granted to the grower, and that the Queensland Court only allowed the increased wages after the growers’ capacity to pay them had been increased as the result of Commonwealth legislation. I desire, in conclusion, to refer to the Beef Trust. The Government have not been oblivious of the importance of this question, although the honorable member for Yarra, when speaking at Ballarat recently, blamed us for not dealing with the trust. His own excuse for his inaction used to be that the Commonwealth Parliament had not power to deal with the trust-
– And the Minister said that it had.
– What a bit of hypocrisy it was for the honorable member to ask us to do something that he and his party declared we had not the power to do. ‘
– But the honorable member said that the Commonwealth had the power.
– Whether the power is or is not complete I shall not say; but there is adequate power under the Constitution to deal with Australia’s export trade, and no amendment of the Constitution will increase that power. May I ask the honorable member for Yarra what he was doing while he was in office?
– The Beef Trust, up to the time that I left office, had not exported a carcase.
– The honorable member for Yarra helped the Beef Trust along, and gave it his blessing.
– That is absolutely .false.
– I ask the honorable member for Yarra to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it, sir, but request that the Prime Minister be called upon to withdraw his statement that I helped the Beef Trust along, and gave it my blessing. That is absolutely incorrect.
– I ask honorable members on both sides to refrain from interjecting. The Prime Minister, though not in order in interjecting, did not use an offensive term.
– I regard his remark as offensive.
– As the honorable member regards the remark as offensive to him, I ask the Prime Minister to withdraw it.
– I shall withdraw the word “ blessing,” and say that the honorable member gave the trust his approval.
– The Prime Minister knows that a withdrawal must be without qualification.
– I withdraw.
– In July, 1912, the honorable member for Yarra, who was then Minister of Trade and Customs, received from the Australian Meat Export Company an application for approval of plans and specifications of proposed meat works under the Commerce Act. The honorable member knew the names of the directors.
– Messrs. Thynne and Macartney.
– The honorable member also knew that Mr. Malkow was a director. He had an interview with him.
– Yes, he called at the office.
Several honorable members interjecting.
– I must again remind honorable members that interjections are disorderly, and that interchanges across the chamber are particularly disorderly.
– This application was sent in on the 16th July, 1912, by Messrs. Thynne and Macartney, and was brought under the notice of the Minister. A report was received from Queensland informing him of the names of the directors of the company. The honorable member knew that they were about to commence operations, and that it was believed that American capital was invested in the industry.
– I did not know that American capital had been invested in it.
– It was reported officially that it was believed that American capital had been put into the company, and since Mr. Malkow was out here the honorable member must have had a very shrewd suspicion as to the correctness of that belief. The company desired that its works should be recognised as a place of export under the Commerce Act, and it submitted plans and specifications to the Department. These were revised by the Department, and suggestions were made by it, while the honorable member for Yarra was Minister.
– That is incorrect.
– I was informed this morning that the plans were revised and suggestions made while the honorable member for Yarra was Minister.
– It is incorrect.
– I have the file of papers.
– Read them all.
– Time will -not permit of my doing so. The plans were submitted to his officers. The honorable member may not have seen them.
– Had they power to refuse the desired permission?
– No. I was about to mention that fact. The plans were criticised.
– What alterations did I suggest in them ?
– I did not say that the honorable member personally criticised or revised the plans. I said they were revised by the Department. The Minister, however, knew what was going on. Early in August, 1912, he knew that the Beef Trust was going to commence operations in Australia. He was in office during the whole of that year, and had a complete majority in this House as well as in the Senate. He was familiar with the law, and its limitations. He knew that if the company submitted plans and specifications of its works to the Department, and acted as ordinary citizens, he had no power to refuse its request. He knew the law as it existed witu respect to monopolies, because the Attorney-General had been prosecuting a suit in connexion with it. Indeed, on certain aspects of that law he had consulted the Crown Law Department. In view of all these facts, how was it that during all this time, if the law was defective, he did not bring in a Bill to amend it so as to enable him to deal with this trust? Honorable members opposite found it much better to do nothing, and use the position as political capital.
– We brought in the referenda proposals.
– What a splendid remedy! If every referenda proposal had been carried the position, would not have altered in the slightest degree, because an Act would have had to be framed under the powers conferred. As I say, honorable members opposite regarded this merely as a piece of political platform work, and never treated it as a serious problem. After the present Government took office special instructions were given to the officers of the Department to be particularly careful in watching the operations of the alleged trusts, and to report on all concerning them. Every important movement that was noticed was examined and investigated, and, as far as possible, the Department has been closely watching events. It is only fair to say that, so far, the Government do not find themselves in a position, under the existing law, to initiate any prosecution in connexion with the meat industry.
– Have any works been acquired in addition to those on the Brisbane River, and has there been any meat exported ?
– I do not wish to go into the details, but another establishment has been acquired, and individual Americans have been exporting meat; but no fault can be found with those Americans so long as they comply with the law. The Government fully realize the evil, not only of a meat trust, but of any other trusts which may grow and assume control of the export trade; and, accordingly, two Bills have been drafted, and will be submitted to the House. It has been decided, on the determination of the present motion, to appoint a Royal Commission to make a searching investigation into operations of the alleged trust in connexion with the meat industry, with a view to ascertaining the facts and to assisting the Government in the administrative exercise of the powers which it is proposed to confer by the Bills referred to in the Governor-General’s Speech. This Commission, I may say, will be instructed to report promptly; but the Prime Minister, when the course is clear, will announce move fully the intentions of the Government in this connexion. Pending the report of the Royal Commission, the Bills I have referred to will be submitted. The Government are prepared to investigate, and, where necessary, take action to protect the primary producers or the consumers from the effects of any injurious trusts. The meat industry is a very important one to Australia. I should like to read the following minute, which was approved by my predecessor, the honorable member for Yarra’: -
The company has already been informed that the plans of the premises submitted fulfil the conditions of the Commerce Act, and that on completion of the buildings the question of appointment under Commerce Regulations will receive consideration.
The company might be informed in accordance with Mr. Kerr’s suggestion as to wool and skin house, and that, as previously advised, the question of final approval as an appointed place under the Commerce Regulations will be dealt with on completion of the premises.
This shows that the conditions of the Commerce Act were being fully complied with.
– The matter had to come up for final approval.
– So far everything was going right!
– I have stated my information in perfect good faith, but I shall take it from the honorable member for Yarra that certain alterations had been suggested.
– I saw, not only the plans, but models of the building; and the facts were published in the newspapers at the time.
– The honorable member put his blessing on the enterprise !
– I ask that the Prime Minister be compelled to withdraw that insinuation. The honorable member was compelled to withdraw a similar insinuation before you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, took the chair; and I ask that he be compelled to withdraw the one just made.
Mr. Joseph Cook. - Well, I withdraw, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I hope that you will keep the ex-Minister in order, and not permit him to keep on interjecting.
– I was pointing out that the importance of- the meat industry to Australia cannot be overestimated. In 1909 we exported 635,199 cwt. of beef, and 1,954,630 cwt. in 1913, the increase in value being from £733,210 to £2,652,275. Of mutton and lamb, we exported 1,430,889 cwt: in 1909, and 1,829,748 cwt. in 1913, the value increasing in’ that time from £1,231,035 to £2,S9 6,532. In the same period, the export of canned meats rose proportionately from 20S,169 cwt. to 465,626 cwt., with an increase in value from £4”21,000 to £1,084,000. Honorable members will realize how important these figures are to us in Australia. We are important providers for the markets in the United Kingdom. I have a table here analyzing and comparing the supplies of beef, mutton, and lamb from various sources imported and home grown, and available for consumption in the United Kingdom in 1913. Australia provided 8.25 per cent, of the total consumption; New Zealand, 6.69 per cent.; and South America, 10.12 per cent.; a total of 25.6 per cent., all being frozen. That is the percentage of frozen meat of the total consumed of imported and home-grown meats. Of chilled meats, South America supplied 262,400. tons; and the United States and Canada, 401 tons : a total of 262,801 tons, or 14.38 per cent, of the total supplied, 39.44 per cent. That is, of .the total consumption 39.44 per cent, represents frozen and chilled meat imported. The countries mentioned supplied 39.44 per cent, of the total of all meat, imported and home-grown, consumed in the United Kingdom. It will be seen that both England and Australia are vitally interested. We are driven to the conclusion, that, in dealing with international trade, so far as trusts are concerned, our efforts must wear an international aspect, and the several countries interested will have to enter into agreement so that due effect may be given to the legislation passed for the protection of producers and consumers all over the world. With that object in view, the legislation to be submitted to this House will enable Australia to cooperate with the Mother Country, and1 with the Dominions, and other nations, in order to obtain effective control. Even if we nationalized the meat industry here, and exported every pound of meat through Government agencies and from’ Government farms, we should find ourselves powerless when we came to deal with the import trade in Great Britain, if trust control prevail there. All we can do at present is to control our export trade; and if meat trusts in the United Kingdom or elsewhere got control of the British markets, we should, as I say, find ourselves practically helpless. This point is referred to in the excellent report by Mr. Bavin on the supply and distribution of meat, but to that report I have time to make only this passing reference. The Government realize the importance of the problem, and they are prepared to appoint a Royal Commission to obtain information on which adequate steps may be taken.
– Will the Royal Commission go to America ?
– I ask honorable members to wait until the Prime Minister makes his announcement, because at present I can deal only with the general policy and not with details. The Government are prepared at all times toexercise the powers they possess in order to prevent the operation of the injurious trusts.
– We have been given to understand in the course of the debate that the meat works in Queensland have been built since the Liberal Government came into power.
– As I have pointed out,’ these works were commenced in the time of the late Government.
– In 1912..
– Then all was done during the time of the late Ministry.
– All is not done yet.
– The workmen and others have been engaged in erecting these works for some considerable time. As to the rise in the price of meat, many of us remember the time when the primary products of Australia were practically valueless, and when there was no real encouragement for farmers, pastoralists, or any other producers. Great wealth has come to Australia through the extension of our operations, by means of better steam-ship accommodation and other agencies, in the markets of the world, and through the increased price of wheat, wool, and meat. Our factories do not export, but merely supply local wants, and the millions of money which come into Australia, in return for our great primary products, have helped to increase the wages of the artisans in the cities. The hope of all Australians is that our products may continue to go abroad, and that the added wealth may result in higher standards of living for the whole nation. Incidentally, of course, we have to face certain consequences. If we export our wheat, and reap the advantage of higher prices in the markets of the world, the farmers must get the advantage; but the wealth that comes to Australia affords employment for the whole of the people. The cost of wheat and flour may rise here, and our clothing and meat may cost a little more. The higher the prices abroad, the more money will come here, and be made available for distribution amongst the working men, with a rise in the standard of living, and the removal of any anxiety for the future development of the nation. As to associations, we must penalize only those which act injuriously - which use the powers they possess to make the people pay more than they otherwise would pay in open market. However, these are matters of farreaching importance, which we shall, no doubt, have an opportunity to discuss later on. I have had prepared for me by the Customs officials in Western Australia and Queeusland a return showing last week’s prices for beef and mutton in Perth and Brisbane. This return shows that, while the price of the sirloin was 5 1/2 d. in Brisbane, it was 7d. at the Government butchery in Perth, and 6d. at private butcheries. For ribs the prices were:
Brisbane, 4d.; Government butchery, Perth, 5d.; private butcheries, 6d. For top-side, the prices were 4d. in Brisbane, against 7d. at the Government butchery and private butcheries, Perth. _ Again, in regard to mutton, legs ‘ sold at 5 1/2 d. in Brisbane, against 7d. in Perth at the Government butchery and private butcheries, and loins were selling at 5£d. in Brisbane, against 7d. at the Government butchery, Perth, and 8d. in private butcheries, Perth. I could give further details, but they are not necessary. There may be local causes operating, but these are the latest figures I could get, and they indicate that, even in Perth, where there is no trust in existence, high prices can prevail as against Queeusland, which is supposed to be ridden by the trust. I only plead for fairness in the discussion of public questions, that honorable members will analyze things fairly, and get at the truth on the known facts. That is all I plead for. It is the way in which the Department is conducted, and I trust and believe that, from both sides of the House, the Department will receive co-operation in the endeavour to assist the producers and consumers of Australia in relation to her primary industries.
– I wish to make a personal explanation in connexion with a matter raised by the honorable member concerning the application made by the Australian Meat Company, known by every one to be a branch of the American Beef Trust. They sent in an application to me in December, 1912. They need not have done so; they could have gone to the Brisbane office. I think the Minister will agree with me that applications in regard to premises do not usually come to the head office.
– You are responsible for the action of your officers.
– That, is so; but the present Minister will not find from the file that I asked an officer a month afterwards to write a minute as to what he remembered of a certain matter.
– The honorable member must confine himself to a personal explanation.
– I shall do so; and I trust that I am not led off again. Mr. Malkow, whom 1 believe to be a representative of Swift and Company, came to see me, and brought with him not only plans, but models; but, provided the provisions of the Commerce Act were complied with, namely, that the premises were sanitary, and that the meat killed could be properly exported, it was impossible for the Minister to take any action other than I look. The present Minister admits it, and on page 163 of Hansard of this session, the Attorney-General admits it in the following words: -
If we find a man spending £200,000 on the erection of a thoroughly up-to-date meat works, intending to buy up cattle for the purpose of exporting meat, can we say to him, “ What you are doing is what we should thoroughly approve of and encourage in any one else. But, as you are named ‘ Swift,’ and in combination with others have done certain very wrong things in America and the Argentine, we intend to stop your operations here?” The ex-Minister of Trade and Customs will agree with me that that is impossible.
And I pointed that out at the time that the application was made to me.
– How could we stop them, any more than you could ?
– If my personal explanation would allow me, I would point out that we had no power under the legislation to deal with the matter. Members opposite said that we had the power, but now they admit that they have none, and that they have to ask for an amendment of the Constitution.
– Order ! That is not a personal explanation.
– I have been called to task during the debate for making the remark that my friend the honorable member for Yarra gave the Beef Trust his blessing and benediction, and I wish to explain what I meant. I should be very sorry to misrepresent my friend, but the papers produced to-day by the Minister show that the late Minister took no action.
– I could not. There was no power under the Commerce Act to enable me to do more than I did.
– I admit all that. The poor fellow could do nothing. All I know is that the honorable member approved of all these people did. He said that their buildings were being put up as they ought to be, and that they were conducting themselves within the law, and in every way properly.
– That was only dealing with the health aspect. Be fair!
– Of course. As to all the things the company did at this time, the honorable member for Yarra gave his approval.
– But they had sold no meat, nor bought any.
– This is hardly a personal explanation.
– I submit that I am entitled to explain a statement forwhich I have been called to order. I am merely explaining what I meant when I said that the honorable member for Yarra had given his blessingto all that had been done by this trust.
– On a point of order, is the honorable member in order in making a personal explanation upon a thing not contained in any speech he made, but embraced in interjections which he was compelled to withdraw?
– I have been waiting for the Prime Minister to come to his personal explanation. So far he has not reached it. A personal explanation is only permissible when the person who wishes to explain has been misrepresented in some way.
– I claim that I have been misrepresented. I was compelled by Mr. Speaker to withdraw a simple, harmless expression, namely, that the honorable member for Yarra had given his blessing to this trust. I say now that the honorable member did approve of all this trust did, which is all I meant to convey when I used the word “ blessing.”
– Order ! That is not a personal explanation.
– I may intimate at once that I intend to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and I have reasons for so doing. I have asked myself why Parliament has been called together so early in the year. I object to this great National Parliament being used by any party in the House with the object of trying to destroy something which the electors created to exist for three years. In the Speech of the Governor-General we have an admission of incompetency on the part of the Government. They declare that they have been unable to carry on the government as they would like. They have put it in type that the last session was barren, and that they have called Parliament together because of that barrenness. Further, they have distinctly stated their intention to bring about chaos, and that they will not attempt to do those things which in 1913 they promised the electors they would do. Paragraph 2 of the Speech of the Governor-General says -
My Advisers consider that under existing circumstances a prolonged recess is not advisable, and that Parliament should be given an early opportunity of considering the best means of expediting the despatch of urgent public business.
Are we to believe, from the statements of Ministers and their supporters, that the two. Bills which the Government propose to bring before this House, with a view to causing practically a deadlock, are urgent public business? I would like to know whether the majority of the electors of Australia consider these measures urgent public business. I see nothing urgent in them; in fact, they both reek with the odour of “bluff.” This plea of urgent business is nothing but a put-up job to delude and fool those who supported Ministers in 1913. Paragraph 3 of the Speech of the Governor-General says -
During the first session of this Parliament, my Ministers, for reasons which they advise me were beyond their control, were unable to pass legislation on many subjects outlined in their policy statement presented to you on 12th August last. Those subjects comprised Bills dealing with the prohibition of preference or favoritism in Government employment, and the restoration of the electoral provisions for voting by post.
It is quite clear to me that the only urgent public business before this Parliament to-day is the two Bills which the Government propose to introduce, and which were brought down to Parliament last session. But how can a Bill be Urgent that deals at the most with not more than 3,000 people in the Commonwealth ? Will the bulk of the electors consider the Government Preference Prohibition Bill urgent business, especially in view of the fact that this Parliament years ago indorsed the very action which was put into effect by the Fisher Administration - that is, granting preference to unionists in the Commonwealth service? And it only applies to casual labour. Many thousands in the Commonwealth service are working under the Public Service Act, which is administered by a Commissioner, and this preference to unionists applies to the casual labourers only; but if the Government do go to the country on this question, they will again fool the people by telling them that the matter applies to every civil servant in the employ of the Commonwealth.
– We would not mislead the people.
– I have never known the Fusionists to do anything else but mislead the public on every question that is before them. I for one would be quite willing, and so would my party, to go to the country if the true question were put’ to the people, namely, that this preference to unionists is confined to the 2,000 or 3,000 casual employes in the Commonwealth. We will help the Government to pass their Bill quickly. I can speak on behalf of my party when I say that if the Government will put to the people the only question that is occupying the attention of the House to-day, we will pass their Bill quickly. But we cannot trust the Government. They will bring forward every possible outside issue in order to mislead the public? That is their game, and it is our duty to tell the people what the intentions of the Government are. The Arbitration Act passed by this National Parliament gives the Court power to grant preference to unionists, and surely if this Parliament thought it right to give the Court power to make that concession to employes outside the Government, thus placing an obligation on private employers, it is also right for the Government to follow out tile principle contained in that enactment, and mete out the same justice to their own employes. That being the case, I fail to see why the Fisher Administration should have been slandered as they have been by their opponents. Then, in regard to the other Bill which the Government propose to introduce in order to bring about a dead-lock, namely, that for the restoration of the postal vote, if the Labour party thought that nothing wrong would be done by our opponents in connexion with the collection of postal votes, we would be prepared to pass that Bill also. Last session we were prepared to concede all that was necessary. The honorable member for Hunter moved to insert a clause which had for its object the giving of a vote to the sick and infirm, subject to that provision having a responsible person to operate it, so that no wrong should be done. Is it not a fact that, under the old system of postal voting, half the votes in the Commonwealth could have been so recorded ? I make bold to say that our opponents discovered what they had missed, and regretted that they had not made much more use than they did of the system, although they used it pretty freely, I admit. They know that if they could get the postal vote restored into the Electoral Act in the form in which it was operative four years ago, they would have a chance of continuing in office, because of The money power they possess to manipulate that vote. But knowing what wrong could be done under that system, the Labour party introduced into the Electoral Act a new system whereby this canvassing method was abolished, and the wrongful obtaining of thousands of votes before the proper election day was blocked. How many people were actually disfranchised by the abolition of the postal vote? Was not the poll at the elections of 1913 greater than that recorded at any previous election? In face of that fact, can the Government come forward, and say that the electors have been deprived of anything? They cannot; the increased vote in 1913 shows that no wrong had been done to any elector in Australia. I am quite willing to give the sick a vote, provided it is obtained in the proper way, and that can only be done by some Commonwealth officer being present, and witnessing the recording of that vote. More than that I shall never concede while I am a member of this House, because our opponents, who are the Conservatives of Australia, and who can find money to fight the labour party, would manipulate the vote on account of the position that has been created in party politics. Knowing what the Labour party is doing, and will do in five years, if the present Electoral Act continues in operation, the Liberal party feel that they have no possible chance of capturing the Senate or the House of Representatives at the next election.
– Then you ought to be glad.
– We are glad. But we are not going to give away the principles which we have placed on the statute-book in order that the Prime Minister may bluff us by his threatened dissolution. Does the honorable member think he is going to bluff us out of our opinions? I do not think so. The Prime Minister has confessed to this country on more than one occasion that he is incompetent to carry on the business of the Commonwealth. What did he and his supporters, and nearly every “Fusion candidate, do at the last election? Did they not promise the farmers, squatters, and orchardists throughout the Commonwealth that they would amend the Arbitration Act so that the rural workers would not come under its operation ? That was distinctly promised in my electorate. If the Government will bring in a Bill for that purpose it will be a direct challenge to the Arbitration Act as it exists on the statute-book to-day, and the Labour party will assist the Government to test public opinion on that matter. As a member of this Parliament, I do object, however, to being placed in a false position by the Government bringing down a proposal for prohibition of preference to unionists, which only applies to a handful of people, although they would make it appear to the country that the principle applies to every person in the Commonwealth service. During the ‘last election, and also during last session, we were told by the Government what they would do, but they have never attempted to put into effect anything that they promised the electors. Personally, I would like to see the Prime Minister in office for the term of this Parliament, because I would know that when he did go to the country that would be the end of him and his party, simply because of the incompetence which he has already admitted to the people.
– You talk like a Goliath, but little David will be there.
– I say that the Cabinet, which is the Government, can only exist by authority of Parliament, and, that being so, surely the Fisher Administration had a perfect right when they were in office to carry out something which they believed to be their policy. Suppose the Labour Government had not given preference to unionists among the casual employes’ in the Commonwealth Service, they would have been twitted with that fact, but because they did give effect to their policy they are blamed. The Labour Government boldly declared their intentions, and carried out that in which they believed by giving preference to unionists in the Commonwealth Service. I want to know what our opponents have been doing during the last fifty years in Australia ? They have been giving preference, but they have never openly declared it. They are doing the same thing now, but will not declare it, and I ask whom will the people of
Australia believe - will they believe in Mr. Fisher and his party or in the present Prime Minister and his supporters? One party gives preference openly as part of its policy, and the other party gives it secretly, and denies that it does so. We have seen preference given to nonunionists, preference to contractors, preference to friends. Would it not be better for the Government to drop these silly Bills and bring forward some of the -so-called policy which they put before the people in 1913 ? Did they support the Labour party’s Federal land tax, or did they condemn it throughout the country? Yet the Prime Minister is existing to-day on that very land tax,- and collecting £1,250,000 in revenue from it.
– To pay for your commitments.
– If the present Government do not believe in the Labour party’s commitments they should repeal them.
– That is impossible.
– If it is impossible the Government should go out of office. Let the Prime Minister attack us on the land tax, which he and his party have condemned.
– And which they would alter to-day if they had the power.
– Of course, they would. Did they believe in the Commonwealth note issue when it was passed through this Parliament! Yet they are existing on that to-day. Did they believe in the Commonwealth Bank which we established? As a matter of fact, they condemned that also. The Treasurer now admits that the Government have not sufficient power over that bank. He affirms that the Governor of the Bank has too rauch power, and that he as Treasurer knows very little about its operations. Yet if the Fisher Ministry had attempted to make that institution in any way a party bank their action would have been unsparingly denounced by honorable members opposite. The fact is that we created a bank which is above suspicion so far as party politics are concerned.
– The Governor of that institution has just let a contract for a couple of hundred thousand pounds in Sydney.
– Then he is more plucky than the Prime Minister has been. The Government have been in existence for eighteen months without accomplishing anything. I am reminded by the honorable member for South Sydney that the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank called for tenders for the contract to which reference has just been made by the Prime Minister. During the session of 1912 we heard a lot about a scheme of national insurance, in which honorable members opposite firmly believe. We heard a great deal about it during the last election campaign. The honorable member for Wilmot was great upon it. He pitted it against the maternity allowance and the invalid and old-age pensions. He declared that that scheme would cover all these contingencies, and that the whole of the people of Australia would have to contribute to it. This is the second session during which the Cook Administration have been in office, yet I do not hear anything about that matter. Are they afraid to interfere with the maternity allowance which they condemn? They dare not do it. Will they alter the Oldage Pensions Act?
– Why, we introduced it in New South Wales.
– It is well known that the Government opposed the principal clauses of the Navigation Act, which are humanitarian in their character. Have we heard anything about the repeal of that Act? Honorable members opposite were all smiles when the measure was passing through this Chamber. They were satisfied that it would never receive the Royal assent. We were told that it was so clumsily drawn, and that its provisions conflicted so much with Imperial legislation, that it would never obtain the Royal assent. But it did. It has had that assent for eight months, and yet it has not been proclaimed. The present Government is a Government of incompetents.
– Does not the honorable member think that he ought to be a little kind to us?
– I am very kind. I speak only once or twice in a session, and I extend every consideration to the Government. I wish to point out that every day that steamers travel between Melbourne and Tasmania the safety of valuable lives is imperilled. We have a steamer which leaves Melbourne for Launceston three times a week, and which frequently carries from 300 to 500 passengers. That vessel is not fitted with wireless telegraphy, although wireless telegraphy is used now upon almost every passenger ship. The company owning this vessel holds a contract from the Government for the carriage of the Tas- manian mails for the next seven years. Yet, notwithstanding that on each trip it carries a large number of passengers, it has no wireless on board. Nor is it properly equipped in the matter of life-saving appliances. I will stake my existence that when there are 400 or 500 passengers on board there are not half enough boats to accommodate them in case of accident on the high seas. I want to know why this company should be granted an extension of its contract in view of its treatment of the people of Australia.
– That is how the late Government left the matter after three years of administration.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Navigation Bill was assented to prior to or after the Labour Government left office.
– What has the Act to do with providing a better boat?
– I said nothing about a better boat. As far as I know, the boat is one of the smartest to be found in Commonwealth waters. I say that, although she frequently carries 400 or 500 passengers, she is not fitted with wireless, nor has she adequate life-saving appliances on board.
– Did Mr. Thomas ever bring the matter before the company with a view to securing an alteration?
– He had not the power to secure an alteration.
– The company will do anything if they are paid for it.
– The interjections of the Prime Minister are doubtless intended to provide a way out for him. But they will not suit the public. The fact remains that the Navigation Act is the law of the land to-day, and I claim that the time has arrived when this vessel should be fitted with wireless telegraphy.
– The honorable member is making some fine admissions of incompetency on the part of the late Government.
– There is another matter that I wish to bring under the notice of the House. In Tasmania we are suf fering from what is known as a ring of saw-millers. A very strong combination of saw-mills exists, so that it is impossible for orchardists, especially in the north of Tasmania, to get fruit cases for the packing of their fruit unless they deal with a certain merchant. That merchant has an agreement with all the saw-millers that the latter are not to supply orchardists and others with timber unless it first passes through his hands.
– I will take a contract for the supply of such timber tomorrow.
– I am speaking of the north of Tasmania. I made that point perfectly clear in my opening statement concerning this matter.
– What are the fruitgrowers paying for their cases? Is not that the test?
– They are paying between 6d. and-7d. per case for cases delivered. These saw-millers in one portion of Tasmania had the impudence to convene a meeting for the purpose of forming an association with the specific object of raising the price of timber to the consumers. In this connexion I propose to read a paragraph which was published in the Launceston Examiner on the 5th February of this year. It is as follows : -
This afternoon a meeting was held to form a sawmillers’ association on the north-west coast. Mr. A. G. Blackwell presided, and representatives of the following firms were present : - Grey Bros, and Lee & Co., Smithton; the Burnie Brick and Timber Co., Wynyard Co., Austral Co., and Pilbeam and Coy., Burnie; and the Tasmania Co., Rocky Cape. After forming the association, it was decided to protest to the Inter-State Commission against the removal of the duty on Oregon timber. Another object the association has in view is to try to raise the price of hardwood.
That is all in regard to that aspect of the matter. But the report also states -
The Chief Secretary will be written to, asking for equal representation on the Timber Industry Wages Board, as the employés at present have an extra representative thereon. It was agreed to co-operate with other associations already in the State, in order to secure mutual interests.
What effect will that have upon every orchardist and every person in Tasmania who requires scantling or hardwood timber for building purposes? Here is an open confession that these five or six sawmillers on the north-west coast of Tasmania have formed themselves into an association for the specific purpose of raising the price of timber, and that they are going to affiliate with other associations to secure their mutual interests and to give effect to their resolution. That being so, I desire to know whether there is any Act in existence under which these sawmillers can be treated as a combine. We have their open declaration that they have formed themselves into an association with the one object of raising the price of timber to the people of the Commonwealth.
– All unions do that.
– Undoubtedly. For years past we have admitted that the members of trade unions join those organizations for the express purpose of bettering themselves, of bettering the conditions of their wives and children, and of securing that increased payment for their labour to which they are justly entitled. But although our opponents condemn the existence of these unions, they are now copying their example. They are doing exactly the same thing.
– Hear, hear ! They are.
– But they deny it.
– I admit it. I believe that these saw-millers have combined to raise the price of timber.
– In face of that statement, will not the Prime Minister direct the Attorney- General to have an inquiry made into the way in which the Saw Millers Association of Tasmania are treating the people of that State?
– Does not the honorable member know that the trade union saw-millers have been urging the employers to do this for a long time?
– I wish to say, in conclusion, that I am sorry the Government propose so to degrade the National Parliament in the eyes of the people as to call it together with the specific object of breaking down one of the fundamental principles of the Constitution, because they themselves admit that they have called us together with the deliberate intention of creating a dead-lock in order to bring about a double dissolution. The Prime Minister must admit that that is their intention. Surely that is not a worthy object. The Prime Minister’s party were beaten fairly and squarely in the Senate elections for 1913, and he came into power in this House by a majority of one, represented by yourself, Mr. Speaker. He has said himself that you, sir, constituted his majority, and it is because of the position in which he finds himself that he is deliberately trying to bring about a result which was never contemplated when the Constitution was being framed.
– Lots of things have happened that the framers of the Constitution did not contemplate.
– Just so; but it is an unworthy action on the part of the Prime Minister, who has been intrusted by the electors with power through the possession of a small majority in this House, to call Parliament together with the object of actually creating an artificial dead-lock. His plain duty is to bring forward the policy that he announced on the platform. He never announced either of the two so-called test measures. He did not tell the people of the Commonwealth in the electoral campaign that he was going to bring in a Bill to prohibit the giving of preference to unionists in the Public Service only. But he did tell them something else. He told them about all the legislation that we had passed, and that was not beneficial to Australia. He told them of the extravaganceof the Fisher Administration; and, in the face of those statements, he has actually spent £4,000,000 more in the year that he has been in office than the Fisher Administration did, and his Customs revenue is falling fast. It is nearly £1,000,000 behind now, and he has to fall back on the surplus that was left by my leader in order to balance the ledger. He is going to take the money out of the Trust Funds that my leader left.
– It is “ teherrible” !
– That is a nice, jocular way for the honorable gentleman to try to laugh himself out of the difficulty; but he knows that what I am saying is a fact. If he will act decently for once in his life to the people who supported him in Australia, he will come forward with Bills to repeal the Federal land tax, the Australian notes issue, the Commonwealth Bank, the maternity allowance, and invalid pensions. If he does that, he will have kept his word to the people; but, by introducing these two test Bills, such as they are, and calling this Parliament together in order to create an artificial crisis, with the ulterior object of securing a double dissolution, he is deliberately fooling the people.
.- The Leader of the Opposition, when moving his censure amendment, accused the Prime Minister and the Government generally of having two entrance doors to the public offices - a front and a side door. He forgot to mention that there was also a back door. I often see the Prime Minister dodging in through that door myself. If there was one thing more than another that all the Government candidates throughout the length and breadth of Australia told the people during the last campaign it was that they stood for purity of administration. In what way have the Government brought it about? To denounce preference to unionists, which means that all who come in through the front door come in free, and come in equal, and to tell certain contractors that if they wanted anything on the quiet they must come round to the side, is a very peculiar way of bringing about purity of administration, yet that is the way the Government have adopted. If there is anything that calls for publicity it is the letting of contracts for public works, but that is not how the Government let the Teesdale Smith contract. The honorable member for Parkes, who from his party point of view was a very successful Minister of Public Works in New South Wales in days gone by, himself said in this House that the proper course was to call for public tenders. Had the Government done so in this case no one could have cavilled, but I must candidly confess that when I first read about this contract in the press it looked to me very like a job. When I read the leader published in March last in the Age - an organ which previously took the Prime Minister under its wing, and backed him up through thick and thin - I said, “ There is something more in this than I thought.” 1 want to say now, however, that there is no job in this business at all. It is simply a woeful act of maladministration. 1 claim to have some knowledge of this business, as I was travelling ganger for a railway contractor for five and a half years, and helped to make up quantities for earthworks, bridges, ballasting, and relaying for many lines in Queensland. During the same period, the honorable member for Herbert was, as it were, in the opposite camp, being what I might call Government inspector.
– For that frightful Government in Queensland?
– What frightful Government is the honorable member talking about?
– All of them that you have always denounced.
– The honorable member denounced the same people up to the time that he came into the Federal Parliament. He did so until “ Fat “ got hold of him, and now he is the advocate of the crowd that he used to denounce.
– Did the honorable member for Herbert get that billet by the side or the hack door?
– He got it fairly in open competition so far as I know, and I can assure the House that he knows something about this subject. If the Prime Minister did not know anything about this contract, why did he not get expert advice? I am sure the right honorable memberfor Swan could not have been in Melbourne at the time. If he had been he would never have allowed such a contract to go through. As an old hand at the game himself he knew what contractors were to deal with. Let me tell the Prime Minister that he will not be done with Mr. Teesdale Smith, even when he pays him up for his contract. There will be a few extras that will have to be paid for. No wonder the present Government like contractors. There are eight or nine lawyers in the Cabinet, and they know very well that handing out contracts ad libitum now will mean plenty of grain to come into the granary by-and-by, when the contractors make their claims for extras. The honorable member knows that, because I read in Hansard many years ago how he denounced contractors for these very practices. The honorable member, however, is bound to do something for the contractors. He promised them that he would do away with day labour if he got into power; but let me tell him that there is no day labour on any of our Australian railway systems. It is all direct labour with the Government. The difference between that and contract labour is that, with direct labour, you get a better job, there is no scamping, and there are no deviations to be made, or, if any alterations have to be made in bridging, tunnelling, or laying the roads, it is done without any extra expense. In the contracting days, once we started deviating, even if it was only a yard of muck, we used to make the Government pay for it through the nose. Certain honorable members, particularly the honorable member for New England, have defended the price which the Government are paying for this contract. The honorable member for New England said that there were no extras in the contract, and that 10 per cent. had been stopped from the total amount to be paid. He did not mention that when the contract was completed to the satisfaction of the engineer that 10 per cent. would have to be paid. The £1,000 that the contractor is putting up, and the penalty of £5 per day for delay in completing the works, are mere fleabites. One important point is the payment for the banks, about which there has been so much controversy. My experience is that if we were paid for the muck work out of the side cuttings we did very well. In the whole of my experience - and I put in prices for contractors for hundreds of thousands of yards of muck on different railways in Queensland - I have never once known the contractor to be paid for the bank in addition to the side cutting. The contract price for the side cutting was 2s. 6d. a yard to bank, never 4s. 6d. a yard for taking out of the cutting, and an additional 2s. 6d. a yard for putting the muck to bank. Why, Mr. Teesdale Smith is making a little fortune out of this contract. He will make about half profit. The Government have put forward the excuse that they let the work in this hurried manner because “Time was the essence of the contract.” But what do we find? There is a gap of 12 miles between the head of the road and the portion completed by the contractor. According to a man who has been there, they have only just started to clear that section of 12 miles. Where is the hurry? That throws that plea to the wind at once. Why was it done? Had they called for tenders nobody could have offered an objection. Then just before Parliament met, the Minister came down and said that the reason why they were in a hurry to get Mr. Teesdale Smith to take on the job was that he had a plant right on hand, and that if a contract was not let within so many days he would take his plant away, and have nothing to do with the work.
– Within two days.
– Exactly. We found out afterwards that Mr. Teesdale Smith had not as much plant there as a wheelbarrow. Here is where the lack of administration came in. If the Minister of Home Affairs could not devote the whole of his time to this business, and therefore, had to hand it over to the Honorary Minister, why did he not get the advice of experts who had been at the game? There was formerly in this Parliament an expert who is second to no man in Australia. Had the Prime Minister consulted this man I am satisfied in my own mind that no contract would have been let to Mr. Teesdale Smith. The way in which the contract was let was most peculiar. There were no plans, no specifications, no sections. Nothing was known about the work when the contract was let. Unless a man has been over the survey, bored some trial holes, and put in some paddocks to know the nature of the cuttings and the banks, how can he know whether he is offered a fair price for the work? Let me describe the procedure which was observed by the contractor for whom I worked before he went in for a contract. In Queensland, the contract for a railway job was not settled in a day. On the contrary, it occupied weeks. When the schedules went in, the contractor with the lowest tender was sent for ; the whole of the contractors and their engineering staffs met the engineer’s staff and the Commissioner ofRailways and discussed the schedules. In this case, however, there was no schedule to discuss. The contractor was told in effect, “ Go ahead ; do as you can ; do as you will, and we will pay you 4s. 6d. a yard for the work done in the cutting, and for everything over a lead of a chain and a half we will give you another 2s. 6d. a yard.” Mind you, sir, 7s. a yard is not too much when a man comes to have a long lead on, because he has to pay for the horses and the haulage, and the bank has to be made. A bank that has to be made by horses and drays is worse for the contractor, and better for the Government, than a bank made up by barrows from the side cutting. If you are going to measure up the bank after that is done, you will pay double for it, at any rate, a third more, because you cannot get a solid yard of muck into the space of a cubic yard. The Prime Minister knows that if a skip of coal is taken out it cannot be got back into the hole. When this matter comes to be analyzed by honorable members, they will see the terrible mistake which has been made. Had the Minister taken Mr. Hedges into his confidence, and asked his opinion about the matter, Mr. Teesdale Smith would never have got this contract. It it a most peculiar thing that when this work was being contracted for, and the interviews were taking place, the principals were never there, but always a clerk, a friend, or a brother. Why have those gentlemen present; why not have the principals? In the first place I wish to ask the Prime Minister these questions -
I am very glad that the Honorary Minister has come into the chamber, because I wish to ask him if he will lay on the table of the House Mr. Deane’s original estimate of the cost of constructing the 14 miles of line by day labour?
– He has never given one to me.
– I am led to believe that Mr. Deane did give an estimate - about £26,000- of the cost of doing this work by day labour and piece-work labour, whereas the Department is going to pay Mr. Smith £42,000.
– I think that the EngineerinChief’s estimate in regard1 to cost was given in these papers. It showed a difference of2½ per cent.
– I have gone through the papers, but I can get nothing out of them, nor can other honorable members. It seems that it is only a barney between the engineers, the Minister, and other officials. There is nothing definite in the papers.
– I can assure my honorable friend that I had no estimatefrom Mr. Deane. I can assure him, further, that the original estimate of the cost of constructing that line was a very general estimate indeed, and there has been no detailed estimate of the cost of doing the work at all. That is being taken out now.
– That makes the thing doubly worse. The Minister has really let the contract on the blind.
– From that point of view, it works out per mile at about the same price as the work in Canberra, where the country is infinitely easier, and the supply of labour is much cheaper.
– The comparisons are nothing to me.
– They are everything.
– They are not.
– The question is whether a fair thing is being done.
– Had the present EngineerinChief for Railways been in office, I venture to say that there would have been no contract let to Mr. Teesdale Smith on these lines, because he is a man whom no contractor can fool. The Commonwealth ought to be proud and pleased indeed that it has such a man at the head of its railway affairs. It is Queensland’s loss, I can assure the Government. We were very sorry indeed to lose him.
– You think that our appointments are better than yours?
– No; I think you make some good mistakes sometimes. With regard, to comparing the price at Canberra with the price to be paid on the transcontinental line, I take no notice of that comparison, because I can compare the price which the Minister is getting with the price paid on lines that were built twenty-five years ago in western Queensland.
– This day-labour line at Canberra is just being finished, and it is costing per mile about the same price as the line in this very difficult country.
– Are the banks the same? Is the country it is going through the same?
– No; the country is in finitely easier
– I know something about muck shifting. I know that you can have nothing easier to shift than sand. I have no objection if a thing is fair, free, and above board. Had the Government called for tenders, and Mr. Smith been the lowest tenderer, the position would have been different. Our policy is one of direct work between the Government and the men, whereas their policy is the contract system. Had they called for public tenders, and done the thing as it should have been done, no one could have cavilled, because that is their policy. It is all very well for the Prime Minister, and other Ministers, to say that the bottom is knocked out of the opposition to this contract. If that is the case, why should they publish excuses and comparisons in every newspaper they can employ in Australia?
– Not excuses, but facts.
– The Government are hunting round both night and day to try to find something that will whitewash them over giving this contract to Mr. Smith. The Argus comes to their rescue, not only with the information they supply, but with leaders on the contract. If the bottom is knocked out of our criticism, why do they want to explain all these things?
– The facts are deadly for you.
– The Prime Minister said one night last week that the present Government treated their workmen much betterthan we did. No doubt he saw in the Age of 22nd April a letter signed by C. L. Gray, of Port Augusta.
– He is one of the organizers.
– Yes. Before I read that letter, I want to read a very significant letter which has reached me from Adelaide -
I have heard to-day of a man who has been employed in the Accounts Branch of the Postal Department temporarily, who has got a job with Smith as timekeeper and in charge of rations, &c., for three years at Port Augusta, and for the present he will have to go out ninety miles from that place. If Smith has only got a small contract of 14 miles, why is this man being engaged for the three years?
– He probably meant three months. His statement is about as accurate as other statements that have been made. I can assure my honorable friend that Mr. Teesdale Smith’s contract is for a section of 14 miles, and that that is the only contract he has.
– That is all that I wanted to know, and that is why I read the letter. On the face of the letter, it seemed that there was another contract, if not in existence, being prepared or promised.
– None promised.
– I hope that the Government will call for public tenders before they let another yard of railway, seeing that they have called for tenders in the case of other work. Contract labour, I repeat, is the policy of the Government. They have to placate their friends. They told their friends that they were going to burst up the daylabour system, and that everything was going to be done by contract labour. They are only carrying out what they told the people they would do, but for goodness’ sake let them do the thing fairly and squarely. I can quite understand why Mr. Timms was so quiet.
– I can assure the honorable member that he has not been very quiet.
– Well, he has been quietened since. I have the correspondence, or a synopsis of it, and I know that Mr. Timms got a contract. He got a tank to sink, and I suppose, so long as he got that, he was satisfied.
– Who was the lowest tenderer for that work?
– Timms was.
– Then why should he not get it?
– I do not say that he should not have been given that contract.
– The honorable member does not suggest there was any impropriety about that?
– No, I do not. I think that Timms got that contract fairly and squarely, because he was much the lowest tenderer. But the Minister knows that when a dog has a full stomach he never growls.
– That contract was a very small thing.
– It was not so very small. Timms will make a “ bob “ or two out of it. It may appear small to the Honorary Minister, but Mr. Timms will make some money out of it.
– I tell the honorable member candidly that I think Mr. Timms had a great cause of grievance in this matter of the Teesdale Smith contract.
– I think that he had also.
– But there is no question of his being quiet about it. The honorable member has overlooked his letter to me.
– He is not making any fuss at all since he got a contract for the tank at Gibson’s Point. Day labour, as we understand it, has been miscalled. We view as day labour all labour carried out directly under the Government. The
Government may let work on the daylabour system to a butty-gang, or any number of men who may agree to take a sub-contract. The point is that the relation of the men is direct with the Government. The saving under what we call the day-labour system is made not because the work is actually done more cheaply, but is due to the reduction in the cost of supervision. It is not necessary to have an army of inspectors and engineers to see that work under the day-labour system is carried out properly, but under the contract system there must be strict supervision of all work carried out by a contractor. If there is not strict supervision of contract work oh a railway, it will be found that the cost of maintenance will be considerable when the railway is taken over. I have not been over the ground, but I venture to say that it will cost more to maintain the section of the transcontinental railway carried out by contract than it will to maintain any section completed under the day-labour system
– The honorable member forgets that the Teesdale Smith contract is only for excavation.
– It is in the subsidence of the banks that trouble always arises after a line has been completed, and not in connexion with the laying of the permanent way.
– The work has to be done to the satisfaction of the EngineerinChief.
– How can the EngineerinChief tell how much a bank is going to subside?
– I am satisfied that we will not have such trouble with the banks on this section as with those that have been carried out at Canberra.
– If the work at Canberra is of the nature suggested by the Honorary Minister his officers are to blame for allowing it to be scamped.
– It was carried out by the New South Wales Public Works Department.
– If the work has been scamped the officers who were placed in charge of it should be dealt with for their neglect of efficient supervision. When men are getting 8s. or 9s. a day, or whatever the rate may be, for their labour, there is no incentive for them to scamp their work. I can inform the Honorary Minister, and he might bear the matter in mind, that the big money in connexion with a railway contract is made, in connexion with the ballasting.
– That is not provided for in the Teesdale Smith contract.
– So much the better, because I can assure the honorable gentleman that more money is made m the ballasting of a railway than in carrying out the earthworks. The Prime Minister said last week that the present Government treat their workmen much better than did the Labour Government. I wish now just to show how the present Government are treating the men on the transcontinental railway. The following letter appeared in the Age of the 27th April, 1914: -
Sir, - In reference to the transcontinental railway, it is about time that the public knew some of the facts. It is said that day labour is proving itself a failure, but the position is that the day labour system is being deliberately strangled by the Government. At the Port Augusta end of the line as far as conditions are concerned, absolute chaos exists. Private enterprise in the matter of stores has “ fallen down “ completely, and the workmen are living under the most deplorable conditions. One gang of over 40 men were left without bread or groceries for nearly ten days, and this out in a waterless wilderness, 83 miles from the nearest town. All along the line, in a greater or in a lesser degree, the same complaints are made. The men are suffering from hunger and privation, and large numbers are continually leaving for this cause. Repeated promises’ have been made that departmental stores would he improved, but conditions are, if anything, worse now than at any time since the line started. One storekeeper has a monopoly of the trade, and it is a matter of public gossip in Port Augusta that certain officials have a financial interest in the present arrangements.
– Does the honorable member not think that that should be cleared up at once?
– That is just the reason I bring this letter under the notice of Parliament. The Honorary Minister ha3 the means of proving or disproving these statements. The writer of the letter signs his name to it. This is not a matter which is introduced by the back door or the side door.
– He makes a general accusation against officers of the Department without naming anybody.
– There may be some truth in it, and I say that the Minister has the means of proving or disproving these statements.
– Let us know which, official is accused.
– The Honorary Minister is asking me for information which I have not got. If I knew which official is accused I would “ dashed “ soon tell him.
– I thought the honorable member might be in touch with the writer of the letter, and could let us have the facts.
– That is not my business ; but if I were in the Minister’s position I should find out whether these statements are true. The writer of the letter goes on to say -
Whatever the cause may be, the results are enough to ruin any enterprise, whether contract or otherwise. During the past few weeks a large number of new employés have been put on. With the usual blundering shortsightedness, that draws high salaries on this job, no tents or tent poles were available, and nearly 100 men are now living like dingoes under the shelter of the scanty saltbush, or coiled up in concrete pipes and other places to escape the elements. Some of these men have been sleeping on the ground and without tents for over three weeks, waiting for the Department to unwind its red tape. Just before the holidays the riding ganger at the head of the road sent for 60 men. When the men got on the works it was discovered that there were no shovels for them, and many of them had to tramp off the job. Some of the men were charged for riding back on the construction train to Port Augusta. For the convenience of the men and the protection of tradesmen and boardinghonse-keepers procuration orders were allowed right from the start of the job. Now, however, some four-guinea clerk has put his foot on the system, and large numbers of men without funds and without credit have been compelled to leave the works.
I know the conditions on these railway works, and I can sympathize with these men. When I was working on railways in western Queensland, I know that many men, and particularly immigrants, were sent out to the works without a tent to cover them, or a shilling in their pockets. They were just dumped down at the rail head to do the best they could. I thought that those days were past in Australia. Surely the Minister can do something to alleviate the sufferings of the poor devils who go out to this line to do a hard day’s toil.
– I shall have an inquiry made into those statements immediately. I can tell the honorable member that what I have done to improve the conditions, and the honorable member will probably approve of it, has been to raise the wages of labourers from 10s. to11s. 8d. per day.
– Of what use is it to give a man 15s. a day unless you give him some “tucker”? You may fill a man’s pockets with gold, but it is of no use to him unless you give him “ tucker.”
– I do not accept the letter quoted as anything like a true statement until I make inquiry into it.
– Order! The honorable member for Maranoa is entitled to make his speech without all these interjections.
– I direct the attention of the Honorary Minister to this statement in the letter -
Cash “subs.” are issued on occasion, when the timekeeper “ has time “ and sufficient civility, but the men to whom they are issued must cash them themselves, and in Port Augusta.
Fancy giving a man a cash order at a place 60 miles from Port Augusta, when he has to pay to go there by train in order to cash the order, and then has to pay to get back again to his work. Why should he not be able to cash his order at a local storekeeper’s or with the people in charge at the head of the road? I think that regulation is a piece of tyranny on the part of the officials of the Department. The writer of this letter continues -
A man on formation work was without funds, and worked for three days without food, or with such scraps or sufferance meals ashe could get. He then drew a “ sub.” to pay for his meals. As the “ sub.” was only cashable in Port Augusta, and by himself, he lost three days’ work to get to the office and return, and was charged 5s.10 by the Department for the return journey by the construction train.
That is really “ hot stuff “ - to give a man an order, knowing that he cannot cash it where he gets it, but must go to Port Augusta; and when he comes back to start work again, to charge him 5s.10d. for his train fare, in addition to his loss of time.
The late Government gave the employés in Port Augusta free firewood, but now the order has gone forth that only “the staff” are to receive it. This represents a reduction in wages, but it applies only to the underpaid men at the bottom; the high-priced officials are still to get their wood free. These items, selected almost at random from a multitude of similar nature, are given as illustrations. A deliberate attempt is being made to goad the employés into reprisals and to strangle the day-labour system. This, at any rate, is my conviction. -
Port Augusta, 22nd April.
– What I cannot understand is why this man did not write to me instead of to the Age. I could have had an inquiry made.
– I suppose that he wanted to give these matters publicity.
– The letter was published nearly a fortnight ago, and the Minister has not inquired into it yet.
– The Minister has promised me that he will investigate these matters, and no man in his position could do more. I hope that the Prime Minister will cease telling the electors that the present Government treat their workmen better than did the last Government. I would refuse to sit behind a Government that would treat workmen in the way described in the letter I have quoted.
– I am as satisfied as that 1 am sitting here that these men are better treated to-day than they were under the last Government.
– How would the Honorary Minister like to be landed 60 miles from Port Augusta with no tent, no money, and no “ tucker,” and to have to camp under a saltbush, and to depend on the philanthropy of other workmen for a catch meal.
– The honorable member would not mind doing that.
– I have travelled under worse conditions, sometimes not knowing where I would get the next meal; but Ministers must know that they cannot get work out of men without feeding them. Every army moves on its stomach, it is said.
– There are storekeepers all along the line, who supply goods at fixed rates.
– Why not make the Government orders negotiable at these stores ? They should be as good as pound notes. This Government may be paying higher wages than the last Government paid, but conditions have altered. The Minister has given an increase of pay at the Kalgoorlie end amounting to lOd. per day.
– The rate has been advanced from lis. 8d. to 12s. 6d.
– The Prime Minister, speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the House recently, said that the increase was given because of the increased cost of living, and the hardship of the conditions. What operates 60 miles from Kalgoorlie must also operate 60 miles from Port Augusta.
– We found that the cost of living had increased by 8d., and we gave an increase of lOd.
– I have nothing more to say about the Teesdale Smith contract, except to express ‘ the hope that in the future the Minister, when not satisfied that he is fully informed, will obtain expert evidence from outside the Department. Had he asked the opinion of a man like Mr. Hedges, who is one of the most successful contractors in Australia, he would have been set on the right track. From what I know of Mr. Hedges, I am certain that he would have been only too pleased to give the Minister the benefit of his advice. Passing away from that, I wish to refer to what the Government is doing for the producers. Honorable members opposite, especially the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, continually proclaim themselves to be the friends of the farmers, and declare that their mission is to make the lot of the farmers easier and better. I ask them what they have done for the small growers who are nOt members of the Dried Fruit Defence Association. If a retailer of sultanas, raisins, or currants buys dried fruits, except from the association, he loses at the end of the season a rebate of d. per lb. which would otherwise be paid to him. This prevents the small growers from selling their fruit. The retailers have to swear a solemn declaration that their statements are absolutely true, and the cast-iron rules of the association thus prevent the small growers from doing business with them. One of the directors of the association told me that it is on good grounds. I said, “ It is a damnable arrangement that a man cannot sell the products of his labour without entering a combine. We shall have a shot at you under the Australian Industries Preservation Act.” His reply was, “It is not worth while to bother, because we have the opinion of the Attorney-General and the Minister of External Affairs that we are on good grounds, and that no harm can come to us.” There can be no prosecution under the Act until the matter has come before the Attorney-General, and I wish to know what he intends to do. He cannot hand this case over to Paddy Glynn, as he did the Marconi litigation, because Paddy is “in the bag,” too. He cannot hand it over to the Minister of Trade and Customs, because it is already a matter for the Customs Department, and he cannot hand it over to little Willie, because little Willie has made such an unholy mess of the Teesdale Smith contract. The Prime Minister cannot do anything, because he already finds it necessary to get some one else to administer his Department.
– What about the Treasurer?
– He would not take on a law job. The poor man who is growing grapes and drying them to make sultanas, raisins, and currants, can do nothing to protect himself.
– How long has the combine been in existence?
– It is in existence to-day. I brought the matter before the Comptroller of Customs, and he told me that nothing could be done, because they could not get direct evidence. Evidence is not to be got, because the small grocer, when appealed to, naturally says, “ If I were to give evidence against the combine, my business would be ruined. I should be boycotted by the merchants, who would not sell goods to me.”
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should act without evidence?
– The honorable member says that we cannot get it.
– The Attorney-General will credit me with possessing a little “ savvy.” The Minister of Trade and Customs is willing and anxious to do something for the small growers, but the necessary evidence cannot be got because the small storekeepers will not give it.
– Then how does the honorable member propose to act?
– Is there not something rotten when a body of men by combining can ruin others ? The honorable member for Wannon was jubilant about the results which would flow from the establishment of a Federal Bureau of Agriculture. He said that it would make two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, and God knows what else. But when a man makes two grape vines grow where there was none before, nothing is done to protect him. He is left in this position, that he cannot dispose of his produce.
What will happen will be that the small growers will hold back their stuff as long as they can, and then the combine will buy it at half the proper price. The small growers have been advised to export their produce. That is fine advice to give to small men! If the Government supporters are the friends of the farmers, let them show the small growers in the Goulburn Valley and in South Australia that they are in earnest, and do something to help them.
– How can we deal with the matter if the grocers will not give evidence?
– The honorable member can understand the position of the small retailers.
– By united action on the part of the small men something might be done.
– What is every one’s business is no one’s business.
– Does the honorable member for Nepean advocate a union of grocers ?
– There are times when unions are good, as in a case of this kind.
– Something should be done to relieve these small growers. The AttorneyGeneral tells us that he will get over the trouble with the Meat Trust by imposing an export tax on meat, but I should like to see the man who would introduce such a tax.
– I did not suggest an export tax on meat. I said that, as under the Constitution the Commonwealth had control of exportation, it could use that power to deal with the Meat Trust.
– I do not wish to be unfair, but I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that he would stop the export of meat, or would put a tax upon exported meat. There is not a man on either side of the House who would be game to propose an export duty on any primary product. Any honorable member who brought down, and succeeded in carrying, such a proposal would be an enemy to his country. I would so describe any one who attempted to stop our export trade. I have no doubt that the Beef Trust will eventually operate to the prejudice of both the consumer and the grower; but it will not do so for a time. It is only within the last three or four years that the grower of beef and mutton has obtained anything like value for his products. I can speak only in regard to the position of the industry in Queensland, and I know that at one time the representatives of two or three- companies used to go out west and take away stock at their own prices. But since new buyers have come in a change has come over the scene, and those who have fat sheep or cattle for sale are now obtaining fair prices for them. The cause of the increase in the price of beef and mutton throughout Australia is the scarcity of the supply. The trouble is not that too much is being exported, but that there are not enough cattle to be killed.
– The trouble is that some of the meat which ought to be used locally is being exported.
– How is that to be prevented? When a nian buys a beast he may do what he pleases with it. But having regard to the price of beef in Australia to-day, men are foolish to export so much as they do. The honorable member for New England quoted 4£d. per lb. as the price of a sirloin of beef in Brisbane. It cannot be obtained at that price even on a Queensland station. I am at a loss to account for some of Mr. Knibbs’ statistics as to the prices of different commodities. I have tried, without success, to obtain different things at the price quoted by him in his statistics. He has, perhaps, been given the wholesale, and not the retail, prices.
– They may have ruled a month before the honorable member tried to buy.
– They must have been in some cases two or three months earlier. At the latter end of March last I saw ls. paid in Brisbane for a cabbage, whereas the price of cabbages was quoted by Mr. Knibbs at 4d. each. If he lived up there for a time, and had to buy these things for himself, he would be able to tell the people of Australia more accurately what are the ruling prices of various household commodities. The price of meat is still increasing. Mr. Denham, the Premier of Queensland, and his Treasurer, Mr. Barnes, say that when the operations of the trust compel the consumer to pay increased prices they will deal with it. They can deal with the trust in Australia, but they cannot control its operations beyond the 3-mile limit. Sir George Reid, when in Australia recently, told the public through the press what Swift and Company, Armour and Company, and others in the Meat Combine were doing in London. They are cornering the London market, and it is there that the danger lies. What use would it be to have our cool stores full of meat if the exporters could not sell it abroad? Outside the 3- mile limit the trust cannot be dealt with by any of the States. There it has to compete in the world’s markets, and if it has the control of the beef supply of the world, what can Australia do against it?
– The real danger, as I said, is in London.
– Undoubtedly. I once asked the late Sir Malcolm McEacharn, who was a shrewd business man, for his definition of a trust, and received the reply, “ A trust is a jolly good thing to be in, and a jolly bad thing to be out of.” That, I think, is about right. Those in the combine are having a good time, and those outside are jealous of them.
– Those outside have to pay for it.
– If we go in for a “ spec “ we like it to turn out trumps. No one even sends fis. to Tattersalls without hoping to draw the first prize. A man does not send over 5s. for a ticket merely with the desire to fill the other fellow’s purse; he hopes rather to get something for nothing. As showing the view which the Queensland Fusion Government takes of the increase in the price of meat, and of the operations of the Beef Trust, I shall quote for the edification of honorable members and my many constituents who read Hansard the following telegram from Cairns, which was published in Monday’s issue of the Argus -
Cairns (Q.), Sunday. - Replying to a deputation yesterday, Mr. White, Minister for Agriculture, said that he had been speaking at Atherton about the great future of the cattle industry. Many people had the idea that because a large company was erecting works on the Brisbane River, it was the cause of the rise in the price of meat. He hoped that the price would go still higher - (sensation) -
I should think that there would be a sensation, seeing that, the people up there are now paying 8d. a lb. for beef - because every penny would help Queensland.
That is the old Protectionist argument. During the first Tariff debate in this House, the honorable member for
Werriwa used to say that the stock argument of the Protectionist party was, “ Put a wall round Australia; do not let anything come in or go out, and so keep the money in Australia.” As long as money continues to pour into the Treasury, Mr. White, the Queensland Minister of Agriculture, does not mind the price of beef being increased. The consumer is never considered.
– Eightpence per lb. for beef is very cheap. That is the experience of Western Australia.
– It is not so in Queensland. According to this report, Mr. Barnes went on to say -
Queensland was going to be the abattoirs of the world. If large companies dealing in meat were prepared to spend their thousands in Queensland he would welcome them, and be glad to see them. The more that came the better. He was not afraid of the Labour party, or what it thought it could do with these great syndicates. It was only an election cry.
When election day comes round, they will learn whether or not it is a mere election cry. Anything that touches a constituent’s pocket carries conviction to his mind far quicker than does mere oratorical persuasion or argument. When election day comes round, the people will say, “It is all very well to try to evade the issue, but the position is that the price of meat is going up. How do you account for it? We are told that the increase is due to the operations of the Beef Trust.” Mr. White went on to say -
If they had the abattoirs in Queensland they would send beef to all parts of the world, and get more money for the primary producers.
Three cheers for the primary producers - If ever the time should come when the trusts were likely to be injurious to the primary producer, then the State Government would deal with them.
Here we have the same old promise. The stable door is to be locked after the horse has got out. That is no consolation to the people. Something should be done at once to protect the consumer.
– Can the honorable member suggest something?
– Put me on the Treasury bench and I will try to find a remedy. I have now to refer to another matter relating to honorable members opposite who describe themselves as the farmers’ friends. The Minister of Trade and Customs this afternoon shed crocodile tears over the primary producers in the sugar industry, and quoted many figures relating to that enterprise. The industry is able now to take care of itself. We heard twenty years ago, just as we hear to-day, of its ruination, yet last year’s crop was a record one. The production of sugar last year was the largest ever known in Australia. The Minister, however; said to-day that the growers were wealthier now than they had ever been. The honorable member for Wannon recently told us that the Agricultural Bureau was going to do much for the farmers; that it would make two blades of grass grow where only one had grown before. In Queensland, some time ago, a number of farmers were encouraged by the Tobacco Combine to cultivate tobacco, and they caused two tobacco plants to grow where only one had grown before.
– Good old farmers !
– Is that how the honorable member speaks of the farmers? The men to whom I refer are living practically from hand to mouth, and are dependent for their livelihood upon each year’s crop. The only buyer available came along recently, however, and said to them, “ If you grow more than a certain quantity this year, I shall not be able to take the whole of your crop.” I am pleased to say that there are some men in Australia, even yet. One came to me last week, and gave me the address of some persons who were prepared to take tobacco on sample; and, at my instance, communications have been opened up between the parties. Honorable members opposite are always talking about looking after the interests of the farmers. but why have they not done something in this direction? They could afford material benefit to the producers in halfanhour if they would increase the import duty on foreign unmanufactured leaf, and decrease the Excise on colonial leaf. I do not see how the farmers can be much advantaged immediately by the establishment of an Agricultural Bureau, an institution which, if we believe honorable members opposite, would make a hen lay two eggs where now she lays only one. I do not intend to trouble the House with figures, because, as we know, figures can be made to prove anything, as was evidenced once in this House, when the late Sir William Lyne, as Minister of Trade and Customs, on some figure’s of his being questioned, said he would bring down another set on the following day. However, the present Minister of Trade and Customs this afternoon quoted many figures, and I must admit that he had -me fairly “bogged.” The imports of unmanufactured leaf from 1901 to 1912 amounted to 15,035,532 lb. Surely to goodness, after encouraging the growth of Australian leaf, which entails severe and continuous work, the Government might have taken the trouble to insure that the growers would not be balked by a combine in the sale of their product ! I admit that Australian leaf is not the best cured in the world. The leaf itself is good, but it is in the curing that a mistake is made; and it would pay the Government and the country to send instructors to show the producers the proper methods.
– That is done in Victoria.
– -And so it was in Queensland, but there is no instructor there now. The Prime Minister has said a great deal about the “ cleansing “ of the rolls, but what does “ cleansing “ mean from the Fusion’s point! of view? It means removing the names of as many Labour men aud women as possible, and putting on the names of as many Liberal supporters as can be procured, and keeping them there.
– Rubbish !
– It is not rubbish. The State law of Queensland provides that a person must be two months in an electorate before he can even apply to be placed on the rolls. A man who lived in Fortitude Valley crossed from one side of the street to the other, and when the Liberal organizer ascertained this fact, he immediately lodged an objection, and the man’s name was removed from the roll. This meant that the man had to live for two months in his new address before he could apply to have his name reinstated.
– Gould he not have got a transfer?
– No, although he was in the same street all the time.
– But before he moved, could he not have got a transfer ?
– No; and, as a matter of fact, I am not entitled to be on the State roll because I am not in continuous residence in Queensland for twelve months.
– We are talking about the cleansing of the Federal rolls.
– It is all the same; we have to meet honorable members opposite, and their supporters, on the public platform, whether the State or the Com monwealth is concerned. The Federal Liberal organizations act exactly as do the State Liberal organizations; and we all remember when, last session, the Government introduced a Bill by which it was proposed to brand every man and woman with a number, and compel them to sign their names. I took part in the 1891 strike, and I am not a bit sorry that I did so, because it proved the best day’s work in my life. The Labour people were then asked why they did not send men to Parliament and alter the laws, instead of promoting strife and trouble in the industrial world; but ever since we acted on that advice there has been nothing but strife and trouble with the rolls. Labour sympathizers were scored off by the thousand in Queensland, and in one case the pastoralists had a cordon of bullies outside the Revision Court, to prevent the entrance of applicants for the franchise, with the result that names were struck off.
– I should like to see the men who would bully the honorable member !
– I should not be bullied under such circumstances. If any one wishes to be heard by the public, his best plan is to kick up a row ; and that is what I advised the men to do who were pre.vented from registering their names. Half-a-dozen of them were ‘ ‘ run in ‘ ‘ for making a disturbance at the Court House, and the Australian Workers Union took up the matter and appealed to a Judge of the Supreme Court, with the result that a quashing order was” obtained, and the names recorded. Now, twenty-one years later, Labour representatives are not only in Parliament representing the brawn and muscle of Australia, but they have held the Treasury bench in the Federal Parliament, with a majority in both Houses, which is more than the present Government can say. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that if the appeal to the country comes quickly, we shall see some honorable gentlemen opposite in the cool shades of Opposition, where the Labour party are to-day.
– Why not give us a chance to appeal to the country?
– It has been arranged to take the vote on this amendment at 9 o’clock to-night; and if the AttorneyGeneral and the honorable member for Wannon will stay at home and play the piano until after that hour, there may be an election to-morrow.
– Some honorable members opposite would be out at once !
– It is worth risking; at any rate, if either one of the two gentlemen I have named will do as I have suggested, they will play the piano to-night, but they will be “playing fingers” tomorrow morning. When the words of Mr. Knibbs, or Mr. Oldham, suit the Ministry, those gentlemen are quoted. In Queensland, there has been a lot of talk about the faking of the ballot and so forth, particularly in the Oxley electorate, where one man is said to have voted nine times; though, when that rumour was run to earth, it was found to have “ no feathers.” As to voting more than once, I may say that last week I voted five times for Mr. Packer and other gentlemen as the selected candidates for the Liberal party. The selection ballotpapers could be bought for ls. each, and I bought 10s. worth, used five myself, and gave the balance to my friends. Amongst the candidates are two men whom I expressly desired to see selected, one being a reject of the Liberal party - ex-Senator St. Ledger - and the other, Mr. Packer. We are told by the Liberals that they are willing to give a fair “ show “ to every man; but the honorable member for Ballarat read a letter the other night showing that Mr. Packer had offered to supply a whole contingent of strikebreakers. This Mr. Packer is one of the men who form a political organization which they call a bond fide trade union, the head of which is the present Prime Minister. What a sorry figure the honorable gentleman cuts! Once he. was a good trade unionist, and he abhorred everything that smelt of, I shall not say “ scabs,” but use the words of my leader - and call them “ sneaks of society.”
– That name was given to them in 1904.
– I heard it for the first time from the Leader of the Opposition; and truly they are the “ sneaks of society.” Fancy Mr. Joseph Cook, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, ex-miner, and ex-secretary of a trade union, being at the head of a regiment of strikebreakers ! Well, it is said that you never can tell what a man is until he dies’. Mr. Packer, ag, I have said, is one of the candidates for selection as a representative of the Liberal party in the Senate; but God help that party if that is the sort of “ bloke “ they put forward ! Send them along in dozens, and we shall wipe the floor with them, and send them home without boots or socks. The Liberal party have carried out a ballot which is supposed to be fair and square. I am pleased that, even at the eleventh hour, Mr. Mauger, whom I know well, when he saw what the Women’s League were going to do to him, would not let them put a rope around his neck to hang him. They do not. like Mr. Mauger because he is a Democrat, and because he has not style enough for them. But! how will they treat poor old Packer? He will lose his deposit as sure as fate. The Liberals of Victoria are scattering their ballot-papers broadcast. If any honorable member wants a few that we can spare, I can bring them to him. I would like a pound for every one I could give the honorable member for Wannon.
– You say you get them at a “ bob “ a head.
– I ask the honorable member for Wannon to cease interjecting.
– At the last redistribution Queensland gained another member in this House, but, according to the Statistician and the Chief Electoral Officer of Queensland, Victoria has been defrauded of a member. The following paragraph recently appeared in the Melbourne press : -
Evidence having an important bearing on the loss by Victoria of its twenty-second member in the House of Representatives has been given before the Federal Electoral Commission.
On the 1011 census it was shown that the population in Queensland had grown so much faster than that in Victoria, that the Northern State became entitled to a tenth member, the Victorian representation being, at the same time, reduced from twenty-two to twenty-one.
Based on the enrolment on the State rolls for Queensland, it was contended that the Commonwealth rolls for the State named were inflated to the extent of 53,632. Statisticians agree that the adult electoral population forms about half of the total population. Therefore, if this contention that the Commonwealth rolls for Queensland were overloaded to the extent of 53,632 names were correct, it would mean that the population of Queensland was now over-stated to the extent of 107,264 persons.
Mr. E. H. Allars, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in Queensland, pointed out to the Commission that either the State rolls were abnormally below their proper strength, or the State had lost population to such an extent that it was not now entitled to the tenth member it had got at the expense of -Victoria.
Another serious aspect of the question is that the Commonwealth returns to each State 25s. a head of the population on account of Customs and Excise duties. If the Queensland population lias decreased, as is apparently shown by the State electoral officials, the Commonwealth is now paying Queensland £134,000 a year more than she is entitled to.
Victorian members of the Federal Parliament are anxiously waiting to see what the recommendation of the Federal Electoral Coinmission will bc on this aspect of the investigation.
Here we have the opinion of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer in regard to inflated rolls. Let me give the Ministry a tip as to how to get clean rolls. Let them pay the 25s. per head for every adult enrolled. The States would then see that every adult was put- on the roll, and the Commonwealth would see that not more than the proper number were enrolled, so that there would be a double check. The idea is not mine. I heard Senator McGregor give it on the platform.
– What about the children ?
– We could make the payment £2 10s. for every adult enrolled.
Several honorable members interjecting
– Order ! As the honorable member has but a few minutes in which to conclude his speech, it is not fair for other honorable members to take up his time by interruptions.
– I wish to read some remarks of the Prime Minister in reference to the Senate and a double dissolution. He said -
If a crisis were to occur, and I went to the people of New South Wales and said that I. objected to what the Senate had done in regard to the Tariff, they would turn around and say, “ We want the Senate to do precisely as it is doing.” Then .1 might retort, “ But look at the danger that is involved to the Constitution.” They would then say, “ We had all those dangers pointed out to us before the referendum was taken. We knew all about them then, and now that the Senate is in favour of our view with regard to the Tariff, we ask you and others to work the Constitution as you find it, until it is altered in a constitutional way.”
Let it be marked that all these dangers were pointed out before the referendum was taken. What are the test Bills, and particularly what is the Government Preference Prohibition Bill ? Ministers have already done, by act of administration, what they are asking the Parliament to do by Act of Parliament. Even if there is a double dissolution over this Bill, whoever secures the Treasury bench will not have a big majority - parties are too evenly divided in the States; neither party will get a big majority - and the> Senate will continue to hold the key to the situation. When we come back after a double dissolution, what shall we meet, for? To do, by means of a Bill, what had been done two years previously by means of an act of administration. And’ then, if things do not pan out as they should, there will probably be another double dissolution. If the GovernorGeneral gives a double dissolution on this Bill, it means the downfall of the Senate for all time. There will be no Senate; there will be no need for one; and there will be no more Upper Houses in Australia, because the people will rise in their wrath against them and wipe them off the face of the earth, just as the kangaroo does the grass when he is on a good plain. If the Attorney-General had the power to-morrow, he would stop the representation of the small States; but he has no more hope of carrying that intoeffect as regards Queensland than he has of flying to Heaven without wings.
– I do not think he ever said it.
Sitting suspended from 6. SO to 7.45 p.m.
.- When this vote of censure was moved by the Leader of the Opposition, I v<as wondering very much whether the Government would treat it in the disgraceful manner in which they treated the motion of censure moved during the last session. We all remember that when the Leader of the Opposition submitted the latter motion the Government treated it on the first day as a motion of that description should be treated, by immediately adjourning the House. But after putting their heads together during the evening, they, on the following day, shifted the motion to private members’ day, and treated it as a private member’s motion. Subsequently, the Government increased their majority by the ejection of an Opposition member. Those two actions, I think, must have been regretted ever since, even by the Government themselves, because the AttorneyGeneral, at a meeting in Melbourne, admitted the truth of what I am now stating, by telling his audience that he would not go through another session by treating a vote of censure in the same way, or by ejecting honorable members in order to get a majority.
– I do not think I said anything of the kind.
– If the honorable member did not say it, the Argus misreported him.
– What does it say?
– Exactly what I am saying, that the idea of the Government in the coming session was to go right on; they were not going to sit here doing nothing. And the honorable member instanced those two instances of things that had happened, to which he would not be a party again.
– I did not say that.
– I do not want to do the honorable member any injustice, and if he will .say that the official organ of the Government has misreported him, I must accept his statement.
– The Government have no official organ.
– It appears to me that they have official organs in every capital of the States, that do nothing but “boom” or “boost,” as the Americans say, the Government cause, right or wrong. The party and the press seem to act in concert. When the Government refuse to do a thing that the papers require of them, the papers treat Ministers as the Chinese treat their gods - they whip them out of office, and adopt various other means of punishing them. Passing on, I desire to touch on a question that was dealt with by the Minister of Trade and Customs this afternoon. So far as concerns the securing to the producers reasonable “ prices for their goods, I agree with the Minister, but . when we get in Australia anything in the form of a combination, whether it is dealing with wheat, meat, or any other foodstuffs of the people, I am one who is prepared to take steps to protect those foodstuffs more readily than I would attack a combination dealing with any other commodity. While it is a good thing to see the exports increasing, and the trade of the country expanding, there may be a time - and so far as beef is concerned, that time has arrived in Australia - when, owing to the increase in exports, as directed and controlled by certain people, there is an undue inflation of the cost of the commodity to the local consumers.
The Minister for Trade and Customs produced figures in which he tried to prove that, although the Beef Trust is supposed to be operating in the State of Queensland, meat is cheaper in Brisbane than in Victoria and Western Australia. That comparison was very unfortunate and very unfair, and did not add any new information to the debate. Does not every member of the House know that Queensland produces more than half of the beef of Australia? And do not honorable members know that the southern portion of Western Australia produces, perhaps, a less number of cattle than any other part of Australia. The cost to the people of Perth of getting meat from the north-west is so enormous, that whether a trust is operating in Australia or not, prices must necessarily be higher in Perth than in Brisbane at all times. The honorable member would be doing better if he directed his attention to the fact that beef, whether in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, or Brisbane, has increased in price during the last few months out of all proportion to what it ought to be, considering the number of cattle raised in the Commonwealth.
– What is your remedy ?
– Our remedy was put forward in the referenda proposals which the Fisher Government submitted to the people, and we are as honest in the statement we make to-day as we were then, that this Parliament is powerless under the Constitution to interfere with any trust or combine that may arise in our midst.
– If the referenda proposals had been carried what would have happened?
– It would have been within the power of Parliament to pass legislation in order to break up any monopoly or combine, and that cannot be done at the present time.
– You say that has put up the price of beef?
– So far as our information goes, there is no reason for the price of beef increasing so rapidly, other than the fact that people are operating here for the purpose of capturing the trade of Australia and London.
– Then you disagree with the honorable member for Maranoa?
– I did not hear what the honorable member for Maranoa said..
Does it matter to me what the honorable member for Maranoa said about beef or the Beef Trust? Surely I am an individual who can think for himself, even if the honorable member for New England cannot. I do say that a trust is operating here, and honorable members on the Government side know it very well. Yet they sit there indifferent to what is happening. They have promised to do something ever since they have been on the Treasury bench. But why are they not politically honest enough, as we are, to tell the people that, until they give the extra power we asked for in the referenda, Parliament is powerless to take steps to check any combine that may operate here? Australia is different from any other Federation in the world, in that this is the one Parliament, called a Federal Parliament, that can be defied by any few financiers who may have enough capital to corner our foodstuffs. It is a bad condition of affairs in this young country, that, though we have gone in for nationalism, hauled up the flag of Federation, and pointed to the Australian Parliament as the all-powerful institution which is going to lay the foundation of the future nation of Australia, we yet find, after the experience of a few years, and some attempts to deal at law with trade and commerce, that any two or three individuals in the community can defy Parliament, snap their fingers at us, and say, in effect, “ With our money we will run any form of trade we please to the detriment of the people of this country, and Parliament is powerless to interfere with us.”
– The honorable member knows there was an Act on the statutebook during the three years the Labour party was in power, but was any attempt made to put it into operation?
– We amended the Commerce Act, and legislated directly in that connexion, and the then Government demonstrated beyond all doubt the power - lessness of Parliament under the Constitution when they took the Coal Vend case to the High Court, and thence to the Privy Council.
– But they did not prosecute under the amending Act.
– They did.
– I say no.
– They did, as the records will show. The only argument used against the attitude of the Government who took that action was that the solicitors did not lay the case before the Court as it should have been laid. It is always the quibble of the lawyers - “ If you had only done what I wanted you to do, the result might have been different.” Every time a lawyer is beaten, he says, “ If the Judge had only listened to me instead of to the other person, I would have got a verdict.” But the fact remains that not only that case, but other cases, have been tried, and each and every one has been thrown out by the High Court. In the case of the one appeal to the Privy Council, the decision of the High Court was upheld.
– You were in favour of the Coal Vend.
– No, I was not. I have always taken up the one position, and I treat every concern to-day as I did at the time towhich the honorable member refers. I say that combinations of capital can exist and be of benefit to the community.
– Did you not say the Coal Vend was of benefit to the community ?
– The Coal Vend at the time I refer to was a benefit to the people of Newcastle. I say nothing about the Shipping Combine, and those others who may have taken control of the coal industry afterwards. The Coal Vend became a different proposition in after years; but the honorable member would try to make out that what obtained at that time obtains to-day. I say that a combine, whether it be in connexion with beef or coal or timber, may run a legitimate business; but when it oversteps the mark, and clashes with the interests of the consumers, Parliament ought to be powerful enough to legislate for the nationalization of the monopoly. Let every one of these combines stand upon its own merits. I wish now to make a few remarks concerning the action of the Government in respect of the unfortunate outbreak in Sydney of that loathsome disease known as small-pox. We all recollect the attitude which they assumed during the initial stages of that epidemic; we all remember that, by proclamation, they prohibited any person who could not prove that he had been successfully vaccinated quitting that State. We also remember that, just prior to the last New South Wales elections, when they found that the feeling of the people of that State was exceedingly hostile to them, and when they feared that that feeling would jeopardize the prospects of the Liberal candidates there, they lifted the embargo and allowed persons from the infected area to wander all over the Commonwealth, irrespective of whether they were afflicted with this dreadful malady or not. I say now that the small-pox outbreak in Sydney has not been eradicated. I do not wish to dilate further upon this subject, but I would like a competent Commission to be appointed to inquire into the results which flowed from the use of the vaccine which was provided by the Commonwealth authorities for distribution throughout New South Wales. In the district from which I hail, as many as sixty employes in one business establishment were allowed time off to be vaccinated, and it is a fact that, in most cases, they had afterwards to be taken to hospitals for treatment. To-day there are numerous instances in which disfigurement has resulted, either from the vaccine used, or from the way in which the patients were treated. Their disfigurement is ten times as bad as that which would have been inflicted upon them by the dreaded small-pox itself. This matter is sufficiently important to warrant the appointment of a Commission of experts to inquire into it, with a view to seeing whether good or harm was done by the treatment to which patients were subjected. I am not speaking without knowledge of the complaints which have been levelled against the Government for their action in this connexion, and I know that the Prime Minister has been challenged by a man who was given up for dead, after he had been vaccinated - a man who holds a good position in this country - to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire whether he was not ten times worse after being subjected to the vaccine treatment than he would have been had he suffered from small-pox itself. I wish now to say a word or two in regard to the Teesdale Smith contract. I do not impute any ulterior motives to the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, nor do I object to him interviewing persons who wish to consult him on public business. We ought not to judge Ministers from that stand-point. We ought, rather, to judge them by their administrative acts. In allowing the exConsulting Engineer-in-Chief to advise him, not only of .the prices which should be paid, and of the conditions which should surround this particular contract, but also of the policy which should be pursued by the Government, the Assistant Minister of Home Affairs exhibited a lack of capacity that I have not seen paralleled during the time I have been in public life. The avowed policy of the Ministry was that this work should be done by contract, and that tenders should be called for it. Yet, on the advice of Mr. Deane, that policy was departed from, and a contract was let without any tenders being called. The reason advanced by the late Consulting Engineer-in-Chief for the adoption of this course was one of urgency. It was pleaded that Mr. Teesdale Smith should be allowed to proceed with the construction of 14 miles of earthworks, as expedition was imperative. But the facts which have since come to light prove that there was no urgency whatever. Now that Mr. Teesdale Smith has almost finished his contract, the rails have not been laid within 11 miles of it.
– And time was the essence of the contract.
– Yes. It was urged by the late Consulting Engineer-in-Chief that Mr. Teesdale Smith had the requisite plant on the spot. As a matter of fact, he had not. He had to get it from a place 300 miles distant. He has been paid a fabulous price because the work was one of urgency, and because he was bound to complete it within three months. Some honorable members opposite are jubilant because he will have it completed within the stipulated period. But the fact that he will have done so clearly disproves the assertion which has been repeatedly made to palliate this blunder, viz., that the country in which Mr. Teesdale Smith had to work was hard country. As a matter of fact, viewed as hilly country, it was of the very softest description. Not one of the cuttings required the use of a charge of explosives. Most of them could be ploughed out, and the earth scooped. It is true that explosives have been used upon it, but only for the purpose of bringing down larger quantities of material for removal. Mr. Teesdale Smith is receiving 7s. per cubic yard under his contract, whereas similar work in worse country is being done in New South Wales to-day for less than 2s. per cubic yard. An attempt has been made to justify the letting of this contract on the ground that the work was worth more than is work in ordinary country. I admit that, owing .to the scarcity of water, something extra might have been allowed the contractor; but I venture to say that 2s. 6d. per cubic yard would have been a wonderfully good price to have paid him. Then we have to look at the ingenious way in which that price was increased by the conditions of the contract. We all know that, where a cutting is made, a hollow has to be filled up, and an embankment has to be built. If the contractor cannot get sufficient” material out of the cuttings to form his embankment, he must get it somewhere. But the Department was so kind to Mr. Teesdale Smith that, in effect, it said to him, “ You need not bother about that. We will give you 2s. 6d. per cubic yard to remove the material which you take out of the cuttings to form the embankment in addition to 4s. 6d. per cubic yard for excavating the cuttings.”
– These are the Heavenborn administrators.
– That is so. If this be a sample of the contract system, we shall require no better evidence to put before the people as a contrast to the system of day labour. Then, for what are the Government paying under this contract? Mr. Teesdale Smith submits that he had to purchase a considerable quantity of extra plant to carry out his undertaking. I believe that he had. He had to buy a large number of camels, horses, ploughs, and scoops.
– We had them all in stock, too.
– Under the contract, we have to pay the whole cost of the plant that the contractor had to purchase to carry out this work. Then I would ask if it is not a fact that, at the head of the railway clearing, the Government have a staff of surveyors who are wellequipped with camels, which are being kept in idleness ? These surveyors are waiting for the Government to let a tender to somebody else to carry out the surveying work which they themselves should undertake. They have the plant, the camels, and the men, and yet they are held up waiting orders until the Government are prepared to let a contract to private surveyors who will take their places. My friend the Treasurer used to be awfully anxious about the construction of the line.
– I am now.
– The right honorable gentleman wishes to hasten the work, and yet he is a member of a Government which is causing delay after delay in getting this line constructed. Can he deny that the surveyors now at the head, of the line, who are well-equipped, and were getting on well with the workmen - men who are being paid handsomely by the Government - are now being kept idle in order that the Government may carry out this craze of theirs to have all the work from top to bottom let to some person or other by contract?
– Ask the Minister in charge of the business. What is the use of asking me ?
– Where is the Minister? The right honorable gentleman is the only Minister at the table at the present moment. With regard to the contract work proposed by the Government, and day-labour work as carried out by the late Government, and by various State Governments, it is of no use to take the price of one little contract that may be let on this particular line, as has been done during this debate, and contrast it with a small section done by day labour at any particular place. Let honorable members opposite take the evidence of the Railway Commissioners of any State they like to name. These are independent gentlemen, whose policy in regard to the building of railways in the future is to have no contracting, because they find that day labour right through the piece has meant the saving of thousands of pounds in their Departments. It stands to reason that if a day-labour job is not completed for the estimated cost, or less, the cause must be bad supervision. Given the same supervision and the same conditions, it stands to reason and common-sense that jobs carried out directly by the Departments themselves by day labour are not only cheaper, but infinitely better done than under any other possible system. I now wish to deal with the effort of the Government to secure a double dissolution on the empty cry of abolition of preference to unionists in Government employment. This matter affects only 2,000 men throughout the Commonwealth, but honorable members opposite would put on the statute-book a law that would not only prevent, a Minister from granting them preference, but would also prevent any Judge or other independent tribunal, Federal or State, from giving them a meed of justice. To show what an empty shibboleth this measure is, Ministers know that they have abolished preference to unionists in Government employment by an administrative act, and therefore do not require a Bill to do it. Any succeeding Government can reverse that decision. The fact is that the Ministry are trying to gull the people. They intend, if they are able, to induce the GovernorGeneral when he arrives to grant them a double dissolution on a flimsy pretext, such as this measure is. Why should trade unionists not have preference in this regard ? You ask them on the one hand to give up their right to strike, and to go to the Arbitration Courts in order to secure the settlement of their difficulties. While they give up the only weapon they have ever possessed with which to fight for their rights, surely the Government will not deny them the right to employment after the dispute has been legally settled? The Government, and those who stand behind them, would, if they dared, and if they thought it was popular, do as their predecessors did before them in days gone by. They would go so far as to deny the men the right to form trade unions at all. They stand up to-day and say, “ We do not object to trade unionism so long as it keeps its place.” Those words, interpreted in the sense in which they are really used, mean that so long as trade unionists are helpless, so long as they are content with their conditions, and not aggressive in asking for their rights, the Ministerial party believe in unionism, but directly the unionists attempt to do something for themselves, they say, “ We are against you; you are too aggressive; you are usurping the rights of the employers.” They make all manner of charges, and then try to justify their attitude by some flimsy pretext such as I have described. I am positive that every benefit that has been secured by non-unionists everywhere in the industrial world by way of increased wages, or increased accommodation, or better conditions generally, they have to thank trade unionists for, although they never did anything by cash contributions or by their own. exertions to help to bring these improvements about. Why, then, should they receive at the hands of this, or any other Government, the same consideration as themen who have borne the brunt of the battle, and paid their share to gain these benefits ? It has always been the unionists who have made the sacrifices in the past, and they have a right to preference, especially if they are asked to give up their right to strike by going to a Court to have their differences adjusted. Just imagine the first act of the honorablemember for Parramatta, as Prime Minister of Australia, being to strike a blow at the very men who put him into Parliament on the first occasion ! His present attitude is a very striking commentary upon his political career. Sent into Parliament, as he was in the first instance, by the miners’ pennies and the miners’ work, his very first act as Prime Minister is to say, “I am against preference to unionists.” When he was the miners’ paid secretary, he dared not settle any strikes without every man having absolute preference and going back again into the mine. When he sat as delegate to the Australian Miners Federation under my presidency, and I went abroad adjusting and settling disputes, P* can imagine what he would have said to me if I had come back to the council and reported that I had adjusted even one dispute without getting absolute preference for every man who was out on strike at the time. That is the man who is now at the head and forefront of the antipreference movement. He wants to make us believe that he thinks differently today on the question from what he did fifteen or twenty years ago. He does not really think differently, but his position is different, and he has altered his views to suit his position. Whatever the outcome of the present situation in this House is, nobody will be more ready to welcome an appeal to the country than myself. I think that the appeal should have been made before this session began at all. I have always thought the House unworkable since the last election, and everybody knows that that is so. The Government are trying to hold on to office and to twist the situation in order to serve their own party ends. That is a degrading spectacle for any Government or party to offer. They are helpless so far as doing anything in this Parliament is concerned, and they know it.
Knowing it, they should agree to a dissolution of the House, ,so that the people, who are the final arbiters, may have another chance to adjust the position in Federal politics.
– Then there is nothing in the contention of the honorable member for Barrier that there is plenty of work to do?
– If the Government had shown at the beginning an earnest intention to do any work at all, the position might have been altogether different, but they did last session just what their programme shows that they are going to do this session. They say, “ We are going to tear the Constitution to pieces. We are going to interpret it in such a way that the Governor-General will give us a double dissolution on questions affecting only 2,000 men on the one hand, and a mere detail of the electoral system on the other.” I venture to say that the framers of the Constitution when they agreed upon the sections governing deadlocks between the two Houses never dreamt that any Government would be so insane as to ask for a double dissolution on a flimsy pretext of that kind They had in their minds a possible struggle between the two Houses on some measure embodying a vital principle. If the Government had introduced a measure governing the whole electoral machinery of the Commonwealth, it might have been called a test question in reality, but the postal vote is simply a detail of our electoral system, and it will be an extraordinary stretching of the Constitution for any GovernorGeneral to say that upon either of the measures which are to be pub before us by the Government, there is such a disagreement between the two Houses as to warrant a recourse to the deadlock provisions of the Constitution in the sense in which their framers intended them to be used. When these two measures come before us, I shall offer no unnecessary obstruction to them, but they will get from me the criticism which they so richly deserve, and the people of this country will be made aware of the true position which the Government occupy.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added’ (Mr. Fisher’s amendment) - put. The House divided.
Question - That the proposed AddressinReply be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear,
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I will inform the House when I have ascertained His Excellency’s wish as to the date when the AddressinReply shall be* presented.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at half-past 2 o’clock p.m.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the House will on Wednesday next resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
Motion (by Sir John Forrest) agreed to-
That the House will on Wednesday next resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply to be granted to His Majesty.
– It will be recollected that a little time ago the matter of the sitting days was raised in the House, and a debate ensued. I took it from the debate that there was a general desire on the part of honorable members on both sides that we should, if possible, compress into three sittings the ordinary parliamentary business for the week, and, believing that to be the desire of the House, I move -
That, until otherwise ordered, this House shall meet for the despatch of business at halfpast Two o’clock on each Wednesday afternoon, and at half-past Ten o’clock on each Thursday and Friday morning, and that, at each sitting, until otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business.
– No private members’ day?
– That is “ red-hot “ !
– Give us Thursday morning for the consideration of private members’ business.
– I understand that there is a very general desire that we should get on with the business of the session at the earliest possible moment. I believe, too, that there is a very general desire on the part of the House that we should utilize for public business the time which heretofore has gone to the consideration of private business.
– A Government has never been known before to do away with the time for private members’ business so early in the session.
– There is an abundance of precedent for this motion. I should think, whether there is precedent for it or not, that by this time in this Federal Parliament we have all come to the conclusion that the business done on private members’ afternoons does not amount to very much.
– That is all very well for a member of the Ministry.
– It puts the Government in a rather awkward position sometimes.
– I know that we ventilate our grievances from time to time, and bring forward motions, but I have never known a measure to be passed as the result of any of the discussions on private members’ day.
– I do. The Workmen’s Compensation Act was passed.
– In this House?
– In the Queensland Parliament.
– I also know of Acts passed in private members’ time in the State Parliaments; but I am speaking of our experience here. I distinctly remember many years ago putting through myself the first Truck Act that was passed in New South Wales, on a private members’ afternoon. That time has long since passed, and it is not the rule now even in the State Parliaments to put important proposals through, in private members’ time. I am certainly quite correct in saying that no Bill has ever reached the statute-book from this Parliament that was discussed in private members’ time.
– But private members’ motions have induced the Government to introduce Bills to give effect to what they have proposed.
– That may be.
– The Tasmania Grant Bill is a case in point.
– I take it that we are in a mood for compromise now. That is the spirit in which I am making this proposal. Ordinarily I should be disposed to ask the House to sit four days a week as usual.
– The Government are responsible for it, anyhow.
– Responsible for what?
– It is the business of the Government to say how often we shall sit.
– Of course it is, and the Government are taking the responsibility. This appears to be a controversial subject. I thought it was generally desired by honorable members on both sides that we should substitute three sittings in each week for four, and I undertook to act as between all parties as a conciliation board. This motion is my award, given as the result of the best judgment I could bring to bear upon the settlement of the question. It represents a compromise in this way: In return for honorable members agreeing to surrender private members’ time, we agree to sit three days a week instead of four.
– With whom was that compact made?
– I am suggesting it now as a compromise. The honorable member wishes to quarrel, but I tell him that I am not going to quarrel with him to-night. I am in a good mood, and I wish this Parliament to jump off properly so far as the serious business of the session is concerned.
– Why not amend the motion so as to give the time between halfpast 10 and 1 o’clock on Thursday to private members’ business?
– I think I am making a very reasonable proposition. It would give honorable members another full day at their homes, and that should be particularly valuable to honorable members coming from the neighbouring States.
– At the expense of private members’ business.
– Partly so. I am suggesting to honorable members that it is better that they should surrender private members’ time for all the good it is likely to be to them during this session. I am not making this a general proposition, because I hope that in another session,when the House is in a normal condition, we may find time for private members’ business. In view of the special circumstances now existing, I am proposing that if we agree to reduce the number of sitting days to three per week, honorable members shall surrender their right to time for private members’ business, and shall agree to the sitting days and hours stated in the motion. I think that is a fair compromise, and it is in the spirit of compromise that I submit the motion.
.- I heard for the first time in the words just used by the Prime Minister that this motion is the result of an arrangement come to between himself and others - that if he submitted a motion for three sitting days in each week private members’ time would be given up.
– No, I suggest it now as a compromise.
– The idea conveyed to me by the words used by the Prime Minister was that this was a condition of the proposed change.
– Hear, hear ! but that is not an arrangement.
– It is a Government condition.
– The Government say we can have this proposal to sit for three days a week, and do away with private members’ time, or continue the old system. I say, quite frankly, that I prefer the old system. This is a Parliament for the expression of political opinions, and not merely for the registration of what the Government may desire to do. The Prime Minister has said that he has never known a Bill passed in this Parliament that originated in private members’ time, but some of the most useful legislation that has been passed in Australia was initiated in private members’ time. The then member for Northern Melbourne, Mr. Justice Higgins, brought forward resolutions of the greatest importance to Australia, which were debated in private members’ time, and led to fundamental legislation for the benefit of the Commonwealth. Private members on both sides have, by the discussion of questions that have not matured as party questions, enlightened honorable members, and the public outside, as to the utility and advantage of the measures they proposed. The Prime Minister’s proposal is to do away with the time which has hitherto been allowed to private members to deal with questions in which they are particularly interested, and which they are specially qualified to set forward with advantage to the House and the country. I regret the tone of the Prime Minister in saying that we must take this or nothing.
– I did not say anything of the kind. The right honorable gentleman should not put words into my mouth.
– The Attorney-General interjected, “ This is a Government condition of the alteration,” did he not?
– I said that I was> proposing this as a fair compromise.
– I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that this was the condition imposed by the Government.
– The right honorable gentleman said so, and I assented to it.
– The Prime Minister says that he did not mean that. When I know what the Government mean, I shall be able to form an opinion upon their proposal. I now respectfully make the suggestion that the Government should agree to give up the time between 10.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday to private members’ business. It is true that this may be an exceptional session; but, from my experience as a Minister, I say that once we . begin to deprive private members of time for their business in this way, it may lead to their being deprived of time for private members’ business in any session. The tendency in Parliament is for the dominant party having a policy to try to monopolize all the time to have that policy carried into effect, and to encroach upon the rights of private members to enable that to be done. If this practice is initiated during this brief session, it may form a precedent for similar action later on, and opportunity which has hitherto been provided for the discussion of private members’ business may disappear altogether.
– There is always a greater number of private members than of members of the Government, and they will be in a position to protect their rights.
– I see no reason why the Government should object to give two hours and a half a week to private members’ business when, by doing so, they will maintain the privilege which private members have hitherto enjoyed, without encroaching upon the time the Government require for the transaction of Government business. I ask the Prime Minister not to submit the motion in its present form, but to amend it so as to give two hours and a half on Thursday morning to private members’ business.
.- I am rather sorry that the Prime Minister has suggested doing away with private members’ time altogether. I think it would be a fair and reasonable compromise to allow private members two and a half hours each week, as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition. I practically gave in my name as one who was prepared to support the Government if they brought in a proposal that, in future, we should sit for three days in each week instead of four; but when I did so, I had not the slightest idea that the Government purposed taking away the -whole of the time of private members. I would prefer to sit four days in each week to sitting three days if private members’ time is to be entirely taken away; and, if the motion comes to a vote, I shall be prepared to oppose it, in the circumstances. At the same time I confess that I would much rather that the House sat three days a week instead of four if a reasonable amount of time were allowed for private members’ business in each week.
.- I have listened with some interest to the observations of the Prime Minister. The honorable gentleman tried to underestimate the value of the time hitherto devoted to private members’ business. I can call to mind, since I have been in this Parliament, many motions, originally moved by private members, which have ultimately resulted in the passing of Acts of Parliament. A motion moved by a private member brought about the great inquiry into the administration of the Postal Service. The Commission which was appointed to make that investigation did more good than all the PostmastersGeneral we have had since Federation. If private members are no longer to have opportunities to give expression to their ideas, even when their views may not be in accord with the policy of the Government of the day, the motion must be regarded as a dangerous inroad upon the rights of members, and should not be tolerated. T do not agree with the proposal to sit only three days a week. We are paid to carry on the business of the country, and it is our duty to give to our work whatever time may be necessary.
– Perhaps the honorable member would like to sit six days a week.
– I have done so, and would do so again. A representative of the people should be prepared to give to his duties the time necessary for the performance of the functions which he has undertaken.
– We should not be compelled to sit here for weeks on end listening to mere “ gas.”
– The honorable member’s trouble is that he is not allowed to “ gas.”
– I am not in the habit of doing so.
– The pages of Victorian Hansards show that more ‘ ‘ gas ‘ ‘ has emanated from the honorable member than from any other honorable member of this House. What the Government proposes now is a double-edged sword to wound those on this side. If passed, it will not benefit the representatives of New South Wales, though it will enable Victorian representatives to devote another day to their private affairs. They would like to make Parliament a place where they can present themselves for a short space each week, devoting the bulk of the time to their own business. That is the state of affairs that the other side would bring about if it had its way. Honorable members opposite would make Parliament the happy hunting-ground of those who are in politics for the sake of social distinction, or for the emoluments of a public position. However, I shall not discuss the matter further. I am prepared to sit for four days a week, and more, if necessary, to advance the business of the country.
.- I am one of those who first suggested that we should sit only three days a week, but had I thought it would mean depriving honorable members of certain rights and privileges, I should not have done so. I am surprised at the alleged compromise that the Prime Minister has offered. He could arrange that private business should take precedence on Friday afternoons, or on Friday mornings, or on Thursday mornings. This would allow two and a-half hours a week for private members’ business. It is idle to say that important matters are not dealt with in private members’ time. Some of the most important legislation that the country is governed by was first mooted on private members’ days. Take the oldage pensions.
– They were in force under the Victorian law long before there was a Commonwealth Act.
– Will my “winey” friend hold his tongue? I do not like these interjections.
– Is the honorable member in order in referring to the honorable member for Grampians as his “ winey “ friend?
– The remark was not in order, but honorable members, by interjecting, invite these personal replies. I ask honorable members to refrain from all interjections, and especially from such as provoke personal rejoinders.
– I apologize to the honorable member, to whom I have no wish to be offensive. Some of the most important legislation that has been passed by this Parliament, or by the Parliaments of the States, originated in private members’ time. Every one knows that that is so. The old-age pensions system originated years ago in the Parliaments of the States on motions introduced by private members. The paying of such pensions was considered impossible in those days, but they have since become established by law, and benefit many thousands. I could quote many other instances in support of my statement. The House may seem to take but little notice of a private member’s motion when first moved; bat if the matter is of importance, the public come to realize it, and in the end Parliament, as a whole, recognises that what is proposed should be carried into effect for the benefit of the country. I have always been jealous of the privileges of members. In this matter I speak without party feeling, because what may be a victory for the Government party today may operate against it a little later.
– When on this side the honorable member was opposed to the giving of time to private members’ business.
– I have never occupied time with private business; but to show the importance of private members’ motions, I might mention that last session, at the instance of a private member, an inquiry was agreed to which will cost some thousands of pounds, and another which will cost more than any one can estimate. At the instance of the honorable member for Bass, Parliament agreed to grant £900,000 to the State of Tasmania. Is it the wish of the Prime Minister to prevent certain motions from being moved? If not, will he promise to give an opportunity for their discussion?
– To which motions does the honorable member refer? “
– I consider that three days a week is long enough for members to sit, and have always held that view here and in the State Parliament; but if to reduce the sitting days to three the privileges of members are to be curtailed, I must vote against the motion. I move as an amendment -
That the following words be added : - “ except on Fridays from 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m., which time shall be devoted to private members’ business.”
– I am rather surprised that the honorable member who raised this question in the House should be the first to run away from it. The honorable member for Kennedy was the first to bring forward the suggestion that we should sit only three days a week, and he was supported, as the honorable member for Barrier said, by twenty members of his party.
– I said that I would support the proposal.
– This is not a party question. There are on both sides of the House honorable members who are opposed to the motion. The honorable member for Gwydir has just announced his opposition to it, and the honorable member for Grampians opposed it when it was first mooted, so that the parties are fairly divided upon the question. But that the honorable member who first brought forward the proposal should be the first to turn tail upon it on the simple issue as to time being allotted to private members’ business passes my comprehension.
– Something has happened since.
– Evidently. I supported the honorable member for Kennedy when he brought forward the proposal that we should sit only three days a week, believing that that would be sufficient to enable this Parliament to deal with its business. The State Parliaments get through their business by sitting three days a week, but they do not waste so much time as this Parliament does in beating the air.
– That comes well from the honorable member.
– It does. I have sat here for nearly three weeks, and have not opened my mouth ; but there has been one constant stream of talk from the other side.
– The honorable member was not allowed to open his mouth.
– I am opening my mouth now without any one’s consent.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! I have already called attention to the objectionable and growing habit of keeping up a running commentary while an honorable member is speaking, and it should not be necessary every time that an honorable member rises to speak for me to call for order several times. There is a time limit to the speeches of honorable members, and I insist that these numerous interjections shall cease.
– If honorable members would speak only when they had something to say, we should get through our business by sitting even less than three days a week. It is because the time of the House is taken up in discussing over and over again a subject that has already been worn thread-bare that the extra sitting time is required.
– Set an example now.
– The Opposition do not like this criticism. The business for which we have met this session was clearly set forth in the Governor-General’s Speech. We have met thus early in the year for a specific purpose, and the Ministry are right in pushing on with Government business to accomplish what they have in view. If those members of the Opposition who originally favoured the proposal we are now discussing choose to run away from it, that is no reason why the Government should do so. The proceedings in this House last session during the time devoted to private members’ business must have surprised those not accustomed to the actions of this Parliament. I have seen at times only eight members present during the consideration of private members’ business. That shows what interest is displayed in private members’ business. The moment such business is called on the House empties itself, and if an honorable member by accident now and again carries a motion, it is because there is no one here to oppose it. Every honorable member knows the business with which the Government of the day, no matter what party is in power, proposes to push on, and it is his duty to be here to oppose or support it. But in most cases there is no interest displayed in private members’ business, and in nine cases out of ten the discussion of such business is an absolute waste of time. It is true, as the honorable member for Kennedy and others have said, that an honorable member may get a motion through the House. One or two were passed last year. But to what did they amount? They provided for the creation of Commissions, and I venture to say that if members of Commissions were not paid we should never be worried with motions for their appointment.
– That is pretty rough on the honorable member’s own party.
– It may be rough-
– I ask the honorable member not to proceed on those lines, since, in doing so, he is reflecting on honorable members.
– I have pleasure in withdrawing the reflection.
– Many people say that the honorable member has no right to sit in this House, because he is a member of the Harbor Trust.
– I know what my position is, and if any one feels inclined to test it, he may do so.
– Do not throw mud.
– I am not in the habit of doing so. But since the honorable member for Capricornia has raised this question, let me say that if he feels inclined to test my position, he can do so.
– I am too busy.
– I know that the honorable member is. If the Government are going to give way on this question, and set apart time for private members’ business, I hope that they will decide that the House shall sit four days a week. But if they propose to go on with the business for which we were called together, thus early in the year, to deal, I trust that they will see that the whole of the time is devoted to Government business. Let me deal for a moment with the question of whether or not the carrying of the motion would be a precedent for the abolition of private members’ business. The number of private members is largely in excess of the number of members of the Government, and no Administration could insist upon monopolizing, indefinitely, the time of Parliament for the consideration of its own business, if a majority of honorable members favoured the setting apart of time for the consideration of private members’ business. There always would be, under normal conditions, a majority anxious that private members should have an opportunity to bring forward the grievances which they desired to ventilate from time to time.
– The carrying of this motion would not interfere with grievance day.
– Quite so; but the discussion which takes place on a private member’s motion, if it leads to anything at all, results in the Government taking up the proposal, and, later on, submitting a Bill to give effect to it. A private member by getting a dozen members to support him can always move the adjournment of the House to bring forward any grievance he may desire, so that no privilege is taken away by the motion. I am quite satisfied that if there is any private business of importance there will always be sufficient honorable members, no matter what may be strength of the Government, to afford an opportunity. I, for one, although a supporter of the Government, would not tolerate the monopolization of the whole of the days in an ordinary session to prevent private members being allowed to discuss matters from time to time. But on this particular occasion the Government have a definite purpose in view, and I think that they ought to adhere to their determination. I hope there are honorable members who still believe that it is honorable to be connected with business outside.
– How doesthat apply to a member who lives in North Queensland?
– I admit that such a member is at a disadvantage compared with a member who lives in Victoria. But what is the effect of the suggestion of the Government ? Tasmanian members at present cannot leave Melbourne during the session unless they pair, whereas, if this motion be carried, they will be enabled to leave for their homes on the Friday afternoon and return by Tuesday’s boat in time for the meeting of the House on Wednesday; they will be able to get to their homes every week end as the New South Wales and South Australian members do now. Western Australian and Queensland members are in a different position, and nothing we can do can meet their case, because of the distance; but the motion will prove a distinct gain to honorable members from New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania, apart altogether from Victoria. That alone ought to be sufficient to carry some weight in this House. I trust that honorable members on both sides who believe that the business of Parliament can be done in three days of the week, and who believe that we ought to be afforded an opportunity to attend to our own business, will vote with the Government, irrespective of party.
– It is not necessary to debate the question at great length, seeing that the honorable member for Henty has used arguments sufficiently strong against the proposals of the Government. We are sent from all parts of Australia to do the business of the country; and in order to meet the convenience of a few honorable members, who live in four of the States, we are asked to make this change, regardless of the inconvenience that may be caused to those who come from the more distant places.
– A few honorable members ?
– No doubt those who will be convenienced are a majority; but, being a majority, they ought not to use their strength to the disadvantage of others.
– What disadvantage is there?
– I shall deal with that in time; the honorable member thinks more quickly than I can. speak. A number of honorable members are compelled by force of circumstances to either make Melbourne their permanent home, or, at the close of the session, escape as quickly as possible from this not very salubrious climate.
– Why, honorable members come here to recuperate their health.
– The best days I have in Victoria are those when I get into the train to travel north towards Brisbane. From the first mention of it, I have expressed my opposition to this proposal. Rightly or wrongly, I am sent here by the people of Brisbane to do the business of Parliament, and I think other measures could be adopted to get through that business in a shorter time. I do not, however, think that the plan now proposed will help us very much. From a personal point of view I shall be very glad to have an extra day, because I have any amount of correspondence and departmental work to attend to. I am prepared, however, to give the fullest possible time to the business of Parliament, so that we may get through it at the earliest possible date, and return to our homes and constituencies. I am utterly opposed to the proposal, particularly at this stage, because it means the elimination of the private members’ opportunity to put their views before the House. There is a feeling creeping over the mind of not only the people of Australia, but of the people of most civilized countries, that the party system is on its trial, if it is not, indeed, already sentenced to death. Party government has practically outlived its usefulness. The only opportunity that members now have, apart from their association with any particular party, is that presented by the time devoted to private business. If the motion be carried, private members will have no other standing in the House than that of members of a party, or a part of the machine, just as honorable members like to view it. We shall have no rights outside our party, by which the whole of our movements will be directed. It is quite futile for the honorable member for Henty to suggest that we can always move the adjournment of the House. I ask, for instance, whether to-morrow I could, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, submit the proposal that is down in my name. As to the importance or otherwise of private business, I am prepared to say that, although the motion I hope to have the honour of moving to-morrow may be considered of no importance, it is only a matter of a few short years when it will be accepted and adopted by the Governments in Australia. One can understand the desire of the Government to push forward their own particular business, but they must not forget that, however unimportant private business may appear to them, it is of prime importance to individual members. Every honorable member who puts a motion on the paper thinks it worthy of, at any rate, some consideration ; and the fact that other honorable members do not remain in their places to hear the speeches, is no argument against the quality of the business. Honorable members are quite well aware of the importance of some of the questions submitted, but they are, unfortunately, compelled to take advantage of the opportunity to attend to their correspondence and departmental matters. When, however, there is any private business of pressing urgency, a member can always secure a good hearing. I cannot understand the position of the honorable member for Henty. He says he is opposed to private members taking up the time of the House, and he ridicules the idea of any motion of importance being proposed by them. He also complains of the poor attendance of members during the discussion of private business as evidencing the poor quality of that, business; but he immediately goes on to say that next session he will be quite prepared to give private members time. If it is not necessary or wise to give private members time now, it should not be wise or necessary then; and if the Government require the time for themselves now, they will require it just as much when Parliament next meets.
– I do not think they will.
– No ; because of the danger of establishing a precedent, and it is because of that danger that I am now opposing the motion. I have sympathy for some honorable members opposite, who should be encouraged in persevering foi- the three days a week. I refer to the Ministers. It is a wonder that administration is carried on even as well as it is, because of the lack of opportunity Ministers have of attending to their Departments. But the advantage to Ministers will be more than counterbalanced if private members are to be deprived of their privileges, and thus degraded to the position of mere puppets in the political machine, while the system of party government that will grow out of such a condition of affairs will be to the great disadvantage of the parliamentary institution.
.- I am prepared to sit whatever days are necessary to do the work to be done by Parliament. The question of how many days the House should sit is primarily one to be settled by Ministers, who know the time that will be required to do the business to be brought forward, and it is not for honorable members of the Opposition to object; though I suppose the less business the present Government do - if it is the same as they brought down in the past - the better we should like it. However, I cannot see any advantage that the proposal will give to those for whom the alteration is supposed to be brought forward. Honorable members now have Wednesday morning and Thursday morning on which to conduct their correspondence and transact business that can only be done outside the Chamber. As parties now stand, the almost continuous attendance of members in the Chamber is necessitated, and those who take copies of their correspondence cannot write their letters in the Chamber. The Labour party hold their weekly party meetings on Wednesday mornings, while I understand the Government party also hold weekly party meetings. As the Opposition must continue holding their party meetings on the Wednesday mornings, honorable members from New South Wales must still leave Sydney on the Monday evenings, as they do now, while those who live in Tasmania will be in the same position. As a matter of fact, those who clamour the loudest for fewer sitting days are those who live almost continuously in Melbourne.
– Name them.
– I am not prepared to name them.
– Then why do you make the charge ?
– I am not making any charge ; I am merely stating what I have noticed. If honorable members supporting the Government propose to give up their party meetings and allow Ministers to conduct the whole of the business of their party, and to have no say in the matter themselves, simply coming into the Chamber and recording their votes like machines, well and good; but Opposition members insist on taking part in party meetings, and on understanding what is to be the attitude and action of the party in the Chamber. The only difference the proposed change will make in regard to Sydney members is that, in order to attend the party meetings on Wednesday morning, they may cool their heels in Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon and evening. So I cannot see any advantage in this part of the Government’s proposal.
– Let us keep to the four days.
– Now, let me deal with the proposal to wipe out private members’ business. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, who is very enthusiastic in his interjections, will recognise that adoption of the proposal put forward by the Government will deprive him of the opportunity of moving the motion he has on the notice-paper, which is as follows : -
That, owing to the increased cost of living, an increase should be made in the payments to old-age and invalid pensioners.
I am in favour of that proposal, and I was looking forward to an opportunity of supporting the honorable member. But he, apparently wishes to wipe out private members’ business in order to deprive himself of the opportunity of moving this motion.
– That is too thin.
– When the honorable member votes, we shall see whether he wishes to deprive himself of that opportunity.
– Why are you trying to bully me?
– Something more than a laugh-provoking interjection will be required to explain away the attitude of the honorable member. The Government may be interested in depriving another honorable member of the opportunity of moving the following motion on the notice-paper : -
That a Select Committee of this House, consisting of three members of the Ministerial side, one from the Opposition, and the mover, be appointed to examine the officers and the records of this House to ascertain if the third reading of the Loan Bill was carried on the 31st October, 1913.
– Of what earthly use is that motion ?
– There has been a charge made concerning a Bill which sought to alter the policy of the Commonwealth in regard to loans.
– The honorable member will not be in order in anticipating discussion on that motion.
– The Government propose to deprive honorable members of the opportunity of putting this motion forward. No doubt it will be a very convenient thing for them to do so. The honorable member for Gippsland has a notice of motion, which honorable members on the Ministerial side strongly favour. It is as follows: -
That, in the opinion of this House, the Constitution should be amended to provide machinery for the initiative referendum.
Apparently, the honorable member is anxious to deprive himself of the opportunity for moving for the affirmation of a principle which he thinks should be incorporated in the Constitution.
– He cannot stop it. It will come about.
– It will.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro has also given notice of the following motion: -
That the Electoral Act should be amended so as to provide for the counting and declaration of the votes polled at all polling booths where thirty or more votes are recorded.
Now the honorable member apparently does not think this proposal is worth while proceeding with. Then our gallant friend from North Sydney has a proposition -
That, in the opinion of this House, it is advisable that a system of pensions for the permanent Military Forces of the Commonwealth should be inaugurated.
Colonel Ryrie. - How do you know how I am going to vote?
– I do not know. But if the honorable member votes for the proposition put forward by the Prime Minister, he will indicate to those employed in the Military Forces that he was not in earnest when he put that notice of motion on the business-paper. There is another notice of motion by the honorable member for Perth -
That, in the opinion of this House, the military training of cadets should commence at the age of sixteen years instead of fourteen, as at present, and until the age of sixteen is reached the training should consist of physical development exercises and the simpler evolutions, without military equipment.
A number of honorable members were looking forward to an opportunity of assisting the honorable member for Perth to have that principle established; but if the proposal of the Government is carried, honorable members will be deprived of that opportunity. There is another motion which is causing some concern to the Ministry, and that, too, can be wiped out by depriving honorable members of any opportunity of discussing private members’ business. I refer to the following notice of motion by the honorable member for Barrier: -
That the resolution of this House of the 11th November, 1913 - “That the honorable member for Ballarat be suspended from the service of this House for the remainder of the session, unless lie sooner unreservedly retracts the words uttered by him at Ballarat on Sunday, the ,)tb November, and reflecting on Mr. Speaker, and apologizes to the House “ - bc expunged from the journals of this House, as being subversive of thu right of an honorable member to freely address his constituents.
I have no doubt that the Government would be very glad to have an opportunity of preventing discussion upon the proposal that is on the notice-paper after the name of the honorable member for Melbourne; but I do not propose to refer to it, because I see that the honorable member is anxious to speak, and I am sure that he will give a good account of himself. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports is also interested in private members’ day, and he, no doubt, will rise and let honorable members know the faith that is in him. I object to the proposed alteration, not so much because I am against any lessening of the days of sitting - that being, as I have said before, a matter for the Government to decide; and if they say that the necessary work of Parliament can be done in less time, that is their concern - but because in the way in which it is submitted it will not give members the relief it was said would be given. The only members to benefit will be the gentlemen who occupy the front seat on the Government bench. They will be relieved of one day’s sitting in the House, when their actions and policy could be subjected to criticism. Then, of course, there is the encroachment upon private members’ time. In view of all those circumstances, I propose to vote for the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kennedy, and if that is defeated I shall vote against the motion.
.- Several references have been made during this discussion to various matters, and I, for one, am very anxious to see very drastic reforms made in the procedure of this Parliament. We should curtail, not only the days of sittings, but also the length of speeches. I am of opinion that the standing order referring to the length of speeches requires some considerable amendment in the direction of shortening the time for which members are allowed to speak.
– Your own Prime Minister prevented that from being done when it was proposed.
– What my own party did is one thing, and what I think on the subject is another. For my part,
I am anxious to see the Standing Orders further amended, so that speeches will be even shorter than they are at present. I enter my protest against the system of party government which is at present in force, and I have no hesitation in saying that it will not be long before that system will be completely abolished, and another substituted. The present system has outlived its usefulness, and some other form of government - what form I am not prepared to say - will be brought into existence. I am convinced that the people of Australia will not tolerate the present method of procedure, and the shameful waste of time that is taking place in this Chamber. In the course of a few years they will take control of this Parliament, if Parliament is not prepared to do the work which the people created it to do. I am prepared to support the Government in this matter, if their motion is accepted; but if there is to be any curtailment of Government business, I shall favour a continuance of the practice of sitting four days a week. I am convinced that the people of this country are dissatisfied with the actions of Parliament to-day, as they have reason to be dissatisfied, and in future they will amend the governmental system, if Parliament itself does not amend it for them.
– I think it only right that I should place my point of view before the House. No one has ever accused ‘me of neglecting to look after my constituents. When I was approached and asked if I would waive my motion, I strongly objected. Then it was represented to me that I might be acting the part of the doginthemanger, and I said that if every other member was willing to waive his business I would not be a dog-in-the-manger, but would make a strong appeal to the Government to consider the question of an amendment of the divorce law. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition has made a suggestion that, instead of private members being allowed four hours for their business, as at present, they should have two and a half hours on, say, Thursday morning. I think the honorable member for Kennedy made a mistake in proposing Friday morning, and would readily alter it to Thursday. If the time for private members’ business is on Friday morning, that will make a ridiculous alteration of the status of members who have given notice of motions; and who should have the right to move them if the Government can see their way to grant time for private members’ business. Speaking from experience, I must say that private members’ business is always sacrificed by every Government who have the power, and the desire to do so. There is no member in the House but will say that when the Government are strong enough and desire to take private members’ business away, that business is sacrificed, no matter which party is in power. Some years ago I submitted a proposal in the State Parliament to the effect that one night in a session should be set apart as a divisionnight. Upon that night any honorable member would be at liberty to secure, without any debate, a division upon any motion which he might have upon the business-paper. Under such a system, I venture to say that, within two hours, at least from twelve to twenty divisions could be taken. If the House rejected any motion with contempt, the author of it would not be foolish enough to waste the time of honorable members by submitting it on a future occasion. The setting apart of a division night such as I have suggested would practically enable the business-paper to be cleared. Personally, I should be very loth to see private members’ business abandoned. I may mention three important Bills which were carried in the Victorian Parliament, and which were private measures, namely, the Prematernity Act, the Legitimization Act - these two introduced by myself - and the Divorce Act. The last-named was passed at the instance of Mr. William Shiels. I am sure that every representative of Tasmania in this Chamber will recognise that the motion which led to the financial grant to Tasmania was carried at the instance of a private member. I am satisfied that the honorable member for Henty did not intend to injure either honorable members upon the Ministerial side of the House or upon the Opposition side when he said that there would be fewer Commissions appointed if their members were not paid. He must know that the members of Royal
Commissions do not receive any payment while those bodies are sitting in the State in which members happen to reside. As a matter of fact, they are paid only their travelling expenses when abroad. It is the duty of honorable members to do eight hours’ work upon each sitting day, but that work should be done in the daytime. That is the practice which is observed in the only country in the world in which the people have control of their Parliament. The Legislature there meets at 8 a.m. in the summer, and adjourns at 1 p.m. It resumes at 2 o’clock, and sits till 5 o’clock. Every member who is absent from a sitting is punished, and it is necessary that a majority of members must be present while any business is being transacted. If that rule were observed here, there would be no complaints from the honorable member for Henty that when private members’ business is being considered there are only about eight members in the Chamber. The Parliament of which I speak does its business every yearin two short sessions of three weeks each.
– What Parliament is that?
– The Parliament of Switzerland. The one great question which this Government have to face is that of the referendum and initiative. If they would only bring forward a Bill to give effect to these reforms, I venture to say that it would be rapidly passed by this House. Of course, if the Ministry have decided to dispense with private members’ business, the question of divorce must go by the board. But there is no Court in the Commonwealth or in New Zealand which has not honoured me by sending me an expression of its opinion upon that motion. I have the testimony of 150 professional men in regard to it. That testimony I will be pleased to place at the disposal of the Prime Minister, or of any member of the Government, because I feel sure it will show them the widespread need which exists for making our women citizens the equal of our men citizens. I hope that the Government will see their way to grant one and a-half or two hours weekly to private members’ business.
I would not have risen but for the fact that motives have been attributed to the Government for having brought forward this motion. As a matter of fact, I urged on our party the necessity of submitting such a motion last session, and 1 renewed my efforts on the first day of the present session. The idea, therefore, that the Government have been actuated by any ulterior motive goes by the board. I was in a hopeless minority in my own party until I learned from some members of it, who are supposed to be on specially friendly terms with members of the Opposition, that a great number of the latter were also in favour of it. It was only then that my own party decided to indorse it. Personally, I do not think that the Prime Minister has gone far enough. My own idea is that we should sit three days a week, and that the Government should curtail questions without notice, and devote that time to the business of private members. If we cannot sit on three days a week only, we ought to sit the whole of the week. At the last elections, large number of honorable members were’ elected to this Parliament who have private interests to attend to, and the electors have never expressed the opinion that they should sit here day after day and absolutely neglect those interests. As the majority which either party will probably have in the future is likely to be a very narrow one, we shall be required to attend here upon every sitting day. That being so, if we meet four days a week honorable members will have no time in which to attend to their own business, and the result will be that we shall get a class of professional politicians whom the country does not want. Those of us who have interests outside of this Parliament require a certain amount of time to look after them, and the electors who sent us here are willing that we shall have it. If the proposal to sit three days a week is not acceptable to the House, I am prepared to meet upon four days a week.
.- I happen to have upon the business-paper two notices of motion which I regard as important. I should like to hear that the Prime Minister intends to set aside a few hours on Thursday morning, or on some other day, for private members’ business; but if the Government decide that this shall not be done, I shall vote against the amendment even though I have two notices of motion on the business-paper. I promised that I would support the motion, and shall keep my word.
– It is a strange thing that time should be occupied in a great Parliament like this in discussing a question of this character. Many years ago we could have had our salaries fixed at £1,000 a year, but honorable members were scared of their shadows in those days. I remember when the thing was all right, and the very men who voted against the increase of salary all went out of public life. The great people of this country do not want men to work themselves to death. I believe in taking everything that comes, and if it comes too swiftly then I dodge it. When I look round it seems to me that it would be easier to sweep back the waves of the ocean than to silence the political martyrs who are too much afraid of their own shadows to do anything. What are they frightened of? No other Parliament in the world works more than three days a week. Most of us are now travelling toward our immortal home, and are we going to work ourselves to death for a few years? What, after all, is private members’ business? I never got a motion through this House yet, and it will be thirteen years on the 9th of this month since I gave notice here of a motion dealing with old-age pensions. It was thirteen years since I gave notice of a motion to allot, an area of 1,000 square miles for the Federal Territory, but I never got the motion through. There are honorable members here who always do their best to throw out motions of that kind, and it is a farce to talk about this matter. We can adjourn the House and have a battle over the thing if it is not working right. In fact, it seems to me that patient listeners stimulate eloquence. No matter how this matter goes, I intend to vote for three days sittings a week.
– I am rather surprised at the proposal coming from the Prime Minister, for I have a vivid recollection of him assailing the late Prime Minister for having the temerity to move that private members’ business be done away with towards the middle of the session. We have practically not more than started the session, but the Prime Minister now wants to wipe all private members’ business out. I also recollect the honorable member for Lang objecting to private members’ business being done away with. On all occasions when an attempt has been made to reduce the privileges of private members there has been a concerted howl from a number of honorable members who tonight have spoken in support of the proposal. I cannot understand why they should have turned such a complete somersault. I do not like to charge honorable members directly with trying to evade a vote on certain questions, because that perhaps would not be fair, but I have a strong desire to put before the House the only notice of motion which I have standing in my name. Private members’ business should not be wiped out so early in the session. If the Government meant business the position would be different, but we know they do not. I wish to give notice of an amendment on the amendment to delete the word Friday, with a view to insert Thursday, because I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne that if Friday was fixed for private business instead of Thursday, there would be a rush all over again to get the best positions, and I do not want to lose for my motion the favorable position which it now occupies on the notice-paper. Honorable members will think seriously before curtailing the privileges that we have had in the past. I objected to the proposal to reduce the sitting days from four to three, and thought that the suggestion to sit on Thursday morning was rather a good one if the other day could be done away with, but I never dreamt that the Prime Minister would propose to do away with all the time previously given to private members. I understood from those honorable members who were “ whipping “ the matter that Thursday morning was to be allowed for private members’ business. It is a pity that that has not been arranged. The Government are establishing a precedent that no other Parliament has adopted so early in the session. The State Parliaments sit for three days weekly, but they allow time for private members’ business. If the numbers are up it is useless to protest, but I think there are honorable members who will vote for the motion who will regret later on that they have curtailed their own privileges.
Honorable members having divided on
– A slight misunderstanding has arisen since I put the question, and before proceeding to a division I think it right to inform the House that, during his speech, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - the last speaker in the debate - gave notice of an amendment which he proposed to move to substitute the word “ Thursday “ for the word “ Friday “ in the amendment. He did not actually move his amendment, but I understand that he is under the impression that he did. If it is the desire of the House, I would like to give the honorable member an opportunity to move the amendment before going to a division.
– May I suggest that in order to save time, sir,you should substitute “Thursdays” for” “ Fridays” in the amendment?
– The amendment of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has not been moved.
– With the consent of the House, it can be done.
– T hat is what I am now asking. I think it is better to have our proceedings conducted in a regular way.
– If the mover of the amendment desires its wording to be altered, with the consent of the House that can be done, surely?
– Yes, that is so; but I did not understand the honorable member for Kennedy to make the suggestion in that way. I understood him to suggest that I should substitute Thursday for Friday myself. I shall take the sense of the House.
Amendment amended accordingly.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. McDonald’s amendment as amended) - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 28
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 33
Motion (by Mr. W. H. Irvine) proposed -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to prohibit in relation to Commonwealth employment preferences and discriminations on account of membership or nonmembership of an Association.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I shall not detain the House long, but I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to an advertisement appearing under the heading “ Situations Vacant” in to-day’s Argus. It reads -
Youth wanted, assistant salesman estate agent’s office, knowledge Melbourne district, military service exempt preferred, ride bicycle. Malvern News Office.
I should like to ask the Prime Minister whether the insertion of such an advertisement is not illegal. If it is not, it is, in my opinion, the business of this House to make it illegal. In my opinion, all men in business, or otherwise engaged, who endeavour to discourage compulsory military training under the present system should be punished in some way or another. During a debate in this House when the question of compulsory training was under consideration, I pointed out on more than one occasion that something of this kind would occur, and that employers of labour who would shout from the house-tops about their patriotism and assert that they are in favour of compulsory training would, the moment it touched them, endeavour to evade their duty as members of the community. If that sort of thing continues, no youth who has compulsory service to do will be able to obtain employment when those who are exempt can be got. I know two men, one in the hairdressing business, and the other in the bakery business, who will not take youths who have military training to do. If preference is given to those who have not to perform drill, young men will resort to unfair methods to secure exemption. It behoves the Min- istry, the House, and all well-thinking people to see if something cannot be done to prevent this kind of thing.
. -I wish to know whether the sessional order which has been passed to fix the days of meeting will take effect to-morrow morning or next week ?
– The House has determined to meet at half-past 2 p.m. to-morrow.
– Then are we to understand that private members’ business will have preference then ?
– If that be so, one part of the motion will operate to-morrow and another part will not.
– Has it been decided that next week we shall meet onWednesday, instead of on Tuesday ? Honorable members should know that, so that they may make their arrangements accordingly.
– Is it generally understood that we meet to-morrow at half-past 2 p.m.?
– Yes. A motion to that effect has been carried
– I think that it was superseded by the sessional order.
– The sessional order says “ until otherwise ordered,” and for to-morrow the House has otherwise ordered.
-What about private members’ business to-morrow?
– There is no private members’ business arranged for to-morrow.
– I understood that the sessionalorder was to take effect from Wednesday next.
– Yes; but there is no private members’ business arranged for.
– I shall raise a point of order to-morrow.
– Regarding the matter brought under notice by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, I know of no law that has been violated by the advertisement; but the person advertising has put himself into a position which I should not like to occupy were I a business man asking for the services of a youth.
– If this sort of thing becomes general, what will happen?
– In that case something will have to be done.I hope that the number of those who are thus encouraging youths to evade their service to the country is not large, and that public opinion will discountenance this sort of thing. Advertisements like that which has been read cannot be too strongly reprobated. The action of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports in bringing the matter forward has the sympathy of the Government. It is reprehensible for citizens to encourage our lads to evade their public duties by putting a premium on exemption.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 May 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19140506_reps_5_73/>.