6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
. -With the permission of the House, I wish to make a statement.
– Some days ago, the honorable member for Bourke, speaking in this chamber, made a very serious attack on Colonel Lee, the Commandant of the State of Queensland, and it is my duty to place the House in possession of the facts of the case. The honorable member charged Colonel Lee with having embezzled £700. This is an extract from a speech which he made on Thursday last-
When the Board dealt with Sergeant Anderson, it said, “Tour receipts are bogus, we shall not receive them;” but Colonel Fry’s receipts were accepted as genuine, and he was allowed to escape. Following the Board of Inquiry came the court martial. When I read the list of officers constituting the court martial, my mind went back a few years in the history of this country, and I wondered what justice could be expected from a body so constituted.
– Shall I, too, be per mitted to quote from Hansard?
– The House granted the Assistant Minister leave to make a statement, and, no doubt, if the honorable member desires to make a statement on the same subject, the House will allow him to do so.
– To continue the quotation -
Its president was an officer who some years ago was called upon by the New South Wales Government to account for £700 that had been advanced to him. At the time he was a major. His reply was that the advance had been £300 in hard cash, not £700, and that he had receipts from his predecessor for the balance of £400. Ho could not account for a penny of the £300, however, and it was discoverd afterwards that he had received the great bulk of the £400 for which he said he had obtained receipts from his predecessor. Out of £700 he stuck to £611. A Board of Inquiry was. appointed to investigate the case, its members being Colonel Waddell and Major T. F. Knox, one of whom boasted that he was manager of the Colonial Bank, and the other that he was managing director of Dalgety and Company.
Further on in the same speech the honorable member said -
It is the man against whom these charges were made - Colonel, then Major, Lee - who was appointed president of the court martial constituted to try the Rabaul cases. He embezzled £611 of the money of the New South Wales Government.
Those statements constitute the charge brought against Colonel Lee by the honorable member for Bourke. I have before me the report of a Board which investigated ten charges levelled at Major Lee, as he then was. The inquiry was held in New South Wales, and each one of the charges was investigated by a Board consisting of three military officers and a private citizen nominated by the Government of New South Wales.
– What is the date of the report?
– The year is 1905. 1 shall read the charges, and the finding on each of them. When a public official has faced a Court of Law, and has come out of the inquiry with a clean reputation, it is only right that he should be protected on the floor of this House.
– I hope the Minister will give all the details.
– I shall read everything connected with the finding of the Court without omitting a word. These are the charges that were formulated -
Military forces opthe Commonwealth (New South Wales). - Inquiry investigating the unadjusted advance of ?700 made by the New South Wales Government to the Officer Commanding the New South Wales Lancers Contingent in South Africa.
Report. (Central Registry,. 02-1,079. D.A.G. 03-146.)
By memorandum dated Head-quarters, Melbourne, 15th September, 1903, the D.A.G. and the C.S.O. addressed the General Officer Commanding the Commonwealth Military Forces of New South Wales as follows : -
In continuation of this office memorandum of the 23rd June, 1903, in connexion with the unadjusted advance of ?700 by the New South Wales Government to Major and Brevet LieutenantColonel Lee, D.S.O., as the Officer Commanding the late New South Wales Lancers Contingent in South Africa, I am directed by the General Officer Commanding to request that you will take the necessary steps for ‘assembling a Board, composed of the following officers : -
President : Colonel G. W. Waddell, Commanding 2nd New South Wales Infantry Regiment.
Members : Lieutenant-Colonel Knox, late New South Wales Lancers; LieutenantColonel Stanley, Royal Australian Artillery ; a member to be selected by the Premier of New South Wales.
The General Officer Commanding desires you will also, in accordance with paragraph 3 of the above-quoted memorandum, place yourself in communication with the Principal Under-Secretary of the State of New South Wales, with the view to the nomination of a member of the Board by the Premier of New South Wales.
The Board will be assembled to investigate the following statements mode by the Chief Inspector of Public Accounts, New South Wales, in a minute dated Sydney, 8th August last, as follows : -
The sum of ?700 was remitted by this State to South Africa for advance on account of pay only of the Lancers.
That the officers and men of the de tachment of Lancers, having been paid in full by the Government of this State, the whole of the said sum of ?700 should have been refunded by Major Lee to the Treasury incash.
That Major Lee has only refunded ?89 10s. 6d. in cash to the Treasury of New South Wales.
That Major Lee’s Staff sergeant-major (Winch) states that out of ?400 advanced by Lieutenant-Colonel Cox to officers and men, he (S.S.M. Winch) recovered ?345, which he gave to Major Lee.
That Major Lee wilfully misled the Chief Inspector of Public Accounts by stating that Lieutenant-Colonel Cox had to account for ?195, Major Lee having given Lieutenant-Colonel Cox a receipt covering this amount, which Lieutenant-Colonel Cox produced to the Chief Inspector of Public Accounts on his return.
That Lieutenant- Colonel Cox handed Major Lee, in South Africa, a statement showing ?400 advanced by him as paid to officers and men, to be recovered, and cash, ?300, in adjustment of the ?700.
That Major Lee deposited the ?300 to his credit in the Standard Bank of South Africa on 21st December, 1890, and which he improperly used to pay messing accounts and to make advances to himself and officers; and that on the 24th February; 1900, Major Lee drew cheques for ?20 and ?40, for which he has not accounted.
That Major Lee improperly advanced ?3, on 30th March, 1900, to “ Banjo “ Paterson.
Neglecting, on his return with Lieu tenant-Colonel Cox to New South Wales, in January, 1901, to arrange for the repayment of ?700 tothe Treasury.
Illegally retaining ?55 15s. 6d., part of the ?700, from the date of his return to Sydney (January, 1901), to the 2nd November, 1901.
G. Hoad, Col., D.A.G. and C.S.O.
This was the finding -
Under date Sydney, 10th October, 1903, the Under-Secretary, Chief Secretary’s Department, New South Wales, addressed the Commandant,’ Commonwealth Military Forces, New South Wales, advising that Mr. Ernest Hanson, Director of Government Asylums, had been appointed by the Premier of New South Wales to act as a member of the Board.
The court was opened at Victoria Barracks, Sydney, on Monday, 14th December, 1903, and the taking of evidence was commenced on Tuesday, 15th December, continuing on Wednesday, 16th, Thursday, 17th, and Friday, 18th December, 1903.
Mr. G. E. Brodie, Chief Inspector of Public Accounts, appeared to submit the case on behalf of the Government of New South Wales.
Mr.G. W. Ash, solicitor, appeared (by consent of the court) on behalf of Major and Brevet Lieut.-Colonel Lee, D.S.O.
Major and Brevet Lieut.Colonel Lee, D.S.O., was present throughout the inquiry.
Mr. Brodie called seven witnesses in support of the case for the Government of New South Wales, and also gave evidence himself. Lieut.-Colonel Lee gave evidence on his own behalf, and called two Witnesses in support.
The taking of evidence, which was most searching, the right of examination and crossexamination being allowed and freely availed of on both sides, having concluded, the Court was addressed by Mr. Ash and byMr. Brodie.
A full transcript of the shorthand notes taken throughout accompanies this report. the evidence having been signed by the various witnesses, who at the time of giving their evidence were informed that, should the court so desire, they might be called upon to make a statutory declaration as to the truth of the evidence given by them.
The charges, as set out in the abovementioned memorandum of the Chief Inspector of Public Accounts, numbered 1 to 10, have been carefully considered with the evidence given “thereon, by the court, at twelve sittings, ,and the court have unanimously arrived at the following report and findings: -
This charge is not fairly set forth. A telegram of advice is misquoted. It reads, “ To pay men of the nuit,” and not “For pay only,” as stated in the charge.
Although the documents advising the remittance of £700 to the officer at that time commanding the Lancers Contingent in South Africa duly set forth that the amount in question was sent for the pay of the detachment, the court is of opinion that Lieut.Colonel Lee was entirely warranted in applying certain moneys, portion of this advance, towards making provision for the pressing needs of the officers and men of his command in the manner detailed in the evidence adduced. Further, the evidence shows that Lieut.-Colonel Lee had no instructions as to how the advance should be expended.
The framework of this charge is illogical and incorrect. It is affirmed that it was obligatory on Lieut.-Colonel Lee to return cash to the amount of. £700 to the Treasury, whereas it has never been even contended by the Government of New South Wales that at any period he was ever in possession of money to that amount. The court, therefore, is of opinion that this charge is entirely unsustained.
The Court is satisfied that the explanation offered from the evidence before it, that the amount handed to the Treasury, viz., £89 10s. 6d., representing the unexpended balance of the money Lieut.-Colonel Lee received and recovered out of £700 advance made to the officer commanding the Lancers should be accepted as’ a fair and equitable settlement under the circumstances set forth in evidence.
With reference to this charge, the court, at the outset, finds itself reluctantly compelled to place on record an expression of its opinion concerning the general unreliability of the evidence submitted by Staff Winch (retired).
The testimony, which WaS so unwillingly given by this witness, conveyed a decidedly unsatisfactory impression from every point of view. The documentary evidence on which this charge is sought to be established consists solely of two rough fragments of paper undated (marked “A” and “B”), prepared jointly by the witnesses Blow and Winch, purporting to disclose a statement of advances made to the detachment. That statement was admittedly made out from memory some eight months subsequent to the period of the initiatory and main transaction concerned, and the court is of opinion that there is no evidence to support Winch’s alleged statement that he handed the sum of £345 to Lieut.-Colonel Lee.
The court is quite satisfied that Lieut.-Colonel Lee did not “wilfully mislead” the Chief Inspector of Public Accounts. Lieut.-Colonel Lee’s receipt was not for £195, but for £8 15s. only, which sum forms the balance of Lieut.Colonel Cox’s unexpended cash. The £195 referred to was part of the moneys advanced by Lieut.-Colonel Cox to the officers and men before Lieut.-Colonel Lee took command, and, furthermore, the court is of opinion _that the receipt above referred to did not constitute a release.
There is no satisfactory proof before the court that any statement showing an amount of £400, or any other sum advanced by Lieut.Colonel Cox as paid to the officers and men and to be recovered, was ever handed to Lieut.Colonel Lee in South Africa, as stated in the charge.
The court finds that Lieut.-Colonel Lee did not deposit the £300, as stated in the charge, to his credit in the Standard Bank of South Africa.
The sum in question was actually lodged to the Official Regimental Account, and it is clearly shown in evidence that all withdrawals made therefrom were for the sole use and benefit of the officers and men of the New South Wales Lancers. Under special circumstances, disclosed in the foregoing, the court is decidedly of opinion that Lieut.Colonel Lee was quite justified in drawing on this money for pay and advances.
The court regards this charge as trivial, and it has been satisfactorily explained by the evidence of Mr. A. B. Paterson.
The court recognises the fact that officially there was delay, to some extent, on the part of Lieutenant-Colonel Lee in failing to adjust the matter of this advance immediately on his return from South Africa. In this connexion, however, cognisance should be taken of the special demands made by the Government upon this officer’s time and attention at this particular period in respect to the training and despatch of further contingents for service in the war. It is likewise clear that Lieutenant-Colonel Lee was further impeded in the task of adjusting his accounts with the Government of New South Wales by the necessity of fulfilling similar obligations towards the Imperial pay authorities at the same time.
The court, therefore, is of opinion that no charge of substantive neglect in the direction indicated can be established.
The court, having in view the gravity of the offence set forth in this charge, cannot but express its very deep regret that it was ever so preferred. No doubt, if Lieutenant-Colonel Lee had been a business man, and seized with the official routine connected with Departments, he would have handed over this money at once; but, in view of the unsettled condition of his accounts, he, it seems, considered it would be sufficient to hand this comparatively small sum in on the final adjustment. When called upon, he at once handed it over from a place of safe-keeping in his regimental office, showing he had derived no personal benefit from the retention of this money; and it should be borne in mind that at this time the Government was in his debt for war gratuities to the extent of £125 to £150.
The statements in evidence, supported by a sworn affidavit of Lieutenant-Colonel Lee attached to this report, go to show that the unadjusted balance of the Imperial pay, £5,364, and the New South Wales advance of £700, in all £6,064, which moneys had been mixed and handled together, represent disbursements for which vouchers have been lost or not taken, advances and pay to the troops unrecovered, or for which no vouchers were held, and general leakages inseparable from such a campaign. Lieutenant-Colonel Lee, in his affidavit above referred to, has also sworn that upwards of £200 of his own salary went in helping to provide necessaries for the troops, of which he has no hope of recovery.
While, under ordinary circumstances, it would be the plain duty of an officer intrusted with public moneys to properly and fully vouch for their disbursement, and the failure to do so would be a most reprehensible dereliction of: duty, the court, after very careful and exhaustive consideration of the evidence, has come to the conclusion that, under the very exceptional circumstances surrounding the whole matter, the inability of LieutenantColonel Lee to produce vouchers for the disbursement of that portion of the said advance of £700 which came to his hand, as well as that portion previously disbursed and unvouched by Lieutenant-Colonel Cox, might be allowed, and that Lieutenant-Colonel Lee should not be held culpable or personally liable for them.
The court is of opinion that such money as has not been vouched for has been expended wholly and solely for the legitimate requirements of the detachment, on account of advances of pay, which the inability to keep proper accounts, and changes and constant movements of the men, had rendered impossible of collection; also the adjustment of Imperial pay accounts. Further, the court desires to emphasize its conviction that LieutenantColonel Lee has not personally benefited by any of the money’s, but has shown a willingness and desire to render every assistance to the Government of New South Wales in endeavouring to arrive at an adjustment.
In view of all the circumstances, the court recommends that the adjustment of the advance of £700 be made by dispensing with the production of vouchers for those portions of the advances unvouched for, and that the amount of the war gratuity due and payable to Lieutenant-Colonel Lee be no longer withheld from that officer.
In conclusion, the court desires to give expression to its regret that Lieutenant-Colonel Leo has been arraigned upon such slender and generally unsatisfactory evidence as that upon which the serious charges appear to have been based; and, furthermore, the court would take occasion to mark its disapproval of the highly impolitic, and, in some instances, intemperate phraseology in which the various indictments have been embodied. It is obvious that hasty and ill-advised conclusions have been arrived at without due consideration of facts and figures bearing upon the case.
It is likewise considered a matter for regret that more trouble had not been taken at the outset to sift the evidence submitted to the Audit Department by the witness Winch, inasmuch as it is clearly manifest that the authorities were entirely misled by the unreliable information furnished by him to the Chief Inspector of Public Accounts.
The court in its deliberations has not been unmindful of the fact that Lieutenant-Colonel Lee fought gallantly and well in the defence of the Empire in South Africa; also that ho rendered signal and valuable service to his country, and upheld the honour of New South Wales by the able and efficient manner in which he exercised his command over the detachment of Lancers despatched by that State for service against the Boers. It has been made manifest to the court that, whilst serving in General French’s column, the troops under Lieutenant-Colonel Lee’s command were kept continuously on the move, averaging, as one witness attested, up to seventeen hours daily in the saddle - fighting and marching - for periods extending for threeweeks at a time on occasions. This being the case, and having constantly and steadily in view the all- absorbing main issues of the campaign, viz., the discomfiture of the enemy and the safety and well-being of his men, it is quite intelligible to the court that Lieutenant-Colonel Lee might have been forced to neglect minor questions of accounts through lack of time and opportunity - such questions being, after all, only of small significance in relation to the paramount interest at stake.
Notwithstanding that the court has manifested its entire disagreement with the conclusions arrived at by the Chief Inspector of Public Accounts in respect to the matters at issue, and, furthermore, has taken very marked exception to the phraseology in which the various charges preferred against LieutenantColonel Lee have been embodied, it is still specially desirous of placing on record an expression of its opinion that Mr. Brodie has been actuated throughout the entire proceedings solely by a pure sense of duty towards the Government.
Dated at Sydney, New South Wales, this 28th day of January, 1904.
I lay on the table the document from which I have quoted.
– I have read both the charges and the findings.
.- I desire to move the adjournment of the House in order to discuss this matter.
– The honorable member must give notice in writing of such a motion. If, however, he desires to make a statement he may do so by leave of the House.
– In the first place, the Minister informed Parliament, the press, and the country that a court martial dealt with the case of Colonel Lee. There is not a word of truth in that statement. That is my first answer to the honorable gentleman. The report which the Assistant Minister of Defence has just -read to the House makes no reference to a court martial. The whole trouble in regard to Colonel Lee arose out of the refusal of Major-General Hutton to send him to a court martial. That is clear and distinct. All that the Assistant Minister of Defence has done has been to read the findings of a Board.
– On the charge, as made by the honorable member, that this officer had embezzled £611.
– Quite so.
– That is my duty.
– I very much question whether it is not as much the duty of a Minister to defend the lowest as to defend the highest member of the Forces.
– So I will.
– I have not heard any such defence from him.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the making of a reply to a statement made by a Minister. He is entitled, however, to make the fullest explanation regarding any statement contained in the document read by the Minister.
– The honorable member ought to allow his statement to remain in abeyance until we go into Committee of Supply. We shall do so in a few minutes, and the Opposition will give him the first gallop.
– Very well, I shall do that.
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question regarding the tenders called for the supply of motor cycles to the Postal Department - a matter which I brought under his notice a few days ago. It appears that there have been no specifications, and that a local firm of motor cycle manufacturers put in a tender for double cylinder machines, whereas it has come to their knowledge that the Department will be satisfied with single cylinder machines, so that they have not tendered on a fair basis with those who have offered to supply imported motor cycles of a cheaper grade. I therefore ask the Postmaster-General whether he will allow the tenders to be reopened, and specify whether single or double cylinder machines are required, so that all may tender on an equal footing 1
– I am unaware of what the specifications provided, but I shall make inquiries and advise the honorable member.
The following papers were presented : -
Offences by Natives. - Memorandum by the Lieutenant-Governor.
Trial by Jury - Papers relating to the question of.
Ordered to be printed.
Norfolk Island Act -
Ordinances of 1915 -
No. 1 - Importation of Animals.
No. 2 - Interpretation.
– The honorable member for Cowper yesterday asked whether the necessary pension forms will be made available at post-offices, and offices of Clerks of Petty Sessions, to wounded soldiers and those dependent on soldiers who have been killed. The Assistant Commissioner of Pensions, Mr. Collins, has supplied me with the following information -
We have sent a supply of war pension claim forms to every clerk of petty sessions in the Commonwealth, except to a few in outlying places in New South Wales, who are not registrars of pensions. We have not sent supplies to post-offices, because it has not been thought necessary to do so. It has been made widely known that the clerks of petty sessions who are registrars of pensions have been supplied, and it is believed that no claimant will have any difficulty in the matter.
Care of the Wounded at Cairo - “ Bantam “ Battalion - Missing PRIVATE - Alleged Court MARTIALLING and Shooting of Soldier - Charges for Birth Certificates - Soldiers’ Letters.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Assistant Minister of Defence to the following statements contained in a letter written by Dr. Colin Chisholm Ross, to his mother, of Berrystreet, North Sydney, from Gezireh’s Palace, Cairo, under date 1st May, and published in the Sydney Morning Herald of 31st ultimo: -
You cannot conceive how busy we have been here. We had only one and a half days to get ready to receive 250 patients, without a thing in the place, and have not had a moment, day or night. The poor wounded chaps have simply been arriving in thousands, and there are about 2,500 in Cairo at present. Have left Mena to come here and fix them up. I have only one other medical officer to help me.
Will the honorable gentleman cause inquiries to be made into these statements ?
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– An objection to the proposed bantam battalion has been that the trenches are too deep to allow of small men shooting out of them. Has the Assistant Minister of Defence seen an illustration in the latest Graphic to hand, in which that disability has been overcome in the way I suggested by making steps in the trenches? In view of this fact, will the Government reconsider their refusal to recruit a bantam battalion from Australia? I should also like to ask the Minister whether he is aware that the “War Office has authorized the formation of a bantam battalion at Glasgow, the minimum height being 5 feet?
– I shall be pleased to have a conversation with the Minister of Defence with regard to the first portion of the honorable member’s question. In regard to the second portion, I have seen a published statement that the formation of such a battalion has been authorized.
– Private William Casey, No. 109, of the 3rd Battalion of the 1st New South Wales Brigade, nominated his mother as next of kin. and she has received notice from the Department that her son is missing, whilst his sister in Western Australia has been advised that he is in Cairo. The mother has endeavoured to get information from the Department which will set her doubts at rest, and I should like the Assistant Minister of Defence to promise that the whereabouts of Private Casey will be ascertained, if possible?
– I shall have inquiries made. Yesterday the honorable member for Darwin asked me the following question : -
Will the Minister for the Navy make an inquiry as to the truth of a rumour that is circulating in Tasmania that a certain soldier caught sleeping in the sands of Egypt, after being tired out by the day’s work, was court martialled and shot? I wish to have the matter looked into.
In answer to the honorable member, I desire to say that section 98 of the Defence Act reads - “ No member of the Defence Force shall be sentenced to death by any court martial except for mutiny, desertion to the enemy, or traitorously delivering up to the enemy any garrison, fortress, post, guard, or ship, vessel, or boat, or traitorous correspondence with the enemy; and no sentence of death passed by any court martial shall be carried into effect until confirmed by the Governor-General.
No report has been received of such a case, and it is certain that if any such thing did occur, an immediate report would have been submitted to the Minister by the authorities. In order to prevent such disturbing rumours, which have a bad effect on recruiting, the honorable member is invited to supply the name of his informant to the Minister. Yesterday I promised the honorable member for
Grampians to have inquiries made into the matter of the charges for birth certificates levied on those receiving separation allowances. I have to state now that the State Government has been communicated with, and asked that the charges for birth certificates be waived, or, if that is not possible, that they be reduced.
.- With the permission of the House, I should like to make a statement regarding the arrangements that have been come to as to the collection and delivery of soldiers’ letters sent to and from Australia. The statement takes the form of the report of a conference between representatives of the Defence Department and representatives of the Postal Department. The report is as follows: -
Secretary, Postmaster-General’s Department.
In pursuance of arrangements made by the Department of Defence and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the following representatives of those Departments met at Victoria Barracks at 2.30 p.m. on the 26th May, 1915: -
Defence Department. - Captain H. D. Wynter, Director of Personnel, representing the Military Branch; Messrs. C. H. Spurgeon and G. Sharp, representing the Naval Branch.
Postmaster-General’s Department. - Messrs. A. J. Chapman, Assistant Supervisor Inland Mail Boom; and M. Moran, Assistant Supervisor Ship Mail Room.
With a view to improving the facilities for dealing with soldiers’ letters in Australia and facilitating their delivery in Egypt or elsewhere, the conference submits the following recommendations: -
Reinforcements, in accordance with tables to be supplied to the postoffice by the Defence Department.
That separate labelled bundles be made up for each Head-quarters Unit,Regiment of Light Horse, Brigade of Artillery, Company of Engineers, Battalion of Infantry, Company of Army Service Corps, Field Ambulance, and Line of Communication Unit, such bundles to be included in the bag which is set apart for the formation of which the Unit forms part.
That in order to facilitate delivery of soldiers’ letters addressed to Australia the Port Tewfic mail be opened before arrival at Melbourne, and the English mail T.P.O. sorters inward be empowered to separate soldiers’ letters from other correspondence, and that such letters be sent at once to their destination - only the ordinary correspondence in this mail being subject to censorship, provided that this course is acceptable from a censorship point of view.
The draft forms are attached to the report; and I might add that the censor has been consulted regarding the last paragraph. The forms are very complete, and a supply will be sent to the various divisions of the Forces in the hope that the arrangements arrived at will remove all difficulties.
– Will the Assistant
Minister of Defence say whether any necessity now exists for retaining the services of the censor at Thursday Island?
– I shall make inquiries, and give the honorable member a reply.
– As the Assistant Minister of Defence has been able to show that the statement made by the honorable member for Moreton in regard to the contract for the supply of bread to the Enoggera Camp was not correct, is he able to give any disproof of the statement made by the honorable member in regard to the Bread Combine who missed the order?
– I have received a communication from the secretary of the Bakers’ Employees Union in Brisbane wherein he gives an emphatic denial to the statement made by the honorable member for Moreton; and I have also a letter from the solicitors of Mr. W. Shead, the present contractor, denying the statement made by the honorable member for Moreton in regard to there being German shareholders in Mr. Shead’s bakery.
– Will the Assistant Minister of Defence state definitely what portion of my remarks was contradicted by the secretary of the Labour Union ?
– I should be pleased to read the whole of the correspondenceI have received from the solicitor and secretary of the union if the honorable member would like me to do so.
– Last week I asked the Assistant Minister of Defence a question in regard to the removal of the embargo on shipping entering Sydney Heads between sunset and sunrise, and the honorable member promised to lay the matter before the Min ister. Has anything yet been done in the direction of altering the present regulations ?
– That matter is under consideration by the naval authorities.
– I desire to make a personal explanation in reference to a report that appeared in the Age of the 27th May, and a statement which appeared in a letter published in that paper this morning. The letter reads -
In the Age Parliamentary report, Thursday, 27th May, the following appears : - “ Mr. Fenton declared that men had been sent to the front who did not know how to shoot. The Assistant Minister of Defence : That is not so:”
I wish to quote to the House what did occur as reported in Hansard on page 3399-
I was rather surprised to hear the honorable member for Calare assert that we had sent to the front men who did not know how to shoot.
-Who could not handle a gun.
– Then I should say that they are going to perform duties that have nothing to do with the first, second, or even the third firing line, unless ample provision is made in Egypt to train them in the use of the rifle.
– The statement is quite correct. I have a letter in my pocket which bears it out.
– It is not correct.
It will be seen from the Hansard report that I did not make astatement of the kind attributed to me in the Age report. I make this explanation because I do not wish the impression to go abroad that I had said anything which would retard recruiting in any way.
– Yesterday, in answer to an inquiry by the honorable member for Cook regarding the quantities of butter held in cold storage in New South Wales, I read a statement by the Collector of Customs. I desire to inform the House that, in a letter which I have just received, Mr. O. Callaghan, the State Dairy Expert in New South Wales, says: “ The police have inquired re butter stored at butter factories and say there is none.”
– Is the Minister of External Affairs aware that a number of residents at Port Darwin, including many workmen, complained to the Administrator that insufficient accommodation had been provided there, and that their representations were supported >>y the local Progress Association, but assistance was refused by the Administrator? Is the Minister aware, also, that those people are willing to build houses for themselves if they are given monetary assistance ? If not, will he take that offer into consideration?
– Many complaints have been received from Port Darwin, and I am afraid that, no matter what we do, complaints will continue to come. I believe that there is a scarcity of accommodation, and it is understood that requests have been made to the Administrator for assistance, but I have not previously heard that the residents were willing to erect houses for themselves if they were given a small advance by the Government. I have every sympathy with the desire of the men for proper housing accommodation, but the position is that there has been a large and rapid accession of working population there. As the honorable member will realize, it is difficult to provide for the increased demand, having regard to the fact that no previous arrangement had been made in anticipation of such accession.
– What is the position in regard to the proposed advances to be made to mail contractors? When I returned to Adelaide last week I received a letter from one of the drought-stricken contractors asking when they were going to get the advance, and what measures they had to take to receive it ?
– The matter is still in hand; the arrangements are not yet complete.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs not-iced the report of a statement alleged to have been made by Mr. Deakin, and published in to-day’s Age, with reference to the resignation of the commissioners for the Panama Exposition, to this effect: “All of us resigned rather than retain any association with Mr. Mahon. He has, therefore, had no choice but to accept our determination not to retain any public or business relation with him.” Does not the Minister consider Mr. Deakin’s remarks unwarranted and impertinent?
– The report did come under my notice, and at present I am endeavouring to locate the gentleman who sent a cablegram to the San Francisco Examiner from here. As to the remarks about business relations, and so forth, the sentiment is mutual.
– Is it the policy of the Minister of External Affairs and the Government to take over the hotels in the Northern Territory, and, if so, what action is he taking in that regard ?
– It was announced some time ago that the Government proposed to take over the control of tho liquor business in the Northern Territory.
– All of it?
– The part that is remunerative, and which can be advantageously managed from Darwin. We do not propose to take over all the hotels there, because some of them are combinations of hotels and stores, but arrangements are being made to take over certain hotels. We have advertised for a supervisor.
– At £600 a year he will have a good billet.
– If we get the right man we shall be well repaid.
– Is the appointment to be made through the Public Service Commissioner ?
– It will not be under the Public Service Act. The appointment will be made by the Government on the recommendation of the Minister of External Affairs.
– Will the Minister give the House an opportunity of discussing and deciding whether the Government should nationalize the liquor traffic in the Northern Territory before the Government commit themselves to any appointment?
– The Government are already committed to that policy, but if the honorable member thinks it can be successfully challenged in this House–
– Has an appropriation been made yet?
– No, but we have taken steps so that we can take over the licences at any time. On the 25th March the licences came up for renewal, and had to be renewed, if at all, for twelve months under the former Ordinance. That Ordinance was repealed. A new one has been substituted which enables the Government to extend the licences from month to month, so that when we are ready to take the hotels over there will be nothing in the ordinance to prevent us.
– How many hotels are there?
– About fourteen of ons kind and another..-
– As private members’ day has been abolished, cannot the Minister give the House an opportunity to take a vote on the matter?
– If the honorable member thinks the policy of the Government can be successfully challenged, we shall give him an opportunity.
– That is not fair. We want to know what your proposal is.
– Yesterday I had to appeal to honorable members not to interrupt. One honorable member asks a question, and the whole House will apparently endeavour to assist the Minister to answer it. I appeal to honorable members, when a question is asked, to remain silent^ until it has been answered. If then they desire to put an additional question, that may, in certain circumstances, be done.
– I do not know what further information the honorable member for Parramatta requires. We propose to take over the hotels and compensate them in the usual way. The machinery for compensation is not yet created, but it will be done in a regular way, and no injustice will be done to anybody.
– Have you appointed a supervisor ?
– Will the matter be introduced by Bill?
– I do not think so.
– Will the increase of salary of the Comptroller of the nationalized hotels in the Northern Territory from £600 to £750 per annum be dependent on an increase in the business or on the extra revenue derived?
– It is the usual practice in the Public Service to fix a minimum and maximum salary. When this man makes a start, and we see how he gets on, if he is successful - if he buys well and sells well - I see no reason why he should nob obtain an increase.
– In view of the fact that all modern doctors regard “stagger juice” as a poison, and that even the British Government had to take charge of the question, does not the Minister think it would be possible to make the Northern Territory now an example in prohibition ?
– Public opinion, and even medical opinion, is evenly divided in regard to alcohol.
– Not evenly. There is only a small minority on the side of alcohol.
– The sides are fairly even. I do not admit that all the medical fraternity are unanimous on one side or the other, and I do not propose to make an experiment with prohibition in the Northern Territory, nor in any other country within the tropics.
– I should like to make a statement regarding a motion which was before the House some time ago, and during the discussion of which my conduct, while the occupant of the Chair, was brought to some extent under review. My desire is to make a personal explanation.
– I point out that the honorable member is at liberty to make a personal explanation at any time.
– I thought that, perhaps, the statement I desired to make would prove rather longer than what ordinarily comes within the description of a “ personal explanation.” However, I shall be as brief as possible, and if I overstep the rules I have no doubt, sir, that you will call me to order.
– If the honorable member proposes to reply to something that was said in the course of a debate in this House some time ago, the procedure will be rather irregular. It is open to the honorable member to take advantage of the fact that this is grievance day, and lay his case before honorable members upon the usual motion ; but, of course, it is a matter for the House, and I therefore ask whether it is the pleasure of the
House that the honorable member be heard in the way he proposes.
– I thank honorable members for affording me this opportunity to say something regarding a motion during the discussion of which my personal honour was assailed in my absence. I should not have taken this step now but for a statement made in the course of that discussion that I had practically admitted the charge levelled against me by the honorable member for Ballarat. That statement of the honorable member is wholly incorrect. I have never at any time admitted that the charge levelled against me was true, and have given absolute proof that it never had a shred of truth in it. I find, on referring to Hansard, that, during the motion of the honorable member for Barrier to expunge from the journals of the House the record of the suspension of the honorable member for Ballarat, the following occurred -
– Those records are particularly in the custody of the Speaker; and the honorable member for Ballarat accused the exSpeaker of a crime - I say a crime - against the honour of this House.
– Which he has admitted.
– Admitted what?
– The ex-Speaker has admitted the charge.
I desire to direct the attention of the House very briefly to the facts of the case, from which it will be seen that I never at any time admitted the charge. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that the honorable member for Barrier had a motion on the business-paper for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the question whether the third reading of the Loan Bill had been carried. I had prepared an explanation and refutation of all the charges which had been made, but the honorable member for Barrier, for reasons, I suppose, of a very sound character, saw fit to remove his notice of motion from the notice-paper; and consequently I had no opportunity to deal with the matter. However, the honorable member for Ballarat, during the course of his speech in that city, said -
The “proof” showed that the third reading of the Loan Bill was not carried, according to his own words, and he altered the proof to make it appear in Hansard that it was carried.
In the House I denied that statement in these words -
I wish to make it clear that I did nothing of the kind. Here I have the uncorrected Hansard “proof,” which is a direct reply to that charge.
Then I read the “proof” as follows: -
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the Bill be now read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Kelly) proposed -
That the question be now put.
– Do you think, Mr. Speaker, that it is right to move that motion ?
– I am not called upon to express an opinion on that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Bill read a third time.
From the chair I stated the position in these words -
That is the record of Hansard, and I have not altered one single word, or even as much as a comma, in that record. It will be seen, therefore, that the record of Hansard is that the question was put-“ That the Bill be now read a third time.”
From that statement, which already appears in Hansard, and which I made from my place in the chair, it will be seen that I emphatically repudiated the charge, and also that I disproved it from the records of Hansard, from the uncorrected proof which I had in my hand. Therefore, I take it that the honorable member’s memory has played him a trick in this matter, because I do not think he would intentionally have stated that I admitted the truth of the charges when, as a matter of fact, I had denied them in the most positive manner, and had also furnished proof to the House that they were absolutely without foundation. In regard to the incident, I would like to take this opportunity of reading two memoranda, one from the Clerk of the House, and one from the reporter who took the notes at the time. I asked the Clerk to prepare a memorandum for the information of the House, and he presented me with the following: - 7th May, 1914.
Memorandum for the Hon. the Speaker.
In compliance with your direction, I beg to state my recollection of the proceedings on 30th October last in connexion with the third reading of the Loan Bill. The Bill was read a second time, and passed through Committee after about sixteen divisions had been taken. The report was adopted on division after the closure had been applied. It was then between 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning. The House had by that time become very excited. Many members were standing up calling out loudly, and paying very little attention to what was being done. The motion for the third reading was put. The Speaker declared the question passed. I was standing at the table looking towards the Speaker. As soon as the Speaker intimated that the Bill had been read a third time, the Prime Minister jumped to his feet and moved the adjournment of the House, and Mr. Kelly moved the closure. I pointed out to the Speaker that, though the third reading of the Bill had passed, the formal reading of the Bill by the Clerk - in compliance with the order of the House - had yet to be done. By Mr. Speaker’s direction, I then formally read the title of the Bill, and the last stage of the Bill was completed.
That memorandum was signed by Air. C. Gavan Duffy, Clerk of the House of Representatives. Then I called upon thi Principal Parliamentary Reporter, and asked to be furnished with a memorandum from the reporter who took the notes, because I felt that the honour of the Speaker could not be assailed without also the honour of the principal officers of the House being concerned. What was alleged could not have taken place except by the most trusted and responsible officers of the House entering into a conspiracy with the Speaker. The Principal Parliamentary Reporter thereupon issued the following minute to the reporter who was reporting the proceedings at the time -
Will Mr. Weatherston, the reporter on duty in the chamber on 30th October, 1013, when the Loan Bill was under consideration, report, for the Speaker’s information, whether his notes contain any reference to the reading of the Loan Bill a third time?
In reply to that minute the reporter replied as follows -
Memorandum to the Principal Parliamentary Reporter : - In reference to your minute of even date, asking for a report as to whether my notes of the 30th October, 1913, contain any reference to the reading of the Loan Bill a third time, I have the honour to state : -
My notes of the 31st October, 1913, show that the decision of the House, “ That the Bill be now read a third time,” was arrived at immediately prior to the Prime Minister moving, “ That the House do now adjourn,” which incident intervened between the decision of the House and the formal reading of the Bill by the Clerk.
S. Weatherston. 7th May, 1914.
I have no desire to take up the time of the House further, but I think it is only due to me that I should make this explanation, because the debate in connexion with the removal from the records of the suspension of Mr. McGrath from the House is apt to convey a false impression to the public mind, and it would be made to appear that I had done something culpable and dishonorable during my term in the Chair as Speaker. Therefore, I feel that it is due, not only to myself, but also to the House, that I should make the” facts clear. At the same time, may I also remind the House that I had no hand whatever in the suspension of Mr. McGrath at that time? As a matter of fact, while I regarded the incident as a grave one, I recognised that the honorable member was new to the House, and unfamiliar with its procedure. Party feeling was running high at the time, and, therefore, I felt that there were extenuating circumstances in the case, so I asked the House to allow the matter to pass. The Prime Minister, however, took a graver view of the situation, and proceded to put into operation the rules of the House, resulting in the expulsion of the honorable member for Ballarat at the time. I felt very sorry. I would rather have seen the incident dropped. During last election false statements were circulated in my electorate that the honorable member for Ballarat was suspended od my casting vote as Speaker, and, therefore, some odium was cast upon me. As a matter of fact, the decision of the House was carried without the necessity for the Speaker’s casting vote having arisen. Had that casting vote been necessary I should have exercised it, as I would have felt bound to do, in the direction indicated by my previously expressed wish that the incident should be allowed to drop. I am pleased to know that the House has taken action to expunge from the records the suspension of Mr. McGrath, and had I been present at the time, I should, after his expression of regret for what he had said, have most heartily supported the proposal.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The following information has been supplied by the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will he have a special inquiry made into the case of establishing telephonic connexion - a. matter of a few yards - at Braeholme, Mudgee (Nurse C. Ogden), where the cost of material is stated to have been about 4s. 6d., and total charge £2 16s.?
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. No information is available at head-quarters as to whether excessive overtime is being worked.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The Australian materials used and to be used in construction of the building are -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– A similar question was asked on the 30th April last, and the Prime Minister replied -
While the policy of the Government is preference to unionists, the Government will not be unmindful of its obligations to those who have gone to the front on active service.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– In reply to the honorable member’s questions, the Acting Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has furnished the following particulars of service: -
AH of these are still employed, and arrangements have been made to keep them on for about fourteen weeks from now.
The Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following replies to questions 2 and 3 : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– In regard to the honorable member’s first question, the information will be supplied as soon as complete returns are available. The answer to No. 2 is “ Yes.”
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
As the Commonwealth is paying to Imperial reservists resident in Australia, who have been summoned to active service, the difference between the rates paid to men serving in the ranks in the Australian Imperial Expeditionary Forces and those paid to men in the ranks by the Imperial authorities, will the Government accord similar treatment to Imperial reservist officers resident in Australia who have been summoned to active service?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
There is a great disparity between the pay of privates in the British and Australian Forces. Most of the reservists left their families in Australia, and the Government decided to pay the difference between the respective rates of pay in order to enable the families to live during the husband’s absence. There is not the same disparity in the rates of officers of the Imperial and the Australian Forces, and the amounts paid to the Imperial officers are considered to be quite sufficient to enable them to maintain their wives and families in Australia. There is not, therefore, the same reason for similar treatment to beafforded Imperial officers, and the Government do not propose to take any action in that direction.
asked the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
Commonwealth Food Supplies.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
– I yesterday submitted some views on the subject of the supplies of the necessaries of life, and present conditions obtaining in the Commonwealth. I was asked whether I had any concrete proposals to bring forward. I have such proposals to submit, and the only opportunity one has under existing conditions is to submit them to the House. I say that, because at our own party meetings business is so congested that it is be coming more difficult to have a particular matter considered at such meetings than it is to have it dealt with in this House.
– Honorable members opposite will have to come back to parliamentary government after all.
– I have had a notice of motion before the meetings of the party to which I belong since October last, which it has so far been impossible to reach. I have had other urgent business connected with my electorate before the party for the last seven or eight weeks, and it has also been impossible to reach that. I should prefer, in dealing with matters of this kind, to submit what proposals I have to make to the members of my own party before bringing them forward in the House ; but in this case it has not been practicable to do that, and undue delay in dealing with a matter of such vital importance to the people would be inexcusable.
It has been stated, particularly by honorable members opposite, that matters arising out of the warshould be treated as non-party matters, and that we should put our heads together to devise the best means possible for relieving the necessities of the people. It is in this non-party spirit that I submit my proposals in the form of a concrete motion, and invite friendly constructive criticism in a general effort to meet an urgent situation.
– Does the honorable member propose to move it now ?
– That will restrict the debate.
– I move-
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted with a view to the insertion of the following words in place thereof -
I have been asked to submit some concrete proposal in this connexion, and I believe that the proposition which I now invite honorable members to affirm will provide the requisite machinery for dealing with this difficult and very urgent situation. I offer the friendly suggestions contained in my proposal which will enable the corporate ability of the Cabinet to frame a policy and create machinery. If required, I can fill in details. The fixing of prices and regulating of supplies has long been an ideal of our party, and I cannot admit that our leaders have no practical scheme for giving effect to it.
I have no desire to reiterate the statements which I made in this chamber yesterday. I then showed that we had actually sent shipments of butter overseas, and had been obliged to bring them back again - a ridiculous position for this Commonwealth to occupy; that we had exported £100,000 worth of wheat to a neighbouring Dominion, notwithstanding that a flour famine in Sydney is notified in the public press; and that, in regard to the meat supply, we have been laboriously endeavouring with insufficient machinery arrangements to ascertain what is the real position in Australia. Only to-day the Minister of Trade and Customs has assured us that this information will be supplied as soon as returns are available. I may mention in passing that these inquiries have been in progress for some time. I do not blame the Minister personally for failure to use the machinery at his disposal to the fullest possible extent to supply the public with the desired information. But I would point out that there does reside in the Government the necessary power to create much more effective machinery than exists at the present moment.
I urge, by way of friendly complaint, that the Government might have exhibited more public-spirited aggressive- ness, more energy, more originality, and more ingenuity in attempting to devise extraordinary means to meet this extraordinary and vital situation.
I would also remind the House that we have no method of ascertaining the position in regard to sugar stocks in Australia to-day. We are in the humiliating position that we must wait until Mr. Knox, the manager of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, condescends to inform us that if certain things are not done, and if certain arrangements are not made by his own company within a specified time, there will be a sugar famine in this country.
Whilst 1 have no desire to traverse the ground which I covered yesterday, I do wish to call attention to the fact that there is at present a conflict of purpose as well as of action amongst the State authorities. We know that one State has prohibited the export of wheat to another State, and that there has been a veiled threat that a particular State will prohibit the export of sugar to other States.
– Mr. Denham said that he would do so.
– The question has been put, “ What shall we do if Queensland shuts out its sugar from us?”
– If the course adopted by New South Wales is a good one, it must be equally good in the case of Queensland.
– The honorable member for Brisbane assures us that the ex-Premier of Queensland threatened to prevent the export of sugar to other States. This evidences a conflict of purpose as well as of action on the part of State authorities. Some States are taking definite action in a certain direction, whilst others are not. There is no uniformity of action, and no adequate means are being adopted to protect the interests of the great body of the consumers.
Quite recently a Premiers’ Conference was held in Sydney. For that gathering to prove of any practical utility to the people it should have devised some scheme which would have enabled the States to take joint action, if not joint action between the Commonwealth and States.
– A majority of the representatives at that Conference were members of Labour Governments.
– I do not care who they were. Nothing was done by the Conference, and therefore I claim that this Parliament should take the initiative. It is absolutely necessary that we should create machinery which will enable us to obtain accurate information regarding the requirements of the people, the movements of stocks, the prices of commodities, and the factors which influence those prices. We should be able to obtain that information expeditiously and regularly. That is one of the urgent necessities of the moment.
During the course of my remarks yesterday the Leader of the Opposition directed my attention to the fact that shortly after the outbreak of war the Government of which he was the head constituted a Royal Commission to deal with food supplies and trade and industry during the continuance of the present struggle. The Commissioners appointed were the Hon. Alfred Deakin, the Hon. Dugald Thomson, and Mr. Knibbs, C.M.G. These gentlemen are well and favorably known to the public of Australia. The Leader of the Opposition specially directed my attention to the instruction given to- that Commission, which reads -
Know ye that We do, by these Our Letters Patent, appoint you to be Commissioners to inquire into and from time to time report upon the supply of foodstuffs and other necessaries of life required by and available for, the people of Australia during the war, and from time to time report upon the amounts of such foodstuffs and necessaries available, or likely to be available, for export, having regard to the requirements of Australia, and also to report upon any matters relating to conditions of trade and industry arising out of the war which, in your opinion, should be brought under the attention of His Excellency’s advisers.
Then follows some other matter which is not so pertinent to the scope of the inquiry, but which is more of a machinery character. I must confess that the instruction which I have quoted appears to meet some of the necessities of the present situation. At the same lime, I do not think that the creation of a temporary body provides adequate machinery for dealing with the position in which we find ourselves.
– A Royal Commission continues until it is revoked, but this particular Commission was cancelled.
– Yes ; but surely it was never contemplated that Mr. Knibbs should leave the control of his great De partment, go away, and give his time exclusively to the work which would arise from a proper carrying out of the instruction I have read? The demand would be too comprehensive. I understand that even before the appointment of the Commission arrangements were made by the previous Government that Mr. Deakin was to be a representative of Australia at the Panama Exposition, showing conclusively and positively that it was not intended that the Foodstuffs Commission should adequately cope with the present situation, because it would be impossible for Mr. Deakin to act on both Commissions.
– It would be easy to put somebody in his place.
– So, knowing that Mr. Deakin was to go to the Panama Exposition, the previous Government appointed him to the work, with the knowledge that they would have to put somebody in his place?
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– Although this instruction was issued, it does not seem to me that it was intended to be literally given effect to, because, under the conditions existing, it would be impossible.
– Do you mind now looking at what the Commission did? Is not that the best test?
– Yes; I will quote what the Commission did. It will be seen that it apparently took that part of its instruction which referred to export and trade matters arising out of the war, and that the supply of the requirements of the people of Australia is not a matter which engaged their attention.
– Oh, yes!
– I have looked through the reports. I intend to give the substance of them, and it will be seen that there is no report which deals with the internal situation as a matter of immediate necessity.
– Surely the exports are the things which should claim their attention first?
– The purposes of the reports are in the direction of facilitating exports to British territories and blocking exports to enemy territories. The Commission, I may say, received its instruction on the 31st
August last, and the last of the reports, I find, is dated the 31st October, so that the inquiries extended over two months. I will not refer to the reports In detail, but just mention the subjectmatter of them.
The first report is dated the 7th September, and deals with the question of wheat and flour for the United Kingdom, British Colonies, and the Allies.
The second report, dated the 7th September, deals with meat for the Allies.
The third report, on the 8th September, deals with the carriage of foodstuffs to oversea Dominions and the Allies.
The fourth report, dated 9th September, deals with meat-canning orders from the British Government, and advises that an effort should be made to obtain such orders, and that, in the absence of them, the Government should go ahead and encourage the manufacture of tinned meats.
On the 11th September, there are reports -bearing on the prolongation of the war, and recommending that efforts should be made to induce the planting of crops ; a report in regard to cargo in foreign bottoms being held up; a recommendation for an international clearing-house, and a report dealing with seized enemy ships.
On the 16th September, there is a report dealing with enemy patents, and a report recommending cables to be sent in regard to prize courts.
On the 30th September, there is a report in regard to enemy trading, and a report in regard to enemy vessels sheltering in neutral ports, and about to leave such ports.
On the 1st October, there is a further recommendation as to communication with State Governments on the sowing of crops, and a further report on the question of increasing the output of locally manufactured goods as against goods previously coming from enemy countries.
On the 8th October, there is a report in regard to the prohibition of the export of oats from New Zealand to Australia.
On the 13th October there is a report dealing with brands on goods to signify country of origin.
On the 22nd October, there is a report suggesting that the export of wheat and flour should be prohibited, and a recommendation that tonnage should be secured for the export of Australian meat.
On the 30th October, there are further recommendations with regard to the proposal for an international clearing-house, the search of enemy vessels for guns in neutral ports, and action on the lines of the British Board of Trade; a report dealing with the treatment of mineral ores and wool, and a report dealing further with the question of the planting of crops and communications with the States.
And, lastly, there is a report in the shape of an appendix dealing with the probability of the local production of goods hitherto imported from Germany and Austria-Hungary.
These appear to -me to be in their way valuable reports; they seem to be necessary. But there is no information as to existing or probable food supplies, except a reiteration of facts previously published by State statisticians.
– They dealt with the immediate problems.
– They did deal with problems which needed attention ; but, as I said at the beginning, it is quite evident from a perusal of the instruction that the part which made the most direct appeal to the Commissioners was that which had to do with Empire problems as against the internal requirements of Australia.
– Why should not the Commission deal with the immediate necessities of the moment?
– I submit in the light of subsequent events that while these matters needed attention there was an urgent necessity at that time for dealing with the question of stocks of sugar, flour, and butter, and supplies in existence, and likely to be produced, of the necessaries of life for the people of Australia.
– You could not say that they were urgent ten months ago.
– The urgency had not
– With millions of men taken out of the avenues of production and sent to the war, and therefore becoming consumers, it was quite evident hat it was a matter of necessity and urgency that a special eye should be kept on the necessaries of life to see that no shortage occurred, especially when we were exporting goods of this kind oversea.
So much by -way of reference to the Royal Commission. I am very sorry that it was put out of action until something better was created in its place. There could have been something better created, in my opinion, but such as it was the Commission was doing some good, and nothing has been put in its place.
The Minister admits now quite candidly that he has not the machinery at his disposal to do any better than he is doing.
I come now to the question of what power we have to do better. I believe that we have ample power. I hold that all the powers we have, or think we have, should be exercised to their utmost in the effort to deal with the present extraordinary situation. As I point out in the motion, we have our power in regard to statistics. That is a constitutional power, under which we are entitled to pass legislation empowering our Statistician to make inquiries, and prepare statistics on any matter arising in Australia. For instance, on a question of population, or goods, or anything else, we can instruct that officer to make inquiries, and report to us. Under that power we have authority to give directions that everybody in Australia shall present reports at such periods as we lay down for the information of the House and the Government. “We could issue a proclamation compelling every producer, manufacturer, and holder of stocks to register output and holdings weekly in the same way as we compel electors to register their changes of address. If there is any difficulty in getting the information with the machinery at present at our disposal - and it is admitted there is - the Government ought to take immediate action to augment the machinery, and correct its defects, and to see that the information is perfectly reliable and adequately supplied.
Then we have the export power. The power to prohibit exports is almost unlimited in its scope. It has already been exercised, I am glad to say, in regard to wheat, flour, and sugar, and the export of meat, except for the Imperial Government, is also prohibited. The Imperial Government, however, has asked only for meat from the surplus stock of Australia.
– Incidentally to the exercise of this power, the Government would have to ascertain the food stocks of the Commonwealth.
– Undoubtedly. The power to prohibit exports, as well as the power to obtain statistics, authorizes the setting in motion of the necessary machinery.
The British Government has not asked that we shall export meat required for local consumption; it asks only that wo shall send our surplus meat. The public of Australia should not be allowed to go short of meat when the supply of that commodity to the Imperial authorities is not a matter of urgency. If meat or other foodstuffs were urgently needed by our soldiers in the trenches, we should be bound to sacrifice ourselves to the uttermost to meet their requirements, but so far as one can gather from the press reports - and no other information has been given to us - there is in the communications which have been received from the Imperial authorities no hint of urgency in this matter.
In addition to the powers that I have named, it must be remembered that the country is now in the throes of war, and that extraordinary powers have therefore been conferred upon the Government by the War Precautions Act. That Act gives Ministers almost unlimited power. In my opinion, it gives the powers which cannot be given by this Parliament in times of peace. War having broken out, the unexpressed power residing in the National Parliament has enabled us to pass that drastic measure known as the War Precautions Act, under which, it appears to me, the Government is authorized to act in any such manner as may be necessary to prevent the public interest from being jeopardized by causes arising out of the war.
Ministers acting under the War Precautions Act have commandeered tha output of the woollen factories, laid down specifications as to the quality of the material that must be manufactured, anc? dictated prices. If Ministers can do that, it is certain in the public interest they can act in regard to the supply of foodstuffs.
Beyond and above all the powers that I have mentioned are the powers given by what is known as th» law of eminent domain, the right which national necessity gives to every Government over and above the powers expressed in a written constitution to do what is necessary to conserve the public interest. Should it become necessary, the Government could order every individual citizen to do its bidding in regard to his goods, chattels, and all other possessions. To use an extreme illustration, the Government could strip us of our clothing to supply the troops, if the necessity were sufficiently urgent. There is hardly anything that one can conceive of that could not be done under this right to take whatever action may be necessary to preserve the existence of the nation; there is no limit to this national power. It is an unrestricted area of limitless jurisdiction.
Putting together all the powers that I have named - the power to demand information for statistical purposes, the powerto prohibit the export of goods from Australia, the powers set forth in the War Precautions Act, and the extraordinary powers - unquestioned in a time of war - going beyond the expressed words, of the Constitution which are inherent in this and every national Government under the law of eminent domain - it must be obvious that Ministers have a source of power from which to draw, which they have yet scarcely touched, much less exhausted.
I wish to repeat in this connexion a statement that I made last night. It is not sufficient that the Government or individual Ministers should obtain occasional information when spurred to do so. We have received from the Minister of Trade and Customs detached pieces of information which are totally unrelated and without co-ordination. They have to be sought for in piles of Hansard, in which they must be picked out from a mass of other matter. This information has been given spasmodically, without aim or directness, and without any concern for related action. The chaos that is thus created should be reduced to order, and there should be organized aggressive and public-spirited action taken. At a time like this it is not only the duty of individual members to make suggestions to Ministers, and to urge on them the need for action; it is also the duty of Ministers to apply their inventive faculties and ingenuity to search out, suggest, and try out methods for relieving the public necessities. Disjointed information’ of an insufficient character has been given” to members from time to time. Undoubtedly it has been given with expedition. But no concrete, energetic scheme for the protection of the public interest has been put forward.
The duty devolves upon this Parliament of formulating a policy, and of creating machinery to give effect to it, and the first step is to invite Ministers in a friendly way to give the House a definite lead. Ministers should confer together, and, in their conferences, they should be actuated by the desire to do something, not by the desire to prevent things from being done or to put stumbling-blocks in the way of action, or to apply destructive criticism to every suggestion. They should confer, not in the spirit of conservatism, but with the desire to act, with the desire to create and construct machinery for the carrying out of well-considered policy for the safeguarding of the public interest under wise and energetic administration.
I ask that the views that I put forward yesterday may be considered in connexion with my statements to-day, because I do not wish to go over again the ground that I then covered.
I have made these statements in the friendliest way, with the desire of offering a constructive suggestion for meeting the difficulties with which we are faced, and which, if not promptly tackled and dealt with, will increase in intensity, and in their destructive influences.
I do not expect the Minister of Trade and Customs, who leads the House, to be in a position to say off-hand that suchandsuch a detailed scheme shall be adopted, but I hope that my remarks may be considered by the Government as prompted by a friendly spirit, and by the desire to have something done to help the people in their present difficult situation.
The motion which I have moved gives opportunity for the submission of a scheme for this object. This means of ventilating suggestions and proposals has been taken by me on previous occasions, and I submit my amendment for the favorable consideration of honorable members.
My proposal ought not to be discussed in any party spirit, or regarded as primarily intended to be used in formulating a complaint against one side or the other. The best intelligence of honorable members on both sides should be brought into active play, and there should be sympathetic co-operation to obtain a remedy for our present difficulties.
I should have been pleased if, at the commencement, it had been determined to make this a non-party session. There are matters as to which there will be a difference of opinion regarding their party or non-party character.
– Are the referenda proposals non-party measures?
– I think so. Proposals for the granting to the National Parliament of powers which it is absolutely necessary that it should exercise are not party matters.
– Do you, or do you not, desire them for party purposes?
– No; for national purposes.
– They come within the Labour party’s pledged platform.
– And have been dictated by its super-Parliament.
– I do not know that my views regarding the non-party character of any measure will be acceptable to every honorable member. The course of events in this Parliament has shown that we can deal with very little that is of a party character. We have not yet reached any matter having any party consequence.
We have confined our attention to matters relating to. defence, the raising and equipment of troops, and the necessities of the people arising out of the manipulation and shortage of food supplies, all of which are nonparty matters. Such matters will probably continue so insistent that Parliament will find itself unable to deal with matters of a strictly party character. I ask honorable members on both sides to approach the consideration of my amendment with the desire, not to tear it to pieces, leaving nothing in its place, but to bring forward constructive ideas which will help the people out of difficulties which are, apparently, becoming more and more serious. The first portion of my motion asks that machinery should be created for the purpose of supplying the House with accurate, reliable, and immediate information, and that the Government should supply that information to the House; the second portion asks the Government to seriously consider the difficulties of the people in this matter and formulate some definite policy, and, as soon as any other matter of urgency is disposed of, permitting this question to be considered in all its aspects, to indicate what their larger policy is, so that we may know that we have the machinery and a definite plan upon which to operate. It is because I believe the Government capable of determining a course of action to prevent the exploitation of the people, that, instead of submitting a more detailed scheme, I desire the Government to lead the House and the country.
– I think’ that most honorable members are acquainted with the difficulties set forth by the honorable member that confront Ministers and honorable members, and also the people outside. I have no objection to the motion, but at the same time if we are to wait until we get the statistics for which it asks in the ordinary way, we must wait a long time. I quite agree with the honorable member as to the importance of knowing what we are dealing with before taking any action, but the difficulty is the delay in securing from the States the statistics they collect. The matter of the collection of statistics is in their hands, and though time after time the Commonwealth Statistician has urged upon them the necessity for expedition, the production statistics for 1914 will not be available in Australia for another six months.
– The Minister requires more machinery for getting them.
– I have pointed out to State Ministers the need for hurrying the collection of their figures. It should be a much easier matter to collect information in regard to factories than to collest statistics in regard to stocks as required by the honorable member; but as that information is not available until ten or eleven months after the period covered by it has been completed, what opportunity have we to secure that information which the honorable member desires? What the honorable member is aiming at I have been aiming at ever since I have been in this Parliament. I have been trying to get information which will enable honorable members to better perform the duties put before them. The honorable member for Cook says that we need more machinery. If we had waited to get from the various States information that 1 have been able to place before honorable members in connexion with stocks of meat, &c, from time to time,we would have had to wait for months later than when we were able to get the figures through our own office If the honorable member’s, motion is carried it will not put us one step further forward.
– It would do so if you would act upon it.
– The honorable member imputes that we have not acted with the machinery available to us.
– In fact, since the present Government came in, “ everything has been perfect.”
– The honorable gentleman has never heard me put forward that claim. On the other hand, the honorable gentleman made that claim for that great Commission he appointed - the Deakin-Thomson-Knibbs Commission - which was going to do something great. I shall read what they did do. These gentlemen were appointed a Royal Commission at the latter end of August, and the States, at the Conference with the Cook Government, agreed that they would supply certain information, but all that these gentlemen did up to the 31st October was to ascertain how much wheat was available in five out of the six States. There is no figure in the whole of the papers of that Commission except that relating to the wheat available in Australia after the crop harvested nine or ten months before, and it took them two months to ascertain it. Beyond that they did nothing.
– Do you make that statement seriously?
– I say that there are no figures in their papers regarding the amount of produce in Australia except in regard to wheat.
– Do you say that that is all the Commission ‘ did ?
– In regard to the amount of produce in Australia, there is no other figure from this Commission, which was to do everything, but did nothing, showing the amount available for consumption by the people of the Commonwealth or for export.
– Is it not a fact that their figures have proved misleading?
– I believe that they have proved to be misleading.
– They were the figures officially supplied to them by the States.
– I admit that they were the figures supplied by the Government Statists in four of the States, and by the Government Statist and the Food Commission in Western Australia.
– Could anything more have been done?
– No; and that is why I say that the Commission was useless. It could do nothing more than an ordinary Department could do, and that is the reason why Mr. Deakin in his letters to the Minister of External Affairs, in which he also mentioned that the Commission were quite willing to resign, suggested that in order to make the Commission more effective it should include a representative of the Government.
– Was that not because you treated them and their reports with contempt?
– It was because we were doing things instead of asking the Commission to do them for us.
– The honorable member for Cook says that you have done nothing.
– No; the honorable member said that it was quite possible for the Government to have done more than we have dene. If the honorable member for Cook had been in my place he would not have done more than I have done. The Royal Commission, on 7th September last, recommended -
In view of the evidence before us, and in order to prevent supplies going by indirect channels to the enemy, this Commission recommends that the export of wheat and flour to any destination but the United Kingdom be prohibited, except by permission of the Government of the Commonwealth.
Due effect was given to this recommendation by the Government in a Gazette notice on the same date. On the 23rd September a proclamation appeared in the Government Gazette prohibiting all exportation of wheat and flour except by permission of the Government. There had been a change of Government between the 7th September and the 23rd September, and the present Ministers five days after they came into office did not refer the matter to the Commission, but took action to prohibit the exportation of all wheat and flour.
– The Commission supplied the figures relating to wheat on the 7th September-
– Yes, and the Government, of which the honorable gentleman was a member, although he was absent at the time, agreed that nothing should be exported except to the United Kingdom without the permission of the Government, whereas the present Government prohibited the export altogether, and the only wheat and flour that left Australia after that date ‘was three cargoes, permission to export which had been given by my predecessor prior to leaving the Department, which permission I honored. On the 22nd October, a month after wo had acted, the Commission reviewed the situation and, according to their report -
Formed the conclusion, in view of the unfavorable harvest prospects, that the wheat now on hand and the 1914-15 crop would possibly not more than supply the needs of Australia for food and seed. It therefore reported to Your Excellency that the time for a strict pause in exports had arrived.
We had already taken action, on 23rd September, a month previously.
– That is to say, in four days you had inquired all over Australia and done everything. Do not talk nonsense.
– I am merely showing the futility of the Royal Commission held up to this House by the honorable member as having done something.
– Reasonable men would have contempt for you if you talked to them in that way.
– I do not think that the honorable gentleman is a reasonable man.
– You have the impudence of three, and the intelligence of half a man.
– The honorable member for Parramatta must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it.
– I am anxious to show what was done by the Commission and what they failed to do. If that Commission were in existence to-day it could not have given to Parliament any figures more than have been made available.
– What figures have we available 1
– We have the figures from the States.
– We cannot eat figures.
– I know, but I believe that one action of mine has made more meat available - and the prices have come down - for the people of Victoria than that Commission could have done had it been in existence.
– The honorable member is trying to bring contempt on men whose boots he is not worthy to unlace.
– I am anxious to show the position as I understand it, and if it does not suit my right honorable friend I cannot help it. The right honorable member said, “ Get the report of the Commission and see what it has done.” I say that the Commission did nothing, and did it well.
– That remark^ is an insult to the ablest men in Australia.
– On 7th September the Commission recommended -
That shipments of meat to any place outside the Empire, except by permission of the Government, be prohibited.
Effect- was given to this in the Gazette on the same and on Che following day. On the 23rd September a proclamation by the present Government appeared in the Government Gazette, prohibiting the exportation of meat except by permission. We took a wider power than my honorable friends opposite had seen fit to exercise, and complaint was made that we were taking action without any reference to the Commission. Then, again, on the 18th September, the day after we took office, we prohibited the export of sugar, believing that if this were not done the supply available for local requirements would be. insufficient.
– Did the Government at that time anticipate a shortage ?
– Our desire was to conserve the interests of the people. Knowing that the price of sugar was being run up all over the world, we thought it would probably pay holders here to export it, and we therefore took this action.
– So that the application made the other day by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in regard to the shortage of sugar did not surprise the Minister?
– I am dealing now with the work of the Foodstuffs Commission, and I say that that Commission made no report whatever regarding the sugar question. When we are accused of doing nothing to protect the interests of the people it is only fair that I should be allowed to place on record what we have actually done.
– There was no sugar problem at the time we were in office.
– There was a sugar problem the day after we took office, and but for our action the position to-day would be much worse than it is.
– The present Government made a sugar problem for political reasons.
– Certainly not. The people of Queensland, who are supposed to have suffered by this action on our part, approved of it about a fortnight ago. It was really to safeguard the interests of the people that we prohibited the export of sugar, and to the credit of the Prime Minister, be it said, the matter was first brought forward by him.
– What have the Government done in regard to the sugar supply 1
– The export of sugar was prohibited by us.
– And yet sugar was allowed to go out of the Commonwealth.
– If the honorable member had been in his place yesterday when a question was put to me by the honorable member for Darling Downs as to the export of 3,000 tons of refined sugar, he would know “that we allowed that quantity of raw sugar to be imported on the understanding that, after it had been refined here, it could be re-exported. Our object was to secure trie work of refining it for men in the local refineries. I think that the action taken by the Government in that case was a proper one. If we had not taken it, this sugar would have been refined outside, and Australian workers would have been deprived of the employment thus secured by them. Coming to the general question of the price of foodstuffs, I would say that if we can do all that the honorable member for Cook urges that we should do, then there is absolutely no need to ask the people of Australia to give the Commonwealth Parliament increased powers. In my opinion, however, under the Constitution as it stands, we cannot do all that the honorable member says we can.
– We can in time of war.
– Some honorable members say that because we have commandeered the products ‘of the woollen mills in order to provide for the clothing of our Defence Forces, we can do the same with the products of all other factories.
– The product of the woollen mills was commandeered without martial law.
– I believe that we have power to commandeer supplies for Defence purposes.
– The Attorney-General says we have power to do all these things.
– I have never heard him say that we can.
– I have, and so has the honorable gentleman. I have heard him say that the Government can import sugar and sell it.
– I have not heard him make such statements. To compare the product of a woollen mill, which is required for clothing our troops, with the product of, say, a butter factory, is not to deal with analogous cases.
– The Attorney-General the other day made a statement in reply to Mr. Mitchell that no man could set a limit to the powers of the Government at this particular juncture.
– I have not heard the Attorney-General give an opinion to that effect.
– I have heard him say these things could not be done.
– So have I.
– Were not the inquiries as to the quantities of sugar in stock made under the War Precautions Act?
– Yes. It would be impossible to do all that the honorable member for Cook has suggested should be done. In order to be able to answer a question put the other day regarding butter stocks, we had to cause inquiries to be made at various butter manufactories, and the same course would have to be taken with regard to every other commodity. I hope that the honorable member will withdraw his amendment.
– The Minister said just now that he had no objection to it.
-I do not think the honorable member’s proposal could be made effective. By adding machinery to that which we already have we should hinder rather than hasten our investigations. In the desire to protect the interests of the people, the Government are as much in earnest as is any honorable member. If there is any blame to be apportioned for any failure to protect the interests of the people, it is the Government who will have to shoulder it.
– Not the Government, but the party.
– Honorable members will be sure to push it on to the shoulders of the Government.
– Not at all.
– I disagree with the honorable member. Let me assure him, however, that the Government are fully alive to the importance of these matters. I ask him to withdraw his amendment on the understanding that I shall submit it to the Cabinet, and that we shall do our very best to safeguard the interests of the community. As I said yesterday, in reply to the honorable member for Bendigo, I think it unreasonable that people who have obtained meat for about 2d. per lb., and have placed it in cool chambers, should now be selling it at about 8d. per lb., taking advantage of the necessities of the people.
– Cannot . something be done to correct that?
– Something has been done ; but it is not always advisable to state exactly what is being done. If you throw all your cards on the table, then your opponent knows exactly how to play his hand. I do not know what has been the effect in other States where large stocks of frozen meat are held; but the result of our action has been fairly marked in this State. I hope that the people will see that it is put beyond the power of certain exploiters to take advantage of the necessities of the people. It should not be possible for ‘these men to do in Australia what is being done by the Meat Ring in America, by freezing produce while supplies are plentiful and bringing it out and selling it at exceedingly high prices in times of scarcity, thus trading upon the necessities of the people.
– Have consumers in Victoria been unable to obtain meat?
– Meat is obtainable here only at such high prices that many people are unable to buy it. The position lately has been somewhat relieved. If the honorable’ member for Cook- will withdraw his amendment; I promise him that I shall bring it before the Cabinet and ask that it be given most serious consideration. I can assure him that I stand side by side with him in the desire that the utmost shall be done to protect the people in this time of stress.
.- I think that the honorable .member for Cook did well to introduce to the House this matter of the high cost of living, but, while I listened carefully to him, I did not hear him suggest any remedy for the evil with which we are faced. The cost of living has considerably increased since the outbreak of the war. I have gone very carefully into the matter and have obtained information, from what I regard as a most reliable source, showing that the cost of living to-day is £20 per month, as compared with £15 a month six months ago. That represents an increase of 33 J per cent., or 6s. 8d. in the £1. The purchasing price of a sovereign to-day, as compared with six months ago, is about 13s. 4d. My sympathies go out to the struggling heads of families who have to meet this state of affairs, but sympathy without action is of no avail. I contend that it is within the power of the Government to take action. The Labour party for some considerable time have made political capital out of this question of high living. They have dangled it before the people as a means of getting into Parliament, but have taken no action to deal with the question. Prices have gone on increasing from day to day, and the struggling masses have been left by them to meet the situation.
– Will the honorable member support the referenda proposals?
– If this is merely a cry for the referenda, then the House is being fooled. If we do not intend to deal with the matter effectively and immediately, then we are not doing our duty as the custodians of the rights of the people. We should act at once. If we had in office a good strong Government, it would act immediately, and would be prepared to take the responsibility. It is rather strange that, after all we have heard from the Labour party throughout Australia regarding the high cost of living, it should be a representative of a State which has been governed by a Labour Government for the last four years who has come forward with this proposition. It is rather significant that this wail with regard to the high cost of living comes from New South Wales, which has been under a
Labour Government for the last four years.
– Where butter is ls. 2d., whereas here it is 2s. 2d. per Tb.
-Judging by the admission made last night by the honorable member for Cook, the price of butter in New South Wales was fixed at a low rate, but butter cannot be obtained there. The State Labour Government will apparently have to act on the advice given a few days ago by a Trades Hall member, who proposed to make the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ‘ ‘ find the sugar.” The Labour Government of New South Wales, 1 suppose, will have to make the butter manufacturers “ find the butter.”
– They will have to do it.
– No doubt. According to Mr. Knibbs, the relative cost of living in the States, as shown in Bulletin 8, page 232 - taking 1,000 as the basis of calculation - is as follows: - Perth, 1,093; Sydney, 1,086; Adelaide, 1,041; Hobart, 1,007 ; Melbourne, 985 ; and Brisbane, 888.
– The Perth prices are the highest, although there is a habour Government in power there.
– That is so, and the Sydney prices are next. The averages for the States were as follow: - Western Australia, 1,140; New South Wales, 1,049; South Australia, 1,022; Tasmania, 1,000; Victoria, 951 ; and Queensland, 904. Honorable members will see that the figure for Queensland is only 904 as against 1,140 in Western Australia, and 1.049 in New South Wales, in both of which States Labour Governments are in office. Those figures are contained in Mr. Knibbs’ Labour Bulletin No. 8, and they prove that the claim that Labour Governments have reduced the cost of living is misleading, and absolutely fooling the people. Nothing has been done to grapple with these questions, except to condemn in the strongest possible terms certain combines, imaginary or real. I notice that the Attorney-General, when speaking the other day, as representative of the Trollymen’s Union, at the Labour Conference in Adelaide, said that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was not the worst combine in Australia. It is a combine, however, that the honorable gentleman knows something about, and yet he has not attempted to do anything to check what he says are its ravages.
– He appointed a Commission a few years ago to investigatethe affairs of the company.
– But he displayed great, anxiety that the conference should not come to any decision in favour of nationalizing the sugar industry.
– The Assistant Minister of Defence, in replying to my criticism regarding the contract for the supply of bread to the military camp at Enoggera, said that he had saved the Government 2d. per loaf.
– Order ! I- will ask the honorable member to confine himself to the amendment.
– I am about to connect my remarks with the amendment. My desire is to point out that the Minister’salleged saving on that bread contract was an eye-opener for any one who had an eye to business, for if the Government could save 2d. per loaf on one contract, what is to prevent them extending the principle sothat the whole of the people may be supplied with cheaper bread ?
– But you cannot connect government with business.
– If the affairs of government were conducted more on businesslines, there would not be so much quibbling over red-tape, but the Government would grasp the nettle firmly, and takeprompt and effective action to deal with the problems that are confronting us today.
– Did the Minister say that he had saved 2d. per loaf on that contract ?
– The Minister madethat statement, but I showed that he was making a loss of 2d. per loaf. In regard to sugar, I propose to show there has been no inflation of wholesale prices by the refiners during the last nine or ten months. Any shortage or inflation that has been experienced is a result of manipulation by dealers, the petty men in the trade ; but I shall endeavour to prove that there is noshortage at the present time, and absolutely no inflation of prices. The wholesale price of sugar in Melbourne and Sydney to-day is lower than it has been at any time during the last five years.
– But we cannot getsupplies.
– Supplies can be obtained. I assure the honorable member that not one customer doing business with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has been refused his ordinary supplies.
– But very few people get their supplies from the company. They mostly deal through the wholesale houses.
– That statement only supports me in saying that it is not the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, or the refiners, who have caused any inflation in prices, but that the middlemen in Melbourne have held their stocks, and tried to create a scare by making it appear that there was a shortage of supplies. I shall quote to the House the wholesale prices of sugar in Melbourne during the last six years. Melbourne prices are about 7s. 6d. per ton in excess of Sydney prices, and are subject to a trade discount of 5 per cent. On the 13th May, 1909, the wholesale price of sugar was £21 7s. 6d. per ton; on the 1st October, 1910, £22 2s. 6d.; on the 1st September, 1911, £23 12s. 6d. ; on the 5th October, 1912, £22 12s. 6d. ; on the 25th July, 1913, £22 2s. 6d. ; and on the 6th July, 1914, £21 2s. 6d. War broke out in Europe in August of last year, and the price “I have given for that month has ruled, except in Queensland, ever since.
– But the Colonial Sugar Refining Company wanted to increase the price.
– The company has not refused one firm ite ordinary supplies during the intervening period, but it has shown only ordinary business capacity by refusing to be exploited by speculators who wanted to buy up supplies in anticipation of a rise. The following circular was sent out to the company’s customers in each State on the 14th May last: -
Dear Sir. - We regret to have to inform our customers that, although we are arranging for sufficient supplies of sugar to meet our Queensland customers’ usual requirements, we are obliged, in the general interests, to restrict the execution of orders, for the present, to the normal consumption at this time of year. We will, therefore, hold at the disposal of each customer a quantity of sugar equal to what was delivered at the corresponding period of last year, and it will be essential that orders sent to us shall be confined strictly within those limits. The prices for all our goods will be as per our price-list on dates of delivery - as usual.
If the other State Governments had acted in the same way as the Queensland Government acted, the people of Australia, as well as the growers, would have had a fair deal in regard to sugar. The
Queensland Prices Board fixed the wholesale and retail prices. In Victoria, however, the Prices Board fixed only the wholesale price, and the result has been that the grocers have been making larger profits out of sugar during the war time than ever before, and the consumers have been getting no benefit at all. They have been paying higher prices for sugar than the Queensland consumers have to pay, although the wholesale price in Queensland was higher than in Victoria.
– You do not blame the Labour party for that?
– I am showing that a lot of the outcry about the monopoly which has victimized the people is only so much dust-throwing. The monopolists are nearer at hand. Let us endeavour to get at the truth as to who is responsible for the increase in the cost of commodities. The Queensland Prices Board fixed the wholesale price of sugar at £23, which was the amount which Victorian buyers were asked to pay, and, at the same time, it fixed the retail price at 2s. 9d. per one dozen pounds, at which figure the consumers in Queensland have been obtaining their’ sugar, whilst those in Victoria have been paying 3s., and have been able to get only very limited supplies. I am in a position to state that the Government can arrange for the public to be supplied with sugar at 3d. per pound to the extent of the whole of the Australian crop, and having regard to the prices of other commodities at this period I do not think that charge can be regarded as excessive. Indeed, it is as much as from 50 to 100 per cent, lower than the prices charged in other parts of the world.
– Why does the Colonial Sugar Refining Company sell sugar for £20 a ton in New Zealand?
– The company did not sell Australian sugar to New Zealand.
– But the honorable member said that sugar was cheaper in Australia than anywhere else?
– I say that sugar is cheaper to the consumer in Australia than it is in New Zealand, because I have information from the Dominion that the retail price there is 3d. and 3£d. per pound. I do not think that the Australian people will object to paying 3d. per pound for sugar during this war crisis. -If that price could be fixed for about ten months of the year, special arrangements could be made, either by rebate of duty or by some other means to be decided upon by the Government, to bridge over the balance of the year. The Government seem to be taking a rather long time to consider what action shall be taken, but my own opinion is that the duty should not be interfered with. I know that the sugar growers are prepared to come to a reasonable understanding to let the people have the whole of the Australian sugar crop at the price I have mentioned. Of course it is of no use to criticise the Government unless one is prepared to suggest a remedy, and I hope that one of the results of this discussion will be that the collective wisdom of the House will evolve a remedy. Under the Federal Constitution the Government have power to do almost anything which the people require to be done. With the Constitution as it stands, we can meet almost any emergency, and I amnot one to advocate handing enormous powers over to the Central Government.
– Does the honorable member mean during a state of war or at all times?
– If the honorable member will pay attention, he will find that there is a way out of the difficulty. Section 51 provides that Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to . . . “ matters referred to the Parliament of the Commonwealth by the Parliament or Parliaments of any State or States, but so that the law shall extend only to the State by whose Parliament the matter is referred or which afterwards adopts the law.” The Government should, therefore, immediately suggest to the State Governments - five of whom are Labour Governments - their comrades in arms in the great battle against the foe within the gates - to call their Parliaments together, and concede to the Federal Government full power to deal with the question of food supply. In that way the whole matter would be settled in a week or two, and this Parliament would have power delegated to it by at least five States to make laws to govern the cost of living. I put that suggestion, with all earnestness and sincerity, before the Government and the mover of the motion as a way out of the difficulty. It is all very well to say, as one honorable member opposite interjects, that the
Upper Houses will block it. Let us put the Upper Houses to the test.
– They have been weighed in the balance, and found wanting many times.
– The honorable member should not, therefore, refuse to try them again. The honorable member would give a stone to the people who are crying for bread. It is not to the credit of this or any other Government that they should refuse to take any means at their disposal to meet the present situation. I have no sympathy with the man who tries to exploit the public, and the Government should certainly do something.
– How do you know the States will agree to take that course?
– Every State that agrees to take it comes under the jurisdiction of the Federal Parliament. If they refuse, let them work the matter out in their own way. If the Labour Government of New South Wales has failed to do anything, let this Parliament appeal to the New South Wales Parliament to give us the necessary power. I am sure that if such a policy were adopted, Australia would respond in such a way as would give this Parliament full power to pass laws dealing with the necessary commodities of life.
– You should appeal to the Government now sitting in Adelaide.
– If the Government are in earnest, I have indicated an opening for them.
– We will give you a chance in a few months to support these things.
– The honorable member is referring to the referenda, which! it will take many months to get through. I have an impression that the Minister of Trade and Customs made an interjection that some action he took in ascertaining the quantities of meat available had caused a reduction in the price. If I were in any business I should always make it my special concern to know exactly what stocks were in Australia and the rest of the world. A business man gets his pickings through knowing where the shortages and surpluses are. I do not give any one very great credit for happening to know what stocks there are. It is rubbish to say that the first thing we have to do is to discover the existing stocks in Australia. We know every time we put our hands in our pockets that stocks are short and prices too high. In the face of this we do not want to start an inquiry all over Australia to find out where stocks are. It has struck me as a peculiarity about the Labour party that they are always trying to find out something about somebody else’s business instead of building up a business of their own. The Minister of Trade and Customs said he reduced the price of meat.
– I did not say I reduced it. I could not, because I did not own any meat.
– I do not know whether I mistook the Minister for somebody else. I know my wife thought that the price of meat had been reduced owing to the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and went out to buy it. She was told in the shop, “No, the selling price has not been reduced. It is only the buying price that has been reduced.” It is the selling price that affects the housewives of Australia. I urge the Minister to get a move on, and reduce the selling price of meat. If he does this he will have earned the undying gratitude of thousands of people who are struggling to-day to make ends meet in these trying times.
.- The honorable member for Cook has moved a motion, of- which the second part declares that it is the duty of the Government to formulate and execute means for guaranteeing to the people of Australia the necessities of life at reasonable rates. That is the essence of the motion, and I agree with it. I agree with the proposition that from the day the war broke out the National Government had power to do practically anything if thought necessary. It had all the powers it could possibly possess through the taking of any number of referenda. I put that proposition months ago, and still strongly adhere to it. It is indorsed to-day by men of all classes, and especially by men of standing in the legal world. The Attorney-General, in his discussion with Mr. Mitchell the other day, said the Defence powers were the most drastic in the Constitution. That is exactly what I said on the floor of this chamber a few weeks ago. The AttorneyGeneral said he would be a bold man who would dare to put any limits on the powers of the National Government at the present time. If that is so, in what sort of position do we stand ? We have refused to do anything to exercise our powers. We have power to maintain a well-nurtured Army and Navy. We have ample and unlimited power to protect the civil population against the rapacity of individuals. If, without trial by Judge or jury, we can intern private individuals at Langwarriu because we think their presence in the community is not beneficial, so under the same sinister power we can imprison any person who we think has done something inimical to the interests of the country. If ever there was a question of paramount interest to the Defence Department it is that of the supply of fodder. We had unlimited power to import from the Pacific coast, India, or the Argentine all the fodder we required for Defence purposes. Instead of doing this, which would have relieved the local market and kept fodder at a reasonable rate, we entered into competition in the local market with every private buyer. We sent up the price of fodder and enabled the fodder ring to increase their profits; we put an embargo on every man who owned a horse and dray and made him pay enormously more than he ought to have paid. The same necessity for cheaper fodder is indicated by the allowance that has been promised to the mail contractors. It was the undoubted duty of the Government to import fodder from the outbreak of the war, and what is true of fodder for cattle is equally true of food for human beings. The Indian Government took charge of the wheat crop, fixed the price, transported the surplus to Great Britain, and the difference between the price realized there and the price paid to the growers of India went into the revenue of the Indian Government to help meet the expenses of the war. What they did we also could have done. The price of meat has risen; the price of wheat has risen. Even the price of firewood has risen, and the price of tea has gone up, although there is no drought in China. Yet the Government, who have absolute power over exports and imports, have not taken a single step to insure the supply of cheap foodstuffs to the people. We propose to put the referenda to the people. After we carry them, what will we do ? We shall do no more than we are doing to-day.
– If you think that you ought to go on the other side of the House.
– I am entitled to sit where I like in this chamber. I do not follow the blind superstition of those who sit in one place.
– Instead of playing to the gallery.
– My election gave me the right to sit anywhere in this chamber, and I propose to do so.
– You are pledged to support the Government.
– I am not pledged to support this Government. Make no mistake about that.
– It is as well to know that!
– I am here to uphold the principles of the Labour, movement, and not to support any particular Government which does not uphold those principles. Honorable members talk about the referenda and of nationalizing monopolies, and yet they will not take a single step when they have unlimited power. Even with our present powers in the matter of insurance and banking, no step has been taken; and the chances are that, when it is proposed to move, it will be found that there is no necessity, every State having taken action. A Government, which is here to uphold the national existence can see men going to the war, and their wives and children practically starving owing to the enormously high prices of food, and all they can do is to turn round and say that they have no power to prevent it. That is absolute bosh, because they have the most extensive power possessed by a Government in any country. “Under the Constitution, the Government have domestic powers sufficient to enable them to protect the common people from the ravages of enemies without and within. The facts are plain and palpable to every man ; and the Government and this Labour party could do what is necessary if they dared *o take the chances. If the honorable member for Cook is prepared to persist with his motion, I shall support it.
– I hope that the motion will go to a vote. You wish to defeat the Government; and a vote would show us where we are.
– The honorable member for Hunter is talking rot !
– No, no!
– Honorable members had better go outside and settle it.
– I am not going outside to settle it. I am elected to Parliament to express my opinions, and when I violate the principles of the party and the movement, the organizations outside can deal with me. It is not within the power of any honorable member, or party, or Government to deal with me; so long as I am here, I shall express my opinions, and my actions are matters for my constituents, and their organizations and leagues. I shall vote for the motion.
– It is exceedingly refreshing to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Bourke. In Queensland a Liberal Government has been subject to similar criticism; and, according to the Leader of the Opposition in that State, that Government was put out of office for failing to take action in regard to trusts, and also for not doing something to reduce the high cost of living. The honorable member for Cook is quite right in pressing for the fullest information, so that we may know whether or not the Customs Department can show that any trusts or combinations are “cornering” the food of the community. We have been told by the Attorney-General, through the press, that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is such an organization, though it is said not to be the worst of the kind . If that be so, it is the duty of the Minister of Trade and Customs to make investigations. If it is known by the AttorneyGeneral that trusts and combines are operating injuriously, the names ought to be communicated to the House. Can the Minister of Trade and Customs give us the names of any trusts or combines that are carrying on operations detrimental to consumers? If the Government are not in a position to afford such information, they ought to remain silent, and not make allegations outside. Such allegations as I refer to have been made by the AttorneyGeneral ; and I hope that, at a later stage, we may have some information from the Minister of Trade and Customs. I ask the honorable gentleman again whether there is in his Department any information regarding the alleged trusts and combines referred to by the Attorney-General ?
– Ask the honorable member for Angas, who, as Attorney-General, reported on trusts and combines-
– That was three or four years ago, and I am speaking of trusts and combines said to be in existence at the present moment. If names are not supplied, the inference might be drawn that those allegations are being made for political purposes.
– Does the honorable member accept the name of Armour as representing a trust?
– I am asking for the names of trusts that are said to be operating injuriously in Australia at the present moment. Specific inquiries were made regarding an alleged Beef Trust, and none was found to exist; and there is information to that effect in the Department of Trade and Customs. It is strange to hear Labour members raising these questions as to cost of living against a Labour Government. In Queensland the Liberal Government was said to be responsible; and I think I hear the honorable member for Ballarat say “So they were.” If we take the figures for 1914, which are the latest available in the Library, we find that the purchasing power in the various capital cities is represented by the following: - Sydney, 24s. Id.; Melbourne, 22s. Id.; Adelaide, 22s. 10d.; Perth, 22s. 10d.; Hobart, 21s. 10d.; and Brisbane, 19s. lid - an average of 22s. lOd. Mr. Knibbs, in giving some later figures, adds a comment to the effect that it will be observed that “Western Australia is the most expensive and Queensland the cheapest State. This shows at once that all those allegations about the high price of food in Queensland were merely made for political purposes. In New South Wales, where there has been a Labour Government for years, we find practically the highest rate, namely, 24s. Id. in Sydney, as against 19s. lid. in Brisbane. What are the remedies that are to be applied? What has the Labour Government of New South Wales done to reduce the cost of living? When it is sought to make political capital out of our present circumstances, it is only reasonable to ask the Government, as the honorable member for Cook has done, to frame some policy. Members of this House and Labour senators went to Queensland during the elections, and strongly denounced the late Government for doing nothing to reduce the cost of living; and it is only fair that a Labour member should now challenge the Commonwealth Executive to come down with a distinct policy.
– It is a friendly invitation.
– It is only right that, the Government should be asked to showhow they are going to reduce the cost of living. Complaints are made in Queensland and other States as to the high price of butter; but I can say that, in my own constituency, in many instances, the cost of production has been higher than the price realized in the market. While the price was 2s. per lb., farmers in many districts found that the cost of production was something like 2s. 6d., or, at any rate, considerably in excess of the return. Throughout the drought these men on the land found their stock dying, their capital diminishing, and their overdrafts rising; and yet the people in the cities were urging, as a magnificent remedy, the reduction of the price of butter to possibly ls. 3d. per lb. And similar circumstances have prevailed in other directions. In New South Wales, with the wheat grab at 5s. a bushel, the return received by the farmer was, in many instances, less than the cost of ploughing and planting. Of course.- there were cases in which the farmer got higher rates; and I am onlyurging that such problems as these have to be faced squarely and fairly. All that the farmer gets as wages is produced out of the land. He has no Wages Board or standard wage for times of depression, but he must stand the brunt of bad seasons and all other untoward conditions. Yet, although a drought was over the land, the only remedy suggested was a cutting down of prices below cost. If that is the remedy proposed by the Government, it is based on injustice and iniquity, and will bring its own retribution. No remedy will be satisfactory that does not do justice all round. If we are going to regulate prices we must remember what the farmer has to bear during bad seasons. He must buy agricultural implements and other goods manufactured in the cities under Wages Board conditions ; and during the drought the rates of wages in the cities were kept at the highest. Thus the brunt of the drought, with its consequent loss and suffering, is borne by the primary producers. There is no suggestion that at such a time a Board should reduce the cost of the articles he requires - no suggestion that boots, timber, or his necessary labour should be made cheaper. It is extraordinary that during a drought there is never any idea of reducing wages in the cities, but always the suggestion that the prices of the products of the primary producers shall be lowered. Such an idea is grossly unjust and unfair, and productive of the greatest hardship in the country districts. In all these matters the sense of justice ought to be the basis of our legislation, but I find that honorable members opposite, in their attitude towards this matter, deal only with the products of primary industries. Butter may be quoted as an illustration. That is one subject upon, which a good deal has been said. To arrive at the true position we ought to ascertain the facts. In the October-December Labour Bulletin Mr. Knibbs states -
In order to obtain an accurate measure of the progress of wage-earners, regard must be had to the purchasing power of wages, and the index numbers based merely upon records_ of rates of wages, must consequently be subject to some correction, inasmuch as they take no account of variations in cost of living.
Then on page 264 Mr. Knibbs states -
The relative positions of the States . . . is also of interest. Queensland is lowest but one in regard to nominal wages, but is nearly as high as Western Australia in regard to effective wages.
In Queensland it is shown that the men enjoy just about the highest effective wages, and applying that test to butter as an illustration, we find that the only* burden the people in the big centres of Queensland are called upon to bear in consequence of the drought is the extra price for butter, which, at the most, amounts to a couple of shillings per week. There has been no reduction in a standard wage at all.
– Do you not admit that increased prices for foodstuffs is equivalent to a reduction of wages?
– What I am saying is that there has been no reduction in the standard wages, nor have the country people asked for that; and as the result of the increase of butter prices, taking that as one illustration, I suppose the burden, if increased, does not amount to more than 9d. a lb., meaning a small amount per week. That is the whole burden that these people have had placed upon them.
– But butter is not the only item required in the household.
– I have not said it is, but I point out that this burden falls upon the farmer to the same extent, because he is just as large a consumer of the necessities of life as the city man, and yet honorable members opposite do not consider him.
– He is just as much exploited as anybody else. Do not try to make out that we are against the farming interests.
– It is extraordinary, then, that when dealing with the high cost of living, honorable members opposite talk chiefly about reducing the cost of articles which are produced by the primary producers.
– It is strange that your party was beaten in the farming districts at the last election. The farmers there were not gulled.
– As a rule the country districts stood by the Liberals. I say that deliberately. “ But the honorable member is drawing me away from the point by his incursion into party politics. Whenever there is national distress, honorable members opposite talk about the cost of the necessities of life, but as a matter of fact they deal with only three or four things which, as I have shown, are the primary products. They do not talk about reducing the price of the products of the factories in the cities at all. But I am not saying that they should. I am only asking for a fair and square deal all round. If regulation is good for one thing it is good for another. It is not right to talk only of regulating the price of products produced by only one class in the community.
– We agree with you there.-
– But it seems that honorable members opposite only want to regulate the price of primary products, and in this House they make no mention of the other sections of the community. Surely it is only fair that we should approach this problem in its general and wider aspects.
– Do you think that the farmers are charged too much for agricultural machinery? If you do, we will support you in any action you may” take.
– If there is a trust or combine injuriously affecting the price of agricultural implements, or if there is any trust or combine likewise affecting the production of boots, clothing, foodstuffs, or anything else, such trust or combine ought to be subject to the strongest condemnation. I have always taken that attitude. But honorable members opposite appear to think that trusts and combines are concerned only with the primary products. They talk only of three or four things, such as meat, butter, food, milk, and cheese, when any reference is made to regulating prices of products, and under these circumstances, if any attempt is made at regulation, it will break down hopelessly. I think Mr. Holman was quite right the other day when he said that there were certain economic values which could not be interfered with. If, for instance, the Labour party in Queensland attempted to pass an Act dealing with the price of butter, and to declare that it should not exceed ls. 6d. under existing conditions, many farmers would be unable to carry on. He would have to close down altogether. If, as the Minister states, there are worse combinations than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, he would be quite right in exposing them, and in bringing public opinion to bear upon them. But they have not even adopted the Canadian system of giving publicity to the operations of combines. No name is given. This is not fair dealing, and I again ask the Minister in charge of the House to inform us what are these trusts and combines which are said to be worse than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and which are exploiting the Australian public.
– You should be able to tell us, because you had them under observation when you were in office. You ought to know.
– The present Government has not even got them under observation. I wish to refer to one important matter in connexion with the statement made by the Attorney-General concerning the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It reads more like a political speech than a judicial utterance.
– It is like a political manifesto.
– In one part of his statement the Attorney-General stated that the Colonial Sugar Refining Com pany deliberately exported 3,000 tons of Fiji sugar lying in bond in Australia on 26th April, si* days before they approached Mr. Holman to draw his attention to the probable shortage. From that statement, made by the Attorney-General, the public were given to understand that the company were concealing the facts from the Government, but it is rather interesting to learn from the Minister of Trade and Customs what really was the position. Yesterday he told us he did not know whether any evidence had been given before the Commission. The Minister yesterday did not know whether any of his officers had given evidence, but now he admits that the company did export the sugar after having applied to the Federal Government, of which the Attorney-General is a member. They obtained permission to bring this Fiji sugar into Australia in order that it could be refined here, with the express object of giving employment to Australian workmen. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had been as unscrupulous and regardless of Australian interests as the ‘Attorney-General would have us believe, they could have sent that sugar straight away from Fiji, and Australia would have been the loser by the transaction. It was a wise arrangement to provide employment for Australian workmen, but the Attorney-General and his colleagues should not now seek to hold this company up to ridicule and contempt in the eyes of the Australian public for that very reason. That one little incident gives a fair idea of the value of the whole of the report. I hope, therefore, that the Government will allow us to see the evidence upon which the statement was based, so that we can read it ourselves, and know exactly what was the information upon which the Attorney-General acted. In conclusion, I wish to say that I think the Minister of Trade and Customs treated very unjustly the members of the Food Supply Commission, which was constituted by the previous Government to make certain inquiries regarding the position in Australia. They were eminently qualified for that task. Mr. Dugald Thomson is a man than whom no one stands higher in the estimation, of the whole commercial community of Australia for integrity, ability, and sincerity, as well as for capacity for sound judgment and wise discretion. Those honorable members who served in this Parliament with him know that a fairer-minded man never entered the halls of this Parliament. He was one of the Commissioners. Mr. Alfred Deakin, who is so well and favorably known to us all personally, was another, and Mr. Knibbs, a conscientious public officer, was the third man. Immediately they were appointed they entered whole-heartedly upon their duties, and spent night and day doing their best in the interests of the people of Australia. It is all very well for honorable members of the Government who came in some weeks afterwards, and when things were running more smoothly, to suggest that the appointment was unnecessary. We have to remember what was the position of Australia when war broke out, and what chaos existed in the commercial world. These three gentlemen had to survey the whole of the commercial conditions as they were affected by the rupture brought about by the war. They did their duty well, and the report which was presented to us conveyed no idea of the amount of work which they were called upon to do. Instead of treating them cavalierly, as the Minister did, it would have been better if the honorable gentleman had taken a more patriotic view of the whole position. As one who was closely associated with the members of the Commission in the beginning of their work, I am sorry that they were not allowed to continue, because they could have done a great deal of very useful work for Australia. If their powers were not sufficiently wide, the Government could have done as we did in connexion with the Beef Trust Commission, and passed an Act of Parliament giving them authority to call for the production of books, papers, documents, and everything else necessary for the prosecution of their investigation.
– Did that Commission to which you refer ever do much good ?
– Undoubtedly it did, for Mr. Justice Street showed that there was no foundation in fact for many of the. wild statements that had been made. I think it did a great deal of good in clearing the air. If a Trust existed, a Judge of the Supreme Court would have found it out, and we could have dealt with it. I am sorry the Minister did not give credit tothe members of the Food Supply Commission for the good work they did on behalf of the people of Australia.
– I had the pleasure of listening to the opening remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs, and I was reminded by them of an early dictionary definition of a crayfish. It stated that it was a red fish that walked backwards. It was stated later that that definition of a crayfish was wrong in only three particulars, seeing that it was not a fish, it was not red, and it did not walk backwards. It was not my intention to speak on the motion had not the honorable member for Darling Downs, in making a comparison of the cost of living in Queensland with the cost in other States, quoted misleading figures. The honorable gentleman quoted the figures for March, and, though they may have been correct at the time, they have been altered by later figures.
– I quoted the latest figures available in the Library.
– The honorable gentleman gave the figures for March,, and I can give the figures for April. These show that at the end of April the average increase in Queensland was 21 per cent. ; in New South Wales, 8 per cent. ; in Victoria, 16 per cent. ; South Australia, 14 per cent. ; Western Australia, 10 per cent. ; and Tasmania, 14 per cent.
– That does not show that the cost of living in Brisbane is not still less than in the other capital cities.
– I shall tell honorable members in a minute whether it is or is not. The figures are given for five towns in each State, and with respect to the capital cities, I find that in Sydney the increase was 8 per cent. ; in Melbourne, 16 per cent.; in Adelaide, 14 per cent. ; in Perth, 11 per cent. ; in Hobart, 14 per cent. ; and in Brisbane,. 21 per cent. Unfortunately for the honorable member for Toowoomba, the centre of his own district has the record increase for Australia.
– That is where the drought is most severe.
– It is not because of the drought. The increase in Brisbane was 21 per cent.; in Toowoomba, 27 per cent.; in Rockhampton, 13 per cent. ; in Charters Towers and in Warwick, 21 per cent. ; and there is only one other city or town in Australia that comes nearer to the figure for Toowoomba than 23 per cent., and that is Mount Gambier, in South Australia.
– Those are the increases, but what is the actual result in comparing the cost of living in each of the States ?
– In Queensland the increase in cost of living from July of last year to April of this year amounted to 4s. 3d. in the £1, and in New South Wales to only ls. 9d.
– But taking the aggregate, in which State is the cost of living highest now?
– Do the figures show that the cost of living in Sydney at the present time is higher or lower than in Brisbane ?
– They show an increase of 8 per cent, in Sydney, and of 21 per cent, in Brisbane.
– But how does Sydney compare with Brisbane now ?
– Sydney is represented by the figure 1,098, Brisbane by the figure 1,129, and Toowoomba by the figure 1,159. That shows the comparative cost of living, and yet the honorable member for Darling Downs has been trying to show that in this matter Queenslaud is better off than are the other States. I am willing to confess that I am not greatly concerned as to whether Queensland is worse or better off than the other States in the matter of the cost of living. I try to look at the question from an Australian point of view, and whether there is a slight decrease in one State and an increase in another, the fact is incontrovertible that all over Australia to-day the cost of living is very high. Our attention should be directed not so much to pointing out who is to blame, or to charging certain political parties with the blame, but to finding out the causes of the increase, and to seeking for a remedy. During the last Queensland elections I accused the Liberal party there of being responsible for the high cost of living in that State.
– Did the honorable member at the same time blame the New South Wales Government for the high cost of living in Now South Wales ?
– It was admitted by Mr. Denham in a policy speech, and by every one who was aware of the facts, that, although Queensland does not grow enough wheat for her own consumption, she exported no less than 100,000 bushels of wheat. We had also the fact, admitted by Mr. Denham, that £8,000 could have been made by his own firm by speculating in wheat ; yet in his policy speech he said that there had been no speculation in wheat. The honorable member for Darling Downs wishes to know the causes of the increase iu the cost of living, and I say that it is due, in a large measure, to speculators cornering wheat and holding it for high prices. They “ bear “ the market at one time, and “bull” it at another, and simply gamble the whole time with the food of the people from the clay the seed is sown until the wheat is ready to be sent to the mill. For the seven months ending January of this year Queensland exported 600,000 lbs. of butter more than she exported during the similar period of the preceding year. Queensland was not short of butter. She had more to spare than she had in the previous year. What caused the high price of butter in Melbourne and in Brisbane? Victoria was short of butter, and Melbourne speculators bought heavily in Queensland. They filled the cold stores to overflowing. They did with it exactly what was done with the wheat supply. They doled it out only in small quantities, with the result that people in Victoria anxious to obtain butter could not get it. The speculators held it back in Brisbane. They sent down small shipments as it suited them to do so. Upon one shipment of butter alone from Queensland to Victoria, no less than £9,000 profit was made by the speculators. I said during the Queensland election, and I repeat now, that these men were doing what the laws of the country permitted them to do. As speculators, it was their business to hold back supplies, and, when it suited them, to unload in sufficient quantities to keep up the price. The people of Melbourne and of Brisbane had to pay high prices, not because there was a shortage, but because the gamblers in butter operated in Brisbane, and held back supplies from Victoria; and, as a consequence, both States had to pay high prices. The same thing might be said with regard to sugar, wheat, and other commodities. What I object to is that the laws of the country should allow any one to hold up, gamble, and speculate with the food of the people. The honorable members for Cook and Bourke claimed that the Federal Government had at the present time the power to stop that kind of thing.
– They have, undoubtedly.
– By the proclamation of martial law.
– This is an absolutely new argument. On previous occasions when this matter has been discussed, and on two occasions particularly, when the referenda questions were submitted to the people, we were told that there was no need to give the Federal Government the powers asked for, as the State Governments possessed the powers, and, if necessary, might exercise them. Now we are told that the Federal Government have this power all the time.
– They have it in time of war, undoubtedly.
– In time of war they have not the power, unless they proclaim martial law. The honorable member for Richmond must be well aware of that fact.
– They have the power.
– The Constitution absolutely forbids it. If the Government had this power without the proclamation of martial law, I should be ready to join the honorable member for Bourke in denouncing them for not taking action at the present time.
– What is the matter with reducing the duties upon articles of food, and so reducing the price 1 The Government have the power to do that.
– No Government can reduce duties.
– This Parliament has the power to do so.
– The Government would have to come to this Parliament to reduce duties, and perhaps in a week or two we shall have an opportunity to deal with. that aspect of the question. In the meantime, unless th© State Governments take action in this matter, the Federal Government is absolutely powerless. All that we are asking for by the proposed referenda is that the Federal Government should have the same power to deal with these matters as that possessed by the State Governments. We have had an illustration of what one State can do. The Government of New South Wales exerted their sovereign powers, and commandeered the supply of wheat. The High Court held that they were justified. I think that every honorable member will admit, although, perhaps, reluctantly in some cases, that the New South Wales Government took the proper action so far as their people particularly were concerned. They may have been selfish, and may have laid themselves open to the charge of disloyalty to the rest of Australia; but they acted in the interests of the people of New South Wales. Before the elections in Queensland, Mr. Denham stated that next year there will inevitably be a heavy shortage of sugar, and he was prepared to commandeer the whole of the sugar crop in Queensland, and let the other States look after themselves. This was suggested in retaliation for what the New South Wales Government had done in commandeering the wheat supply of that State. I say that the New South Wales Government could have done no better under the existing circumstances; but I say, also, that the Federal Government should have the power to do for Australia what the New South Wales Government did for New South Wales.
– The inflated prices of articles of daily consumption are largely due to the heavy taxation upon them.
– Unfortunately for the honorable member, his statement will not bear the test of investigation, because exactly the same difficulty is experienced in Free Trade countries, and in countries where the protective incidence of the Tariff is not so high as it is here. In the Motherland to-day the prices prevailing are as high, if not higher, than the prices prevailing here. The increase in prices there may be due to the war, but it is not due to the war in Australia. It may be due, to some extent, to the drought, but it is chiefly due to the operations of speculators. Here is an illustration of how the thing works: There are eighteen men in Sydney who practically control the business of New South Wales and Queensland. Their names are- -
Hugh Dixson, H. B. Denison, E. W. Knox, W. C. Watt, H. E. Kater, G. M. Merivale, A. Forsyth, Allen Taylor, James Burns, Geo.
Cohen, Henry Moses, C. K. Mackellar, N. Maclaurin, R. J. Black, Richard Binnie, W. C. Goddard, J. T. Walker, and J. R. Fairfax.
Here is what they control: -
The Bank of New South Wales, the Bank of North Queensland, the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney the City Bank of Sydney, the New South Wales branches of the London Bank, and the Queensland, and New South Wales branches of the Union Bank. They control the funds of the Australian Mutual Provident, the Indemnity Mutual, the Mutual Life and Citizens, the Industrial Provident, the Australian Mutual Fire, United Insurance, the Permanent Trustees, and the Perpetual Trustees Company of New South Wales. This group is the Equitable Building Society, the Australian Mortgage Company, the New South Wales Land Agency, the Brisbane Permanent Building, and a score of other loan contrivances. It is the Stock Exchange Company of Sydney. It is the South Coast Shipping Company, the Sydney Ferries, the North Coast steamers, the North Shore Gas, and the Electrical Corporation of New South Wales. It is the Burns, Philp section of the Shipping Ring, exercising local control over the Australasian United Steam Navigation Company. It owns Tooth’s Brewery, the Australian Drug Company, the Australian Wireless, the Australian Gaslight Company, and the Bellambi section of the Coal Vend. The wool-broking firm of Harrison, Jones, and Devlin is owned and directed by this group. So is the Fresh Food and Ice Company. So is Mort’s Dock; while the name of Pitt, Son, and Badgery, like that of Harrison, Jones, and Devlin, and dozens of others, is merely one of the aliases under which this Australian Money Ring cloaks its ownership from the public gaze. Scores of industrial and mercantile concerns running under the old titles are the absolute property of the money power, the original proprietors having been bought out, faked out, crushed out, swamped smothered, merged, or amalgamated.
There are twenty-four men whoso headquarters are in Victoria, and who control business in Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia. If honorable members desire a list of what they control, I have it here. They control -
The Commercial Bank of Australia, the Commercial Bank of Tasmania, the Bank of Adelaide, the Colonial, the National, the Royal, and branches of the London Bank and Union Bank situated in the three southern States. Out of 700 branches situated in these States, the southern section of the Australian Money Ring controls 400. Amongst insurance and kindred agencies, the Ring controls the British and Foreign Insurance, the Phoenix Fire, the Mutual Fire of Tasmania, the Derwent and Tamar, the North British, the Colonial Mutual Life, the Colonial Mutual Fire, the Equity Trustees, the Perpetual Trustees, the Union Trustees, the National Trustees, the Trustees, Executors, and Agency Company. It also controls the receipts from the Victorian and South Australian sections of the Guardian, and the receipts from the Victorian, Tasmanian, and South Australian sections of the A.M.P.
They also control the following: -
The Argus and Victorian Building Societies, the Australian Deposit, the Freehold Assets, Elder, Smith, and Company, the Land Mortgage Company, the New Zealand Loan, Goldsbrough, Mort Company, and the Victorian section of Dalgety’s. These men are Melbourne Gas, Ararat Gas, Hamilton Gas, Warracknabeal Gas, and Cairns Gas. They are the Melbourne and Sydney Hydraulic, the Wunderlich, the Glaciarium, and the Cold Storage Company. They are the Northcote section of the Brick Combine, the Melbourne end of the tobacco monopoly, the East Greta section of the Coal Vend, the Kauri Timber section of the Timber Combine, the Adelaide ‘Steam-ship and Arch. Currie section of the Shipping Ring. These men operate under dozens of names. They are the Swan Brewery, of Perth; Lion Brewery, of Adelaide; Foster’s Brewery; the Victoria Brewery Combine. They are ninetenths of the monetary interests in strong liquor. They are the Peel River Land Company, and the Portland Downs Pastoral Company. They are the Melbourne Trams, the Silverton Trams, the Melbourne Storage and Contracting Company, and they are Dunlop Tyres. They are the Australian Paper Mills, Australian Knitting Mills, Australian Otis, and Australian Advertising Company. They are Johns and Waygood, John Robinson and Company, and a score of others. In nine casey out_ of ten, where an industrial or mercantile business is transformed into a joint stock company, the members of the Money Trust become controllers and eventual owners. These men are the Zinc Corporation and Amalgamated Zinc. They control Broken Hill Proprietary, Block 10, Block 14, Broken Hill Water Sup. ply, Chillagoe Rails and Mines; also Cloncurry, Mount Morgan, Mount Lyell, Tasmanian Copper, and the Emu Bay Railway. Operations in coal mine shares are left to the Sydney end of the Money Trust.
The names of the Melbourne men who comprise this corporation are as follow: - Bowes Kelly, A. B. Were, John McWhae, F. E. Thoneman, M. Cohen, J. L. Wharton, W. L. Baillieu, John Grice, W. G. Sharp, Harvey Patterson, Ed. Fanning, Duncan McBryde, H. C. Muecke, H. Meeks, J. M. Pratt, Geo. Swinburne, W. G. Sprigg, A. D. Hart, Jas. Harvey, Colin Templeton, J. C. Syme, Geo. Fairbairn, Kelso King, and R. G. Casey.
– Who is responsible for all these statements?
– I will accept responsibility for them. I am* not going to shelter myself behind anybody. There is the secret of the high cost of living. In Australia there is a combination of commercial men, just as there axe similar combinations in the country where the trusts are most powerful - I refer to America. These men absolutely determine, nob only where men shall live, what they shall wear, and what they shall eat, but the prices which they shall pay for commodities.
– There is not a single article of food mentioned in the list which the honorable member has read.
– They hold an absolute control over the means of livelihood of the people. They control not only the wages paid, but what those wages can buy, and the quantities which can be purchased by them. They absolutely control the margin between the wages which they pay to the workman and the amount which they take back from those workmen for the food which the latter eat. They are the speculators in butter, wheat, and sugar.
– The honorable member has quoted an article from the Labour Call, has he not?
– I accept responsibility for the statements which I have read. The fact remains that to-day the retailers of this country who sell commodities to the people do not control the prices of those commodities. They practically have no voice in the prices which they charge. Their profits are cut down to a minimum ; and they are so entirely in the hands of trusts and combines that they are compelled to buy in a certain direction, at a certain rate, and also to sell to the public at a certain rate. I will give an illustration. There is a firm of merchants in Brisbane which placed an order with the Melbourne agents for the Canadian Fish Packing Company for a certain brand of tinned fish. That order was accepted. But a few days later the firm received a letter from these agents - the letter is now in the hands of the AttorneyGeneral - intimating that owing to the pressure of the Brisbane Merchants Association they were unable to accept the order, and advising the firm in question to make its purchase through that Association. In other words, this firm could not-get its goods other than at a price stipulated by a third party.
– If we reduce the taxes, shall we not knock the bottom out of a lot of these combines?
– No. The honorable member knows that there is in this country - just as there is in America and Europe - the system of interlocking directorates. That is to say, the men who form the directorate of one company are also the directors of other companies. The arrangement is a very clever business one. Legally these men are perfectly justified in their action. But the people who say that they own this country, and who should have the right to control their food supplies and methods of living, are absolutely helpless in the hands of these commercial magnates. We have established Wages Boards, and we have been told that the high cost of living is due to the high rates of wages which obtain. My experience is that the high cost of living is responsible for the repeated demands for increased wages. Only a few weeks ago I saw in the Age the report of an address by a gentleman who I am assured is a well-know supporter of honorable members opposite. He had* just returned from a two years’ visit to England, and he spoke before a meeting of the Victorian Hardware Association. He told that meeting that much had been said about the strikes which occurred in the Old Country, that he had been there, and that, so far from criticising the men because of their action, they were absolutely justified in going upon strike. He pointed out that since the outbreak of the war the cost of goods had increased so much that what a sovereign would purchase previously - he spoke in February of the present year - then required an expenditure of 24s. He told his hearers that this was not due to the goods being scarce, but merely to the fact that people were holding them to reap an extra profit. Honorable members know that in Australia, immediately war was declared, the prices of goods held in stock were increased - even the prices of drugs - to an enormous extent. The war was made a convenient excuse to put up prices. The cost of goods that were nob affected in the least degree by the war was. immediately raised. Yet honorable members opposite complain that the working man is getting unreasonable and is demanding outrageous wages. The surprise to me is that he- is so modest. So far from the cost of living being due to the higher rate of wages being paid,
I say that the cost of living compels wageearners to demand higher rates of wages. It is no use burking the fact that the margin between the ordinary worker’s wages to-day and the cost of living has disappeared. This is not a laughing matter. It is a serious one, and is particularly serious seeing that unemployment is so prevalent. If a man’s employment fails him for two or three weeks, he is now right down on his beam ends. I invite honorable members opposite to address themselves not so much to the question of who is to blame for the increased cost of living, so far as political parties are concerned, as to what are the institutions in the community which control the food of the people and make them pay unreasonable prices for it.
– What is the honorable member going to do about it?
– The Leader of the Opposition can have his reply in six words - “Give the people power by referendum.” If the powers of the Commonwealth were equal to’ those of the States this matter could be attended to.
– It could be, perhaps, but would, it be 1
– We stand here helpless, gagged, tied, hobbled, hindered, and obstructed. Have I the word of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government could do these things?
– I think that they could do a lot of things which they have not done.
– I admit that we have done many things that we ought not to have done, and that we have left undone many things which we ought to have done. But every time we have submitted the referenda proposals to the people, honorable members opposite have opposed them on the ground that it was not necessary for this Parliament to have the same powers as the States themselves possess
– Order ! The honorable member must not discuss the referenda.
– If the Government had the increased powers to-morrow, they would not use them.
– Not only in Australia, but in every country in the world, the people are faced with the perplexing problem of how to make it easier for the masses to live, how to so accommodate wages to food and the necessaries of life that conditions will be more advantageous to the workers. Some time ago, I came across a very interesting table of computation in this direction. I have not it with me, but I remember the facts perfectly well. It set out that in the case of the lower-paid men of the community - that is, men who are receiving up to £80 a year - the necessaries of life cost 95 per cent, of their wages, leaving them only 5 per cent, with which to purchase the comforts and conveniences of life, to defray the cost of extra education, and tocover contributions to friendly societies,. &c.
– The honorable member may come a little nearer home. Mr. Knibbs shows that a man who is in> receipt of £3 per week has had his cost of living increased by 12s. per week during the past three years, whilst his wages have been increased by only 4s. per week..
– That is a stronger argument than anything I have said.
– Hear, hear! That is what he is getting out of a Labour Government.
– Let me finish my statement. As wages go up the proportion for necessaries decreases, and the proportion for comforts and extras increases, until the man who is getting the higher wage can live more cheaply, and has more money left, proportionately, for recreation, improvement, education, and other things than the man at the bottom. That is the wrong way about. We contend that the man on the low-wage scale should have as fair a margin as the man on the highwage scale. The Leader of the Opposition has reminded me that the cost of living has gone up 12s. as against an increase of 4s. for wages.
– Yes, and in those States where there is a Labour Government.
– It has gone upat that rate everywhere, Labour Governments or not.
– Not so much in the other States.
– In the Old Country, it has gone up at the rate of 25 per cent. The trouble is that the increased cost of living, as I have been trying to argue, is not confined to this country. It is not confined to Labour Governments or to Liberal Governments; it has a worldwide aspect.
– No, but the Labour Governments came in to do away with the additional cost.
– I am not concerned with whether political parties are to be blamed for it or are responsible for it. What I am concerned about is, how are we going to deal with the question? Things cannot be allowed to go on as they are now doing.
– You did not say that in Queensland the other day.
– I did, and I offered then the remedy which I offer now.
– What is that?
– Givethe Federal Government equal powers with the States, so that they can protect one State against another, and also protect all the States against outside competition, and then you will have laid a basis for dealing with the matter. In Australia, we have sufficient supplies of most of the absolute necessaries that we need.
– Can you not talk to the motion; have you no suggestion to make?
– I am talking about the cost of living. If I could believe with the honorable members for Cook and Bourke that the Federal Government have the power to do the things they ask, I would be with them in denouncing the Government. But I believe that the Government are hobbled and unable to do what is asked by those honorable members. When the time does come to submit once more to the people a request for additional powers to this Parliament, I think that we will receive a better answer than we got the last time.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 7.45 p.m.
– I think that we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.’]
. -This afternoon we listened to two speeches from members sitting behind the Government that were somewhat remarkable, because both were strongly condemnatory of the inaction of Ministers in regard to the important matters covered by the amendment. The speech of the honorable member for Bourke was avowedly hostile. His expressions were those to which we were accustomed when the mem bers of the Labour party were in opposition to a Liberal Government, and asked day after day, “ What is the Government doing to reduce the cost of living?” They declared that the Government should do something to relieve the situation. The honorable member for Bourke is the only member of the party whose attitude is unchanged. He has told the House that the Government have the power to improve things if they choose to exert it. The honorable member for Cook travelled on the same line, and, although his hostility to the Government was not so pronounced, he clearly evidenced his discontent because an Administration of which so much had been expected had done so little. The speech of the honorable member for Brisbane, another Labour supporter, was intended to back up the Government. He had no fault to find with Ministers, who, in his judgment, are fulfilling all their obligations, but in reality nothing could be more scathing and condemnatory of the Government than was his speech. He has been able to go through all the capital cities of Australia, and name every individual there who is exploiting the workers by increasing the cost of living. He not only names individuals, but gives the institutions which they are said to control. He tells us that he himself is responsible for the statement he made. Having this important information, being able to put his finger upon those who are injuring the people of the Commonwealth, he has been false to his duty to his constituents, and to the country at large, in not impressing the facts of the situation on the members of the Government. The Labour party was thought to be solid, but evidently there are serious breaches in its ranks. The honorable member for Bourke was certainly not firing blank cartridge ; there was an explosive force in his remarks, which created a great deal of anger among the Government supporters.
– Honorable members opposite tell the public that Labour members are not allowed to speak their minds, and now he condemns them for doing so.
– I applaud those who have done so, and I wish that every Labour member would do the same. To say that the Government is not alive to the seriousness of the position, and does not know what great burdens have been placed on the masses, would be false.
That Ministers know all about the situation is proved by the statement in paragraph 10 of the Governor-General’3 Speech -
My Advisers recognise the necessity, caused by the higher cost of commodities, of increasing old-age and invalid pensions, and also for the provision of pensions to widows and orphan children. Legislation to effect these objects will be introduced as soon as the state of the finances makes it practicable.
That has not been done, and cannot be done, and it is now generally recognised, as it had been earlier recognised by all thinkers, that the increased cost of living is imposing a serious hardship on the masses. In the Governor-General’s Speech the Government gave this as a reason for increasing the amount provided for oldage pensions, and seeing that its supporters claim that it has the power to remedy the matter, why does it not exercise that power ? In paragraph 11 of the Speech, the Governor-General was made to say -
The necessity of restoring normal conditions in Australian industries is fully recognised by my Advisers. To that end the Commonwealth public works will be vigorously proceeded with, and active measures will be taken to co-operate with the State Governments, and also to supplement as far as practicable the efforts of individual employers.
Normal conditions are natural conditions, and the present Government is creating abnormal conditions. It is making the position more and more artificial, and discouraging production.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question?
– I am endeavouring to do so, and am trying to show that the object of the amendment is to incite the Government to give relief to the workers by doing something to reduce the cost of living. I suggest that the Government should try to restore confidence among the employers, so that, instead of capital being sent out of the country, it will be used to stimulate production as much as possible. Excluding altogether the effects of the drought, I say that our agricultural production is being seriously decreased because of the abnormal conditions created by Government measures, and the sooner we get back to normal conditions under which confidence will reign the sooner will supplies be increased and prices diminished. The promotion of new industries has been suggested as a means for decreasing the cost of living. The establishment of new industries would, no doubt, have that effect. Every true citizen wishes to see our industries multiplied so that employment may be available to as many as possible, but men will not put their capital into labour-employing industries so long as legislation tends to prevent them from getting a fair return for their money. Those who have money usually have it because they are men of common sense. Such men engage in business enterprises for the sake of profit, and if you make it almost impossible for them to obtain a profit on their operations you create conditions inevitably leading to an increase in the cost of living. According to the Government Statistician - I take my information from page 259 of the last Labour bulletin issued - wages have increased each year from 1901 to 1914.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– No ; I think it is a good thing. The prosperity of the country depends on the welfare of the masses, but at page 265 of the same publication it is stated that during the period named the purchasing power of wages, that is, the effective wages of the community, has diminished.
– How does the’ honorable member account for that?
– By the increased cost of living.
– What is the cause of that?
– The Tariff.
– I am not prepared to give credit to the Tariff for everything, though I am certain that every increase in protective duties means a corresponding increase, in the cost of’ living, and therefore to that extent the Tariff is responsible. The contention of honorable members opposite appears to be that the more money the working man passes through his hands the better off he is. But it is obvious that if wages are increased all along the line the cost of the commodities produced must be advanced. Take, for example, the production of wheat. The ploughman has to be paid more; the man who sows the ground has to be paid more; the man who reaps the crop has to be paid more ; the man working on the threshing machine has to be paid more ; the man who carts the wheat to the railway station has to be paid more; every man in the flour mill has to be paid more ; and every man in the bakehouse has to be paid more. The inevitable consequence of all these increases is that the cost of the commodity to the consumer must be advanced.. If we could raise the wages in one particular branch only, leaving the wages in all other lines unaltered, the individuals concerned in that particular line would benefit materially; but, inasmuch a3 everybody in every line has to get an advance, wages are increased from start to finish, and consequently the cost of living increases. That is my answer to the question put by the honorable member for Indi.
– Then, according to your argument, if we work for nothing we will have Paradise.
– There is a certain range of wages that produces the best result. The highest range will not do it, because it discourages employment, and thus diminishes the sum total of labour given.
– “What is a fair wage?
– That is a question that is often put by Labour men. I may say, in reply, that one man may not be too well paid at £6 a week, while another man’ may be overpaid at fi a week ; that is the injustice of the present system of paying an even wage all round.
– Who is to be the judge?
– The employer. He should know all about his employees’ ability. Many employers are prepared to give good men more than the Courts have recognised as fair wages to be paid.
– We do not see many of them.
– “ There are none so blind as those who will not see.” I have sought to show the Government that the policy of creating artificial conditions is unsound, and that the contention that the more men receive in the shape of wages the better off they are is a fallacy, which has been demonstrated by the figures of the Federal Statistician. I now appeal to the Government, in the words of the honorable member for Bourke, “ to do something.” When honorable members opposite were on this side of the House they were ever urging that something should be done. They have now been in office for over ten months, and they have not brought in a single measure or performed a single action that has brought about any improvement in the conditions of the workers. All that they have done has been to create a still greater degree of dissatisfaction in the minds of the workers, which is one of the very things that are making for the undoing of our Commonwealth.
.- In referring to the agricultural industry, in his endeavour to show that the higher wages paid to the men employed on harvestors, those doing the stooking, and those carting the grain, tended to increase the cost of living, the honorable member for Echuca forgot one very important factor, namely, that the ever-increasing efficiency of machinery is continually tending to decrease the cost of production. To-day, although wages in the agricultural industry have had a badly-needed increase, it is cheaper to harvest a field of 100 acres than it was twenty years ago, machinery, to a great extent, having superseded the necessity for employing labour. The same argument applies to nearly every industry. Many people believe that the increase in the price of boots is due to the increased wages paid to the employees in the boot factories ; but the Federal Statistician has shown conclusively that, whereas four years ago the workers received £28 out of every £100 worth of boots produced, to-day he is not getting quite £28 out of every £100 worth produced, notwithstanding he has received an increase in wages. The reason is to be found in the fact that every month, or every week, newer and more effective machinery is being introduced into this industry, tending to make labour still more effective and productive. As long as this condition of affairs continues, there must be a spirit of discontent among our working classes. I trust that they will never be satisfied to put up with small wages while they see other people becoming wealthier by their efforts.
– The honorable member must not forget the first cost of that machinery, and also the necessity to provide for depreciation.
– That factor is hardly worth discussing. It is only raised by the honorable member when he hears the effective answer I have given to the honorable member for Echuca, “who ascribed the increased price of agricultural products to the higher wages that are being paid. The Minister of Trade and Customs has reminded me that the manufacturers in the boot industry do not buy this machinery; they pay a royalty on it.
– They pay a high rent, which is equivalent to the same thing.
– First, it is the argument of high wages; then it is the cost of machinery; then it is the royalty; and, lastly, it is the rent. Honorable members ascribe the increased cost of produce to anything but the true cause, which is, that a few people of great wealth are manipulating the articles that have been created by the many. That is why we have, on this side of the chamber, a spirit of discontent. We realize that all is not being done that ought to be done.
– Your party have never done anything in the Federal arena.
– We have never had much chance of doing anything. But I do not wish to be drawn off my line of argument. I wish to reply to some of the statements that were made by honorable members on this side of the House when the honorable member for Bourke uttered hia protest against what he termed the inactivity of the present occupants of the Ministerial bench. I hope that I am a faithful member of the Labour party, and loyal to its principles, but I have yet to learn that, because I sit on a bench behind the Government, I am to remain for ever silent though I think the movement of the party is not going fast enough. And I am told by some honorable members that the place of the honorable member for Bourke is on the other side of the chamber.
– So it is.
– And yet the honorable member never did better work in the interests of the Labour movement than when he stood here aud voiced his feelings.
– When the honorable member made the statement that if we had the referenda carried, and thus had power to deal with these things, Ave would do no more than is being done now, I said that he was welcome to a seat on the other side of the chamber.
– We have in this party a common objective or platform, but we may differ as to the methods by which we hope to achieve it. I do not put myself forward as a constitutional authority, but, exercising the common sense I hope that I possess, I believe that the honorable member for Bourke was absolutely right.
– He said that he owed no allegiance to this party. What more do you want than a statement like that?
– The honorable member said that he owed no allegiance to the present leaders. He did not say that he owed no allegiance to the Labour movement. I believe, with the honorable member for Bourke, that we do possess these powers, and I am fortified in that belief by the opinions expressed by some of our constitutional ‘authorities. Let us see what our present Attorney-General has said. There is one quotation which I cannot use, but which, if I could use it, would strongly fortify the position taken up by the honorable member for Bourke. Mr. Mitchell, 3LC, in questioning the validity of the Enemy Contracts Annulment Bill, said that he believed that it was unconstitutional, and the AttorneyGeneral next day, in criticising Mr. Mitchell’s statement, said -
Mr. Mitchell had apparently assumed the legislative powers under which the Parliament has acted to be exclusively confined to the trade and commerce powers, section 51, subsection 1. But this was not the case. These powers were wide, but it might well be that doubts rs to their sufficiency for the present purpose existed.
Then he went on to say -
But the defence powers of the Commonwealth were most elastic. He would, indeed, be a bold man who would set a limit to them, particularly at such a juncture as this.
In other words, the Attorney-General argued that the Enemy Contracts Annulment Bill would be unconstitutional if passed in times of peace, but owing to our being at Avar our defence powers automatically extended, and we possessed powers which we would not possess in times of peace. I follow the lead set by the Attorney-General, one of the leaders of this party, and I ask: If we do possess these wide powers, why do we not act upon them, and endeavour to defeat those -who are exploiting the community by means of increased prices?
– Would you proclaim martial law to accomplish that?
– We do not need to do so, but, if it were necessary to proclaim martial law in order to hang some of the people who are now starving the community, I would proclaim it. The Attorney-General, speaking in the House on the 26th May, said -
The Government are responsible for the feeding of 15,000 soldiers, and for insuring supplies of the necessaries of life to those engaged in manufacturing ammunition, and the general impedimenta and necessities for carrying on the war. It is imperative, therefore, that we should take every precaution to safeguard the community against a shortage of sugar. The Government have exercised their power to take such steps as are necessary to insure the availability of an adequate supply.
I argue from this that it cannot be denied that the Government have power to buy sugar to supply the requirements of our troops at Broadmeadows; that no one can doubt that the Government have power to buy sugar to supply the requirements of men employed by us in building the transcontinental railway, of the men making boots for our troops at Broadmeadows, of the men and women making clothing for the men at Broadmeadows, or the requirements of those engaged in making ammunition for our soldiers. Wo one will question our power to buy fodder and to sell it to those engaged in the manufacture of these several commodities. We can do this because the Empire is at war, and it is necessary that our troops should be maintained. I believe - and I wish I could induce the Ministry to see eye to eye with me - that just as it is essential for the Government to provide sugar or wheat for the men engaged in making war materiel, so it is equally essential to buy sugar and other requirements for the men who are ploughing our fields and growing the wheat to be turned into flour for the use of the men who are fighting our battles. It requires no stretch of imagination to believe that the Commonwealth Government has the necessary power to enter into commerce to-day in respect of practically every line that is required for our people. When a few oi us hold that opinion, and hold it very strongly, I am surprised that we should be denounced by any member of the Labour party for giving expression to it in Parliament. Surely the provision of cheap food for the people is, next to that of the war, the most important question that we have to discuss to-day. The families of our soldiers at Broadmeadows and at the Dardanelles are receiving an allowance that is not very large, and day by day that allowance is being depleted by the operations of certain people here. But we are making practically no attempt to deal with these people. I am glad that the honorable member for Cook has submitted this amendment, since it has opened up this discussion.
– Why not divide the House upon it?
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has promised that he will bring it before the Cabinet for consideration.
– Let me tell the honorable member for Hunter, and any who share his view, that I believe in the sentiments to which I have given expression, and that I do not care a rap for the leaders of the Labour movement. I am not prepared to remain silent when I think that things are not being done which ought to be done by the Government, and when I believe they have the necessary power to attend to them. I would sooner hand in my resignation, walk out of the Labour party, and be finished with it than remain silent in such circumstances. I do not think it is the desire of the majority of honorable members on this side of the House that I should be stifled. The honorable member for Hunter and one or two more may think that I should be; but the majority of our party are Democrats, and believe that an honorable member is merely exercising an undoubted right in voicing his opinions in this House. These are the opinions I hold, and I hope that as the outcome of this discussion the Government will immediately take action. It would be idle to adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Moreton that the State Governments should be asked to agree to an alteration of the Constitution.
– He did not say that.
– My suggestion was that we should ask the State Parliaments to concede us power to act at once.
– That is, in effect, what I said. While it is not impossible to prefer such a request, it would be impossible to induce the State Parliaments to agree to it.% We should have, for instance, to approach the Liberal Government in Victoria, and if that Government were favorable to the project it would have in turn to approach the Legislative Council. I was. a member of the Legislative Assembly for eleven or twelve years, and I know that the State Governmentwould not have a million to one chance of passing such a measure through the Legislative Council.
– What about Mr. Holman?
– He has a similar difficulty to contend with. Before he could carry such a Bill through the Legislative Council he would have to induce the State Government to make from fifty to 100 new appointments to that Chamber.
– But would he be agreeable to such a proposal?
– That is not the question. The point is that if one State Parliament stood out our efforts would be nullified.
– Not at all.
– If one State remained outside the compact, the trusts and monopolies operating in Australia would have their registered offices in that State, Since there are five State Labour Governments in Australia, some may ask why this suggestion should not be adopted. I hold that it is not practicable. What is more, I believe that such an appeal is unnecessary, since we already have the requisite power. We have power to do anything we deem desirable. We have shown that we possess it by commandeering woollen goods in the various stores, and no one has dared to object to that action on the part of the Government. Having the power, the Government should exercise it. I would go even further, and say that, even if we had not the constitutional power, we should nevertheless take this action.
– So would I.
– I believe that it ought to be done, and that the people ought to be protected. The question with which we are faced is a serious one. If we could foresee the end of the war - if we knew that it was going to end a week or two hence - the question would not be so serious as it is; it must be most serious while the war lasts, and I hope that the Government will do something. It has been argued that we, who speak in this way, want to confiscate the earnings of the farmer. We desire nothing of the sort. I do not want to take from any man anything that he has justly earned or created. At the same time, I do not think that one section of the community, because of the war, should benefit at the expense of every other section. There are a number of people in this country who claim to be patriots. In tho last three months of 1913 England exported 1,000,000 lbs. of tea, whereas in the last three months of 1914 she exported to Holland alone 16,000,000 lbs. of tea. This was done because an extra 3d. per lb. could be procured, and the tea went through Holland to Germany. What did these men care about supplying the enemy with food or stimulants? The figures in regard to the export of cocoa from England to Holland are very much the same. German doctors have said that tea and cocoa are the best stimulants their soldiers could have, and Germany went to merchants in Great Britain to secure these stimulants. There are many people who talk patriotism, but do not practise it to any extent. They are making an immense profit out of the war. In this country alone there are a few who will be millionaires after the war, but while it lasts there will be a good deal of suffering among the wives and children of the men who have gone to the front. Holding these views, I support the amendment, because, while I think it is inadequate, I hope that the Government will do something stronger in the near future.
.- I can well understand that the honorable member for Cook, the honorable member for Ballarat, and several other members of the Labour party should desire the Government to give effect to their policy. It is only natural that they should; but I find it difficult to understand why they have not learned by now that certain gentlemen occupying high positions in their party would regard the action which these honorable members are urging upon them as the very last that should be taken.
– They do not think that, even if the honorable member does.
– -These honorable members, holding high positions in the
Labour party, know perfectly well, in the first place, that if they attempted to carry out that policy it would fail; and, secondly, that they would thus be deprived of a political cry which has carried them to victory over and over again in Australia. That is their position in a nut-shell. They have sufficient acumen to know that their boasted policy of regulating prices, once it was applied in a general way, would break down, and that by its failure they would be robbed of a political cry which has done so much for them. Let us consider for a moment what has been the result of the one or two attempts that have been made to regulate certain prices in Australia. A little while ago they regulated the price of sugar, and did so, no doubt, with the very best of intentions.
– Who did so?
– The Labour Government of New South Wales more particularly forced it on.
– Did not the Liberal Government in Victoria do the same thing?
– They may have done so; but I am not selecting any particular Government for criticism. I am referring to this matter only by way of illustration, because the regulation of prices is part of the acknowledged policy of the Labour party. They would regulate prices, not only in time of war, when there might be special reasons for attempting to do something of the sort, but in times of peace. I am taking this one attempt to regulate the price of sugar in order to show that the policy, not only does, but must, inevitably break down in the long run, and that arbitrary interference with the general course of trade, in almost every instance, ultimately results in higher prices than would have had to be paid. In New South Wales the price of sugar was fixed at £21, and in Victoria at £21 2s. 6d., whilst in Queensland the price was allowed to go to £23. I think that this was most injudicious, and, that if the circumstances had been fairly considered, it would not have been done. A reference to the statistics will show that the average price of sugar in Australia, over a number of years, was considerably more than the price fixed by the Commodities Boards. This action, as the honorable member for Moreton has pointed out, was of no benefit to the consumer.
– It prevented a higher price being charged.
– I think not. I have not the figures at hand, H>ut I think I could show that, in any circumstances, the price of sugar, in Australia, would not have gone beyond £23 per ton.
– What is the price of sugar in London?
– Before the Commodities Boards came into existence the price in London was very much greater than that ruling in Australia, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and those responsible for the price of sugar in the Commonwealth, had not, up to that time, attempted to raise it.
– What effect had the stoppage of export?
– I wish to deal with one particular phase of the question. The fixing of prices did not affect the consumer. The grocers in New South Wales continued’ to sell their sugar at the same price as they had been charging for a number of years. The price of sugar had risen and fallen from time to time, but the grocers had simply resolved to sell the sugar for 3d. per lb. across the counter, and to abide by the rise and fall of the market. At the time at which the price of sugar was fixed the ruling price was £21 per ton all over Australia. The grocers were selling the sugar at 3d. per lb., and when the wholesale price was raised in Queensland to £23 per ton, the grocers in that State, and also in Victoria, still continued to sell at 3d., and the only people who got any advantage from the fixing of prices in New South Wales and Victoria were the middlemen. But that is not the serious part of the position. It was well known to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company some considerable time ago that there must be a big shortage in the sugar crop.
– How long ago?
– The company were certain of that prospective shortage in March, at any rate. In all probability they had a suspicion of such a state of things a little earlier, and I venture to say that if the company had been free agents in February last, they would have immediately secured such supplies of sugar as they thought the circumstances would warrant, and that sugar could have been bought then, and landed in Australia right through this period of scarcity, which we are about to pass through, at -£23 per ton. Moreover, it would have been landed in Australia at that price. We know that to-day it is impossible for the company to land and hold sugar in bond in Australia at under £25 per ton, and the consequence will be that immediately our supplies are exhausted, they will be obliged to immediately raise the price of sugar, even if the duty is taken off, to £25 per ton, and the consumers ;all over Australia will have to pay more for their supplies. The Commodities Boards cannot in fairness and justice reduce the price after that date. We know that in all probability our Australian crop will be exhausted by the end of March, and goodness knows what we will have to pay for sugar after that date if the war is not at an end. The position in regard to sugar is just one instance of the absolute harm that has attended the attempt to fix prices. But that is not the end of the evil, because in regard to the far greater proportion of the sugar supplies, if the price had gone up to £23 per ton, as would have been only reasonable at the time, the growers of all but the small proportion produced in New South Wales, would have received out of every £1 increase 18s. and the company 2s. The Minister of Trade and Customs must know that my statement as to where the increased price goes is absolutely true. The agreement under which the company buys sugar at the mills is that of every £1 increase above £19, 18s. goes to the producers of the raw sugar - who, in most instances, are the growers themselves, because they are interested in the cooperative mills - and the company gets only 2s.
– What about the men outside the mills ?
– I dare say the honorable member knows that a great deal of the sugar, in New South Wales particularly, is sold direct to the company from the field under an agreement which generally operates for from three to five years.
– Did not Mr. Knox say that only one-sixth of the producers would participate in the increased price?
– The honorable memher is quite wrong, because a much greater proportion of the producers will get the benefit of the rise in prices. They would not, of course, get the benefit of the rise in regard to raw sugar which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had purchased and held at that time; that is to say,, the producers would not have got the benefit of any rise in regard to sugar actually held by the company at the time, but those producers who had not sold their raw sugar would have derived the benefit.
– Would not the company have held that sugar?
– They would not have held it all. However, that does not affect the argument I am endeavouring to put before the House, namely, that whenever the Government attempt to arbitrarily interfere with the general operations of trade, the result, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, will be the hitting of the man whom the Government action was intended to help. Let me now deal with the butter supplies, about which there has been a good deal of argument in this House during the last few weeks. I heard one honorable member say that there are vast stocks of butter which the producers have hidden away, and will not put on the market. I only wish that the Government would straight away appoint a man to go through every cool chamber in every butter factory and store throughout the Commonwealth ; if . that were done - it would be found that there is not a single box of butter stored away anywhere.
– What has become of the butter produced in this bountiful season on the south coast of New South Wales?
– The honorable member seems to think that because the season was good before Christmas it is good now.
– Docs the honorable member mean to say that the farmers on the south coast have not experienced a good season ?
– I have not been on the south coast, but that country is responsible for a comparatively small proportion of the butter production of New South Wales. Nobody should know better than the honorable member that nine-tenths of the milk produced in his district is sent either to the factories or “direct to Sydney to supply the wants of the metropolis. Yet the honorable member would tell the House that, because there was a good season in the district he represents, there must necessarily be an ample supply of butter in Sydney. One of my complaints against honorable members opposite is that, being cognisant of these facts, they still endeavour to bolster up a case which they know to be absolutely rotten. The honorable member for Illawarra must know that the milk produced in his district is not being converted into butter; yet, if I were not conversant with the facts, the honorable member would endeavour to upset my argument by his interjection.
– Your statement does not apply to the whole of the south coast.
– It does apply to the area that is supplying the greater portion of the milk. Practically as far south as Nowra, which country, with the exception of the Bega district, comprises the whole extent of the dairying country along the south coast, nearly every drop of milk produced is sent to Sydney. Honorable members opposite believe that prices should be regulated. The Commodities Board fixed the price of butter in New South Wales, and what has been the net result?
– That butter is 9d. per lb. cheaper in Sydney than in Melbourne!
– I know it is cheaper ; but let us endeavour to look a little further than our own noses, and bring our considerations down to the bedrock of common sense. The average farmer is not a born fool; he has just as much brains and intelligence as has any one of us. I do not suppose that he is actuated by any peculiar motives of philanthropy or any altruistic notions about working himself to death for the benefit of others. After all, the dairy farmers in New South Wales are endeavouring to make a living, and they look at the present situation from the same stand-point as most people, do - as to how they are likely to most benefit their own pockets. Until recently there had been in the district I represent no rain from the beginning of the year, and the paddocks, instead of being well stocked with grass, were, to a large extent, bare, because shortly after the rain fell the cold weather set in, and the grass did not grow. I have never seen the cattle on the Richmond River looking so miserable. Many of those in milk are in wretched condition, and cows about to calve are in very poor condition, too. Nothing knocks dairy stock about so much as milking them in winter, and the farmer puts this pro position before himself : “ Is it going to pay me to knock my stock about by milking them through this hard winter, to receive, at the most, ls. Id. per lb. for my butter, and to run the risk of losing some of my cattle; or will it not be more profitable to dry off as many cows as possible, and give them a spell?”
– That is what they are doing.
– It is a simple proposition. If the price went up to 2s. a lb., the farmer would say to himself, “ Well, I have an additional inducement to buy better feed, and endeavour to keep a few more cows in milk during the winter, so that in spring, instead of keeping the cows dry, and having to wait three or four months for a return, I shall immediately benefit from the spring weather.”
– Then the honorable member advocates 2s. a lb. ?
– Certainly, if the market conditions warrant.
– And you say the conditions do warrant it?
-I say that they may at the present time. Cannot the honorable member see that if an inducement is held out now to farmers to keep their cows in milk during the winter, they will, when the spring comes with the warm weather, have two or three times as many cows in milk as they probably would otherwise have at the end of the winter, under existing circumstances, in New South Wales, and that’ the immediate result will be to increase supplies and bring the price down ? Cannot the honorable member see that the policy which he is advocating means that hundreds, if not thousands, oil milking cows will be dried off to save their lives at the present time, and that, instead of the price falling to a normal level, as it ought about the end of August, it will not fall until probably October or November ?
– Who is getting the profit on butter now ?
– Butter is a commodity which, perhaps, of all others, is not speculated in, and from which the producer gets the fullest possible.benefit.
– What rubbish I
– Does the honorable member for Richmond say that the producer gets the fullest possible benefit from milk?
– I am talking, not of milk, but of butter. Had I with me some statistics which are in my room in Parliament House, 1 could show honorable members what has been the growth of the co-operative movement in the butter industry on the northern rivers of New South Wales. From a return of £10,000 in the first year of the movement, the figure has risen to £2,000,000” last year; and practically every lb. of butter is marketed through co-operative channels. The men who established these factories, and, by their’ own initiative and enterprise, built up this great industry, have by further co-operative efforts practically eliminated the speculator and the middlemen from Sussex-street, in Sydney. This is a magnificent triumph for organization and co-operation. Honorable members opposite ought to cease talking about the regulation of prices and the institution of Socialism - to cease talking about the capitalist, and raving against the capitalistic system - and bend the whole of the energies which they undoubtedly possess to inducing the trades unions of the country, instead of spending half-a-million a year in paying organizers to keep the whole community in strife, to devote themselves to the establishment of the co-operative system from one end of Australia to the other. By this means infinitely more would be done towards the solution pf the problem of the ever-increasing cost of living than all the Parliaments in the wide world could accomplish.
– That is Socialism.
– I believe in cooperation and the principles of co-operation, but not in Socialism.
– Those are the principles that have been applied, and that is why we are here on this side.
– Then I say that the honorable member is probably the worst result that co-operation has ever brought into this world. So far as the regulation of prices is concerned, in ninetynine cases out of a hundred the man is hit whom we are trying to help. If we are to do anything in the way of really reducing the cost of living, the great secret, in my opinion, is in the application of the principles of co-operation. What the dairymen of the northern rivers of New South Wales, and also the dairymen of Victoria, have accomplished, I believe could be accomplished in regard to a great many other commodities; and I suggest that honorable members opposite should give more study to this question than they have yet done. Another suggestion made is that we should endeavour by a careful analysis of the position to ascertain, well ahead of the actual event, the probable shortage in commodities, and in that way make the Government acquainted with the position, so that they might, by the importation, secure in advance sufficient to carry us over a shortage. It always seems to me, however, when we come to examine these nostrums, or suggestions, or whatever you like to call them, that, in the light of practical experience, they nearly all break down. The honorable member for Cook has said that if we had only seen sufficiently far ahead we could have imported all the fodder we required to carry us over a very difficult period.
– Where were we to get it from ?
– Apart altogether from the question of where we were to get it from, does the true position not immediately present itself? Let us suppose that the forthcoming shortage had been discovered as early as the end of last November, when we probably could have arrived at an approximation of the shortage of fodder in Australia. Let us suppose, further, that the Government, with all the machinery at their disposal, had decided to send cable messages for fodder from the Argentine, California, and elsewhere in order to prevent prices rising. Let us still further suppose that the Government had carried out this plan, and that the ships were all on the water and timed to arrive in the first and second week in January and after. Now, if abundant rain had occurred in the first week in January, what would have been the result ?
– There is altogether too much supposition about this.
– I am simply putting the position before honorable members; and I say that the immediate result would have been that practically none of the fodder would have been required.
– No fear!
– I say that a very great deal would not have been required. Further, by the time we had purchased oversea, and brought the fodder here, we should have found that, under the circumstances, whatever we sold would be at a loss, and probably a balance would >e left unsold. After all is said and done, we are the creatures of circumstances. If we had the prescience of the Almighty we might be able to so regulate the affairs of the nation that, in regard to many commodities, we would be able to steer clear of difficulties; but I venture to say that when we come to examine the plans proposed, we must admit that they are almost bound to fail. I now only desire to say that, in my opinion, in a time of war, any one who is guilty of cornering any commodity that the public need is guilty of one of the most heinous crimes that man can commit, against his fellow-man. So far as I am concerned, I should like to see the utmost rigour of the penal laws applied to such persons; and I am prepared to give the Government every possible power that they could exercise at a time like this to prevent the cornering of any commodity necessary to the public well-being. Honorable members opposite are right when they say that the Government have the power to-day to do anything they like to any man who corners any commodity whatsoever.
– I commend the honorable member for Richmond for the very eloquent testimony he has given to the virtues of one phase of Socialism in our community - co-operation. I remember that, when it fell to my lot to be an organizer among the dairymen of the State of Victoria, one of the frequent assertions made to me by some of the old Tories associated with the industry was that co-operation is a phase of Socialism; but my reply was, “What odds if it is, so long as it will benefit the dairymen of the State?” Co-operation is one of the finest phases of Socialism, and is a magnificent testimony to what can be done by united effort.
– The honorable member was not a Labour man when he was amongst the dairymen.
– I was, and a very strong Labour man, too.
– We will help the honorable member to promote that form of Socialism.
– I am looking forward to the honorable member for Flinders taking the platform in the very near future, and advocating, with the same strenuousness as he has from his corner seat, some of those important amendments of the Constitution that will enable us to rescue many of our people from the clutches of the middleman.
– What has that to do with co-operation?
– Is the Government side altogether destitute of talent?
– We over here, being a co-operative party, are prepared to accept assistance from the other side. The peroration of the honorable member for Richmond was really fine, and I absolutely agree with everything he said in it; but I am afraid that the bulk of the arguments he has adduced to-night in respect to governmental interference with some of the trade and commercial transactions of the community, were altogether lacking in logic. I suppose honorable members on both sides agree that it is fair and proper, as we find society to-day, to endeavour, as far as possible, to fix the wages to be paid to our workmen.
– We can fix only nominal wages.
– I am only asking for general assent to a general or cardinal principle.
– There is no principle in it.
– There is very much principle in it, though, perhaps, the honorable member does not quite understand what that principle is.
– There is more principle in me than there is in the honorable member.
– Yes - of a kind. I know that the honorable member is a very strong antagonist to any fixing of wages.
– The honorable member is totally wrong.
– I know how the honorable member has fought against the application of the principle. However, if it is fair and proper to fix the wages of workmen, it is equally equitable and proper to fix the prices of commodities.
Where would we be as a community - where would we be in the world to-day - had it not been for the intervention of the British Government in the early stages of this war? There would have been absolute and utter collapse, financially and commercially. But the magnificent way in which the British Government handled things in a very delicate and critical situation, was the means of preserving the financial equilibrium, not only of the Empire, but of the whole world. Had it not been for the Government of Great Britain standing behind the great financial and commercial concerns of the Old Land, trade would have been brought to a standstill, and the Empire would have crumbled without the Germans firing a single shot. They stood behind the banks, the fiduciary institutions, the insurance companies, and behind all trading concerns, practically guaranteeing everything. That is what Government intervention meant in Great Britain at the outbreak of the war. I say now, we want more of that kind of Government protection in normal times. I do not desire to detain the House long, but I want to quote a statement made in an article written by Mr. Meredith Atkinson, in the Sunday Times, and published on 9th May.
– A Socialist.
– I do not think the honorable member would call the Sunday Times a socialistic paper.
– I am referring to Mr. Meredith Atkinson.
– I understand from the honorable member for Cook that the gentleman to whom I refer is one of the most eminent authorities on economics at the Sydney University, and certainly he ought to be listened to with respect. Now, dealing with the position taken up by the British Government at the outbreak of the war, Mr. Meredith Atkinson said -
The British Government did not stop here, but gave State aid to such industries as toys, dyes, and drugs, beet and other forms of agri- culture, and also promoted new public works, both national and local, for the sake of the unemployed. A great English newspaper summed up all these forms of Government action as “ a really dashing experiment in State Socialism.” Never has there been State action on so gigantic a scale.
Now, listen, you individualists -
The individualism of normal commerce suffered a temporary collapse in face of the crushing crisis. All the nerve and resources of the country were braced to meet the shock, and it was seen to be sound economics and good military policy for the State to assume control, for the time being, and insist upon the welfare of the whole community. Not less important, perhaps, is the fact that for the first time the complexity of the world’s economic machinery has been uncovered, so that the man in the street has learnt a great deal about its workings. Let us hope that its lessons will not be lost upon him, but that the study of economics will be seen at last to be essential to the public welfare.
These are sentiments which were expressed by a gentleman who has given a great deal of thought indeed to economic questions, and a man who occupies a prominent position in our community.
Speaking now with respect to sugar, I do not intend to pose as an expert, but I want to combat the view taken by the honorable member for Richmond, who suggested that when the rise in price did take place the Colonial Sugar Refining Company did not participate, but that the growers themselves participated to the extent of 18s. in every ?1. By interjection, the honorable member practically admitted that when the rise took place in sugar, the bulk of the raw sugar was in the hands of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and they did .enjoy the benefit. It appears to me that if the growers .are participating in the benefits in respect to the sugar industry, it is more profitable for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to import its sugar than to deal with the local article.
The honorable member for Richmond also stated that the Government were fixing prices in Sydney. They have been wise in selecting a Judge of the District Court, Judge Edmonds, as Chairman of their Prices of Commodities Board. A few weeks ago that Board, and also the “Victorian Prices of Commodities Board, met in Sydney, and took evidence from Mr. Knox, who is, apparently, the head and front of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. In the course of that inquiry Judge Edmonds put this question to Mr. Knox -
Was not an application recently made by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for an increase in the selling price of sugar?
Mr. Knox replied
No. The company intimated to the Commission that they proposed raising the price, but no application was made.
That is a distinction without a difference. Then the report of the Conference stated -
Mr. Macfarlane. An application was made in Melbourne by Mr. Astley, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s Melbourne office.
Mr. Knox. I say no application was made.
Mr. Adamson. An application was made to me verbally in my office.
Mr. Justice Edmunds. I have a distinct recollection of an application coming before this Commission. The company’s intimation was tantamount to an application. It was really an application for assent to an increase, and this was refused.
Mr. Knox. . I don’t care a button whether you call it an application or not.
Mr. Justice Edmunds. The matter of your letter brings up for consideration the fixing pf a price. Have you any objection to the Commission inquiring into the profits made by the company during the past few months ?
Mr. Knox. . I think the question quite futile, and totally unnecessary.
Honorable members will see how dictatorial this gentleman was, and how independent was his attitude.
– He calls a spade a spade.
– I believe he does. The report stated further -
Mr. Justice Edmunds. I repeat the question.
Mr. Knox. . I would not say definitely what course the company would take if the Commission decided to adopt that policy. As far as the profits made in New South Wales are concerned, it is impossible to separate one part of the business from the other.
This company, undoubtedly, controls the sugar industry.
I have no intention of delaying the Committee, but I would certainly like to draw the attention of honorable members to the action taken by the British Government. Of course, honorable members on the other side will say these are war times. I know they are, but that does not alter the position, and I want to tell the House what the British Government did at the outbreak of the war. My information is taken from the Daily Mail Year-Booh, 1915-
SUGAR AND THE WAR,
The Government’s Prompt Action. Anticipating a serious dislocation of the sugar trade owing to the war, the Government at once appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into the facts, and endowed it with full power to act. The Commission, presided over by Sir Henry Primrose, acted with promptitude and efficiency. It checked the speculation for a large rise in the price of sugar; it “cornered” the whole available supply, and it sold to the refiners at a fixed price, with a proviso that they in turn should sell to the retailers at moderate prices, definitely determined. The result was that there has been no shortage in sugar supplies, and only a comparatively small increase in its price. “ The idea of a Government fixing prices!
– :The honorable member for Calare said they did not fix prices.
– Yes, I think he did; but I think I can say that the one thing that gladdens my heart, and, I believe, gladdens the heart of many other honorable members, is the thought that after this war things will never be quite the same again the wide world over, because, in future, there is going to be more Government intervention and more State Socialism. Now I want to read further from the Daily Mail Year-Booh on this subject -
The Royal Commission gave the following account of its work: - On the outbreak of the war, it became evident that a very serious situation was likely to develop in connexion with the supply of sugar for the United Kingdom.
In the first place, Germany and Austria, on which this country has been dependent for about two-thirds of all the sugar consumed, became suddenly closed as sources of supply, as well for immediate as for future delivery. Secondly, the complete dislocation of the financial market, and more especially of the remittance market, threatened to paralyze dealings with other countries from which supplies might be bought. Thus there was imminent danger of a positive famine in sugar, once existing stocks had become exhausted, and the certainty that for some considerable period the price of sugar would rise to an almost prohibitive figure.
Now, listen to what private enterprise would do in the time of the nation’s absolute necessity -
In the days which immediately succeeded the declarations of war, granulated sugar, which at the end of July had been selling wholesale at prices about 15s. per cwt., was actually sold in London at prices from 35s. to 42s., while in Scotland contracts are known to have been made at 47s. 6d., and even as high as 59s. 6d.
I am only pointing this out to emphasize what private individuals did when the nation was absolutely on its knees and helpless, and what they would have continued to do unless some strong arm had come to its rescue. The article continues -
Excluding this latter instance as exceptional, it may be said that in a week wholesale prices were trebled, with the result that the consumer was threatened with having to pay fid. per lb, retail, or even more, for sugar which he had been accustomed to get for 2d. per lb.
This is when the outside man comes in with the object of regulating prices! Honorable members can see how well he does it for himself and how the unfortunate consumer fares.
– What is the difference between the fixed price of sugar in England and the unfixed price here?
– I am talking about what transpired immediately after the declaration of war.
– It is a fair question; why don’t you answer it?
– I am not here to answer all the questions put to me by honorable members, but if the honorable member wants to know, the price of sugar in Great Britain to-day is, I believe, £27 per ton in London.
– What about the retail price - 4Jd. there as against 3d. here?
– -The Daily Mail Tear-Book article states further -
In these circumstances, His Majesty’s Government decided to take upon itself the task of insuring an adequate supply, and of arranging for its distribution on terms that would be no more onerous to the. public than the actual conditions made inevitable. The first _ steps taken put an immediate end to speculation in sugar, and to the rise in the price. The leading refiners were approached, and an arrangement was made that the whole body of refiners should stand aside from the market for raw sugars, leaving it free for the operations of the Government; that they should look to the Government alone for the supply of raw sugar for their factories; that the sugar should be issued to them at a fixed price; and that they in turn should sell their refined products to dealers also at a fixed price; the difference between the two prices being no more than sufficient to allow them a fair profit on manufacture.
The price of raw sugar charged to the refiners Was determined on the basis of protecting the Government from loss on their purchases, according to the best estimate that could be made of the prospects of the sugar market. Allowing for reasonable profit to the refiner, dealer, and retailer respectively, this price permits the sale to the public by retail grocers of sugar at the minimum price of 3d. per lb. for good granulated, and 4Jd. per lb. for good cubes, with other qualities at proportionate rates. In distributing the sugars, it is the intention of the Commission to make use, as far as possible, of the existing machinery and channels of the trade.
In October the Government bought 900,000 tons of raw sugar for about £18,000,000.”
– The price was 3$ d. per lb. fixed in Great Britain and 3d. unfixed in- Australia.
– I am giving the honorable member a statement of just what would happen without Government intervention. This article, from the Daily Mail Year-Booh, comes from a very independent authority. It is practically a brief account of the work of the Royal Commission presided over by Sir Henry Primrose, and I want to say that if sugar speculators had their way in Great Britain, probably they would have put the price up to £50 per ton, and the consumer would have had to pay 6d. to 8d. per lb. at least, for sugar. That intervention by the British Government- saved to the masses of the people between £18,000,000 and £20,000,000. That is the kind of intervention which the people ask for and appreciate. I hope that this debate will have the desired result, and that it will prove to be one of the first skirmishes in connexion with the great referenda campaign at which the people will decide by an overwhelming vote to give this National Parliament those powers which are absolutely necessary to protect their interests.
.- I should like, at the outset, to say that the statement which the honorable member for Maribyrnong made at the beginning of his speech with regard to my views on wages was totally erroneous. He wilfully, I believe, misinterpreted the interjection I made. I said by way of interjection that while it might be possible to fix nominal wages, we certainly could not fix actual wages. The best proof of that is afforded by the actions of the different Governments of Australia during the last four or five years, during which the desire for the fixation of prices has been more in evidence than it was at any other time. In the Labour Bulletin, No. 8, issued by Mr. Knibbs, in March, 1915, there is at page 261 a diagram showing the rise and fall of effective wages. Taking New South Wales for the purpose of illustration, I find that in 1906, when the diagram was first published, fixing the standard at 1,000, New South Wales was represented by the figure 950. In 1914 it came down to 910. This is largely owing to the fact that, during the last five years, that State has been under the control of a Socialistic Labour Government, whose desire has been to reduce prices and the cost of living generally to the worker. If we take the case of Victoria, we find that in 1906 that State was represented by the figure 918, a lower figure than that for New South Wales for that year, but in 1914 Victoria went up to 965, under a Liberal Government, or 55 above New South Wales, under a Labour Government.
– Because the Federal Government have been finding work for the unemployed in Victoria.
– It is always because of something, but the fact remains that the net result of the efforts of the Labour Government of New South Wales has been to reduce the effective wages of the workers of that State, although their nominal wages have been increased by Courts of Conciliation and Arbitration. It matters very little to me what schemes are proposed if working men secure less effective wages as the result.
– There are more unemployed in Victoria than in any other State in the Commonwealth. They are waiting upon the Commonwealth Government in thousands.
– The figures I have given represent the average over the whole community in each State, and there is no answer to them. When one quotes the average for the community, it is no answer to that to mention one or two instances which apparently contradict it. Let us consider some Government interference that has taken place recently. Let us examine it as coolly as we can in the heat of what Ill 12116 be called a party squabble. The Government of New South Wales fixed the price of wheat at 4s. 2d. a bushel, and they commandeered the visible supply in the State. The Government of Victoria fixed the price at 4s. 9d. per bushel, but three weeks later they found they had made a mistake, and raised the price to 5s. 6d. When the New South Wales Government commandeered the visible supply within that State, they found that they had not sufficient for the consumption of the community, and it was necessary for them to go abroad for importations of wheat. These importations are now costing them about 7s. lid. per bushel. There is no system of governmental interference that I know of by which we can fix prices for any longer than a day. If a commission is appointed to fix the price of any article of consumption, and they fix it at the rate ruling for a particular day, that fixed price will be effective for that day, but the commission must be prepared, with a change in the market, to fix the price again the next day. They must be always on the spot, and must change the price with every alteration of the market.
– Why so many changes ?
– Surely in the year of grace 1915 it should be unnecessary, in an Australian Parliament, to explain to any honorable member that changes take place in the price of every article of commerce.
– The rings make the changes.
– Is a ring responsible for the increase in the price of butter from ls. to 2s. per lb. ? Why are eggs 2s. a dozen ? Is it due to the operations of a ring? It rs because the hens are laying, fewer eggs. Some time ago people could not afford to feed fowls, and they decided to eat them. For a time poultry was cheap; but when poultry could be fed, and they were kept to produce eggs, there were fewer of them for sale, with the result that the price went up. That result was not due to the operation of any ring. What led to the increase in the price of wheat? There was no ring controlling that article. It was the drought that’ led to the increased price of wheat,, from 3s. 6d. per bushel up to nearly 8s.
– Is not the price of wheat fixed in London by Mark Lane?
– The honorable member is right, to a certain extent, in saying that the price of wheat is fixed -by Mark Lane. The wheat market of the world is controlled by Mark Lane in the sense that operators there know the visible supplies, so far as America is concerned, east of the Rockies, the visible supplies from Russia, from Australia, from the Argentine, and the supplies in the Old Country. They know practically the demand in every country of Europe for wheat, and what its production is. They keep these facts in mind from day to day, and change the price of wheat according to the fluctuation of the visible supply.
– When they put up the price, does that make more wheat?
– No, but it’ is an evidence that there is less wheat coming forward. They put up the price to induce more wheat to be brought forward.
– It is because there is less wheat on the water. There may be tons of wheat in Australia, and if there is none on the water, up goes the price at Mark Lane.
– That is exactly what I have said. The operators of Mark Lane fix the price in accordance with the fluctuations of the visible supply. Surely we have arrived at a stage of our history when men governing the affairs of the nation should know that prices are regulated by the cost of production. There may be a normal price for certain pro.ducts as the result of men securing a monopoly. A case of that kind is a proper case for governmental interference. Parliament should legislate to prohibit monopolies. I shall go to the fullest extent with the present Government in maintaining that principle. I take the case of Government interfering to regulate the price of commodities.. I may advert for a moment to sugar. I believe that most of us will agree that those whose business it is to supply sugar to this community, knowing that there is a shortage ahead, would have been prepared to supply the full quantity required by Australia at a cheaper rate than can now be quoted, because the Government of the Commonwealth have advertised to the whole world that we are 20,000 tons short of our actual consumption of sugar.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the duty should be taken off?
– I prefer to deal with one thing at a time. When the Government of Australia advertised to the world that we were 20,000 tons of sugar short, it is only human nature that people having sugar to sell should say, “ Australia must have this sugar,” and up goes the price. The men whose business it is to supply the community with sugar would have found out where supplies were to be had ; would have ordered the necessary supplies, and they would be on the water coming to Australia under signed contracts to-day at a much cheaper price than will have to be paid for them now that it has been .advertised broadcast that Australia cannot produce any more sugar until next season, and we shall be compelled to import the quantity required to make up our local consumption. The same thing applies to wheat, and to any other commodity that can be mentioned. If an honorable member has a certain product which I want, and if he is the only man in the town who has it, and I must have it, when I go into his shop he will say, “ This chap is fair game for me; up goes the price to him.”
– Is that business?
– Of course it is business. That is what the honorable member would do if he had a shop.
– I hope not.
– It is always the man who does not keep the shop who says, “ I hope so.” The man who keeps the shop does it. If he did not, he would soon have to file his schedule. I believe in the prevention of monopoly not only in war, but in time of peace. Monopoly should be prevented under any circumstances, and any legislation tending to aid the monopolist will always have my hearty opposition. Let me give another illustration from Mr. Knibbs’ book dealing with the relative cost of living.
– It is a good book.
– It is a good book so long as it is properly read and interpreted, because it will then upset a lot of theories. One of the theories which it will upset is that as to the cost of living. Upon page 232 Mr. Knibbs lays down the relative cost of living in the different States of Australia. Again taking 1,000 as the weighted average of Australia, New South Wales worked out at 1,049-
– That is what the honorable member for Moreton said.
– Yes. I am going to say it again, and to put a different interpretation upon it. South Australia worked out at 3,022, Western Australia at 1,140, Victoria at 951, and Queensland at 904. It will be seen, therefore, that the three States which were above the average at the time these statistics were compiled were those which were, and still are, being administered by Labour Governments, whilst the two States which were below the average were being administered by Liberal Governments. When the Labour party have had a couple more years of office, I confidently expect to see the Queensland average a good deal higher. Now my honorable friends opposite appear to be intelligent men. The smile on the face of the honorable member for Brisbane-
– The honorable member flatters me.
– I could not do that. The only man I could flatter is the honorable member for Maribyrnong. My honorable friends have dabbled in this fanciful scheme of theirs which aims at fixing prices and improving the conditions of the workers. I believe that their intentions are absolutely good. But Moses tried the same game thousands of years ago.
– Which Moses?
– I am not alluding to the Moses with whom my honorable friend does business. The Egyptians tried it, as did also the Greeks. It was tried, too, in the Middle Ages, when Parliament, in an effort to encourage the woollen industry, enacted a law declaring that every corpse must be buried in flannel. At that time Parliament thought that it was doing something which would assist the woollen industry; but its action did not have that effect. I say that honorable members upon this side of the Chamber are just as anxious to see the working classes get a square deal, so far as the necessaries of life are concerned, as are my honorable friends opposite. But they have a different method . of going about it. I believe in a man getting as much as he possibly can for his labour. But I am endeavouring to prove that the actions of honorable members opposite are not calculated to achieve the desired result. That conclusion is irresistible, seeing that in New South Wales, where the nominal wages - that is the money wages - have increased, the quantity of goods which can be purchased with that money has declined during the past five or six years.
– That is due to trusts and combines.
– If the Labour Government, after having been in office for five years, are incapable of preventing the evils which flow from combines, what are they doing there?
– Pass the referenda proposals, and we will prevent their evil operations.
– Fortunately for this world, there is always hope ahead. The honorable member’s statement reminds me of a cartoon which recently appeared in a London paper, and which depicted a squad whose members had been taken out to shoot at a target which was distant from them only about 30 yards. None of them could hit it, and after they had all vainly tried, the sergeant said to them, “ Your last hope is to fix bayonets and charge.” I have endeavoured to enumerate what I regard as the necessaries of life. It is a somewhat difficult task, but, briefly, they may be set down as comprising flour, bread, meat, tea, sugar, milk, butter, jam, salt, mustard, pepper, potatoes, cabbages, parsnips, carrots, turnips, eggs, bacon, fish, and fruit.
Several honorable members interjecting,
-I trust that honorable members will not altogether forget themselves. I would remind them that interjections are out of order, and 1 must ask them to restrain themselves, at any rate to a limited extent.
– I do not think that any honorable member will object to all these articles being regarded as foodstuffs.
– What about oatmeal?
– Certainly oatmeal should be included in the list. I forgot it, although I have been fed on it all my life. Then I must include clothing, boots, hats, tobacco, beer, whisky, or ginger pop. Next comes houses, wood, and coal. These are necessaries of life. Every item which I have enumerated is an absolute necessity.
– I object to that statement.
– The honorable member objects to the whisky, I suppose? I had him in mind when I suggested an alternative, namely, “whisky or ginger pop.” After all, I would remind him that a man must drink. He cannot live on bread alone. If the articles which I have mentioned constitute the necessaries of life which the proposal of the honorable member for Cook seeks to cover, it aims at setting an absolutely impossible task for the Government, and out of the fulness of my heart I intend to assist them.
– They have promised to give it favorable consideration.
– The Minister, in his reply, stated that he had no objection to the motion, but as he proceeded and began to develop his line of thought, its enormity must have dawned upon him, because he concluded by asking the honorable member to withdraw it.
– On an understanding.
– On the understanding that they would do their best.
– No, not that.
– Just let me examine -what the proposal really means. It has not yet been printed and circulated, ‘and I had to borrow it from Mr. Speaker in order that in a fit of industry I might make a copy of it. It reads -
That all the words after the word “That” be omitted, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ the Government be recommended to take action immediately under Commonwealth powers in regard to statistics, export, war precautions, and the law of eminent domain -
I think I can recognise the hand of an American there - “ to ascertain reliable and accurate information as to the production, distribution, prices, and movements of stock, and the requirements of the people of Australia of meat, butter, flour, sugar, fodder, and the other necessaries of life, and that such information be made available to the House without delay.”
That is - about the most comprehensive proposal that I have ever seen. It reminds me of the motions which are always tabled at Labour meetings. The auditors are asked to indorse propositions which no man can understand, not even those who have drafted them. I am sure that the honorable member for Cook does not understand where this amendment, if adopted, will land him. -I intend to show him a little later on.
– The honorable member is certainly a bit of an egotist. Nobody knows anything but himself, and he is willing to instruct everybody.
– Every member of Parliament is an egotist more or less; otherwise he would not be here. I plead guilty to being an egotist to a certain extent, but the honorable member himself is also an egotist - probably a greater one than I am, and I have heard him express his views with as much vigour and determination as I am displaying now. The amendment continues -
That the Government be recommended to formulate and execute means of guaranteeing to the people of Australia supplies of the beforementioned necessaries of life at reasonable prices by the exercise of Commonwealth publicspirited energy under the powers enumerated, and, where possible, to co-operate with the States to the above-mentioned end, and that the Government be invited to indicate its policy in this regard to the House at its earliest convenience.
– It reads like a poem.
– It reads like a book. “ The earliest convenience of the Govern- ment,” if they exhaustively carried out the terms of the proposal, if adopted, would be long after the honorable member for Cook and I had passed from this mortal sphere. Take one case alone - the movement of stocks. The honorable member wants reliable and accurate information about the movement of stocks for the supply of the necessaries of life. Is fish a necessary of life? How is it possible to watch the movements of the fish stock? I can imagine the Government setting out to look after the stock of fish. They would have to be in the sea, so that we could eat them fresh. Again, how could the Government get reliable information as to the stock and the movement of eggs? So far as I know, there are three classes of eggs - fresh eggs, preserved eggs, and election eggs. But the honorable member has not asked for a separation of the classes in the collection of the statistics. Honorable members are laughing, but I am serious. I am anxious to know how it would be possible for the Government to get reliable statistics as to the quantity of eggs to be laid to-morrow. While they were taking stock and preparing statistics, the stock would all be eaten, and, therefore, the statistics would be useless by the time they were presented. Then, take milk. How would it be possible for the Government to ascertain how much milk the cows are going to produce next week? If you got warm weather, you would probably get more milk; but if you got cold weather, and a number of : the cows were dead, you would get less milk.
– But the honorable member believes in averages - he has been quoting Knibbs on averages.
– At a time like this, when a drought is devastating our stocks, we cannot take averages. It is to normal conditions that averages apply. The conditions that are producing all the trouble in the community which we are so anxious to settle are not normal, and, therefore, cannot be reasonable.
– The honorable member knows that he is trying to make a jest of the matter.
– There was never an honorable member in the Chamber more deadly in earnest than I am on” this item.
– You deceive your looks.
– I am glad that I can do that successfully at times. While the honorable member thinks I am jesting, I am showing to him the absolute impracticability of his proposal. I do not think that he will charge me with having uttered one sentence regarding items of food which would not come under his proposal if carried. My desire is to point out the utter impossibility of carrying into effect the amendment, if passed, and to convince the House of its impracticability.
– Fairly reliable information comes forward as to cases of eggs and eggs in cold storage.
– I venture to say in all seriousness, because the honorable member has made a serious interjection, that the whole of the eggs in cold storage in Australia to-day would not supply the community for more than a couple of days.
– The point is that we could obtain the information.
– By the time the Government got the information the eggs would be eaten, and what would be the use of the information? That is the point I want to make.
– They have eggs in cold storage for a considerable time.
– Some eggs are undoubtedly, otherwise they would not get ripe.
– Which shows that you will not debate the matter seriously.
– Take milk. Cows will give a cert sin quantity of milk according bo the condition of the weather. If the weather becomes bitterly cold, more of their heat will be absorbed in protecting their bodies than in the production of milk. If the weather gets warm, the cows will give more milk, and, as a result, we will get more butter, and then, of course, the price of butter will go down. If we get less butter the price will go up.
– Not necessarily.
– Absolutely necessarily. When I was a lad at school I remember an illustration being given on the law of gravity. We were told that stones- always tended to fall to the earth. In my innocence, I said to the teacher, “ Suppose that they fell on a verandah?” He said, “ I did not say that stones always fell to the earth. J. said that they always tended to fall to the earth.” You may put an artificial barrier underneath them to support them for the time being, but remove the barrier, and “ down she goes,” in the words of the honorable member for Darwin. Take tea, which is an essential item of food or drink in Australia. What reliable and accurate information could the Government, or a Commission, get about the quantity of tea to be produced, or the stocks likely to come forward from time to time, unless they took into their own control the purchase of the tea for the community ? Unless they did, they could not get any information. They would have to rely on the traders. All that they could possibly do would be to go to the traders, and say, “ What stocks are you importing?” to be told, “Well, we are importing so-and-so.” But something might develop next day or next week. The whole business would be stopped, and the information would not be worth a snap of the fingers.
– How about rabbits?
– I am afraid that the Government are not swift enough to catch the rabbits. How could they ascertain the stocks of mustard and pepper? They might get some information about pepper and items of that kind from the honorable member for Cook. Passing from food to clothing, suppose that a strike took place, for example, in the hat trade, and the number of hats available for use in the city was diminished, would not the price of hats naturally go up? There would be more persons demanding hats, and less hats to supply the public, and the price would go up no matter what regulation to the contrary was made. It does not matter what Government interference takes place; as long as there are persons prepared to pay the price of an article you cannot stop them from doing so, and the sooner we all realize that we cannot regulate prices definitely, the better it will be for the whole community. Another favorite argument of my honorable friends opposite is the regulation of house rents. They are always anxious: that a Fair Rents Court should be established. What could it do to reduce the rent of an average working-man’s cottage if it did not reduce the cost of building it, or in the alternative, if it did not rob the landlord of a certain amount of his just earnings’? Let me put a case. If an average landlord - I am not one - can build a house for £500 fit for a family to live in, and he receives £25 a year, plus his rates and taxes, he is .getting a fair interest on his money.
– What about the price of his land ? You have not added that.
– My argument* is meant to include house and land.
– You cannot get much of a house for that sum.
– Suppose that the wages igo up-
– “ She “ will be up a right-of-way.
– I have always had a good opinion of the honorable member for Darwin. Before I .became a member of this House I knew that he was a shrewd, capable business man, and I have always wondered why he bought houses up rights-of-way; but now I know that he gets .better interest out of them. If a man gets 5 per cent, on his money it is a fair average investment, and no Fair Bents Court would be entitled, or, I think, would be likely, to reduce the return to capital below that rate.
– They do not get that now.
– Suppose, on the other hand, that there is an increase in the wages of the bricklayers, plasterers, plumbers, and other men whose services are employed in building, and it costs £1,000 to build the same sort of house, the landlord will want 5 per cent, on the extra money invested; in other words, he will want 5 per cent, on £1,000, and that will merely double the rent on the tenant. It does not matter whether you increase his nominal wages or not, that makes an actual reduction in the wages of the man who has to occupy the house. Yet honorable members wonder how the price gets back on to the man who is always working and producing these things.
– What about cottages built years ago, the rent of which has gone up nearly 50 per cent. ? There are thousands of such cases.
– I will answer the question. Suppose that I build a house today at a cost of £500 on land worth £1 a foot, and that ten years hence the value of that land goes up to £10 a foot. I sell the land, or, if I retain it, I expect interest on it- for what reason ? Because, if I sell it I can invest the money in a bank, and get the return I expected to receive in rent.
– But you are not responsible for the unearned increment.
– That is a totally different proposition.
– Is it?
– I am with the honorable member if he wants to deal with that question on the principle of land values taxation. All my life I have believed in a land tax as a kind of check to that very tiling. Where the community adds a value to the land the unearned increment is, in my judgment, a fair ground for taxation by the community; but where nominal or actual increases take place in the value of land under our present system the landlord has an absolute right to that increase as long as he can get an investment for his money elsewhere, or if .he retains the land at the market value he is entitled to the interest on it. If you apply the principle of taxation of land values it has a tendency to cause more houses to be built, and there is no necessity to confiscate, because the building of the extra houses in itself tends to lower the rents, and as long as you give the extra supply you will get a lower rent. But what is the alternative ? If you do not give the market value of the land to the owner, he ceases to invest his money, and houses get scarcer and rente go up, or two or three families have to live in a house. I have watched this agitation with regard to the reduction of the price of food and the cost of living, and I am just as desirous of ‘seeing the idea carried into effect as is any member of the House. In a land like this, flowing with milk and honey, so to speak, I would like to see people doing as well as is possible, getting plenty to eat, to drink, and to clothe themselves with, decent houses to live in, and good conditions to work under. If men are so fortunately placed very little more can be done for them. The evidence of history throughout the ages shows the impossibility of effecting reforms unless they aTe favoured by the natural conditions of the country.
Motion (by Mr. Charlton) proposed -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– On the 13th May the right honorable member for Swan, who was then acting as Leader of the Opposition, supported by the honorable member for Moreton, made certain statements regarding a contract for the supply of bread to the Enoggera Camp, to which I objected as being contrary to fact, and I wish now to sup port my remarks by reading the following statement, made by Mr. Axelsen, secretary of the Bakers Union in Brisbane -
When the Federal Labour party was returned to power, the Enoggera military bread contract was being carried out by the Automatic Bakeries Limited, then a non-union firm. Seeing that preference to unionists was the platform on ‘which the Labour party was returned to power, the union at once made negotiations with the Minister of Defence, with the object of giving preference to a union-run bakery.
The contract previous to this had only been arranged by the association sending to certain master bakers, and asking them for their tenders. As an outcome of the union’s negotiations, a tender was called, and Mr. Shead, of South Brisbane, who is a master baker, employing union labour, tendered at about1s. below the cost of the Automatic Bakeries. This contract was carried out by Mr. Shead for some three months, and in this instance money was saved by the Department. Through the effluxion of time, the contract expired on 31st January, and on fresh tenders being called, Mr. Shead received the contract. As a result of a union bakery getting the contract, it afforded employment to a large number of workers. At this time the unemployment question was acute in Brisbane. Had the contract been taken from Mr. Shead, the union baker, it would have meant from four to six men being thrown on the labour market. If the Automatic Bakeries had received the tender, there would have been no extra employment as far as bakers were concerned.
Then I have a statement by Mr. Shead -
He said the second contract, beginning on 1st February, was accepted by the Defence Department under certain conditions. Owing to the uncertainty in the, flour market, flour having risen at that time from £9 per ton to £14 per ton, with the prospects of going much higher, he thought it would be impossible for him to tender on a flat basis. He wrote to the Department enclosing a tender on a sliding scale, taking for a basis the then price of flour, namely, £14 per ton, and asking an increase of Is. per 100 lbs. of bread for every advance of £1 per ton in the price of flour. This also acted in the event of flour falling. The Department would receive a benefit of1s. per 100 lbs. of bread for every fall in the price of flour. This the Department agreed to, making the then price of bread 14s. 6d. per 100 lbs. on the basis of flour at £14 per ton. The extra 1s. per 100 lbs. exactly represented the extra cost of flour. No extra profit is made by him, even if flour reached £30 per ton, and he would be none the better off.
The honorable member for Moreton made the statement that the shareholders in the firm now supplying the bread were Germans. I have a copy of a telegram sent by Mr. Shead to the Assistant Minister of Defence on the 21st May, 1915, as follows -
I am head of firm who supply bread to Enoggera Camp. My father born at Essex, England; grandfather same; I born New Zealand; partners Emil Bruschweiler senior a Swiss, naturalized thirty years ago; son Emil Bruschweiler born Queensland. No German, or naturalized from Germany in firm nor employed by firm; no dummies in firm; firm’s solicitors writing you fully.
I understand that the Assistant Minister of Defence has received a statement from Mr. Shead’s solicitors, and I believe that it amplifies and substantiates Mr. Shead’s telegram. I now come to a copy of a letter sent by the Automatic Bakeries Limited to the honorable member for Maranoa -
Dear Sir, - I enclose extract from Brisbane Courier of even date. I am sure you feel quite certain of the truth of your statements, and so am writing to defend the company. The wages and conditions of work are specified on the tender. Referring to the conditions. I am sending you, under separate cover, a booklet explaining our process, which certainly shows that the conditions are different. Here the trade is elevated almost to a profession, and a man who once works here does not like to have to work again in a hand factory. Our wages are all governed by the Wages Board. We pay higher than the award - the highest in the city. The present contractor employs four other members of his firm under no award. We are an entirely open shop, never asking whether a man is a unionist or not. In fact, many of our mcn (not bakers) are unionists. Over two years ago the Bakers Union refused to allow members to work for us, and the present contractor has been stirring up enmity against us ever since in order to further his trade - using the unions as catspaws. Mr. Hall, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, visited our factory, and was so pleased with it that he has decided to instal a similar one in Sydney, and he says the conditions are all that can be desired. - Yours faithfully, J. A. Hunter.
As a reply to that letter, I have a letter addressed to the honorable member for Maranoa by Mr. P. Millard, the president of the Baking Trade Employees Union of Brisbane. It was marked confidential, but I have a telegram from Mr. Millard in reply to one despatched to him which might be made public. The telegram says -
Yes. Also statement union prohibits members employment Automatic absolutely untrue.
The letter says -
Seeing that the member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) and the Tory papers are making a large noise about the Enoggera bread contract, I deem it my duty to acquaint you of the position of both the Automatic Bakeries Limited and the successful tenderer (W. Shead). As the discussion started by Mr. Sinclair was in the interests of the Automatic Bakeries Limited, I will deal with them first.
Automatic Bakeries employ sixteen hands in the baking of bread. Eight are operative bakers, eight are boys.
The Wages Board award allows only four boys to eight men; three of such boys must be apprenticed. None of the boys in Automatic are apprenticed. I have tried several times to get the authorities to prosecute them for a breach of the award, but they say they can do nothing. The union is therefore powerless to control this combine. Mr. Maher (managing director) gave evidence on oath that the above statement as regards the number of men and boys employed in Automatic Bakeries Limited was correct (Monday, 15th May).
It was also stated in the House that Automatic Bakeries Limited were not opposed to unionism. Yet, the following are the facts concerning the past and present employees in the Automatic Bakeries Limited: -
Boyle (foreman baker) scabbed in 1002, 1912, and 1914.
Townsend scabbed 1912 and 1914.
Griffin scabbed 1912 and 1914.
Gardner scabbed 1912 and 1914.
Attery scabbed 1912 and 1914.
Bergstrom scabbed 1912 and 1914.
The above are the present employees. Two other men are employed (non-unionists). Fast employees are as follows: -
Menagh scabbed 1914.
Spaule scabbed 1914.
Rollestan scabbed 1914.
Russell scabbed 1914. - Warner scabbed 1914. - Warner scabbed 1914.
Currell scabbed 1912 and 1914.
Every man employed by the Automatic Bakeries in their bakehouse since they installed their machinery has either scabbed or is a non-unionist. In fact, I do not know of any baker whom they have employed who has not scabbed.
It seems strange that not one unionist has been employed, if they are not opposed to unionism. But, on the other hand, the scum of scabdom has been and is employed by them. Herbert Sheard (director) at a meeting held for the purpose of forming Automatic Bakeries Limited is supposed to have said that, on the installation of their machinery, there would be no more strikes, that union bakers will not be wanted. It looks at least that if it was not said, that it is being carried out at all events. In evidence, before. Price Fixing Board, P. J. Maher said: - “We can produce 50 per cent, more bread in our factory without any more cost.” So you can see Enoggera bread” contract to them would not mean the employment of additional labour. Automatic Limited have been always, and- still are, night bakers, but we have a decision on our Industrial Board which will force them to clay work in a few months. (Now that 22nd May happened.)
The Position of TP. Shead. 1902. - W. Shead was a member of our union out on strike. He later started in business, gave preference to members of our union, absolutely refused to employ any others; this attitude he has maintained to the present time. 1912. - Employing only unionists, he was one of the few bakers allowed to work, under permit, from the general strike committee. 1914. - He was the only master baker to write to the Bakers Union offering to start day baking (before we issued the ultimatum that we would refuse to work under night baking conditions). Shead again helped us by giving evidence before the Industrial Board in favour of our proposal. And the decision given in our favour was to a great extent due to his evidence. Since securing the Enoggera bread contract, W. Shead has employed four (4) operative bakers in addition to his previous staff. These additional men are constantly employed. He has also employed additional casual labour (jobbers) to the extent of £9 per week; this has been the saving of our unemployed, every one of whom has had a share of the extra work created by this contract. In fact, the securing of the bread contract, besides being a union question, is a bread and butter question.
The following are the award rates of pay and the rates paid by Shead since the 10th May, 1914:-
He is allowed by award to employ four boys, but employs two.
Hoping that you will be able to. justify your action by these few facts.
I remain, yours in unity,
I have nothing further to say, except a few words in conclusion. The present Government, being pledged to the principle of preference to unionists, could have done nothing else, if it were to remain true to its professions and promises, but give the contract to this particular firm. The other firm is notoriously a non-union firm. It does not profess to be a union firm, except in the sense that a man who is out of a job is willing to join a union in order to get in the Government employment; and the Automatic Bakeries Limited is willing to claim some kind of unionism in order to get this contract. The difference in price is very little, especially when we remember that the Automatic Bakeries Limited is a combine of nine bakeries, which was deliberately started in order to get control of the baking trade of Brisbane. The present Government is pledged against combines. It is pledged to give the individual a fair go, and to see that the public are well served. This combine set out, not only to squeeze out the other bakeries of Brisbane, but also to establish the price of bread, and practically to rule the whole of the business in that city. They have failed, and I think the Government are to be congratulated upon the fact that they assisted the other bakers to break the strength of the combine. The honorable member for Moreton laid some stress on the point that the combine were supplying the bread at a fixed price. That is one of the strongest arguments that could have been adduced in favour of giving the order to the other firm. The Automatic Bakeries Company were able to supply at a fixed price, although flour was showing a tendency to rise, and has since risen, only because, having control of so much money, and having the business of nine bakeries to supply, they were in a position to lay in stocks of flour. On the other hand, the ordinary baker, having a smaller capital, would not be able to lay in stocks of flour, and was therefore subject to the rise and fall of the market. I think the honorable member, having discovered that his statement regarding Shead and his partners was incorrect, might have the grace and courtesy to withdraw the imputation which he made on the firm. I cannot expect him to withdraw his suggestion that the Government acted unfairly. Had they acted in any other way the attack upon them would have come, not from the Opposition, but from this side of the House. If the present Government were giving orders to firms like the Automatic Bakeries Company, which are not union firms, and which will not employ unionists if they can secure the services of non-union men, then they would have to submit to a good deal of criticism from their own supporters. We and the public generally expect the Government to be true to the principles for which they stand, and which Labour has advocated outside as well as in Parliament.
– This was not a case of preference to contractors. The firm in question obtained the order because it employs unionists. It is immaterial what the employer himself may be; it is preference to unionists that we insist upon. I hope that the honorable member for Moreton, now that he finds them incorrect, will withdraw his remarks in reference to the partners in this firm. I wish to thank him personally for the mistake that he made from his own stand-point in bringing forward this matter when he did. It was brought forward for political purposes at a time when it was thought it would help his
– It is wonderful.
– The honorable member for Brisbane commenced by saying that I had introduced this question of the supply of read to the Enoggera Camp in the interests of the Automatic: Bakeries Company, and concluded by asserting that I bad. brought it forward merely to serve political purposes. If the honorable member will look up the history of the whole matter he will find that I asked the Assistant Minister of Defence in this House a straight-out question as to what price he was paying for bread at Enoggera Camp, and the price at which a competing firm had offered to supply it.
– And the honorable member got a prompt answer.
– It was certainly prompt, but it was also evasive. The honorable gentleman did not give the House, nor has he yet done so, the real facts of the case regarding the price paid, save that he said it was to be 15s. per 100 lbs. to begin with, with a rise of Is. per cwt. in proportion to the rise in the price of flour. The charge that I made was that the Government were then paying 5s. 8d. per cental more for the bread which they procured from a union bakery than the price at which they could have purchased it from other bakeries.
– It has not. As to the honorable member’s suggestion that I should apologize for what I have said regarding this firm, I can assure him that if I ever did any one an injury, and it was within my power to make reparation by apologizing, I should be most happy to do so. No one has less desire than I have to injure any individual. But when one is asked to retract a statement that one has never made, or to retract a statement which one subsequently finds to be incorrect, the least those preferring the request should do is to approach the individual concerned in a respectful and not in a bouncing manner. I was vexed with the honorable member for Brisbane the other day, and vexed to such an extent that perhaps I said something that I ought not to have said when he insisted upon an apology. I have had some correspondence with the solicitors to the firm of Shead with reference to this matter. Before’ alluding to it, however, I should like to refer to what I said in the House. As reported in Hansard, page 3314, I said -
In the light of what I have read, letus look at the conditions under which the anion firm works. Thesecretary of the Automatic Bakeries writes to say - “ I have made inquiries, and I find that the registered members of the company are Walter Shead, a Dane or other Scandinavian; Emil Bruschuiler, senior, Emil Bruschuiler, junior, evidently Germans; and John Marment and William Costa, whose nationality I do not know.”
Thus there are five shareholders, the last four of whom work in the factory, and, of course, are not under the Wages Board award.
– Are the Germans naturalized?
– I have not the slightest idea. …
There is not much to quibble about regarding my statement as to members of the firm being Germans. I was prepared to make a personal explanation, and to withdraw and apologize if I had been approached in a proper manner; but I received a letter from Stephens and Tozer, the solicitors for the firm of Shead, which I considered most insulting. In reply to this letter, dated 24th May, I wrote as follows - 28th May, 1915.
Messrs. Stephens and Tozer, Brisbane.
Sirs, - Yours of the 24th inst. to hand. I am sending you under separate cover Hansar d reports of the debate on bread contracts.
May I ask you to compare the letter sent the Honorable James Page with your own Bent to me. When I am written to in respectful terms I will most willingly respond. - Yours, &c., Hugh Sinclair.
The letter to Mr. Page was read in the House by the honorable member. If I have done this firm an injury and it approaches me in respectful terms Ishall be willing to make amends; but until it does, I am not going to be bullied into any withdrawal of what I have said.
– Read the solicitor’s letter.
– It is quite a good letter.
– Have you a copy of it?
– I have seen a copy of it.
– When the Automatic Bakeries Limited wrote to the honorable member for Maranoa they also wrote to the Minister and others; but they wrote in respectful terms. The writer of this letter from Stephens and Tozer lectures me on the duties of a Liberal member of Parliament. When that firm writes to me in respectful terms, I shall be willing to put the letter on record, and withdraw anything I have said if I find that I have done Mr. Shead any injury. Until then I shall maintain the position I have taken up.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 June 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150603_reps_6_77/>.