6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following; Bills re ported : -
Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
Supply Bill (No. 2).
Supply Bill (Works and Buildings) (No. 2).
– In view of the statement of the butter exporters th at they gave ample notice to the Orient Company of their desire to ship butter by the Osterley, and of the refusal of the agents of the company to accept butter for that steamer, I ask the PostmasterGeneral if he has now been successful in arranging for the provision of space for butter on the Osterley.
– I am glad to be able to say that space has been arranged for. The shippers of meat, on the matter being put before them, consented to the cancellation of part of their space, and the Orient Company has agreed to accept an aggregate of 300 tons of butter.
– Seeing that there are over 300 tons of butter in Melbourne, and between 230 and 240 tons of butter in Sydney awaiting transport, about which I have already informed the PostmasterGeneral, and in regard to which sufficient . notice was given to the Orient Company, will the Minister endeavour to see that the whole quantity covered by notice is taken by the Osterley? It appears to me that the mail contract compels the company to take, not merely 300 tons of butter, but all the butter about which notice has been received. .
– I do not think it is clear that the powers of the PostmasterGeneral extend beyond compelling the acceptance of 300 tons.
– The company ought to carry all the butter.
– Under the conditions now . prevailing, the company should have given the butter exporters as fair a share of Bpace as possible, and’ I have urged the agents to do that. I have insisted that 300 tons of butter, as provided for in the contract, shall be taken, and this will be done. How much more will be taken I cannot say.
– Will the Postmaster-General ‘look into the terms of the contract with . the Orient Company, and ascertain exactly what his powers are? Will he see whether he can compel the company to accept, for the out-going mail steamer, the Osterley, all the butter of which notice of intended export has been given?
– I have looked into my powers. As I said yesterday, the arrangement is a rather complicated one. I am not in a position to say whether certain persons got ahead, but coming in first may have counted. I say, without hesitation, that the company should give a big share of space to the product of this very important industry, but I cannot exceed my powers.
– Yesterday I had arranged a pair with the honorable member for Henty, but failed to notice his absence from the Chamber when the division took place. I apologize for having voted in that division. No doubt, the explanation is that, amongst so many, the honorable member was not missed.
asked the Minister of
Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he has any objection to informing the House why the construction of the railway from Port Moresby to the Astrolabe, in Papua, has been suspended?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
In view of the disturbed conditions in. New Guinea resulting from the war, and having regard to the fact -
That European labour was not employed on the works to any groat extent, and
That progress was being impeded by the withdrawal of a number _ of native workmen who were obtaining employment as carriers, it was deemed advisable by the previous Administration to- suspend operations in connexion with the construction of the Port Moresby tramway for the time being. Meanwhile the plans and sections of traverse water sheds were being completed in order that the construction work might be recommenced at the earliest moment when such a course would be considered practicable and desirable.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Has the question of apprenticeships at Cockatoo Island received the Minister’s consideration; if so, has finality been reached?
– No; but. he hopes to deal with the question at an early date.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
How many cigars are imported annually into the Commonwealth, and what has been the amount of excise derived on locally manufactured cigars since January, 1913?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is-
asked the Assistant
Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. The Minister has not heard of any such incident, but will make inquiry.
– I desire to lay before you, Mr. Speaker, a suggestion made by a friend of mine who visited the Strangers’ Gallery yesterday, to the effect that it would be very convenient-
– I point out that it is not the time for the honorable member to ask questions.
– It is to you, Mr. Speaker, to whom I desire to address the question.
– The honorable member should have put any question he desired at an earlier stage; we are now dealing with the Orders of the Day. Is it the desire of the House that the honorable member should be allowed to make a statement 7
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– This friend of mine suggested that a great deal of this preliminary business of the House is Greek to the visitors in the gallery, and he suggested that, with your permission, Mr. Speaker, it would be very convenient if notice-papers were there placed, so that the public may know what questions are being asked, and be able to follow the answers given by Ministers.
The following papers were presented: -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional - ^ Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1914, No. 134.
Financial and Allowance- Statutory Rules 1914, No. 135.
Debate resumed from14th October (vide page 195), on motion by Mr. jo l ley-
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor- General be agreed to by this House : -
May itplease 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.
– I join with other honorable members in congratulating the mover and seconder of the Address-in-Reply, in whom I feel sure we have an acquisition that will prove of great value to the debating power of the country, and, I hope, tend to more efficient legislation. I understood the right honorable member for Swan to suggest that, on the present occasion, the Government had, to a certain extent, broken faith with the Opposition, in that, according to him, there was an understanding that no legislation of a party character should be proceeded with. There may be in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech some business foreshadowed that can be regarded as of a party character, but I suggest that a great deal of what, on a superficial view, might be so viewed, ought, on the present occasion, to be looked at in an entirely different light. We are in a different position from our English brethren at the present time. We are, of course, all lamenting this unfortunate war, the meaning and effects of which, in one sense, I am happy to say - though, in another sense, I almost regret the fact - we in the Commonwealth do not realize. We talk about the war, and we read in the newspapers what occurs from day to day, but I question whether we can form any idea of its full horrors in the unfortunate countries of Belgium and France, and other places where the troops are operating. That is a fact that should not be lost sight of by honorable members. Then, again, although we are affected by the war, I am afraid that we are still more affected by the drought which prevails in more than one of the States, and more particularly in my own State of South Australia. If it were not for the unfortunate drought I am inclined to think that we should not feel the effects of the war to any very great degree, beyond, of course, the increased expenditure which will have to^ be met later on.
– That does not apply to Port Pirie.
– I am not speaking of isolated places, but in a general way. In some respects we are in a position analogous that that of the English Parliament, which is being conducted under a truce at the present time. There is at present in England no party strife, nor is there likely to be, for the obvious reason that they are so near the theatre of war, and have had recent events more vividly brought before them than they can be brought before us here. But there is the significant fact that the British Parliament has met for the purpose of dealing with trade arid industry, as these are affected by the war. If my memory serves me aright, there is at present a Departmental Commission inquiring what can be don© by way of creating chemical works in England, so that at no far distant time it may be possible to dispense with the importations, which for many years have been sent from Germany, not only into Great Britain, but into the British Colonies. When the Imperial Parliament, in spite of its closeness to the scene of war, feels it essential to turn attention to questions of this kind, surely it is only reasonable that we, in Australia, without the introduction of any party feeling, should approach the consideration of the Governor-General’s Speech, many of the proposals in which are urgently necessary in view of the lack of employment consequent on the extensive importation from foreign countries for many years past, much to our detriment. The time has arrived when, for the purpose of finding employment, we must open up new avenues of industry, and endeavour to make ourselves a more self-contained nation. That is the view I take, and it is the view which the Government entertain with regard to some of the questions that are under consideration. Now, let me refer briefly to the matter of Tariff revision. I do not intend to go into details, and the date of the introduction of the new Tariff is not a matter which concerns me at all at this moment. I ask honorable members to realize that the tremendous importations from Germany for many years past, and from other countries oversea during the very prosperous period from 1910 to 1912, indicate clearly that, in face of the circumstances which obtain to-day, it is incumbent upon us to put our house in order by amending the Tariff in the directions I have already mentioned. I am’ not going to enter this afternoon into an academic consideration of the respective advantages of Free Trade and Protection. That point is quite beside the question, and indeed it is a subject that never interested me at any time. But the circumstances in which we are placed by the war have made the Tariff a ‘live question to-day, and its consideration has been forced upon the people of the Commonwealth and Parliament, and particularly upon the Government of the day.
– When “ trade is dislocated, as it is at present, you have not the data on which to frame a Tariff. Fully £200,000,000 worth of German trade is completely stopped.
– I admit that there is some force in the contention of the honorable member that the best time to deal with the Tariff is when the country is in a state of prosperity, and everything is proceeding smoothly. No doubt at such a time one would get more reliable data, but to-day the revision of the Tariff is a matter of urgent necessity, and we must do the best we can with the material we have at hand. If what the honorable member for Angas says is true, that will not prevent us in days to come from amending the Tariff in the light of the more accurate information we shall then possess. I submit that view of the case to honorable members on the opposite side. That is the situation we have to face at the present time. The luxury of academic discussion is denied us. The position is too acute, and the requirements of the people and of the Empire are too urgent to allow of any delay in dealing with this question. The same argument applies with equal force to the question of bonuses. It is the intention of the Government to make proposals to Parliament with regard to bonuses, and that will be done with the same object as actuates us in the immediate revision of the Tariff. We are actually in the same position as the people of Great Britain, who at the present time are looking around with a view to starting industries, which, prior to the outbreak of war, they had not the remotest intention of embarking their capital in. I might continue on this subject for a considerable length of time, but there is no necessity to elaborate the argument. This matter should not be considered by any Australian to-day as a party question ; it should be approached with the idea of making Australia a. more self-contained country than it is, and of providing greater opportunity for our people to find remunerative employment. It is necessary that we should keep the wheels of industry going in spite of the troubles with which we are confronted at the present time. The right honorable member for Swan referred last evening to the subject of electoral reform, which is brought before the attention of honorable members by a paragraph in His Excellency’s Speech. I desire to point out briefly the absolute necessity for an amendment of the electoral law as speedily as possible. That necessity was emphasized as recently as the last election by the circumstance of the unfortunate decease of my dear old -friend, and distinguished member of another place, Senator McGregor. We then found the electoral law in a lamentable state in one particular.
– This House knew that all along, because we had a very narrow escape when Mr. Skene died in similar circumstances.
– It is the opinion of the Government that , the electoral law should not continue in its present state an hour longer than can be avoided. The peculiarities of the Electoral Act resulted in the return to the Senate from South Australia of another old friend of mine, who, I must say, is a very honorable gentleman, but whose opinions agree With those of honorable members opposite. I have known the honorable gentleman for many years, and I have no quarrel with, him, except in regard to his politics. But the fact remains that in order to secure the return of five other men whose views the electors indorsed, and in order to prevent their ballot-papers from being informal, they had to choose a sixth candidate from the opposite side, and vote for him. It was in those anomalous circumstances that one of the South Australian senators was elected in consequence of the death of Senator McGregor. I am not pointing out this weakness in the electoral law merely from a party point of view; such an occurrence would be equally unsatisfactory to my honorable friends opposite. Imagine, for the sake of argument, that they had to include me in their voting for the purpose of insuring the safety of their own candidates; it would be against human nature for them to relish the position. I was inclined to blame the draftsman of the Bill. I had experience as a layman in drafting several Bills, which I was successful in putting through the South Australian Parliament, and in drafting those Bills I compared them with British measures and with the Acts of other States; but in this case our draftsman had an English Act staring him in the face, containing a provision whereby, in the case of the decease of a candidate after nomination, a re-nomination should be allowed. It is the intention of the present Government to so. amend the Electoral Act as to prevent the recurrence of this incident of the last election. I cannot agree with the right honorable member for Swan that a thorough overhaul of the Electoral Act is required. It is not my intention to suggest to . my colleagues the desirability of extensively altering the Act, because, from what I have seen, from the reports I have perused, and from conversations I have had with the Chief Electoral Officer, I am inclined to think that we have arrived at a stage when we can fairly leave things as they are. The Act is a fairly satisfactory one. It is admitted by honorable members opposite that the last elections worked with remarkable smoothness. Honorable members have no cause for complaint in regard to the electoral machinery and the carrying out of the elections. I join issue with my friends opposite in regard to their demand for the amendment of the Electoral Act. But it all depends upon which way you look at the Act. There are two ways of looking at it. As the measure now stands, there is every opportunity for the adult population to get on the rolls and remain on the rolls, and there is every facility to vote. The desire of honorable members on this side of the House is that it should be as easy for the adult population of Australia to be enrolled as it is to perform any of the ordinary duties of life. There are ample penalties provided to be imposed upon persons who impersonate or are guilty of any fraud under the Act. Honorable members opposite ask what is the use of these penalties, seeing that they are not imposed; but I would point out that penalties will be imposed quickly enough if cases arise where prosecutions will lie. Thanks, however, to the political morality of the people of Australia, the Department have discovered no cases, requiring prosecutions, and until thosecases do arise we should be content to leave the situation as it is. We do not complain against any other law because prosecutions are not more numerous. Any public man who has come into contact with the police authorities in Australia knows that it is a common remark on the part of the authorities that they do not take proceedings because they cannot prove cases. Surely we should not propose to repeal all the laws of Australia because we cannot sheet home offences every time we imagine they have been committed. We are aware that the Judiciary are wisely very careful to give the accused persons the benefit of the doubt, and withhold action in the shape of punishment until they have sufficient evidence to warrant convictions. I do not think there is anything in the argument that because we are not rushing all over the country and instituting prosecutions there are very many people pursuing practices that are illegal. The difference between honorable members on this side and honorable members in the Opposition is that, while we seek to give opportunity for enfranchisement to every adult Australian, and to make it as easy as possible to get on the roll and stay there, our friends opposite seek to make the roll as contracted as they possibly can. It may be that they are under the impression that there are illegal practices carried on, but I am inclined to think that their desire is dictated by the old Conservative principle of keeping as many off the roll as possible, because the chances are that the persons thus deprived of votes would, if enrolled, vote against honorable members opposite.
– It is not fair to say that.
– I do not propose to enter upon the old controversies of last Parliament in regard to this matter. I shall refer, however, to the desire of honorable members opposite to remove from the rolls those persons who, in order to get a living, have to travel all over the country. The very astute methods by which the agents of the Fusion party followed this up show that there is a great deal in my contention that honorable members opposite are anxious to have a contracted roll. I shall say no more on that matter. I leave it to the country to judge honorable members. My desire is to have as complete a roll as possible, and to have all the people on the roll, and that if offences against the Act are practised the guilty shall be penalized. They will not find me interfering in any way with the carrying out of the penalties. It was proposed by the late Government that after each election a roll should be prepared showing all the persons who had voted. As the right honorable member for Swan says, such a roll is very handy. It enables a candidate to see how many of his friends have died, and to see who voted, and all that sort of thing. I suppose that was the reason for the preparation of such a roll. We know that a good deal of discussion took place in regard to the 1913 elections. . We all remember the inquiry in regard to alleged personification at Ballarat. I have no desire to wander over that ground again, and nothing is to be gained by resurrecting it, but my friend opposite is very anxious to have this policy perpetuated. On the other hand, I am not. I asked the Chief Electoral Officer if he could give me a report on this matter, because I was very anxious to furnish to honorable members the opinion of the Department with regard to it. I do not wish the Leader of the Opposition to think that I am shielding myself behind the report of an officer. I take the full resoonsibility for what has been done, but I think honorable members will read with interest the following report which has reached me in regard to the preparation of a check roll, immediately after an election-
– Does it come from the Chief Electoral Officer?
– The. Chief Electoral Officer is ill, but this report has been prepared, I believe, by the officer immediately under him. It is as follows: - immediately after the election.
After the 1913 election there was a number of allegations sis to irregularities in connexion with the election, and the Cook Government passed a regulation permitting a comparison to he made of the certified rolls used at each of the polling booths in a division and the certified roll for that division used in connexion with absent voting. This regulation was permissive, but not mandatory, and there is no statutory provision requiring the check to be made. A check was made accordingly after the 1913 elections by preparing one check roll from all the certified lists used in a division, including that used in respect of absent voting. The check in 1913 did not disclose anj’ adequate reasons for its repetition upon the ground of irregularities in regard to voting. The result of that check showed that out of 2,033,251 votes which were recorded 5,760 presumable duplications of voting were disclosed, the percentage being .28, or less than 3 per 1,000.
I draw special attention to these figures. “ Presumable duplications “ include all errors of officials in marking the rolls, such errors being caused by the similarity of adjacent names. Prior to 1913, the practice of the Department had been to keep inviolate until after the period had ‘elapsed in which a petition might be lodged all election documents which might be involved should one of the candidates petition. Inasmuch as candidates’ interests may be affected there is an objection to the certified lists being open in the absence of scrutineers, and the Government does not feel justified, in view of the negative results of previous checks, in incurring similar expenditure to that involved in the employment of scrutineers at the check following the 1913 election. It is held that on the previous occasion trouble was given, and expense incurred which the result does not justify repeating.
Prior to the action taken by the late Government the practice adopted by the Department was to keep inviolate until the period had elapsed in which a petition might be lodged all electoral documents that might be involved should a candidate present a petition, and they were thereafter used for statistical purposes. On the occasion of my first interview as Minister with Mr. Oldham I told him that I had taken charge of the Department, that I was satisfied of his great ability, and that I did not wish to needlessly interfere with him. He then told me that he failed to see the necessity for this check. I repeat that I am not seeking to place the responsibility upon him; I accept it myself.
– Prom his point of view I dare say there is no necessity for it. The question is whether it is a convenience for other people.
– I am very glad that my right honorable friend has stated the position in that way, because I do not wish to shelter behind the judgment of the Chief Electoral Officer. I fail to see that there is any advantage to be gained by continuing the system introduced by the late Government. There is at least one strong reason why it has not been continued. In any case, if a petition is lodged, all the documents relating to it can be seen upon an order of the Court. But under this system, what would be the position in the case of vexatious and unnecessary inquiry, which, in many instances, would undoubtedly take place? Take the case of a rich man who had been unsuccessful in his candidature against a poor man. I am not referring to honorable members on either side.
– The honorable gentleman had better not do so. There are as many rich men on his side as there .are on this side of the House.
– I am happy to believe that that is so ; but such a designation does not apply to me, nor does it apply, I fear, to my right honorable friend. In the circumstances I have stated, would it be desirable that the agents of a candidate who had plenty of money to spend should have an opportunity to search every document in the Department, with the object of trying to create a pretext for a petition ? It is there that the real danger lies, and the House, I think, should guard against it. The law as it stands is perfectly clear. An election having been concluded to the satisfaction of the scrutineers, the papers can be inspected, when a petition is lodged, by order of the Court. I do not charge the late Government with any but the most honorable motives in framing the new regulation, but I think that they were ill-advised, and I am not prepared to recommend to my colleagues that the practice instituted by them should be continued. Everything is satisfactory so far as all effective useful purposes are concerned, and no wrong or injustice is being done to any one. Why should we manufacture opportunities for all the inquisitive people in Australia to satisfy their curiosity ? It is not usual for this and that document to be free to the inspection of every one. In a lawsuit a prescribed course has to be followed to secure the inspection of documents, and papers of the kind that I have in mind cannot be examined without an order of the Court.
– That is a very good Caucus argument.
– It may not suit the right honorable member.
– I think that the honorable gentleman is quite logical from the point of view of his party. They believe in covering up things.
– And the right honorable member is,- no doubt, logical from his point of view in urging that the practice should be continued. Unfortunately, he and I do not view this question of the rolls from the same standpoint. I desire that we shall have an enlarged roll, on which shall appear the name of every man and woman in Australia who are entitled to vote.
– So do I.
– I am not quite sure as to that. We desire as broad a roll as possible ; hut our friends opposite want an attenuated roll.
– We desire that every name which should be on the roll shall’ be there, and no others.
– The right honorable member spoke of questions of finance connected with the war. I have no intention of dealing with finance in detail, because that is a matter for the head of the Government, and one with which I am not very well acquainted; but I wish to draw attention to some matters that are worthy of note in this connexion. The war has dislocated the finances of the civilized nations of the Western world, and has not improved the finances of the United States of America. The Commonwealth of Australia, being part of the Empire, and, therefore, a party to the war, is also affected. It must, under these circumstances, be the duty of all of us to see that the relations between the Commonwealth and the State Governments are as cordial as possible. There should be an understanding among employers of labour and banking authorities that everything possible will be done to keep the wheels of industry revolving, and to bring the troubles which must come from the drought and the war to an irreducible minimum. We must try to find out points of agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, not points of difference.
– This is a new note from honorable members opposite.
– Not long ago I appealed to my right honorable friend not to get his back up in regard to the Tariff, because the situation requires that our industries shall be kept going, and that the country shall be made as self-contained as possible. I make the same appeal to him again now. I know that he is doing what he can, and that he is as desirous as we are that everything proper shall be done. I hope that matters will be similarly viewed by the States. The war is a terrible business. I feel certain that the Allies will win in the end, and I hope that the end will come soon. But, whenever it comes, there will be a great reckoning up and weighing in the balance. It will try those who are wanting. The people of the Commonwealth expect that we shall not be scared or daunted b’y the difficulties confronting us, and that we shall face them determinedly. The States ‘ are equally responsible with us. The day for talking has gone by, and the time for action has come. We have heard a great deal of the pros and cons of the argument in relation to private enterprise and Government action. Unless private enterprise makes an effort to do something in a time like the present, the people will ask, when the war is over, what is the value of private enterprise. Private enterprise can do a great deal when trade is brisk and there is prosperity, and Government action can do a great deal then too. Now is the time for the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States, for the banks, and for private enterprise, too, to show what can be done. The people will hold us to a severe reckoning if we do not rise to the occasion. As a Frenchman said, at the grave of a dead comrade, “ Hands together, for we live.” We must put our heads together and make the best of thesituation. We know that when the bank rate of interest in England goes up to 10 per cent., and there is a demand for gold, the Chancellor of the Exchequer can suspend the bank charter, and allow the issue of more notes. When the present war broke out, the bank rate went up to 10 per cent., and an arrangement was made between the British Government and the Bank of England. I do not know, and I do not care, what it was; but it was verydifferent from anything that has been done in the lifetime of the oldest member of any Parliament in Australia. There is a circulation of notes in the Mother Country at the present time, whose extent, and whose conditions I do not know, and am not now concerned with. I merely point out that the British Government are glv- ing financial assistance to keep industry going, and it is incumbent on us in Australia to do the same thing. Do not tell1 me that under this Act and under that Act we cannot do anything. Rubbish!. What is needed can be done. What the
British Government and the Bank of England have done, the Governments of Australia and the private enterprise of Australia can do. We must not be outdone by our brothers in the Old Land, but must show them that we are equally able to grapple with a serious situation. If the banks and private enterprise show themselves unable to deal with the situation, when peace comes they will be weighed in the balance and will be found wanting, and I shall not enlarge upon the result. We know what will happen to us if Ave are similarly found wanting. I know all about the difficulties that have to be met. At a crisis like this our business is to find out how to surmount them, not to insist on them. Furthermore, I make a strong appeal to every person in Australia, and particularly r,n the workers, to have nothing to do with those who may advocate a note circulation without a gold reserve. Such a thing would be very unfortunate, and would hurt, not the rich, but the poor, who always suffer when a currency is debased. Between the debasing of the currency in the reign of Henry VII. and the establishment of a good currency by Montague, who founded the Bank of England and restored the coinage, the working people of England were robbed, and suffered accordingly. Prior to the debasing of the currency, they were in as good a position, taking into consideration the difference of conditions, values, and other circumstances, as they are in to-day, and their subsequent degradation was due wholly to the debasing of the currency. If there is one lesson in history that stands out prominently, it is that no working man or woman should have anything to do with quacks who put forward patent ideas relating to currency. I hope that, whatever controversies may arise, there will be no doubting the soundness of this statement, which, for the past 200 or 300 years, has been recognised by every man who has had a reputation to lose.
– What does the honorable member propose to do?
– I have indicated what should be done, but, for obvious reasons, I have not gone into details.
– I merely ask for a little enlightenment.
– If the honorable member will tell me what authority the
British Government have at the present time for their every act in regard to the currency, he has his answer. The right honorable member for Swan referred to the Cockburn Sound Naval Base; and, without going at any length into the matter, I must certainly admit that I have not studied the question very closely. It does, however, seem to me very remarkable that, after expert advice had been accepted and acted upon by the Fisher Government, and everything was on a satisfactory basis to proceed with the work, other expert advice should be called from the Old Country. As a matter of fact, I believe that the report obtained by the late Government practically indorsed the views of the Fisher Government.
– The second report was a waste of money!
– It undoubtedly looks like a waste of money. I may say that I am not altogether in agreement with the right honorable member for Swan in his somewhat antiquated preference for a graving dock as against a floating dock. -Floating docks have, I suppose, been before the world for the last eighty years. When I was at Home, on the occasion of the Coronation, I had the privilege of seeing two floating docks that were being constructed for the British Admiralty, one at Newcastle and the other at Birkenhead; and I may say that the former was one of the largest ever constructed for the Government. This is not a new class of work by any means, because for many years past the Russian Government, for instance, have been favorably disposed towards it for the purpose of meeting the requirements of their Navy. There is a great advantage about a floating dock, especially in a new country like Australia, where we have not an unlimited amount of money to spend on our naval and military requirements; there is no necessity to pretend that we are poor, but we are limited by our population in the amount that we can spend in this direction. The great advantage of a floating dock is that it can be towed from place to place, as has been proved elsewhere with great advantage. Of course, I do not say that it would be desirable to tow a floating dock about the coast of Australia every day; but the weather conditions are very often such as to render the work by no means impossible or dangerous to property. For these reasons, I do not view a floating dock with the same degree of disfavour as does the honorable member for Swan. Of course, there are some people, old fashioned and conservative, who would regard the graving dock as almost a part of the British Constitution; but we should not allow such feelings to operate when approaching a question of this kind, which ought certainly to be dealt with entirely on its merits. The fact that the British Government have used floating docks freely, despatching them to other portions of the Empire, justifies us in feeling no alarm whatever at adopting a similar method in connexion with our Naval Bases. -Another matter on which the right honorable member for Swan touched was that of the referenda. The right honorable member is very much opposed to the proposal of the Government to give the people an opportunity to say whether or not they desire any alteration of the Constitution. My own opinion is that it is our bounden duty to give the people every opportunity of the kind ; and I regret very much that the late Government should have missed such an excellent chance as that presented by the general election.
– The Government may submit the referenda at the next election.
– That is not the point ; my honorable friends opposite seem to lose sight of the basic principle of this question. When there is a clear indication on the part of the people of a desire for an alteration of the Constitution, they should certainly be afforded full opportunity to express their opinion clearly. If I understand their objections aright, honorable members opposite object to submitting the referenda again, because they have already been rejected twice. It is a fact that the referenda have been rejected; but there is the further remarkable fact that on the last occasion there was a tremendous increase in the number of affirmative votes ; in fact, on one of the questions there was a difference of only 8,000. When we see a growing desire like this, it is a mistake for Parliament, or any members of the Parliament, to stand in the way of the people expressing their definite views. As parties are to-day, no doubt, if the Parliament possessed the powers desired, legislation would be initiated by the present Government to bring about alterations in the Constitution; whereas, if my friends opposite occupied these benches, they would make no move, because they have not the slightest desire to see any amendment in our instrument of government. That being so, I cannot see what possible objection honorable members opposite can have to submitting the referenda to the people.
– We are Federalists on this side.
– What does the honorable member mean ? We on this side are continually being twitted with being Unificationists, but, personally, I do not know what a Unificationist is, and I never met one in my life. There are, I know, men who are charged by honorable members opposite with being Unificationists ; but what does that mean 1 It simply means that there is a certain class of thought in Australia which contends that national questions should be dealt with by the National Parliament, while local questions are left in the hands of the State Parliaments.
– What are State, and what are national questions?
– Common sense indicates that to every intelligent person.
– Good old common sense !
– I am a great believer in common sense, which I value a great deal more than I do law. I am inclined to think the Leader of the Opposition is having a joke with me, because T fancy he has just as high appreciation as I have of the value of common sense. Trade, commerce, and industry, for instance, are in relation to the Customs Department. The Commonwealth was created for two reasons, namely, to bring about Inter-State Free Trade, and to create an adequate defence system. My friends opposite, who never believed in Federation, would have agreed to no Commonwealth Constitution at all but for the fact that they desired to have InterState Free Trade, which they knew it would be impossible to obtain from the six separate State Parliaments. It is obvious that if we are to have any defence it must be a national defence; and both parties in this House have assisted in the creation of naval and military forces of which we have no reason to be ashamed.
I am certain that the Leader of the Opposition recognised nothing but a huge joke and a waste of money in the old defence systems of the various States. Then, again, the Trade and Customs Department was created under the Constitution specially in relation to Inter-State Free Trade; and it is only common sense to hold that all associated with trade, commerce and industry should be part and parcel of the business of the National Government. The framers of the Constitution did not create a Minister of Trade and Customs simply to collect revenue and to tax the people; I should hesitate very much to charge the honorable member for Angas, and others who sat with him in the various Conventions, with putting that construction on the matter. On the other hand, we recognise at once that the police and the lands are naturally matters for the State Parliaments, along with many other services in the social life of Australia; and, therefore, I say there is no difficulty at all, from a common-sense point of view, in deciding which are national and which are State matters. All the people of this country may not be philosophers, great linguists, or students of history, but they have common sense enough to distinguish between what is local and what is Federal; and they ought to be allowed a chance to express their opinions. It is not from a party point of view that I regret the excellent opportunity that was lost by the late Government when they did not place the referenda before the people >at the general election. Parliaments come and go, and these are certainly matters for the people to decide. However, the subject has been so thoroughly discussed in the past that there is no necessity to now cover the whole ground of the controversy. I may, hovever, refer for a moment to trusts and combines. I make no charge against the Colonial Sugar Refining Company; but I am certain that every intelligent woman of this country realizes that this company has the power to make any charge they like - to tax the community in defiance of Parliament or any other authority. I have always held the doctrine that no one has a” right to enforce taxation in this Commonwealth except under the authority of His Majesty the King. It is all very well to say that they put up the price of this commodity and that commodity ; the fact is that they are practically taxing the people without having received any power from this Parliament. We have tried on two occasions to get an amendment of the Constitution so that .we could say to the people, “ If you want to allow these private individuals the right to tax you, well and good. It is a free country; do what you like.” I do not quarrel with the people in regard to the view they take of any matter, although I certainly regret the view they take at times. I am not going to discuss the matter of the Beef Trust this afternoon.
– Why not?
– For the simple reason that I can .leave it to common sense, which my honorable friend does not think much of.
– But why must the Beef Trust be left alone ? That was your attitude for three years.
– We have no power to touch the Beef Trust; my honorable friend knows that, and so does the honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Flinders. What is the use of playing with the people when we know that we have not got the power? The Beef Trust did not start their operations in America for benevolent reasons, nor in the Argentine; nor. had they a benevolent purpose when they set out to get the control of as many meat stores as possible in London.
– We left you an elaborate report of nearly 200 pages of foolscap in regard to the Beef Trust.
– I have not had time to read it, and I do not hold out any hope that I shall read it at the present time. We know that the Beef Trust came here as business men to make money. Well, let them make money, but it is our business as a Parliament to see that we have power to control them. Take another matter of great urgency; what is the position we are placed in to-day with regard to the transcontinental railway? We want a great quantity of steel rails, and what must we do to get them? Before the war broke out we had practically to accept any terms dictated to us by the steel combine. The great Commonwealth .of Australia and the States, too, were at the absolute mercy of the steel combine. Now we are at war with. Germany, and for some reason or other German steel is of very high quality. But that source of supply is lost, and there is a difficulty in getting material from the other side of the world. What is our obvious common-sense duty? If we consulted half-a-dozen commonsense men from any part of Australia would they not say - “Why do you not manufacture for yourselves?” What is our answer ? That we have not the power to manufacture steel rails for ourselves. We shall be told that we shall be able to buy them at Newcastle. But for how long ? When the war is over there will not be a steel manufacturer in Australia who will not be in the combine. They must enter it, or they will be choked out of existence. The great democracy of Australia, when it wants material for the construction of its railways, must go cap in hand to the Steel Trust and say, “ Please give us a quotation and do not rob us too much.” Honorable members may say that we have a certain amount of power to engage in manufacture, but we have no right to go into an enterprise such as this unless we are sure of our ground. We cannot afford the luxury of playing with the vital questions of Australia. I am not a lawyer, and there is an element of doubt in my mind. But, assuming, for the sake of argument, that we have power to manufacture steel rails, the fact remains that we have not power to sell to the people a pound of any commodity which we manufacture. The* only way to make manufacture profitable is by having the right to sell to the people of Australia our surplus and by-products, so that the taxpayers will not be losing on the enterprise. I might elaborate this case all day long, but I am confining myself to a practical forcible argument, and by reason of the office I have the honour to occupy at the present time, I know what the position is. I do not wish the country to think that, so far as the Home Affairs Department is concerned, there is a shortage of commodities, but I have often felt anxiety as to whether there might not possibly be a danger in that direction.
– And you want fundamental changes made because of a “ might possibly “ ?
– Those changes are an absolute necessity. We might have a repetition of the trouble in regard to the war and other things, although I hope not. I have always contended that public life is merely the application of common sense. If a common-sense individual in his private capacity is cornered, through circumstances which he is unable to control, he makes provision to insure that he will not be cornered in the same way again. But in public life, we are cornered again and again, because we must not have any change ; vested interests say that change is not desirable.
– Thank goodness, we have a reformer at last !
– I do not know that I am a reformer; I have not the power to do anything. I am only suggesting that the people ought to have the opportunity of deciding these matters for themselves. My quarrel with the right honorable member is that he prevented the people from having the opportunity.
– Somehow or other, my common sense did not suggest that they should have it.
– Now we come to another phase of the question. We are continually told about the sacred rights of the Constitution. It is a wonderful affair, reared up and voted on by the people of the country ; it. is a sacred compact between the States and the people of the Commonwealth, and must not be touched. But that was not the opinion of the men who framed it. The framers of the Constitution had two objects in view, “ Let us come to an agreement; let us patch the Constitution up, and get it before the people; time will alter it.” What did Mr. Deakin say? “We are building up the skeleton of a great edifice which the people of the country will perfect from generation to generation.” There was no1 public man of the front rank engaged in the framing of that Constitution who did not take that view of it. They recognised that they were merely making a beginning, and if there had not been the referendum clause, giving to the people the right to alter the Constitution, they would never have accepted it at all. The Australian men and women are not so foolish as that. They may have their shortcomings, but they know too much of Conservatism and vested interests, and the history of the combinations against thepeople of the Motherland. Who are the objectors to an alteration of the Constitution ? The States. And who in the States: object? There are two parties in the States who object on every occasion. The first are the comic-opera statesmen who fear the weakening of their authority and power as representatives of the sovereign States, and the second are the Legislative Councils. They will have no referendum; they will never vote “Yes.” They belong to the grand historical party - the party which the people swept away at the polling booth.
– The Upper Houses which your party has been strengthening in the various States.
– I am surprised that the honorable member does not know the reason why he was displaced at the last election.
– Public opinion swung back to her old moorings.
– It was not that. A young country has its aspirations, and it has no time for a party that does nothing but say “No.” Eternal negation! What is that party going to do? “We will do nothing, and do it well.” There lies the difference between the two parties in Federal politics to-day. We on this side are not perfect. We have made mistakes, and we may make them again. But what are we going to do P We are going to try. We have faith in the country, in the Almighty, and in ourselves. I am not stupid enough to believe that there is no room for a Conservative party in Australia.
– There is one in office to-day.
– There is an old Tory party in existence in Australia, which was recently displaced from office because it had only one policy, consisting of “No, no, no.” Another case in point is the interest bill we have to pay to-day.
– Will you repeat that- that “ No, no, no “ ?
– I leave the mat- ter to the verdict of the country. I think it would be their view. I believe that a Conservative party will arise in Australia that will say “ Yes,” though it may not be prepared to go as far as we are; but in that day politics will be in a different position. At the present time we are confronted by a party that says “ No.” But I contend that they had no right to stand between His Excellency the Governor-General and the people, and prevent the electors from having an opportunity, if they so desired it, of turning down the referenda proposals.
– Your contention is that the party that is in power to-day is living on the demerits of our party.
– I am not prepared to agree to that assertion. No doubt the right honorable gentleman is a man of great versatile ability.
– But it is what you say.
– I have said what I have said, and I leave it at that. The present Government propose to amend the law in relation to arbitration. Here, again, we have the same argument from the right honorable gentleman. He says, “What have you done? There is no more industrial peace in the country than formerly. The Arbitration Court is congested, and you have brought about no satisfaction.”
– That is what your Attorney-General said.
– The right honorable gentleman opposite has said that we have got no good out of the Arbitration Act, and that we are on the wrong track. I have no desire to be a resurrectionist, and rake up the speeches of the right honorable gentleman ; but every one knows bis line of argument. There may be some truth in what he says - that we may fail in attaining what we seek by means of the Arbitration Act; nevertheless, we shall try. We hold the view that a strike is to the industrial world what war is to the general community, namely, the last resource; and a Parliament that cannot create some method to prevent such occurrences is not worth its salt. “ We shall fail,” the right honorable gentleman says. Well, better to fail than never to try. However, I do not think that we shall fail; because, in spite of occasional disappointments, there is growing up a strong feeling on the part of the people that these industrial disputes can and should be settled. But the position to-day in regard to the Arbitration Court is not what it should be. Costly law suits are what the workers get when they seek the aid of the Court. On every occasion there is an appeal to the High Court.
– With delays for years.
– That is right. Always blame other people for your own incapacity.
– What is the policy of the Opposition in regard to the settlement of industrial disputes!
– “ No, no, no,” you say it is.
– I need only refer to one proposal for a few moments to show that my. right honorable friend must have had his tongue in his cheek when he made it. He said, “ I do not believe in your Arbitration Court.”
– Who said that?
– The right honorable gentleman said it in his speech at Parramatta. He said that he believed in Wages Boards. He wanted a superior sort of Wages Board on top, which was to deal with appeals from Wages Boards in the various States. And he was to get six Legislative Councils to agree to it ! Could anything be more shallow than the possibility of getting even two of those Legislative Councils, much less six, to agree to that scheme ? I am in favour of everything that will promote industrial peace, but I cannot favour Wages Boards. What is there in having a Wages Board? There are three employers and three employes, and the Government get a safe man as Chairman - every time they get a safe man - and their power is simply that of wrangling and coming to some sort of agreement. What is the nature of this wrangling? The employer says, “If you want this increase of . wages, or these improved conditions, you will ruin my business; I shall be utterly ruined.” I have known men to make that statement over and over again who to-day are in possession of princely fortunes.
– They have passed the increases on.
– Why do honorable members opposite love Wages Boards and hate the Arbitration Court? It is because the Arbitration Court has the power, when these poor, suffering, starving employers, who are about to be ruined, appear before it, to say, “ Come along and show us your books.” That is why honorable members so hate the Arbitration Court, and would crush it to-morrow. On the other hand, it is the safeguard for the future, because the industrial people in this country rightly believe that when they appear before an Arbitration Court they will get a fair deal. I do not say that Wages Boards will not give them a fair deal, but they are constituted on a stupid and ridiculous principle, and not on the principle of justice and equity, and there can be no lasting peace except on the basis of justice and equity. If the working people are not prepared to accept the principle of arbitration, it is a matter to be regretted; but I do not agree with that view of the question, and I maintain that there is room for further amendment in relation to the Arbitration Act. I admit that it is experimental legislation, but I would rather spend my days on this side of the House attempting experimental legislation of that character than join with my friends opposite who say, “ You will never do any good. You are on the wrong track, and, therefore, will have to retrace your steps.” Time will show us who is right. The Arbitration Act has done good, at least up to the outbreak of the war. Like other things, it must be affected by the present circumstances, and the true position is difficult to estimate. I hope that at an early date the referenda proposals will be again submitted to the people, and that we will be in a position to go on with those steps that are necessary to enable us to grapple with the unfortunate circumstances in which we are placed to-day, and keep the wheels of “industry going. The responsibility lies, not only on this Parliament and on the present Government, but also upon the States, and must be equally shared by the financial institutions and by employers of labour throughout the Commonwealth.
.- Mr. Speaker–
– What ! “ Stonewalling” this Address?
– It is not my intention to “ stone-wall.” I enter upon the debate with a considerable amount of diffidence; but, so far, there has been very little meat in it from the stand-point of the man who needs work. Academic discussion across the floor of the chamber as to what the referenda will or will not do may be all very well for the future, but what we should do is to get down at once to bedrock. The question is “ work.” I should readily sit down now if a proposal came forward that would grant or facilitate work. I do not think that honorable members realize how intense is the unemployed situation. I differ from the Minister of Home Affairs, who says that we have not felt any effects from the war. Already the war has had disastrous effects. Adelaide is filled with unemployed as a direct result of the war. These men have come from Broken Hill. Thousands of men have been turned out of employment because of the mines being closed down, not as a result of the drought, but as a direct result of the war.
– If we had not the drought they would be absorbed.
– I doubt that very much, but that assertion is no consolation to the man in the street looking for a job. We want some concrete proposals to get work. In the programme of the Government I cannot see much meat for the immediate future. Take paragraph 13, which says -
Measures will bc introduced to promote the production and manufacture of raw material for which no market is now open, and to secure new markets for the manufactured goods of Australia.
The object is laudable, but it does not get us any bread. Look at the result of the war upon the Broken Hill zinc concentrates. There have been 400,000 tons of concentrates shipped through Port Pirie each year to Germany and Belgium. To manufacture that raw product and find a market for that zinc would be a very laudable object, but as regards^ an immediate proposition it is impossible and impracticable. We want something at the present moment. As a matter of fact, the erection of the necessary plant to treat one-half of the concentrates passing through Port Pirie would take a number of years. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company, the only company treating zinc concentrates, have nine furnaces at work, and their OUtpUt is about 110 tons per week, whereas the output of the Broken Hill mines in the shape of zinc concentrates is 400,000 tons per year. The cost of putting up the plant to treat 110 tons a week was £120,000. I estimate that a plant to treat 200,000 tons yearly would cost £1,500,000.
– And then what are you going to do with the product?
– Yes. After we have erected the plant and turned the raw material into zinc, the further problem arises as to what we are to do with it. The 110 tons per week treated by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company amply provide for the Australian’ market at the present time. We are told” that early steps are proposed to be taken to initiate the great national work of a uniform gauge for the railways; but have we any reason to hope that the unemployed will be immediately absorbed in that direction? Are Ave not up against the States in connexion with the proposal for a uniform gauge ? Even if an agreement were arrived at to-morrow with the States, we should still be -confronted with a difficulty. There is no 4-ft. 8^-in. rolling plant obtainable in Australia, and it would be very difficult to secure it abroad. It may be said that we could obtain it in the United States of America; but, as a matter of fact, we cannot arrange just now even for the transport of rails from the United States of America. Despite all her advancement, that country has made no attempt to build up a mercantile marine in the sense that England and Germany have done. There is only one way in which we could find work immediately for the unemployed, and that is in widening the railway to the north of Port Augusta. The property is our own, and no State difficulties lie in the way. The present rails could be used, and a large number of men could be employed in substituting new sleepers to carry . a 4-ft. S-j-in. line. If the Government wish to find work immediately for some of our unemployed, let them carry the line from Port Augusta to Quorn on that gauge, which would be on the direct route to New South Wales. The question is not what we are to do in the future, but what we must do at the present time for our unemployed. We are told that action which is to be taken for the utilization of the Murray waters will provide employment for many men. The object, no doubt, is a laudable one, and will be achieved in due time; but not one of the three State Governments concerned has yet brought down a Bill to provide for it. That being so, that part of His Excellency’s Speech which relates to the utilization of the Murray waters offers no hope of early employment for the workless. The same may be said of many other proposals in the Ministerial programme. I agree Avith all of them; but the point I wish to emphasize is that we have to meet abnormal conditions, and that, instead of discussing matters that concern the” future rather than the present, we should take in hand at once the question of so arranging our finances as to provide work immediately for those who want it. It is all very well for us to shelter ourselves behind the pretext that the States ought to do something.
– They ought to do a lot.
– Quite so; but their inaction will not excuse us. There are in Australia to-day thousands of men who have not done .a day’s work since the outbreak of the war. What are we going to do for them ? Are the Government going to wait till it is possible to give effect to some of the big schemes outlined in the Speech, or do they propose at once to get down to bedrock? Let me suggest another direction in which employment can be found for many of those now seeking it. One of the conditions of the transfer of the Northern Territory to the Commonwealth was that a railway should be constructed through it. For over 300 miles a complete survey has been made, and a very large number of men could thus be employed in building that line, to which all parties in this Parliament are pledged. Why not do that which lies nearest to our hand? There is no obstacle in the way so far as the provision of rails and roiling plant is concerned. Action could be taken at once to broaden the line from Coward Springs to Oodnadatta. There is a stretch of 120 miles between Coward Springs and Kingunyah on the east-west road, which could be put in hand at once. The necessary rollingstock to carry on the work at Oodnadatta could be obtained from the South Australian Government. The State Government would make available to us thousands of trucks, many engines, all the necessary equipment, and also a number of enginedrivers, for whom they have no work. Here, then, is an opportunity to utilize our strength. These several undertakings would, of course, involve considerable outlay; but no one expects the question of money to stand in the way of action at the present juncture. Our war expenditure is going to he very considerable, and we must be prepared, if necessary, to spend our last penny and to give our last man to bring the war to a successful issue. We know what the alternative is. At the same time, however, we must make provision for those who are with, us today. The contingents which we are sending away will relieve, to a certain extent, the unemployed trouble; but even in my own State there are thousands of men out of work, and so far as I can see there is no prospect of employment for them for many months to come. The whole question resolves itself into one of finance. Is not our credit sufficient to enable us to raise what money we require to push on at once with necessary works? Is there no_ other course open to us than the old, well-worn one of going to the London market and pledging our credit? What is the credit of Australia worth?
– It is worth very many millions. If there was ever a time when we should utilize our credit it is now. Can we hope to raise by taxation all the moneys we require? By no means. Taxation should be imposed, but no one would dream of imposing taxation sufficient to raise all that we require at the present time. I do not know why a war tax has not yet been imposed. There ought to be a war tax upon a progressive scale on incomes, and I would make it go down pretty low. Such a tax, however, would not raise anything like the amount we require. The revenue so secured would be a mere drop in the ocean. We might possibly raise in London what we want, but there is really no necessity for us to go there. Why should we not utilize our own credit? If we went to London we should have to pledge our credit there, and, in addition, we should incur heavy flotation expenses. Why not make the best use of our own credit here ?
– What money is idle here?
– I would create the money.
– Take it from one economic sphere and put it in another ?
– The honorable member would use the printing machine ?
– I certainly should. If we required £20,000,000 I should not hesitate to raise it in that way; but I would limit the issue to a period of ten years.
– No limitation.
– I should limit it to ten years, and impose sufficient taxation to pay it off in that time. I should make the issue a first charge, on the revenue so raised, and every year I would destroy one-tenth of that special issue. Will any one say that such a currency would not be accepted in Australia ? Is not the credit of the Commonwealth worth more than £20,000,000? And that is the amount that we require to-day. If we borrowed it at the ordinary rate of interest, in twenty years we should have paid, by way of interest, plus flotation expenses, the whole of its face value, yet still owe the principal; whereas, under my scheme, in ten years we should have paid off the whole amount, and it would not have cost the country a farthing. There was never a better opportunity for putting such a scheme into effect, nor was there ever greater necessity to do so. I should like the House to get down to solid work.
– To deal with the Tariff, for instance.
– The Tariff will not provide work.
– Of course, it will.
– Not immediately. I know as much about Tariff matters as does the honorable member, and I know that if effect were given to his ideas on the question some works would be closed up. Of course, anything can be produced if we are prepared to pay enough for it.
– But the new industries would come in very handy in twelve mouths’ time.
– Yes, such, for instance, as the wax match industry. The price of locally-manufactured matches has been increased up to 4s. a gross, and I do not know what will happen when the desired Tariff is secured. Then, again, a little while ago a working man paid 6d. for a plug of tobacco, twelve of which went to the pound; but now he pays 6d. for a plug, thirteen of which go to the pound. This change has been brought about during the last two months. It is one of the results of the Tariff.
– That fs an abuse of the Tariff.
– Until we are able to impose some sort of check we shall have the same result. I could give many instances of Tariff abuse, and of the way in which people are being robbed. I believe that my scheme is a practicable one, and that there is no possibility of danger in it. The credit of the country is worth more than £20,000,000.
– You cannot use the note issue for these purposes.
– How has it been done elsewhere? It will, of course, be necessary to pass special legislation; the present note issue could not be used. We have now a grand opportunity to use our credit, if we have the courage to . avail ourselves of it. What is the worst that could happen under any circumstances? Every one admits that this i3 a bad time for imposing excessive taxation, or for borrowing money. Suppose that there is a depreciation of the note issue, shall we not still have the power to tax and the power. to borrow, and may we not be able to tax and to borrow when things are better than they are now? Neither the war nor the drought will endure for all time. Never was there a time less opportune than the present for imposing taxation or for borrowing. I have submitted my scheme to sound business men, who see no flaw in it.
– Would you exhaust your credit internally to create industries when a war was going on, and you had no war chest?
– I am speaking of public works. The industries referred to in the programme are those, I presume, that will result from the Tariff. We need to keep the wheels of industry revolving, and if we take our courage in both hands we shall give a stimulus to enterprise, and restore confidence to those who are now tying up their purse strings. To participate in the benefits that would accrue from my scheme, they will have to spend their own money. At the present time the States are doing nothing. They say that they cannot get money. Nor is the Commonwealth doing anything. Thousands of men are seeking work, and cannot obtain it.
– Has not the Commonwealth offered money to the States?
– I understand that Tasmania is getting money from the Commonwealth Bank.
– The honorable member’s proposal is to issue £20,000,000 worth of notes without a gold reserve?
– Yes, with a ten years’ currency, one-tenth to be paid off each year as a first charge on the revenue, whether the notes are used by the States or by the Commonwealth. I shall not occupy further time, as I wish to set a good example. What is needed is that we should do something to enable men to get employment. Nothing is more disheartening than to see thousands of willing men without work, and nothing is more demoralizing for the community.
– I suppose that I shall be believed when I say that I am glad that the Labour party is once more on the Government side of the chamber. I think that we shall manage to get some work done. Nothing was done last session, and there was no attempt to do anything. The striving was to undo, and the legislation proposed was of a negative character. Legislation of a negative character is like pleasure of a negative character; like the pleasure that a man got from his wife not being well. He smiled, not because he had any hard feelings in regard to his wife, but because he was well himself. The Opposition, when in power, had no policy except one presented to them by the Argus newspaper during the election fight, the declaration that thev desired to maintain representative government. That policy would not feed one mouth, manufacture one pannikin, nor cause one blade of grass to grow. The Opposition knew that they secured office by a fluke, and desired to make the best of the situation. Therefore they were unwilling to do anything. I am glad that at last we have a chance in connexion with the Tariff, and that we shall be able to impose duties of a protective character.
– “ Not another duty “ !
– I thought that I could draw the right honorable member. If it were not so tragic, it would make one smile to hear the exclamations of the Free Traders whenever the Tariff is mentioned. They cheered the honorable member for Grey when he stated that we could produce anything here if we only liked to pay enough. Whose fault is it that the people have had to pay too much for Australian productions ? It is the fault of honorable members opposite and of their supporters outside, who, when appealed to by way of referendum, refused to give this Parliament power to legislate to prevent scoundrels, benefited by protective duties, from inflating prices. I recognise that many manufacturers will take advantage of higher duties and reap enormous profits from them, but we must accept the lesser of two evils. We have to choose between seeing goods imported and our own people out of work, and having manufactures here, even though the robbers of manufacturers may rob the people more than they did in the past. It is the fault of the party opposite, particularly of the Free Traders, who are very strong there, and among their supporters outside.
– In what way?
– The party opposite have stated that it is not desirable to give this Parliament power to fix prices, wages, and conditions in protected industries; that it could not be done. Yet honorable members know well that every day the price of every commodity is fixed by some one. If it is easy for an individual who gains profit thereby to fix prices, it should be easy for some Government authority to do so.
– A Board is doing so now.
– Yes, a Board appointed by the Government of Victoria. The members of that Government opposed our referenda proposals. One reason they had for doing so was that they feared that they would lose power if the proposal were carried, because they rely on the Legislative Council of the State, which is elected by bricks and mortar. But those who claim to be Australians had no such reason. Their ground for opposing our proposal was, as the honorable member for Flinders said, that the wrong party was in power. They knew that we should use whatever powers were given to us. However, the honorable member nearly lost his seat at the last election, and will probably do so at the next, notwithstanding his ability. I have always been pleased to present him to the Democracy of Australia as the arch-fiend from Flinders. We have thus been able to frighten the electors from trying others of the same calibre, should it be possible to get them.
– Then you tried to frighten them ?
– Yes. The devil is used to frighten us from sinning, and certain persons were used to frighten the electors from voting against their own interests; with very good results. Prices are being fixed to-day by Government Boards, though the methods may not be ideal. It is the prices of natural productions that are being fixed. If it is possible to fix the prices of natural productions when the probabilities of a season and a harvest have to be taken into consideration, as well as the deserts of the producers and the profits of the middlemen - whether the scoundrels who handle the produce are to get cent, per cent, on their money - it must be possible to fix the prices of manufactured articles, in regard to which you have only to consider the cost of production and fair profit. The majority of honorable members opposite were determined that there should not be an alteration of the Tariff. They hoped that I and others who desire to regulate prices might be put into a corner. Those who oppose Protection because the prices of protected commodities have been increased are themselves to blame for voting against our referenda proposals. We should have had power to fix the prices of protected manufactures. I hope that when the matter is again submitted to the people after the Tariff has been dealt with, the position will be understood, and that the rings, trusts, and combines, which have opposed our policy tooth and nail will not be successful. No doubt it will be easier for our opponents to fight the next referendum, because there will be more money poured out by the Sugar Trust and others than they are willing to provide for the personal contests of a general election. The money will come in as in the past.
– The friends of the Sugar Combine are on the Labour side.
– And the friends of the Tobacco Combine,. too.
– The honorable member for Perth, although he is a Free Trader, and professes to look after the interests of the consumers, took the platform against the referenda, one of the objects of which was to secure that the people were not robbed; and, in spite of their experience in the past, they would take the same course in the future. They are like sane manufacturers and others on the questions of rings and combines. Mr. McLean, a gentleman who stood in the Conservative interests for the Senate in Victoria, and Mr. McPherson, the member for Hawthorn in the State Parliament, both admitted that it is necessary for the Federal Government to have Commonwealth ships on the coast, in view of the fact that miners, farmers, and graziers are robbed by the Shipping Ring. And manufacturers in my own electorate contend that they are charged too much for the carriage of their commodities. They allege that it costs as much to take a bale of manufactures from Melbourne to Brisbane as it does to carry goods from Glasgow to the latter port, and all because of the Shipping Ring. But when I ask those men why they are not willing to give the Federal Parliament the” powers contemplated in the referenda, they say, “ You see, the worst of the Labour party is that, if we give them the power, they will want to go too far.” In other words, those manufacturers and others are quite willing to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to stop rings from robbing them, but they are not willing to give the power to stop the rings from robbing the people generally; and that is why they oppose the referenda. We on this side understand the position just as well as do honorable members opposite, and we are not afraid to express our opinions, which, we contend, cannot be refuted. As to the double dissolution, the members of the present Opposition have got their just deserts,, and are where they always would have been but for the mistake in’ 1913. The Commonwealth and the various States are self-governing Dominions, and it was always understood that the representative of the British Crown in Australia was the one desirable, or necessary, connecting link with the Mother Country. In the past the system has worked fairly well, and I do not think that to-day we should find J per cent, of the people who are desirous of doing away with that link; indeed, it is quite possible there are many who would deem it desirable to strengthen it. The representative of the Crown may be regarded from two aspects. He is, as I say, the connecting link between Australia and the Mother Country, and he has certain powers, acting for the Crown, in relation to this Parliament. He is there as an umpire to see that the Government do not act in an unconstitutional manner, and to give the people of Australia a fair deal all round.
– How can the honorable member understand that to be the case? There is not a word to that effect in the Constitution.
– I understand it from the precedents of the past. I am not now dealing with the relationship between the British Parliament and the King, but with the relationship between the Governor-General and the Commonwealth Parliament under our Constitution.
– Does the honorable member object to the Governor-General taking the advice of his Ministers?
– I am too old a bird to be led off the track by the honorable member for Kooyong, who will have an opportunity of dealing with the question in his own way. We know that in the past politicians have endeavoured to shackle the Governor-General, and to obtain dissolutions on three or four occasions; but those dissolutions were not granted for various reasons. As I say, what I arn now referring to is precedent, which has become strong enough to be regarded as law. The late Government, in asking for a double dissolution, vented their spleen and spite on another Chamber because it had dared to exercise its constitutional rights, although I believe that when they did so, they had not the slightest idea a double dissolution would result. I think the honorable member for Flinders desired a double dissolution; but, from evidence which it is impossible to adduce here, I am convinced that the vast majority of the present Opposition never dreamt that a double dissolution would be granted. Honorable members opposite have charged trade unionists wilh creating disputes, in order to get before the Arbitration Court; but, with the Governor-General as the arbiter between the two parties, they created a puny and petty issue, in order to be able to advise His Excellency to grant a double dissolution. Without any illfeeling to the other side, or to the GovernorGeneral, 1 desired to know what information had been placed before His Excellency; and we now know the grounds of the advice tendered by the late Government. I go so far as to apologize to honorable members opposite - they did not lie in the manner I thought they did. I could not conceive that the GovernorGeneral, placed as he was in the position of an arbiter between this side and that, could, on the situation created, grant a double dissolution. And I now say that either the Governor-General was wrong in doing what he did, or his position, so far as this Parliament is concerned, is useless. If the Governor-General is always to follow the advice of his constitutional advisers, however corrupt they may be, he is useless in relation to this Parliament; and it is just as well to know where we stand. If it has to be within the power of gentlemen of the calibre of the honorable member for Flinders to judge whether there ought or ought not to be a double dissolution, according to the desires of his Government, the position of the Governor-General is not what we have always understood it to be. I say, with all due deference to the House and the Governor-General, that it would be quite possible, under such circumstances, for a corrupt Government to hold on to the Treasury benches until the time was, in their opinion, favorable for a general election, thus breaking down the whole intention of the Constitution. If a Government could go so far under the circumstances of the recent dissolution, what is to stop a Government from breaking down the whole of the Constitution in order to further their desires and objects? In the past I have supported the connecting link furnished by Imperial Governors, believing it essential to our existence, and a link which might, perhaps, be strengthened ; but if the gentleman who, at any time, happens to hold the position of Governor-General has no power at all, his position, so far as we are concerned, is useless, and the sooner it is abolished the better for Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I shall inform the House when His Excellency will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply.
Sitting suspended from 5 to 5.20 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to Trading with the Enemy.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in n Bill for an Act to amend the Judiciary Act 1903-1912.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to offences against the Commonwealth.
– This is a very old friend. I do not think there is any honorable member who will not give it a most cordial welcome.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending appropriation from revenue for the purpose of a grant of £100,000 in aid of the Government of Belgium.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
In doing so, I thank honorable members for their courtesyin the matter of the speedy adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– I regret that the right honorable gentleman could not have arranged matters in a much better way. Ministers have known through the whole of the afternoon that the speaking from our side upon the Address-in-Reply was finished, and they might have let us away so that wo could catch our trains. Honorable members have now to cool their heels in Melbourne until to-morrow. That is the only complaint I have to make. I hope that on another occasion the Prime Minister will treat honorable members a little more considerately, and have some regard to the departure hour of trains.
.- I should like to know if there is any other business than the three Bills introduced by the Attorney-General, because they are comparatively small Bills. The one regarding trading with the enemy is, I assume, an adoption of the Imperial Act passed a couple of months ago, and is merely giving; statutory basis to our proclamations. The second Bill gives the High Court Admiralty jurisdiction, which it did not get under the Constitution. The Bills are more or less formal, and will be passed very quickly. Probably on Wednesday next the Attorney-General will be finished in a few minutes, and then what business will the Ministry have to go on with ?
– We shall, in addition to the three Bills mentioned, also have the Supply Bill dealing with the grant in aid of the Belgian Government. I do not know whether the Minister of Trade and Customs is ready with the TariS, but if he is we shall be able to find entertainment for honorable members. I was innocent of the’ fact that the Leader of the Opposition had conveyed to the Government the intimation that honorable members opposite did not intend to debate the Address-in-Reply. His statement now is the first official intimation that has reached me.
– You know very well that your Whip told you that he could not get us to talk.
– I did not know of it until twenty minutes ago. However, I do not wish to enter upon any discussion of that matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Flag Captured from the Germans - Land Tax Absentees - Reported Outrage in Broadmeadows Camp - Police and Soldiers - Federal Capital.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- About a fortnight ago a flag that was captured from the Germans was presented by an officer to the Sydney City Council. In my opinion, if - trophies taken in the war are in the hands of the troops they should be the property of the Commonwealth. I cannot understand how it is that any officer in connexion with the Defence Forces had the right to hand that flag over to the Sydney City Council.
– Did it belong to him or to us?
– I understand that it was the property of the Commonwealth. Any gun or flag taken by the Australian troops should be the property of the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Government should be the only authority to say whether that property should be transferred to any other body. I have ho objection to the Sydney City Council holding the flag, but I maintain that the disposal of it should rest with the Commonwealth Government.
– What you mean is, that every kind of property acquired in any way whatever by the Defence Forces of Australia should remain in the possession of the Commonwealth Government?
– Exactly. I thought the matter sufficiently important to bring it under the notice of the Government. I trust that in future every trophy taken will be the property of the Commonwealth Government.
– What officer presented this flag?
– I have no desire to mention his name.
– Did he do it without reference to the Department?
– I believe that it is stated it was a gift from a certain officer.
– It was not his to give away.
– According to a press report the flag was a gift from the officer to the Sydney City Council. It was not from the Commonwealth or from any naval body, but merely from this officer. In my opinion it was not the correct thing to do.
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General a matter which he can easily remedy with, I think, the support of the whole House. People who have purchased land in the Commonwealth are treated as absentees under the Federal Land Tax Act because they are not able to come into possession of their blocks straight away. Some of them have visited Australia and selected land which they are having prepared by the planting -of trees and the building of houses against the time when they will be able to take possession - namely, when their term of service in India or elsewhere is completed. The Land Tax Commissioner, I understand, says that the only way to relieve them is to bring in an amending Bill, and make the definition nf “absentee” such as will grant relief to these people. I contend that it was never intended when we passed the Bill that the term “absentee” should apply to settlers of this description, a very desirable class to encourage here. The danger is that when friends of these people, who may be contemplating resi dence in the Commonwealth, get to hear of this sort of thing it will have a bad effect. It may prevent people from turning their attention to Australia who otherwise would come here and be gladly welcomed. I hope the Attorney-General will look into the matter, and see whether he can bring in a short amending Bill dealing with that point alone.
– Is the honorable member sure that an amending Bill is necessary ?
– That is what the Land Tax Commissioner says.
– Are you referring to soldiers ?
– Some of them may be soldiers. They are in all walks of life. I could give a long list of people who are affected. The trouble is that if they were npt treated as absentees they would not be liable to pay the land tax, because their holdings would come under the exemption section.
.- I wish to ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he has yet received a report dealing with a question which I put to him last week. Will he also explain why the police, who have to preserve order in the city of Melbourne, are not allowed to arrest soldiers in uniform who misbehave themselves? I wish to know why ordinary citizens who do not behave themselves are brought up and their names stated in open Court, whilst the names of others are withheld from publication, merely because they wear a uniform. If that be justice there will be a lot of trouble in this city.
.- I wish to know when the Government propose to decide upon the lay-out of the Federal Capital ? A gentleman from the United States obtained first prize for his design, but his plan, I understand, is now in competition with a plan prepared by the Department, with the result that nothing is being done. Is it the intention of the Government to adopt one of these plans and to proceed without delay to lay out the streets and avenues?
– There is no hurry.
– There is no hurry from the point of view of my honorable friend. I hold, however, that the work to which I refer is very desirable, and if put in hand at once would provide employment for some of the workless in Australia. Mr. Griffin has been here for twelve months. What has he been doing? He is receiving £1,000 a year, and I wish to learn from the Minister of Home Affairs what he has been doing for it. I am not at all satisfied with the way in which the late Government dealt with the work of building the Capital, and I think it is time that something was done. I ask the Minister to make inquiries and to give us, at the earliest possible date, the result of his investigation.
.- I understand that the late Government inserted in newspapers published in different parts of the world advertisements inviting competitive designs for certain buildings in the Federal Capital. These were to be Bent in by a certain date, but the authorities of the Department of Home Affairs have now cancelled .the invitation, and it is not known whether any definite date has been fixed for the return of these designs. I have been asked whether in these circumstances the Federal Government may not be liable for work done. As to the general expenditure on the Federal Capital, I am not very particular, but I do not wish to see the Commonwealth involved in litigation with those who were invited to send in designs.
– In reply to the honorable member for .Maribyrnong, I take it that he has in mind the advertisements which were published some time ago inviting competitive designs for the parliamentary buildings at the Federal Capital. A Board, consisting of an Austrian, an American, a Frenchman, an Englishman, and an Australian, was appointed to deal with those designs, which were to be sent in within a certain time. The competition was practically open to the world. When I took office it was pointed out to me, however, that, in consequence of the outbreak of the war, the only architects who would be able to compete, in all probability, would be Americans and Australians. There are many professional men engaged at the front. The French, Belgian, and British armies, to say nothing of the German army, include such men ‘ in their ranks, and I agreed to put an end to the competition, I do not intend to’ revive it until after the war. I sent a cablegram to the High Commissioner intimating my decision, and he has communicated it to the various ambassadors, so that the intending competitors may know that the competition is practically off. As to the question of liability, I had a doubt in my mind, but my advisers expressed the opinion that practically no work had been done in connexion with the competition. To make sure of my ground, however, I conferred with the President of the Victorian Institute of Architects, who was good enough to call on rae at my request, and he advised that little, if any, work had been done in connexion with the competition, and that, therefore, there could be no liability.
– How would he know what work had been done?
– Honorable members are asking for information, and I am supplying it. As to the question raised by the honorable member for South Sydney, I would prefer not to go into it in detail at the present time. I shall have an opportunity before long, when a certain notice of motion is reached, to refer to the whole matter, and I shall avail myself of it. Mr. Griffin was the successful competitor for a design for the Federal Capital, and the late Government invited him to come to Australia to confer with the gentlemen who have charge of the matter, their idea being that he should personally inspect the site and amend his design. He has been instructed by me to complete tho amendments which, I understand, he wishes to make in his original design, and to let me have it as soon as it is finished. I shall not discuss at this stage what Mr. Griffin desires or does not desire, nor shall I enter upon the broad question of policy.
– Will the Government soon decide upon the lay-out of the city?
– I intend to bring the whole matter before the Cabinet very shortly.
– Meanwhile, is anything being done at the Capital 1
– Yes ; we have 400 men employed there, and other works are now being entered upon, which will mean that two months hence we shall have 800 men employed, and six months hence 1,000 employed at the Federal Capital.
They will be engaged on work considered essential to the building of Canberra. I hope the House will be satisfied with the information I have supplied. I confess that it is somewhat meagre, but I did not come prepared to deal with the question. It has taken me some time to obtain a grip of the whole subject, but I think I now understand it, and, when the opportunity to which I have referred presents itself, as it will do shortly, I shall give the House all the information that I possess on the subject.
– In reply to the honorable member for Melbourne, I would remind the House that, on Friday last, he inquired concerning a rumour that an outrage of a disgraceful character had taken place at the Broadmeadows Camp. In compliance with the promise that I then gave him, I brought his question under the notice of the Minister of Defence, who called for a report from the officer in charge. That report has been furnished, and it. states that there is no truth whatever in the rumour. As to the second question put by the honorable member, I would ask him to give notice of it.
Mr.RODGERS (Wannon) [5.48].- I wish to supplement the statement made by the honorable member for Wilmot with respect to the removal of the provisions of the land tax, dealing with what might be called community settlement. Might I also suggest that the Attorney-General confer with the Commissioner. He will find that there is in the Land Tax Office evidence of glaring anomalies. Legal men, landowners, and others interested have brought many of these cases under the notice of the Commissioner during the three years that the Act has been in operation. Cannot these anomalies be dealt with by an amending Bill?
.- The matters raised by the honorable member for Wannon will be looked into. I do not promise that effect shall be given to the views that he has expressed, but cases of alleged injustice will be investigated, and remedied if possible. Certainly I shall lend a sympathetic ear to the request to exempt from absentee taxation all who are out of Australia fighting the battles of their country. They ought not to be regarded as absentees within the meaning of the Act.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 October 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141015_reps_6_75/>.