6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30* p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence aware that a report has been published in the press to the effect that the British Government wishes’ toobtain the services of Australian artisans for the manufacture of munitions of war? Several honorable members have received letters on the subject, and I should like toknow whether the newspaper statement iscorrect, and, if so, what are the intentions of the Government in regard to thematter.
– I have seep a statement on the subject in the press, and the Department has been inundated with letters asking whether artisans or other workers are required by the . Imperial’ authorities for the manufacture of munitions of war. We have sent two cablegrams to the Imperial authorities asking if they need Australian artisans, but havenot yet been given a reply, and, therefore, I cannot answer the honorable member’squestion.
– Has the Prime Ministerseen the press report of the proceedings at a dinner in London tendered by the Imperial Parliamentary Association to an. ex-Prime Minister of Australia, Mr. J. C. Watson? According to that report, Mr.. Watson stated that he hoped that overseas representatives would have a voice before the conditions of peace were arranged. He maintained that the expression of their opinions would be of assistance tothe Imperial Government I ask the Prime Minister if those are the views of his Government!
– I saw a cabled report of the proceedings referred to. As I have- said previously, this Government has no other policy in regard to the war than to abide by what tho Imperial Government thinks necessary, but we desire to be heard with other Dominions before the peace arrangements are finally settled.
The following papers were presented : -
Inter-State Commission Act -
Inter-State Commission - Tariff Investiga tion - Appendices to Reports : Statistical and other information, and Evidence -
Motor Cycles and Cycle Parts.
Soap ana Soap-making Materials.
Spirits for Manufacturing purposes;
Sulphuric Ether; Perfumes, Medicines. &c.
Wire Nails and Barbed Wire.
Wool Tops, Woollen Yarn, and Machinery for the Manufacture of Tops and Textiles Generally.
Ordered to be printed.
– In lieu of the question of which I have given notice, I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs if he will take steps to prevent the export of meat from Australia unless the consumers here are safeguarded from being charged oppressively high prices owing to the scarcity of supplies! It has been publicly stated by Mr. W. C. Angliss that there are 400,000 carcasses of frozen mutton and lamb in the cool stores ready for export.
– The honorable member informed me this morning that he desired further information, and I have been supplied with the following details regarding the beef, mutton, and lamb in store in the various States. It is as follows: -
I understand that the bulk of this meat is the property of the. Imperial Government, which arranged with the States for them to purchase and ship a certain quantity. I have been informed by Mr. Angliss that, so far as Victoria is concerned, the con tract terminates at the end of this month. If this Government prohibited the export of meat, it could not compel the owners to place 1 lb. of meat on the market here. The owners would still be able to keep as much as they liked in the cool chamber. We have no power to compel them to put meat into consumption.
Casualty Lists : Sick Men : Liverpool Camp : Clothing Factories
– Cannot further information be given in the casualty lists than appears in some of them? A great number of the lists do not contain more than the names by which to identify various men, and, as the names are very often similar, it is very difficult to tell exactly to whom they refer. Would it not be possible . to give sufficient information to place the identification beyond doubt? I suggest that the public should be told not only the Australian residence of each man, but also who is his next of kin. If the suggestion I make were carried out it would relieve many persons of much anxiety.
– The Department is doing everything possible to comply with the honorable member’s request. We can give only the information we receive, and if at the other end full particulars are not afforded, we cannot supply them here. I can assure the House that the fullest information available at this end is given to the press and the public.
– Seeing that there are a number of sick men at Broadmeadows camp who are far from home and friends, would the Minister sanction the for- ; mation of some body such as a Mothers’ Guild, in order that comforts and delicacies may be supplied to sufferers?
– The honorable member was kind enough to bring this matter under my notice, and the Minister, in consultation, has informed me that he will be very pleased to co-operate with any guild of the kind in the furtherance of the work referred to for the benefit of men who are sick.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence have inquiries made as to how many sick men there are at Broadmeadows, and the nature of the sickness,, and, if necessary, will he favour the removal of the camp to n more salubrious spot?
– I gave the House that information in full detail last week.
– As the troops at Liverpool were again inconvenienced last week by heavy rains, will the Assistant Minister of Defence see that instructions are given for expedition in carrying out the ] proposed system of drainage ?
– I have been in consultation with the Secretary of the Department, and he assures me that ‘ work was recently commenced that will meet the view of the honorable member. If there should be still a fault, I shall have it remedied.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence say whether the Government are manufacturing clothing at any of the Commonwealth factories for the Expeditionary Forces?
– Undoubtedly. So far as I know, the factories are going at full speed.
-.- Has the attention of the Minister of External Affairs been drawn to the reported admission of forty odd Norwegians into Western Australia under contract to build some stores in connexion with the whaling industry; and, if so, will the honorable gentleman say what action it is proposed to take in the matter ?
– The matter referred to by the honorable member has been brought under my notice. I understand that a complaint is made that these men were introduced surreptitiously, and are taking the places, at a lower rate of wages, of Australian artisans. I promise that immediate inquiry shall be made.
Murder of White Residents
– Is the Minister of External Affairs in a position to lay papers on the table, or to make a statement, with reference to the murder of white residents in Papua?
– No ; I have not the information at the moment, but a despatch has just been received from the LieutenantGovernor, which will throw some light on the matter. As soon as that despatch can be condensed, and other information obtained, I shall supply it tothe honorable member.
– Has the Treasurer any objection to my asking, onnotice, for a return showing the amount of the Commonwealth Bank’s capitalthat has been sunk in building investments in different parts of the Commonwealth ?
– The putting of a. question on the notice-paper is a matter between Mr. Speaker and the honorablemember, but, as to interfering with the Governor of the Bank, and asking him to give details of the Bank’s investments,. I would not do it. I would, on the Other hand, support the Governor of the Bank, in his attitude in refusing to give detailsof the Bank’s business.
– It is announced invarious newspapers that the value of the note issue at present is approaching £30,000,000. I should like to know from the Treasurer how much the privatebanks have paid into the Treasury of the £10,000,000 they offered.
– The Treasury has received £3,000,000 of the £10,000,000> agreed to be loaned by the banks, and another instalment of £1,000,000 will becalled up in a few days.
– Are the Government still collecting the duties on fodder, and, if so, will the Minister of Trade and Customs submit a resolution to avoid that necessity, as I understand that Ministers are in favour of suspending the duties?
– Early in January the Government decided that fodder should come in free, or rather that, while the duty would continue to be paid by importers, a sum should be placed upon the Estimates to reimburse them. The Government expected that the Tariff would have been in process of being dealt with before now, that we should have reached the item referred to by the honorable member, and that action would have been taken. I will, however, consider the honorable member’s statement.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that considerable confusion exists in the minds of a number of people owing to the fact that a shallow place named Jervoise Bay, in Western Australia, is confused with a deep-sea bay in New South Wales named Jervis Bay. Will the honorable gentleman take steps to avoid this confusion by re-christening Jervoise Bay, so that Jervis Bay may nob get a bad name?
– I have had experience of the confusion myself, especially as we are spending money on both bays; but I should hesitate to recommend any alteration in the . names given to parts of Australia by distinguished persons. Otherwise I think the suggestion made by the honorable member is a good one. I will have the matter looked into.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that Jervoise Bay, in Western Australia, is a deep-water harbor of considerable excellence, and only requires an entrance to be made in order that it may become available for ships of the deepest draught ?
– I am not aware. I will look at the Admiralty chart tomorrow.
– Will the Prime Minister state whether he is satisfied that the private banks are carrying out their part of the agreement with him in regard to the £10,000,000?
– Yes ; as far as we have asked them to do so. They would do more if we made the request. I have said so many times in this House. As Treasurer, I have not asked them for the remainder, but it is available at any time.
Supplies at Enoggera Camp: Preference to Unionists.
– I have received the following letter from the honorable member for Swan : -
– It is my intention to move the adjournment of the House to-day on a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the action of the Government in accepting the tender of W. Shead for the supply of bread in preference to a lower tender by the Automatic Bakery
Limited, on the ground that Mr. Shead was the only firm employing union labour.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I am moving in this matter to-day because the Leader of the Opposition has received distressing news in regard to a member of his family now at the front. Therefore, I am moving in this matter on his behalf. At the last sitting of the House, the honorable member for Moreton asked the member representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
What is the contract price now being paid for bread, for the Expeditionary Forces at Enoggera?
Were any tenders received at a lower price than that now paid?
The member representing the Minister of Defence replied -
The tenderer for bread at Enoggera Camp is W. Shead. The price is 15s. per 100 lbs., with the provision for increase or decrease of ls. per 100 lbs. for every£1 per ton rise or fall in the price of flour. There was a lower tender, namely, that of the Automatic Bakeries Limited, at 13s. 3d. per 100 lbs. The tender of W. Shead was accepted in preference to that of the Automatic Bakery Limited because the former was the only firm employing union labour.
That answer furnishes the explanation for my action in this matter, which establishes an extension of the principle of preference that has hitherto been adopted by the Labour party.
– A very good extension, too.
– We on this side of the House do not think so, or I would not be taking exception to it now.
– We got the indorsement of the people to the principle at the last election.
– Will honorable members cease interjecting ? Cannot they listen to anything they do not agree with without interjecting to such an extent that one cannot proceed ? I submit that this action on the part of the Government is an extension of a principle of preference which up to now has applied only to casual labour in Government works, with the addendum “ other things being equal.” It seems that as time goes on, and as some success has attended the efforts of honorable members on the Ministerial side, they grow bolder; and if the same speed is maintained, it will not be long before no one will be able to get employment at idi in any position in the Government service, from the very highest to the very lowest, unless he subscribes to some form of union. Where are we going to end? In the case before us a tenderer offered to supply the Government with a certain commodity. His tender was the lowest, “but a higher tender was accepted on the definite ground that the higher “tenderer employed union labour. There was no question as to the wages to be paid by these two tenderers. It may be, for all I know, that the lower tenderer paid even higher wages than those paid by the successful man.
– They are working under an award, and must pay the same rates.
– At all events, no question arose as to whether the wages ; paid were sufficient or the conditions of labour were suitable. The only consideration that weighed with the Government in accepting the higher tender was that he employed union labour. We have not ibeen told what evidence was secured by the Government as to the class of labour that was being employed; but on the ground I have mentioned the higher tenderer received preference and was accepted. He was shown favoritism; he was, in fact, given a bribe because he employed union labour. For this the taxpayers have to pay. If Ministers were using their own money in this matter they might have some discretion allowed them; but since they are merely guardians and trustees of the public funds I do not think there can be justification for the action they took. Such an aetion on their part is tantamount to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth being mulcted or robbed, and a fraud perpetrated upon the finances of the country.
– Very strong language.
– I repeat that the revenues of the country are provided by the people, and belong to the people. Ministers - whether they belong to the one party or the other - are merely trustees for the taxpayers, and I assert that a fraud has been committed upon the public finances by giving away money for partisan political purposes in a way that is wholly unjustifiable. This is a question of Ministers giving away, not their own money, but the money of the people. What else does this preference to this tenderer mean when we come to analyze it? The public revenues are paid into the Treasury, and are disbursed by Ministers, by direction of Parliament, as Ministers are responsible to Parliament. Is it to be said in these days that the expenditure of the public revenue shall be restricted to a certain caste or class of people ? Can it be argued that the public funds should be specially devoted to giving preference to any industrial, social, or religious class or caste ? If there is one thing more than another that has been condemned by my honorable friends on the Ministerial bench over a long course of years, it is class legislation or class distinction. They have argued against it ad infinitum. One of their principal complaints has been that in years gone by there were class and caste distinctions in regard to the appointment of officers, the emoluments of office, and generally in respect of the expenditure of public moneys. But what shall we say of them in view of this their latest action? Honorable members opposite are “ like dumb-driven cattle.” They have nothing to say. They believe in class legislation when it suits them, and they believe in the policy of the spoils to the victors. I emphatically assert that this action of which I complain is unjust. Is it right that any section of the community should be told: “You must contribute as much as we like to the revenue, but when it comes to using the. revenues of the country in providing employment, no employment will be given to any of your class. A particular section of the community who do not contribute any more than you - who, perhaps, do not contribute as much - are to receive the preference, and to be shown favoritism in employment”? This sort of injustice seems to grow upon the Labour party. A few years ago there was not a man in Australia who would have subscribed to such an unfair doctrine. When it was first proposed, it was scouted even by moat honorable members opposite.
– In certain Conservative towns in the Old Country where I have lived people will not trade with any one but unionists.
– In that case the Prime Minister must have acquired these unfair notions in the Old Country, and is trying, apparently, to carry them into effect in Australia. Such a thing a few years ago would not have been tolerated, but to-day it is approved by honorable members opposite, and our protests are jeered and laughed at by men like the honorable member for Barrier. Is this the freedom we have built up in Australia ? Is this the sort of freedom we want in this country - preference to a class ; favoritism to one man over another? Have we not heard over and over again that every man in this fair country is free; that all are equal and have equal rights?
– That is what the Prime Minister told the people of the Old Country about Australia.
– Yes ; he told them that this was a land of free people.
– It is the freest country on God’s earth.
– I maintain that this is not freedom, bub thraldom -
Thraldom who walks with the banner of Freedom, and recks not to ruin a realm in her name.
I am lost in amazement that this policy of preference and favoritism should find a place in the programme of a party who do not hesitate to say that those whom they claim to represent have suffered in the past from such a pernicious system. We’ now find them applying it, however, with far greater force than ever before, and, apparently, deriving satisfaction from this form of oppression. What could be more oppressive, and more unjust, than to force men to contribute to the public funds, and then tell them that some one else is to have the sole right to the employment to be paid for from such funds? If honorable members opposite are prepared to subscribe to such a doctrine, then I can only say that they are a danger and a menace to the country. Coming on top of what has gone before, this action on the part of the Government is repugnant to the principle of natural justice and to the sacred Christian principle that ‘” we should do unto others as we would they should do unto us.” It is repugnant to what is just and fair as between manand man, and it must bring discredit on all those who support such a vicious and improper doctrine.
.- One hesitates at harassing the Government at this particular time, more especially in regard to the matter of contracts, seeing that their hands are so full with providing for the requirements of the Expeditionary Forces. One is prepared to overlook minor faults on’ account of the great rush of business that has to be attended to, but at the same time the Government should not shelterbehind this hedge, and do things that arefairly open to fair attack on the floor of the House. My attention was first called to the Brisbane contract by seeing in the Brisbane Labour daily an articlewhich reported that a resolution had been carried by one of the unions at’ Brisbane, conveying its best thanks to the honorable member for Brisbane for having secured a contract for a union’ shop. This struck me as being a rather peculiar affair; for in my parliamentary experience I had always regarded tendering as something that should not beinterfered with by members of Parliament, as I realized that tenderers knew their own business, and that if a man’s price was the lowest, and he was able to carry out the contract, he should’ get it. But in this case it appears that there was political influence brought tobear from the very start. The only question considered by the Defence Department was whether the shop submitting the tender was a union shop’ or an open shop. The Automatic BakeriesLimited had been supplying bread at Enoggera Camp at 12s. 6d. prior totenders being called in January for thesupply of bread from, the 1st February until the 30th June, and their tender for the further period, owing to the risein the price of flour, was 13s. 3d. per 100 lbs. At the same time a tender was put in by Mr. W. Shead, and it was a most peculiar one. I do not think that the information given to the House by the Minister yesterday, in reply toa question submitted by myself, covered the whole of the ground. Though thetender was at a certain fixed price, the conditions were that, as the price of flour rose, Mr. Shead was to get ls. per 100’ lbs. additional for every £1 per ton of rise. The Minister’s reply to my question waa -
The tenderer for bread at Enoggera Camp is W. Shead. The price is 15s. per LOO lbs., with a provision for increase or decrease of ls. per 100 lbs. for every £1 per ton rise or fall in the price of Hour. There was a lower tender, namely, that of the Automatic Bakeries Limited, at 13s. 3d. per 100 lbs. The tender of W. Shead was accepted in preference to that of the Automatic Bakeries Limited, because the former was the only firm employing union labour.
In regard to any fall in price, the Minister might brush that from his mind. There is not likely to be any fall in the price of flour during the war. The tender of the Automatic Bakeries Limited was a straight-out offer to supply bread until the 30th June at 13s. 3d. per 100 lbs., no matter what the price of flour might b9, and therefore I question the figures supplied by the Minister iu regard to the price of the contract let to Mr. Shead. »I arrive at my conclusion in this way.
– Do you question the Minister’s statement in regard to unionism ?
– No. On the other hand, I congratulate the Minister on saying straight out what his attitude is in that matter. I do not question the Minister’s veracity, bub I am inclined to question the price that is being paid for bread at Enoggera Camp. The first price that Mr. Shead got was 10s. 5d. per 100 lbs., when the price of flour was £9 per ton, and I do not think that he would lower his second tender, and as the price of flour is now £17’ 10s. per ton, an increase of £8 10s. per ton, Mr. Shead is entitled to an increase of 8s. 6d. per 100 lbs. for bread, which brings the total cost of the bread paid by the Department to Mr. Shead to 18s. lid. per 100 lbs.
– I suppose that the Automatic Bakeries Limited pay the same rate of wages?
– In Brisbane wages are fixed by a Wages Board. There is no difference in wages, whether the men are unionists or non-unionists.
– And so the extra price is a special profit for this friend of the Minister’s.
– If this were the only case it might be passed over, but the same state of things prevails throughout all the Defence contracts. Had I known in time, I should have fortified myself with facts and figures that would have startled the country as to the way in which these contracts are carried on, but it should be sufficient to say that, in one instance, a contractor was asked to increase his price for breeches for the Defence Forces by 3s. a pair, in order, I understand, to bring it into line with the cost price in the Government factory.
– By whom was he asked to do that’
– By the Department.
– Very well; we shall accept that challenge, and challenge you to produce the evidence.
– It would be better to appoint a Commission to go into the matter thoroughly. You can get any amount of those cases.
– Unfortunately, many of these contractors are making such fat dividends out of the Govern- in ent that it is hardly likely one will get information from them, but that which I have given is authentic. I have another instance. I can name the firm that is getting the extra 3s.
– I challenge you to give any kind of evidence in support of your statement, and we shall have a judicial officer to investigate it.
– The Prime Minister must know how hard it is to get a mau to come forward and say that he is getting more than he ought to be> receiving. I make my statement, and I ask the Government to disprove it.
– It is your place to produce the evidence.
– I can prove my case. The other instance I spoke of was where a firm was asked to increase their price for suits by 6s. each, presumably to bring it into line with the Government pricesheets. If this state of things goes on - and it is general talk outside - we are frittering away public money in order to boost UP preference to unionists. It is time the country realized that this is the policy of the Government. At election time we thought that the policy was “ preference to unionists, all things being equal”; but now the policy seems to be preference to unionists at something like 33 per cent, more in favour of the unionist as against the non-unionist.
– But the unionist does not get one penny of this. It is the nonunionist friend of the Government that gets it - the fat man.
– There has been a great deal of talk from the Ministerial side of the House with regard to the high cost of living, but here we find the Government putting up the price of bread in Queensland, and it is easy to show that the price charged to the outside public will be that paid by the Government. They are supplying 2,000 loaves per day, so that it is easy to estimate the enormous amount which preference to unionists is costing the Government in Brisbane. If this policy is costing the Government so much in the one little instance which has leaked out, what is it costing in larger camps, where the amount runs into very much more than it does in Brisbane ? I have revealed a scandalous state of affairs, and the allegations can be proved up to the hilt; indeed, the Minister proved them yesterday by the answer he gave to my question.
– I will say straight away that the Government have no apologies to make to anybody. We knew what we were doing when we let this contract. We gave a straight-out statement of the position yesterday in answer to this question ; we have never attempted to hide anything, and we do not intend to do so.
– Is that the policy of the Government ?
– The policy of the Government is to carry out the policy which the electors of Australia instructed us to carry out.
– Did the electors tell you to give the employer 30 per cent, profit for himself?
– The policy of the Government is that of the majority of the electors of Australia, and honorable members opposite ought to be the last to reproach the Government on the policy of preference to unionists, having regard to the fact that they were defeated when they appealed to the people on that issue. The Libera] majority was turned into a minority, the people of Australia have spoken, and we intend to carry out their decision. It is the intention of the Government to encourage unionism in every Department.
– And pay for it?
– Yes, we are prepared to. pay for it. Furthermore, we are prepared to do aboveboard what our opponents are afraid to admit they were doing in the past. The honorable member for Moreton asked a question, and it was answered. There was no attempt on the part of the Government to conceal from members the true position we have taken up in regardto the contract. We did give preference to a firm that was giving to its employes good union conditions and wages.
– More wages than the other firm ?
– Yes, and the Automatic Bakeries Limited have refused to employ any unionists.
– That is not true.
– That is the information which the Government have received. We believe in preference to unionists, and we are going to assist unionism as much as we can throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth. We are going to do what we believe to be the right thing. Suppose we do not encourage unionism - suppose we do not give contracts to those firms who give good labour conditions and are prepared to employ bona fide unionists - does not the law of the Commonwealth encourage unionism ? Have we not an Arbitration Court for the betterment and encouragement of unionism?
– As administered by a Court, not by dipping your hand into the public purse.
– The Arbitration Court has encouraged the granting of good conditions to unionists, and has said that, because of genuine unionism, the workers outside the unions are drawing better wages.
– The Court has refused preference in every case but one.
– The Government have taken a consistent stand. Honorable members opposite challenged us on this question last year, and surely when we have been victorious we have a right to put our policy into operation. On what did honorable members go to the country? They stated that the Labour Government intended to give preference to unionists in all Government tenders, and that we were using public money in order to put that policy into operation.
– And you are doing it now.
– -And we intend to do it.
– Your policy, waa preference to unionists, all things being equal.
– lt is because of all things not being equal that we have taken this step. One firm will not give preference to unionists, and, therefore, we give the contract to the firm that does give preference to unionists. If both firms were employing unionists, no doubt we would have accepted the lower tender. Honorable members must realize that when a Minister is told that one firm is prepared to employ unionists, and give good wages, and any other firm is not prepared to do that, there is only one course open to him if both contract prices are reasonably close. In this case the difference in price is only ls. 9d. per 100 lb. of bread.
– Who gave the Minister the information that one firm refused to employ unionists?
– We had the information from a reliable source, and we dealt with the tenders accordingly. I have nothing further to say in regard to this matter. I have been quite candid about it. It is the intention of the Government to do these things. We have received a mandate from the country, and, that being so, would honorable members expect us to do otherwise? If we did, they would soon tell us that we had fooled the people of Australia by advocating a policy which we were not, putting into operation.
– I am not prepared to think that you wish to recruit unionism with a bludgeon.
– If there is a tender to ho let, and three or four firms make offers, each of them doing the right thing to the workers of Australia, the lowest offer will, in the interests of the public purse, be accepted. But when one company that tenders is giving good union conditions, and will endeavour to maintain the law of the land in regard to unionism, and another is setting itself to defy these conditions, the Government will give preference to the company that will encourage the law that is on the statute-book, and will, as the honorable member for Melbourne interjects, keep down sweating. I have no more to say on this subject. What we have done has been done deliberately. We make no apology, and I have nothing to answer for.
– The speech to which we have just listened is one of the most remarkable ever made by a Minister in this chamber. The Assistant Minister of Defence tells us that the Government has nothing to apologize for. That simply means that the Government adds to ite dereliction of public duty and defalcation of public trust, which is without an equal in any British community, the unparalleled impudence to avow it. It has been stated that preference to unionists is the issue that was placed before the people at the last election, and that they indorsed the policy of the present Government in regard to it. An issue relating to preference to unionists was by the late Government made the leading issue placed before the country; and T have since stated publicly that, to a cer tain extent, the party now occupying the Treasury Bench is entitled, formally, al all events, if not substantially, to rely on the verdict that was given. But how far does that verdict go ? The issue placed before the country - I do not believe that the elections turned on it, though my honorable friends may have the right to claim formally that they did - was whether a Government should give preference to unionists in Government employment, other things being equal. The meaning of the words “ other things being equal “ no one understood. I am certain that the Prime Minister did not understand them, and I have not derived the slightest illumination from the speeches of any of his followers on the subject. The expression, however, was plausible, and carried weight when the matter was being discussed. But even though the Government may be justified: after the decision of the electors, in continuing preference to unionists in Government employment, other things being equal, does it not require an enormous stretch of audacity to assert that the sanction of the electors covers such a monstrous proceeding as that to which attention has been drawn this afternoon?
– It is the logical conclusion from our programme.
– I agree with the honorable member. It is also a logical conclusion from their programme that no person in the community shall receive Government employment, or be able to accept a Government contract., unless he has bound himself hand and foot to the unions that support the party in power. In regard to the transaction, under review, at least two tenders were submitted, and the Government, instead of following the invariable practice of accepting the lower tender, accepted the higher. It is the invariable practice in British communities to accept the lowest tender, having regard to no other circumstance than the capacity of the tenderer to carry out the contract. Tenders are invited in order that the Government may have its work performed with the utmost efficiency and economy in the interests of those who provide the public revenue. The only condition which is ever attached to the acceptance of a tender is the efficiency of the tenderer. Although in this case it was desirable, in the interest of the public finances, that the lower tender should be accepted, and there was nothing to lead to the belief that the lower tenderer would not perform the contract effectively, the work was not given to him, because he would not bind himself to employ only members of trade unions. What are these trade unions 1 They are merely the units of the militant organization that keeps the present Government in power. Even could it be claimed that the people sanctioned to the fullest extent the principle of preference to unionists, I should not, so long as I remained in public life, abstain from showing the danger, folly, and wrong embodied in it. As I stated on a previous occasion, to use the money subscribed by the whole people to give employment to the members of the unions that keep the existing Government in power-
– And nominate members to the House.
– And actually nominate members, Ministers themselves being nominated by the nominees of the unions - for the Government to devote public funds, subscribed by the whole people, to giving employment to the members of the unions that support them, imports into this country, which has hitherto been free from it, some of the worst features of the Tammany system. That statement was challenged with fierce hostility by honorable members opposite, but the fierceness of the challenge showed that it had struck home. If there were any doubt about the correctness of it before, none can remain now. Is there any form of word that would cover up the plain, ob vious significance of the defalcation of tie public funds, with whose administration the Government is entrusted? Ministers are using the money of the people to subsidize, deliberately, openly, and shamelessly, those who have placed them in power. Let me try to remove a film that may rest on the eyes of some members of the public in regard to this particular matter. Honorable members opposite are fond of suggesting that the trade unions are identical with the associations registered under the Arbitration law, and are, therefore, entitled to the preference which Parliament - conditionally only, after judicial investigation - has allowed to be granted to those associations. Had I been in this House at the time, the provision in the Arbitration law which, under certain conditions, permits the granting of preference to registered associations, would have been opposed by me, because I hold that neither by a judicial tribunal nor by any form of legal compulsion should free men be prevented from exercising the right to join or abstain from joining what profess to be voluntary associations. .
– That is candid.
– As the honorable member knows, I have never concealed my views on this subject. It may be remembered that all that the law sanctions is that a registered association shall be entitled to claim preference for its own members. Under the Act, with all its faults, only associations which have complied with certain conditions - which are not half rigid enough - can obtain preference. The trade unions to which the Government gives preference are of all kinds, some being registered and some not, and on many of them there are not even the very slight restrictions embodied in the Arbitration law. Before sitting down I wish to ask one or two frank questions of this very candid Government, and very candid Minister. We are now beginning to feel, in’ the increase of unemployment, the effects of a drought and of war. We all hope to Heaven that this will not. increase to any large extent. But it may become double or treble what it is now, when the large amount of borrowed money which is being spent by the Commonwealth and tho States has been exhausted. If this Government remains in power, and there is a serious increase in- the terrible evil of unemployment, and only a certain amount of public money is available for its relief, are Ministers going to allow non-unionists to starve?
– Thank God, we have bad a good rain !
– Apparently the Minister is not prepared to answer the question. I desire to ask, also, if it is not a fact that the Government has invited thousands of our citizens to accept the very highest form of Government employment that a State has to offer, and to risk their lives in that service? Has it confined that invitation to unionists? No, sir. Unionists and nonunionists alike have been invited to stand side by side in the field of death. And I ask, further, when these young men come back, as we hope many of them will, is the Government still going to adhere to preference to unionists so far as they are concerned ? Let me have °an answer to that question.
– Would the honorable member, as a lawyer-
– I ask, further
– Does the honorable member’s- profession not have preference to unionists?
– Order !
– Will the honorable member for Flinders-
– The honorable member must cease those interjections when he is requested by me to do so, or, if he does not, I shall have to take another course.
– These, are simple, obvious questions to ask. There is not one honorable member opposite who would not admit that they are questions that naturally and inevitably arise from the statement of the Minister as to the policy of the party which support him, and they are questions to which answers must be given. Let us hope that the answer will be given, in one case, at all events, before very many months have elapsed.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This discussion seems to be engendering a great deal of heat.
– -On that side.”
– I think that the right honorable gentleman, in submitting the motion, exhibited a good deal of heat. It is just as well for us briefly to look at the facts of the case. Much has been said on the question of preference to unionists; but may I remind my friends opposite that it is only recently that we appealed to the people of the country on that very question, with the result that we now occupy the Treasury bench.
– The Labour party did not appeal on that question, but kept it very carefully in the background!
– As a matter of fact, we were compelled to discuss the question, because the Liberals took good care to make it most prominent; and we had to answer many assertions that were, perhaps, not strictly in accordance with truth. We were returned, and are now here carrying out the policy then determined on, and the Minister has said that he sees no reason to apologize for tha action of the Government in connexion with this particular contract. A tender was accepted on certain terms and conditions, as against another tender that was only a shade less. Even if we admit that the difference in the tenders was of some importance, we must not lose sight of the fact that honorable members opposite, in this very House, were instrumental in passing an Act establishing an Arbitration Court in order to prevent, industrial disputes, and to give reasonable conditions of employment. Surely, by the establishment of that Court, we at once placed the brand of unionism on our legislation to a certain extent; and are we to permit an Act of Parliament to be overridden by employers who are not prepared to tolerate arbitration, and who definitely state that they will not employ unionists? Such people are actually defying the very Act passed, not by this side - though certainly supported by this side - but by the Deakin Government, with the present members of the Opposition behind him. If that be. so, how can we expect the great body of industrial workers outside to be loyal to a law of the land ? How can we expect the workers to observe the law if there be employers who may defy the Act at any time they feel inclined, so far as the conditions of employment are concerned ? It has been said by some honorable members that all these firms do pay the proper rates of wages; but the firm now under discussion openly stated that they would not employ union men.
– That has been contradicted.
– At any rate, honorable members opposite say that similar wages are observed in both these factories. But, while the same rates of wages may be paid, the same conditions as to hours and so forth may not be observed. It is possible that this firm may be talcing exception to the employment of unionists because they know that unionists would enforce their rights under the Arbitration Act, and according to the decisions of the Arbitration Court. The very reason for the creation of an Arbitration Court was the existence of employers who impose grasping and sweating conditions - who were not prepared to do what was right by the workers, sweating them to such an extent that it waa almost impossible to earn a decent wage. It is all very well for honorable members opposite, who have never been industrial workers-
– The honorable member for Flinders is an example of what I mean.
– He is the most industrious man in the House.
– Of course I know that the honorable member to whom I refer, and’ others, work very hard mentally; but the legal profession, the medical profession, and all other professions, have their organizations, with preference to unionists, a preference which, because of their power, they can enforce without the aid of an Act of Parliament. Yet we have the spectacle of gentlemen rising here and endeavouring to deny to the workers rights that they have secured for themselves.
– This has nothing to do with the workers.
– The honorable .member, perhaps, owes his very presence here to the fact that there are workers in his constituency. It has been said by the honorable member for Flinders that we on this side represent unionists only; and I am proud to say that I have been a unionist all my life, and that it was unionists who took me from the pick-point and placed me where I am to-day. While that is so, I submit that there is a very large- proportion of the electors itf Australia who are not members of unions, but who support the Labour party because they know that that party is trying to deal out even-handed justice in the industrial world. If that is not so, how is it that, although there is not a majority of unionists in the country to-day, there is a large majority of Labour members as a result of the voting for the Commonwealth Parliament? The same fact is observable in the Parliaments of four different States, clearly proving that, notwithstanding what may have been said about preference in this House, on th© platform, or elsewhere, the people of Australia are beginning to see that preference is to be found in every profession, and that we are justified in looking after the weaker sections of the community who have not power to enforce proper conditions for themselves.
– It is the stronger, and not the weaker, who get the preference.
– Apparently the honorable member would have us believe that the persons who did not get this tender are the weaker. It is possible, however, that if we knew the facts, we should find that the head of this firm is one of the wealthiest men in Australia to-day. As a matter of fact, those who take a high stand in opposition to preference to unionists and to the employment of unionists, are, generally speaking, people with very large interests, who are well able to defy the arbitration laws in the matter of unionism. The weaker side is certainly represented by the industrial worker. The honorable member for Moreton has made a statement that I think he ought to make a little more definite. I concede to every representative the right to voice his views on the floor of the House, but I think the honorable member ought, in th:s instance, to supply definite information to the Minister, so that the matter may be sifted to the bottom. It is a most serious statement that an officer of the Department has actually requested a contractor to increase his price by 3s. per suit for the supply of clothing. That is the statement, amongst others, made by the honorable member, and if there is a tittle of evidence in support of it, it ought to be adduced. But when the Prime Minister said that, if the honorable member would produce any evidence, he would at once arrange for a judicial inquiry, the honorable member began to recede from his position - began to back down - saying that it was most difficult to get anybody to give evidence on oath on a matter of the kind. This shows a great weakness in the allegations that have been made. If I felt it my duty to make such a statement here, I should at once supply the Department with all the information I had in my possession, and leave the Government to have the matter investigated on oath. Of course it is open to any one to make statements to an honorable member, and for that honorable member to repeat them in this House, and unless some inquiry is made, it cannot be known whether there is any foundation for what is said.
– If a deliberate statement is made by an honorable member, is it not the duty of the Government to make inquiries?
– Quite so ; only the honorable member for Moreton ran away to a large extent, saying that it would be difficult to get anybody to give evidence. If the honorable member is prepared to supply the head of the Department with the names of those who made the charges, then it will rest with the Department to” have that full inquiry which I, as a supporter of the Government, would expect.
– I will supply the name of the firm who are getting the money, and that is all I am concerned about.
– While I believe in protecting the public purse, I do not for a moment admit that this is a question mainly affecting the public purse, but, rather, one more affecting the interests of the public of Australia. If we permit individual, employers to defy our industrial laws, and to obtain contracts at a little less than the amounts tendered by those who employ unionists, what will it lead to? How long can we expect to keep the big army of. workers outside loyal to the Act, if they find certain people, who will not tolerate unions, practically defying that Act?
– We did not force the Act on them ; they desired it.
– Every Government have to take the responsibility for their actions, and it says very little for the right honorable gentleman and his Government if they did not believe in this measure when they placed it upon the statute-book, but were simply driven to do so by the force of Labour opinion outside. It suggests that they were not in earnest, so far as Australia was concerned, but acted for the purpose of conciliating certain sections outside, who forced the matter before them. I have always thought that any party in power was supposed to be prepared to take the responsibility for what it believed to be the right thing, and to legislate accordingly; and in spite of what the right honorable gentleman has stated, I believe that his party thought the time had arrived for the introduction of industrial legislation, in order to prevent industrial strife. The Tramway litigation has been referred to. There the Judge decided that, inasmuch as a certain tramway company would not employ unionists, he would grant preference, in order to overcome the difficulties that had arisen. This action showed plainly that, in his mind, preference was in the interests of industrial peace.
– Have you any authority that the Automatic Company has refused employment to men because they were unionists?
– Yes. I will tell you nil about it, if you want to know.
– The Minister himself stated that he was informed that they would not employ unionists.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– No one could have listened to the, speech just delivered by the honorable member for Hunter without feeling that he hud either been put up to skirmish round the real issue, or that he was not intelligent enough to see the logic of the case put before the House by the right honorable member for Swan. The honorable member has not touched the real question. I am glad the right honorable member for Swan brought the matter forward by moving the adjournment, because it was the only way in which public attention could be dramatically drawn towards what the honorable member for Flinders so appropriately characterized us a misappropriation of public funds. The word “ fraud “ entered largely into his speech, and I heartily indorse its use. I assert this is one of the most dishonorable and dishonest actions that has ever been taken by a Government in this House.
– Order ! Order ! The honorable member’s observations are distinctly disorderly, and I. ask him. to withdraw them.
– I withdraw them, but if I were outside, that is what I would say. It is an easy matter for the honorable member for Hunter to talk about past legislation for preference to unionists, but this is an attempt by a Government to put their hand into the public purse and to use public money in order to foster the trade unionist movement in this country. This aspect has never been brought forward before. We know well that, years ago, this Parliament legislated in favour of preference to unionists when all things that should be were equal- equal in regard to the qualifications of the labourer who was about to be employed - but it was never contemplated for a moment that anything would be done in justification of a Government deliberately putting their hands into the public purse, and saying, “We are going to do this in order to foster ‘our party organization.” That is what they are doing here. We are told that the public justified this at the last election; but we cannot forget that when we were about to go to the country, the AttorneyGeneral said that public attention was so absorbed over the war that no political question should be raised or discussed. Directly he discovered that there was a chance of making political capital out of the_ fact that the elections had not been postponed, lie took up a different attitude, and now we are told that the public did understand the question, and returned a Labour majority on the strength of it. But we are not now dealing with the subject of preference to unionists. We are dealing with the subject of preference to contractors, which is a totally different thing. We are dealing with the question as to whether a Minister, as a trustee of public funds, is entitled to take money from the public Treasury, and give it to a contractor in order to bribe him at the expense of the public. And we are told by the Minister that there is some merit in’ his blatant admission of the fact. If I were robbed, it would be a matter of no importance to me whether I were robbed by a burglar or by a highwayman. The burglar would come into my house without my knowing it. But I should like to know if a highwayman possesses any particular merit because he would go about his business before my eyes? If the Minister and his colleaguesare contented to be regarded as the highwaymen of the public moneys, then they are welcome to the distinction between, doing what they do openly and doing it surreptitiously. The Minister mayvery well say that lie is doing it openly, because he has been caught in the act. Nothing would have been said about this matter if the honorable member for Moreton had not exposed it, and showed ushow the public moneys are being misused. I hope the public will see that this is an attempt to use one question in order to cover up another, though one has nothing to do with the other. What is preference to unionists? I ask again. We heard the whole thing debated in this House years ago, and it was decided that when two men offering for employment were equal in their qualifications, preference would be given to tue one who belonged to. a union. But if they were unequal, preference would go to thebetter man. We have nothing whatever to do with that question now. There hasbeen no argument on it at all. All we know is that two contractors are concerned, and that the Government arepaying 5s. per cwt. more for bread thanthey might have obtained it for, simply to help one of their own organizations.. If a union wishes to make a levy upon its members, it does not seek to make a levy upon other members of the community, because it has no right to dothat. That being the case, how can a union justify itself in putting its hands into the public funds, which belong to all of us, and in this manner taking the money of the private “citizens? There can be no two views on that point. ThisParliament has. admittedly declined in calibre since 1901, but it never before reached the absolute bedrock of demoralization that it has reached to-day. We have it revealed to the public that, when they appoint men directly or indirectly to the position of Ministers, they are giving them the opportunity, honestly or dishonestly, to take out of the Treasury money which belongs to every citizen, and to us? it for their own party organization. What would Ministers have tosay if honorable members on this side of- the House had given a contract to a man who happened to be a member of the Employers Union? Supposing two or three men tendered for a railway with a difference of £10,000 or £20,000 between their tenders, and it was discovered that a Liberal Minister had given the contract to that contractor who, although his tender was £20,000 higher, happened to be a member of the Employers Union ? Would the honorable member admit for a moment that the Liberal Minister would have been justified in using the public funds in that manner to foster his party’s organization ? And if we cannot foster the Employers Union out of the public funds, how can the Minister justify the fostering of a trade union organization out of the same funds by giving a preference to that contractor who undertakes to give what he calls “ better labour conditions”? How a lob of free men living in a free country’ can sit here and either put their tongues in their cheeks or honestly believe that this is a fair, honest, and above-board transaction beggars my imagination.
.- I am afraid that I must plead guilty to being the cause for this motion being put forward. The honorable member for Moreton has made some remarks about the Automatic Bakeries Limited, in Brisbane, and the other baker, Mr. Shead. The difference between the two is this : One gives good labour conditions, good wages, employs unionists. The other is a combination of the whole of the “ scabs” in Northern and Southern Queensland. That is the difference between the Automatic Bakeries Limited and Mr. Shead. “The wages are not the same, the conditions are not the same, and those gentlemen opposite, arrayed On the side of the anti-unionists, anti-Labour, and antieverything that is good with regard to Labour, should know this. Two gentlemen on the opposite side have waged war against preference to unionists. They have almost gone into hysterics on the subject. I was afraid that the honorable member for Parkes was going to drop down in an apoplectic fit. I never saw the honorable member forFlinders so excited since he has been in the Chamber. They call him “ Iceberg,” but this afternoon he was not an iceberg at all. But every member on that side of the House knows what question the last election was fought on. I remember reading in the Brisbane Courier, which is not a Labour “ rag “ - as our newspapers are described by our opponents-
– It is a good newspaper.
– It is the quintessence of Conservatism. During the last general elections I read in the Brisbane Courier a report of a speech delivered at Beenleigh by the honorable member for Moreton, the whole tenor of which was a denunciation of the Labour party because of its policy of preference to unionists. What, then, has he to grumble about? Why should not he and his party be “sports”? They were beaten on this question of preference to unionists - beaten fairly and squarely at the polls - and they should take their beating. They got at the Governor-General’s “lug,” and told him a fairy tale as to what they were going to do, and how they were going to do it; but where do they find themselves to-day ? There is no more disappointed body of men in the Commonwealth to-day than is that now sitting in the cold shades of Opposition.
– Give us a word or two on preference to contractors.
– I shall do so. The right honorable member for Swan, as Treasurer in the Cook Administration, gave Mr. Teesdale Smith a contract in preference to Mr. Timms.
– No; I was in Western Australia at the time. I do not remember it.
– The right honorable member has a conveniently short memory.
– Not at all. I was away.
– At all events, the right honorable member’s portly form was to> be seen on the Treasury bench during the whole of the debate on the Teesdale Smith contract.
– Did the honorable member’s party never let a contract without the approval of Parliament?
– That is quite beside the question. The Opposition accuse us of having done something which they themselves did while in office. The honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Parkes became almost hysterical when denouncing our action in this, case, and. declared that we had dipped our hands into the public Treasury. I regret that the honorable member for Parkes is absent.
– He is bathing his head.
– He is trying, perhaps, to cool himself. He is a really excellent authority on the question of “ dipping into the public Treasury.” Has he such a short memory that he cannot recall the McSharry case, in connexion with which thousands of pounds were extracted from the public funds?
– That was only his share.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter further, since it has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Parkes accused our party of fraud, declaring that the Ministry had dipped their hands into the pockets of the people, and surely, sir, I am at liberty to deal with this question as he has done. The honorable member for Flinders also worked himself into a fine fury, banging the drum, waving the flag, and running on the loyalty ticket. He asked what we were going to do a few months hence, when our soldiers would be returning from the front. He sought to play on the susceptibilities of the people by asserting that we would “ turn down “ these men, when they came back, if they did not belong to a union. When they do come back I, for one, will be in favour of giving every wounded soldier, who has been fighting the Empire’s battles, preference over every one else. And, what is more, my party will do the same. On this question of preference to unionists, let me ask the honorable member for Flinders whether he would be prepared to appear with the honorable member for Kooyong as a barrister in a case before the Court?
– Colonel McCay, who is a member of the Expeditionary Forces, also practises as a barrister and solicitor.
– Quite so. Colonel McCay has sacrificed everything that is dear to him on this earth - he has left his home, his wife and his children - in order that he may assist in fighting our battles at the front. Would the honorable member for Flinders appear with him in the same Court? I think not. These honorable gentlemen, who denounce preference to unionists, believe in it when it suits them; but when the principle is applied to the “lower dog” - the man who has to “ graft “ for his daily bread - they take exception to it. Only yesterday I read in the Argus that the Employers Federation of Victoria were down on their knees pleading for mercy because two unions had issued a whitelist. What short memories these peoplehave. It is not many years since themen who took a prominent part in the strike of 1891 were black-listed by employers, and hounded from one State to another. I walked the country for a year and nine months without being ableto get a day’s work. And now, when we give these people a dose of their own physic, they squeal like pigs when caught.
– The experience to which the honorable member refers led to his being returned to Parliament.
– And many men whosuffered three years’ imprisonment in th« cause of unionism have also been elected to the State Parliaments. As I have said over and over again in this House, I have no sympathy whatever for a “scab.”1 He is the lowest type of human being that it is possible to find. The Opposition, however, are the champions of the”scabs.”
– The honorable member refers to non-unionists ?
– Yes, to the man whowill take a job from another who is trying to better his conditions of employment - not only for his own sake, but for the good of his wife and family.
– A man might not wish to join a union.
– The right honorable member is thinking of the man whir wishes to enjoy all the benefits of unionism, and yet is not prepared to pay the paltry fee necessary to make him n member of a union. A “scab “ would get no quarter from me.
– Would the honorable member accept a “scab’s” vote on poll ing day?
– I ask for the votes of all the people, and if a “ scab “ likes to vote for me, well and good.
– Yet the honorable member denounces “ scabs.”
– I have denounced themin the towns, and also in the sheds. They know my opinions regarding them If the honorable member has any idea of trying to secure the “scab” vote in?
Maranoa, let me tell him at once that there are no “scabs” there. Every worker in my electorate belongs to the -Australian Workers Union, and rightly so, because that union has bettered the conditions of the workers.
– Why has the honorable member denounced “ scabs “ from public platforms in his electorate if there are none there t
– If the honorable member wishes to denounce me, he can readily do so. With two exceptions, every newspaper in my electorate is a “ boodle “ paper. The honorable member has only to screw the “ tail “ in Brisbane, and every one of these local rags in Western Queensland will bark, so to speak, as he wishes. I shall be pleased to take the honorable member with me when next I make a tour of my electorate, and to give him an opportunity to speak from the same platforms as those from which I -address my constituents. Even if he tells them all that I have said to-day, they will carry a vote of confidence in me.
– If there are no non-unionists in Maranoa, the honorable member is in no danger.
– I am in no clanger in making these statements. There is no room for non-unionists in Western Queensland. Up there we do not ask that preference to unionists shall be granted by a Court or by Act of Parliament. We hare a very effective way of making the workers unionists. We “put them on the wood heap,” which means that the non-unionists at a woolshed have to make their own fires and cook their own tucker. As a rule, after two days of this sort of thing, a nonunionist calmly joins a union. I am sure that the honorable member for Calare, in less than a week after reaching Maranoa, would become a unionist.
– I decline the honorable member’s invitation under such conditions.
– If the honorable member will accompany me on my next tour of Western Queensland, he will have the time of his life. Bie will find many of his own friends voting for me, and voting for me because they know that in the pastoral industry - as, indeed, in all industries - the unionist is the best tradesman. And that is why they employ him.
– N/ot one statement has come from the Government side of the House that can be said in any sense whatever to have justified the un-British and unjust act of administration on the part of the Government in relation to this contract. The statement that the question of preference to unionists determined the result of the last general election is absolutely untrue.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it. It is absolutely incorrect that anything more than the barest reference to the question of preference to unionists was made by any honorable member opposite, save those who had exceedingly safe seats. And what is more,’ not one-half of the Labour party in this House, in their hearts, approve of the action of the Ministry in reference to this contract. Put in a nutshell, their action means feeding the “ fat “ employer, and raising the price of the 4-lb. loaf by 2£d., at the expense of the general body of taxpayers. Was any such principle put before the electors by any honorable member opposite ? The question that we have to consider in connexion with this contract is largely one of cost to the people of Australia. [Debate interrupted under standing order 119.]
Debate resumed from 29th April (vide page 2756), of motion by Mr. Chanter -
That this House resolves that it is expedient and urgently necessary for the Government to at once establish horse-breeding stations in order to create and maintain a full supply of’ suitable horses required for military and other public services.
.- In the light of our recent experience thematter of horse-breeding is of the highest importance. Its importance can be seen by looking at the present position of the industry, the export trade, and the growth of the industry within the last few years. The honorable member for Riverina in moving this motion threw ‘ nut some very practical suggestions as to’ the need for establishing properlyregulated horse-breeding farms in order that the Government might be in a position to supply its own horses for military and public purposes, and the honorable member for Wannon followed with a very informative address upon the question of horse-breeding generally. I believe that the time has arrived when the Commonwealth should give some form of assistance or set an example in this direction. The best way for bringing about this desired result is a matter which requires very careful consideration, as do most public questions; but I believe that there are spheres into which the Commonwealth, as well as the States, might enter and render great assistance - in encouraging and stimulating the breeding of horses, for instance, while not taking away that spirit of healthy emulation that should prevail amongst horse-breeders generally, and which is necessary for the development of that most useful animal. During the history of horsebreeding in Australia the number of horses has increased steadily and substantially. In 1860, there were 431,000 horses in the Commonwealth. This number had increased in 1900 to 1,680,419, and in 1912 to 2,408,113. The only place that has shown a decline has been the Northern Territory, where the number was reduced from 21,000, in 1911, to 18.000, in 1912, but unfortunately there has been a decline in most of the small industries established in the Northern Territory. For a considerable number, of years we have had a very important export in horses, amounting to something like 9,800 horses per annum, at an average price of £21 14s. 3d. per head. The principal places to which our horses have been exported has been India, our biggest customer, especially for remounts; Java, the Straits Settlements,’ the Philippines., Ceylon, South West Africa, and Japan, showing the trade we have with the Eastern countries in this direction. It is of importance to note, however, that from 1908-1912 we imported 15,402 horses of a total value of £1,032,000, or an average of £67 per head; while in the same period, though we exported 48.952 horses, their value was only £1,062,829. or an average of £21 14s. 3d per head. Of course, the horses imported would be mostly for stud purposes, accounting for the fact that we paid for them three times the amount per head that we re- . ceived for the horses we exported; I believe that a thoroughly regulated system of horse-breeding, partly on the lines, suggested by the honorable member for Riverina, would make it unnecessary for very large sums of money to be sent out of Australia in order to bring in a constant supply of imported .stock. We have it on the authority of some of the best judges in Australia, especially on the opinion of Dr. Cameron, the Director of Agriculture in Victoria, that Australia possesses the finest climate in the world for horse-breeding, but, owing to the fact that there has been no proper system of regulation and to- the absence of a stud book in the Commonwealth, we have had” to keep constantly importing strains of the .best bloods from ‘the Old Country and New Zealand. That necessity, I maintain, could be reduced to a large extent. The question is what lines we should adopt in order to give encouragement to the industry of horse-breeding. Owing to the construction of railway lines during the last quarter of a century, and tothe low price of horseflesh, land-owners within a reasonable distance of a railway, prefer sheep-breeding or agriculture to. horse-breeding. Our lands close to railways are too valuable to induce peopleto go in for horse-breeding. A remount horse for military Or police purposesmust be four or five years old before if is acceptable as such, and fanners on high-priced land are not prepared to rear; horses and keep them for four or fiveyears on the off chance of getting £18 or £20 each for them. Therefore if we are to establish successful horsebreedingstations in Australia, we must go where land is cheap, and in this regard the Commonwealth stands in a relatively better position than do the States, because it has large tracts of country in the North-, ern Territory which might be utilized forthis particular purpose. I have seen horses running on the pasture lands in the Northern Territory. I admit that those lands were not very heavily stocked, but the horses were healthy, and where water is plentiful they thrive well there. Consequently, I believe that, with proper selection and with the establishment of a proper breed, we could put parts of” the Northern Territory to valuable use in this direction. However, if we merely confine our attention to Government action in the direction of establishing a
Commonwealth station and State stations in the respective States, only a very small proportion of horses would be raised that should bo raised on our great stretches of country that cannot be utilized in a better way. I do not know how far we can constitutionally legislate in respect to the regulating of horse-breeding within the Commonwealth or within the various States - we may not have the necessary power - but at any rate Ave can deal with our own territory, and institute an example in. the matter of regulating horsebreeding. Some people regard it as a very simple process, requiring very little knowledge, but, as a matter of fact, the establishment and development of a successful breed of horses takes hundreds of years, as has been the case in Great Britain. Scotland has taken hundreds of years to bring its strains of draught and light stock to their present perfection. There must be Government interference, in the direction of regulating a stud book. In Scotland there are corporations of. horse-breeders with proper stations. These corporations have been following that particular business for centuries. They have their stud books which they issue, and before any horse can be entered in a stud book its pedigree and its bona fides must be proved to the managers of these stations. Owing to our short history, so far we have had no opportunity of developing a system so perfect as that which obtains in Great Britain, especially in Scotland; but now, I think, the Commonwealth Government should step in. - and I hope the State Governments will follow - and compel people who use horses for stud purposes to register them and prove the bona fides of their pedigrees. I believe that in every important district Government horse-breeding stations should be established, where imported stock of the very best class, of- both sexes, should be established, for sale at reasonable rates to private breeders. We have iu Australia a class of stock which is very useful for certain, purposes. Our draught stock carries out the work required of it iu a very satisfactory way, but it is only maintained at a certain standard by the constant importation of strains of good blood from the older countries of the world. This I consider a very unsatisfactory position. Mr. Knibbs - shows that we have sent out of Australia over a million pounds for the purpose of importing blood stock and high-bred draught horses, whereas a good proportion of this money could have been saved by a proper scientific system of breeding within the Commonwealth. This, however, can only be done by passing laws in the States and in the Commonwealth Parliament, fixing the stud book conditions and requiring every breeder of stock who intends to use that stock for stud purposes to have the pedigrees of his stock stated in the stud book, after having had their bona fides thoroughly tested.
– Have you separate information as to how much was spent on the importation of blood stock and draught stock?
– No. A considerable quantity of draught stock is imported from Great Britain and New Zealand, in order to keep up the standard of our draught stock. It is a physiological problem applying more to horses than to any other class of animals. The constant importation of a certain quantity of new blood stock is necessary in order to keep up the standard of our breed in Australia, but the trouble is that whereas in the older countries of the world they can accentuate their breeds and maintain the standards of their various distinctive breeds, in Australia we have to import draught horses of proved value, and the difficulty is that the progeny from the high-class draught horse is not sufficiently numerous to enable it to be used for stud purposes, because a number of the mares that the horses serve are not of a sufficiently high-class breed. If we are going to establish a station of that kind, we shall require, first of all, to have laws and regulations governing the breeding of horses and the publication of their pedigrees. After the establishment of a station for breeding military horses, the Commonwealth might get into communication with the States, and, by cooperation with them, it may be possible to establish horse-breeding . stations in every State, from which people of moderate means could purchase high-quality stock for stud purposes. Therefore, I believe this motion is very opportune. A very good example of what system will do was afforded us in Great Britain just before the war broke out. A good deal has been said about the unpreparednessof the Old Country, and probably, so far as the training of soldiers was concerned, Great Britain was not as far advanced as we would like her to have been; but, in regard to obtaining a supply of horses for remount and transport purposes, a wonderful system was in operation. For some four or five years before the outbreak of war, the Government had in operation, all over the British Isles, a system which kept them in touch with the number of horses that could be purchased for remount and transport purposes whenever necessary. They appointed in every centre a remount officer, who kept himself in touch with the important breeders in the district, and who kept the military authorities advised of the number of horses that might be purchased in every locality whenever they were required. The result was that, although the Government paid a high price for horses - an average of about £40 as against from £15 to £18 in Australia - that system enabled them, in twelve days, to have on the boats no less than 130,000 horses, which had been gathered from various parts of Great Britain. Thatsystem might well be copied by the military authorities in Australia. They could appoint a responsible resident in every centre to keep himself advised of the number of horses available for military purposes, and to communicate with the Defence Department periodically, so that, in the event of any big demand from any part of the Empire for military horses, Australia would be able to supply the requirements at the shortest possible notice. In France and Germany, particularly France, the Government have for a number of years been offering large bonuses to the breeders of horses. They have acted on the policy that a man of moderate means, who takes a pride in his horses, but cannot afford to keep them after they are four or five years old, should be encouraged by the Government to continue to breed a good class of animal, with the prospect of getting a fair price for it at the end of four or five years. We know that something will have to be done in the closer settlement districts of Australia to encourage the breeding of horses. In those parts where they can apply the land to more profitable pursuits, such as the growing of wheat, dairy farming, and sheep raising, the farmers will not take the trouble to breed horses unless the Government will step in and regulate the system of breeding, and give encouragement by the establishment of stud farms. A policy of bonuses also, under approved conditions, might well be undertaken. It is a remarkable fact that, whilst we believe in a policy of protection, whilst we are proud of the industries that have been developed in Australia, and whilst we are prepared to further support and encourage the establishment of other manufacturing industries, there are few directions in which the same encouragement is given to the great primary industries. People are willing to assist Australian industries by the payment of higher prices for their material requirements if those requirements are manufactured within the Com- mon wealth, and yet, on the other handy very little opportunity is given to this Parliament to encourage in a protective way, and make more lucrative, the primary industries. It is impossible to determine a great question of this kind in one debate, but the principle having once been affirmed, it will be for the Defence Department, primarily, to take the matter into consideration, and to set to work experts who have had experience in horse-breeding, in order to encourage an industry which is peculiarly adapted to the Australian climate and conditions. In the courseof time we shall find that the whole of the British Empire will look to Australia for its supply of military horses. The increase of population in the OldCountry, the constant demand for remounts for India, and the great changes that will follow the close of this war will, in ray opinion, result in Australia being called upon to supply horses to all parts of the Empire. That can be doneonly by the various States taking in hand this important question of establishing stations for breeding military horses, establishing stud farms in various districts, and the regulation of the whole industry, so far as private breeders are concerned, by guaranteeing that stock shall be true to name and of proper quality. We know that the system of inspection in connexion with the agricultural showshas had the effect of raising the standard of stock. In addition to thosemeans, the Government might also consider how far direct assistance may beextended in fostering this important industry in many other directions.
– I desire to tell the honorable member for Riverina that the Government are most favorable to the motion. We are so busily engaged at the present time with other more urgent affairs, however, that it is impossible to say when we shall have time to take this matter up, but it is the intention of the Government to take action on lines similar to those outlined in the motion. We cannot say where the breeding farms will be established. That will be a matter on which we shall have to be advised by those who are well versed in horse breeding. The importation of good stock would be, I- believe, one of the first things the Government would undertake. The Government offer no opposition to this motion.
– Will the Minister confer with the breeders?
– There is no doubt about that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Action of the Governor-General.
– I move -
That the action of the Governor-General in refusing to grant the request of the Senate . to submit the Referenda Bills (constitutionally placed before him by the Cook Government) to the electors of the Commonwealth established a precedent which may be irksome to the Commonwealth, and, in addition to involving the Commonwealth in further heavy expenditure, seriously hampered the good government of Australia.
I approach this motion in no party spirit, because, in my judgment, it involves something of more importance than the mere question as to whether parties agree or disagree. We in Australia are a self-governing community; we have the privilege of governing ourselves under the provisions of a Constitution which was framed and conceived by men who did not belong to the party with which I am associated. That Constitution was referred to the people of Australia on the principle of manhood suffrage, and was ultimately agreed to as the instrument under which the people were willing to live and be governed. Therefore, we have adopted, in the broadest constitutional way, a written Constitution, which is a charter to guide all those who are associated with the government of the country. Portion of that charter is section 128, which gives to the Parliament of Australia the power to consult the people by referendum on all proposals for the amendment of the Constitution. In no other way can the Constitution be amended. That section governs the particular period of the last Parliament when the Government of the day were asked to agree to the submission to the people, by referenda, of questions- that had been previously submitted and defeated. Portion of the section states -
But if either House passes any such proposed law by an absolute majority,and the other House rejects, or fails to pass, it, or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, and if, after an interval of three months, the firstmentioned House, in the same or the next session, again passes- the proposed law by an absolute majority, with or without any amendment which has been made or agreed to by the other House, and such other House rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with any amendment to which the first-mentioned House will not agree, the Governor-General may submit the proposed law as last proposed by the firstmentioned House, and either with or without any amendments subsequently agreed to by both Houses, to the electors in each State qualified to vote for the election of the House of Representatives.
There is our charter. Any one reading that section in ignorance of the method of interpretation adopted by lawyers would say that it is at the option of the GovernorGeneral to grant or refuse the referendum. But it has been held over and over again that in an Act of Parliament “ may “ means “ shall.”
– The honorable member is totally wrong. I challenge him to cite a case.
– I have a number in my memory. I have heard legal members here and in another Parliament contend again and again that “ may “ means “shall.”
– Only under special circumstances. The honorable member has been led astray.
– If one follows the lawyers, he is liable to be led astray. I have heard this interpretation insisted on by parliamentary draftsmen.
– It suits the honorable member’s book to argue in that way now. I have always held that Parliament should be taken to mean what it says; but in this case, if the word “ may” does not mean “ shall,” it has no meaning. Honorable members opposite would say that the Governor-General should be advised to do as he liked, irrespective of the fundamental obligations of the Constitution. It is provided in the Constitution that if either House of the Federal Legislature twice pass a measure which the other House will not pass, or fails to pass, it has the right to have the question submitted to the people by referendum. If that were not so, the Senate would be practically a useless body, because it would have no power. In refusing to submit to the people questions which the Senate asked should be submitted, the last Government declined to recognise the right of the Senate to exercise a constitutional power. They thus abrogated a fundamental principle of the Constitution, which gives the Senate the same right as this House possesses, to have proposals for the amendment of the Constitution submitted to the people, whether the other House of legislature agrees or disagrees. It was undoubtedly the intention of the framers of the Constitution that the Senate should have that right, in the interests of the States. The last Government flouted the Constitution, and thus robbed the Senate of legitimate excuse for its existence. Once you take from the Senate the right to intercede with the people in the interest of the States, its excuse for existence practically vanishes. To serve their party interests, the last Government played with the Constitution, and abrogated an important Senate right. If we had a unitary system of government, and there were no States to consider, there would be justification for the assertion that the people’s House must rule. But we are under a Federal form of government, which gives the whole people representation according to population in one House, and representation according to States in the other; and it is the duty of every Government to safeguard the exercise of the Senate’s right to look after and protect the interests of the States. The GovernorGeneral refused the request of the Senate for a referendum. As to the double dissolution, I held from the beginning that if this House twice carried a Bill, and the Senate rejected or failed to pass it, the Governor-General would grant a double dissolution. On that point many disagreed with me; but I felt confident that I was right, and I am of opinion now that, in granting the double dissolution, the GoovernorGeneral complied with the provisions of the Constitution, which enacts that, certain conditions having been fulfilled, an appeal to the people shall be made by both Houses of the Parliament.
– Where does Ministerial responsibility come in ?
– Ministerial responsibility cannot overrule constitutional rights, nor rob the people of the privilege of deciding certain questions on which the Houses have disagreed. When the last Government appealed to the GovernorGeneral for a double dissolution, he had no alternative but to comply with the request. Apart from any advice, it was his duty, as guardian of the Constitution at a time of crisis, to see that its provisions were carried out to the letter. Therefore, he had no option, and I applaud him for the decision to which he came. A Constitution once adopted must be obeyed to the letter, until it has been altered, no matter what one’s personal opinions may be as to the wisdom or unwisdom of some of its provisions. But the Governor-General acted quite differently iri regard to the request of the Senate for a referendum on a question much more important than that which brought about the double dissolution, a question which had been twice submitted to the people, and which, on the second occasion, was within an ace of being answered in the affirmative, the voting showing that, with a better understanding of it, an overwhelming majority would be secured for the reform that was proposed. The GovernorGeneral, in standing in the path of the people’s constitutional rights, took upon himself a serious responsibility. He prevented the people from safeguarding itself against disabilities that were then impending, and which have been intensified by the war. It is admitted on both sides that the National Parliament, because of its constitutional limitations, is powerless to deal with certain matters with which it should deal. Therefore, £he last Government should have advised the Governor-General to do his duty towards the people in this matter. That it did not give him such advice does not excuse him for not having recognised a mandatory obligation. It may be argued that, for the Governor-General to act without the advice of his responsible Ministers would be to abolish responsible government. But if a Government which is moribund, or at least powerless to get legislation passed, is to direct the actions of the Governor-General in constitutional matters, serious injury will be done to the principle of responsible government. The preservation of responsible government was a small matter compared with the injury to the people that was done by the late Administration - a Government which was dependent on the vote of the Speaker, or, in reality, only half a vote, in this House - when, for party purposes, it advised the Governor-General to do an act against the interests of the country, and in violation of the Constitution itself. That Government subordinated their loyalty to the people to their loyalty to office, and abrogated the first principle of responsible government. In all probability, we shall never witness a similar occurrence, and I sincerely hope we never shall; but, if similar circumstances were to arise, I feel satisfied that, with the members of the late Government again in power, we should not find ourselves faced with a double dissolution. The honorable member for Swan, in a memorable speech at the Federal Convention, clearly showed what might be done under this section of the Constitution, and on that occasion evidenced much foresight and penetration. He prophesied to the letter exactly the position that subsequently arose. We found that honorable member, however, a member of the Government which committed this violation of the Constitution. He showed how it was possible for a Government, for the purpose of taking advantage of an adversary, to twist and thwart the Constitution in favour of a section of the people, instead of using the Constitution to conserve the rights and privileges of the whole community. I do not think that the question is arguable unless there is resort to quibbling over the word “may.” Of course, such quibbling over the construction or interpretation of words in an Act of Parliament may suit the lawyers; but the fact remains that the Senate had a right to send the question by referenda to the people, and that that right was taken away by the precedent then established. The Senate may pass a Constitution Amendment Bill twice within the timelimit laid down by the Constitution, and yet the Government of the day may refuseto permit the question to be placed before the people; in short, the GovernorGeneral, or the Government of the day, may prevent such a measure from being placed before the country by referendum.
– The late Government were afraid that the referenda would be passed.
– The late Govern.merit knew, from the figures of the voting iu 1913, that the referenda would be passed; and, because of the action of that Government, we must now have another long campaign, and consequent dislocation, of the ordinary business of the country. I charge the late Government, as well as the Governor-General, with involving the people in an expenditure of £60,000 or £70,000 that could have been avoided had the Constitution been com? plied with1. But there are other and more far-reaching consequences of their action. Had the referenda been put last September, we should not have witnessed the conflict that we now find amongst the States, one of which is, by law, regulating prices; another limiting Inter-State trade; and another allowing people to do as they like, irrespective of the welfare of Australia as a whole. Had the late Government done their duty fearlessly, and advised the GovernorGeneral to permit the referenda to be taken, the National Parliament would have become masters of the situation with power to control internal imports and exports, and all the ramifications of our own trade and commerce. Much heartburning would have been prevented, and we should have had, in the true sense of the word, a National Parliament. Of course, honorable members opposite contend that the late Government were quite right in advising the Governor-General as they did; but I remind them that the day may come when they may desire to place before the people of the country some amendment of the Constitution that they regard as vitally important, and they will then find that the “ boot is on the other foot.” The Governor-General was either justified in doing what he did, or he was not; and I contend that no GovernorGeneral is justified in breaking the Constitution, whether he be so advised by the Government or not. The Constitution is sacred; it is the charter and safeguard of the people of Australia against either Parliament, Government, or Governor-General; it is the instrument by which a free people are empowered to frame the laws under which they elect to live; and any Government or Governor-General who takes away such a right assumes an immense and unjustifiable responsibility. The Government of the day have no right to take away from the Senate the power given by the Constitution to submit amendments of the Constitution to the people by way of referenda. I take it, from the correspondence and the statements we have heard in this House, that the GovernorGeneral was advised in his action by the late Government; and I charge that Government with placing Australia in the unenviable position she occupies to-day in connexion with the regulation of prices and the internal exportation (End importation of our products. If it be contended that the Commonwealth has no power to see that equity and justice prevail in the States, theo the whole Federal Constitution is abrogated, since it provides that the Senate, as well as the House of Representatives, may submit to the people proposed amendments.
– The Commonwealth has absolute power over Inter-State trade.
– The Commonwealth has no such power, and the honorable member must know it, because the High Court has told him so.
– I say that the Commonwealth has absolute power over Inter-State trade.
– The Commonwealth has no such power; it cannot limit or check any action of the States in dealing with their own affairs under their sovereign power.
– That is another thing altogether.
– There is no difference, except, it may be, a legal difference. The action of New South Wales in regard to wheat was upheld by the High Court.
– That is another matter.
– It is in such cases that the Commonwealth has no power. Honorable members opposite apparently argue in such a way as to make their opinions fit in with ‘their antagonism to the referenda; but when their arguments are dissected in the light of practical ex perience, we find that they are only designed to throw dust in the eyes of the public, with a view to the general adoption of their own particular political views. The case lies in a nut-shell, and I do not wish to labour it. Does the honorable member for Kooyong mean to tell me that, if the referenda had been carried last year, the Commonwealth Government would not have had power to control all the commercial and other difficulties that have grown and extended amongst the States?
– That is another and irrelevant question.
– It is relevant to what I am dealing with. No honorable member sitting on the other side of the House can conscientiously say that, under the Constitution as it now is, the Government can do in the interests of the people of Australia that which they would have been able to do had the referenda been carried. I am sorry that I have not time to refer to the wonderful treatise put forward in 1913 by honorable members opposite as a reason for not supporting the Government’s proposals. The chief contention seemed to be that they were not against the referenda so much as against the party that happened to be their author. All through it can be found the cunning legal mind of the other side, wriggling in and out, trying to make the people believe that they were against the referenda, and yet safeguarding themselves for any future occasion by asserting that they were practically in favour of nearly every item in them. However, the party opposite had the Constitution under their own wing in the last Parliament. They advised the Governor-General not to act constitutionally, but unconstitutionally, in not putting before the people that which was in the interests of the people. They also allowed a burden of sixty or seventy thousand pounds, which will have to be spent during the next few months, to unnecessarily remain upon the people of Australia. Not only have they put that burden on the people, but they have deprived them of the advantages that would have been theirs in spite of the war. In days to come this National Parliament will be able to exercise its full national power without being subordinated to the parochial necessities of one section of the
Commonwealth or another. The National Parliament will come into its heritage under a Constitution not framed by men who have no sympathy with the people, but so framed that it will deal with the necessities that have lately arisen, and as desired by the people of Australia when they realize that the powers in the original Constitution are no longer sufficient to secure the good government of the Commonwealth. The referenda would never be carried if the late Government had power to do what they did last year, when they urged the Governor-General to abrogate his functions as between the Upper House and the country. I know the Senate lodged a protest, and presented an address setting forth their intentions, but I think something more is necessary in an allimportant matter of this character. This Parliament should not sit down without letting the Governor-General know that the late Government worked the confidence trick on him ; that they humiliated him in the eyes of constitutional authorities, who feel that he has been made a cat’s-paw for party purposes in regard to this very essential reform.
– Who are they who say so?
– Every one who reads the Constitution and recognises the rights of the Senate.
– I thought you had some constitutional authority.
– »I have heard constitutional authorities in this House. I have heard constitutional giants interpret the Constitution from time to time - with what result?
– The High Court has upset them.
– Time and time again. I do not give way to any man, no matter what his training may have been, as to the meaning of the law. I realize that it is not necessary to possess legal training in order to interpret common sense. What are our Judges? Some of us know how Acts of Parliament are passed. We know that they are hurriedly dealt with at the end of the session, and have sometimes not too much thought expended upon them; but if these laws are out of harmony with common sense, the Judge practically turns them down. When all is said and done, law has to stand the test of common sense, and when my friends ask me for authorities I do not give authority other than that, to my mind, the Constitution can only be read one way. When the Senate of Australia have done certain things in compliance with the Constitution, the only obligation that remains is for the Government of the day to advise the GovernorGeneral to carry out to the full the provisions of the Constitution. If the Government of the day do not do that, they are assisting the Governor-General in an act which is practically flouting the Constitution, not in the interests of the people of Australia, but in the interests of party politicians, who use their nominal power in the Executive to thwart the will of the people and divert the whole tendency of legislation and administration, as it would have been had this referenda been put before the people. I dare say the honorable member for Swan agrees that if the referenda had’ been placed before the people last time, its proposals would have been on the statute-book to-day. The results of the election show us that they were certain to have been carried. Therefore, I regret very keenly that I and my comrades here will have to appear before the electors at a time when war is being fought in its keenest and most brutal form, when sacrifices are’ being made by our kith and kin on the battlefields of Turkey. I regret that it should be necessary, in order to protect those who have remained behind, that we at this juncture should have to put before the people what ought to have been carried, and what, but for the action of the late Government, would have been carried at the last election. The time will be most inopportune, but we have to look at our duty to the people of Australia. We have not the power to protect them today, or to do what is necessary in their interests. The blame for that rests on the late Government, who, in my judgment, did not comply with the terms of the Constitution, and did not advise the GovernorGeneral in a manner that the Constitution implied that they should.
– The motion submitted by the honorable member for Gwydir ought to have been clearly placed before this House, because the honorable member has taken a good deal of time to say what he had to say.
I cannot help thinking, however, that it would have been better in a constitutional question like this, which seeks to censure the Governor-General and to strike at the very foundation of responsible government and Ministerial responsibility, if he had stated whether his motion meets with the approval of the Government. I did not gather from anything he said that it did. If the honorable member had had the support of the Leader of the Government, and of the party with which he is associated, I think he would have said so, because the point would have been one of considerable importance in discussing a constitutional question of this kind. I take it, therefore, that he has not their support. I do not want to say anything very hard of the honorable member, but when he says he does not care for any legal opinion, or for any constitutional authority, and that he is a law to himself, he takes up a position that very few of us would care to adopt. The honorable member thinks that he knows a good deal more concerning thesematters than do those who are learned in constitutional law. I would remind him of that classic saying that “ A little learning is a dangerous thing,” and would urge him to keep it in mind when next he sets forth to make such assertions as those to which he gave expression this afternoon. I do not think any one will deny that, as time goes on, we more and more realize that the more we know, the less we feel we know, and that, in regard to constitutional and legal matters generally, we must be guided, to a very large extent, by those who have made a special study of that branch of learning.
– The right honorable member was not so guided when he spoke at the Convention, and ho was right.
– That was a matter of opinion. The Constitution provides that the Governor-General may submit a proposed law to the people, and the honorable member would have him act in such a matter without the advice of his constitutional advisers. How the GovernorGeneral would take action in such circumstances I do not know. Having learned, perhaps from the President, that certain Bills providing for an amendment of the Constitution had been passed by the Senate, but had not been passed by the House of Representatives, the Governor-General, in the hon orable member’s opinion, apparently,, would have to take the necessary steps to submit those measures to the electors. The Constitution, however, clearly laysit down that there shall be a Federal Executive Council to advise the GovernorGeneral of the Commonwealth. The GovernorGeneral must be advised by the Executive Council. In these circumstances, then, who does the honorablemember say should have submitted these measures, which had been passed by only one House - the Senate - to the Governor- General and have advised him as to the action he should take in regard to them? Does he think that the Government of the day should have done so, in view of the fact that this House, in which they had a majority, had refused to give them authority to do so? No authority or approval having been given by this House to Ministers to submit any of these measures to the GovernorGeneral, does the honorable member think that they should have laid them before His Excellency, and have advised him to make the preparations necessary to ascertain the will of the electors? The Government of the day had no mandate from the representatives of the people in this House, which has control of Money Bills, to do anything of the kind. The Senate cannot provide for the spending of public moneys unlesssuch expenditure is authorized by the GovernorGeneral and has originated and has been approved of by this House. Put in a nutshell, the proposal made by thehonorable member is that . this Houseshould be subordinated to the Senate.
– That, at all events, is how I view the honorable member’s proposal. It would mean, if adopted, that the Senate having passed certain Bills providing for an. amendment of the Constitution, it should be obligatory on the Executive to take them up, without any mandate, and, indeed, in opposition to the mandate of this House, and advise the Governor-General to submit them by referenda to the people.
– The Constitution provides for that.
– The referendum and initiative will settle all that.
– We have made no provision for the referendum and initiative-, and what we may do when such provision is made can have no bearing on the question now before us. The intention of the honorable member for Gwydir is to coerce this House and destroy its powers under the Constitution in its dealings with the Senate. He proposes that the Senate, without the concurrence of this Chamber, shall have power to take independent action in regard to measures of this kind, involving the expenditure of a good deal of money, I cannot agree with any such proposition. W© all know that the Governor-General of the Commonwealth is in the position of a constitutional Sovereign. What may have been done by the Governors of some of the smaller States, under the direction of Downing-street, can no longer be held to be reasonable and proper so far as the Commonwealth or any of the other great Dominions of the Empire are concerned. If we are a self-governing community - and I believe we are, although the honorable member would have it that we are not - then the GovernorGeneral, in my opinion, is bound to act in these matters just as His Majesty the King would act. We have got away from tutelage. We have been able to send large bodies of troops to assist in fighting the Empire’s battles, and we occupy a different plane altogether from that occupied by the separate States before the establishment of the Commonwealth. The Governor-General exercises his powers under the Constitution on the advice of the Executive Council. He exercises his powers as the King’s representative in all other matters, just as other prerogatives of the Crown are exercised. In other words, he must act on the advice of his Ministers, who have the confidence of the House of Representatives. Is it to be said, then, that Ministers are to be coerced into giving certain advice to the Governor-General without any mandate or authority of the House of Representatives, and to give advice contrary to their own deliberate opinion ? For many generations in the Old Country, the Crown has never refused to exercise the powers of the : Crown under the advice of its Ministers. I am aware that in the smaller States there has grown up a system under which greater powers than are those exercised bv 1 His Majesty the King in the Old Country, have been used; but. in respect of the Commonwealth - n. daughter nation of the Old Land’ - my view is that, how ever much we might wish on occasion individually that it should be otherwise, the Governor-General is bound to observe the same rules as are followed by His Majesty himself. What was the statement made quite recently by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to the Governor of Tasmania ? Tasmania is only a small State, and if this principle was applicable to its Governor, it is. even more applicable to the Governor-General of the Commonwealth. Mr. Lewis Harcourt wrote -
The observance of the principles of responsible government requires that a Governor must be clothed with Ministerial responsibility for all acts in relation to public affairs to which he is a party. As head of the Executive lie cannot, therefore, perform any such act except on the advice of his Ministers, and for performing it on such advice no political responsibility attaches to him personally.
There we have the whole position completely, and any censure such as is proposed in ‘ the motion of the honorable member should be directed against the Ministry of the day, and not against the Governor-General.
– The Secretary of State was there dealing with something that is not constitutionally laid down.
– That is not so.
– The honorable member for Gwydir is very persistent. The Executive Government of the day refused to make any recommendation to the Governor-General in favour of the referenda desired by the Senate. It advised the Governor-General not to do what the Senate desired.
– Then the late Government did advise the Governor-General?
– Yes; the Executive Government advised the GovernorGeneral not to take this action, and he acted on the constitutional advice so given. It cannot be denied that a majority of the members of this House controls the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth through the Executive. The House controls the Executive, and the Executive which failed to act in accordance with its wishes would soon be displaced. The honorable member for Gwydir, however, contends that the GovernorGeneral should have refused to take the advice of his Ministers in this matter.
– I say that he ought to have complied with the Constitution.
– He did so. The honorable member thinks that he should have refused to accept the advice of his Ministers? The only effect of such an attitude on his part would have been that Ministers would have had to resign. That would have meant handing over the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth to a minority in this House.
– A very big minority, was it not?
– At all events, the late Government could have held office for at least another two years or more. The Labour party iu this House were in a minority.
– In a minority of half a member.
– They were in a minority of one. If the GovernorGeneral had refused the advice tendered to him, with the result that the Government of the day had resigned, and had handed over the Administration to a minority in this House, its successors could not have held office for a day. The only result of such an action would have been that our successors would have been given the right to go to the country. I do not think the honorable member is likely to find any Executive that would be willing to hand over the affairs of the country to a minority; it would be better for them to go to the country without resorting to any such process. In this case, the Governor-General accepted the advice of the Government of the day which had a majority in this House, supported by the opinion of the legal adviser of the Crown. He therefore adopted a strictly constitutional course. I fail to understand what the honorable member for Gwydir wants. His motion reads -
That the action of the Governor-General in refusing to grant the request of the Senate to submit the Referenda Bills . . . established a precedent which may be irksome to the Commonwealth;
If the Governor-General continues to occupy a strictly constitutional position, how can it be irksome to the Commonwealth ? The constitutional position is that the Governor-General must act, just as His Majesty the King does, on the advice of his Ministers; and I fail to see why it should be said that such an action is likely to be irksome, or in any way inconvenient to the Commonwealth. The. motion continues - and, in addition, to involving the Commonwealth in further heavy expenditure seriouslyhampered the good government of Australia.
I fail to understand that allusion. The Government of the day were opposed to the Referenda Bills, and refused to advise the Governor-General to submit them to the people. In taking up that attitude they had the support of a majority of the honorable members of this House. Had the honorable member given this motion any consideration, he would have realized that he was not likely to obtain much support for it. Its adoption would mean the subordination of this House to the Senate.
– What a blessing it would have been if those Referenda Bills had been submitted and carried.
– I do not think they would have been carried. The honorable member is fond of tilting at windmills. He sets up difficulties merely that he may knock them down again. When the whole history of this terrible war is written, we shall realize that the statesmen, and the members of the State Parliaments generally, have their fair share of wisdom; that they have a fair idea of what is best for their own States. No doubt, self-preservation - the preservation of the States - is with them an important consideration. I have not discovered any great cause for fault-finding with the States. Each, like the Commonwealth, has a Constitution of its own. Why should we desire to arrogate to ourselves all the wisdom and knowledge of the country? The State Parliaments know far more what is best for their respective States than we do. We are, to a large extent, isolated from them; yet some honorable members of this Parliament do not hesitate to complain of their conduct, and even to impugn their honesty; while some declare that the State Parliaments have outlived their usefulness. I entertain no such views. I believe in being loyal to the Constitution. The States handed over to us certain powers, while they retained all the other powers to themselves; and we ought to be a little more loyal than some honorable members are to the States who gave us the Constitution we enjoy. This fault-finding with the State Parliaments - this constant effort to make it appear that the Federal Parliament is more able than any State Parliament, and to show how incompetent State Legislatures are - can have no useful result. On the contrary, it must do a good deal of harm. I have not the slightest sympathy with this motion. The honorable member for Gwydir would destroy the power of this House. He would allow the Executive Government of the day to be coerced into obeying the wishes of the Senate, contrary to the views of the House of Representatives. A Government that attempted anything of the kind would have but a very short tenure of office. The whole of the arguments of the honorable member for Gwydir are untenable, and cannot for a moment be supported on constitutional grounds.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Maloney) adjourned.
Mr.WEBSTER (Gwydir) [6.2]. - I move -
That in thu opinion of this House the time has arrived when the Postal Service should be placed under a Board of Management, on the lines laid down in the report of the Royal Commission on Postal Services.
Owing to the exigencies of our Standing Orders, and the situation that has been evolved during this session, two motions of which I had given notice appear together on the notice-paper for to-day. I would have preferred to deal with them on distinct days, but as any honorable member, if he is not prepared to move a motion appearing in his name when it is reached upon the business paper, will probably have no other opportunity of doing so, I am bound to submit this motion also, even at the risk of appearing to monopolize the time of honorable members.
Mr.WEBSTER. - I would give honorable members that opportunity but for the fact that there are some new members who perhaps are not seised of all the facts. This is not a new matter. It has been before honorable members on numerous occasions since the report of the Postal Commission was drawn up. and I would not have brought it forward had I not been fully satisfied that the recommendations of that Commission have year by year become even more justified than they were at the time they were drawn up. The members of the Royal Commission had to contend with difficulties that no other Commission has ever had or ever will have, and I have no desire to raise acrimonious discussion by referring to them now, but, having held a most exhaustive inquiry extending over nearly four years, they were unanimously of opinion that the present system of postal administration is fraught with serious inconveniences, disabilities, and loss to the Commonwealth, and that, the time must come when the main features of the management of the Department would need to be readjusted. When I form an opinion, it takes something to change it, but though I entered into that inquiry strongly prejudiced in favour of the present system, bit by bit I was brought to realize the hopelessness of getting better administration and better results from it, and ultimately I was completely unable to support that opinion which I held at the beginning, and had to agree to a report of a character contrary to my former view. In the State regime the postal portfolio was looked upon as the plaything of the Ministry; it was given to the novice, though, as a matter of fact, no more important portfolio exists, which is acknowledged in New Zealand, where the Prime Minister has repeatedly combined the duties of Treasurer and Postmaster-General. PostmastersGeneral under State control usually did not remain long enough in office to understand the basis of the postal system, and our Post Office being an inheritance from the States, we have had a new PostmasterGeneral almost every year. As a matter of fact, no man, however able or industrious he may be, however he may concentrate himself on the task of mastering the ramifications of the postal service, can do a tithe of what is necessary to grasp its real requirements, and at the same time administer the Department. The task is one that requires a large amount of thought and concentration, apart from the actual work of administration. We have had Ministers who have done their best, but how much further forward are we? In reality we are going back every . year. More and more money is supplied, and somehow the ship has been induced to sail, but sheought to be doing more. By our expenditure we have certainly secured more efficient telegraphic and telephonic construction, but there has been no improvement in the standard of work and the results produced by the employes. No business man would believe tha t though we spent millions of pounds sterling per annum on the Department, no one could tell what had been the result of the expenditure during the first eight years of Federal control. No balancesheet, on a proper scientific basis, had been produced either by the States or by the Commonwealth. Everything had been allowed to drift, with the usual result that the ship was getting on the rocks. The Postal Commission, from the very incomplete data supplied to it, discovered that during the first eight years of Federal control there had been a loss of £2,300,000; not during eight years of extravagance, but during eight years of, practically, parsimony. The amount was written off in 1909. Now we have the advantage of the report of the Postal Commission as a chart for the guidance of Ministers.
– All the nonessentials have been adopted. Something has been done to alleviate the immediate dislocation in the Department, but the real evil has not been tackled. A patch has merely been put over the trouble. The trouble still remains. We were told that when money was provided for the Department the cost of maintenance would be reduced by the improved construction of lines, but, nevertheless, there was a loss of £407,000 last year. When the honorable member for Barrier was PostmasterGeneral, and practically on the recommendation of the Postal Commission, for the first time accountancy was attempted to be introduced into the Department, and an accountant who had some qualifications to deal with the big problems before him was appointed; but that officer has been there for four years, and he cannot yet bring into line the tangled skein he inherited from those who preceded him.
– Is lie still there?
– Yes, he is doing his best. His reports show that he is attempting to unravel the skein to the best of his ability, and that he is doing good work. In fact, for the first time in the history of the Commonwealth we have during the last two years got to know something about our position in regard to the finances of the Postal Department. Mr. Haldane, the accountant, has shown us that the deficit last year was £407,000, and that this year’s deficit is £501,000 - an increase of nearly £100,000 in one year. How long is this to continue? No’ Government can continue to carry a burden like that. We have already written off £2,300,000 for the first eight years of Federal control, and now we are building up a deficit at a much greater rate. There is something wrong in the state of Denmark. I know that we are paying higher wages to our employes, and higher rates for the mail contracts, but at the same time there has1 been no bond fide result in the way of raising the standard of the workers. Saying one thing and meaning another is of no use. We must not deal with this question with our eyes on one section of the community or the other. We must deal with it as- it comes before us. We find from t-Pie report of the accountant that the position is not improving. It is deteriorating, if the finances of the Department are to be accepted as any indication. I know that we have trouble in the service. Here is a Department spending over £5,000,000 per annum, with ramifications over a vast continent, and international relations with the whole of the outside world, and dealing with every man, woman, and child in the community, and the man at the head of the Department is expected to control this immense concern for £1,000 a year. It is not a question of whether that man is qualified or not; that is the amount at which the position is assessed. There is no other place in the world where a man charged with such a huge expenditure would be paid only £1,000 a year.
– What are the deputies paid ?
– £800 or £900 a year.
– Are they not submanagers ?
– In any big concern in other parts of the world there are submanagers in every department; the best men obtainable are engaged, and are paid good salaries.
– Is not the same thing done in the Commonwealth?
– No. I have nothing to say against Mr. Oxenham, who, like other officers of the Department, is a product of the system. Those men are more to be pitied than blamed. It is the system in operation in Australia that has built up the type of officer we have today.
– It is not a bad type.
– The results do not prove that statement. The Post Office is being worked at a loss of £500,000 a year. That fact does not suggest that there is any great administrative ahility amongst those in charge of the Department. The Public Service Commissioner admitted in his examination that there was hardly a man in a prominent position in the postal service who was the right man for the job he held. When he was asked why he did not get superior men he replied that he took the best of a bad lot.
– He never said such a thing.
– The honorable member can read that statement in the evidence, taken before the Commission. I am urging the adoption of a new system of management, and I venture to say that whether the change is made by this Government or not, it must come ; it is inevitable. In Mr. Haldane’s report, produced in 1914, there is the statement, after four years’ review in the position, that the men in charge of the postal stores, a very important department that spent nearly £1,000,000 in stores last year, were, with one or two exceptions, lamentably inefficient. In consequence of. that inefficiency Mr. Haldane had to go into the Railway Department of Victoria and engage men who have had a business training in dealing with stores to put the postal stores into decent order. He also stated that he could not find in the Postal Department an officer who could do justice to the position of stores ledger-keeper. One man was appointed to that office, and, after an extended trial, was found to be absolutely unfitted for the work, and a man had to be engaged from the Victorian Railway De- partment to take charge of the stores edger. Is that not evidence sufficient, to convince members, if they have any doubts, as to what was the condition of the service before these changes were brought about? I do not quarrel with the Public Service Commissioner personally, but I deal with him as I would deal with any other man in a matter of public duty, and I say that the whole of his system for the control of the Public Service has gone by the board; not a vestige of it is in operation to-day. He had to revolutionize the whole of the system he originated in order to endeavour to bring about a condition of affairs thatwould be of some use to the Commonwealth.
– There is nothing wrong in doing that.
– No ; but when giving his evidence before the Commissi6n. the Public Service Commissioner stated that his system was comparatively perfect. Within twelve months, however, when the report was issued,, he admitted that the system was far from perfect, and he proceeded to radically alter it. The Public Service Commissioner is an obstacle in the way of reform in the Postal Department. He is supposed to judge the merits and ‘demerits of every officer in the Department, and he saysthat with his staff he can appraise the value of every officer and put him in his proper place. The men in thestores branch are a product of that system, and the accountant has reported,, after four years’ investigation, that those men are hopelessly inefficient, and that toget any order out of the system he has had to have recourse to the Victorian Railway Department. The same state of affairs prevails throughout Australia. The Public Service Commissioner can no more appraise the value of the officers in the-‘ postal service than I can. All through the Department we find inferior men in responsible positions. I ask leave to continue my remarks on the 1st July.
Leave granted: debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor, for Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913.
Preference to Unionists - Papuan Administration : Murders - Federal Capital : Competitive Designs for Buildings: Railway Construction - Postal Administration: Mail Contractors.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- The House and the country are indebted to the right honorable member for Swanfor having drawn attention to a pernicious doctrine that is now assailing the public life of this country. This afternoon he and other honorable members, particularly the honorable and learned member for Flinders-
– The honorable member is referring to the subject of a motion which was discussed this afternoon.
– I ask you, sir, whether, on this motion, which has been moved to give an opportunity for the discussion of grievances, we are permitted to refer to what we believe to be the improper use of the public funds?
– I take it that the misuse of public funds by a Government would form the subject of a special motion, and not be discussed incidentally upon a motion of adjournment or a motion to permit the discussion of grievances. I cannot allow the honorable member to refer now to the matter which was discussed this afternoon on a motion for adjournment.
– May I suggest that the right honorable member for Swan’s motion covered only one phase of preference to unionists, and related only to the application of the doctrine to a particular contract? There are many other questions related to the application of preference to unionists which were not discussed this afternoon, and which some of us desire to discuss now. I suggest that it is competent for us to do that.
– I shall give a decision on the point when the occasion arises.
– I wish to draw the attention of the House and the country, in general terms, to the various stages of the evolution of the doctrine of preference to unionists. I trace its beginnings to the advent in Australia of that noted rebel, Tom Mann, whose character and reputation are so well known. When he came here, he associated himself with the Labour movement, and so great was his influence that I believe he is responsible for that social plank which stands so prominently in the party’s platform, “ Equal opportunity; the right to work.”
– The honorable member, as a Democrat, does not take exception to that?
– As a Democrat, I do not. But things have moved in the industrial life of the country since Tom Mann was here. This afternoon we had a candid declaration by the Assistant Minister of Defence, who threw aside his cloak,- and told the House plainly-
– The honorable member is now referring to a matter which was discussed this afternoon. He may not do that.
– I shall endeavour to keep within the limits of your ruling, sir. It amused me this afternoon-
– If the honorable member persists in referring to this afternoon’s debate, I must order him to discontinue his speech.
– Let me say, then, that I am amused to find in the list of subjects set down for the consideration of the triennial conference of the Federal Labour party, which is to be held in Adelaide at the end of the month, the adoption of a plank which has not yet appeared in the platform of the party - that is, preference to unionists. Hitherto there has been no mention of that doctrine in either the general or the fighting’ platform of the party. Motions are to be moved in the Conference which are intended to compel the party to make an emphatic declaration in favour of preference to unionists. No doubt the candid statements which have just been made in this Chamber are connected with what is to be proposed at the Conference. The whip has been cracked over the heads of the members of the Labour party who are in this Chamber. Last month we saw the sorry spectacle of a Labour Government being indicted at a party Conference on fully twenty motions of censure. This Government and its supporters evidently intend to run no risk of similar treatment, because of their action in connexion with preference to unionists. Ministers wish ‘ to be able to show when they meet the Conference at the end of the month that they have granted an instalment of preference such a3 had never been known before in this country, but to which I cannot refer more particularly, because of your ruling, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Home Affairs was recently severely handled by the members of a trade union because they thought he had failed to apply the doctrine of preference satisfactorily. Mr. Mulvogue, the secretary and mouth-piece of a union, has told the Minister and the Government that he and his union would not give a snap of their fingers for the policy of the Government. He has stated that the provision “ all things being equal “ may be well enough for the deceiving of the Liberals, but that he was not deceived by it. He said, too, that his union did not ask for preference, because it was able, by reason of its efficiency, to claim and to secure preference without the help of any Government. Obviously, preference is not needed by the members of a union who are effectively and efficiently organized. Let me draw attention to another phase of this matter. An attempt has recently been made to apply the doctrine of preference to other han unionists, by giving an advantage to employers who will comply with the conditions laid down by the Labour party. A grant has been made by a Labour Government the effect of which is to increase the cost of living.
– Would it not be more correct to say “to increase wages”?
– That, no doubt, would be the interpretation of the honorable gentleman, but he cannot escape the fact that the deliberate action of this Government has tended to increase the cost of living. Apparently, the Government are prepared to go the length of violating the law of one of the States in order to give effect to their pet doctrine of preference.
– I do not think that that remark is in order, apart from any other consideration.
– I am merely drawing the honorable member’s attention to the fact that Queensland has enacted legislation preventing preference being given in that State.
– The Federal law overrides the State law.
– Yes; but, in any case, the Federal Government is violating the principles of an Act.
– Is it the law in Queensland ?
– It is a law which may have to give way when it comes into conflict with the Federal law.
– Is it a regulation, or is it an Act?
– The Minister cannot escape the fact that the Governmentof Queensland determined that preference shall not be granted in that State.
– That was because they were going to an election.
– It was long before the election. The Commonwealth Government were concerned with the carrying out of work in Queensland which ordinarily the Government of that State performed for the Commonwealth, and, in regard to this, some friction arose, seeing that the State Government could not, without swallowing their own doctrineand policy, proceed with the undertaking. And, in order to give effect to a policy in which they believe, the Federal Labour party and Government have goneto the length of violating a principle of which the State Legislature has seen fit to approve.
– And so has even theLabour Government of Western Australia.
– I prefer to take an illustration from Tasmania, where, quite recently, the Premier made the emphaticdeclaration that he could not, in justice to the whole of the community, administer the policy of preference, because, as he said, he felt that the principle of equality of opportunity was incompatible with the policy of preference, or, if there was to be preference, it should’ be established by legal enactment. I remember that the Attorney-General, when speaking at Bendigo on the occasion of the last by-election, declared that theprinciple of preference was “ enshrined in law “-
– Hear, hear!
– But that it was a dead letter, and inoperative.
– Oh, is it?
– Yes, so far as theFederal Parliament is concerned.
– Is the honorable member not aware that the principle applies-, to 15,000 waterside workers?
– I am aware of the fact that in only one case has preferencebeen granted by the Arbitration Court.
– Not at all - two cases.
– As to that, I shall give way to the honorable member, but ho will admit that in one case the preference is not operative - that the awat’d has been upset. I think that the AttorneyGeneral and his party will agree that by no stretch of the imagination can the President of the Arbitration Court be regarded as unfriendly to the cause of labour in this country; yet the only occasion on which he saw fit to grant preference was in a case where there had been discrimination against unionists. Clearly, it cannot be claimed that during the administration of this Government, or the previous one, any acts of discrimination have taken place, and, therefore, discrimination cannot be put forward as a’ ground for preference.
– It would be more proper to say that in nine cases out of ten the organizations that appeal to the Court already, have preference.
– If that is on the ground of efficiency and merit, they are entitled to it.
– If an organization has promoted industrial education with a view to increasing the efficiency of artisans, then I think we should be prepared to go a long w*y to help such an organization. It has often been argued by honorable members opposite - and the view was put forward by the honorable member for Maranoa only this afternoon - that non-unionists are “scabs” on the community.
– The honorable member is transgressing the ruling I have given.
– Almost every honorable member who has spoken from the Government side has referred to nonunionists as “ scabs “ - as men who seek to shelter themselves behind, and gain advantage at the expense of, unionists. The highest forms of conflict, whether for industrial or international advantage, sometimes call a section of people into the field-; ‘ and I fancy that if we were to apply , under present war circumstances, the principle of preference to the whole of Australians at the present time, some of us would present a sorry spectacle. It might be contended that all those who have gone to the war should’ be granted preference on their return in every sphere of life, they having, in the highest and truest sense, proved themselves worthy in fighting the battle of their country. But would the Attorney-General contend that those who had remained at home were unworthy citizens - that all should have gone to the front? Applying that reasoning to the subject under discussion, I ask the Attorney-General whether he thinks that all those who remain outside unions are entitled to the severe condemnation to which they are exposed at the hands of the Government? It seems to me that, beyond any desire to increase efficiency, there is a financial side to the union business, and that this is no small consideration so far as the Labour movement is concerned. Instead of applying the doctrine of equal opportunity and equal right to work, the Labour party seem to be desirous of imposing another doctrine, namely, the doctrine of the right to pay to work. Under the operation of the principle of compulsory unionism to which preference is heading, it will be impossible shortly for any man to obtain work in this country with pay. But if a man has a right to live, he has a right to work, and no organization should have the power to lay down conditions other than those approved by some legal tribunal.
– Such principles are applied by the employers.
– That is a phase of the question to which the ruling of the Speaker will not permit me to refer. I can remember Mr. Arthur, the late member for Bendigo, delivering one of the finest, most logical addresses in this chamber that I. have ever heard on the question of preference, and that utterance impressed me very much. By way of interjection, I asked Mr. Arthur whether, if his contention were right, the necessary corollary was not a doctrine of preference to employers; and the honorable gentleman admitted” that that was so. It would seem, therefore,, that, if preference Be once applied, it will ramify into every branch of our civic life.
– It has done so already.
– Allowing the most favorable set of figures to be grouped for the benefit of the honorable member, they prove- that very little over 500,000 unionists-
– The honorable member cannot get his sheep shorn by non-unionists to-day.
– Do not refer to me personally, because I can manage to do so, though perhaps the owners of large stations, cannot. It is of no use citing a particular case of that kind. Of an approximate 1,100,000 or 1,200,000 workers iu Australia, less than half are members of unions; but the majority of these men support the present Government and the Labour party. That is not, however, because they favour the- doctrine of preference, as I think a referendum of the question would show. If the Government do introduce and pass measures establishing the initiative and referendum, I think that one of the first questions to be tested would be that of preference to unionists. If that should prove to be so, I can promise that, so far as the Liberal party is concerned, we shall not be slow in using the machinery, if it is not hedged with conditions that make it useless. I have a great misgiving that the ideal of the honorable member for Melbourne in this regard will never find itself expressed in legislative enactment, but that the initiative and referendum will find itself conditioned as I have indicated. It has been claimed that the Labour party and the Government have a mandate from the people on the question of preference; and had ©vents pursued their normal course after the double dissolution, we might all admit . that there were grounds for such a claim. But nobody knows better than the AttorneyGeneral that the outbreak of the war altered things altogether. The honorable gentleman himself pointed out at the time that all other issues had been brushed away like cobwebs, and that the country had only to consider the grave international complications that faced us. He pointed to the fact that all the other British Dominions had put aside their party quarrels and all domestic questions, and he, in effect, asked Australians to forget the question of preference, and all other local issues, and remember only that dominant issue - the conduct of the present war. He also pointed out on that occasion, with great advantage to his party, the great work that he claimed the Labour Government had done in connexion with the warlike preparations of this country; and. in view of the efficiency of our defences, asked the people to trust the Labour party to deal only with the great issue. I think, therefore, that the Attorney-General can well put aside the claim that the Labour party had a mandate from the people to carry intoeffect the principle of preference.
Mr.Fenton. - The honorable member for Flinders said that there was such a’ mandate.
– No, he did not.
– I do not mean this afternoon, but previously.
– The honorable member for Flinders made a very qualified statement. He admitted that, to a certain extent, in so far as the double dissolution was granted on that issue, there might be some claim. I wish to emphasize once more the point that the question of preference has never yet been thoroughly testad iu this country. If we could segregate it from all other issues, and take a referendum, the question could be settled, aud whatever party won could then be held to have had a direct mandate; but until that is done, no claim can be made by either party. I know members of the Labour movement, even officials, who denounce the doctrine of preference to unionists. I can understand in the larger towns where most of the Government work isdistributed that the demand for preference to unionists is the greatest. I do not propose to pursuethis question any further. I regret the ruling which you, Mr. Speaker, gave. Though you were probably right, it has prevented me from advancing the arguments I intended, and has circumscribed the remarks I had tomake in dealing with this question to a necessarily narrow point of view.
.- I think the honorable member for Wannon has done well in introducing this question of preference to unionists. It appears to me that it is a question of sufficient importance to justify a general analysis, particularly as such an analysis has not been effected in this House or outside in recent years. It is perfectly true that when the Liberal party first of all in their restricted way brought along a measure for arbitration, and so established the Arbitration Court, very informative discussions took place in the House, in which honorable members on both sides participated, and in which this question was . analyzed. But since then vast strides have been made in the acceptance and application of the doctrine. At that time it was tentatively held by certain men in the Labour party that a restricted form of judicial preferonce was advisable and necessary. I doubt, after reading some of those debates, whether all the members of the now Ministerial party accepted the view as enthusiastically as they are now advocating it; in fact, if one reads through those debates, one will see with what timidity and diffidence the question was approached even by the representatives of the Labour party.
– As a matter of fact the Watson Ministry resigned over it.
– Not over that point exactly; but over its application to railway employes. The question of preference to unionists was not then dealt with, but it was on the broad question as to whether a judicial tribunal should be empowered to grant preference to unionists. Since then the third-party system has disappeared. A majority has come to the Labour party. They are enthroned in office, and given the responsibility not only of administering their former ideas, but of enlarging them, particularly when the demand for such an extension is made. In the circumstances, therefore, I think it is perhaps advisable that we should review the situation. Let us look back to the original claim upon which preference to unionists was based. As far as my reading goes, there was no question of preference to unionists before the question of compulsory arbitration arose; and when this Parliament decided that the proper way to conduct industrial arbitration, and make for industrial peace, was to encourage bodies of workmen and employers to register under an Arbitration Act, and bring their cases before the Court, this question arose : ‘ ‘ Are bodies of workmen, after undergoing considerable sacrifices of effort and money to secure benefits to themselves and coworkers, to undertake these sacrifices without getting any preferential benefit from the award which is obtained?” That is the whole basis, as far as I can «ee, of the argument for preference to unionists, and it seems a plausible thing that the benefits of the arbitration system should not fall like the rain upon the just and unjust alike. I can well imagine that unionists who have paid their sixpences or their shillings into the unions for years, and have waited through months of weary waiting at the portals of an Arbitration Court, say to themselves, “ We have undertaken all this sacrifice and obtained this result, and yet a man who has not spent a penny is to enjoy it equally with ourselves unless the principle of preference to unionists is granted.” That is the argument on which all extensions of the principle of preference to unionists, suggested or authorized, has been based. The next step was to confer a new power upon the Arbitration Court presided over by His Honour Mr. Justice Higgins. The strange thing about Mie operation of the system is this: Broadly speaking, and speaking now with the memory of the single exception’ to which I shall refer later on, the Judge of the Arbitration Court has declined in all cases to give preference to unionists.
– There was one exception.
– I will refer to the one exception, with which my honorable friend is closely associated. But, broadly speaking, the Judge, if you will follow many of the instructive judgments in which he has dealt with this question, takes this view. He says, “ I cannot with justice award preference to unionists unless a majority of the workers are inside the union. It would be giving a benefit to the minority unless that condition prevailed; and if the majority of the workers in that given industry whose case is being attended to are inside the union, then there is no necessity to give preference.” So that, in one set of circumstances preference would be unjust, and, in the other, unnecessary.
– The thing really broke down.
– It is true that the thing really did break down; but the remarks and observations of the Judge of the Arbitration Court are not based upon that breaking.
– But the award would not have had that limited application if it had not been for the fact that, it broke down.
– No, sir; I think that is wrong. The breaking down of the common rule, it is true, gave a limited application of the principle of preference to unionists, and of the award to. employers; but it does not alter the position at all that of a given number of workers the majority of them are either in or out -sidc a union. In New South Wales-
– The mere fact of a majority being in a union would not affect the principle.
– To my mind, it does not at all. If it is a good principle to reward these men for the sacrifices and efforts and organization which they have successfully carried out, it is equally good whether a majority of the workers iire inside or outside the union, from the stand-point of preference to unionists; and that is why, in New South Wales, when they launched this legislation first of all, we saw some three or four cases in which, according to my recollection, a majority of the workers were outside the union, and yet the Chairman of the State Court unhesitatingly gave preference to unionists; and he made no such excuse as the learned Judge who presides over the Arbitration Court has made. However, that is the attitude of ~a gentleman who, without impropriety, may be described as not unsympathetic to the Act which he is called upon to administer by this Parliament, and by the Court of which he is a member. I ought, briefly, to refer to the one exception to which the honorable member for Batman has directed my attention. I refer to the Tramway case - “that case which took practically twelve months to consider, and which ended in the admission of certain parties that the basis of all the plaint, the evidence, the argument, the records, and everything else was faked, in order to secure the registration of the complaining body, and subsequently to get the award which ought to have become inoperative the moment the evidence was found to be perjured-
– Who made an admission of th at kind ?
– He came into Court and admitted it on affidavit.
– Of whom are you speaking ?
– I am speaking of Prendergast.
– It is only fair to say there was no evidence given. He suggested it.
– I say again that the organizer of the movement in the south ern capital, which was the very centre of the whole of the “Tramway case, as the honorable gentleman knows, both professionally and politically, subsequently admitted that the records which had been registered had been falsified for the purpose of registration.
– He did not admit it. He stated it.
– He swore an affidavit.
– If the honorable member wants to know, he swore it after having admitted himself a perjurer. That is the evidence.
– I rose to-night, somewhat contrary to my usual view, to discuss the question dispassionately, and I do not want to get into any quarrel with my honorable friends opposite.
– Not so many apologies.
– The honorable member should apologize for his very existence in this House, if it is a question of apology; but do not let us become ‘unfriendly.
– You are afraid to tackle him.
– I fought him twice within one month, and he had not a feather to fly with after the two fights were over. But what “is the good of talking about these things? I have fought so many of the warriors on that side. Whenever I think of the honorable gentleman and of his interference in the House, I think of the remarkable words of Alexander Pope, who must have had some such gentleman in his mind when he wrote-
Go, teach eternal wisdom how to rule,
And drop into thyself and be a fool.
I was dealing with the Tramway case, which was the one exception. The basis of that was found to be false on the sworn declaration of the man who made it, but it was in that particular case that the Judge deemed it advisable to make a limited application of the preference principle, and he did it, as far as I remember, because of the pressure of certain governing tramway interests, in stating that they would not obey the principle of preference unless it were made a distinct order, and the Court made that order with regard to the Brisbane tramways.
– They refused to give an undertaking that they would not indulge in victimization.
– That is so; and, in order to protect the workers, the Judge reluctantly, as his hesitating judgment shows, sanctioned the principle of preference to unionists, in order to save these men from being turned out of their positions. It is quite plain to me that the President of the Arbitration Court does not relish putting this principle into practice. He sees the many other ways in which it can be violated, and that grave injustice may be inflicted upon the community and the workers interested. I would have expected, had his judgment not guided him otherwise, that he would have given complete application under the ample powers he has in connexion with the tribunal over which he presides. However, that is the start of the principle of preference to unionists - its judicial application. But then its application shows it to be a hydra-headed monster, that may take different shapes, and behave in a way totally unexpected by its progenitors ; and I want to draw attention to some of the other phases through which it is about to take its course, or has taken its course, to which we on this side object. The next step in the movement was a step taken by the. exMiinister of Home Affairs - Mr. King O’Malley. Said he to Himself, one bright, spring morning, inspired with the ideas which so often govern him, “ If this is good enough for Justice Higgins, it ia good enough for me,” and, apparently, without the sanction of his colleagues, he embarked upon the principle of administrative preference to unionists, and posted over the door of the Home Affairs Office, “’ No non-unionists need apply.” At that time, a great row arose because large numbers of people who were in sympathy with the party opposite were shocked at the announcement of this extraordinary principle, and the Ministry of which he w.as-a member apparently saw fit, later on, to place a minute on record, embodying their position with regard to the application of the principle in the Departments. It was that, other .tilings being equal, unionists should have preference in respect of temporary employment in the Department of Home Affairs. I doubt whether that principle extended into many other Departments during the regime of that Cabinet. But if it be good for one Department, surely it is good for another. This Minister of the day, feeling. that he had pioneered, without authorization, this extension of the principle, feeling that itf was the correct and logical application of a principle sanctioned subsequently by further demands from the unions interested, considered that he was obliged to extend it to all Departments. So far as we know, however, it has been applied, only to temporary employment in the several Departments of the Commonwealth. But if it be good for temporary employment, why is it not equally good in respect of permanent employment? What peculiarity is there about temporary employment which should lead to this principle being observed with respect to it and to its being tabooed’ when applications for permanent employment aremade? Whether I were an advocate or an opponent of the principle’, I should beunable to see where the difference came in. It is true that Public Service Actsin all British communities have from timeimmemorial declared in effect, “ We shall apply the test of merit to men who wish to join the Public Service in a permanent capacity.” That was done because of the grave disabilities suffered in the Mother Country, and particularly in the ‘great Indian Service, by reason of political patronage and indiscriminate appointments to the Service without any test of merit. It was in consequence of that experience that there came into forcein England a system which we acknowledged to be good when we founded our own Public Service in Australia, by saying to men who applied for permanent employment, “ You must undergo a certain examination, and those who pass1 it, shall be accepted for appointment’ in their order of merit.” That was a wise1 step to take, and upon that system we have hitherto operated the permanent services of both the Commonwealth and the States. But if preference to unionists beright, the proper thing for the Government to do is to amend the Public Service Act, not in the way of abolishing thetest of merit at the gateway of the Service, but by providing that none saveunionists shall apply for admission to theexaminations.
– In the meantime they are inflating the temporary service.
– Quite so; but I do hoc wish to complicate the two issues involved. I wish to show what appearsto me to be the logical extension of the- principle upon which the Labour party have embarked, with the full sanction of their authorities, and evidently, according ; to the statement made by the Assistant Minister of Defence, with a mandate from the country, with respect to temporary employment. If it be a good principle in its application to temporary employment, then they must still further extend it to the permanent service.
– There are no interjections now from the other side.
– Honorable members opposite never, perhaps, in their wildest dreams, imagined that the system would spread itself so far as it has already done. Some of them, doubtless, are afraid of the width of the principle when it comes to be applied in its full amplitude.
– We have extended it to the Public Service.
– But the Labour party have done so only when- at the nose of a six-chambered revolver. They have not done it with that alacrity which would stamp them as enthusiastic advocates of such an extension. They have taken this action because they have been compelled to do so. Their position is very like that of the Tuscan army, in respect tp which we are told -
And those before cried “Back!” “The Labour army will have to move. The men in front, realizing the dangers, the menace, and the perils surrounding this principle, hesitate to advance ; but “the great onrushing mob behind them, not realizing the perils, are pushing forward, and, no doubt, will push them over “the border line of safety.
– We are moving.
– But sometimes my hon- orable friends move sideways, and sometimes, when they think they are going forward, they are stepping into darkness - very close to the edge of a precipice. Some of them - not my honorable friend, I hope, but the less mentally qualified of his colleagues - will fall into that darkness from which they will never emerge.
– We shall not accept the honorable member as a guide.
– I hope that my honor able friend, who seems to have been kidnapped in his youth by a tribe of Bunyips, ‘will be one of those who will never emerge again. Honorable members opposite, for the first time in their lives, * aie* now thinking, and the external side of this maiden effort on their part is very embarrassing to us.
– The honorable member is giving us the stick.
– On the contrary, I am pursuing, I hope, a philosophical discussion of this question, and I hope to discuss it in a leisurely way to the expiration of the time allotted me. Even then I shall not have exhausted one-half of the considerations concerning this weighty problem. There is another phase of the problem about which we shall probably hear in the near future. Let us take, for example, the position of contractors doing business with the Government. It is possible that contractors offering supplies, either for army or peace requirements, may be involved. Tenders may be invited to-day for the supply of meat to the Forces of the Commonwealth. If two men present themselves, the one employing non-unionists and the other employing unionists, honorable members opposite will doubtless be inclined to : grant a preference to the employer of union labour, and he may be given, in some cases, a higher price for his meat than would be given to the person employing non-unionist labour.
– If the lower price meant small wages, we should do so.
– Let us see if it is the consideration of smaller wages that would influence my honorable friends. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports suggests that if the man employing nonunion labour were paying sweating wages, the Government would be justified in- giving a higher price to the tenderer who employed unionist labour. I admit that, from that stand-point, they would be. But would that be the position if the two contractors paid standard rates of wages based upon the laws of their State?
– All the Government specifications contain such a condition.
– Exactly. No man may tender for supplies to the Commonwealth without being subject to wages control. If a man be a sweater, he cannot tender, since he cannot comply with the specifications. I am proceeding on that hypothesis. I am taking the hypothetical case of “A” and “ B “ tendering for the supply of meat of even quality at, say, 6d. per lb., the one employing union, and the other, non-union, labouT. In such a case, honorable members opposite would doubtless give the contract to the man employing unionists, and if the prices were not the same they would, no doubt, shelter themselves behind the argument that they were justified in giving a higher price to the man employing unionists, although the wages conditions observed by both were identical. But would you, Mr. Speaker, as an old student of politics and economics, and as a believer in justice, I trust, consider that that was a correct observance of the trust which the people of this country gave to the Ministry now in power? Would you not, on the contrary, say that the extra money so voted was a misuse of public funds? I should.
– The honorable member would say anything.
– We have an advantage over the honorable member, in that we can never understand what he says.
– There would be no standard without a union.
– The honorable member is entering upon another phase of the question ; but I wish to continue the thread of my argument undeterred by the honorable member from the woods. It would be, in my judgment, a misuse of public money. In British communities, we take a serious view of the crime known as bribery. Bribery is met witu condign punishment under our criminal law. If, by using my own money, I endeavoured to influence a public officer to give me certain favours, or to misuse his trust in the employment of the State, I could be punished under the criminal law. If it is wrong for a man to bribe another with his own money, surely it is a more heinous offence to bribe with the money of other people - to use it, after theft, for the purpose of bribery makes the crime intensely blacker and deserving of greater punshment.
– There is something wrong . with the honorable member’s hypothesis. His premises are wrong.
– The honorable member is aware that I am not at liberty to argue this particular issue except upon a hypothetical basis.
– But the honorable member is begging the whole question. He is assuming a corruption that he has not proved.
– I am not going to attempt any proof. At this stage, I am merely laying down the track a few years ahead - in front of the rail-head over which the Labour party must travel in its preference to unionists’ waggon. As sure as the sun will rise to-morrow, an examination of the records in the near future will show that that party would face an issue of this kind, and would sanction and operate the principle.
– The honorable member should not prophesy unless he knows.
– I am not permitted to go any further at this stage with that phase of the question. What does this extension of the principle involve? It does not mean preference to unionists in its true sense, although’ it is one of the by-roads that open off it. It means preference to the “fat” contractor, who will play the game of the unions. Such a man may make a vast sum in this way. He may gain admission to the Ministerial sanctum by private influence, and this vast sum may come to him as the result of his private influence with a Minister or with the Cabinet. He gets this preference, which goesnot as a reward to his workers, but really to swell his profit and loss account to an enormous extent as compared with that of his rivals.
– The honorable member must have had some strange company in his time.
– I have during my twenty years in politics, but I have never kept such bad company as I have since I met the honorable member. Thank Heaven, there is enough political eau de cologne to make it still comfortable to remain in this chamber with him. I should be glad if he would allow me to proceed along my own lines of thought. I wishto give another illustration of the working of the principle of preference ‘ to unionists. It must be seen that in itsnearest application it goes further than the giving of advantages to the workers for the sacrifice of time or money to secure higher rewards for their industry. It gives to men who may be entirely out of sympathy with the Labour cause thevast dividends which they can wring from a weak Ministry falsely applying principles that are so susceptible to misapplication. Here is another case - it is not an hypothetical, but a real one, and since it has not been discussed to-day, I take it that I may refer to it inextenso. The State of Victoria some years ago embarked upon what honorable members; opposite would probably describe as one of the most Socialistic enterprises of the last decade. It decided that the ship-building industry of this country was languishing because private enterprise had not thought it wise to take it up, or perhaps because it did not think that the business offering was sufficiently tempting. The State Parliament said, “ There will come a time when the great iron and coal deposits of this country will, as we discover and explore them, he utilized in the ship-building industry ? “ No nation, as history shows us, has become truly great or abidingly prosperous until it has endeavoured to explore und to use such deposits. The nations that have spread their influence broadcast to the greatest extent are those which have applied these deposits to ship-building. Hence it is that at this particular time so vast a quantity of the tonnage of the world flies the British flag. The Government of Victoria said, “ Why should we send across to the other end of the world for all the ships, dredges, tugs, and everything else of the kind we require? As we use this quantity for Government and private purposes, let us lay down a place where these boats can be built at the expense of the people.” And so out of loan money, with the full concurrence of the Parliament of the State, the Government laid down these yards. I am not able to say what was the exact amount spent upon them, but. I should judge that it was about £50,000 or £60,000. These yards were placed at Williamstown long before the outbreak of war, and the building of dredges for the purpose of increasing the depth at the en- trance to Port Phillip, and tugs and launches, and pinnaces for the Harbor Trust, and other bodies requiring them, “ was taken in hand bv a skilled staff with every satisfaction to the Government. Then when war broke out, the Government of Victoria, with sagacity and patriotism, approached the Common- wealth authorities, and said, “ If you wish to fit your transports you can have these yards,” and they threw the yards open to the Defence Department, just as in the same way they made available their railway workshops at Newport, saying, “ If there is any transport material to be built you can have the use . of our workshops; they are capable of expansion, and are the finest in the southern hemisphere.” As a consequence of this offer by the State Government, boats moved into the State yards for the purpose of being fitted as transports in. connexion with our first and second contingents of the Expeditionary Forces. Then what happened ? The carpenters’ unions, two of which exist in this part of Australia, fell out about the method of selection. A great row took place as to who was being employed, and out of the melee which this dispute created, there arose the request that only unionists should be employed in the yards. The State Government, operating under a Wages Board system, which takes no notice of whether a man is or is not a unionist, said, “ Hitherto we -have not taken notice of such a thing. In our own State employment we do not give preference, and we shall give this great national work to the most qualified men who apply.” However, the request that non-unionists should be turned out of the yards ins which this great national service was being undertaken was pressed, and what did the present Commonwealth , Government do? They said, “We shall take away these ships from our sister Government that- has made us such a patriotic and” wise offer, because we disagree with it politically upon a certain principle, and we shall draft these ships out whether they are in dry dock or wet dock, and hand them over to a contractor in another part of the State who will bow the knee to Baal and admit only unionists to his employ, .and who will allow the walking delegate and the shop steward to. do as the. unionists demand.” Thus we have the extraordinary spectacle of a Socialistic enterprise, embarked on with the concurrence of both parties in Victoria, Liberal and Labour, being deprived of its right to serve the nation, and of vast profits being given to contracting firms in Melbourne and in Sydney who’ will accept the principles of these gentlemen. Can honorable members opposite, from the Prime Minister down, really justify that action? Many a ‘time have we heard honorable members opposite, and other advocates of .the Labour principles and platform, denounce contractors and private enterprise, and say, “ If you put this work into the hands of your Government the profits, if any, will go to the people in relief of taxation; you will get efficient service for the nation; you will cut out the middleman and despoil those who have despoiled the people - the contractors.” But in the case of a friendly State Government seeking only to help them, the Government abandoned their principles and sacrificed their views, as well as the well-being of the whole community and the national interests, in order to attain an ideal which must eventually lead them over a precipice.
– And at the same time they considerably delayed the despatch of those transports.
Mr.WATT.- I know from talk with officers and men interested in the early departure of that fleet of transports that0 they did not know when they were going. At least, they were able to say that not less than a fortnight was lost by the extraordinary behaviour of the Government. Surely Ministers could have said to their unionist friends, “You must not ask us to put this principle forward in this period of emergency and peril,Although the State Government do not see eye to eye with us in this matter, let them do the work, and let us send our- boys to Egypt, or elsewhere, as soon as ‘we can equip and despatch’ them..” But the transports were delayed, not for convoy, but because we fought about silly principles of this kind; and if any honorable members, now or later, can justify that extraordinary episode, I would ‘like to hear them in the attempt.
– They are quiet in the Amen Corner.
– We have heard this talk so often,.,]
– No.This matter has not previously been analyzed- in this Chamber.
– We cannot all be political conundrums.
– That is why the honorable member will never be solved, though he may be salved if there are sufficient of his colleagues to take him hence at critical times. There is another extraordinary application of this principle of preference to unionists which honorable members opposite will find equally difficult to justify. If clerks are required for temporary service in the Defence Department, where are they chosen? Not at the office of the Public Service Commissioner, which the law requires and custom de mands, but at the Trades Hall by the secretary to the Clerks Union. When the Minister of Defence wants clerks for extra or special work, despatch or any other class of work, he does not say to the Public Service Commissioner, “ Pick from your list the man who is first in order of priority or merit “ - or whatever the principle is; but the secretary of the Clerks Union sends down a man from the Trades Hall. Is that right? Have we so abrogated our functions as a Government that we hand over to an irresponsible organization the task of selecting from among its members, on any principle it chooses, the men who are called upon to do the nation’s work? If that is so, why do we make laws and lay down the basis of a Public Service Act, compelling Ministers, through the permanent heads, to requisition for men for temporary employment, and compelling Ministers to authorize such requisitions to go to the Public Service Commissioner, and then abandon the whole procedure, and say that a union secretary at the Trades Hall shall decide who is to be employed in the Commonwealth service? All this means that honorable members are going a long way further than they ever intended, or even thought possible. In the Defence Department, ordnance men, craftsmen, men doing super-cargo work on transports and all classes of . work, not registered among the . fighting ; forces, are appointed on the principle of preference to unionists, which, fact brings me to the further consideration alluded to to-day eloquently, but briefly, by the honorable member for Flinders, namely, that other men in the service of the Defence Department are not selected on that principle. Officers in the Forces are not given preference because they happen to be unionists. Men who volunteer to serve their country under the colours of the King in Australia, South Africa, Asia, or Europe, are not selected on that principle. I make bold to say that we get right up against this question, whether we like it or not - if preference to unionists be a sound thing in time of peace for the purpose of industrial or administrative development it is equally sound in time of war for the purpose of repelling invasion or . protecting the liberties of the country. No ‘ invitation goes outfrom the Prime Minister and his colleagues to unionists to volunteer for their country. The invitation goes out to every one, irrespective of class, creed, or political view or condition, marital or possessional ; all are volunteering in due proportion. Is it not a strange thing that a principle which cannot come through the crucible of war is argued as a principle that is appropriate for this country in times of peace? I hope that I am not trespassing on the patience of honorable members, but it is well to refresh our minds from the experience of the past in order to guide us in the immediate future so far as we can read it. A little while ago the common term applied by honorable members opposite to the nonunionist was “ scab,” which expression is first cousin to the term “ blackleg.”
– The term was used here to-day by the Government Whip.
– The term was not used by irresponsible persons attached to the party opposite, or by men using it without the sanction of their leaders, because the head of the Government in an incautious moment said that the nonunionist was the sneak of society.
– So did your leader.
– I do not care what my leader said. I am dealing with the principles that animate the Liberal party generally. We say that in this matter we stand for no political party, but want a fair deal given ‘.to ..all classes of the community. I would just . as quickly repudiate the statement that the honorable member alleges the Leader of the Opposition made as I would repudiate incontinently . the speech made by the honorable gentleman who leads the Government.
– Do you not believe in trade unionism ?
– I am a great believer in trade unionism. It has conferred in this country and the Old Country great benefits on industry, upon both employers and employes. On a voluntary principle trade unionism which men are free to join or free to leave appeals to me as the proper way to encourage the organization of industry, but the moment that compulsion is imported into it, or force is used equivalent to compulsion, the voluntary principle is destroyed, and an otherwise harmless principle is rendered harmful. Volunteeringfor the war is just the same. Ifwe go out with pressgangs and yard up men for service abroad we destroy the very tradition of the British race - that the people who really fight best are the volunteers; and in the same way in the industrial army, volunteers should be encouraged; men secured by press gangs are not worth a damn.
– How does the honorable member view compulsion among employers ?
– I say the same about employers as I say about employes. I do not care whether they are called Employers Federations or Trades and Labour Councils. It is wrong to compel men to join lodges or churches or industrial organizations, or even armies. Far better is it to have in operation the voluntary principle.
– Why do you compel employers to close their shops at certain hours ?
– That is a totally different principle. If the honorable member would like to hear my views on that question I shall give them, although my allotted time is passing rapidly. Human society makes laws for the government and well-being of the whole. We have foundin the past that certain things are harmful to the community. Some of them are called misdemeanours, and others are called crimes. The Criminal and Civil Code has been compiled to regulate the actions of individuals and classes in the general interests of the community. “ It was found that long hours of shopping and labour are not economic or wise or fair to the people engaged in them, and from the time Factory Acts started interfering with industry and conditioning it, we have found the ameliorating process gradually building up a saner and’ more wholesome condition of affairs. The law is perfectly entitled to say in what hours people shall shop, or drink, and offer things for sale, but that is an entirely different thing from the principle of forcing men into, a union, or, alternatively, depriving them of the privilege of earning their daily bread.
– It is only recently that they have not used the voluntary principle.
– The voluntary principle failed.
– So it has in connexion with unionism.
– Does my honorable friend say that compulsion of a definite and legal character is necessary for the defence and preservation of unionism ! If so, why do we not pass laws to that effect? Why do we not open wide the door, and say to all men, “ You must enter through that door and he a unionist, or you shall neither work nor eat.” We do not do that, hut by small acts of terrorism and coercion, and by giving them the knowledge that they cannot get a billet unless they belong to a union, we are gradually forcing a number of men against their inclinations to join the unions in order that they may continue to enjoy for themselves and their families the comforts and privileges of civilization.
– Which the unionists had previously won for them.
– Yes; and, in some cases, by aid of the laws passed by the Liberal party, which were saner, broader, and more just than the narrow views of the honorable member. I have only one observation to make in conclusion : Those men who are going away now, who are non-unionists, and who have volunteered in fair proportion to their numbers, have been called by the chartered leaders of the Labour party, times out of number, “ scabs,” “ black-legs,” and “ sneaks of society.” Notwithstanding that opprobrium, when the news went forth that the liberty of our people was in danger, and that they must fight if they would enjoy a continuation of it, they came out freely enough under that stigma, and aro fighting shoulder to shoulder’ with the unionists, and feeling in these terrible times the spirit of the real brotherhood of man that breaks down the stupid obstacles which political’ unionism fain would erect between them. When those men have come back with the glories as well as some of the scars of war, what is to happen to them ?
– They will be unionists then.
– But if they are not*; are they still to submit to the opprobrious epithets that have been showered upon them from time to time? What is to be the attitude of the Government with respect to these men ? Are they then going to’ say to the returned soldiers, crippled or whole, who have put up as game a fight as any unionist, “ We cannot employ you because there are a number of unionists who have returned, and they must have preference “ ? It is time the
Government not only gave consideration to this question, but gave the House and the country an answer to it.
– We will answer it when the time comes.
– The time is not ripe; tomorrow will do - that is the attitude of this party towards a great principle in which the nation is interested in this time of war. Having settled the conditions under which those men fight, and the pensions they or their relatives will enjoy if those soldiers are incapacitated or killed, we should also settle the question of their employment if they return. The Government have made no suggestion of a policy to settle this problem.
– I will suggest a solution of it: Those who have enlisted to fight with their unionist comrades abroad should, when they return covered with glory, enlist to fight with their comrades at home in the industrial army.
– How wise that answer is ! No wonder the honorable member has been quiet during the last ten minutes trying to think out so incoherent an answer ! This young man, upon whose lips the maternal milk is scarcely dry, after much mental effort gives an answer that- would do credit to a Yarra-banker.
– Have a little respect for our mothers if you have none for us.
– I am sorry if I offended the honorable member.’” :’
– You made a most insulting remark.
– Is it insulting to say that the maternal milk was scarcely dry on a man’s lips? There was a time when that could be said of me, and surely the mother who suckled me had no cause to be ashamed of the fact. I will apply to the honorable member the remark which Balzac made to a Frenchman to whom he wished to pay a compliment, “ The woman who bore you did not waste her time.” The honorable member can accept that as a salve for his feelings. Apart from the myriads of considerations with which this question abounds, the treatment of the returned soldier who is a non-unionist ought to be given immediate attention, and this House ought to be told what is to be done with him-.. ‘-If he- knocks at the door for employment with1 a unionist who has returned, or with a unionist who’ has not fought at all, to which man will the Government then give preference? The broad principle of humanity, about which the Leader of the Government wisely talks, and in which he truly believes, would justify him in making an announcement to-night with respect to the soldiers who have gone away, that there shall be no question of whether a soldier is a unionist or a non-unionist, but that all returned soldiers will get preference over any man who has not gone abroad to fight. If we get from the Government even a tentative acknowledgment of a principle of this kind, the debate to-night will not have been in vain.
.- I do not wish to deal at any length with the question which has been so ably touched upon by the honorable member for Balaclava, but I would like to say with regard to a question which was ventilated in this chamber to-day, that is, the preference which was given to one particular employer-
– The honorable member must not refer to a debate which has already taken place.
– I was about to refer to a question which was ventilated in the chamber to-day; that is quite different from a reference to a debate.
– The honorable member must not refer to that matter.
– Do you rule, sir, that I cannot refer to this action on the part of the present Administration in granting preference to a particular employer of labour in Queensland on the ground that he employed union labour?
– The honorable member mentioned when he rose that he intended to refer to a certain matter that had been ventilated in the chamber today. I called the honorable member to order, and I tell him again that he must not refer to the debate that took place to-day.
– I do not intend to do so. Without mentioning any debate or anything said , in any debate, I desire to say that, so far as I can understand the Ministerial position, theytry to shelter themselves in regard to that action of theirs–
– The honorable member is now discussing something which has been debated in the House to-day. The honorable member must not do that.
– I desire to know where I am, Mr. Speaker, because your ruling involves a question of the rights of members during the balance of the session. I am aware of this information apart altogether from the debate that took place to-day, and I desire to refer to an answer which was given in this House.
– I have already prevented the honorable member for Wannon from discussing this question. I cannot allow the honorable member to proceed.
– I do not desire to traverse your ruling in any way, sir, but it involves the negation of the right of any honorable member to again discuss this question during the balance of the session. I know that the rule is that an honorable member shall not discuss any debate that has taken . place during the session. But this afternoon all members of the House had not an opportunity of discussing this ‘particular question.
– That is not the fault of the Chair.
– If you will give a ruling that I am not in order in referring to that question, whether I refer to the debate or not, I will, with all deference, send you the ordinary notice of dissent from your ruling. I shall do that in the interests of honorable members generally, because I can conceive of nothing which will stultify the House more than such a procedure as is now being laid down.
– Deal with the Teesdale Smith contract; that will be in order.
– I will deal with the Teesdale Smith contract. What was the charge levelled against me in regard to that gentleman?, It was not that I had accepted the highest tender when a lower one was offering; it was not that I had accepted the worse of two offers for a Government job; but that I had secured, without calling for tenders, at rates which had been previously accepted by the South Australian Government for similar work, the services of the only man who was offering. Compare that charge against me with another action with which honorable members wish to compare it. In the one case, the statement was that the letting of the contract to Mr. Teesdale Smith Was a bad, wicked and malicious thing to do. I say that the very argument which honorable members would bring to their support in another connexion could have been used by me, had
I so desired, with regard to the Teesdale Smith contract, because I believe that every man employed by Mr. Smith was a member of the Australian Workers Union in South Australia.
– I could understand such an interjection coming from the Minister of Home Affairs, because I have been in communication with the secretary of the Australian Workers Union in South Australia, who has, within the last few months-
– The secretary or the organizer ?
- Mr. Gray.
– Your esteemed friend.
– All his life Mr. Gray has been an opponent of the party to which I belong; but he did say that I treated him and his men decently, and kept my arrangements with him, whereas the present Minister of Home Affairs treats his agreements with him as the Germans treat “ scraps of paper.” I have the correspondence, and if the Minister so desires I will be willing to let him see it at any time. That is what the union members who are in the employment of the Minister have to say about him in contradistinction to myself.
– Bring up the matter at any time.
– I will; but why does the honorable member seek to prevent me. bringing it up to-night? That was the’ opinion of the organizer of the strongest Labour organization in Australia. Let me continue my remarks re; garding the Teesdale Smith contract. Mr. Teesdale Smith, I understand, employed none but unionists. Was it urged at the time, by honorable members of the Labour party, that the bargain with him was, therefore, a sound one? On the contrary, did they not continually dwell on the money that was said to be lost to the country by reason of the price given - which was the same as the South Australian price - being too high ? Did they not send to South Australia two specially qualified senators, men of amazing powers of invention, who came back with misleading statements as to what they saw, and by every twist and distortion of fact sought to make the public believe that there was something underhand and crooked in the agree ment ? Did not the Prime Minister himself say, when I challenged him in regard to those insinuations, that there was no charge against my honour?
– I never make insinuations against any one.
– The right honorable gentleman leaves that to men who travel underground, and, most properly, frequent other places. He leaves the making of insinuations against the honour and integrity of public men to others but these insinuations have helped him to get where he is. Let us examine the charge concerning the Teesdale Smith contract in the light of the policy laid down by the present Government. Ministers have declared their right to accept the highest tender, if the highest tenderer undertakes to employ none but unionists. Rates of wages in an industry are not affected by the fact that a man does or does not belong to a union. That has occurred only under the recent ukase of this Government, which has declared that, unless a man belongs to a union, he shall not, in the Public Service, draw pay equal to that drawn by members of a union. Within the jurisdiction of the States, questions of wages are settled by Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts.
– This Parliament passed an Arbitration Act, the machinery of which can be put into operation only against employers who employ unionists and members of organizations.
– The ‘ honorable member knows that in the particular industry in regard to which the Government has accepted the highest tender all employes,whether belonging to a union or not, are paid the same rate of wages, their conditions being laid down by the Queensland industrial authority.
– Who pays for that?
– The employer in every case. What honorable members are claiming the right to do is this: If an employer comes to them, and, as the honorable member for Balaclava put it, “bows the knee to Baal,” they will give him a particularly large profit on his undertaking. They will not increase the wages of his employes - which do not matter to them any more than the wages of the employes on the transcontinental railway matter to.. the Minister of Home Affairs - but, they will give the employer an extra 10 per cent, profit. ^ ‘
– The Bakers Union of Queensland got a day labour award today. Who won that for them, and who paid for it? Not the non-unionists.
– Was it this employer? Did the man to whom reference has been made obtain that award? I can understand honorable members desiring to reward the men who are employed in an industry, although I would not consider that a proper use of public money; but what they are doing is to help, not the employes, but the employer. They are greasing the fat sow. The man to whom they are giving this tender is a man who, probably, like a great number of employers, has always paid as little as he could reasonably pay to get his work carried out satisfactorily. Why, then, give him this particular profit?
– Because he is a union employer, not an unscrupulous employer.
– Did one ever hear such nonsense? Does not the honorable member know that there is a regular movement in Australia to-day amongst unscrupulous persons with money to make more money out of the prejudices which the Labour party has created?
– Does the honorable member know that?
– Yes. I have seen it going on. The honorable member knows it, too.
– I have not seen it. I should have reported it if I had seen it.
– Honorable members seek to get every man they can into their organization, without having regard to his industrial character. The more the merrier, so long as they all contri”bute to the political war chest that keeps <them in power. It is for that reason that the Australian Workers Union, a shearing union, claims the right to have publicans in its ranks. In one sense, publicans are shearers, but not in the -sense that members of the Australian Workers Union are shearers. There are also lawyers and other professional men in the union, all endeavouring to live on the prejudices which honorable members opposite have created in the industrial sphere. Similarly, ‘ you have among the employers a number of persons who seek to make large’ profits by -using those ‘ prejudices’. Nothing moves >me to a greater feeling of contempt.
– The price that the Government is paying - 15s. per 100 loaves of bread - is less than the general public of Queensland is paying.
– Order ! The Minister may not discuss that matter.
– The Minister has made a statement-
– The statement was a disorderly one, because all interjections are disorderly, and the honorable member may not reply to it.
– That is a very effective way of closuring discussion. I do not blame you, sir, because you are, no doubt, acting in accordance with what you conceive to be your duty. My regret is that we do not agree as to what that duty is. I put the matter in this way to the Minister, to whose interjection I am not able to reply directly. It is very convenient to be able to interject as he did from the Ministerial bench, though I know, of course, that you, Mr. Speaker, would not have permitted him to do so had you been able to stop him in time. I regret that I cannot go into the particular case to which he has referred in so disorderly a fashion. But let me take a hypothetical case, in which tenders, are submitted, for supplies on a large scale of boots, hats, or anything else you like. The price for a large quantity is always at a cheaper rate per unit than is the price for that unit in ordinary retail sale over the counter. The Minister says, “ Provided that the bribe which”- you give your personal friends “- -
– I did not say any such thing.
– This is what my honorable friend said by implication, “ Provided that the ‘particular solatium “ - I shall not say hush money-
– The honorable member may not impute unworthy motives.
– I did not intend to do so, and I do not think that the Minister understood me to do so. The Minister takes the view that, provided that the amount of the public money which, over and above the sum mentioned in the lowest tender he allots to the friend of his party is not payment at a higher rate than the price which the general public pay for units of the quantity tendered for, his conscience is sufficiently salved. Will the honorable member for
Fawkner, of will the Minister, tell us that this particular employer - to whom I am able to refer only hypothetically - has himself been instrumental in raising wages ?
– If you want a really good honest “ corker,” I invite you to go to a serious-looking man like the honorable member. He has never been nearer to Brisbane industrially than he is at the present time, and yet in regard to a matter which we have been told has no personal significance, the past life of a man who happens at the present moment to be an employer of unionists is known so intimately to this lineal descendant of a gentleman who died at some time B.C. that he can tell us, with every appearance of sincerity, that the employer has in the past materially helped the Labour movement, and has increased the wages of the employes-
– As a unionist employer.
– For all that the honorable member knows, this man may have been a non-unionist employer last week. If you are going to give an extra 10 per cent, profit to every employer who employs union labour at the same rates as are paid for non-union labour, you will make a great many converts to the principle of preference to unionists, but you will not assist union labour. As I said before, you merely grease the fat sow. You merely help members of the employing class, who may formerly have- ‘been the greatest opponents of unionism.
– The honorable member’s idea of helping unionism is to give contracts to sweaters and to unscrupulous employers.
– -I ask the honorable member to give an instance in support of his statement. Does he refer to Mr. Teesdale Smith, who paid a higher rate of wage than the Minister of Home Affairs is now giving?
– He could well afford to.
– Why ?
– Look at the price that you gave him.
– The charge against me was purely on the matter of the price. I accepted the only tender submitted to me, and the price fixed was the same, with deductions, as the. South Australian Government had given for similar work ‘in similar country.. My action, however, was thought to justify the moving of a no-confidence motion, and the throwing of all the mud that . my honorable friends could accumulate. In the particular hypothetical case to which I have referred, there was more than one tender submitted, and the acceptance of the highest merely meant the greasing of the fat sow which was employing labour.
– I have already called the honorable member to order for imputing motives. He has just done so deliberately. If he offends again I must take another course.
– I admit that I was wrong in imputing motives. I might have been in order had I referred to the actual result, which is merely to benefit the employer without benefiting the employes one iota. That is a fact that honorable members opposite lose sight of.
– How about Tymms?
– Whenever I think of my misdeeds, it is almost with resignation that I find myself on this side of the chamber. I imposed penalties on Mr. Teesdale Smith for the non-completion of his contract, but the present Minister has remitted them, because he said that the work had been done so efficiently and well that it would not be fair to charge them. Did not the Minister give it as his reason for remitting the penalties that the work had been truly and faithfully performed ?
– I do, not think so.
– Did he remit the penalties without reason?
– I think, according to the last that I heard of the matter, that Mr. Teesdale Smith has still to pay penalties.
– Then, apparently, he refuses to have his penalties remitted ! I pass now from Mr. Teesdale Smith to Mr. Chinn, and I wish to know if I was so much to blame for having “ fired “ this incompetent official on the grounds on which the attack upon me was based? I was accused of partisanship and of victimizing Mr. Chinn. Why has the AttorneyGeneral victimized the same gentleman? Why did the Attorney-General refuse him a patent-right the other day’?
– That is a different thing. Mr. Chinn is not good at patentrights.
-He is one of the finest “ inventors’ ‘’ I >have ever ‘met outside the ranks of my honorable friendsoppo- site. Let us turu to the Minister of Home Affairs. At the very time he assumed office there was in his Department a recommendation regarding the appointment of a supervisor at the Western Australian end of the line, which gave him an opportunity for re-appointing Mr. Chinn if he cared to. Did he re-appoint Mr. Chinn? It was worth having a Select Committee of the Senate to consider my action in sacking Mr. Chinn on the advice of my responsible adviser because I was a partisan - a grossly unfair and malicious person - who had “ fired “ a man simply on the ground that he was a most valuable member of the organization of my honorable friends opposite.
– Was the Senate the body which pronounced the verdict before the evidence was taken?
– Of course; but my honorable friends opposite were firing off at public meetings innuendoes and suggestions of gross partisanship on my part. Did they give any preference to Mr. Chinn after they got back to office?
– We never mentioned him.
– You never mentioned him.
– No fear!
– What happened when “ Brother “ de Largie was sitting in judgment on his brother investor in land in Western Australia? Was there any reference in this chamber at the attempt on the part of all these genial gentlemen opposite to come to the rescue of a young, uninitiated Minister who was merely dumbly trying to do his duty ?
– T stood by you like a rock.
– My honorable friend floats better than that - more like wood, I should say. If all these items of my political past were fit subjects for a nonconfidence motion, and afforded a fitting opportunity for the display of. invective and slander, to which this House was treated during the nine months or so-
– They would not let you speak when you were over here; they kept you out. ‘
– The only man “ kept put,” I fancy, was my honorable friend, whom I should like to congratulate’ on the fact that, all the time he “was posing as a martyr, he systematically and enthusiastically drew his pay. When’ he was put<out ‘he stayed out, because he thought it was good politics, and he drew his pay because he thought it was good business.
– He was right in both cases.
– And then he came back and made the first mistake in his life when he asked, I think, “Brother” Thomas to have the records expunged. That is the one mistake he has made in his political career; and the one thing he did to achieve fame was to be flung out of that door.
– Order !
– I admit the disorderliness of this discussion, for whatever we may think of the honorable member privately, he is whitewashed so far as the House is concerned. Before I resume my seat, I should just like to refer to two matters.First, I have to ask the Minister of Home Affairs, when the subject to which I referred earlier does come before us, to produce all the papers and documents that he can produce in connexion with the matter - all the papers in connexion with the railway deviation works, the estimates of the cost, and so forth. I have a deep feeling thatthere has been an extreme absence of candour on the part of the present Minister in this connexion.
– You think that I am like yourself?
– God forbid! The Minister of Home Affairs is a most excellent Australian ; . hut there are differences between us, for which I have no doubt he is just as profoundly thankful as I am myself - such is human vanity. I think, however, that the honorable gentleman has been the reverse of frank in this matter, and I ask him to “ lay all his cards on the table.” All of us regard this as a non-party question, and we only desire to get the full facts.
Mr.Fisher. - Get it going.
– That is the main thing. I now desire to refer to the very great feeling of insecurity from which the white residents of Papua are suffering. Honorable’ members may remember my referring, in this House, to the extraordinary delays that have taken place in dealing with the murderers, or alleged murderers, of a white man who was murdered ‘ some nine or ten months ago in’ the Possession. When the accused were brought in, one of them escaped, and the trial has been hanging over and boggling ever since. The native mind is, in its way, quick to learn and quick to forget; and it may possibly learn the lesson that no longer is the prestige of the Government sufficient to protect the white residents scattered and isolated throughout Papua. “When we took over the Possession, so successful had the government of that country been under the British Crown, that it was the boast of Papua that a white man might walk throughout the length and breadth of the country with no arms but a walking-stick, and yet be safe. What is the position today? Following on the extraordinary dilatoriness of the local Administration in the first case, we have had a whole series of murders in the last few months. And on whom have these murders been committed? On mining prospectors, who, from the very nature of their occupation, must necessarily be far from centres of population.
– Are you going to blame the Labour party for that?
– Here is a man starting to squeal before any charge is made. All I say is that, owing- to the administration for which the Minister is responsible–
– I thought it was leading up to that.
– I thought it was clear to everybody that if we are to have responsible government at all, 1 we must look to the responsible heads to remedy such wrongs. Even the honorable member for Fawkner, I am proud to think, can see that point. In the time of Captain Barton, there was, X think, one murder of a white by natives; and in the time of Governor Le Hunte there was not a single murder of the kind.
– There were no miners at that particular time.
– Oh, yes, there were. However, what is happening under the present Administration? Papua has been governed under various Federal Administrations, but, at the present time, we are having a regular crop of murders.
– What are the dates of the murders?
– I have a pretty long list here.
– Give us as many murders as you can get into your’ time!
– My irrepressible friend would make a jest even of this insecurity of our white fellows in Papua. But things must be getting pretty serious in Papua when the white residents there find it necessary to send a special representative to Melbourne to represent their case.
– What are the dates and the number ? I know nothing at all about the matter. It is the first time I have heard that people have been murdered there.
– I could search these documents iand satisfy the AttorneyGeneral; but I do not wish to detain the House at any length. If the AttorneyGeneral desires, I shall hand the dpcument to him-
– I would rather hear the facts viva voce.
– The “Attorney-General always seems to adopt the most difficult course.
– I am afraid that these murders took place before the time of the present Government. Is that not it?
– Not a single murder during the last year but happened, of course, in the time of the honorable member. The first murder I heard of was that of a man named Macintosh, a prospector, who met his death in August or September, 1914. That was, I think, in the time of the late Government; but the trials have been hanging over ever since.
– The point is that this man was murdered in the, time of the late Government.
– And you refuse to try’ the murderers in your time.
– Perhaps we cannot catch them.
– This may be a new form of preference to unionists, but it is a lamentable thing for the white residents. Following close upon the murder of Macintosh, we find a whole series - ‘ a regular epidemics - considering the few white residents in the country. The next case was that of Harry Ballott, the news of whose murder reached Port Moresby in March, 1915. I shall hand the AttorneyGeneral this document without detaining honorable members by reading it. It has been sent by a resident of Papua, and gives the dates and all particulars of each case.
– I suggest that ‘the honorable member hand it’ to- the Minister of1 External Affairs. * . aw*
– What reliance can be placed on this document?
– I think my honorable friend may accept as absolutely correct the statement set forth.
– Are these murders known to the Minister - are they public property ?
– I should think so; and I have asked the Minister to lay on the table all documents having reference to them.
– Is there any suggestion that the Administrator is not impartial or competent ?
– What I want to say is that there is something wrong with the administration. There is no doubt about that.
– There is no interference with the administration.
– I think one of the things affecting the administration is that, rightly or wrongly, we have come to look upon Papua in the -light of our local political conditions1 in Australia. The only people in the population of this’ community that are in any way interested in Papua are missionary societies and other bodies of men, carrying out a very noble work in Papua. But we have also to consider the white residents of Papua, and in the desire to conciliate and consider these missionary enterprises, I think the administration of Papua has gone a little bit over the odds in not following up the native crimes against white residents. I say that without any fear of contradiction.
– A more humane man never had control of a black race.
– I do not take it as an evidence of humanity to allow the murderers of whites in that possession to escape unpunished.
– I should like..to call the honorable .< /gentleman’s attention to thai opening statement in this paper - that
– If the honorable Minister will look at the last page, he will see that three of the four have taken place during the present administration, but I am not bothering about that aspect.
– If there had been only one it would have been just as much to the point, providing the murderers could have been apprehended and were not.
– In this particular case the murderers were apprehended, and a trial has been hanging fire backwards and forwards ever since. If we are going to deal with the native mind at all, we must act quickly. Its memory is too short to be bothered about a thing nine or ten months old, after the idea of punishment has been forgotten.
– I suppose they have been imprisoned.
– That is regarded as almost an honour in Papua. It increases a man’s experience of the world. There is no hardship to a Papuan in imprisonment. They are well fed, well kept, and properly so; but the one point I wish to emphasize is that if you allow these murderers ito roam unpunished in Papua the lives of all the prospectors there will be in danger.
– There is a worse danger than that in Papua. They want to introduce Chinese.
– Nobody is suggesting that.
– You do not know much about Papua, then.
– That question is not raised at the present moment. I will ask my honorable friend not to allow his judgment to be biased by the thoughts of what this or that man in Papua may want. We have control of the situation here, and I take it that our first principle will be to govern Papua primarily for the Papuans; but to, at least, see that Australians are safe when they are in an Australian possession. That is all I urge, but I believe that, in the extreme desire to consider the welfare, morally and otherwise, of the Papuan, there has been a tendency to treat him as though he were a child, and almost lead him to think that he can commit murder with impunity.
– Have you been there?
– No, I have not; but r I am prepared to take the word of those who live there, and the facts as I see them. And it is on that that I am basing my opinion. I think I am on safer ground in doing that than by taking the opinion of anybody who has stayed at Government House for a week or two. I ask my honorable friend to put a stop to the procrastinating methods of the Executive in that possession.
– I would be wanting in the duty that devolves upon me in the absence of the Minister if I allowed the statement made by the honorable member reflecting upon the Administrator of Papua to pass-
An Honorable Member. - A very good man.
– Even if he were not a good man such a statement ought not to be allowed to go. He is a competent, capable officer in every respect, both in the legal and administrative sense, and any suggestion that any action on the part of this Ministry or any Ministry permitted unfair treatment, either to whites or to blacks, is a reflection not only on the Administrator, but- on the Government which’ allows him to remain there.
– I cannot help it if the facts are a reflection on the Administrator. I did not bother about the personality of the Administrator at all. I was dealing with the facts:
– Yes. But’ statements of that kind can only be made on evidence which the honorable member must be able more or less to vouch for.
– The evidence will be with the Minister of External Affairs if he cares to give it. He would not produce it to-day.
– If the honorable . member for Wentworth will kindly read his proof he will notice a number of observations reflecting upon the Administrator for permitting laxity, and so on, and for permitting cases that were already lodged and prepared to remain without being brought to an issue. No graver charge could be brought against any one than the charge that evidence was there, and that the authorities would not proceed to the trial.
– I did not . say they ‘ would not proceed with the trial. I said nobody had- been punished for the crime.
I can tell the honorable member when the trial was entered upon.
– That may be so, but all that is a charge against either the competency or fairness of the Administrator himself. He is, I think, in Australia now.
– I say the character of the Administrator has no bearing on this question.
– An attack has been made upon him.
– He may be the best man that ever was, but if he has acted as the honorable member for Wentworth says, then he is unfitted for that work. I do not believe it. I have had no evidence of it. In all my experience he Kas been singularly successful, in my opinion, in his administration, but I cannot go any further. I have no right to go any further until I get evidence.
– My charge is against the Administration, but you have chosen to bring in a particular person occupying the position of Administrator. The charge is that there was a murder trial, which was not concluded for months, and months, and months, that there have been since an outcrop of murders, and that the whites in Papua are gravely concerned at the result.
– The honorable member knows that there are epidemics of all kinds of things. Sometimes we have years and years of freedom, and then a number of murders or robberies or fires occur, as though these things came in cycles; but that is not the question involved. The question involved is “Is the Administrator capable, is he fair, is he judicial, is he competent, is he carrying out the duties for the discharge of which he was appointed?” Since the time of his appointment I have heard nothing derogatory to his ability, or to his desire to temper justice with mercy. Until I hear something further, I will not deem it to be my duty, in the absence of the Minister, to make further remarks. I can only say this : The Administrator is in Australia, and it will be the Minister’s duty, and the Attorney-General’s duty, to look into these matters.
– Will the Prime Minister promise that’ the representative specially sent down- by the Papuan white resident shall have ari Opportunity of stating1 his case to the Minister as to the reason for these recent murders?
– I think it is a fair thing to take local evidence.
– This Government will hear any application from any part . of Australia over which we have control, or from any person who can give information that will help to elucidate or bring out all the facts, especially in regard to the administration of justice.
– Nobody has charged anybody with injustice to the persons charged. I can assure the right honorable gentleman that that question is not raised. The point is that, through slackness in settling a case, there has, inferentially, arisen an outcrop of murders. That is the charge I make.
– Honorable members will see that the gravamen of my honorable friend’s charge is disappearing.
– Not in the least. If my honorable friend misconceives me, he can hardly blame me.
– I hope I have not misunderstood the honorable member. Again and again he returns to the charge that the Administrator was not active - that he was, practically, not just.
– I said that the policy was unjust to the white man. The Administration was not active. You deliberately turned “ Administration “ into “ Administrator,” and have made a dash to defend a man who is not attacked.
– The Administrator has not been interfered with in any way whatever in the discharge of his duties, nor, as far as I know, has a single representation been made, or any allegation of a representative character, that throws any doubt at all on the integrity of or the ability of the Administrator to carry out his duties, judicial and administrative.
– You are the first person who has raised the question.
– Due inquiry will be made, and every facility given to those who have evidence to give, with a view to discover whether such statements as have been made by the honorable gentleman are in accordance with the facts.
– The question has no personal application. I have made no charges . against the Administrator; but if . my right honorable> friend, wishes to helpme.in this matter-
– I think you did.
– The honorable member may look at my Hansard proof, and ha will see that no charges against the Administrator have been made. What I wish to make perfectly clear is this : My charge is that an outcrop of murders has occurred since the extraordinary delays in punishing the murderers of a particular white man named Macintosh. If the right honorable gentleman will hold an inquiry into that, no one will be better pleased.
– I will help you.
– As a matter of personal explanation, Mr. Speaker, may I say that no one would regret it more than I should, if the Prime Minister were to start an inquiry into the capacity of any officer. I have not mentioned any officer through the whole course of my remarks.
.- I congratulate the Prime Minister on the attitude he has adopted towards the remarks of the honorable member. I confess that I was under the impression that he was making a charge against the Administrator - which Administrator I do not know.
– The Administrator is called the Governor up there. “ Administration “ was the word I used.
– Both Judge Murray and Mr. Staniforth Smith are in charge, and they are men who hold in every respect the confidence of a great number of people of this country. I have never heard any charge made against either of them until to-night, and I was sorry to hear the remarks of the honorable member.
– Was there any charge made by me to-night?
– I confess I took the. same view as the Prime Minister. The honorable member repeatedly said that there was some lax administration there.
– I say so now.
– Who is responsible for that? The Administrator.
– The man’s name is the Governor.
– Governor or Administrator, it is one and the same. The honorable member should know that. All I can say is that it appeared to my mind that a charge was being made against Judge Murray or Mr. Staniforth Smith; and I say the Prime Minister wouldhave been lacking in his duty, or any Minister would have been lacking in his duty, if he had not defended them against the very serious statements made by the honorable member. It is common rumour that there is some gentleman here, down from New Guinea, desirous of making representations on behalf of the people of New Guinea. If they think that they are suffering an injustice, that is a very proper course for them to take. But it is wrong to make charges in this House against officials who have no opportunity to reply to them here, and I unhesitatingly say that charges were inferentially made against Judge Murray and Mr. Staniforth Smith. Having regard to my knowledge of those two gentlemen, I am surprised that the honorable member for Wentworth should have spoken as he did. I hope that the Prime Minister will call upon him to substantiate his statements.
– I shall be very happy to do so. If the honorable member really wishes to go into the matter, I shall be pleased to see him a member of a Select Committee to deal with it. Let us test this “bluff.”
-I have no desire to be a member of . such a Select Committee. My knowledge of these two men leads me to believe that they do not require the services of any one on a Select Committee to defend them.
– The honorable member must have some secret reason.of his own for defending men who have not been attacked.
– I know Mr. Staniforth Smith personally, but I know Judge Murray only by repute. I do not think that they should be attacked in this House unless some definite charge is made against them. The Government would not be worth their sah. if they did not accept the honorable member’s challenge, and hear what this man from New Guinea has to say.
– I want that done.
– I do not wish to make this a personal matter between the honorable member and myself. Mr. Staniforth Smith, I am sure, would not be guilty of anything of the kind to which the honorable member has referred.
– No one has said that he would. I charged the Administration with laxity, and if the honorable member had any sense he would recognise that that is a very proper thing to do.
-I recognise, of course, that the honorable member has a monopoly of the common sense of the House. I have no wish, however, to quarrel with him. I rose principally to refer to a matter of more importance, and that is the building of the Federal Capital. Will the Minister of Home Affairs explain why he has failed to follow up the action of his predecessor, who, when he retired from office, was arranging to call for competitive designs for various public buildings required at the Capital? The honorable gentleman has told us that he has postponed the invitation to send in these designs, and I should like now to know when he is going to “ get a move on “ in regard to them. Hundreds of men are looking for employment, and there is ample scope for them at the Federal Capital. When is the honorable gentleman going to make some serious effort to push on with public works up there? I should also like to ask him what is being done in regard to the proposed railway from Yass to the Capital and Jervis Bay.’ We do not seem to be able to get beyond the trial survey stage. This railway must be made, quite apart from any question of whether or not it will pay, and we have now a splendid opportunity to enter upon its construction, seeing ‘that many men are out of work. Will the Minister also tell the House1 why’ ‘ variations have been made in . the route originally proposed for the railway between Canberra and Jervis Bay. The first trial survey brought the route of the proposed line within a few miles of the important town of Braidwood, but for some reason that I have been unable to ascertain, a variation has been made on two or three occasions, and the rights of the people of Braidwood have been utterly ignored. I shall insist on something being done, so that fair and reasonable consideration as regards the route of railway shall be given to these folks, who have pioneered the wilderness and waited a lifetime for the blessings and benefits of railway communication. Why should it be proposed to take the line further and further away from that town? That is- -not the sort of treatment that should be meted out to1’ people of a country town, and I ask that ‘someconsideration be extended to them. Ugly rumours are afloat regarding the reasons for this deviation, and, in the interests of the Department, the Minister should clear them up. It seems to me that no progress has been made with the building of the Capital since the late Government left office, and that public works there are practically at a stand-still. I wish now to bring before the PostmasterGeneral the position of mail contractors, many of whom are being ruined owing to the high price of fodder. The honorable gentleman told us the other day that he would be glad to receive suggestions as to what should be done in the matter. I do not know that it is our mission to make suggestions to him, but I think that where it is shown that a contractor has honestly endeavoured to observe the terms of his contract, any fines imposed upon him for being behind time should be remitted. Instead of refusing to give these men any consideration, the PostmasterGeneral should inquire fully into their position, and should give them an opportunity to throw up their contracts if they desire to do so. Many have taken contracts which, having regard to the present price of fodder, are ruinously low. Business men were induced to act as bondsmen for them, and are now being called upon to pay. I have a case in mind. It relates to the mail contract between Cooma, Nimmitabel, and Bega. The contractor^ a, Mr. Ah Kin,- was backed by two reputable residents,. Mr. Keys and Mr. Gorman, and they were called upon to complete the contract. They carried it out; but the PostmasterGeneral, who professes to be a generoushearted man, has refused to remit the fines that have been imposed on the contractor and paid by the sureties, although the rates that are now being paid under new contracts show that the mails were being carried under the old contracts at practically one-half the price that ought to be paid. It is easy for the honorable gentleman to sit back in his comfortable chair in the Department and to invite us to make suggestions; but I would remind him that when he was on this side of the House he was ready enough to talk for these men. Let him do something more than indulge, in mere talk.- His Department seems- to me to be reeking with trouble,,..and some change must be made.
– The honorable member is now on a good wicket.
– Perhaps so. At the same time, I recognise that it is an easy matter to criticise the administration of a Department, and hard to find a remedy. I would also bring before the Postmaster-General the case of a Mr. C. Wiley, a respected resident of Kangaroo Valley, who was promised by the Hon. George Fuller, when he held office as Minister of Home Affairs, a sum of £50 for additions to a post office in the district, but who, because that promise was not put into writing, is refused this payment by the present Minister. Mr. Fuller’s personal word is as good as a bond, and, as he admits the justice of Mr. Wiley’s claim, the Minister should honour the exMinister’s promise, avoid repudiation, and do justice to Mr. Wiley by paying what is due to him. The honorable gentleman has a big majority behind him ; but he is not likely to endear himself to the people in such a way as to retain that majority if he continues to take up this attitude. Whilst speaking in this way, I am free to confess that it is very difficult for the honorable gentleman’ to acquire a personal ‘knowledge of every small matter relating to so big a Department as that over which he presides; but I appeal to him to play the game, more particularly in regard to mail contractors, and to realize that they are^in a tight corner. They tendered for “the carriage of mails at a time when fodder was at about one-third its present price, and many of them now have ruin staring them in the face. When asked to relieve them of their contracts, the Postmaster-General says that to do so would be to create a bad precedent. The necessities of the situation, however, demand that action should be taken, and the honorable gentleman ought not to hesitate, in the circumstances, to set up a new precedent. I make these observations in no carping spirit. The matters to which I have referred may seem to be of small moment so far as Ministers are concerned; but they are momentous issues to the persons directly interested. The Minister of Home Affairs, like the Postmaster-General, cannot be expected to have a personal knowledge of every little detail of his Department; but I appeal to him to take the reins into his own hands, and to say to the officials at the Federal Capital: “We must have definite surveys and plans, and must push on with the work of building the Capital.” I hope that he will deal with the matters to which I have referred.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- When the Land Tax Assessment Bill was before the House, the Attorney-General was very sympathetic in respect to some of the proposals that were then made to him. It Will be remembered that one of the requests made to him was that those who pay the graduated land tax should have the right of appeal against assessments to a Court sitting in their own districts. During the debate a good deal of information was brought forward as to the position of these people. According to Mr. McKay, the Land Tax Commissioner, the graduated land tax is paid by something like 15,000 persons, and of this number there are 11,530, or about 80 per cent., who . are paying on properties less than £10,000 in value, in these cases the individual amount of taxation involved being from £1 to £35. These people think that, instead of their having to travel to Melbourne or Sydney and take a host of witnesses with them, the Government should take into consideration the advisability of establishing courts of appeal within their respective towns. There is no reason why these appeals should not be heard before ordinary police or stipendiary magistrates. Appeals from municipal and shire taxation are heard before such magistrates and the same privilege should be allowed in the case of appeal against the land tax. The honorable member for Wilmot the other day asked the Attorney-General when he was going to bring down a short Bill to give this relief to the land-owners, and the AttorneyGeneral replied that he knew nothing about the matter; but I think he must have forgotten the promise he gave on the 15th December last, when he is reported in Hansard to have said -
Obviously, on the representations put forward by the honorable member for Richmond, the Act needs amendment, and, assuming the case to be as he has said, I agree with hiin that greater facilities for appeal should be given to the taxpayers. That the sums involved are often small is not to the point; the taxpayers have a right to speedy justice. Still, I ask the _honorable member not to press the amendment. I shall discuss the matter with the Land Tax Commissioner, and if I find that the facts are as the honorable member baa represented them to be, or in any degree approaching it, an amendment of the Act will be proposed in due course to provide greater facilities for appeal. I do not know yet whether stipendiary or police magistrates should be appointed to hear appeals, but if, as the honorable member for Richmond has said, appeals from valuations under Local Government Acts are heard by those magistrates, there seems no reason why appeals from valuations under this Act should not also go before them. When the House meets again, and the Amending Assessment Bill is introduced, a clause will be drafted to deal with this matter.
There are 1,027 appeals, but only four have been set down for hearing, showing that the Court has broken down with its own weight, and that it is absolutely congested. I find that 718 of these appeals are to be heard in New South Wales. I cannot see why the Government should not allow the appeals to be heard before magistrates. In that way, they could be swept away by being dealt with in one day. I do not deal with the matter of the equity of the tax, as honorable members know that I am opposed to the principle of a graduated land tax; but that principle having been adopted by the country, the people who are paying the tax should have the privilege of having their appeals tried locally; in other words, justice should be brought to their doors.
– The honorable member was good enough to refer this matter to me before he rose to speak, and I have perused what I said in December last. The Land Tax Commissioner has made certain representations for amendments of the Land Tax Assessment Act, and to-morrow I shall see how far they meet what the honorable member complains of, and bow far the’ statements made by the honorable member for Richmond in December last are correct. I can assure the honorable member for Calare that I am of the same opinion now as I was then, and that if the facts are as stated by the honorable member, and also by the honorable member for Richmond, greater facilities for appeal should be granted, and will be granted.
– I would not have risen at this late hour except upon a grave matter. I wish to refer once again to the very regrettable case of the death of Private Dancocks, of Casterton. The report of the InspectorGeneral, Colonel Legge, has been read in the House. I have with me a complete statement by the relatives and friends of the deceased, which, in many respects, is in direct conflict with the departmental report. At this late hour, it would not be advisable to go into the whole of the details of the case. or the evidence; but, in effect, this evidence discloses a want of the necessary comforts, almost an absolute deficiency of necessary death-bed comforts, if I may put it so, at any rate a great nursing deficiency, particularly in the case of Private Dancocks, and in many other cases referred to. The facts are rather alarming. First of all, the deceased was not lying upon a bed in tha ordinary sense; he was lying on two or three blankets on a wire mattress, and the pillow was provided by his relatives, not by the Department. The facts placed before me by the relatives are of such a nature that I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence whether he will appoint a Commissioner to investigate the matter.
– Not a departmental officer.
– No. I want to see a Judge, or some one with an unbiased mind, appointed. I do not set out to prejudge the case. I simply make the statement that the evidence of - the relatives and close friends of the deceased is diametrically opposed to the findings in the report of Colonel Legge.
– Has the Minister of Defence seen the evidence that you have?
– Some of the facts have been brought under his notice.
– Have all of them ?
– No, not all. In this Chamber we have not that direct recourse to the Minister which it is often felt we should have. We have, however, what is next best, an Assistant Minister, and I ask him now whether he can give me an assurance that an independent Commissioner will be appointed to investigate this- case, and see that a similar occurrence is not possible? Otherwise I shall have to take other action, which I should regret to have to take.
– I cannot give that promise until I have some idea of the nature of the evidence which you possess in rebuttal of the statement made here by myself. If I see that the matter is serious, I shall certainly take action.
– The Minister does not suppose that I would waste the time of the House, or my own time, in- dealing with a matter that is not serious. If the Minister had seen the file, he would have known that this is more than a serious matter; it is an alarming matter. I would not be associated with any matter that would amount to something in the nature of discouraging enlistment, uuless it was a very grave affair.
– You have not handed me the papers- to peruse, yet you ask me to appoint a Commission.
– Many of the facts have been supplied to the Minister in answer to the report of the InspectorGeneral. Will the Assistant Minister give the assurance that he will confer with the Minister of Defence?
– Yes. If you give me the ‘ whole- of those papers, I promise that I will consult with him.
– Most of the statements I have made are already on record on the file. If the Minister gives me the assurance that he will go fully into the matter -with the Minister of Defence, I shall be satisfied for the time being.
– Certainly, I give that assurance.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
A communication has been received from the Imperial Government to the effect that they have no confirmation of. the statement made by cable that an Australian submarine has’ been lost.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150513_reps_6_76/>.