6th Parliament · 1st Session
Export of Butter 7881
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m.,and read prayers.
Mr. KINGO’MALLEY.- Earlier in the week, the honorable member for Maribyrnong asked a question regarding the prosecution of persons for noncompliance with the provisions of the electoral law. I referred the question to Senator Russell, who has suppliedthe following answer : -
The law does not contemplate or provide for the course suggested, and if it were adopted the principle of compulsory enrolment would in practice be defeated and the rolls would fall into a state of inefficiency. The Government has in contemplation an amendment of the Electoral Act which will enable electors in default, if they so desire, to be dealt with reasonably and uniformly throughout the Commonwealth by the Electoral Administration in a manner similar to that proposed in relation to compulsory voting, in the Compulsory Voting (Referendum) Act passed early in the session,instead of being proceeded against in the Courts, and so involved in Court costs.
It might be mentioned that, as a result of compulsory enrolment, over one million alterations were made in the electoralrolls during last year.
– I understand that the Minister of Trade and Customs refuses to permit the export, by the Osterley from Brisbane, of butter of lower grade, that the State Minister of Lands and Agriculture sent the honorable gentleman a telegram on the subject, and that, being again approached by the merchants interested, who said that they knew no reason for the prohibition, he declared that he could not see any purpose inenforcing it. I ask the honorable gentleman whether, on reconsideration, he will permit the export of this butter?
– I received a telegram from the State Minister, and the honorable members for Brisbane and Oxley also received telegrams bearing on the subject. I am not allowing butter to be taken from Queensland by the Osterley, and have Bent a reply stating that four of the States are not producing enough butter to meet their own requirements. We are looking at this matter from the Australianstand-point. Moreover, in view of the great shortage of freight from Australia to Great Britain, it is not advisable to export a commodity that we may require here.
– In putting an embargo on the export of second and third class butters, has the Minister acted on his own initiative, or on the advice of his responsible officers who understand the business?
– In prohibiting the export of butter, and in giving permission for export, Ihave never placed arestriction on any particular grade, because I do notthink it right that person’s who have second and third grade butters to sell should have several markets in which to dispose of it, and the makers of first grade butter only one market.
– Did not the Minister, a little while back, send me a telegram saying that second and third grade butter might be exported, but that first grade butter might not?
– That was the decision of the New South Wales Government, not of my Department. In dealing with the export of butter, I have not paid regard to State boundaries, and I have not imposed any restriction as to grade.
– Can the Minister inform the butter producers of Australia where they can find a market in Australia for their second and third grade butters?
– No ; but I am convinced that last year we had to eat second and third grade butters imported from America, and had to pay 2s. 6d. a lb. for what we consumed, although a couple of months previously Australia had been sending away superior butter.
– Is the Minister aware that it is practically impossible to sell any but a very small quantity of second and third grade butters in Australia, and that such butter, if it cannot be exported, must remain in the cold stores, and will not go into use?
– The proceedings are now assuming the nature of a debate, and that I cannot allow.
– Will the Minister take into consideration the advisability of testing the butter now stored as second grade, seeing that such butter has been exported and sold on the other side of the world as first grade?
– We cannot test the butter that is sold on the other side of the world, but all butter that is exported is graded in Australia by our own officers.
– The Minister is taking the bread out of the mouths of women and children..
– Will the Minister communicate with the Ministers of Agriculture of the various States, and urge them to provide, by legislation, for the compulsory grading of cream, so that we may not have second and third grade butters?
– I shall consider the matter.
asked, the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Attorney-General, upon notice -
With reference to the Minister’s statement to the House on the 20th August, 1915, that he was instituting legal proceedings for the estreatment of Messrs. Julius Blau and Son’s bond -
Have the said proceedings been abandoned? If so, why?
Are the said proceedings still pending? If so, when will the case be heard?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
On the Inner Barrier route to Torres Straits three new lights have been established, viz.: -
Clerke Island, 296 miles north of Cooktown.
DhuReef, 142 miles north ofCooktown.
Coquet Island, 72 miles north of Cooktown.
The light on Pipon Island (111 miles north of Cooktown), originally attended by three keepers, has been converted to automatic, thus effecting considerable economy. At the same time the character of the light has been altered to suit modern requirements, and the power increased.
The construction of lights at the following places is now being carried out: -
Piper Island, 266 miles north of Cooktown.
Chapman Island, 222 miles north of Cooktown.
Tih TihReef, 206 miles north of Cooktown.
HeathReef, 186 miles north of Cooktown.
Designs are being prepared for lights at -
Albany Rock, 380 miles north of Cooktown.
Turtle Island, 369 miles north of Cooktown.
Cairncross Island, 347 miles north of Cooktown.
Hannibal Island, 315 miles north of Cooktown.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Where friends of a soldier who is permanently incapacitated subscribe and present property to him, is the possession of that property taken into consideration in the assessment of a pension payable to him under the War Pensions Act?
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - London Account Regulations amended, &c. - Statutory Rules, 1916, No. 71.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 72.
Contract Immigrants Act- Return for 1915, respecting Contract Immigrants admitted or refused admission into the Commonwealth, &c.
Customs Act -
Proclamations Prohibiting Exportation (except under certain conditions) of -
Butter (dated 1st December, 1915).
Precious Stones (dated 22nd December, 1915).
Raisins, Lexias, Sultanas, and Currants (dated12th January, 1916).
Goods to China and Siam unless consigned to certain persons (dated12th January, 1916) ; together with a Supplementary List of Names (dated 27th March, 1916).
Goods to the Netherlands (dated19th January, 1916).
Tallow and other Animal Fats (dated 26th January, 1916).
Tallow, Fats, Oils, Caustic Soda, &c. (dated15th March, 1916).
Waste Paper (dated 29th March, 1916).
Pepper and Capsicums (dated 5th April, 1916).
Proclamation Prohibiting Exportation of any goods packed in a bag if weight exceeds 200 lbs. (dated15th December, 1915).
High Commissioner’s Sixth Annual Report, 1915.
Immigration Act - Return for 1915, showing - (a) Persons refused admission to the Commonwealth; (b) Persons who passed the dictation test; (c) Persons admitted without being asked to pass the dictation test; (d) Departures of coloured persons from the Commonwealth.
Quarantine Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 190.
War Precautions Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional)- Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 26, 63.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from11th May, vide page 7876) on motion by Mr. Higgs -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1, the Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- Although I realize that we are not to have an opportunity to definitely deal with the question of conscription until the Prim© Minister returns, I do not think that the discussion in this House, nor the discussion in various parts of Australia at the present time, can, by any means, be said to be a waste of time. Legislative or Executive acts, which are in advance of public opinion, are worse than useless, and if an Executive or legislative act were to introduce conscription before the public were prepared, it would be a fatal move. This discussion, and the discussion outside, will give the Government and ourselves an opportunity of ascertaining how far the public are behind the proposal for what is called conscription. In the rather extraordinary speech which the honorable member for Batman made last night - and which he made in that excessively aggressive tone adopted by many of the peace people - he condemned the honorable member for Flinders because of his prophesies as to the outlook in the war. The honorable member for Batman described these prophesies as all “moonshine.” I only wish to heaven I could think they were. He condemned the honorable member for Flinders for drawing a lurid, lugubrious, and horrifying picture, but no picture outlined by the honorable member for Flinders has been more horrifying than those presented by our Prime Minister before he left this country and after his arrival in the Old Country. The Prime Minister has been most strong in trying to impress on his fellow Britons the seriousness of this war from our point of view. Only in his last speech, reported in to-day’s newspapers, he tells us that we are now holding our own on land, and that that is all. His pictures have been particularly horrifying, and, as I have been told by some who heard him in Victoria, make people really shudder. However, it is not by pessimism or optimism that the war will be won by the Allies. That can only be accomplished by a stern realization of the facts as they actually are; and it is no good attempting to blink the facts. The honorable member for Batman, while condemning the pictures that have been drawn, gave us no picture of his own as his idea of the present situation or the future possibilities. The next thing I condemn in the honorable mem ber’s speech was the introduction of a party political tinge. To my mind, this is not a party political question at all. Conscription has not been, and can never be in this war, a matter of party politics. People of all classes, all political opinions, all ranks, and from all localities have gone to the war, while other people in all political parties and ranks and in all localities are staying at home and shirking their duty. The greatest curse of human nature is selfishness, which is at the root of every other evil. It is not so much cowardice as intense selfishness which is causing eligible men to stay behind, and, in the absence of others, profit in cash and security. At the present time many public speakers are condemning conscription because, as they say, it is advocated here, and also iri the Old Country, by Conservatives. It is about time we exercised some sense, and got rid of the wretched party system, which can see no possible good in any proposal made by men to whom we are for the time politically ‘opposed.
– You seem to have got rid of the Estimates !
– In answer to a question to-day, the Leader of the House told us that there would be ample opportunity now to discuss the question of conscription, and I think I am right in taking advantage of the present occasion. It is, to my mind, the most important question we shall have to face before the year is out; and, as I have already said, I do not think any time is wasted in dealing with it. It is customary in party politics to condemn whatever is suggested by the other side. This is only the old cry with which the greatest Reformer of the world was met 2,000 years ago - “ Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” It is about time we dealt with this matter on its merits. It is the height of absurdity to discuss it from the point of view of who is advocating it at the present time. What is it we are advocating ? Speaking for myself, I am advocating compulsory service in time of war. The honorable member for Batman described this compulsory service as “Prussianism”; but as a matter of fact there is no resemblance between the two. We are not even advocating the conscription that prevails amongst our Allies. I take it we are simply advocating compulsory service for the period of the war, and the necessary number of months afterwards to enable our soldiers to return. If a Bill is introduced to deal with the subject it will rest with the House to see, as it has done in all other war measures, that its period of operation is limited in this way. Towards the end of last year tlie Minister of External Affairs was interviewed by the Herald, and he put the position in regard to universal military service in what, to my mind, are very good words. Unfortunately I did not make an extract from the newspaper report, but during the interview the honorable gentleman referred to the fact that he had written an article on the subject in a Western Australian newspaper, and that article he has been good enough to forward to me. While opposing conscription he does not oppose the scheme of universal military service with which it was not to be confounded. He said -
Such a scheme is both democratic and logical. It is democratic, since it recognises no distinction of class; “Cook’s son and duke’s son “ would be privates in the same regiment.
It is to the following I desire to call particular attention : -
It is logical, because every man who participates in the benefits conferred by organized society, which we call the nation, is under an obligation, if physically fit, to risk his life in order to preserve that of the nation.
That, to my mind, is the proposition on which the claim for compulsory service is based, and it has been acknowledged by the Federal Parliament, from the very beginning, in all its Statutes on military matters. The very first Defence Act we passed - and it is just as well to recall these things in detail, because some people forget them - provides -
All male inhabitants of Australia (excepting those who are exempt from service in the defence force) who have resided therein for six months, and are British subjects, and are between the ages of eighteen and sixty years, shall, in time of war, be liable to serve in the Citizen Forces.
In time of war it shall be lawful for the Governor-General, by proclamation, to call upon all persons liable to serve in the Citizen Forces to enlist and serve as prescribed.
It is interesting to note the manner in which the people are to be called up, because it gets rid of the unfair effect of voluntary enlistment -
A proclamation under the last preceding subsection may call upon all persons liable to service in any military district or sub-district, who are specified in any one or more of the classes hereunder set out, so to enlist, but so that the persons specified in any class in that district or sub-district shall not be called upon to enlist until all the persons in that district or subdistrict who are specified in the preceding classes are, or have been, called upon.
What are the classes ?
The classes referred to in this section are as follow : -
Class I. - All men of the age of eighteen years and upwards but under thirtyfive years, who are unmarried, or widowers without children;
Class II. - All men of the age of thirty-five years and upwards but under forty-five years, who are unmarried, or widowers without children;
Class III. - All men of the age of eighteen years and upwards but under thirty-five years, who are married, or widowers with children;
Class IV. - All men of the age of thirty-five years and upwards but under forty-five years, who are married, or widowers with children; and
Class V. - All men of the age of forty-five years and upwards but under sixty years
– All that is required is the application of that law at the present time.
– Exactly. To talk about opposing the principle of conscription appears to me to be nonsense, when the principle is already inscribed on the statutebook. The Act from which I have quoted enables the Government in time of war to call out all men for the defence of Australia. It is true that the services of those men are limited to Australia. It is peculiar, however, that the men may be called out to serve in Papua or other of our territories, though, as is more singular still, it appears that there is no power to send them across the Anglo-German boundary in that possession. However, there the principle is established that all men can be called out for the defence of Australia.
– Do not forget what use. may be made of our Navy.
– Yes, that must not be forgotten. Is it not a farce to say that we may call out our men for defence purposes here, and yet may not send them to any place where the defence of Australia is actually being ‘made? As the PostmasterGeneral said last night, if there were fighting in Australia we should all be called out. But when it comes to fighting here it will be a very hopeless fight - it will be simply going out to face a forlorn hope, and be stricken down. If the defence of Australia is to be effective, our men must go to the place where the fight is actually going on - to the battlefields of Europe. I can see no difference between sending men there, and sending them to fight in Australian possessions in other parts of the world. And this Parliament has gone a step further. We are told that one of our dangers is that we shall have this compulsory service in peace time. As a matter of fact, we have compulsory service in peace time at present. It is just as well to remember who introduced this measure of compulsory service, because the fact shows the absurdity, as I said a few moments ago, of condemning proposals simply because they are advocated by certain people. Members of this House eight years ago will remember that the first Bill providing for compulsory training and service in time of peace was introduced by Sir Thomas Ewing, Minister of Defence in the last Liberal Government. That Government was supported by the Labour party, and it could not have continued to exist without that support. The Bill provided for compulsory training of men up to twenty-five years of age; and by whom was it opposed ? By those very men who are now denounced as Conservatives for advocating compulsory service to-day. Of course, it was the “ other fellow “ that was proposing it, and, according to party politics, it had to be condemned.
– You would not support that Bill.
– I did support that Bill; I was sitting behind the Government by whom it was introduced. Sir George Reid, who was then Leader of the Opposition, condemned the measure pretty strongly; and it is interesting to recall the words he used, because similar words are now being used by the advocates of that measure in opposing compulsory service to-day. This was the description Sir George Reid gave of the proposal of the then Liberal Government supported in office by the Labour party -
I am not going to drag all the young men who may be eighteen years next year in Australia out of the industries into camps. That would be a criminal, cruel wrong to them. . . In my opinion the only justification for compulsion in the matter of service is a national emergency within a reasonable prospect of time. . . . Do not let us forget that Great Britain, the Dominion of Canada, South Africa, and every other British Dominion have been able from time immemorial to solve their difficulties in even darker hours than these without resort to this foreign method of compulsory training. … I sum up my attitude upon this subject by stating that I regard these projects as wild and impracticable, as being not founded on necessity or even in prudence, but arising either from hysterical fear or from a craze for militarism that is foreign to the history and the spirit of the British race.
On that occasion the right honorable member for Swan said -
Why should we in this off-hand and hurried way be called upon to subscribe to the principle of compulsory service or training as put forward by the Prime Minister, who has asked for its application to Australia? . . . Let us stand firm and self-reliant, following the well-known paths of experience and knowledge.
– It was my Bill of 1903 that the honorable member first quoted.
– No. I was not in the Chamber then. I am dealing only with what happened in my own time. The Bill to which I am referring was introduced by Mr. Ewing on the 29th September, 1908. An amendment was moved by the honorable member for Flinders, the effect of which was to shelve the Bill, and speaking to that amendment, the honorable member for Lang said -
But I do not see any need to go to the extent proposed by this Bill, and as I think the amendment expresses the true position I shall support it. 1 am sure that in time of need Australians will be found ready and willing enough to offer voluntarily service in defence of their country.
The Bill was not proceeded with because of a change of Government. Later the first Fusion Government brought in a Bill limiting the age of compulsion to twenty years. The Liberal section of the Fusion were made to swallow the views of the others. However, Mr. Hutchison, a Labour member, from the Opposition side of the Chamber, moved an amendment which would have had the effect of raising the period of training to twenty-five years. Here again was a sorry exhibition of party politics, for the whole of the Liberal members of the Ministry, including Mr. Ewing, who was the author of the twenty-five years scheme, voted against Mr. Hutchison’s proposal, and the Bill passed providing for compulsory training up to the age of twenty years. Then that Government brought out Lord Kitchener, and one of the first things he said was that training would have to continue to the age of twenty-five years. After a general election another change of Government occurred, and the second Fisher Government brought in a measure carrying out Lord Kitchener’s recommendation, and providing for compulsory training to the age of twenty-five. Therefore, the law of compulsory service up to the age of twenty-five years was passed in a time of peace by a straight-out Labour Government with a Labour majority.
– With the unanimous consent of the House.
– I am mentioning these facts for the purpose of setting aside the silly argument that this proposal for conscription is advocated by men who belong to the Conservative party in politics, and should, therefore, be opposed by the Labour party. Let us deal with the matter on its merits, and then we shall see where we are. We are told among other things that conscription will create a military caste, and hand over our liberties to the power of the military authorities. Those who say this seem to forget that we have adult suffrage for the Federal Parliament, which is the Parliament that deals with military matters. Every man or woman has one vote and no more, and so long as we have that suffrage in the country neither the military nor any other class or caste can be a danger to the community, because nothing can exist so far as Federal legislation is concerned which is not the express will of the majority of the people. Who are the people it is proposed to call out? These very voters, the men who have the power to set aside anything they think is wrong. There can be no danger from this proposal, and the matter can be ended when the war is over. Of course, I can understand the honorable member for Batman thinking that adult suffrage is no safeguard, because he says that Democracy is dead. It was a lamentable expression of opinion from a member of the Labour party, the most Democratic party that exists, and which is in control of the Government of Australia. I certainly would not attempt to say that Democracy is dead. I maintain that it is powerful, and will become more powerful. We must advance; we shall never go back. The remark of the honorable member that Democracy is dead was a slander on his own people. We are told that if we bring in conscription we shall impose slavery. If it be slavery we shall be slaves who are our own masters, and to be slaves when we are our own masters is better than being slaves of a foreign power, especially such a power as Germany. We are told that the adoption of conscription “ would advertise us to the world as unworthy of the high destiny to which we were called, and good for nothing better than to do as we are bid, like dogs, asking no reason why.” How any person in the British Empire could “write such words, and describe the armies who are standing between us and ruin, as unworthy and good for nothing better than to do as they are bid, like dogs, asking no reason why, I cannot understand.
– Who has said it?
– I have seen it written. I think it was in a Sydney newpaper. Who are standing between us and ruin to-day? It is all very well to talk about free voluntary service. The honorable member for Fawkner said last night that conscription was necessary in the European nations because of their situation, and I understood him to say that at the present time Great Britain was in a similar situation, though he did not admit that it was necessary for Great Britain to adopt conscription. I do not know how other people feel, but I feel rather humiliated at times when I think of our position on land in regard to this war. This conflict commenced by a breach of the neutrality of Belgium. Great Britain, as well as Germany, was a party to the treaty maintaining the neutrality of Belgium, but, though Germany deliberately violated the treaty by invading Belgium, Great Britain had failed to keep her part of the treaty. Of what use is it for a man to back a bill if he has not the money in the bank with which to meet it when it becomes due ? In the same way Great Britain did not have the forces ready to uphold the treaty in regard to the neutrality of Belgium. If, at the first hint of the likelihood of trouble, so far as Belgium was concerned, she had possessed sufficient forces, and had been able to send across men enough to uphold the treaty against any attempt to break it, the position of Europe would have been different to-day. But Great Britain had but a mere handful of men, and had it not been for the magnificient stand made by the conscript army of Belgium where would we have been to-day? The world owes Belgium a debt of gratitude that it will never be able to repay. What took place next? It was the great conscript army of Democratic France that was able to rush in. Our soldiers were a’ mere han’dful. Even to-day we are relying on the great conscript armies of Russia. Ought it not to seem to us rather a sore point when we realize that because we have not sufficient men to pour into Flanders’ Russia has to send thousands of conscript men over thousand’s of miles of territory and thousand of miles of mined and submarine-infested seas to place them on the western front, and help us in doing our’ duty there. Mr. Villiers said the other day that the British on land had’ not “ played the game.” It is up to us to do so. The British people have rested too long on an air of superiority and an idea that they must always win. They have always left matters to their Government and to their soldiers, thinking that all would be right. It has taken the British a long time to realize that they were not engaged in one of the- ancient wars, and that they were for the first time up against an organized foe, who, had it not been for the conscript armies of our Allies, would have been all over Europe to-day. I do not underestimate what the British Navy is doing, but this war must be won on land as well as on the sea, and’ at the present time, as our Prime Minister said only the other day, “ We are holding our own and no more.” We have been at war for twenty-three months, and what is the position ? Germany is in possession of Belgium and the most productive part of France. She has driven back the armies of Russia from Poland. She has driven the. Servians out of the way, and she has opened a way right through to Constantinople. What is our position ? We have had to evacuate Gallipoli to the Turks because we did not have sufficient men. Our troops have had to surrender in Mesopotamia because we did not have sufficient numbers. Even at Verdun, in the beginning, of that great struggle that is now proceeding, the. Germans -were able to advance a little. We have not even yet commenced.- to turn them back and win the. war. The only way in which we can win the. war. is by pouring in men, and more men to meet the German- forces. How many victories have- been, deprived. ;of their full measure of success because there- were- not sufficient reinforcements to follow up the gains? It is time that we awoke to the real position. Britain is now awakening. After they have settled their party fights in their socalled National Ministry, the British Parliament has awakened to the fact that the people want conscription, and they are adopting universal conscription, which was carried in the House of Commons the other evening by a tremendous majority. Iri the stronghold of voluntaryism conscription in the time of war” has been adopted. As- to our position in Australia, we have reason to’ be proud of the numbers who have gone from here voluntarily. People say, ‘ ‘ Have we not done enough ; have we not given enough,” ? but as I have said before, we have ‘given nothing. Every man who has gone has given himself. I do not say that Australia has not done well; but it is not a question of whether we are giving our proportion or whether more men have gone from Australia than from other parts of the Dominions. Our position is, as the Prime Minister put it in August last in his circular accompanying the war census cards,, when he wrote -
The matter is one of supreme national importance. The gravity of the present crisisneeds no emphasis. It calls for the utmost effort’ of which each individual citizen is capable ; the utilization of every resource at the disposal of- the community. And this cannot be clone without organization…..
But two things are certain - one, that we must continue to fight with every ounce of energy we possess; the other, that we can do this only by a complete organization of all our resources.
That is- how- we must look at the matter, not in comparison with the efforts of’ other places, not by talking of what” we have done, but having regardto the fact that w’e in commonwith every other part of the British Empire have to put forward every ounce of effort we possess to end ‘this struggle. As the- honorable- member for Flinders said the other evening, it is not a case of whether ‘we are going! t6- win’ or not.’ The’ question is: Are we ‘going to win at- such” a time and in “ such a way that victory will be of any satisfaction to us? Wetalk about wearing out the Germans, but are we not mentally; physically, andfinancially wearing out ourselves”? Is this - combat to end in both combatants lying out in the ‘arena spent, and so that every life that has - been > lost and every pound that has- been- spent will- have been-‘ lost and spent in vain ? We are in the position that we must see this war to an end as’ quickly as possible, and that can be done ‘only by pouring in men. The hon.orable member for Fawkner said last night that we had raised an enormous number by voluntary enlistment, and he was. quite satisfied that, by the continuance of the &V stem, we could increase our Army to 400;000 or 500,000 men. I differ from the honorable member entirely. The voluntary system is almost played out-. An enormous amount, of wo.k is necessary now to get any additions, to tlie Army, and I cannot imagine voluntary enlistment producing 400,000 men, much less 500,000. But suppose we did raise that number in a couple of years ? If ever there were a matter in . which time was the essence of tlie contract it is the present war. Germany was ready ; the Allies were not, and it is nothing to our credit to say that Britain has . 5,000,000 men under arms to-day. It has taken the Empire twenty-three months to raise that Army, and it was only the fact that the Allies had conscript armies that gave us time to raise our 5,000,000 men. Senator Pearce, in calling for men to form a new division in April last, said - 1 believe that Australia is able to produce sufficient men to enable us to supply later on an additional division of troops to those now being organized, and the efforts of all of us should be directed to make this possible. There are still large numbers of men in Australia fit enough and well enough for active service, and to those men I say that they owe it ,as, a duty to their country to come forward and offer their services. ‘On behalf of the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia I say to those men that they are wanted. I ask the- recruiting organizations throughout the continent to bring . this appeal home to each individual. I firmly believe there is sufficientreservoirs of young and fit men from which to organize the additional division; but they must come forward now, as it takes months to organize; train, and equip them.
How are we to do that if we are to spin out our recruiting in the present manner ? We are now- resorting to recruiting trains throughout the country. An immense amount of energy is being devoted to the whipping up of recruits, and people are becoming exasperated with ‘ the men who are hanging back. In any case the men to whom we wish to appeal do not attend the recruiting meetings to any extent, or if by accident one does get into touch with them, only a very poor response is obtained for the amount of work which is done. Sir Alexander Peacock said the other day at Ballarat that Lieutenant Tom Skeyhill, the blind soldier, had mad§ a most earnest appeal to tlie young fellows who had been his companions in youth. He had said, “ I have been tothe front, and I have returned blind; Bill here has . lost a jaw. Who will step forward to take our places ?” To that appeal there was not a solitary response. Call we blame the soldiers, then, for losing, their, tempers, and . damning the backward* youths as some politicians have done ? But to damn. men into becoming recruitsis npt the way to raise an Army by voluntary enrolment.. The.. fact is thatwe have got beyond voluntary enlistment, and the only system open to. us is to call out every man, and take those who are fit. The .honorable member for Batman said that such a system > means selection, by the privileged classes of those who are to go to the front, and a consequent .penalizing, of the masses. I have said , before that this issue is not one . of class, at all. We can find amongst the working classes as strong a feeling in favour of conscription- as there is amongst - the employing, class. The . fact is that, every .returned, soldier .is; a .conscriptionist, every. man and .woman i.with a relative at the front is . a , conscriptionist, and the more men we .- send to the front the . stronger becomes .the feeling against thos& who remain. A- lady told me the other day that a friend of hers said to her, “ I am .surprised at your letting ,« your -, boy go.” The lady » replied, “He. wanted to do his- duty, and why, should I prevent him? Are you -not- going to allow yourson to go ?” and the retort was,- “ I should think not. We spent too. much on his education.” Is it any wonder that the first lady is an. out-and-out conscriptionist? That sort of attitude, is being adopted by parents throughout Australia. The honorable member for Fawkner made one grievous mistake towards the end of his very earnest speech. He referred to- . the manner in which,the recruiting system was effective amongst the workers .in factories and foundries, and. other -industrial establishments, through one member of a little group or “push” of companions enlisting, and others following his example. Undoubtedly voluntary enlistment has benefited considerably in- that way. and it ought to be encouraged by the Defence Department by keeping together as far as possible men who join .together. In the country districts the same thing has happened, and it has been a strong incentive to voluntary enlistment. But the honorable member said that the recruiting was done, in the city, and not in the country. In this matter we cannot draw any line between classes or localities. In all classes and in all districts we shall find men going to the front, and others who are shirking. We may go into some country districts and find them nearly depleted of young men, whilst other districts have hardly yielded a man. This is a question of patriotism which belongs to all classes of the community, and to all portions of Australia.
– The A.N. A. appeals for a more equal contribution of men, money, and material. Why is it that none of the speakers ever mention a more equal contribution of money and material ? Is it because that portion of your appeal is a dope ?
– I take it that the A.N.A. does mean that there should be a more equal organization of our resources and wealth, and we shall have an opportunity of doing that when dealing with the War Profit’s Bill. What I have never been able to ascertain, although I have sought an answer on many occasions, is what people mean by conscription of wealth. How are we to conscribe wealth, and to what extent ? If a concrete proposal were put before us we should be able to say at once whether we were prepared to support it or not.
– The honorable member for Perth says that the portion of the A.N.A.’s resolution referring to wealth and material is bluff.
– I can assure the honor.orable member that it is not bluff so far as the A.N.A. is concerned.
– Has any appeal for funds failed to meet with a response ?
– In that respect again there are a good many people who think that the raising of funds should be by means of taxation, and not by voluntary contributions. We find in connexion with gifts of money very often the same backwardness on the part of certain people as in connexion with the gift of lives. Some are giving handsomely and some not at all. That remark does not apply to any particular class in the community, but to all. The honorable member for Corangamite stated in the House last year that it was not fair to say that the wealthy people were not contributing; some were giving handsomely, but he was sorry to say that some were giving hundreds who ought to give thousands, and some were- giving nothing at all. That is the defect of the voluntary system in connexion with contributions of wealth as well as of men. The whole question comes back in the end to the selfishness of human nature. The honorable member for Batman referred to people boasting of having blood relatives at the front, but who did not go themselves. I deprecate that statement, and I should have made no reference to it if it had not been for the interjection of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that I had a son in khaki going to the front. No man should boast of having blood relatives at or going to the front. I have made no reference to my son on any platform or in any conversation on the subject. He made his own decision without any urging on my part, and he did not ask my consent. When he first presented himself he was rejected because he was under the regulation height. When the height was reduced he applied again, and was rejected because of faulty teeth. Finally, when the teeth standard was lowered he applied again and was accepted. Any honour that attaches to his enlistment belongs to him, and I shall not attempt, and have not attempted, to claim any of it. But is the honorable member, for Batman desirous of preventing people, particularly women, especially those who have lost them, who have or had blood relatives at the front, from giving utterance, either quietly or loudly according to their temperaments, to what Abraham Lincoln has described as “ the solemn pride which must be theirs for having laid so great a sacrifice on the altar of freedom.” That is a vastly different thing from boasting. But a little later the honorable member himself boasted greatly of the achievement of Australian soldiers at the front, and he claimed, as an Australian, to be proud of the glory that our voluntary soldiers had won, although he told us that they could not expect any assistance from him. His attitude seemed to be a little inconsistent. I am glad to say that the Minister of Defence, speaking for the Government, takes up a very fair attitude on this question. When the Australian Natives Association presented its resolution to him he said -
Anybody who tied himself up by saying that he was for conscription or against conscription was foolish. He certainly did not tie himself up, and he did not believe that the Government would tie itself up either. He quite realized that there might be circumstances when a man would be a fool unless he took action in the direction suggested by the deputation.
The Government have certainly kept their minds open, but while we are waiting for the return of the Prime Minister every day that passes represents a serious loss of time. As the Minister has said, we want additional men at once because we have to train and equip them and transport them to the front. In all probability the men we are raising to-day, certainly the artillerymen, will not participate in the fighting until late in the year.
– Why should we wait for the return of the Prime Minister?
– There may be reasons which cannot be discussed in public, but I. am satisfied that if the Prime Minister were in the House the issue would be raised at once. Still, as one who believes conscription to be necessary, I am prepared to wait his arrival.
– Could not a cable be sent to ascertain his views?
– A cable message is not equal to a man’s personality.
– But he is not everybody.
– It is of no use quarrelling with the facts as they exist. Let us recognise our own troubles locally. Let us acknowledge the seriousness of the facts before us in the same way as we have to realize the seriousness of the facts on the other side of the world. In the meantime let us do all we possibly can to enable members of Parliament and the Government to ascertain what actually is the opinion of the people. From my experience amongst all classes I am firmly convinced that the great majority of the people are in favour of compulsory service during the continuance of this war; that is all I am asking for. The honororable member for Batman could give us no idea of his own as to when the war is likely to end. I was tempted to ask him how he proposed that we should get out of this trouble. The honorable member replied that I expected him to be able to tell the House what the greatest general in the world could not tell. That is a weak answer from any man, but particularly from a member of the Federal Parliament, which is responsible for the de fence of the country. We must do something. We cannot stand by helplessly and watch the fight going against us on the other side of the world. The honorable member for Fawkner said truly that this is a fight by Germany against civilization. Everything that is dear to us is at stake in this war. If Germany wins, might and not right is going to rule the world. If the honorable member for Batman, who is a believer in peace, and spoke of the horrible pagan idea that disputes should be settled by war, wishes to bring about a state of peace, he must be prepared to meet brute force with brute force. It is of no use to allow the Germans to ride rough-shod over us. We must deal with pagans somewhat in their own manner. It will be soon enough to talk about turning the other cheek when we are dealing with a people that is not prepared to smite us on both cheeks at once without waiting for us to turn. We must try to get in our blow first. In this matter we must put aside all questions of party politics. The principle of compulsory service has been adopted on the statute-book. All we wish to do now is to obtain power to send our men to other parts of the world where they can best fight for the defence of Australia. We have provided for compulsory service in time of peace, and we wish to be able to put forward all our energies now to end the terrible destruction that is proceeding. The greater the number of men that we send, the less will be the slaughter, and the sooner the war will end. To send men in thousands means the slaughtering of them without gain, but to send them in tens and hundreds of thousands means the loss of comparatively few, while the rest carry our cause to victory. To this end we should apply all our energies, so that the awful waste of life and destruction of property that is now proceeding may be stopped as quickly as possible, and the dreadful story of the war may close - “In a sun-burst of glory
When the boys come home.”
.- Our duty at the present time is to act rather than to speak, but in view of utterances both inside and outside Parliament, each one of us is compelled to state without fear or hesitation his viewsregarding the issue with which we are faced.
I came away disappointed with the result of the secret session of Parliament that most of UN attended, and I shall attend no more such sittings. I .heard nothing at that meeting with which’ I was not in substance acquainted before I went to it, and I heard statements there which I knew to be incorrect and misleading. Some of them have been repeated in this chamber. I propose, therefore, to speak as if no secret meeting had been held.
– Is the honorable member going to divulge what took place ?
– I shall divulge nothing. There is nothing to divulge. What I mean is that 1 shall make the observations this morning that I had intended to make before the secret meeting was held.
A great deal has been said about the magnificent effort that Australia is making to play her part in the war. Australians at the front have undoubtedly given us a page of history which for all time will remain to the glory of the Commonwealth, but, to my mind, the country has by no means done all that it should have done. We have not realized the seriousness of the position. I believe that I was the first to point out in this House that Australia has more to lose: in this war than even Great Britain; that under no possibilities of adversity could there be an occupation of Great Britain by the enemy, hut that nothing is more certain than that if the war went against the Allies, Australia would become a German possession. That observation passed almost unheeded by press and public, though it has been repeated several times since. It cannot be made too often; because it embodies an absolute truth. Unless we are prepared to hear the heels of Prussian dragoons clanking in our streets, and to see those swaggerers brushing our women and children from the pavement into the gutter, unless we are prepared to have the Federal Parliament wiped out of existence, freedom lost, and a gag placed in the mouth of all who desire to criticise authority, we must fight, as Mr. Fisher promised that we should, to our last shilling and our last man. Comparisons have been drawn between the Australian and Canadian contributions of troops. The honorable member for Fawkner made such a comparison last night. But it must be remembered that the positions of the two countries are not identical, and that these comparisons are misleading.
Canada is doing remarkably well. According to her latest official statistics, she must have 300,000 men under arms, and is recruiting at the rate of 1,000 a day. The Canadian Government have undertaken to have 500,000 men under arms before the end of the year.
– Canada has a population of 8,000,000, and borders a country with a population of 120,000,000.
– I understand that 50,000 of the volunteers enlisted by Canada came from the United States.
– A considerable proportion of the Australian volunteers are immigrants. Canada has not so much at stake as Australia has. The Monroe Doctrine protects her from the occupation of an enemy. The whole strength of the United States of America is pledged to keep her inviolate. She has, certainly, the danger of internal troubles to face, and must, therefore, keep a considerable number of men under arms within her own borders. Australia is one of the prizes of the war, and if we wish to keep this country to ourselves, we must play our part in -the conflict. It would be to our eternal disgrace if we did not realize this, and if we did not make an effort to emulate the sacrifices that are being made by the Mother Land, not so much in the interests of herself as in those of civilization and of the Dominions who look to her for protection, and have had it in no small measure.
Some amazing things have been said in regard to conscription. One of the most astounding is that it is undemocratic and ought not to be accepted by a democratic community. Any one who says that has not the slightest conception of the meaning of Democracy. There can be no civilization without compulsion, nor a Democracy without force to establish and maintain it. The Labour movement is a manifestation of the principle of compulsion, carried in some regards to an extreme. What is preference to unionists but the application of the compulsory system without the necessity that justifies conscription for war purposes 1 Those who support preference to unionists are prepared to see, not only the nonunionist, but the non-unionist’s wife and children, starve if he will not accept compulsion and come within the circle of their political and moral ideas. Yet those who use the weapon of compulsion for their own interests deny the right of the community to use it in a struggle imperilling the whole community. Could there be a more absurd inconsistency?
What I regret most in regard to the hostile attitude towards conscription is that it indicates the failure of Democracy to realize one of its greatest responsibilities. I charge that to the leaders of the people, who, for years, have emphasized their privileges and rights, but have failed almost entirely to remind them of their responsibilities. We see this failure on the part of the masses of the people to realize their responsibility in many other directions than in regard to the war. Take, for instance, such a small episode as the attempted arrest of a criminal by a policeman. When a policeman called out recently to some one in a crowd to stop an offender, the reply was, “ Stop him yourself.” There is hardly an arrest by a policeman in the streets of Melbourne, or the suburbs, that is not opposed, as far as may be dared, by the mob that collects. It is just those people who fail to realize that the policeman is the manifestation of the law, and the individual on whom the administration of justice rests for the community, who do not feel any responsibility in regard to the war. He who says to a policeman “ Stop the criminal yourself “ is not the man to enlist, but the man to sneak in the background ; and he who sees no responsibility in regard to his duty, as a citizen, is not at all likely to see his responsibility in regard to his duty as a soldier. A very grave duty lies upon the shoulders of Governments throughout Australia to make those fellows realize their responsibility; and in this regard there has been a lamentable failure up to the present. We are told sometimes that if the enemy come3 to Australia those persons of whom I have been speaking would be ready to fight. Personally, I do not think they would. If they cannot see their duty to go and attack the enemy where he is at present outraging civilization, they will not be very keen if the enemy should happen to come to Australia. I feel sure that the class referred to as hanging- back in Australia to-day are not going to the front until they are told plainly that it is their duty, and that they must go. ‘ I do not think for a moment that it is cowardice, but rather that it is simply a failure to realize responsibility. Many of them, I know, abstain from volunteering because they are determined to wait until the shirker is compelled. Many of those who, for the present, have not volunteered are conscriptionists, but are waiting until the mandate is issued for the -benefit of those who they know are going to shirk. I should like here to say that, very much to the surprise of many people, but not to mine, those individuals who have been sneered at in many quarters as having very little idea of manliness - the “ wowsers “ - are the men who, perhaps, in a larger proportion than any other section of the community, have gone to the front. It has astonished me to know the numbers of young men belonging to the churches and chapels throughout Australia who have realized their duty and have gone to do it. The men who used to sneer at the “ wowsers “ - those men we find swaggering about Bourkestreet or Collins-street, in the middle of the day, and who know all about horseracing, football, and picture shows - the “sports” as they call themselves - are those who now sneak behind the “ wowsers.”
– What is your definition of a “ wowser ‘ ‘ ?
– I do not know whether the honorable member has just entered the chamber, but, in my opinion, the term to-day is a highly honorable one-. Let any honorable member of this House go down Collins-street from half-past 1 till 2 o’clock in the day, and if he does not see there the strongest possible argument in favour of conscription he has no eyes in his head, nor soul in his body. Not hundreds, but thousands, of strong, healthy, vigorous young fellows are swaggering round, trying to attract the eyes of the girls, but entirely oblivious of the record on the other side of the street of the deeds of those who are fighting for them at tlie front. One of the most urgent duties that Parliament ‘ can perform for the country is to round-up these men, put them in the hands of drill sergeants for six months, and make men of them. The sooner that duty is done the better- for the men themselves, ‘ and the better for the country as a whole. There is a class of young men - and young women, too - though I speak particularly of the men - who are growing up petted and pampered in their homes, provided with easy billets and plenty of money, with plenty of time to spend it in, and who have no idea from morning to night, and from one year’s end to the other, than that of pleasure and self-indulgence. Those are the young men who do not volunteer, and whom it ought to be our business to send to the front, so transforming them from “wasters” into men.
I have watched and tried to understand the agitation against conscription in Australia. I have a fairly good knowledge of modern literature, and especially of the literature of politics and sociology; and I think I can very shortly put the views and opinions of those behind the agitation. They may not know it, but, nevertheless, these anticonscriptionists are sitting at the feet of German teachers - are uttering German sentiment, and “ playing the game “ of Germany. Those people who talk about “ militarism,” and all the other fudge, in their objection to conscription, are simply repeating the views that have been written for years by Marx, Karl Kautsky, and the other feather-brained theorists who have cropped up in Germany in the last half century. There is no doubt that those writers and would-be teachers on sociology and economics have a great deal of justification for their observations and arguments, so far as Germany is concerned, but those same arguments have no point whatever in a country like Australia. Here they are only treachery, and: an insult to our democratic institutions; and they are only advanced by people who either have no brains to understand the genesis of the arguments, or are rascally enough to use them to gull those they hope to influence. I am proud to acknowledge that the rank and file of trades-unionism, in many cases, are more loyal and true to the ideals of Democracy than are their leaders. Trades unionism has contributed nobly to our Army at the front, in spite of much discouragement by those who should rather have urged them to do their duty. I am proud to also acknowledge that there are men on both sides in both Chambers of this Parliament who see no reason why Australia should not, to quote Mr. Fisher’s words, “ spend the last man and the last shilling “ in this honorable war. I trust that before it is too late we shall rise to the occasion, and do our duty in a way that will redound to the credit of ourselves, and to the credit of our country, so that history may record for us a page that will be read by our descendants with gratitude and pride.
– The question of conscription has been eagerly discussed during the last two or three evenings, but, in spite of all the noise of battle in this chamber, we should remember that in no part of the British Empire is there yet conscription; and I am inclined to question whether the system will be put into operation in any part of it. I am not in a position to speak definitely, but I understand that there are at least three phases or parts in the Bill introduced in the House of Commons, and that the last to be put into operation will be that relating to conscription. If we may rely on Hillaire Belloc’s figures, it is debatable whether any nation can put more than 10 per cent, of the population into the fighting line. It would appear that Great Britain has almost reached the limit at the present time. Keeping in view the necessary supply of food, munitions, and other material, it is a question whether Great Britain could send more to the front than the 4,600,000 or 5,000,000 men already under arms. The battle of Verdun is proving that munitions, more than men, are needed, and this renders it absolutely necessary that a large army of workmen and workwomen must be kept at home.
– No one suggests anything else.
– What I mean is that we should have organization all round, and I submit that those who are simply “ plunging “ for more men to be sent indiscriminately to the front, are not doing that which is best in the interests of the defence of the Empire.
– Conscription is required to obviate indiscriminate selection.
– Both volunteer England and conscript France had to recall thousands of men from the trenches to resume duty in the workshops. I presume that we shall have a future opportunity to discuss the question fully, and I shall not say much in regard to it to-day, beyond announcing that I am not favorable to the system, because, in my opinion, British communities with their volunteers can do quite as much as other countries where compulsion is exercised.
I desire to refer to an interjection of mine which was made when the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking, and on which the honorable member for Flinders somewhat elaborated. The honorable member for Parramatta, when speaking, said -
It seemed to him that, after the war, there must be opposing segregations of humanity, permeated and saturated with hatred of one another.
It was here that I interjected -
I do not think so. Give Germany a different system of government, and there will be a great difference.
– I did not say what has been quoted, but that the aggregation that was beaten would be permeated and saturated with hatred.
– That is the particular idea. that I am going to combat. Whether the opinion be popular or unpopular, I must say that one of the most sublime figures in connexion with the terrible conflict now raging is that of the leader of the Socialists in Germany, Liebknecht. He has, on several occasions, practically taken his life in his hands. Even on the floor of the Reichstag he has told the Kaiser and the German Government what he thinks of them, and of what they have done to provoke this war.
– What has become of all the other million Socialists there were in Germany ?
– I believe that after the defeat of Germany, as the result of this war, the Kaiser will be deposed and the German military system smashed. One thing for which we are hoping is that the military party in every country will be absolutelysmashed, for we are suffering under the curse of militarism to-day. Every honorable member will agree with me when I sa,y that prior to the war the masses of the people in Germany, at any rate, the Socialists, were opposed to the Kaiser and his satellites. All their propaganda showed it. On the other hand, the ambition of the Kaiser and his satellites was to spread the idea of entering upon this awful war with a view to world conquest. Years ago, a German with wonderful prescience and spirit of prophecy said, in effect, “ I speak as one who speaks for the masses of Germany. It seems to me, horrible and bad as the thought is, that the gateway through which we shall have to go in order that Democracy in Germany may come to her own will be an awful war.. Put after the war, the people of Germany will turn round and rend those who created it, and Democracy will come into her own.” I believe that that will be one of the results of this awful conflict. It is a great price to pay, but I believe that Germany will afterwards be something like what it was in days gone by - a country that had high ideals and will live in amity with her neighbours in all parts of the world.
– We must first smash German militarism.
– I have said so, but militarism has never been adopted by the Socialist party in Germany. Give Germany anything like a decent electoral system and adult franchise, and Socialism will sweep away the Kaiser and his junkers’ party. I believe that one of the reasons why the Kaiser and his junkers’ party brought about the war at this particular juncture, and made an attack on the world’s civilization, was fear of the ever-increasing power of the Socialistic party in Germany. Even the district where the Potsdam Palace stands, and where the Kaiser lives, returned a Socialist member, not at the last general elections for the Reichstag, but at a- byelection. All Berlin is now represented by Socialists. It is true that the German Socialists say that nationalism must supersede international Socialism when one’s country is in danger. The journals of the international Socialists show it.
– At international Socialistic conferences the leaders have always averred that if their country was attacked they would fight for it.
– They have always retained that right. The German Socialists have always declared that they would hold the right to defend their country, even against their brother Socialists in other countries. No one can disagree with that contention, but in this case they are the attackers, and we are the defenders.
– Exactly. All these millions of German Socialists are attacking us in the belief that they are right in doing so.
– Not all of them. I believe that if the millions of Germans who are fighting in the trenches to-day could exercise their voice at this particular juncture it would go against the actions of their Kaiser and the military party in Germany.
– I am sorry that I cannot believe the honorable member.
– I believe it. The Wives and sweethearts and mothers of a country at war suffer more even than the valiant men at the front. In giving up those who are dear to them, there is great sacrifice and suffering. I believe that if the women of Germany had the vote as we possess it in Australia this cursed war would not have been heard of. I believe that if the adult people are given the franchise and a decent electoral system, they will depose their Kaiser and sweep out the military caste, because war is a curse, and falls heavier on the homes of the poor than on the mansions of the rich.
– I hope that all this may come to pass, but are we to rely on it coming to pass ? Are we to trust that it will come to pass?
– I have endeavoured to peruse writings of men of independent thought in regard to the war, and endeavoured to trace out a brighter and happier time for the world as the result of the conflict. The clouds are dark and thick, and it is hard to imagine what may happen after the war. I know that the honorable member for Flinders says that I am afflicted with a rather unhealthy optimism; but I maintain that if we can sweep these evil influences from the German community, and from other communities, we shall have a much healthier world, and people living at amity with their neighbours.
– I do not deny it. I simply say that we cannot trust to its taking place.
– I am against Kaiserdom and militarism wherever it shows its ugly head. No country is safe internally or externally until these hateful evil influences are entirely overcome.
The honorable member for Flinders and the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition have referred to the time that we are approaching - the end of the war. I believe that with the end of the war we shall have greater problems to face than now confront us. Ever since the war commenced I have maintained, and I have tried to speak.it in the ears of those in authority, that while taking every step to carry out the conflict to a successful issue, we must make every possible effort to prepare for the time when our men will come back at the conclusion of the war. There will be an awful displacement of labour and industry, and if the Labour Government allow this Parliament to close its doors, and shut their eyes to these patent facts, they are not acting in the truest and highest national spirit. We talk of repatriation funds and land settlement funds, but what are we doing to organize the establishment of industries that will give employment to the thousands of men who will return to us after the war is over, as well as other workers ? Sitting here quietly talking of carrying onthe war, without making some provision for the time that is bound to come after the war, is worse than criminal. The war will raise more problems at its conclusion than during its progress, and certainly more problems than the war itself will settle. Even now when our men return they are not treated properly. They are not put back to the positions they had prior to leaving for the front. Private employers and, I am sorry to say, Government employers are not treating them well. And if that is done now, what will be the case when the war ends, and thousands are returning ?
– The honorable member should make specific complaints in regard to that matter.
– I may be wrong; but I believe that the war will collapse suddenly. If it were to collapse in five months’ time, Australia would be in a worse position than it is now; because we should not be prepared to meet the difficulties of the situation. There should be some organization whereby we can provide for these people. The Tariff will help us to a considerable extent, but even without the Tariff much can be done. We are sending out of the country £500,000 per annum for cement. Yet we have in Australia all the elements for making the best cement in the world. Why are we not making it? We could have at least five more big cement manufacturing plants supplying our requirements.
I was glad to note in the press the other day that a firm engaged in the woollen industry in Victoria was about to establish a woollen mill in the Maribyrnong district at a cost of £100,000. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition will treat such expenditure as lack of economy or extravagance. I would rejoice if five or six other companies were prepared “ to spend £100,000 each on plants in other parts of Australia for the production of woollen goods.
We have but scratched the surface in regard to iron and steel. All our work iu this .direction still lies before us. The Broken Hill works and the Lithgow plant can turn out but a small fraction of the requirements of Australia. We are told that for at least two years there will be no possibility of obtaining supplies of steel work from America or Great Britain. Is it not time that the Government, if private enterprise will not do the work, stepped in and built steel works?
– And the High Court will tell us that we cannot sell it.
– The Commonwealth Government will need enough steel itself to keep a vast steel works going, to say nothing of other Governments. We must carry out railway construction and other works, and it is absolutely essential that we should have this industry established in our own country, so that we may avoid sending away fully £60,000,000 annually to supply our requirements in this and other directions. Such expenditure for work done iu other countries is a disgrace to us. What a fine army of workmen we could employ in these industries? I venture to say that if Germany had control of this continent, it would, by means of its wonderful power of organization, develop our resources to such an extent that in twenty years Australia would be one of the richest countries in the world. If Germany could do that, why should not Australians develop their own country, and make it the best and greatest?
There is another matter that I desire to mention, because I regard it as a very serious one, and because I was not at all satisfied with the reply that the Minister of Trade and Customs gave me concerning it yesterday. It relates to the prices that are being charged for materials which are necessary in the manufacture of munitions of war. Take the case of copper as an example. In the pre-war days we were purchasing copper for the manufacture of cartridges for between £60 and £70 per ton. Since the war broke out, however, the price of this article has continued to soar, until to-day the manufacturers of our munitions are paying as much as £155 per ton for it. I understand that there is an arrangement in force under which the British Government and the Allies obtain copper from Australian mines for £100 per ton. In these circumstances, why should our own manufacturers be called upon to pay an extra £55 per ton? There is a screw loose somewhere. I am aware that the Minister of External Affairs, who is Acting Attorney-General, has been giving this matter his serious attention. I extremely regret his absence through illness, but I hold that in his absence some other Minister should deal with it with a view to preventing our manufacturers from being fleeced. If there is one thing more than another which tells against recruiting here it is the fact that there are in our midst exploiters who are robbing the people right and left. To-day, men are inquiring why they should go to the front if those whom they leave behind are to be remorselessly exploited? It is a crying shame that we should be called upon to pay more than double the price for copper than we were paying for it prior to the outbreak of war. That is a condition of things which ought to be inquired into and immediately remedied.
The honorable member for Flinders the other night said that he intended to make certain statements irrespective of whether they were censored or not. I wish to say that, although Japan is a country whose social and industrial conditions we would not dream of copying, we might with very great advantage emulate her example in some other respects. What has Japan done since the termination of her war with Russia? Although her Government is regarded as being of a conservative character, it has steadily pursued the policy of nationalizing big industries and services ever since that great conflict. On the 31st December, 1912, Japan had established four great naval arsenals and two great military arsenals, in which 100,000 persons were turning out munitions of war. To-day, I have no hesitation in saying that close upon 250,000 hands must be employed in the Japanese arsenals. Surely Australia ought to have factories and arsenals.
– Does the honorable member think that this is a time to discuss that question?
– Leave our Allies alone.
– The honorable member for Flinders said the same thing in veiled language the other evening, and no complaint was made. I wish honorable members to look at what is being done in other countries, and profit by the example.
– In lots of other countries, if the honorable member made a speech like this, he would be put up against a wall and shot.
– And if some of the exploiters of our people were in Russia and France they would promptly meet with a similar fate. It is incumbent upon us to make preparation for the period that will follow the close of the war. I do not wish to be then faced with the inquiry, “ How did you organize our industries for that period 1 “What provision did you make for the return of our soldiers, and the employment of the workers of Australia?” I desire something to be done here and now. I am out for organization. If we do not make the necessary arrangements for providing our returned soldiers with employment, what will be the position when the war is over ?
Personally, I hold lhat the sooner we deal with the Tariff the better. The sooner we pass a Tariff which will exclude every commodity that comes from a lowwage country the better. I do not care a snap of the fingers about giving a preference, either to Great Britain or to our Allies. If that preference will injuriously affect our own workmen, I will not be a party to granting it. My policy is, first and foremost, Australian development under the control of Australians giving employment to Australians, with such a system and such conditions as will be an example ‘to the rest of the world. I do urge upon the Government, and upon Parliament, to do something in the direction of organizing industries. There is much to do, and, if it is not done, I shall be sorry for the plight that many of our soldiers will be in when they return from the front.
Mr. PIGOTT (Calare) [12.301- It is to be regretted that the honorable member for Maribyrnong should have made a veiled reference to the object of J apan in building arsenals and engaging vigorously in the manufacture of munitions. The true reason for such activity is the loyal feeling of Japan towards the British Empire. A large proportion of the munitions used by the Allies is drawn from America and Japan. About twelve months ago the Japanese Parliament were faced with a deficit of 10,000,000 yen. The Government set to work to put their house in order, and one of the steps they decided to take was the erection of munition factories throughout the country, because munitions were the commodity most needed in the present world-wide war. I commend Japanese statesmen for their commercial astuteness, the result of which has been to turn the trade balance in their country’s favour. I think that everybody in the British Empire holds J apan in high esteem. Where would Australia be but for the protection of Japan ? Our soldiers and Navy are at the front, and the Japanese Navy is protecting our shores from attack. Our existence depends to a large extent on the loyalty of the Japanese people to the cause of the Allies.
– You say that the British Navy is useless ?
– I do not; but where is there a British fleet within 2,000 miles of the shores of Australia? In the absence of British ships, Australia is dependent on the Japanese fleet: Japan is playing its part well,- and instead of making veiled insinuations against her, we should be grateful for all that country has done. I should like to congratulate’ honorable members on both sides of the House on the patriotic ring throughout their speeches. The one exception was the utterance of the honorable member for Batman. His speech is to be deplored, and I am of opinion that it should be deleted from Hansard.
– Good old Prussian suppression !
– I believe that the majority of honorable members on this side, as well as several honorable members on the Government side, are in favour of conscription. For my own part, I am an out-and-cut conscriptionist.
– I thought that was coming.
– I do not think anybody understands where the honorable member is on the question ; I doubt if he himself knows. He is one of those individuals who, if a burglar attacked his house, would throw open the doors and allow him to rob the house and murder his wife rather than run any personal risk. Metaphorically, that is what he urges the people of Australia to do. He likened the honorable member for Flinders to “ a voice crying in the wilderness,” but the voice of the honorable member for Flinders was not isolated in calling for conscription, because his remarks were supported by two honorable members on the Government side, and by at least two Labour members of the Senate. If this matter were referred to the country to-day, and the Government stood for voluntaryism and the Liberals for conscription, the latter would be returned with an overwhelming majority.
– Is that why you are advocating conscription?
– No ; but that is the position. The honorable member for Fawkner remarked that it was impossible for a person to speak in Melbourne against conscription without running the risk of insult and assault. Surely that statement indicates the drift of public opinion, and, if the people are overwhelmingly in favour of conscription, the Government should shape their policy accordingly. I do not question the loyalty of the PostmasterGeneral, but he interjected last night that it would be time enough to adopt conscription when the enemy was at our shores.
– I flatly deny that, statement.
– I accept the statement, but the impression I had was that the Minister said that it would be time enough to have conscription when the enemy came here.
– I never said such a thing.
– I understood the Minister to say that if the enemy came here we would have conscription at once by the operation of our own laws.
– If that is the interpretation of the Minister’s interjection, I will, of course, accept it, and withdraw my statement, but I feel somewhat warmly on this question, because a great many people in Australia seem to hold the view that we should wait until the enemy comes to our shores before we think of conscription. What do the people who live in the bush do when threatened with a bush fire? Do they wait till it comes to their doors before they take measures to check it? I recollect that once when a fire in my own district practically burnt everybody right out, as soon as we saw the smoke on the horizon, we gathered all the horses available, got our fire carts out, and attacked the fire immediately. We did not wait until it came round our own homes before taking action. Now that is our position in this war. We are all in it, and Servians, French, and Russians are fighting on different fields just as effectually for the protection of their homes as in the defence of the loneliest hamlets in this far away Australia. We must all swing into line, speak, as it were, with one voice, and act all together in this great war. The honorable member for Batman had a great deal to say about conscription of wealth. But what does he mean? We have learned from the Minister of Defence that our troops are better paid, better fed, and better equipped than any other troops in the world. Has a single soldier ever had reason to complain that he has not received his pay unless it be by accident ? Have they not been supplied generously with all their requirements? Have we not floated war loans, and have they not been over subscribed ? Some people consider, of course, that those who subscribe to loans are doing well by getting per cent. Well, suppose they do. Who pays the interest eventually ? Is it not paid by way of taxation, and do not the very men who get the 4J per cent, indirectly pay for it in that way ? On this question of the conscription of wealth, where do we stand at the present time ? As all honorable members know, I come from New South Wales, and in that State the Labour Government have imposed an additional income, or super tax for war purposes, though what the State Government has to do with war goodness only knows. Not long ago we imposed a Federal income tax, and increased the graduated land tax by including taxation on leasehold lands. Then there are the Commonwealth death duties of 15 per cent, on top of the State taxes. In Queensland, probate duty is fixed at up to 22 per cent., and in New South Wales it is 15 per cent. It will be seen, therefore, that Federal and State death duties in Queensland may reach 37 per cent. If you take more than one-third of a man’s property from him, I think that comes pretty near to conscription of wealth. In addition to that, we have increased Customs duties, which fall very heavily upon the people on the land; they pay more heavily than those engaged in any other industry in Australia. In the face of all this, can it be said that conscription of wealth can be made more effective than it is at the present moment? This country should be administered on more economic lines. There is too much taxation already, and yet the Government appear to be looking round to see how they can raise revenue in that way, while spending money on works which, after all, may not be urgently required for war purposes. Can it be said, for instance, that the proposed erection of the arsenal is necessary for war purposes?
– I do, absolutely.
– How long will it be before the arsenal is equipped ?
– About two years.
– Can any one say that the war is going to last till then ?
– We are not going to wait until the war is over.
– This is not the time for extravagance. I wish to let the House know my position with regard to conscription. I am whole-heartedly in favour of conscription. Ministers have spoken of giving opportunities for voting to the men at the front. I advise them to poll the Anzacs on the conscription question. If that were done, every one of our soldiers, whether unionist or nonunionist, would vote for conscription. And there can be no better judges of the need for conscription than those who have fought for their country - the comrades of those who have given their life’s blood for the Empire. They know the importance of putting every ounce of weight into the struggle. I wish now to say a word or two regarding the Budget. I am pleased to hear that the Commonwealth Bank has made a profit of £50,000, that is, if the profit is a real one, and not made at the expense of the taxpayers. Speaking of the Bank, the Treasurer said -
The benefits accruing to Australia through the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank are almost incalculable. None can doubt that, in the absence of a Commonwealth-owned bank, the rates of interest charged to the public for borrowed money would now be abnormal, and that at times during the war financial unrest would approach a panic.
I find that the total advances of the Commonwealth Bank amount to something like £2,700,000, whereas those of the twenty-two private banks amount to £120,000,000. How, then, could the existence of the Commonwealth Bank affect the rates of interest? We have heard of the tail trying to wag the dog, but the statement of the Treasurer attributes to the end of the tail the power to wag the dog. The assets of the Commonwealth Bank are only one-ninth of those of the private banks, being £27,000,000 as compared with £186,000,000. As to the profits of the Bank, I would point out that when the Post Office Savings Banks were under the control of the States, the State authorities used to pay the Commonwealth authority for the work done for them by Commonwealth postal officials. The amount so paid in 1911 was £35,506. Since the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank these payments have been decreasing, and now amount to about £15,200 a year, which means that the Commonwealth has lost £20,000 a year in revenue since the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank.
– There has not been a loss, because the Commonwealth has had less labour to pay for.
– I do npt think that there has been any great saving in labour, because the post offices employ as many persons now as they did in 1911. Then, again, although the private banks have London agencies, the Treasurer insists, when they wish to export gold, that it Shall be sent through the Commonwealth Bank, and that that Bank shall receive a commission of per cent, for its services. Thus, if the private banks wished to send £5,000,000 of gold to the Old Country, they would have to pay £12,500 for sending it through the Commonwealth Bank. How much of the profit of the Commonwealth Bank is accounted for by this charge? There are many things concealed in the balance-sheet which should see the light of day. If the Bank of New South Wales made a profit of £50,000, it would have to pay Federal income taxation on that profit at the rate of ls. 6d. in the £1, and State income taxation at the rate of ls. in the £1, so that, roughly, its taxation would amount to £6,250. In addition, there would be the municipal rating on the bank’s premises everywhere. The profits of the Commonwealth Bank, however, are not liable to taxation, nor are its premises rated. In Sydney, a building which is to cost between £180,000 and £190,000 is being erected by the Commonwealth
Bank, and it will be exempt from municipal taxation. I think that the Treasurer had no justification for interfering with the export of gold. Gold is not only a medium of exchange in this country, it is a staple product, like wool and wheat. Last year, Australia produced something like £12,000,000 worth of gold. Five years ago, the private banks had something like £19,000,000 in gold reserves, and to-day they have £36,000,000 in addition to the £10,000,000 which they have lent to the Commonwealth. They have increased their gold reserves by about £17,000,000. How are we to send gold to England to settle the trade balance? The Treasurer is unwise in interfering with the business relationships of the banks, which ought to be allowed a free hand as custodians of the business of the country. This is a typical instance. At Kalgoorlie, the mines produce about £5,000,000 worth of gold per year. Some of them employ as many as 1,000 hands, and all this army of miners has to be paid fortnightly or monthly, and the mining companies go to the banks and obtain an advance against their bullion. Merchants and shopkeepers have to provide the necessaries of life to the mine employees, and import most of those goods from oversea. The importations for that purpose amount to £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 worth, yet the gold which the banks receive has, under present arrangements, to remain in Australia. How is that trade balance to be settled ? It can be done only by allowing the banks to send away the gold. If that is not done, the balance of trade is against us, and our money will be at a discount. Perhaps the Treasurer is preventing the gold from leaving the country because he is becoming a little nervous at the tremendous size of the note issue.
– Not at all.
– Then it is high time the honorable gentleman explained the position to Parliament. Notes to the extent of £43,000,000 have been issued, of which the banks hold £30,000,000 and the public £13,000,000. Last September, the public held only £5,000,000. What influence was brought to bear on the banks by the Treasurer last year to compel them to put that increased amount of notes into circulation, and probably withdraw a corresponding amount of gold ? I believe it was done by the Treasurer refusing to honour-the notes presented by the banks on 30th September last. If he did that, the public, instead of getting gold for their cheques, were paid in notes, with the result that paper currency took the place of gold to a greater degree than before. A few years ago, when the note issue was first begun, the average circulation was only £4,000,000. It is the duty of the Treasurer to explain the extraordinary jump that has taken place in such a short period.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before going further I should like to put myself right with the Postmaster- General. I have to admit that a few moments ago I placed the wrong interpretation on an interjection he made. On looking up Hansard I find that the exact words he used were, “ If the fight were in Australia we should all be conscripts.” As I say, I placed the wrong interpretation on the words; and I have now much pleasure in withdrawing any imputation which I have cast on the honorable gentleman. I hope the withdrawal will be accepted in the spirit in which it i’s made. As to the Note Issue, the figures show that £43,581,000 in notes was issued by the Commonwealth Government, and that of this £30,312,257 worth is held by the banks of issue or joint stock banks of Australia. The banks have to hold this immense sum in their vaults or tills, and the transaction cannot be construed otherwise than as a free loan. It will, 1 think, be admitted under the circumstances, that the banks are responding nobly and patriotically to the cause of the Empire.
– And the fact has never been sufficiently recognised.
– It is not recognised in any way in the Budget statement of the Treasurer, who goes so far as to suggest that the banks should invest an additional £15,000,000 in war loans. This would mean the colossal total of £45,000,000; and considering the past achievements and the splendid help rendered by the banks, it is hardly fair on the part of the Treasurer to make such a suggestion. In the course of his statement the Treasurer told us that if the States are deprived of the proposed loan moneys we may expect unemployment as well as a check to development in trade, commerce, and industry. This I regard as a great reflection on the resources of the Commonwealth, and one scarcely to have been expected from a
Labour Treasurer, in view of the fact that we have had Labour Governments in all the States. According to the reports of Mr. Knibbs, the population of the cities is increasing tremendously every year; and in New South Wales more than onethird of the whole population is living in Sydney. This congestion in the cities is plainly due to the borrowing policy of the State Governments.
– Why not open another port in New South Wales ?
– Simply because the Labour party there take good care that another port is not opened. In making the suggestion that more borrowed money is necessary in order to prevent unemployment, the Treasurer seems to forget that there are something like 260,000 men on active service. It is claimed by our friends opposite that practically the whole of these are trade unionists; and, if that be so, there ought to be. no unemployment in Australia. Unemployment is due to the fact that the population congest in the cities, where they are spoon-fed by the various Governments, while farmers and others in the country are unable to till the soil because of the insufficiency of labour. Any man in khaki, whether a trade unionist, a farmer, or of any other class oflife, should be regarded with the utmost respect by every local citizen ; and last night the honorable member for Fawkner gave us to understand that a majority of the recruits have been drawn from the cities. To show that the honorable member’s opinion is not shared by the Premier of New South Wales, I may say that after the first recruiting campaign, which resulted in 14,000 men, Mr. Holman stated that out of that number 11,000 were gathered from the country. I cannot see, therefore, how the honorable member for Fawkner can make such a claim as he did last night. Even while he was speaking I had in my company in this House two young fellows in khaki, who had come down from the country in New South Wales to enlist at Maribyrnong, in order that they might enter the artillery. These young fellows, I presume, would be regarded as city recruits, along with all the other country residents who, in the earlier stages of the war, found it necessary to come to town in order to enter the ranks. To revert to the unemployment question, I may say I have read with interest the speech made by the president of a confer ence representative of shire councils now being held in Sydney; and I am quite in sympathy with his complaint of the lack of labour, which is so necessary for the full development of our resources. The Treasurer has told us that during the next twelve months it will be necessary to raise some £50,000,000; and to that I take no exception, while I commend the Treasurer for proposing to raise the money within the limits of Australia. It is just about time we were self-dependent, because the Old Country has already afforded us substantial help, and has enough to do on her own account. The Treasurer, however, also tells us that he is going to lend the States another £9,000,000, although lately the States have been borrowing pretty lavishly. In my own State of New South Wales the Labour party have advocated the principle of no borrowing, but, at the same time, the present: Premier has practically put up a record in this regard. During the past five years the State Government have borrowed £25,000,000, together with £8,000,00 from the Commonwealth Treasurer. Then there was further borrowing to the extent of another £10,000,000, or the colossal sum of £43,000,000 in five years, which I think is a pretty good record for a non-borrowing Premier.
– What was done with the money ? The honorable member does not say that there was regrading and the construction of railways.
– I like to see men well paid when they earn the money they receive, but I fear that in New South Wales there is not a sufficient oversight of the men who are now working under the Government, and the people are not getting full value for their money. We have been told that men by their work provide for their employers not only the work, but one-third more in value, but that is a condition of things which in some cases does not hold good in New South Wales at the present time. I find that Mr. Milne, who was recently appointed a Commissioner for Railways in New South Wales by the Labour Government, speaking recently at the annual meeting of the New South Wales Railway Institute, at Goulburn, said -
There were many influences which helped to draw the staff away from personal effort and diligent study. He was more than sorry to say there were virulent influences at work which helped to undermine and destroy discipline and loyalty to the public, who owned the railways and tramways.
He had before him a union journal showing where members of the service, men who depend on the public for employment, seriously and deliberately debated how they could best bring about a condition of chaos under the name ofa scientific strike, which was really sabotage thinly disguised; in other words, penalizing the public, inflicting the heaviest possible loss on the State, and destroying law, order, and discipline, to bring about a reign of industrial terror. One of the largest departmental workshops is placarded with advice, emanating from a foreign land, of which the following was a sample : - “ Don’t scab upon unemployed by working hard. Slow work means more jobs; more jobs means more employed, and less competition means higher wages, less work, more pay. Slow down; slow down. Don’t be a slave.”
– Why blame the Labour party for that? The honorable member knows that we have nothing to do with it, and that we are always fighting the people responsible for that kind of thing.
– I say that that is a placard which should never have been allowed to be exhibited.
– Why is the honorable member putting it into Hansard, if he thinks it should not have been exhibited?
– I am asking why a Labour Government allowed it to be exhibited. That is where the borrowed money is going. It is being used for the payment of men of that sort. I should be the first to say that men should be given good wages if they earn them, but I say also that the Government should see that men in Government employ earn the wages they are paid.
– If the honorable member goes around Melbourne, he will see similar placards posted at almost every corner, but the Labour party have nothing to do with them.
– The New South Wales Government got this Commissioner from the Orange district, in my own electorate^ I say that the appointment is a good one, and he is one of the best Commissioners we ever had, and he condemned the union responsible for posting this placard. Mr. Fisher, when Prime Minister and Treasurer, gave us a homily on economy, but, at the same time the figures he submitted showed that, under his management, the ordinary expenditure of the year represented an increase of £4,000,000, or 13 per cent., as compared with the same expenditure for the previous year. This was entirely apart from expenditure connected with the war. His successor, the present Treasurer, shows a further increase of expenditure on even that of last year for ordinary services of £1,561,000. I feel sure that every member of tEe House, in common with myself, was very much interested in the last British Budget. It dealt with the greatest figures that any Parliament has ever had to deal with since the world has existed. We were told that the wealth outside the United Kingdom represented £3,600,000,000, and interest and dividends on oversea investments amounted to £183,000,000. This last figure practically represents England’s income from her oversea investments. We were further told that the war is costing the Empire at the rate of £5,000,000 per day, and it was estimated that war expenditure would continue at that rate until the end of March. This would make the expenditure for the year due to the war £1,825,000,000. Already the Empire has spent a sum very little short of that amount, so that by next March the whole of the oversea investments will be absorbed by the war expenditure. Those investments are made up chiefly of loans to the Commonwealth and the Australian States, and to the other outlying Dominions of the Empire. That amount will not be forthcoming owing to the expenditure upon the war, and as a consequence the Dominions must be selfreliant in the future. It has to be remembered that this income was not received in England in cash, hut was transferred in the form of exports of wool, gold, and other products of the Dominions. The paying power of the Empire being reduced to the extent of nearly £200,000,000, we shall not be able to pay our interest in wool, tallow, and other primary products, and will have to provide the Empire with gold. It, therefore, behoves the Government to be extremely careful concerning expenditure, so as to avoid harassing the Empire. The Imperial authorities are really in a position to say to the Commonwealth Treasurer, “ We expect you to pay off the loans which have been negotiated.” Before I resume my seat, there is one other subject upon which I should like to touch. I take very serious exception to the Federal Government, and also to the Wheat Board, for reducing the price of wheat to local consumers, and millers especially, by 4£d. per bushel below the
London parity. Mr. Hughes, before leaving for England, made a definite promise to the farmers of Australia that they would receive the London parity for their wheat. I noticed recently that the Government, and those interested in the wheat scheme, have broken faith with the farmers in the way I have mentioned. That should not be. The farmers are in a very bad position. Last year they had a record crop, but instead of being allowed to reap the full benefit of their harvest, the Government stepped in and gave them 3s. f.o.b. for their wheat, the balance to be held over for some indefinite period, the length of which no one knows. It is said that the balance will be paid at the end of November; but if the matter is settled by November twelve months the farmers may consider themselves exceedingly lucky.
– We would have got nothing for our wheat but for the wheat scheme.
– When this arrangement was made, I was in Sydney, and I saw three shipping firms dealing with wheat. One had 80,000 tons of freight engaged at 63s., another 150,000 tons, and the third 152,000 tons. Between them they had about 380,000 tons of freight chartered, yet the Prime Minister said in the House that it took him all his time to engage B00, 000 tons of freight.
– Does not the honorable member know that the British Government took over 800,000 tons of our shipping?
– That has occurred since the time of which I am speaking. Instead of having freight engaged at 63s. per ton, as one firm had, Mr. Hughes said that he had obtained shipping at 84s. per ton. The average price obtained by the three firms I have mentioned was under 70s. On the 30th June, in this House, I urged the Minister of Trade and Customs, very earnestly, to at once secure all available freight for our wheat, but he failed to do so.
– There would not be a plough worth mentioning put in if it were not for the intervention of the Government.
– The Government should have said that they were prepared to take over the wheat of anybody who wished to go into the pool, and make an advance of 3s., while allowing other farmers to sell their wheat where they chose.
– What more do the farmers want ? They have had an advance of £13,000,000.
– The interjection of the honorable member reminds me of the fact that in his financial statement the Treasurer has given to the Commonwealth Bank most of the credit for negotiating this wheat scheme. According to his own figures, the total advance by the pool to the farmers has been £12,000,000, which means that the banks are carrying practically the whole. Evidently the private banks have to do all the financing, and the credit is to be given to the Commonwealth Bank. 1 have just been spending a few weeks in Western Australia, where I took a trip along the transcontinental railway. I can take very little exception to what I saw along the line - it is very well conducted - but one matter in connexion with the day-labour system surprised me. I was travelling from the 40-mile to the 80-mile peg when a gentleman drew my attention to the telephone line, asking my opinion upon it, and when I had favorably commented on it, he informed me that the Government had called for tenders for that 40 miles, that his tender for £281 had been accepted, and that he had completed the section in sixteen days, paid his men £1 a day, and earned a profit of £100. The Government, however, took exception to his earning this £100, and decided to do the further work by day labour, and now they are paying the men 13s. 4d. per day against £1 a day which the contractor was paying, while the line is costing £2 per mile more. In times of war and distress we ought to conserve our resources and live within our means. I also take exception to any partisan spirit being shown in our Departments. When I visited the Maribyrnong Camp the other day, I asked the proprietor of the canteen where I had my meal why his establishment was situated outside the Camp. It was just 2 feet beyond the boundary, and the soldiers sat on tlie fence and made their purchases from him. The canteen proprietor informed me that he had’ built his establishment in the middle of the camp, and was doing good business, treating the men fairly, when the major asked him whether he belonged to the Hawkers Union. When he told the major that he was an employer of labour and did not belong to the union in question, he was told that instructions had been received from the Defence Department that his establishment must be removed unless he was a member of it. He told the major that he would not become a member of the union, and he had to remove his establishment, but, thanks to tlie Essendon Council, he was able to reerect it 2 feet beyond the boundary of the Camp. The recruits were so resentful of tlie action of the Department that every one gave him his patronage. What was the sequel ? About a week afterwards another gentleman, who belonged to the Hawkers Union, and had his union ticket in his pocket, established a canteen in the middle of the ground, but after four or five days the soldiers took exception to what had taken place, and at night they lifted it lock, stock, and barrel, and threw it into the Maribyrnong River. This exercise of preference to unionists should not take place during war time. Here is another instance. In the town where I live, there is a very loyal baker named Martin, who had two> loyal assistants. One assistant went to the front, and Mr. Martin and the other felt that they must go to Sydney and offer their services to the field bakery, but when they arrived in Sydney to enlist they were directed to go to the Trades Hall and -enroll as bakers’ operatives. Mr. Martin is a Liberal, and he certainly objected to having to pay into Labour funds. Here is another instance of preference to unionists. I have received the following letter from a young fellow who wished to be transferred from the Small Arms Factory to Garden Island : -
With reference to your letter of 1st inst., addressed to the Secretary, Department of Defence, forwarding letter received by you from Mr. Robt. .Turnbull, of Parkes, relative to the desire of his son to obtain employment at H.M.A.. Naval Establishments, Garden Island, I am directed to inform you that all employees for the Naval Establishments, Sydney, are entered through the Trades Hall.
This introduction of partisan methods during the war time should cease. Preference to unionists should not obtain in regard to Government employment. Can any honorable member give me any reason why it should ?
– Why should it not exist?
– All the people of Australia contribute to the revenue, and they have a perfect right to apply for any em ployment arising from the expenditure of that revenue. f
– Preference to unionists was the only issue at the last election, and the people decided in favour of it.
– I was fishing for that reply. Then, why did the Prime Minister of Australia, speaking in London the other day, say that the reason for the return of the Labour party was because the people of Australia thought that they could conduct the war in a better way than their opponents? The Minister for the Navy has given one reason and the Prime Minister has assigned another. The reason given by the Prime Minister is not the right one. In conclusion, I desire to impress upon the Government the necessity for exercising the most rigid economy in all Departments. The present is a time when it behoves them to carefully scrutinize every little detail of expenditure, even down to the last farthing.
– I congratulate the Treasurer on the very able Budget which he has presented to this Committee. He has broken down the barrier behind which Treasurers were for long accustomed to entrench themselves. From time immemorial we have been told that there are very few men in the world who possess tlie requisite qualifications for a successful Treasurer. That absurd notion has now been exploded. In the past one almost trembled to think of what might happen to Australia if certain persons were called upon to occupy that office. But somehow the country has always survived. This afternoon I intend to deal with certain matters of vital importance which can be dealt with upon this motion. I am glad that private members’ business has practically disappeared from the notice-paper, because I am one of those who regarded the time occupied in debating it as practically wasted. In his Budget statement the Treasurer emphasized the necessity for the observance of the most rigid economy. We were all familiar with that cry, but during the period of the war I venture to suggest that it possesses a good deal more significance than ordinarily attaches to it. We require to look at this matter a little closer than we have been accustomed to scrutinize it. Under existing conditions it is very desirable that persons with means should save ali that they possibly can for the purpose of enabling us, to successfully prosecute the war. The working classes, unfortunately, are not in a position to effect any savings. But there is a section of the community which can do so. In what direction should we save ? My idea is that we should save along the lines of everything that we consume during this war. The adoption of that policy will certainly conduce to a great deal more prosperity than we can otherwise hope to enjoy. If we continue to spend our money upon imported articles in preference to commodities of local manufacture, we shall not be practising the economy that we should practise .in the interests of Australia. But I fancy I hear some honorable members say. “ What about the glorious gospel of Free Trade?”
– No one calls it a “ glorious gospel “ now.
– It used to be called t hat when I was a boy. The honorable member for Wakefield knows something about that gospel. We read in the cable messages the speeches which the Prime Minister of Australia is delivering on the subject in England, and that political parties are trying to use his speeches to the detriment of their opponents. I have no doubt the Prime Minister has his tongue in his cheek, and is laughing at both of them. I do contend, however, that with a certain amount of forethought we could make a material improvement in the prosperity of Australia during the war. I do not believe that it is economy for those persons who can afford to spend to shut up their purses entirely, because it is by the spending power of those who have the money that others are able to live. The important thing is to keep the money in circulation, and if it is circulated in the right channel in our own market it will be of benefit to all. .Unfortunately, the industries which are chiefly prospering at the present time are the war industries, and there is not much prosperity in any of the capital cities. I do not blame the Government for spending a million pounds, so long as they get an adequate return for it, but I do object to them expending even £10 which could be saved. We must judge the Government by the acts of which we have knowledge. I had a rule of thumb which worked remarkably well for many years, that if I rend, a statement by a public man which
I knew to be false I never believed him on any other question, even though I knew nothing about it. I said, “ You are a liar in this matter, so probably you are a liar in everything.” The Government have agreed to extend the engagement of the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction for another three years. That distinguished gentleman receives £1,000 a year for six months’ work. He has an office provided for him in Melbourne, and a free railway pass, and I reckon ‘that, directly and indirectly, he costs the Commonwealth something between £6,000 and £S,000 per annum. He certainly costs more than his salary. He has an office staff, and I never was able to find out what they were doing. I admit that I was so fully occupied that I had not time to investigate the doings of Mr. Griffin’s staff.
– You fell out with him.
– We never had any falling out, because we never agreed. However, even if Mr. Griffin cost the Commonwealth only £1,000 a year, it is the principle of the expenditure which we must look at, and with all the war expenditure to be met, I shall be surprised if the Committee is prepared to spend a great amount of money at the present time on the Federal Capital. At any rate, that was the attitude of the Fisher Government. When I was considering the making of arrangements for the competition for the Parliament House design, I estimated that the completion would cost about £10,000. The Government asked what I thought of the project, and I replied that I did not think we ought to spend that sum on a competition during the war. I think the Fisher Government were correct in the view they took.
– Would not the competition have provided work for a number of people?
– If we are to view expenditure from that point of view, where are we to stop ? I say this expenditure in connexion with Mr. Griffin’s office is a profligate waste of public money. There was never any necessity for this man to be engaged. If the accepted plan is to be carried out, are there not competent architects in the Government Department, or in the Federal Institute of Architects? Are they all fools?
– We run away from Australia too much.
– Of course we do. We cannot live without a little bit of the Yankee bounder. I am not an architect or an expert, but I have a little common sense, and I say that this Federal Capital design could have been carried out without importing an architect. The Government may have had in their minds an element of doubt; if so, they should have given economy the benefit o£ the doubt. They must have known that there is a feeling in Parliament that economy should be practised, and they knew that an extension of this appointment was not necessary. Why was not this House given an opportunity of discussing the matter. I would not give a snap of the finger for a Government that was not strong enough to do its duty to the country without slinking behind the Works Committee, or any other body. But strongly as I hold that opinion, I believe it is the duty of every Government to give Parliament an opportunity of knowing the lines upon which it intends to proceed. Gladstone, very many years ago, laid down the principle that Parliament has not a right to be continually worrying a Government, but has every right to know upon what lines the Government is going. Why was not the re-appointment of this gentleman referred to this Parliament? His contract did not expire until next October. Possibly, it was thought that Parliament would take the view that the money should be saved.
– You have no prejudice against the gentleman, I presume ?
– I know nothing about the gentleman beyond the fact that once when I happened to be Minister of Home Affairs I held the view that the Minister of the Crown should do his duty to his country without sympathies and without antipathies.
– Who brought Mr. Griffin out here?
– The Cook Government, I believe; but I have no quarrel with them in regard to that matter.
– The honorable member recognises, I hope, that Mr. Griffin’s is the approved plan.
– But the officials are spoiling his plans.
– My opinion of the gentleman is confined to my experience of him.
– The honorable member, when Minister, did not cancel approval of the plan.
– Certainly not. I held the view that it was not right to reverse the decision of a previous Minister unless there happened to be very strong reasons for doing so. Therefore, I did not re-open that question at all. I know it has been repeatedly said that I was prejudiced against Mr. Griffin, but that is absolutely false.
– Your own correspondence shows it quite clearly.
– It shows nothing of the sort. The honorable member can turn the correspondence up, and see in it the temper and character of Mr. Griffin.
– I have read it all.
– It has often been said that I was in sympathy with the departmental officers’ plan, but I tell the Committee that I knew no other plan, and saw no other plan, than that which had been approved. I was careful to do that in order that it could not be said truthfully that I had any prejudice against that plan. But concerning my relationship with Mr. Griffin, all I can say is he claimed the right that, in connexion with the Federal Capital, he was to do absolutely as he chose. I was determined, on the other hand, that the arrangement made by my predecessor in the Cook Government, the honorable member for Wentworth, should be adhered to. Mr. Kelly laid his policy down in a minute, which I indorsed, that all work in connexion with the Federal Capital at Canberra should be done by the officers of the Department, and under the control of the Minister. Did I not state in this Chamber, while I occupied the position of Minister of Home Affairs, that if I was to be responsible for anything that occurred, or if I wanted half a million or ten millions of money, I would require to be in a position to tell the House exactly what I wanted it for? There is no necessity at all for this gentleman to be there. He is not the most suitable man for the position. As a general rule, when there is difference of opinion among men, they sit down, and in order to come to an agreement, they split the difference, thus arriving at a fair compromise. But, in the case of this gentleman, he takes the view that he is to have everything hig own way, and that the Government are to be responsible. To a man of my temperament his insinuations and innuendos concerning persons who differed from him became most offensive. He was always complaining to me that the officers were thwarting him, but, so far as I know, they were all absolutely loyal. It appears now that this country is to be saddled for three years with the salary of this gentleman, whose appointment has been made on the authority of the Minister, notwithstanding the fact that there is a minute on record by the honorable member for Wentworth that work at the Federal Capital shall be done by the departmental officers under the authority of the Minister. Are we to have now two groups of officers? We have seen what trouble has occurred owing to the Minister of Home Affairs in connexion with public buildings in Sydney, notably, the Customs House. In the Department, there are officers competent enough to undertake the carrying out of that work, but these gentlemen are brushed on one side by the Minister, who introduces Mr. ‘Griffin, and some plan of Ins own. Is this policy to be pursued in connexion with all our public works? If so, how much is it going to cost us ? The Government ought to have been alive to the position, and in no circumstances should they have agreed to an extension of time in connexion with the appointment of the gentleman I have referred to. The transaction shows the utter incompetence of the Minister of Home Affairs. The right honorable member for Swan has stated that the East- West railway has cost too much. At some future time we shall probably have a full-dress debate on this and many other subjects. During some stages of its construction the line has cost too much. At the beginning a tremendous amount of money was wasted. In the first place, the authorities began before they were ready, and, in the second place, t[he man who was put in charge - a man of honour and integrity, and of high engineering skill - was too old for the job intrusted to him. He had built up his reputation iu New South Wales by constructing railways under contract; but it is a much bigger thing to construct a railway with day labour, finding all the material. The engineer who merely draws out specifications and calls for tenders for construction, having efficient officers to see that the contractor does what he has promised to do, has an easier job than the engineer who is personally responsible for the actual construction. Then the Minister in charge was incompetent, no business man, a muddler. Against the advice of his Engineer-in-Chief he appointed Mr. Henry Chinn to the staff. Consequently, when the Cook Administration took office, things were in a state of chaos.
– Does the honorable member know that Mr. Chinn has received an appointment from the Norton-Griffiths people 1
– Yes, and perhaps my friend will tell us who approached the authorities to get him shifted out of Melbourne. It is very desirable that he should not be about Melbourne too much.
– The Federal Government would not take him back.
– Nor would the Victorian Government. Things were straightened out when Mr. Bell was made Engineer-in-Chief. But prior to Mr. Bell’s appointment, and when Messrs. Chinn and company were in power, it might have been thought that there was a notice stuck up at Kalgoorlie or elsewhere, “ Rubbish may be shot here,” because of the strange collection of persons who were connected with the work. The Minister of Home Affairs is no business man.
– He says that he is the only business man in the country.
– He is a very curious Ministerial product, with which I know of no parallel. I am as strong a party man as any in Australia, and one of the founders of the Labour movement,, of which I know more than some of the jumped-up persons who have been connected with it for only a short time. But. while there must be party divisions in Parliament, there is not much room for differences in regard to administration. The control of the finances, and the administration of any Department of government, isa business affair, and should be conducted on business lines in the interests of thewhole people, without fear or favour. A Minister must rely on the advice of experts in technical matters, and if his experts are not good enough should not hesitate to get expert advice outside hisDepartment.
– Would tlie honorable member consider the acceptance of the highest tender good business or good administration ?
– I would not accept the highest tender, nor would I always accept the lowest. It is necessary always to consider the ability of the contractor to perform v/hat he engages to do. Sometimes tenders are put in for prices at which a contractor could not carry out the work unless he stole his material. The Minister of Home Affairs reminds me of the Plantagenet, or Stuart Kings. Like James I. he must have a favorite. He must have his George Villiers. Before the Minister came in, I was pointing out that Mr. Griffin’s re-engagement for three years was a profligate waste of public money. In how many other instances has the Minister rushed matters of this kind through before the House met, involving an equal waste of public money? He is not a business man at all, and his record shows it. Mr. Griffin is a difficult man to get on with. He is always pouring out innuendos against other men, insinuating that they are blocking him and interfering with him. I have never known other men to do the same towards him. Honorable members can take my word for what it is worth, but I know it is valued in my own State, and from my knowledge of him I can say that he is a dangerous man to have connected with a public Department, and especially under the administration of a man like the Minister. We see the same muddle in connexion with the Sydney Customs House. There are able architects and engineers in the Home Affairs Department. They are responsible for the estimates they submit to the House, and if they are not capable of advising the House in a proper way, the sooner they are out the better. The Minister consulted Mr. Griffin, and began to scratch round in Sydney about the Customs House, with the result that the plans have been altered and the estimates in many respects vastly increased.
– No; they have been reduced.
– I admit that I have not seen the papers.
– They are on the table, and you ought to see them before you make a statement.
– I shall do my duty in this House to suit the public, and not to suit the Minister. He can rest assured that I shall go through the papers «t the proper time.” The Minister’s administration of the East-West railway proves that he is not a business man.
– You settled that. You had sixty-one strikes while you were there.
– They were organizers’, and not union, strikes. Some years ago, the Cook Government agreed to pay the men at the western end a higher rate than the men at the eastern end, because the cost of living was higher in Western Australia. The men at the eastern end asked me to bring their wages to the same level, but I refused to do so unless the western men agreed to it, as otherwise they, in their turn, would ask for another increase. While this matter was being negotiated the sixty-one strikes, as the Minister calls them, occurred. The Minister is incompetent, and has no right to be there. It is a public scandal that a man like him is in office during a tremendous war like the present, when we want the best brains of the House in charge of affairs. I think I can understand what the ironical cheers from the Opposition side mean, but I can assure them that I am not irritated at being removed’ from the Home Affairs Department. What annoys me is that that man superseded me. If any other man in the House had superseded me I should have taken my luck like a sport, and those who know me need not be told that I should not have squeaked. What I am troubled about is not the personal aspect, but the interests of the country, and while that man is in the Home Affairs Department I shall watch him like a cat watching a mouse. The House can allow him to waste as much public money as he likes while he is Minister, but honorable members must take the responsibility. I can show how the money has been wasted. I recognise that any one who makes serious statements such as I am making ought to prove them, and I can do so. The right honorable member for Swan said last night that he thought the East- West rail- way had cost too much. I think it has in some respects, but it is not worth while going into that matter now. In the early days of the construction a lot of money was wasted while the honorable member for Darwin was Minister, the reason being that he was not a business man. The railway was undoubtedly started too soon, but for this I blame the Government of the time, and not the Minister individually. Mr. Deane, the Engineer.inChief at the time, a very able man, whose honesty and integrity I have never heard questioned, found the job too big for him. He had had no experience with a railway of this character. He had built up his reputation in New South “Wales in drawing up plans and estimates for railways which were afterwards built by contract. One of the great mistakes was not so much the appointment of Mr. Deane as the appointment of Mr. Chinn by the present Minister, in utter disregard of the opinion of the Engineer-in-Chief.
– Mr. Chinn has a better billet now !
– Yes, and I dare say the Minister could tell us how Mr. Chinn got that billet; indeed, there is no man in Melbourne better able to give us the information. Mr. Chinn was appointed, and there followed the most terrible chaos and muddle. I should say that 75 per cent, of the men engaged there were not of the first class or men who should have been engaged on work of that character. It w]ould appear as though the Minister has posted up a notice at Kalgoorlie, ‘ ‘ Rubbish shot here,” for only something of that kind could account for the position. It was only when Mr. Bell was appointed EngineerinChief that things began to be straightened out, and the process went on until matters were just about satisfactory at the time I left office. All this trouble was a legacy bequeathed by this “ great business man.” All Governments, I know, have to depend on their officers and experts, or on the advice of commissions and other bodies, but in this the present Minister does not believe. He always desires, like the monarchs of old, to have a favorite or friend, around whose neck he can put his arm and ask, “ Say, brother, don’t you think this or that ought to be done?” Now that Mr. Chinn has disappeared from the scene, we have Mr. Griffin coming on to fill the place. So long as the present Minister _ has control of this Department, and unless this House is very firm, we shall have one of the biggest Departments in the Commonwealth turned into chaos and con.fusion, and be faced with untold expenditure.
– You left the office in chaos.
– Show where the chaos was. It may be chaos in the opinion of American bounders; and I must say it is remarkable to see the honorable gentleman eating out of the hands of Yankees, as he is to-day.
– You were eating out of the officials’ hands.
– I protested against the appointment of Mr. Griffin because, so far as his ability is concerned, I believe we could do without him. I cannot think that Australia is so povertystricken in architectural ability that, given the money, we could not get on with the Capital if we were so disposed. I could say much more, but I did not get up to talk about this subject all the time.
– I hope the Minister will reply to this serious indictment.
– The Minister is welcome to reply. The Committee is quite at liberty to believe or disbelieve me; but I can say that I am not talking because I have been superseded - a matter that does not worry me. I am “sport” enough to be superseded by any other honorable member without complaint, but I regret being superseded by a man so utterly incompetent to be there at all. It is a disgrace to public life in Australia that this man is on the Treasury bench.
– I think that that remark should be withdrawn.
– If it is objectionable or unparliamentary, I withdraw it.
– It is not only unparliamentary, but it is untrue.
– It is not untrue. My record as a truthful man, and the record, of the present Minister of Home Affairs in South Australia, may stand together.
– You were a good stagger-juice buster !
– There is an obvious innuendo behind that interjection. The Minister cannot be a man, and he never has been a man since he came to the Australian continent.
– You are not a man ; you were born a wombat !
– The Minister must withdraw those words.
– I withdraw the “ wombat.”
– The honorable gentleman must withdraw the words.
– I withdraw the words.
– I now desire to say that I do not agree with the policy of the Government under the present war conditions. I am not speaking of the conduct of the war, because I think that both this Government and the British Government are doing the best with the information they have, and they certainly have more information than we private members enjoy. There are other matters under their control that are worthy of serious consideration. I shall not discuss the cause of the rise in prices, because that would entail much time; but I think that, with the powers they possess, the Government ought to take upon themselves to fix the prices of the necessaries of life. They, as I say, have the power to do this for the duration of the war and for six months afterwards, and they are doing it in the case of sugar and in connexion with bread; but I think they should also do it in the case of meat, potatoes, and other necessaries. I dare say the Treasurer thinks that I am suggesting a pretty big contract for the Government, and I know that the task is a difficult one, involving much thought; but, from what I know of Australian Administrators, they are not afraid of meeting and mastering difficulties. I think the end could be attained, in a large degree, by the Government in combination with the Statistical Department under Mr. Knibbs. I do not suggest that Mr. Knibbs should be called upon to do this work; but his familiarity with facts, figures, and returns throughout Australia would be of great assistance. I cannot think that a body consisting of members of Parliament can be expected to carry on such a work satisfactorily. It is the bounden duty of the Government to see that prices are not unduly inflated, if only for the sake of the widows and children and other dependants of those who have laid down their lives for Australia at the front. We are doing something for these people, but we might do much more. I do not make these remarks by way of complaint, but to direct the attention of the authorities to something which might be done. We are told that the Government intends to increase the pensions to be paid to the dependants of our soldiers. I have had positive proof of the evil that is in existence. A constituent of mine came to see me only a few weeks ago. Her husband was killed at Gallipoli, and she was left with one boy, and considered that she was entitled to more money than she received. I did not wish to blame the Government in the matter, and. I went into the case and fixed it up for this widow.
– How much did she receive?
– There was herself and her boy to keep, and she received 25s. per week. That is not a gold mine at present prices of commodities. The rock she struck upon, however, was house rent. This good woman told me that she had to pay 12s. a week rent. I say unhesitatingly that no widow of a fallen Australian soldier should have to pay more than one-third of her income for rent. We know that low rents do not, as a rule, lead to the best of neighbours, and many people, without being at all tony or aristocratic, prefer to pay a little higher rent than they could obtain a house for in order to secure better surroundings in which to bring up their children. What is to prevent the Government, or some organization like the War Council, renting certain houses in our capital citics which could be sublet to these widows of our fallen soldiers at a rent which they could afford to pay? That is a matter which I think could be dealt with by a little forethought and consideration. Some of these widows are anxious to pick up a few shillings by work to supplement what they receive, but they are handicapped in that desire by the places they have to live in. The case to which I have referred is typical of many cases. I wrote to the Premier of ‘ South Australia as chairman of the State War Council in connexion with this matter. He admitted that what I said was perfectly correct, and told me that he intended to bring it before the Premiers’ Conference. I do not see why a matter of the kind could not be dealt with independently of the Premiers’ Conference. It should be borne in mind that these people who are suffering in the way to which I have referred do not complain, but they do feel that the Government are not giving them as square a deal as they have themselves given to the country. The woman to whom I have referred said, “Do not bother about me. I make no complaint.” I told her that I was not bothering about her alone, but that her case was only typical of hundreds of other cases. Relief in matters of this kind should be immediate. The Government have promised that they will look into the regulation of prices, that they have the matter under consideration, and will attend to it some time. It is little consolation to the people who are suffering to be told that the Government are considering the matter. What attitude can the Government adopt with regard to the frequent demands for increased wages when they refrain from tackling the question of regulating the prices of commodities? I hope that they will not wait until the Prime Minister comes back, but will get to work as speedily as possible upon the regulation of prices. I have admitted that there may be some difficulty in dealing with the matter, but it should not be insurmountable. I hold that, apart from supplies necessary for British troops or the troops of the Allies, no export of meat should be permitted from Australia. I should lay that down firmly as a principle. I approve entirely of the confiscation of all war profits. The Government have come down with a policy to confiscate war profits to the extent of 50 per cent. I am at a loss to know by what principle they are guided.
– The principle that the manufacturer may rob the community of £1 if he will give 10s. of it to the Government.
– I can find no reason for the policy they have announced. If they intend to act in the way they have indicated it would be better that they should leave the matter alone altogether. I believe that it waa the policy of the former Labour Government to confiscate all war profits. It is said that we cannot get at what are war profits. What rubbish that is. It is marvellous how ready people are when they are asked to do something to say that it is impossible to do it. If the Government mean to do a thing they can do it fast enough. In connexion with the imposition of income tax it was quite common to hear that we should never be able to know tlie incomes of the people. But with the power to examine the books of persons or companies, the right to look into their banking accounts, and the right of interrogation, what is unknown about a person’s income after the income tax officials are done with him is harmless. To say that the same Government cannot ascertain war profits is simply ridiculous. In’ my opinion, an average should be taken of the profits earned by firms during the three years prior to the war - not years of poverty, but years when business was brisk - and they should be allowed that average during the years of the war, the balance being confiscated by the Government. I can see no injustice in taking such a step, and unless it is done in this way we are not entitled to interfere with these profits at all. Therefore, I hope the Government will reconsider this phase of the question. We have heard a great deal of talk outside about, conscription of wealth. Some of my friends are in favour of conscription of wealth but not conscription of men. I do not understand what they mean. I have pointed out in South Australia on several occasions that already we have confiscation of wealth to a fairly round extent.
– That is an enforced contribution; it is not confiscation. At present we are only confiscating men. Wait till the wealthy have to give up some of their wealth, and then they can squeal.
– Whenever taxation is imposed it is confiscation of wealth. On this side of the chamber we have advocated for years that the bulk of the expenditure of the country, especially in war time, should be borne by those classes of the community who possess wealth. As a matter of fact, the Government cannot get money from those people who have only barely sufficient money to purchase the necessaries of life. Taxation can only be obtained from those who have incomes on which they can pay it. My trouble has not been the payment of income tax; it has been the fact that I have not been, called upon to pay three times more, because then I would have had the income with which to do so. I do not say that the limit of confiscation has been reached, but the existing income tax imposed for the purpose of paying interest and sinking fund on our war loansis confiscation of wealth. If the contention is that a man’s entire wealth shall be taken away from him, then I am not in favour of it, and I do not believe that theLabour movement is in favour of it.
– Then why have all the motions in favour of conscription of wealth been passed? Because they are not in favour of it ? As a matter of fact,. the honorable member knows that the Labour movement is in favour of it.
– I do not know it.
– All on this side of the chamber are in favour of it.
– I do not propose to argue the point with the honorable member.
– The honorable member knows what was agreed to in South Australia.
– I know all about that matter, and I hold my own views on the subject, and take the responsibility for doing so. I maintain that there is confusion in regard to this subject, and that many persons who speak upon it at various meetings do not make it clear, but, on the other hand, create greater confusion. My point of view is that the present taxation is confiscation. I do not know whether it is desirable to extend that confiscation. At any rate, I am not prepared to go beyond what we have done in this connexion. We have heard a great deal of talk about conscription. I was rather surprised at the extraordinary speeches we heard in the chamber last night. The honorable member for Batman made the most astounding statement I have ever heard, namely, that Democracy was dead. I was not aware of it. The honorable member seems to have a kink in his mind. The fact is that the war has overshadowed everything. A great number of our friends, when discussing many of the issues, do not- seem to realize this fact. But let us see whether Democracy is really dead. Do any know of the intense political feeling there was amongst our French Allies? For twenty years past writers have claimed that France was decadent because party strife was tearing her to pieces. I did not believe it. But my point is that within two days of the declaration of war a War Ministry was formed in France. Socialists, the Left, the Centre, and men from all portions of the French Chamber formed into one Cabinet. Where is there any death of Democracy in that? If there was any death at all it was a sound principle - the suspension of party differences until the war was over.
– Did not the honorable member for Batman point out that France was being attacked?
– Then let us take the case of Holland. Within four days after the outbreak of war Holland had a similar Government. Why is there no Socialist thundering against the Dutch Government at the present time? Is it because Democracy is dead ? Let us take Belgium. There is still a Belgian Parliament, also a Belgian Government, and that Government was formed in the same manner. Even in the case of Russia - much despised Russia - all the threads have been bound together in the same way. In truth, Democracy is very much alive. These steps that I have mentioned show, not that Democracy is dead, but that there is intense determination on the part of all people in all these countries, not excepting Great Britain, to unite in carrying on the war. In one of the leading halls in London a few nights ago our Prime Minister moved a resolution which was supported by Will Crooks and Ben Tillett. These Labour men, known for their extreme Socialism and their opposition to the British Parliament and parliamentary government, are all in the one camp with the object of seeing the war through.
– On conscription?
– Yes. I utterly repudiate the suggestion that Democracy is dead, and I point to these facts to prove that it is very much alive. This morning the honorable member for Maribyrnong appeared to be very much annoyed because of some interjections on my part. He apparently believes that when the war is over the Germans will settle down to be a very pleasant family, and to live happily ever afterwards. ‘ Has he ever read the remarks of Mirabeau, in the French Convention, at the time of the Revolution, to the effect that Prussia’s only industry is war? Does he imagine that the Hohenzollern family will ever be anything but a bloodthirsty family? There are two houses in Germany, the extermination of which would prove a greater guarantee of the peace of the world than would the destruction of the German armies in the field. These families were cradled in blood and infamy. The taint is in the race, and it will be enduring in its effects. What do all German writers, ‘from Goethe down, say.? - that the Germans, as individuals, are a marvellous people, but that, in the mass, they are fools. They know absolutely nothing about political life. Germany, as a Democracy, is 200 years behind every other State in Europe, and 100 years behind holy Russia. I am inclined to think that until this Power is utterly crushed, there is not much hope for our children and grandchildren. I am aware that no Britisher likes conscription, and I am bound to admit that our voluntary system has accomplished wonders.At the same time, it resembles all branches of our industrial life in that, owing to lack of organization, the conditions at present prevailing are little better than chaotic. I hope that, as the result of this war, we shall evolve a better system, not only for the defence of Australia, but for the upbuilding of its industries. The Government of this country have a great responsibility cast upon their shoulders. If they can show us that, in order to win this war, it is necessary to make greater sacrifices, I am prepared to vote for conscription. But I do not desire any academic discussion upon the question. The Government are responsible, and I believe that they are strong enough to accept their responsibility. If they are not, they ought to be displaced. If they form the opinion that we ought to make still further sacrifices, I shall not leave them in the lurch when the occasion arises.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Deputy of the Governor-General, recommending that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of this Bill.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
Manufacture of Munitions in Queensland - Advance in Metal Prices.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I should like to ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence if he can give the House any information regarding an important question that has arisen in Queensland, as to whether private firms should be allowed to enter into contracts for the manufacture of sheila and munitions. The Queensland Government, through the Commissioner of Railways, inserted this advertisement in the newspapers -
The Commissioner for Railways, having entered into a contract with the Commonwealth Department of Defence for the supply of18-pdr. high-explosive shell bodies, invites the cooperation of such firms in Queensland as may possess suitable equipment, with a view to accelerating the output.
A Queensland firm entered into communication with the Commissioner of Railways, and an officer of the Department came from Brisbane to interview the firm. Plans and specifications were presented, and the firm indicated its readiness to do a substantial share of the work. Notification was then received from the Queensland Government, through the Railway Department, that it had been decided that the manufacture of munitions by private firms was not to be permitted until the resources of the State workshops at Ipswich and Rockhampton had been exhausted. That intimation was sent out at a time when shells and munitions are sorely needed in the interests of the Empire.
– That might be a local instruction.
– A contract had been made with the State Government, and that letter indicates a refusal to accept the co-operation of private firms to increase the output of shells. I desire to know whether the Government are in sympathy with that policy of the State Government, or whether their desire is to accept all possible assistance they can get from every private firm capable of aiding in the output of munitions and shells.
-r-The policy is to accept all possible assistance.
– I notice, in the monthly report of the Australasian Council of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the following report, dated Rockhampton, 31st January, from Mr. R. J. Carrol: -
Another reason for accepting such employment is that, after a severe struggle, we have been successful in confining the manufacture of munitions to Government control within the railway workshops; and if we cannot supply the necessary skilled labour, the Department will be provided with a powerful argument in favour of introducing unskilled labour, over which we have no control.
– There is a company in Western Australia manufacturing shells and munitions.
– And receiving every assistance from the Engineers’ Society.
– I am glad to hear it. Mr. Carrol continued -
On the 8th and 10th inst., I attended, with members of the Rockhampton District Council a conference with the Minister for Railways and the Deputy Commissioners, for the purpose of dealing with classification regulations and manufacture of munitions respectively.
The Minister promised to re-open the classification again, and recommends certain suggestions we placed before him. On the munitions suggestion, we had to take a very decided stand against the sub-letting of shellmaking to private employers, employment of a non-unionist as shell inspector, and various suggestions of introducing unskilled labour. We informed all the “heads” verbally, or by letter, what conditions we insisted on; failing which, work on munitions would be suspended indefinitely after a certain date. I subsequently visited Ipswich and Brisbane on the same question ; and a joint meeting of Ipswich and Brisbane district councils took place later - the result being that almost complete unanimity was secured between Rockhampton, Brisbane, and Ipswich. The Government have now announced the cancellation of all contracts with private employers for shellmaking ; the non-union inspector has signified his desire to join us; the regulation and supply of non-mechanics is secure to us; and everything is serenely peaceful because we took a combined stand and showed a united front.
I regret having to report that, hitherto, branches most concerned in the vital question of munitions making have been acting quite independently of, and in directions unknown to, each other. Such policy is suicidal. Members must insist on co-operation and reciprocity between the committees of Branches having a community of interests. Whilst we enjoy unpractised our rights of local autonomy in branches, we should not forget our principles, and consequent duties of amalgamation. The desirable ideal would be a uniform policy with regard to munitions throughout the Commonwealth. Why not adopt one?
The idea is evidently to confine the manufacture of munitions to Government workshops. Seeing that, in the present crisis, we require all possible assistance in the manufacture of shells and munitions, I shall be glad if the Minister will say that the Government do not favour the policy of the Queensland Government of restricting the operations of private firms, but are of opinion that all possible assistance should be obtained from every firm throughout Australia.
– Did any private firms tender ?
– Yes; I am quoting correspondence from Griffiths Brothers, of the Toowoomba Foundry Company Limited. They had started their machinery, and had made all arrangements for the manufacture of munitions. Nearly 100 of their men had volunteered for service at the front. They were eager to assist by manufacturing munitions, and, so far as they were concerned, they did not want to put it on a commercial basis at all. They were quite prepared to do the work for patriotic purposes.
– Did they send their tender to the Munitions Committee in Melbourne ?
– No; the invitation was issued by the Railways Commissioner, and they tendered to him, with the result that they received a visit from the officers of the Department. Here is a copy of a letter from the Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Office, Ipswich -
With reference to the above, I shall be glad if you will return the particulars and papers recently left with you by our Works Manager, as I now enclose a complete set giving all particulars relating to this matter for your perusal.
We ought to get all the assistance we can from every firm willing to take any part in the manufacture of munitions; and I urge the Minister strongly to bring influence to bear on the Queensland Government and the other State Governments, to do all they possibly can to secure complete co-operation of all private firms throughout Australia in this work.
.- It is regrettable that the honorable member should have introduced this subject just now. Evidently, the honorable member was not present at the secret meeting held in the Club-room.
– What has that to do with this? This matter is public property, and has been criticised in the press for some time past.
– Honorable members will remember that at the meeting to which I refer the Minister of Defence made a statement with regard to the manufacture of shells. That statement was a sufficient reply to the criticism why any foundry is not at present engaged in the manufacture of shells. There are matters in connexion with this question that cannot be made public. As the representative for Queensland on the Federal Munitions Committee, I am cognisant of a good many particulars and details of a strictly confidential character which I am not at liberty even now to make public ; but I can say that the position is thoroughly satisfactory as between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government. The Queensland Government very early in the war took up the position that the railway workshops should be utilized in experimenting in the manufacture of18-pounder high-explosive shell bodies; and while the Railway Departments at Rockhampton and Ipswich were proceeding with their experiments, which proved very successful indeed, the railway engineers were in consultation with private firms throughout Queensland. To the credit of the engineeering firms in that State, there was a very hearty response. Not a word of hostile criticism can be uttered against a single Queensland firm, and I believe the same can be said of firms in all the other States as well. But it was felt that it would be time to extend operations when the railway officers had made an absolute success and turned out an article acceptable to the Home Government. Mr. Pemberton, the railway engineer, visited all the machinery establishments, including the sugar mills, right up the coast of Queensland, and arrangements are now well in hand for the utilization of machinery for this purpose. Honorable members are aware of the position in regard to the manufacture of shells. I know the Federal Munitions Committee and the Government are thoroughly satisfied with the enthusiastic response, and with the most generous assistance that has been given, not only by the Queensland
Government, but by the Governments of the other States of Australia.
– I desire to impress upon the Government the necessity of looking into the matter of metal prices, because it is a very serious question, and the present position should not be tolerated a moment longer than possible. I am not going to quote the list of prices in detail, but will content myself with showing how average prices have risen. In regard to copper, in October and December of1914, the price was £65 per ton. It increased during 1915 to £991s. 5d., and in December it jumped to £1311s. 3d. per ton. In April last it was £136 8s. 6d., and to-day it is £154 per ton.
– That is enough, is it not?
– Yes; and I would remind the honorable member that some of it comes from his own State. I hope, therefore, that he will see that the local product is sold to those who manufacture munitions in Australia at the same rate as it is supplied to the British Government and to the Allies, for there is an undertaking on the part of the copper producers of Australia to supply it to those Governments at £100 per ton. In the face of that, why should the manufacturer of munitions in Australia be asked to pay £154 per ton?
– What proof have you of that?
– I have here the official prices. Seeing that we produce copper very largely in Australia, surely it ought to be available here at the same price as in Great Britain or in the Allied countries.
– Does the honorable member refer to the price for munition purposes or for the ordinary mercantile uses?
– I am referring to the price charged for copper used in the manufacture of small arms munitions - the cartridges supplied to our troops and to South Africa during the whole of the campaign.
– Were they not made by the Government?
– No; they were made under Government contracts; and as the price of copper in Australia has now doubled, it is time we looked into this question. Now, with regard to lead, the price in 1914 was £19 ls. 9d. per ton, and to-day it is £34 8s. I urge the Leader of the Government to request the Attorney-General’s Department to look into this matter carefully, and see if it is not possible to bring prices down to the level of those at which the British and Allied Governments obtain the raw material.
– I will bring the question raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong under the notice of the Attorney-General’s Department. We have a metal exchange here, but I cannot say just what its particular functions are. I think, however, that we should not be required to pay more for our raw material than the price at which it is being sold outside Australia.
– You have made us take less than we can get outside for some pf our produce.
– I will refer the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Maribyrnong to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and see if it cannot be remedied. I presume, however, that if the raw material is obtainable at’ a cheaper rate, a corresponding reduction will be made in the price charged to the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.35 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160512_reps_6_79/>.