6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Yesterday I put a question to the Leader of the House regarding the provision of counsel for officers of the Public “Worts Branch of the Home Affairs Department in the pending inquiry by a Royal Commission This morning both Melbourne newspapers, as well as Hansard, show that I possibly did not make myself quite clear. What I asked was whether the officers of the Department would be “ provided “ with counsel, whereas I am reported as asking whether they would be represented by counsel?
– I have seen neither the newspapers nor Hansard; but if the honorable member has suffered by the omission of a word, he is in a similar position to that in which I was placed last week in a report of a reply of mine to a question by the honorable member for Perth. That question related to rumoured consultations with Germany as to the separate peace; and in the press telegrams to Adelaide the word “not” was missed out, making it appear that Australia had consulted the enemy country on the subject.
– The mistake is probably my own fault.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to make a correction in Hansard, and after his intimation to-day there will, no doubt, be a correction made in the press. The question of the employment of counsel before the Royal Commission is under the consideration of the Government. It is quite possible that the gentleman appointed as Royal Commissioner may have his own opinion on the matter, and may not undertake the duty if the inquiry is likely to be spun out, as may happen if counsel be permitted for every one concerned in the trouble. At the present time no decision has been arrived at by the Government, and will not until a Commissioner is appointed.
– Generally every care is taken that persons concerned are afforded every facility in this way.
– Every care will be taken that every person concerned has an equal opportunity. If counsel be permitted or one side, counsel will also be permitted on the other.
– As a matter of personal explanation I desire to draw the at tention of the House to the following paragraph that appears in the Argus of to-day :-
The Minister of Home Affairs and the Post master-General were officially censured by Cabinet and Caucus in consequence of the speech made by Mr. Webster the previous day charging departmental officers with incompetency.
That statement has gone out to the world and I need hardly say that if sucha thing had happened I should not be here
– Neither should I!
– My friends know that I should not remain in my position here ifthat paragraph were true. I desire to say that the statement in the Argus is as false as the source is politically foul from which it comes. The paper also states that there was some effort or conspiracy to bring about that inquiry. Had I needed any inspiration, I could have got it from that day’s Argus, which said that the officers them- selves are anxious not to aggravate the position, andthey decline to discuss any aspects of it. It is stated that they are prepared to let any impartial tribunal decide whether or not the reflections made on them by Ministers are justified. Surely after that, honorable members cannot complain if an inquiry has been decided on. The Argus to-day denies that any inspiration from official sources was the cause of the paragraph to which I refer; but I may be allowed at least to exercise my privilege of doubting the veracity of the Argus on that point.
– When the Government are dealing with the matter of the constitution of the Royal Commission, will they consider the advisability not of appointing a Supreme Court Judge, in view of the difficulty of getting a man with all the essential qualifications, but rather the members of the Inter-State Commission, who, it seems to me, combine the necessary judicial and expert knowledge for such an inquiry?
– The statement I made yesterday expresses the present opinion of the Government. If possible, it is their intention to get a Judge to carry out the work.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The same charges that are made against the PostmasterGeneral by the Argus are made against me by that paper. I wish to say that those charges are absolutely false. Whenever the Cabinet censures me, I shall not remain on the Treasury bench ten minutes.
– What will you call “censure”? What is censure?
– Censure is a condemnation of one’s administration.
– Do not talk in negatives. What did the Cabinet do? What did it say about the honorable member for Hindmarsh ?
– There is room for a man like you over here - come over. The Argus also says that the Cabinet preventedme from speaking. The Cabinet did no such thing. The Labour Cabinet is made up of Godfearing, liberty-loving Christians, and there was no such interference on their part. Further, the Argus says that the PostmasterGeneral and I entered into a conspiracy. No such thing occurred. The Postmaster-General is the architect of his own superstructure- a British bull-dog, who asks no one what he may do.
– May I ask the Minister of Home Affairs one question ? Did he arrange with the Postmaster-General for the latter to deliver that speech concerning his Department?
– Certainly not. I claim to “ run my own show.”
-Then why do you not do it?
– I am doing it.
– You were not when you sat on the Opposition side cheering the Postmaster-General.
– Just one word to clear myself? My object in rising to make that speech was to defend a man who had been unjustly attacked; and if I have injured any one else it is only a natural consequence of my making that defence as thorough as I could.
– The question I put just now was asked for one simple reason. When the Postmaster-General rose to make that speech, the Minister of Home Affairs was Bitting by me. He was asked why it was that the PostmasterGeneral was discussing his Department, and his reply, which was distinct, and could be heard by anybody, was, “ He is a builder, and I am not.”
– That is right.
– If I am not out of order, may I say that the Acting Prime Minister, Senator Pearce, desires me to intimate to the House that the statement in the Argus of this morning did not emanate from him.
– What is the reason the Taxation Department of New South Wales has failed to carry out the award in the case of the Federated Clerks Union, and has refused to pay overtime ?
– I am not aware of the fact, but I shall have the matter inquired into.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs have an independent investigation made as to the necessity for workshops in connexion with the East- West railway before the country is committed to an expenditure of a quarter of a million of money?
– I shall discuss the matter with the honorable member, and lay it before the Cabinet.
– In one of the capital cities of the Commonwealth there is an individual who, on Sundays, in a public place, and with a strong American accent, talks very thinly- veiled treason. He calls himself a member of the Independent Workers Union; and I believe there are other gentlemen of the same kidney at the same game throughout the Commonwealth. Will the Leader of the House kindly cause inquiries to be made as to the sources of livelihood of those gentlemen. This one in particular does not look like a millionaire. He does not do any work, and-
– The honorable member ‘ must ask a question, and not discuss the matter.
– I merely desire the Government to have inquiries made as to the source of the livelihood of these gentlemen, and whether, in particular, it is of British origin. There is too much of this sort of thing at the present time.
– If the honorable member for Perth, or any other honorable member, will make a definite statement regarding any of these individuals - giving names, of course, in confidence - no doubt the Defence Department will have an inquiry made.
– Can the Leader of the House inform honorable members whether the Government are taking any action to prevent an undue rise in the price of metals in this country ?
– The honorable member brought this matter under my notice last week, and I then stated it was one for the Metals Exchange. As I said then, I am not quite sure as to the functions of that body - whether they can control prices inside as well as outside Australia. Speaking from memory, I think I communicated with the Metals Exchange last Saturday, but, if not, I shall do <m as soon as possible.
– Has the Leader of the Government made any further inquiries regarding the proposals for business to-morrow?
– I made an announcement on this subject in the House less than twelve hours ago, and I arrived here this morning only about five or ten minutes before the House met. I understand that it is the intention of the Whips to consult honorable members’ convenience regarding a meeting to-morrow. As I said last night, there is a desire on the part of many honorable members to finish the business as early as possible next week, in order particularly, to allow the departure on Wednesday of several to the Empire celebrations. I shall, as soon as possible, acquaint honorable members with what is going to be done.
– Is the Leader of the House aware that many of us will possibly have to have beds made up on the express if the matter is not settled immediately ?
– Does the honorable member think that I ought to have made arrangements after the honorable member went home last night ?
– No, certainly not.
– As soon as questions have been disposed of the Whips will go round aDd ascertain what honorable members desire.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister of Defence whether he will institute inquiries into the way in which horses are being purchased by the Defence Department, with a view to insuring that the Department shall get full value for the money expended in this way ?
– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether his Department (which now investigates the investment of capital and flotation of companies) also investigates the names of shareholders of companies when formed, in order to ascertain their country of residence, nationality, &c. ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
In instances where such action appears necessary, inquiry is made as to the nationality and status of applicants for registration of companies, also as to provisional directors. As a rule such inquiries are sent to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. No enemy nor naturalized person who has not been exempted by the Attorney-General is allowed to buy or acquire shares in any company without the consent, in writing, of the Attorney-General. If he does so, he is guilty of an offence against the Enemy Shareholders’ Regulations, and the sale or transfer to him is void - see Regulation 14(2).
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Military Forces - Regulations amended(Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 73, 80.
War Precautions Act - Regulations amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 81, 88.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 18th May, vide page 7971), on motion by Mr. Higgs -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1, the Parliament, namely, “ The President, £1,100,” he agreed to.
.- I listened the other evening to some severe criticism by the honorable member for Wakefield of the expenditure which has been incurred in the construction of the East-West railway. On that occasion, many honorable members upon this side of the chamber affirmed that they had been misled by the statements which were made here at the time the Bill authorizing that project was under consideration. The honorable member for Wakefield himself referred to this line as a “ desert railway.” He estimates that when it is completed not more than one full goods train will be run over it weekly; he says that the country which it will traverse possesses a miserable rainfall of only 5 inches; and that to keep the rails free from drifting sand will be a perpetual source of annoyance and expense to the Commonwealth. The honorable member also said that he made his criticisms from a high sense of public duty. It is strange that when the proposal to build this line was before the House, at 5.13 p.m., on 3rd October, 1911, he did not say anything of the sort. In his speech on that occasion there is no mention of any of these disabilities - no reference to the one goods train per week, no mention of the miserable rainfall, and not the remotest allusion to the drifting sand. What he did say was that, in the interests of defence, it was necessary to construct the line, and that its completion would mark the consummation of Federation by linking up the eastern States with Western Australia. But his supreme consideration was that the undertaking would determine the standard gauge to be adopted in connexion with the railways of Australia.
– Is that inconsistent with what I stated the other evening?
– When the Bill authorizing this line was under consideration, why did not the honorable member point out the disabilities to which the Commonwealth would be subjected ?
– Because those disabilities were thoroughly well known.
– There is another proposal which will shortly engage our attention - a proposal to build a line of railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek. When that project is under review, shall we hearken to the counsel of the honorable member ? Will he then tell us anything about the desert which the line will traverse ? Will he say anything about the drifting sand, and will he assure us that we shall only be able to run one goods train per week over that line? I suppose he will ask us to construct it direct from Oodnadatta through the Macdonnell Ranges to Pine Creek. Experiences like these will make the young unsophisticated members upon this side of the chamber very wary of special pleading on the part of men who hide the facts at the back. of their minds when a work is under consideration, and who, a few years later, stand up and pose as the guardians of the public purse.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– The honorable member for Wakefield has first-hand knowledge of the country of which he spoke.
– What did he say? He declared that it was good average pastoral country, whereas to-day he affirms that it is a desert. ;
– I will give the honorable member a good bit more of it yet.
– When the present High Commissioner went through that country he did not speak of it in the way ‘that the honorable member has spoken.
– He said that there was no evidence of bird life. . His was the funniest report on earth.
– After travelling over that route the High Commissioner told me that there was vegetation nearly the whole way.
– Vegetation !
- Mr. Fisher told me that he had taken photographs of it. However, upon the very first opportunity I intend to traverse . the route in order that I may see things for myself. Before we commit ourselves to another big expenditure in which South Australia is specially interested - I refer to the proposal to construct a line of railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek - we shall need to be very careful.
– I will reply to the honorable member.
– During this debate there has been strong expressions of opinion as to whether it is necessary to impose conscription on the manhood of Australia at the present time. There are many in this community who say that they would subscribe to the conscription of the manhood of the country provided that it was accompanied by conscription of wealth. Others urge that if we could equip all our eligible men, and could provide proper facilities for training them readily, they would agree to it. Personally, I am uncompromisingly opposed to the conscription of the manhood of this country. The honorable member for Balaclava himself admits that the voluntary system has produced splendid results. On the other hand, the honorable member for Kooyong declares that it has been a lamentable failure. Seeing that Australia has raised between 250,000 and 260,000 troops under that system, I am of opinion’ that it is a magnificent tribute to the patriotism of our manhood. We have raised and equipped a force equal to that raised and equipped by Great Britain during the Boer war, and, seeing that we have transported those troops overseas, I say unhesitatingly that we have made a magnificent contribution to the war. If we stood on the- 250,000 mark, and kept up our reinforcements so long as the war lasts, nobody could accuse Australia of not having done her part. It surprises me that honorable members who at the inception of this great struggle offered 20,000 troops as Australia’s contribution to the Forces of the Empire should still maintain that our manhood has not responded to the call as it should have done after we have provided that number thirteen times over.
– May I say, for the twentieth time, that our offer to the Imperial Government was to provide 30,000 men?
– The fact remains that we have done a great deal more than was ever anticipated at the beginning of the war. The manhood of Australia cannot be truthfully charged with being unresponsive to the nation’s call. Yet we find men like the honorable member for Balaclava, who say that they will enlist when their country compels them to do so with men of like standing and age. Is that the attitude of a patriot? I say that it is the attitude of the bargainer, who wishes to impose terms and conditions. That spirit has never won a Victoria Cross. Under the voluntary system I maintain that we appeal to a higher sense of patriotism than it is possible to appeal to under conscription. I oppose conscription for this reason: Under the voluntary system we have to appeal to the higher patriotism and sense of duty of our citizens; we have to convince our people that Australia is worth fighting for, and that their battle is over the water, and not here in Australia - I know that it is hard for Australians to realize it, and the fact that 250,000 of our citizens have recognised it is a splendid effort on the part of the Commonwealth - but once we take away that liberty from the manhood of Australia and say that by law we shall compel our citizens to go and fight overseas, what will be the result? We say that we are fighting German militarism; we say that we should have a different ideal before us, yet when there is a stress on the voluntary system we seek to turn round and use German methods and apply the Prussian spirit to a free people.
– That is where the mistake is made.
– There is no mistake. Once we give up the liberty we have today it will rest with the military and executive power to say whether a man goes or stays, and neither Parliament nor the people outside will have any say: The liberty of the people will be gone; and that loss will be greater than any gain in the matter of uniformity or equality of sacrifice.
– Does temporary surrender mean absolute loss ?
– Do not talk of temporary surrender. By conscription we commence at once to cultivate the military spirit which we say we are fighting. I have always opposed that military spirit, because throughout history, wherever the military or clerical spirit has been dominant, it has not been in the best interests of the people. It has only been after long struggle that the civil power has become supreme, and we should keep it supreme. We have an example of the treatment that is meted out to men in the United Kingdom who do not recognise the call of the nation, and of the results of the methods which many people would introduce here by fastening a yoke on the manhood of Australia. In yesterday’s Melbourne Herald the following cablegrams were published: -
Conscientious objectors whose objections to military service have been overruled by the military tribunals are having an unenviable experience.
Twenty men have leftRhyl, in Wales, for different prisons, to undergo varying degrees of punishment as a result of court-martial charges of having refused to obey military orders. Several have been sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.
Some refused to don khaki or to shave. All refused to drill.
Thus far the only concession they have been able to obtain from the Government is that none of the conscientious objectors will pay the death penalty if it is imposed by courtsmartial for refusing to obey military orders.
Honorable members can use honeyed words and talk of universal military service, and say that it is imposed on the rich as well as the poor, and they can talk of the inequalities of the voluntary system; but behind all their talk we can see that universal military service is imposed at the point of the bayonet, by gaoling people, and, at the last resort, by threatening people with death. A suggestion has been put forward that this question should be referred to a referendum. Why dohonorable members opposite make that claim? Do they so soon forget what happened less than twelve months ago, when we on this side proposed to take a referendum on the question of giving the Commonwealth Parliament power to control, among other things, food exploiters, those who take advantage of the wives and children and the dependants of the men who are fighting for us by putting up the prices of their commodities ? What a howl there was against taking a referendum at a time when our poor boys were fighting for their lives at Gallipoli. Do honorable members forget how they ridiculed the suggestion that votes should be given to men in the trenches? It was considered an outrage that during the disturbed state of the public mind we should interfere and ask for a vote on those questions. Do not we remember the Leader of the Opposition and his followers making what the press said was a dignified protest when they did the “goose step” twice out of the chamber when the referenda proposals were being debated here? But now, when they think that they have their own party behind them, and a section of the Labourites, particularly the relatives of those who have gone to the war, and they think that there is a wave of popular opinion with them which will carry their ideas with regard to conscription, they turn round and ask why not have a referendum ? The “true” Democrats opposite seek to have a referendum now, but they could not have one before.
– Why does not the honorable member say that the honorable member who made the suggestion was one of his own Caucus ?
– I see no reason why we should become “ panicky “ and endeavour to rush into a matter of this kind which is so distasteful to many of our people. Great Britain has never found it necessary previously to adopt conscription. It was always the British Navy that saved her from doing it, and Australia is so situated geographically that there is even less necessity for us to do it. What is happening in Europe to make us so nervy ? Surely, with the number of men that the Allies have at their command, there is no need for a little community like Australia to adopt conscription.
– What is” making Great Britain nervy?
– Great Britain is doing more than was ever anticipated from her. She entered the war with an army of about 280,000 men, and under the voluntary system has raised an army of 4,000,000 men for land service. Such a ‘ thing was never contemplated by the most far-seeing man in Great Britain. Even if she had not adopted conscription, she would have done magnificently, and while she held her command of the seas she was playing her part so far as the Allies were concerned. Why is it that this idea of “ nien and more men” gets into our minds? Do honorable members speak to men who have returned from Gallipoli? Lieutenant Symons, V.C., has told me that the Australians were never equipped so well as the Turks were. In the trenches the Australians were compelled to chase the Turkish bombs in order to throw them back again at the Turks. We did not have the artillery the Turks had, nor the machine guns, nor the bombs. We are deficient, not in men, but in equipment. Bethmann Hollweg put his finger on the spot when he said that Germany aims at putting the most efficient fighting force in the field. That is where we are lacking. What have we done in Australia to seize our magnificent opportunity of making munitions? Our efforts have been an absolute ‘and sorry failure. The manager of the Broken Hill Proprietary told me that the 4£ tons of steel which were taken out of the heap and sent to the British Admiralty passed every test, but when similar material was worked up here, men, practically- without experience in reviewing these shells, found miscroSCopE hair-line flaws which the company say they find in shells from Woolwich Arsenal accepted by the British Army. Of what use is it to say that we are going to send men when it is artillery, machine guns, shells and bombs, the machinery of war, that we lack ? Until we are doing our best to give our men an equal chance with their opponents in the field, I am a most determined opponent of conscription on the manhood of Australia. I come now to another matter. Our Prime .Minister and the ex-Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, after a certain consultation, made an announcement that Australia would offer another 50,000 men. I am not going to stand by these light) and airy offers of men.
– Hear, hear ! They should not have been made without first consulting Parliament.
– It is all very well for the newspapers to say that when the Prime Minister makes such an offer the honour of Australia is pledged, and the promise must be redeemed. What do they say when the Prime Minister makes a statement with regard to trade matters ? When our Prime Minister said that the harrow would have to be used throughout the Empire, and that drastic measures would be needed to cut out the cancer of
German trade, journals like the Argun turned round and said that Mr. Hughes was speaking for himself, and could not commit Australia. Another newspaper, the A ge, has had a remarkable change of front. A few months ago the cry was: “ There are 120,000 single men in Australia who have not enlisted. Why do they not fight?” All possible pressure was put on them. Advertisements appeared in the newspapers informing men of military age that they need not apply for certain positions. But now the Age says that these single men are of more value to the future of the country than married men who have reared families, They say that the married men should fight in preference to the single. There is no more right to compel young single men to fight for their country than there is to compel anybody else. The reasons why they should fight are economical and social; therefore, the men who urge our young fellows to enlist are working on wrong lines. They should appeal to the young men’s patriotic sentiment,’ and’ win them over to a recognition of their duty to Australia, and to a realization of the fact that it is worth fighting to retain our free institutions. Such a policy would be better than bullying them into enlisting, or forcing the yoke of conscription about their necks.
.- I trust, sir, that in making my first address in this Chamber, you and the members of the Committee will make allowance for any shortcomings. The first matter I wish to deal with is the action of the Defence Department in deciding that any officer in the Government Service who enlists, and is entitled to a superannuation allowance, shall not be eligible to receive the full pension. I allude particularly to the case of a young lieutenant who has enlisted for duty with the A.I.F. In ordinary circumstances, a lieutenant’s pension in the event of total incapacity is £91, but as this officer would be entitled to a superannuation allowance of £1 per week, the Defence Department will only allow him the difference between the superannuation allowance and the pension. This is considered to be a great hardship, because these Government servants have for a number of years con- tributed portion of their small salaries towards a superannuation fund. As I understand there is to be some alteration of the regulations shortly, I hope that provision will be made to safeguard the interests of those who are entitled to superannuation pay. So much has been ably said on the subject of conscription that I do not propose to detain the Committee at any length by an expression of my views, especially as I understand that there is a desire to expedite business, in order that the Parliament may adjourn next week. However, there are certain matters affecting my electorate, and the State of Queensland generally, which I think it my duty to ventilate. I trust that any remarks I may make in regard to the Treasurer will not be taken as personal, but only as having been made in fulfilment of the duty cast upon my shoulders as a representative of the State of Queensland. About twelve months ago it was generally understood throughout Australia that an opportunity would be given to the House to discuss the Tariff, but up to the present the question has not been dealt with. I regard an early discussion of the Tariff as of the utmost importance to Australia. To-day a large quantity of goods which were formerly imported from enemy countries must be supplied from some other source. And should not Australia convert its great primary products into marketable goods, and so obviate the system of re-importing in manufactured form- the raw material which we exported in the first place ? No time is to be lost in adopting such a policy, for if we do not step into the breach soon other countries will, and we shall find when the war terminates, as it may do more suddenly than we expect, that we are absolutely unprepared. It is argued by some people that we should not deal with contentious matters during war time. Tariff reform should not be treated as contentious; it is part of our war obligations. We should, as quickly as possible, put our house in order, so that when the opportunity comes we may grasp with both hands the trade which we are now wresting from Germany, and which that country never should have had. For many years past Germany has been supplying the United Kingdom with a million tons of sugar per annum, which at £10 per ton represents a value of £10,000,000. Why should not Australia produce that sugar and supply it to the Mother Country at a preferential rate? It cannot be argued that sugar cannot be produced in Australia. In the northern parts of Queensland there are hundreds of thousands of acres than which there is no richer country in Australia, and if there is any. menace to the Commonwealth it is in holding that enormous territory of fertile country without the slightest prospect of being able to utilize it. Owing to the fact that we have adopted a White Australia policy, and intend to pay in tropical latitudes a white man’s wages, we could not possibly expect under any circumstances to compete with the products grown by black labour in other tropical countries, where workmen receive 4d. per -day in the fields and 4d. in the factories, as against 9s. 6d. and 15s. in tropical Queensland. If we cannot produce in Queensland what is produced elsewhere in the tropics and pay White Australian wages, the Commonwealth must adopt a policy of greater fiscal protection or introduce a bounty system by which people can be settled in that portion of the Commonwealth. How did Germany acquire her -enormous sugar trade with Great Britain 1 The bounty paid on the export of beet sugar from Germany was so great that it enabled manufacturers to send sugar into Great Britain and to shut down British factories dealing with that product. The people of Great Britain foolishly applauded the idea that Germany or any other country should sell to. them foodstuffs at prices cheaper than those at which British manufacturers could produce. But all that time Germany was building up her mercantile marine, and later was able to argue that, because of that mercantile marine, she must have a Navy. By means of those bounty-fed goods she was filling her ships with tonnage which was sent to all parts of the world, and they were bringing back raw materia] to be manufactured and redelivered to the countries, including Australia, from which it had been brought. Unless something of the same kind is done in Australia the wealthy northern portion of Queensland will be a great menace to us. No one can tell me that, after this war is over, we shall be allowed to hold that country unutilized, and in its original state. There is a nation not far distant with 55,000,000 of people confined in a small island not as large as Great Britain, if the volcanic portions are excluded, and it is experiencing difficulty in finding a dumping ground for its in creasing population. In those circumstances it is not reasonable to expect that we shall be allowed to hold our northern areas unused for all time. We must be up and doing. If the people of Germany were prepared to tax themselves in order to create a large industry in which many thousands of people could be employed, why should not we adopt the same policy in Australia ? We have been making great sacrifices in the Northern Territory; for what purpose ? An enormous amount of money has been expended on the Northern Territory railway, for defence purposes, we are told. After reading Mr. Atlee Hunt’s description of the Northern Territory, and after trying, with keen interest to discover from people who have visited the Territory its capabilities, I have arrived at the conclusion that there is not much to defend there. I have been told that men who live more economical lives than do white people, and who require much less food, would starve in the Territory. Therefore the menace to Australia is not so much in the Northern Territory as in the splendid agricultural lands of Queensland, which are capable of producing all forms of tropical agriculture. We already grow to advantage there sugar and bananas What do we find in the case of bananas 1 In spite of the protective duty, we find that Fiji bananas, grown with black labour, and with subsidized steamers, render competition “impossible. The industry will vanish if something is not done; and an early opportunity should be given to honorable members to discuss the position, with a view to revising the Tariff in this and many other respects. In Queensland, growers are afraid to produce anything like the possible quantity of sugar for the reason that, taking the requirements of the Commonwealth at 240,000 tons, if they produced 260,000 tons, they would under normal conditions lose £7 per ton on the surplus 20,000. . Under the circumstances, they are not likely to be such fools as to carry production to anything like the extent to which it could be carried. In a lime of drought, or’ when pests come along, there is not sufficient sugar to supply the requirements of the Commonwealth, and yet no encouragement is given to the industry ; in fact, in my opinion, the Federal Government have a dead hand on the industry, which, if great care is not taken, will be wiped out of existence. Members of this Parliament, when they visit Queensland, make statements in this connexion that, on the face of them, are not the truth: and the Treasurer refuses to allow any light to be thrown on the subject. If we wish to ascertain the facts, we have to go elsewhere; and I intend to give the Committee the benefit of such information as I possess. The other day the honorable member for Darling Downs asked the Treasurer the following question -
To that the Treasurer replied -
That was a threat that, if the world’s price were demanded now, the world’s price would have to be taken when things became normal, although this Parliament is pledged, in view of the White Australia policy, to give the industry protection sufficient, at any rate, to permit of competition with black-grown sugar in other parts of the world. The Treasurer continued -
I might add that all. foreign sugar purchased by the Government is raw sugar, the object being to give employment to Australian refineries. It is hoped, however, that there may be such an increase in the Australian production of sugar next year that there may be no necessity for tho purchase of foreign sugar.
Where did the Treasurer get that information ? If the honorable gentleman made inquiries from the Queensland Government as to tlie prospects of the coming season, he would not make statements the only effect of which can be to mislead the House. Then I asked the Treasurer this question -
What was the estimated tonnage of Australian sugar .held on the day the price was raised from Twenty-five pounds ten shillings 1Os.) to Twenty-nine pounds five shillings (£29 5s.) per ton ?
The answer was -
It was estimated that stocks of Australian sugar would last till 12th February, but the demand, especially from jam manufacturers, continued to increase, so that it became necessary to refine imported sugar, and prices were raised on 17th January, 1916, to cover extra cost and duty.
The actual tonnage held on that particular day is not on record.
I did not ask for the actual figures, but for an estimate; and if the Treasurer desired an estimate he could have got one from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in twenty-four hours. During the Wide Bay election, erroneous statements were made with a view to satisfying the growers that £18 a ton was a very handsome price under present conditions, and that sugar could be bought elsewhere at £16 a ton. This, however, was not the fact, as the Treasurer ought to know, and, I believe, does know. I only hope that the information that I am now giving will not be censored in any way, but will be permitted to appear in the press, in view of the fact that this industry means so much) to Australia, and is of such immediate concern to those engaged in it. I have been a business man since 1872, and, in my opinion, there is nothing that ought to be denied publicity in this connexion. It is known in the markets of the world what is the price of sugar, for the price is regulated in Java, and the information! is public property. Here is the position -
As mentioned by you, we have had no direct quotation for some time, but from market reports received by us every month there hasbeen little alteration in prices since December last.
That is the time when it was stated that sugar could Be bought at £16 per ton.
– Will the honorable member say whom he is quoting ?
– I have no objection. I know what the honorable member suspects, but I am not such a fool as to have asked the Colonial Sugar Refining Company to give information while under the contract with the Government. What I am reading is from Charles Forester and Company, who, for many years, have been large importers of Java sugar. They say -
We think that £18 to £18 10s. per ton f.o.b. for No. 15 Dutch Standard, Polarization about 96 per cent., would be fair average basis. Freight 40s. or 50s. per ton, insurance and exchange, say, 5s. per ton, would make the cost about £20 15s. per ton c.f. and i. Melbourne and/or Sydney.
Our last advices from Java, dated 14th April, report good inquiry from British India, and prices had in consequence advanced, and the tone of the market was firm.
The Prime Minister has certainly gone up 50 per cent, in my estimation since he arrived in Great Britain, and declared himself, not only a sound Imperialist, but a strong Protectionist. I am loth to say anything against him; but I do believe that, during the Wide Bay election, he simply misled the people at Bundaberg, Childers, and Maryborough, by declaring that the Government had done splendidly for the sugar industry of Queensland in giving it £18 per ton. The fact is that the Government could not have landed sugar under £20 15s. on the wharf, with cartage, wharfage, and harbor dues to be added, not including the £6 per ton duty.
– Was the price paid by the Government not an increase on the previous price?
– Yes, by £5. The price is now £18, paid by the Government, as against. £13 previously paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– The Minister is misinformed.
– I am absolutely correct.
– I repeat that the Minister is absolutely misinformed. In 1913 the price paid to the crude sugar manufacturer was £15 17s. 6Jd. per ton. In 1914 the manufacturer had certainly to take £14 15s. 6£d. ; but why ? Because the Government had not considered the interests of the community as a whole, and safeguarded them by preventing the robbery that took place in New South Wales. When crude sugar was sent, as ix, usually is, from Queensland to New South Wales, to be treated at the refineries there, the New South Wales Government commandeered it, and fixed a price less by £1 2s. 6d. than that of the previous years. The Government put the dead hand on the industry, and, in effect, said, “ We will prevent you exporting, and we will allow New South Wales to do exactly what she chooses with your sugar.” That is what happened despite the fact that wages had risen in the plantations, that the cost of living had increased, and that the sugar-growers had harvested only half a crop. Notwithstanding that the cost of production had increased by £3 or £4 per ton, the price of sugar was reduced by £1 2s. 6d. per ton as the result of action by New South Wales, which was indorsed by the Commonwealth. I need hardly remind honorable members that very many hundreds of the sugar-growers of Queensland are poor. men. They are subjected to numerous disabilities, some of which I have indicated. Unfortunately they have not the necessary voting power, and, therefore, are not treated on all-fours with the wheat-growers of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia. The latter are assured that they will receive the value of their wheat to the very last fraction. The Government say to them, “ We will find vessels to transport your wheat overseas, and we will do everything possible to insure that you shall get the market value of your product.” Why should not the Queensland sugar-grower be similarly assured of the market value of his product ? We are now importing 120,000 tons of black sugar from Jaya, and even the growers of it are assured of its market value, whereas our own sugar-growers are denied similar consideration. Is this the treatment which should be meted out to them by a Government which ought to safeguard such an important industry? I do not think that honorable members will say that the sugar industry is a spoon-fed industry. I do not believe that any honorable member would dare to make such an assertion. Because it has a protective duty of 24 per cent., or £6 per ton-
– The sugar-growers had a protection of more than 100 per cent.
– When ?
– -There was a protection ot £10 per ton in the case of beet sugar when that commodity could be purchased on the other side of the world for £9 per ton.
– And what is the position at Mildura and Renmark? There the fruit-growers receive a protection of 110 per cent., and it is not suggested that they should not be allowed to reap the advantages which accrue to them by reason of that protection. The year before last they made a profit of 40 per cent., and, I understand, were in the same position last year. I should like to know where the sugar-growers have made a profit during the last two years, and they have little prospect for the 1916-17 crop.
– Does the honorable member say that the Mildura fruit-growers enjoy a protective duty of 110 per cent, now 1
– I say that that was the measure of the protection which they enjoyed. I know that years ago I imported currants and raisins from Greece, Spain, and Portugal for 2d. and 2d. per lb., and if a duty of 3d. per lb. does not represent a protection of more than 100 per cent, my arithmetic is faulty. It is in the interests of Australia that the sugar-growers of Queensland should get a better deal. We all know how important it is that the Commonwealth should bb able to make its accounts balance. Some time ago a very interesting report was* published in the Argus of the proceedings of a deputation composed of representatives of financial institutions in this city who waited upon the Treasurer with a request that they should be permitted to export crude gold to enable them to square their accounts. The Treasurer, however, declined to grant this permission. There is only one other way in which our accounts may be squared, namely, by the establishment of more industries, and by tlie conversion of our raw materials into finished articles. Then we shall have less importation and more exportation. In the year 1913, it is interesting to note that Queensland exported goods to the value of £12,352,748, and imported goods to the value of only £6,714,942. In other words, her exports were nearly double her imports. During the same year the Commonwealth actually imported more than it exported. Indeed, if the surplus exports of Queensland had been eliminated, the _ Commonwealth during that year would have had to face a deficiency in its exports as against its imports of more than £7,000,000. For the year 1914-15, the figures of Queensland are even better. During that year the Northern State imported £6,42S,688, and exported £13,015,484 worth of goods. During the same period the Commonwealth, after absorbing the surplus exports of Queensland, to the value of nearly £7,000,000, was faced with a deficiency of more than £2,000,000 in the value of its exports as against its imports. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to increase our exports in order that they may at least balance our imports.
– Does the honorable member say that the exports of Queensland were double her imports?
– Yes. Had it not been for the fact that Queensland exported goods to the value of £6,000,000 in excess of her imports during the years I have mentioned, the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth would have been a very sorry one indeed.
– There seems to be big interest paid on borrowed money.
– As to the payment of big interest, I would point out that Queensland was able to abstain from imposing an additional penny of taxation upon its people for a period of thirteen years, and until last year had had an annual credit balance for eleven years. The money which it has borrowed has been all spent upon reproductive railways. In a territory like Queensland, which embraces 429,000,000 acres, it is essential that its Government should go in for active systematic railway construction.
– Queensland has the best system of railways in the Commonwealth.
– And she has constructed a greater length of lines than has any other State.
– They are decentralized, too.
– Some people are unificationist, and wish to apply their principles to the Commonwealth. But it will be a very bad day for Queensland if these States ever enter into a unification. At present it is almost impossible to make the necessities of Queensland known amongst the people of Australia. How much less chance would there be of obtaining justice for that State if, in thi3 Parliament, and on the floors of the State Parliaments, men could not stress its vital necessities? When the honorable member for Denison was speaking the other day he was apparently labouring under the impression that no Democrats existed outside Tasmania. I wish to tell him that in Queensland we have quite as strong a Democratic party - not a Labour party - and one which has done more for Democracy than has ever been accomplished in the little island of Tasmania, although the people of that State have proved their Democratic principles by sending to this House as two of their representatives a King and a Laird. The honorable member for Denison appeared to be annoyed, because I asked him a very simple question, namely, whether in his remarks he was referring to industrial unionism or to political unionism. In Queensland I may tell him that we have separated the two things. For years I was one of those who helped to build up industrial unions there, who assisted with voice and money in securing the return to Parliament of men who advocated industrial unionism and the recognition of the eight hours system. I claim that I have as much right as honorable members opposite to speak for unionism. For six years I represented a union district in the Queensland Assembly.
– There is hope for you yet, brother. Come over here.
– I differ from honorable members on the other side of the House where many good men differ from them, and where Mr. Holman, if he had the courage and backbone to do it, would differ from them, and the point of difference was put by Mr. Kidston, in Queensland, when he said, “ We have come to the parting of the ways. I cannot go any further with you. I draw the line at Socialism.” Many other men have done the same thing, and many honorable members opposite will yet come to that point of difference, and we shall join hands as Liberal Democrats. I thoroughly believe in Democracy, and shall fight for it to the bitter end, but not as a Socialist. I believe in freedom. Socialism does not give it. Where has there been a more sorry spectacle than was to be seen in New South Wales the other day, when the representatives of the people had to bow to a section of the community which has not had the confidence of the people, and which probably never will have it? That is not Democracy. Let us stand shoulder to shoulder for Democracy and see that justice and fair play are meted out to every section of the community, and not to one section only. I am sure that when honorable members opposite come to look at things in that light they will join hands with us, and, instead of our wasting enormous sums in fighting and quibbling over matters of this kind, we shall be able to work together for the progress of the whole community.
– I can compliment the new member for Wide Bay on a great deal of what he has said; in fact, I look upon the honorable member as one who is half way over to this side of the chamber. I am heartily in accord with what he said at the beginning of his speech, when he told the Government some very hard facts about what I consider is a question that should be treated as part of our war obligations, namely, the settled policy of this country. I hope that the honorable member will be able to probe his leader, and see whether the mantle of Protection is beginning to fall over him, as it has over the Prime Minister, whom he complimented on his conversion ; but I am afraid that the look upon the face of the Leader of the Opposition while the honorable member for Wide Bay was speaking does not indicate such conversion. The honorable member for Lang also looked very unhappy. The honorable member for Wide Bay said a great deal with which I agree. He admitted candidly that he would be sitting on this side of the chamber if it were not for the Socialism that he claims pervades the doctrines of the party in power. But that fact need not prevent the honorable member from coming right over. He knows that at election times the Labour party have been opposed by candidates who have stood absolutely as Socialists, opposed to the Labour policy, proving that the doctrines of those Socialists are not the same as ours. We are all Socialists to a certain extent. It is merely a question of degree. The honorable member should have defined the particular kind of Socialism he meant. The Leader of the Opposition has made the accusation that since the war started the Labour party has been treading along party lines and devoting most of its attention to party matters; but the whole of the right honorable member’s own speech was impregnated by matters of party. Those who set the apple of political discord rolling after the war were the party opposite when they declared for their double dissolution.
– That occurred months before war was declared.
– But there was an election after the outbreak of the war, and that election was brought about by honorable members opposite, who were in power at the time. In the circumstances, the Leader of the Opposition, who speaks about party strife, should be prepared to stand up to his share of the blame. There may be questions of a party character that may be set aside at the present time, but when the right honorable gentleman attempted to point out where the Labour party had sinned he touched on certain matters over which the party has not a vestige of control. The right honorable gentleman said that from the beginning of the war strikes had been proceeding as they never had before, yet he must know that the Labour party in the Commonwealth Parliament have not a vestige of power to control those strikes. I hold no brief for those who strike, nor does any honorable member on this side ; but while we have this criticism and condemnation of strikes it is marvellous that nothing is said against those who are responsible for the locks-out, which are as numerous as the strikes. The Broken Hill trouble was as much a lock-out as a strike. Because the men would not work a half day on Saturday they were condemned, and accused of promulgating a strike; but what should we say of the proprietors who said that because the men would not work thehalf day on Saturday they would not work on the other five and a half days in the week? If the men who refused to work the half day were to be blamed for decreasing the output of munitions, how much more drastically should wecondemn those who told the men that they must not turn out munitions on the otherfive and a half days in the week? When we are condemning those who are responsible for the cessation of our industrial life, let us be fair. Let us go all round and condemn both sides, if they are open to condemnation. The honorable member tor Wide Bay and others have referred to the socialistic enterprises of the Government, but those honorable members will not deny that in every country engaged in the colossal task confronting us to-day Socialism is being applied to the successful prosecution of that task as it has never been applied before. If the war is to be brought to a successful conclusion it is admitted that a great deal of what was previously controlled by private enterprise must become the property of the State. In Great Britain the Government have taken over the railways and are now running them as a national concern. The output of munitions of war - practically everything that can have a bearing on the successful prosecution of the war - has been socialised; otherwise I venture to say the war could not be carried to a successful issue. The honorable member for Wide Bay will agree with what has been done in Australia in regard to wheat. Never in any country has a more Socialistic innovation been brought about than has been undertaken here for the security of the men who are tilling the soil, and thus indirectly discharging their war obligations. The farmers of Australia would have been left in the lurch and had ruin staring them in the face had not the Government come to their rescue in a most socialistic fashion.
– The Government applied it the other way so far as sugar is concerned; they robbed the sugar-growers in order to feed the man in the street.
– I only know that, in reply to an interjectionby the Minister of Trade and Customs,who said that, owing to the action of the Government, the sugar-growers were getting £5 a ton more than they were receiving previously, the honorable member admitted that they were receiving from £2 to £3 more. How can he say that the Government are robbing the sugar-growers when on his own figures that result is shown ?
– But there has been a. great alteration in the cost of living.
– In Victoria we have another illustration of the alleged devastation caused by socialistic enterprise. Farmers were so influenced by the effect of the Wheat Pool that they immediately made representations to have a lucerne pool. The result has been that the price of lucerne to-day is £3 2s. 6d. per ton, whereas before that arrangement was made it was as low as 4s. 10½d. per ton. The farmers will put up with a. lot of that kind of Socialism before they complain. Criticism is a very good thing. I am not one of those who say that we should have no criticism in the time of war. Perhaps it is more essential at this time than at any other, and I intend to criticise the Government. I hope the honorable member for Wide Bay will convert a few more members on the opposite side to his way of thinking on what I consider to be one of the most important issues before the country at the present time. I say candidly that if there was one thing to which the Government pledged themselves at the last election it was a revision of the Tariff without any unreasonable delay. In the most definite and unequivocal way, I assure the Committee that I have never favoured the Government attitude in regard to Tariff revision. There have been individuals and newspapers urging that the Tariff is a party matter which should be put aside during the continuance of the war. I have never indorsed that view. Tariff revision is as much part of our war obligations as are the pensions we are providing for the soldiers. As an obligation, it is second perhaps only to the equipment and despatching of men to the front. When this question arose in the early part of the session. I said in this House that I did not agree with those who would treat the Tariff as a party matter. Some months ago, I wrote a letter to the Acting Prime Minister in which I expressed my opinion that Parliament should be called together to consider the Tariff, and that it should not be allowed to adopt the anomalous position of leaving Tariff reform in abeyance while our Prime Minister was in the Mother Country preaching Protection, and the crippling of enemy trade afterthe war. Here are Mr. Hughes’ own words -
We should be fools, imbeciles, idiots, if we allowed Germany to establish her citadels of commerce in our midst again.
That is merely an extract from one of many speeches made by that erstwhile Free Trader.
– He has sold all his old principles.
– I think the Prime Minister is to be admired for having done so, if he found that he was on the wrong track. There is no way of preventingGermany from establishing her citadels of commerce in our midst again unless we erect a Tariff wall to shut out her goods. Mr. Hughes may use the handmaiden of science to assist if he likes, but the only effective way to prevent Germany from again seizing our markets is to take strong Tariff action with a view to making our nation self-contained.
– Would not the prohibition of imports be better?
– I do not care if the honorable member does bring about prohibition of imports so long as we are able to establish our own industries. I urged the Acting Prime Min ister to give practical effect to the preachings of his colleague in the Mother Country. It is not a bit of use for Mr. Hughes to stump the Mother Country preaching the gospel of Protection if we in Australia are not giving effect to it. That written protest to the Acting Prime Minister was the only course open to me to indicate my objection to the inactivity of the Government in this matter. I expressed to him the opinion that Tariff revision was part of our war obligations to the men who are fighting our battles at the front. There is much talk of finding land and employment for our soldiers when they return, but honorable members may be accused of having their tongues in their cheeks if they do not take steps at once to build up industries, and open up avenues of employment for them. The honorable member for Lang interjected that the Prime Minister had sold his principles. Even so renowned a Free Trader as Mr. Asquith has said -
We must diminish the consumption of imports and maintain our exports on an increased scale. The more we do this the more we contribute to the country’s resources, from which the nation can pay its gigantic war expenses.
That is a very sound doctrine, and indicates the conversion of a man who had always followed the shibboleths of Free Trade until this war proved him to have been in the wrong. When such an admission comes from the lips of men who have always advocated Free-trade principles, it is regrettable that an avowed Protectionist Government in Australia is turning a deaf ear to all appeals for Tariff revision.
– We have also the testimony of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
– We need not go abroad for guidance on this matter. The honorable member for Maribyrnong quoted to the Committee the other day only a few of the many industries which could be built up in Australia if we adopted the right policy. There are a few figures which need only be considered to show the dangerous position we occupy. Last year our imports exceeded our exports by about £3,500,000. In 1910 we were in a better position, for we had an excess of exports over imports of £11,173,000. In 1911 the excess of exports over imports had dropped to £2,437,000, and from 1912 onwards Australia has been going steadily backwards.
– That was largely due to the Holman Government borrowing so largely in the Mother Country.
– That is not the whole cause.
– All those borrowed millions came into Australia in the form of imports.
– I am dealing with merchandise. In 1912 the position had so changed for the worse that there was an excess of imports over exports of £9,848,870; and in 1914-15 there was a similar excess of £5,902,917.
– The Holman Government borrowed £25,000,000, and it has all come into Australia in the form of goods.
– The borrowings, no doubt, influenced the imports to a certain extent, but we cannot get away from the fact that those figures are an indication of an ineffective Tariff. It is a disgrace to a country that it should be living under a so-called Protective Tariff which is ineffective. Goods to the value of £20,000,000 were imported last year, which should never have been imported. The present Tariff does not even prevent dumping.
– Even with the Tariff increased almost to the point of prohibition, if the Government continued to borrow money, the borrowings must come in in the shape of goods.
– I do not think there should be unrestricted borrowing. That is a sphere into which the Commonwealth should long ago have stepped, by taking over the State debts and controlling further borrowing.
– If there are to be no imports, how are we to get fid of our surplus wool and wheat?
– We are sending our wool away, and bringing it back in’ a manufactured state, whereas, if we manuf actured it ourselves, we would be providing employment for a large number of men. It is dangerous for any young country to continue importing in excess of its exports. The £11,000,000 worth of excess exports in 1910 helped to pay the interest on our borrowings abroad. At the present time Australia is borrowing largely, and where is the money to come from to pay the interest bill ? If we were a creditor nation like Great Britain the position would be different, because we could call in some of the money we had lent, but we are a debtor nation. Consequently, we are exporting’ more than we import, and, in that way, are doing the very opposite to that which acountry in our position should do. Further figures are superfluous, for every honorable member recognises’ that those I have quoted are, in the bulk, correct. The fact remains that we are importing more than we export; and there is no man in the chamber, who, recognising the policy of this country, wishes to hear more. It is dangerous for a new country to go- on in this way. Instead of dropping this matter, or treating it as one of party, there never was a time in the history of our country when, with our men comingfrom the front where they have discharged their duties nobly and well, there was a greater obligation than to see that they are catered for in the right way.. I believe that, very rightly, our returnedsoldiers will later on have an effect on thepolicy of the country, and it would behard to find one who is not solid in hisbelief that, if we are to discharge ouro’bligations, we shall have to provide employment apart from that afforded by the: land. After all, only a small percentageof the men will be able to go on the land,, and for a great many a road will have to be found into certain industries. It is, the duty of the Government to. see that industries are built up; indeed this is one. of the most important duties before them. As the only way open to me, I lodged aprotest, in writing, with the Acting, Prime Minister in regard to the Tariff. The Government have promised that during this session the Tariff shall be taken into consideration, but it is only playing with the question when the session is strung on in the way it* is. T am not one who thinks that we ought to wait for the return of tlie Prime Minister. Why should we? The right honorable gentleman is going to a Conference at Paris, but we do not wish to be governed from Paris or anywhere else; we knowwhat is in our own minds.
– You are a great man to fire blank cartridges !
– The, Leader of the Opposition is not any happier when I am speaking than he was. when the honorable member for WideBay was speaking. .
– The honorable member for Wide Bay made a good’ speech, and I am sorry that is more than- I can say of you.
– I fancy that the honorable member for Wide Bay will find it impossible to live in the political company opposite, and that we may
Bee* him on this side before long. In the matter of the Tariff, the honorable member for Wide Bay, in his present position in the House, is surrounded with untilled soil, and if he can only grow the seeds of Protection as well as he can grow sugar he will account for some very good work.
– Why does not the honorable member for Indi induce honorable members on his own side to pledge themselves to Protection ?
– I cannot do more than I have done; but if I were Minister of Trade and Customs, something more would have eventuated long ago.
– You have been trading on this sort of thing for six years.
– The right honorable gentleman is not fair, and he knows that what he is now saying is not fair. What more can a private member do than lodge his protest, even if it be against his own party? I fancy it would be a long time ‘before we found the Leader of the Opposition making any protest, even if his colleagues cut the Tariff down much lower than it is. I do not expect the mantle to fall over him as it has over the shoulders of his erstwhile friend, the Prime Minister, in the matter of the Tariff ; but if a trip abroad has done so much for the Prime Minister, I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will follow his example as soon as possible. I cannot conclude without a word on the all-absorbing question of the day. I listened last evening with much interest to the speech of the honorable member For Balaclava ; and I am anxious to know what he meant when he said at the meetng at Collingwood that he believed, not inly in conscription of men, but in conscription of wealth. The honorable memfer last night complimented himself on ecapingwith his life from Collingwood, where he admitted the people are not oi his political thought; and I could rr: help thinking that, perhaps, he had in hi mind something totally different from whathe had when he spoke there. My interpretation oof what he said at Collingwod - of course, I may be wrong - is tint he expressed in the plainest and most untarnished way his belief that conscrip tion of men should go hand-in-hand with conscription of wealth. Yesterday he told us that what he meant then was that there should be a form of income tax; but I do not think that an income tax can be taken as meaning the same as the conscription of wealth.
– Supposing there were an income tax of 15s. in the £1, what would you call that?
– There would still be a lot of wealth left untouched.
– Then make it an income tax of 20s. in the £1.
– Even then it would not be the same as conscription of wealth. As the honorable member for Bourke said, an income tax is not conscription of wealth, because the wealth is left in the possession of the people just the same. My idea is that, when a man speaks of the conscription of wealth, he leaves an impression that he proposes to put wealth in the same position as human life. That impression has gone abroad, and I ask whether it is not shared by honorable members when they talk of the conscription of wealth. At the meeting in the Melbourne Town Hall, under the auspices of the Australian Natives Association, one of the best speeches was made by, I believe, an ex-president, who said that what was meant by the conscription of wealth was the conscription of all property - goods, cattle, and everything else.
– Is that what you mean ?
– Certainly. I think that is- what is meant by “conscription of wealth.” With the exception of the honorable member for Balaclava, no honorable member opposite has indicated that he has anything else in his mind.
– How could we send the Equitable Building, for instance, to the front?
– That is a quibble.
– It is one of those questions that honorable members opposite cannot answer.
– I am now quoting what was said by this expresident of the Australian Natives Association, who informed the meeting tbit that was the meaning of the petition that was being prepared. I venture to say, however, that not many people of the country believed that that was what was in his mind, for, if so, I cannot conceive that the petition would have secured 70,000 signatures. There are any number of wealthy men in the community who have signed that petition but who do not believe that it means anything more than the conscription of human life. If honorable members opposite, when speaking of the conscription of wealth’ and life, would only state in clear and definite terms what they do mean, I venture to say there would not be a great deal of difference of opinion.
– How would you do it?
– It is the place of those who are advocating conscription of life and wealth to promulgate a scheme. There does not appear to be any impossibility in promulgating a scheme to give effect to what was in the mind of the ex-president of the Australian Natives Association, but that association has not promulgated any scheme.
– If the Government have the two powers of commandeering anything required for the war, and of imposing taxation, in what respect does that differ from what you call conscription of wealth?
– Is that advocated ?
– It is not advovated, but it has been, and is being, enforced, and always is enforced in war time.
– Does the honorable member admit that the right to commandeer all wealth should go hand in hand with conscription of life?
– What I say is that every Government, in time of war, has the right to commandeer every article - horses, cattle, machinery, and everything that can be used for war. All this property is paid for, but tlie owners are not made the sole losers, the loss being spread over the community by means of taxation. Is that not conscription of wealth ? If not, what do you mean by the term?
– There are several interpretations of “ conscription of wealth.”
– Give us your own.
– The honorable member for Bourke gave one.
– Give us your own.
– The Treasurer pointed out that the private wealth of the Commonwealth is £1,000,000,000, and the honorable member for Bourke - who was ridiculed by the honorable member who followed him on the opposite side - said that the Government should hold a first mortgage or lien on one-tenth of that.
– What is the meaning of that? The Government can, and do, take what they require; the only thing is that they do not make the unfortunate individual the sole loser, but spread the loss over the whole community.
– Have tlie Government now the power to do what the honorable member for Bourke said ?
– I do not know what he said.
– Does the honorable member for Flinders say that the Government now have the power to take one-tenth of the whole wealth absolutely, and hold a first mortgage over it, using it as they think best?
– I do not know what you mean by “ first mortgage,” butthe Government have exercised the right to take any property necessary for the war. What, in addition, do you suggest as being conscription of wealth ?
– I assume that my honorable friend agrees that the Government are entitled to take whatever property they think fit to take.
– By making the whole of the people share the loss of the individual.
– The trouble is that the people are made fo pay too much for it.
– Exactly. For instance the Government have taken £20,000,000 from various individuals and are paying 4^ per cent, interest upon it. Personally I do not think that the scheme submitted by the honorable member for Bourke last night was a well-developed one, but it was nevertheless a scheme. He pointed out that we are paying 4£ pei cent, for the loan of the money which ha been raised for war purposes, whereas th> Government should say, “ This propertis ours, and we have the first interest ii it.”
– That is tfe power which they exercise by means if taxation.
– That has not been suggested by any honorable member opposite. Indeed, the honorable member for Kooyong said it would be disastrous to the country if such a policy were put into operation. Before I would say that a man should give his life to the cause of the Empire, I would certainly conscript all wealth. If we take the last shilling from a capitalist, he will still have left to him his dearest possesssion - that of life itself. Therefore, I say that there is more to be urged in favour of the conscription of wealth than there is in favour of the conscription of our manhood. It has been said that we should put both property and life in the same boat. It is not possible to do so.
– Do I understand that a man who is fighting our battles in France should have his insurance policies and any other property of which he may be possessed taken from him ?
– I am speaking only of non-combatants. I am comparing the case of the men who are risking their lives in battle with those who are risking nothing, and are being paid 4½ per cent. upon the capital which they have invested in our war loans. I admit that men who are possessed of property are to be found in the firing line today. But my argument is that capital which cannot be used for fighting purposes is not in the same category as is human life. I repeat that if a man were to lose all his property he would still have his life left to him.
– But how would he live?
– The honorable member is one of those who would say that if to-morrow he had not a penny in his pocket, he could still live. We have been told that it is only members of the Labour party who are forced to adopt an anti-conscription attitude. May I point out that there are some of the best minds in Australia to-day which maintain that the adoption of conscription would mean Prussianizing this country. What about the utterances of the Chief Justice of New South Wales in this c onnexion? I extract the following re- port from one of our newspapers -
Speaking at a function at Granville, the question of conscription was mentioned by the C hief Justice (Sir William Cullen), who said that many persons wanted to submit the popu- a tion to iron discipline. He did not think that a British people would. They valued their liberty too much. It was said that after the war greater armaments would be built, and! that powerful nations would police the world; but what would the position be if one of the nations should be tempted to treat the agreement as “a scrap of paper”? When people speak of putting an end to war they should remember that Germany’s way was iron force and the negation of liberty. The British Empire was trying it in a different way. “ And,” concluded the Chief Justice, “ I don’t think that this war is worth fighting for if we are going to give up our way.”
– Now let me remind the honorable member that the Chief Justice of New South Wales is one of the first members of the Compulsory Service League.
– If the honorable member can interpret the statements which I have read in any other way-
Mr.Fenton. - Why did theFrench Consul, who was present, combat his ideas ?
– Exactly. TheFrench Consul combated his arguments as being anti-conscriptionist. The Chief Justice of New South Wales may belong to a thousand compulsory service leagues, but his utterances cannot be twisted so as to make them mean anything else.
– They were a protest against Prussian tyranny, to which we may all subscribe.
– The trouble is that while one party in our midst advocates the conscription of our manhood, it desires to prohibit the conscription of wealth. Only last night the honorable member for Wannon said that he would be no party to the wealthy evading their responsibilities, but he did not see how conscription of wealth could be enforced.
– What is the value of wealth which will yield nothing?
– There is a lot of property in the community which would yield revenue if it were put to its proper use. I believe that the reason why parties are divided is that the anticonscriptionist party desires to see an equitable contribution to the war by every class in this country. If a man is compelled to offer his life to the Empire’s cause, every item of wealth in Australia should first be conscripted. It has been said that the voluntary system has failed.
Others affirm that under that system Australia has done remarkably well. I believe that she has. At the outbreak of the war very few persons dreamed that she would contribute 250,000 men to the struggle. The honorable member for Balaclava urged the introduction of conscription because we are likely to be short of men. He advocated its adoption principally from that stand-point.
Mr.JosephCook. - No.
– From the beginning to the end of his speech he advocated it, because of the prospect that in three months’ time we would not be able to keep up our quota of reinforcements. I ask the Leader of the Opposition, in the light of what we were told the other night at the secret sitting, whether, if conscription were adopted to-morrow, the ambition of the honorable member for Balaclava would be achieved ? Would we be able to send one more man to the front than we are sending under the voluntary system ?
– The honorable member is asking questions all day, but when we ask him a question he declines to answer it.
– Does not the honorable member’s argument carry him so far as to admit that we ought to stop all voluntary enlistments ?
– There may be, just at present, something to be said in favour of that, in view of what we heard at the secret sitting.
– If conscription were adopted to-morrow, could effect be given to it next week?
– The Leader of the Opposition said that he would not answer my question just now.
– I did not.
– In view of what he was told the other evening, if we had conscription to-morrow, should we be able to add a single extra man to the firing line?
– Thousands more.
– The Leader of the Opposition refused to answer my question a few moments ago, and now he answers it in the affirmative.
– I did not refuse to answer it.
– I wish to say candidly that if we adopted conscription we could not put a single extra man in the firing line to-morrow.
– But we are not talking about to-morrow.
– The adoption of compulsion now would mean calling up thousands of eligible men, and thus, in the circumstances, increasing the burden of the taxpayers very materially.
– The honorable member’s bluff about that secret session is not going to come off. That is his trouble.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– It may be contended that conscription is a more equitable method to pursue with regard to the men who do the fighting, but that is not the whole of the point at issue. Those who claim that conscription is more equitable judge it merely by its effect on those who do the fighting, while they omit altogether the obligation that rests on those who enjoy the wealth of the community and do not fight.
– Will not conscription call up the wealthy classes equally with all others?
– But they are a very small section of the community.
– But they will be called upon in proper proportion.
– If the honorable member for Perth looks at the financial statement submitted by the Treasurer he will see that the great bulk of the wealth of the community is in the hands of a small minority. The man who does the fighting risks his life, but the man who gives his wealth still has his life.
– He would be conscripted. Does the honorable member wish to take both his life and his wealth ?
– I have not heard any honorable member on the other side submit a scheme whereby we can get at wealth in such a way as to be compatible with the risk taken and the duty performed by the man who is doing the fighting.
– Does not the honorable member think that conscription is quite a valuable in enabling the Governmentto discriminate as to who should do the work at home as in getting the number to send abroad ?
– For argument’s sake I concede that it may be a more equitable way of dealing with those who do the fighting, but I have not heard the advocates of conscription advance any scheme for dealing with those who possess the wealth of the country. I give credit to those who think that conscription is the best course that can possibly be pursued. I do not think that they are actuated by party motives. I believe that each of them is trying to do his best.
– And the honorable member will admit that conscription makes the man go who should go ?
– I do not admit any such thing. I say that the principal point at issue is not that conscription is the more equitable system, but that it stops at the men who are doing the fighting, while no suggestion is made by those who stand by the principle that they are favorable to making the wealth of the community realize its responsibilities equally with those who are doing the fighting.
– If the honorable member says so he has not listened to many platform speeches.
– I should be pleased to hear the honorable member deal with that subject. He will be about the second honorable member on the other side who has attempted to do so. When I said that the Government could take one-tenth of the total wealth of the community, the honorable member for Flinders said that the Government had power to do it.
– Why do they not do it?
– My complaint against the Government is that they are not doing it; but I go further, and say that no advocate of conscription will come forward and tell the Government that they should do it. The honorable member for Flinders advocates the conscription of human life, but I have not heard him advocate that the Government should do what he says they have the power to do in regard to the wealth of the community.
– Does the honorable member think that we should raise more money than is necessary for carrying on the war?
– We have raised £20,000,000 in one loan and £10,000,000 in another, and we propose to raise another £50,000,000, on which we shall pay 4½ per cent. interest. What is the position? When men who have risked their lives at the front return maimed to this country they will be asked to put their hands in their pockets and pay interest to those who have not risked a limb or a finger in this fight - the men of wealth in this country. That is not equitable. It is not fair to those who risk their lives.
– Has the honorable member seen the list of subscribers to the war loan, showing the large number of poor people who subscribed towards it?
– If we had depended on those who could put in £100, £50, or £10, we would not have got the money, though, as a matter of fact, I believe that if we called upon them they would have responded nobly to the call. There were sums of a million, and half a million, and a quarter of a million subscribed.
– By life insurance companies.
– By wealthy corporations. Do honorable members opposite believe that the men who return from the front should have to engage in helping to pay interest to those who do not share in the fighting ?
– In this Chamber I moved that men at the front should be exempt from income tax on incomes derived from personal exertion or property, but I could not get a division.
– I wish to deal with the statement that the voluntary system has failed.
– But the honorable member has not yet given us his idea of what wealth conscription should be.
– The financial statement of the Treasurer shows that we have £1,000,000,000 of wealth to call on. If we take a portion of that, and treat it as a first mortgage, will it not be possible for the Government to create a currency with that wealth as a backing? It would obviate our paying 4½ per cent. interest to wealthy corporations and companies.
– Does the honorable member think that the wealth would still be worth £1,000,000,000 if we did so?
– We need not confine ourselves to one-tenth of it. We merely need a portion on which we can draw as we require the money. All property is calculated on its productiveness, and I suppose it will continue to have the same producing power. My complaint is that while honorable members opposite talk at large of conscription of human life, they propose to omit a section of the community on whose shoulders there is the greater obligation, because our soldiers are simply fighting to protect the property-holders of the country. The honorable member for Balaclava has said that the call for volunteers has not been conveyed to the people as it should have been, and that if it had been we would have raised more men. I agree with the honorable member. If the people only realized all the ins and outs of the war and the present situation they would rise to their obligations.
– But they have risen to their obligations.
– It is surprising in the back country, and not only there, but everywhere, how many people one meets who do not seem to realize what we are up against. If something were done to place the issue clearly before the people, I believe there would yet be a big percentage who would come forward under the voluntary system. If that system has failed, I believe a great deal of the blame can be laid at the door of the Legislative Councils of the different States of Australia. The minds of many of our soldiers are agitated by the fact that they leave behind them wives and children, who may be robbed and fleeced by the high price of provisions. The Commonwealth Government asked for the power to control those who are committing this injustice, and the different Governments of the States agreed to give this Parliament power to protect the people, but very shortly afterwards they repudiated their promises and violated the pledges given at the conference with the Prime Minister. I-believe that there are many men to-day who have been influenced by the action of the Legislative Councils of the States in denying the right of this Parliament to protect the fighting men and those they leave behind them, and’ if there is any justification for the statement that the voluntary system has failed, which I deny, those who are responsible for it are the Legislative Councils.
– I wonder what you fellows would do if you did not have the Legislative Councils to gird at.
– The honorable member for Perth will not deny that huge profits are being made by those commercial Zeppelins, which are just as insidious in their operations as are the actual machines themselves.
– We are all prepared to deal with them.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member’s statement, and when the Government again submit the referenda proposals to the country I hope honorable members opposite will be found supporting them. Usually honorable members say they are prepared to conscript wealth, but when we put before them some definite proposal they ridicule it.
– Do you seriously say that you know of any body of men who would not go to the war on account of the action of the Legislative Councils’?
– My contention is that if men did adopt that attitude they would have ample justification. There are numbers of men who, when asked to go to the front, think of the measure of protection to be given those whom they leave behind them, and they believe that, because of the action of the Legislative Councils, that degree of protection is denied them. If there has been any injury to enlistment on that score the blame will lie at the doors of the Legislative Councils. The Government, realizing that huge profits are being made out of the war, do not satisfy my views when they propose to take only 50 per cent, of those profits. No profits made because of the war should be left in the hands of those who use the war to make wealth. The honorable member for Henty, speaking in regard to the high freights and the huge profits of shipping companies, said that the companies concerned belonged to neutral countries, and therefore were not subject to any patriotic obligations to the Allies. In order to convince the honorable member for Henty that his statement was wrong, I have prepared a list of some of the profits made during the war by companies that are not neutral. According to the Statist, Huddart Parker’s net profit in 1915 was £77,455, as against £57,714 in 1913, before the war started. Independent of that extra £20,000, another £100,000 has been stored away for 1915. Howard Smith Limited declared dividends of 12 per cent, on preference and 16 per cent. on. ordinary shares, in addition to passing large amounts to reserve funds. The Adelaide Steam-ship Company has made a profit of £45,400 since the war. The Union Steam-ship Company’s net profit for 1914-15 was £142,133, as against £110,000 in 1913-14. The net profit of the Melbourne Steam-ship Company for the last half-year of 1915 was £32,551, and for the first half-year, £19,426, in addition to an increase of the ordinary capital by £51,000. Those figures show clearly that during war time the profits of Australian companies have been almost doubled, and it does not satisfy me when the Government say, “You have made these immense profits out of the war. We will allow you to keep 50 per cent., and we will take the balance.”
– Seven and a half per cent, is to be added for income tax in cases where profits are not distributed. That makes a total of 57i per cent.
– Everybody knows that this profit-making is taking place, and when there, are so many women and children throughout the country who, owing to the advance of prices, five not getting as much to-day as prior to the war to keep body and soul together, those who talk about the equity of a system of conscription are not doing a fair thing in proposing to leave partly untouched those who are making profits out of the war and are not fighting. I am pleased to know that there is to be an increase in the pay and pensions of soldiers. It is all very well to say that the maximum salary of a married private is 8s. per day. The soldier keeps a shilling for himself, and a shilling is held as deferred pay, so that the maximum received by the wife is reduced to -6s. I know of several mothers with six or seven children who are struggling along on 6s. a day while their husbands are fighting at the front to preserve the privilege enjoyed by those gentlemen who remain at home and increase the price of commodities. Let the advocates of the conscription of our manhood agree to some equitable system of dealing with those who make huge profits out of the war, and of protecting the interests of the dependants of men at the front, and then, perhaps, there may not be such a great difference of opinion between us on the subject of compulsion.
– After listening to the speeches of some honorable members opposite we may extend our sympathy to the Government, who undoubtedly are subjected to more severe and hostile criticism by those who are supposed to be their supporters than by those who are supposed to be their natural political opponents.
– The experience we have had at the hands of the Opposition enables us to some extent to bear the criticism of our supporters, because the Lord tempers the wind to the shorn lamb.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.It is not so much tempering the wind to the shorn lamb as toughening the hides of those who have to meekly submit to the criticism of their own party men. If anything is calculated to discourage recruiting it is speeches such as those delivered by some honorable members on the Government side. To the unbiased observer the impression would be conveyed that there was a certain subtlety underlying the delivery of those speeches, and that the intention was to discourage recruiting, and to counteract the effect of the patriotic speeches which have been made by estimable citizens all over Australia with the object of assisting the Government to get the necessary men to reinforce our armies in the field.
– That is a very ungenerous statement.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.It is true. The Government are trying to get men to volunteer for service with the flag. In the speeches referred to an effort is made to find all sorts of excuses for not responding to the nation’s call. Lord Kitchener, who, . I suppose, understands this question better than anybody in this House, has told us that in this dire time of national peril the imperative, urgent, and primary demand is for “ men, more men, and yet more men.” Yet if we are to believe the utterances of honorable members opposite,’ the need is not for men, but for money, and the means of supplying our soldiers with equipment. I have not heard the Treasurer make a single complaint about any difficulty in obtaining by the ordinary forms of taxation funds for the carrying on of the war. What, then, is the purpose of all this rhodomontade, under cover of which the Government is urged to “grab” all the wealth and capital in the country. Such an extreme action by the Government would be justified only by stress of the direst financial necessity. What would be the effect on the country if the Government were to seize all wealth’ and capital? How would industries be carried on ? How would the great bulk of the people, who have only their wages to depend upon, maintain their existence?
– How will industries be carried on when you have seized all the manhood of the community?
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON.The speech which tlie honorable member delivered a few nights ago I was ashamed to listen to, and for the credit of the honorable member and the House it would have been better had that speech never been delivered. Honorable members talk about the unequal distribution of wealth in the community, but an analysis of the figures shows that the bulk of the wealth is held, not by a few men, but is fairly distributed among tlie people as a whole, and most of our large capitalists are men who, by the sweat of their brows and the labour of their hands, have risen’ from the position of wage-earners to opulence under those free conditions which, until the advent of the Labour party, obtained in Australia. There is no hereditary wealthy aristocracy in this country, born with silver and gold spoons in their mouths and brought up in sloth and idleness. Most of the wealth of individuals is held by those who have worked hard in their earlier days to provide for themselves and their families, and make their later years more comfortable than those of their youth. Let us look at some- of the statistics of Mr. Knibbs in regard to the alleged fabulous incomes we are urged by some Labour members to forcibly confiscate. According to Mr. Knibbs, out of the total population of about 5,000,000, those receiving incomes of over £1,000 number only 2,972, those with over £2,000 number 880, those receiving over £3,000 number 356, and those receiving over £4,000 and under £5,000 number 184, while those receiving £5,000 and upwards number 311. Apart from ethical considerations, as a practical proposition, it is utter nonsense to talk, assome Labour members do, of wholesale, confiscation of profits and wealth. What, we require, in the first instance, is men;, and there is no doubt that covertly and otherwise great encouragement has been, given to a section of the community which is pro-German, and whose utterances and conduct throughout the war have been directed to embarrassing the Government’s-, recruiting efforts in every possible way, and prevent them from fulfilling their obligation to provide men for the front. Perhaps it would be interesting at this point to quote from a letter written in the Melbourne press by Mr. T. P. Ward, of Surrey Hills, who, as a trade unionist, is not ashamed to sign his name, and who, speaking of the Trades Hall, says -
Has any encouragement (express or implied), been given to the workers to rally to the flag? Not only must a negative reply be given to such questions, but it is doubtful if a UnionJack is to be found, must less displayed, on its premises.
– The president and secretary of the Trades Hall have each given a son to the Army !
– That is only two men; and the question is what has the institution done as an institution -
Certainly, among all the public buildings of Melbourne, the Lygon-street workers’ rallyingpoint occupies a position of regrettable and significant isolation in regard to the display of recruiting posters and appeals to Australian patriotism. Not content with a passive resistence to voluntary recruiting, there does notappear to have been sufficient British blood in the veins of the combined council to enter a protest against the pro-German Katz proposal to harass the Labour Government in its efforts to make the voluntary system more effective. In attending a meeting of my union at the Trades Hall recently to discuss conscription, each member was handed a pamphlet inscribed, “ Workers, if you don’t want German rule, don’t be a conscript; conscription means slavery and hell for you; it means paradise for the 4J per cent, pay-troits.
There is another letter in the press by Mr. J. Pascoe, of Castlemaine, who, speaking of the falling off in recruiting says -
My own opinion is that it is very largely because of the disheartening conditions under which they have to work. There is no doubt that one section of the community is undoing - openly and without rebuke from the authorities - very much of the work which the recruiting committees do- I refer to that section of the community which is led by that type of politician who glories in his cowardice and who - blatant and unashamed - loudly protests, in effect, that he would rather submit to be kicked by a Prussian junker than by a rifle shouldered in the defence of his country, his life, and liberties (if he has any), and in the defence of his women and children. Meanwhile, Lygon-street pushes its selfish and unpatriotic propaganda to the infinite prejudice of the cause, and that without as much as a word of protest from the authorities.
These are not charges or statement!: which I make, but they are made by reputable citizens of Melbourne, one of whom is a trade unionist. While I deplore that no attempt is made to interfere in any way with the dissemination of views of this kind in this time of national peril, I recognise that trade unionists have, in very large numbers, volunteered, though at their own individual will, and not at the instance of the trades organizations. All credit, honour, and glory to these men; but we must remember that that kind of spirit is not confined to one section of the community. High and low, people in every walk of life and of all professions trades, and industries, have rallied to the flag in large numbers, actuated by a pure spirit of patriotism, recognising their public duty to do all that is possible in the interests of the Empire.
Mr.Fowler. - Even the capitalists are “ doing their bit.”
– That is so. Many men have left lucrative positions and taken the small pay of the soldier, putting their own personal interests on one side, in order to offer their services and, in many cases, to sacrifice their lives. This also applies to the aristocracy of England, who, in this time of trouble and danger, has shown itself to have the true blood of ancient Britons coursing through its veins. I get very sick and tired of hearing those bitter class attacks in this House - those bitter denunciations of one section of the community for the special glorification of another. They lack point here in Australia, especially at this time. To be. honest, to say nothing of being generous, we ought to give due credit to the volunteers of all sections for having responded in no uncertain way to the call of the Empire. I am sorry that certain of these uncalled-for and bitter speeches have been delivered in the House, and I sincerely hope that the bitterness of feeling and acerbity, which characterizes the utterances of some Labour members will be dropped in the future. We on this side are loyally doing all we can to assist the Govern ment, recognising their responsibilities in the face of new situations, which are outside the pale of either their experience or ours. I am sure that members of the Government, if they are honest, must acknowledge that they have received every consideration from the Opposition. Even in connexion with the Budget and the Estimates there is much to criticise and find fault with, much on which to build up a great number of indictments against the Government of a very forceful character.
– If the members of your party never uttered a word in this House your battle is carried on outside by the press just the same.
– I do not think that there is a newspaper, either in the metropolitan area or the country districts, in any part of Australia that has not given its most loyal support to the Government in its endeavour to do all that is necessary to carry this war to a successful conclusion. In some cases newspapers have given, free of cost, columns of space for what is really purely advertising matter. Particularly has this been so in the case of recruiting appeals, war loan announcements, and information regarding the repatriation of our soldiers. There is nothing whatever to cavil at in the attitude of the press towards the Government in the present crisis. Not only loyal but generous assistance has been afforded by every section of the press that has come within my knowledge, and, therefore, it ill-becomes honorable members, with these facts before them, to gird at the newspapers. Honorable members opposite, including the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, have been tilting at those who have invested their money in the war loan. But why did these people so invest the money ? Did not the High Commissioner, when he was Prime Minister and Treasurer, come down to the House and voluntarily propose that a loan should be floated on the terms specified, and ask capitalists and big financial institutions to invest, and assist in making the loan a success? Thousands of persons of small means invested savings in the loan. It was not the financiers and capitalists who demanded4½ per cent. Nobody demanded it; it was offered by the Government, of which honorable members opposite are supposed to be the supporters. Did we hear a word of protest at that time from the Government side of the House? Now, however, when Mr. Fisher has taken the High Commissionership, and turned another good man, who offered to do the work for nothing, out of the position, to make a job for himself, what do we hear? But I do not want to press that matter. The Treasurer made the proposal; and what did the honorable member for Batman say then? What was said by the honorable member for Indi, or the honorable member for Adelaide?
– I simply said it was not right.
– But did the honorable member translate his opinion into action ? Honorable members opposite criticise and denounce with their mouths, but when it comes to action, which alone counts, where are they? They are all behind the Government - every one of them. It is only blank cartridge they fire for the purposes of tickling the ears of certain sections of the community. At the first crack of the whip we find every one of them behind the Government, no matter what is proposed. What is the value of that criticism ? What is the value of professing not to agree with this, and to denounce the other, if honorable members vote for it just the same ? The vote is the test; and where are those honorable members when it comes to the vote ? Did we find any of them voting against the Government? They will talk and talk and talk, but they will vote just as they are required to vote.
– Our only choice is between Ministers and honorable members opposite.
– That is why the Government sit so smugly on the Treasury bench and submit to insults to which no free set of Ministers would dream of submitting. They know that no matter what honorable members opposite may say, they must remain dumb when the Caucus has decided on a certain course of action. In short, the leaders of the Labour party lead only in the sense that a man leads who is driven by an impelling force from behind. This circumstance reminds me of the discovery of a papyrus in an ancient tomb, the inscription on which, upon being translated, appears to indicate that a system very similar to that of the Labour party and Caucus system was in vogue in those prehistoric days. Describing the attitude adopted by the leader of the Government of that time - some 2,000 years ago - it says -
He’s a leader who is led -
Just a wooden figure head,
The kind who leads when prodded from behind ;
With a pitchfork at his back,
He’s forced to take the track,
That the rank and file, to travel, have a mind.
We have witnessed a somewhat similar spectacle quite recently in New South Wales, when Mr. Holman, the Premier of that State, in spite of all his threats to resign office, had to bow the knee to a self-constituted conference of outside individuals who know no responsibility, but to whom he owes allegiance.
– That was an awful disappointment to Mr. Wade.
– But what a degradation it was to the Premier of New South Wales, what a humiliation to the whole of his colleagues, and what a travesty on democratic government.
– Does the honorable member say that the members of the conference ought not to have criticised him?
– I say that for them to claim the exercise of absolute control over him was a travesty on Democracy. Apparently, the people have no right to be consulted at all. Yet we are supposed to have responsible government. Instead of having responsible government, the Labour party have set up an imperium in imperio, by means of which a section within a section really claims the right to control the people, the Parliament, and the Government. Had I been in Mr. Holman’s position, rather than submit to such a degradation I would have gone out of public life for ever. It is this kind of coercion, intimidation, and tyranny which prevents men of independent mind like myself from associating themselves with the present day Labour movement. I claim to be a better Labour man than any honorable member opposite, who proclaims himself the direct representative of labour. As a matter of fact, there is not one truly representative Labour man to be found there. Honorable members opposite represent a section within a section, but they do not repre- sent the Labour movement. We, upon this side of the chamber, represent the unionist and non-unionist alike - the labourer and the capitalist alike - in fact, we represent all sections of the community, and we do our duty to all sections without fear or favour, recognising that all are equal in the sight of the law.
– Does the honorable member say that we declare that all men are not equal in the sight of the law?
– Yes ; emphatically. Is the non-unionist the equal of the unionist before the Arbitration Court, or in Departments of State controlled by Labour Ministers? Why, only the other day I accompanied a returned soldier to the Department of Home Affairs in Sydney, where I saw a notice posted outside intimating that all applications for employment must be made to the Trades Hall. All applicants for employment in our Public Service, which is paid for by the taxpayers’ money, to which unionists and non-unionists alike contribute, must be made to the Trades Hall. In other words, only unionists are to be given temporary employment in the Commonwealth Service. The returned soldier, when he saw that notice, said to me, “ I wish I had seen it before I went to the war. It is one of the most fiendish engines of coercion ever invented, which dooms to starvation the man who would dare to be free. Did the authorities ask us whether we were unionists or non-unionists before we enlisted?” Certainly not. Yet they are not prepared to allow the non-unionists an equal right with the unionist to earn a livelihood. Honorable members opposite call themselves the representatives of a free community. Why, the greatest tyrant of a plutocratic-governed country could not do more than that. I remember with pride that in the early days of the Labour movement - before these reactionaries became associated with it - its ideals made for freedom. What its members girded against was inequality of opportunity. To-day, however, the Labour party stands for that inequality. But we upon this side of the chamber desire equality of opportunity for all. Many years ago I painted a banner which Labourites used to carry at the head of their procession on Eight Hours Day, and which bore the legend, “Live and let live.” That summed up the principle of equality of opportunity for all. The political unionists do not carry that banner in their processions now. Why? Because their very existence is a living lie to that creed. They have cast aside the principles which they formerly professed. Their banner now should be inscribedwith the words, “Live withus, or get off the earth.”
– Was that the banner of the Seamen’s Union ?
– No. The papyrus to which I have referred further describes the politicians of those ancient times as follows: -
He’s a politician pure,
And can never be quite sure
How he’ll vote if he’s to Parliament elected ; lie may promise far and wide,
But the Caucus will decide
Whether promises of his shall be respected.
His audacity’s sublime,
Tooling people all the time,
For his bona fides seldom is suspected;
But within the Caucus room,
It is made clear pretty soon
He’s a cypher and must do as he’s directed.
Conversion by coercion
Is his doctrine and brute force,
His scheme to build a free enlightened nation.
Yet he boasts he’s Democratic,
And shouts until he’s hoarse
Of freedom - when he means intimidation.
Upon reading these lines, some honorable members will think that they have a very close application to the Labour Caucus as we know it to-day. The honorable member for Adelaide, and the honorable member for Batman, have described honorable members on this side of the chamber as coercionists. But the attitude of the Labour party towards those who do not see eye to eye with it, who do not subscribe to its doctrines, and who refuse to join trade unions, exhibits its members as the most severe coercionists who have ever been connected with any Parliament. Indeed, the whole system of the Labour party to-day is founded on compulsion and coercion. Its former ideals have been entirely swept aside, and instead of freedom a system of intimidation has been set up. The Labour party in the beginning stood for freedom and justice. To-day it is the party of tyranny and coercion. The honorable member for Brisbane stated - and I am quite in agreement with him - that ample provision should be made by the Commonwealth for the future of our returned soldiers. He affirmed that they should be given the first chance of occupying vacant positions in our Government
Service. I indorse that statement. Their services to the country entitle them to that recognition. But we know perfectly well that those honorable members were speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, because the very first question that would be put to a returned soldier, if he were an applicant for employment, would be, “ Are you a unionist?” If he does not belong to a union it is good-bye to his chance of securing any position. When honorable members opposite talk about the capitalists of Australia being represented by honorable members upon this side of the chamber, I would remind them that some of the wealthiest men in this Parliament are to be found amongst those who style themselves Labour representatives. I do not complain of that; good luck to them if they have acquired their wealth honestly; but the accusation comes with very bad grace from those honorable members who are continually girding at us as being the representatives of capitalists and of the wealth of the country, when we find that they have among their own ranks some of the wealthiest men to be found in this Parliament, or in the country.
– This side of the chamber is like Heaven. “ Room for all “ is written over the portal.
– But honorable members denounce wealth when it is enjoyed by any who do not bear the label of “ Labour “ on their foreheads. Once a man bears the label of “ Labour “ he can accumulate as much wealth as he chooses, become as big a monopolist or oppressor of labour as he likes, and everything is right; there is not a word of complaint against him. Let me pass away to another statement made by the honorable member for Adelaide. He talked about the bloated capitalist, and the dependence of the Liberal party on the support of the capitalists. He spoke of the wrongs that capitalists have inflicted on the workers of the community. I do not deny that there have been some whose methods I cannot approve, but are we to condemn all for tlie sins of a few? In all sections of the community - the wealthy class, as well as the labouring class - there are good and bad; but I believe that the proportion of good very strongly preponderates. Why, then, condemn the majority because of isolated instances of conditions that no man with humane feelings or with any sense of fairness or equity could tolerate? Honorable members on this side are ready to condemn that sort of tiling as fervidly, as earnestly, and as strongly as do honorable members on the other side, and honorable members opposite, have no justification for taking up their incorrect attitude. They are not justified by facts. All the legislation brought forward by the Liberal party is a complete refutation of the honorable member’s charge.
– The honorable member has made no suggestion in regard to the conscription of wealth that would be commensurate with the sacrifice of life.
– We have heard a lot of foolish talk about that matter. Had the honorable member been in the chamber he would have heard my statement as to the number of men in the community who are supposed to be among what he describes as the capitalistic class. If we divided the wealth they enjoy among the whole community the condition of the general masses would not be bettered to the extent of more than a few shillings per head.
– Then they need not be afraid of our taking their profits.
– I quite agree that abnormal profits should not be allowed to be made out of the war at the expense of the community.
– Or at any time.
– The question of what is an abnormal profit would open up too wide a field for economic discussion for the time at my disposal this afternoon, much as I would care to indulge in such an interesting debate; but I do say that those who are using the war to unduly swell their incomes and add to their banking accounts are fit subjects for the Government to tackle in order to secure money for the payment of the expenses of the war. People have no right to make use of a country’s need and peril as a means of unduly serving their own ends, and those who indulge in the principle of cornering food and the necessaries of life, more particularly in war time, should be treated as criminals and .punished; their illicit gains should be taken away from them, and their practices prohibited under the War Precautions Act or any other measure at the disposal of the Government, which is against the interests of the common weal. I have no sympathy with that kind of thing. We have only to put into execution the powers we already possess, and we can do all that is necessary in that regard. However, I do not go so far as some honorable members, and advocate the confiscation of the wealth of the community, where that wealth has been legitimately earned in the ordinary paths of commerce and industry.
– How much of the war profits would the honorable member take ?
– I would not object to the Government levying on the whole ‘ should urgent need arise, and that need may yet arise, if the war is unduly prolonged, but it has not yet arisen. I have not the slightest sympathy for those who place their private advantage before the safety of the nation, and, in doing so, make use of the nation’s peril for the purpose of feathering their own nests.
– They should be interned.
– They should be treated as enemies wherever they carry on that sort of business. The first consideration in time of war is the protection of our freedom and liberties, and when these are at stake, the first thought of every man should be, “ What can I do to help the Government in bringing the war to a successful issue ? “ and not, ‘ How much can I make out of the nation ‘s peril?” I have no sympathy with the mean, sordid, selfish, and unpatriotic attitude assumed bv those who make use of the country’s peril in order to earn undue profits. On the other hand, there are many who have responded most generously, and without any hesitation, with contributions to the various funds that have been promoted. Their actions, which should have due recognition, have been in contradistinction to those of others who, though equally well able to pay, have not come up to the scratch in the same way. As to the charge of the honorable member for Adelaide that the Liberal party is opposed to the people. I tell the honorable member that the Liberal party is the people’s party. It is the party which, from time immemorial, has been on the side of the people against the oppression of the wealthy and aristocratic who held the power in the Old Country in the old days, and against the tyranny and op pression of the privileged plutocratic classes.
– Do not make an election speech.
– The honorable member for Adelaide said that he did not intend to make a party speech.
– I said that what I would say would probably be taken as a party speech.
– The honorable member took good care that every line of his speech was choked up to the hilt with party matter and party attacks on this side. Every line of it wasladen with poison. Therefore, it is up to some of us to put the other side, and I propose to do so. I remind the honorable member that the very existence of the Liberal party was brought about by a revolt against the tyranny, the oppression, and the persecutions weilded bv theplutocratic party in the early days of the British Empire. The genesis of the Liberal party was the recognition of the right of the people to control their own public affairs - the recognition of equal rights to all in the community so far as the government of the country was concerned. The Liberal party fought against class distinctions and classprivileges, until,, one by one, they were gradually swept away. They may not be all swept away in theOld Country; but the party, when implanted here in Australia, was imbued with the same ideals and the same spirit of freedom and fairness. Let us see what it accomplished in New South Wales. Though the honorable member for Adelaide says that it has never accomplished anything that has ameliorated the position of the people, or assisted the people in any way, I may tell him that it wasthe Liberal party that was responsible for the abolition of the property qualification in connexion with the franchise in New South Wales. It inaugurated and carried to a successful conclusion the battle against votes for bricks and mortar. It introduced manhood suffrage, and, later, womanhood suffrage; the secrecy of the ballot, which, destroyed intimidation by employers and others; the eight-hours principle, and an alien immigration restriction law, in order to preserve a White Australia, SirHenry Parkes was the first Australian statesman to propose a Chinese Restriction Immigration Act. All along it was the
Liberal party which “blazed the track.” “Who will deny that these were the fundamental reforms which broadened the franchise and gave to the people a democratic form of government and absolute control of the Legislature? They have not got that power now; it has been destroyed since the present Labour party came into power. The Labour Government of to-day owes its allegiance to a Conference, self-constituted and unknown to the people, and which arrogates to itself the right to dictate the policy and administrative acts of the Government. It claims the right to rule members and the Government by a policy of intimidation, by withholding recognition of the claims of members for pre-selection unless they do as they are told. Where do the people come in? At no time in the history of the Empire have the people had less power in their hands than they have to-day under the existing Labour domination. All my sympathies are with the legitimate aims of Labour. No one can say that I am the “ curled darling “ of the aristocratic class. At elections I have to fight every inch of my way, and pay every farthing of my election expenses. No one proffers me a cheque to assist me in the electoral campaign, as is done in many cases to assist my political opponents. Admissions have been made by Ministers in a State Parliament that the Government could not take a certain course in the public interest, because it would offend a class which was very useful at election times in providing motor cars and other assistance to the Labour party. The trouble of the Liberals is to draw the people who are supposed to be supporting them from the comforts of their homes to the election booths. Honorable members opposite have not to contend with that problem. Scores of voluntary canvassers flock about their candidates. I do not begrudge them that support; I only wish that their narrow and selfish political creed were more worthy of it. What honorable members opposite need is a course of education in ‘ Democracy. The Treasurer read us a nice little homily on the need for economy, and with every word he said I am in accord. I regret, however, that, in his case, practice and precept do not harmonize. He had not proceeded far with his Budget statement before he un- folded a tremendous increase on the previous expenditure. In that connexion the honorable member for Wakefield and others showed how millions of pounds were being absolutely thrown away by the very Government the Treasurer of which enjoined upon us the urgent necessity for economy. The first thing for a Treasurer to do when he desires a community to practise economy is to set an example. The Budget is itself a monumental piece of extravagance and a practical contradiction of the Treasurer’s exhortation. We were told by honorable members how the estimate of £4,000,000 for the building of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway has been exceeded by nearly 100 per cent. It appears as if, before that railway is completed, the cost will be considerably over £8,000,000. Can anybody tell us what we are to get in return for that money?
– You might inquire of the last Liberal Treasurer, Sir John Forrest.
– He is not Treasurer to-day. All we know is that the Commonwealth is to be involved in an enormous annual deficit as a result of the abnormal expenditure in connexion with the railway. I do not object to the line if it is necessary for defence, but I do object to money being wasted in a wholesale fashion in the ways indicated by the honorable member for Wakefield. In connexion with the Federal Capital site, also, there is plenty of scope for the wise and economical expenditure of money in providing remunerative employment on works which will be revenue-producing. I do not object to expenditure, however great, so long as it can be shown to be necessary, that it is being economically supervised, that it will result in some permanent benefit to the country, and that it will yield a return on the capital cost. Such expenditure is consistent with economy, but there is no economy in building wild-cat railways here, there, and everywhere, simply to provide jobs for men, irrespective of whether those jobs are necessary or not. Unfortunately, all the money to be voted on these Estimates has been spent, and any protest we make will be futile to check the extravagant expenditure which has taken place during the last twelve months. Under this system of carrying on for the greater part of the year on temporary
Supply Bills, Parliament lias absolutely no control of expenditure. One would think that the Treasurer could produce his Budget and Estimates during the first three months after the commencement of the financial year, as is done in the British Parliament, so as to give the House an early opportunity of carefully scanning the proposals and exercising that* proper supervision over suggested expenditure which is expected of honorable members as representatives of the taxpayers. But until within a few weeks of the close of the financial year we had no Budget. The Government came forward from time to time with temporary Supply Bills, and we were assured that their quick passage was necessary for the payment of the salaries of the Public Service, and that other proposed expenditure was only in connexion with works that had been already authorized. That continued from month to month, and we had no option but to pass them, or, by withholding them, run the risk of being accused of denying the civil servants their pay. At the tail end of the year, when all the money has been spent, the Treasurer brings forward his Budget and makes an elaborate speech about what is proposed to be done when everything has already been done. We are informed now that the discussion on the Budget, or the Estimates, is of no use, because the money has all been spent, and that if we were to talk until Doomsday Ave could not get it back again. That is our system of administration under Labour’s extravagant rule; and, although we are supposed to be a Parliament, having, as custodians of the public taxpayer, the right of control over the expenditure of his money, we are, as a matter of fact, powerless so far as expenditure is concerned. So far as I can see, the Caucus is the only power under a Labour Government that can regulate expenditure. What of the people’s representatives? Apparently they have no voice, once the matter has been decided in a little room upstairs. There may have been only fifteen members present at the Caucus meeting, but we have to bow to their decision. At the same time, as I say, we are supposed to be a Democratic community with a constitutional Democratic Government, made up of the people’s representatives, with power to control the public purse and see that the revenue from taxation i3 wisely and judiciously spent. This, however, is one of the hallucinations which we are apt to hug fondly to our breasts. We were told, in connexion with the Federal Capital, that several roads have been made and enclosed, together with the adjoining lands, with rabbit-proof wire fencing. It was, I think, the Postmaster-General himself who told us about this ; and I understand that four different roads are guarded by gates, each in charge of a man. I am further credibly informed that the average number of times these gates have to be opened and shut is two or three a week, though, of course, in the case of one of the gates it may be once or twice in a day. While the Treasurer talks about the necessity of practising economy we are informed by another Minister that four men have been appointed to look after these gates at a wage of 9s. or 10s. a day.
– I did not speak as to the pay.
– No; but I believe that is the remuneration paid to these men to keep the rabbits out. Would not powerful springs on the gates prove more effective and less expensive?
– No; not for vermin-proof gates.
– An automatic device could be used for the gates. At any rate, here, it seems to me, is one direction in which a little economy might be practised.
– In South Australia there is a severe penalty for any one who leaves such a gate open.
– It ought to be an obligation on every one to shut the gate.
– I have had to open gates of the kind hundreds of times when electioneering.
– And so have I. At all events, this furnishes another example of the kind of economy which is practised by this economypreaching Government. I saw in the newspapers last week that, according to the “ Supplement to the Victorian Weekly List of Mail Notices, &c,” issued by the .Postmaster-General’s Department on the 15th May, there appeared the following: -
Officers are requested to turn the sheets of letters and use the backs as well as the fronts where the thicker paper is used, during this period of paper shortage. Ruled paper should not be used where plain paper will serve. The controller of stores should be requested not to issue expensive paper hereafter.
The point pf the joke is that this very notice was printed only on one side of the paper, and there were eight blank sheets in the publication.
– The honorable member missed the reply to that newspaper paragraph. You have fallen in like the Argus,
– I am sorry to have missed the reply, but I give the authority for the statement. This is one of the humours of the situation, though it may be there are other circumstances of which I am ignorant, and if I have done the Postmaster-General an injustice I am sorry. There are, however, many cases of extravagance in this Department which I could point out, if time permitted.
– The notice issued has to be cut up by the officers for reference purposes. It has to be issued in that form, and could not otherwise effect a saving.
– However, these are only a few directions in which I think economy might be practised. Of course, it is too late this year, but when the Treasurer is preparing his next Estimates, I hope that he will take to heart the little homily he delivered to the Committee tlie other day, and make practice conform to precept. I now wish to refer to another matter concerning the Postmaster-General. I understand that there is a proposal to increase the rate of postage on newspapers from Id. for 20 ounces to Id. for 10 ounces; and I ask the Postmaster-General, before he takes any action, to carefully consider what may be the possible effect of a regulation of the kind.
– It will not be done by regulation, but by amendment of the Act.
– Well, before anything is done I ask the honorable gentleman to take into consideration the immense services that the newspapers render to the people living in the coun try, not only in the dissemination of news relating to Australia and all parts of the country, but particularly, at the present time, in connexion with matters affecting the defence of the Empire.
– The old story - make everybody exercise economy but myself !
– Newspapers are great public educators.
– It costs the Department £2 10s. for every £1 received for carrying newspapers.
– But has the Postmaster-General considered the corresponding advantages which the whole community enjoy as the result of cheap postage for newspapers?
– The honorable member, I am sure, would not argue that all newspapers should be allowed to go through the post on such terms.
– I suppose a great deal depends on the character of tlie newspapers, some of which may be a positive public danger; but I do not understand that the Postmaster-General proposes to exercise any discrimination in the application of the increased rate-. If it were so, there would be some point in his observation, but otherwise there is not.
– It is a very delicate question.
– The honorable member for Echuca, who is preparing for his departure to England, has asked me to bring before the House a phase of the question I have just raised. In a newspaper called the Irrigator, attention is called to the fact that it has, in common with many other similar publications, opened its columns free to double-column advertisements in some instances, in connexion with war appeals, and so forth, which the Government have requested shall be circulated as widely as possible. This, I take it, is a great offset to any advantage country newspapers may obtain from any little concession in regard to the postage.
– Little concession ! It costs the Department £2 10s. to earn £1, and I am asked to economize !
– I ask the Postmaster-General to consider whether, if all these public announcements had to be paid for, the amount would not exceed that represented by the advantage gained by the newspapers with the present rate of postage? It is pointed out, further, that this proposed increase will be really a tax on the newspaper proprietors themselves, since they cannot pass it on to their customers, and in a great many instances it may result in some of the less financially staple publications having to cease, and several men being thrown out of employment. I hope that, while there is yet time, the Postmaster-General will look into this matter, and, if possible, meet the suggestions made by the newspaper proprietors, in view of the value of -these publications in the circulation of parliamentary, war, and international, as well as local, news.
– I could understand the honorable member if the newspapers published parliamentary and electioneering -advertisements free.
– I am -afraid the newspapers will not do that, because politicians are always regarded as “fair game” by those who desire to get at their pockets.
– What about Government advertisements ?
– No -doubt these newspapers get some Government advertisements; but I understand that many have, as I say, given advertising space for recruiting schemes, and so forth.
– They have been glad to fill up the space.
– That is rather an ungenerous view, because instances come under my notice where much news has had to be shut out in consequence of these free advertisements. Not only is the suggestion ungenerous, but I should say that it is inaccurate.
– The newspapers have rendered some service in that direction.
– And whatever our prejudices or political feelings may be, such services on the part of newspapers should be recognised, just as much as are services on the part of any other section of the community, especially at a time like this. I now desire to refer to the appointment of an electrical engineer at Adelaide. A good deal of dissatisfaction exists among the electrical engineers in our Public Service on account of that appointment, and the manner in which ?t was made. They claim that in filling vacancies of this kind there should be a test examination conducted upon certain defined lines. They affirm that the incentive to qualify will be entirely de stroyed if Ministers persist in importing persons from the Old Country to fill responsible positions in our Commonwealth Service. I understand that there are men in the Service to-day who, if given equal opportunity for acquiring information, could fill such offices equally well, and who would further have the advantage of an intimate acquaintance with existing local conditions.
– They all had the same chance. I gave them everything that they wanted, and now they are not satisfied because they were not successful.
– It is true that they were subjected to an examination, but they hold that, it was not a reasonable examination. As a matter of fact, they declared that it was a faked examination, and that it was designed to unduly favour the imported officer, and so to justify his appointment.
– I can assure the honorable member that there is not an atom of truth in that statement.
– At any rate, in future appointments of this kind, I ask that Ministers shall pay due regard to the fact that a number of young officers in the Service are enthusiastic in their profession, are anxious to acquire all the knowledge that they possibly can with a view to securing advancement, and are endeavouring to do so in many cases’ at their own expense. I think that in filling similar vacancies hereafter, a reasonable, time should be allowed to officers in the Service to qualify; that they should be notified of the nature of the examination to which they will be subjected, and of the subjects in which they will be examined.
– That is never done.
-I know that when I was desirous of obtaining a second mate’s certificate after I had served my time as a midshipman, I had to undergo a course of special study in navigation, and I knew exactly the subjects in which I would be examined.
– A syllabus is always issued.
– There is a good deal of dissatisfaction amongst officers at the present time, and I think that we should endeavour to avoid that wherever it is possible to do so. Every opportunity should be given .to men to qualify for the higher positions in our Public Service.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat made a violent attack upon the Labour party because its members are pledged to respect their promises. May I remind him that the pledge of the Labour party was made stronger at the time of which he spoke, chiefly because politicians of that day had shown themselves to be so remarkably shifty. Very few men who know me will accuse me of being a pessimist. But I have to confess that of late I have become so chastened in spirit that the greatest pessimist on earth is a veritable optimist compared with me. I am disappointed with the Government more than I am disappointed with the Opposition, and the press of Australia is anathema to me. The worst offender, to my mind, is the press.
– The Age.
– Yes. It makes no attempt to give the Labour party a fair deal. Let me point to its attitude upon the subject of Protection. And here let me say that I have practically abandoned all hope of ever being able to secure the establishment of a policy of true Protection in Australia - a policy under which our industries will flourish. When the Labour Government assumed office, they dealt with the Tariff to a certain extent. They attempted to remedy anomalies. We accepted what they offered us. It was very good so far as it went, but there was more mustard in it than beef. We hoped that that small instalment of Tariff reform was merely the precursor of a more comprehensive measure of relief. But the war broke out, and so nothing was done. Then, last year, the matter was further hung up. Personally, I had hoped to see the Tariff substantially amended, especially if this Parliament had been clothed, as I anticipated it would be, with the necessary powers to prevent the public from being exploited. But suddenly there arose from the Opposition benches a cry that the situation of the Empire, on account of the war, was soacute that the matter of Tariff reform must again be left in abeyance. To my great horror, the Age newspaper vigorously supported that view. So the Government at last decided to drop that question. To-day we occupy an exactly similar position. Yet the very newspaper which, in season and out of season last year, assured us that we ought to drop the Tariff, is now daily informing us that we should immediately deal with it. Week after week it has the audacity to condemn the Government for not doing to-day what it declared ought not to be done last year. I say that that journal is not giving the Labour party a square deal. When the proposal was made to drop the Tariff last year, and I objected, I recollect that four honorable members of this Chamber flashed the Aye newspaper in my face, and said, “ Why, your own Bible says that it ought to be dropped.” I hope that the Government will consider this question, and do something before it is too late. I quite recognise the difficulties of the situation. Recently I introduced several deputations to the Minister of Trade and Customs - deputations which asked for the imposition of higher duties on certain commodities. I am sorry to say that in every instance the case for those higher duties was badly presented. One of the reasons frequently urged in favour of a larger measure of Protection being accorded to Australian industries is that the wages paid in other countries are so much less than those which are paid here. But whenever that contention has been nut forward, the Minister of Trade and Customs has been able to show that the duty which is now operative is 50 per cent, more than the margin between the wages which are paid here and those which are paid in other countries.
– I gave the manufacturers* own figures as to wages.
– While I should like to condemn the honorable gentleman for putting the thing in that nasty way, I have to admit that it is true. In the circumstances, we are faced with two alternatives : We must, irrespective of the profits of the manufacturer, place the duty so high as to prohibit the importation of certain commodities, or we must obtain from the people the power to prevent the local manufacturer exploiting the public if he is given the advantage of a high protective duty. If there is evidence that this Parliament is not to be given that power, then we must adopt some form of Protection for the encouragement of Australian industries to a greater extent than they are encouraged under the existing Tariff. I am quite aware that in many industries the local manufacturers are at present making big money, and especially those who are manufacturing goods required by the Defence Department. Of course, we may deal with them in another way, to which I shall refer later. It could, I think, be shown that even if we had higher duties on some commodities they would be of little advantage at the present time, because the local factories engaged in their production are working up to their full capacity. This may be said of those engaged in the textile industry, as, although their output is greater than it ever was before, they are unable to supply the demands of the Defence Department. I hope that the war will have a speedy ending, but when itis brought to a close we must be prepared in Australia with some means by which we can immediately prevent our market being glutted by imported goods. It is believed by many that that is a risk which we shall have to face. I do not know how it has been possible, since all German factories would appear to have been engaged in making supplies to carry on the war, but we are told that Germany has stored up to-day commodities to the value of £300,000,000 for exportation after the war. If there be any truth in that statement, we should have some means, by a proclamation or otherwise, to prevent those goods being dumped in Australia. It has to be borne in mind that the application of the Tariff at the present time would not have the same effect as its application in normal times. We know that, ordinarily, when it is anticipated that the Customs duties will be increased, importers stock their warehouses with large importations of the goods in which they deal. Under existing conditions, that kind of thing cannot be done. We know that manufactures in America and Japan have increased enormously in volume, but it takes manufacturers in those countries all their time to meet the European demand. I suggest to the Government that we have an opportunity this year to formulate a higher Tariff than we have now ; and it might be left to them to apply it by proclamation at any date they think fit, in order to prevent the dumping of imported goods in Australia. It is of no use to wait until next year to consider this question. It should be considered now. We are again approaching the middle of the year, and we ought to consider the question now, instead of waiting until the Prime Minister comes back. I am one of those who believed that in the interests of Australia it was necessary that the Prime Minister should visit the Old Country, for reasons known to Ministers and to honorable members, but which cannot be disclosed. I assume that he will acquire a great deal of information which he would like £o present to this House, and I can quite understand that the facilities of cable communication would not be sufficient for his purpose. I admit all that; but I still think that we might very well consider now how much higher protection should be afforded by our Tariff to secure, the manufacture of commodities here. To give a case in point, I may mention that the Minister for the Navy found it necessary some time ago to call tenders for the supply of certain engines. There was some controversy as to which were the better, reciprocating engines or turbine engines, and the tenders were called to cover both. I understand that there is no private firm in Australia that possesses the right to manufacture turbine engines, but the Federal Government have that right. I believe that at Cockatoo Island turbine engines of small power are being manufactured by the Government. If they have acquired the right, I see nothing to prevent them granting the right to a private firm to manufacture such engines for the Government. I cannot pretend to say whether turbine engines are necessary for the purpose the Minister for the Navy had in view; but engineers have told me that reciprocating engines are as good as turbine engines for that purpose. I believe there was a difference of opinion on the matter in the N”aval Department, and, while tenders to cover both were called, it was subsequently decided to use turbine engines only, and there was no tender for such engines submitted by any Australian manufacturer. Even then, there was some trouble because one firm .submitted a tender for the supply of reciprocating engines at a price 70 per cent, higher than that quoted for similar engines by an oversea tenderer. The Minister has decided that, while he is quite willing to allow a big difference between the price of engines manufactured in Australia and in the Old Country, he is not willing to concede to the local manufacturer an increase of 70 per cent, on the price of the imported article. That brings us to the question: “Are we Protectionists, or are we not? Can we by legislation prevent the exploitation of the public by a local manufacturer if he is given an increase of 70 per cent. beyond the price quoted by a British manufacturer for the same article?”
– It is very hard to do so.
– The honorable member for Balaclava says that it is very hard to do so; and I am aware that he has been in a responsible position in this State, and, as State Treasurer, has, no doubt, very often been called upon to consider whether he should make allowance for a big difference in price between an Australian and a British tender. If we are desirous of being a selfcontained country we ought to be prepared to go as high as 70 per cent. if it is a fair charge.
– A great deal depends on the article required, and on whether it is likely to lead to a large consumption.
– Exactly ; but while for years we have been endeavouring to build up big industries, and capitalists have put money into many concerns, I am sorry to say that there are few establishments which have the up-to-date machinery for the building of engines. We can never be much of an industrial nation if we cannot manufacture our own engines and machinery. I believe that there are a few articles which it will not be possible for us to manufacture. Masters of engineering establishments have told me that it does not pay them to manufacture certain of the tools they employ - I make this admission with sorrow - and the contention of those engaged in textile manufactures, or in the mining industry, is that the placing of Customs duties on machinery increases the cost of working, or makes it impossible to mine low-grade ores. In the circumstances, we must consider whether it is worth while imposing high duties on these articles, yet that is how the Americans and Germans have built up their industries. Sixty or seventy years ago, when the question of Protection or Free Trade was being fought in the Old Country, the British manufacturer conceived the idea that if his workmen could live cheaply they could work cheaply. Great Britain, therefore, opened its ports to the introduction of all food commodities so that men could live cheaply and produce cheaply, and in this way the British manufacturers collared the markets of the world until the American and German Governments got to work, and by means of Protection and subsidies built up systems by means of which they were able to beat the British in their own markets. What was done in America and Germany can be done here if the people are only sufficiently determined. I do not know whether our Government intend to do anything in this direction, but the point is well worth considering, and I trust that when they again bring forward the Tariff they will not allow the Opposition to damp their ardour and cause the whole thing to be wiped out. Those engaged in the manufacture of machinery are dissatisfied with the decision of the Minister for the Navy. TheGovernment will have to consider seriously whether in the interest of the industries of Australia they cannot go even as far as a difference of 70 per cent. between the price here and the price in the Old World. Much could be said on the question of Protection, but action is necessary now, for when the Tariff is under discussion we must have differences of opinion in the Chamber, and protracted debates. We have more time now, and I hope that the Government will consider the matter. Those who have made a study of political economics, especially extreme Socialists, say that our present uncivilized condition is due to the fact that men hunger after profits, and seek a life of affluence, while others have to go in want of the necessaries of life. The Conservative says that if a man buys a table for 6s. 6d., when his wages are at a certain rate, and the cost of the table increases to 8s. 6d. when his wages rise, the rise of wages is useless. The extreme Socialists say exactly the same; they say that the raising of wages is useless because the exploiters immediately raise the cost of living.
– That is not quite the argument that some of them use.
– It is near enough. I would rather live in a country where wages are high and the cost ofliving is high than in a country where wages are low and the cost of living is low. But there is much truth in the argument of the Conservative and extreme Socialist. The British Government were silly enough to take only 50 per cent. of warprofits, and I hope our Government will not fall into the same trap. According to the figures published in the press, the White Star Line last year, after paying the 50 per cent, war profits tax, paid a dividend of 65 per cent., and passed huge amounts to depreciation and reserve funds, which could easily mean 35 per cent, more, so that practically they paid 50 per cent, to the Government, and made 100 per cent, themselves. If the Government had taken 100 per cent., there would have been no inducement for these damned scoundrels to charge so much in the future. Men of this kind boast of their patriotism, while they are robbing, not only the people, but their own Empire, of which they talk with a big “ E.”
– The suggestion of the honorable member for Bourke that the British Government ought to have taken all the shipping at cost price and used it during the war was a good one.
– That certainly would have been done if the British Government had been working in the interest of the people. It is the piling up of profits, and the taking of abnormal interest on money invested, that has made the position such as it is to-day. The only way to stop it is to take the whole of the war profits, and I trust that course will be followed here. As regards pensions, those paid in Great Britain before the Crimean War were almost nil. After that war a special pension was paid, which was somewhat of an improvement, in the case of soldiers’ widows. After the Indian Mutiny there was another slight improvement, so that a widow with three children was allowed to draw the munificent sum of 4s. 8d. per week, or 8d. per day ! A man who had lost two arms was allowed ls. 4d. a day. War pensions have been increased above that figure in the Old Country, and I trust they will be still further raised. The Government of the Commonwealth will, I sincerely hope, see their way clear to make better provision in this direction than is contained in the Bill submitted to this Chamber last night. Many members of the Labour party do not like the word “conscription,” and the honorable member for Batman said that the introduction of conscription would be a stain on the escutcheon of Democracy. Others think it would be a shame to abandon our grand voluntary system for this terrible principle of compulsion. My reason for opposing conscription is quite different. I oppose it be- cause conscription to send our men to the front means industrial conscription also. That is why there is such a howl from the Conservative section of the community and the Conservative press for the system. They know we are doing our full share, and will continue to do it, and that we could do no more if we wanted to; but they want conscription to enable them to get their heel on the neck of the men who have the effrontery to strike to better their conditions. I am asked why I am afraid of conscription while a Government which I support is in power; but the Government could do as they liked if backed up by the Opposition, in spite of the objections of men on this side, if such a thing was necessary, and I believe the Opposition would do it. If we had conscription to-morrow, we could not possibly send away every available young man, because they would be needed in our industrial establishments and on the farms, wharfs, ships, and railways. If. while conscription was in force, they dared to strike, it would be easy for the Government to say, “ As you are not working we shall conscript and enlist you.” I am positive that is what would take place. How did the British Government get men into the army in past wars ? By closing down the manufactories, throwing men out of work, and then sending the recruiting sergeant along, and allowing a lavish consumption of beer. I am the descendant of a family whose men for seven generations were in the British Army. My father enlisted during the Crimean War, he, in common with thousands of others, being forced into the ranks through the industrial life being thrown into disorder.
– That was under voluntaryism.
– Hunger conscription.
– And you are supporting this system here.
– That remark is too contemptible to answer. A good deal has been said during the last few days of the recent secret meeting of Parliament. The Government made a mistake in holding that meeting. There has been just as much party matter introduced into the debates since that meeting as before. I am sorry that the meeting was held, because, what the Government told us was so apparent that one could have mentioned it in the House if we had not been told it in confidence. One has only to listen to the man in the street, and he can hear expressed the very reasons which were stated to us a few nights ago. The members of the Opposition who are advocating conscription know as well a3 we do the position that obtained, and what can and cannot be done. But the fact is that prior to the re-assembling of the House, they had been building up a plan to defeat the Government by a cry of conscription versus voluntaryism.’ To a certain degree the secret meeting at which the Government took th«m into .their confidence took the wind out of their sails, but that did not prevent them attacking the Government just as strongly as if the meeting had never been held.
– Who attacked the Government?
– I have heard nothing else but attacks by the Opposition because the Government will not adopt conscription.
– We have been urging the Government to adopt conscription.
– Does not the honorable member know that that policy is supported by thousands of those who placed the Government in power?
– Very likely; but it is also a fact that thousands of Liberal supporters are opposed to it. Conscription is.. not a party question, but the Opposition are doing their best to make it one. I would agree to conscription of men if we had conscription of wealth, but my idea of conscription of wealth is that if men are to be compelled to fight, we should compel the rich men to spread their wealth amongst the people. If the people owned the wealth, and refused to fight for it, I would take it away from them, but until they do own the wealth, we have no right to compel them to fight for it. After all, the war is only a fight for wealth ; it is not a fight for life. The Germans are determined to command the industrial world. They are looking for “ fresh fields and pastures new,” which they as a nation can exploit. In my opinion they were idiots to precipitate this war. If they had waited a while- they -would have conquered the world industrially. They were acquiring commercial supremacy so rapidly that in another ten years they would have been supreme, unless the other nations woke up in the meantime. At any rate, the war was caused by a desire to grab wealth. Therefore, it is wealth we ought to sacrifice and not life. As the people do not own the wealth, and those who are howling loudest for conscription do own it, I object to the conscription of men, because that system would be used to defeat the workers who are trying to better their industrial conditions. They are trying to make secure the industrial conditions they enjoy and to better them so that their brothers at the front may have the benefit when they return. If the workers do not fight for their rights their adversaries will encroach on them and make their conditions worse than they were before the war. I. predict that a few months after the war terminates the glorious record of our armies will be forgotten, the commercial magnates will stretch out their hands and cry like the horse-leech’s daughter for more and more, and the- men who bled in the trenches will be exploited in the future as in. the past, in spite of their sacrifices. The honorable member for Balaclava knows that the industrial fight will continue after the war.
– Commercialism is not all bad. It has done a lot of good.
– Yes; but it ought, to be civilized. In Australia we have a higher state of civilization than has any other country in the world, but that is no reason why we should be satisfied with it. There should’ be a desire to improve our present conditions. Our country is as good as any other, and, well managed, it will give more to its people; but it will not be preserved for the people if we lose sight of the fact that we have still to fight “brother fat” after the war. I have heard men say that only those who would be consented should have the right to vote for or against conscription. That is foolish, because it might be argued that only land-owners should have a vote on the question of a land tax. We know what would happen then, and what chance we would have of getting a land tax put on. It is a disgrace that, the Government of the United Kingdom, which passed an Act to bring about compulsory enlistment, have notgiven the people the vote. Under- the British system many men cannot acquire the vote - though many of them do by telling lies, saying that they are paying 5s. a week to their fathers when, as a matter of fact, they are only paying ordinary board. The franchise of the Mother Country is a disgrace to any democratic country. It is a marvel to me how the Britishers have enlisted, seeing that they have no power to influence the government of their country.
– Love of country dominated them.
– Yes, I .am aware of that; but it is a disgrace that those men who are fighting for their country have no power to say what should be done by. the Legislature.
– If they made up their minds they could get the vote.
– I disagree entirely with the honorable member. Adult franchise can only be obtained with the approval of a majority in both Houses of Parliament, and tlie only way to secure that approval is by sending to Parliament men who are desirous of widening the franchise.
– The workers could pack the whole constituencies of London. Any one who knows anything about electioneering in England knows that. They hold the key of the situation.
– I do not think so. Suffice it to say that the workers of England have not got the franchise, and have no say in moulding the destinies of the British Empire, though they are being forced to fight for the wealth of the country.
– There is no analogy between the position in Great Britain and the position here.
– The honorable member can see no analogy in anything if he does not want to.
– But those men are only incidentally fighting for the wealth of the country. They are fighting against the worse conditions in other countries.
– I agree with the right honorable gentleman that the love of country is the inducement they feel to fight, but the country is not so lovable as it ought to be. We have a King, of course, but. ours is a limited monarchy, and the King does not rule. The voters in England are the rulers, but, unfortunately, the franchise is not as democratic as it ought to be. The position is very much the same here, and, for the purpose of my argument, I will quote the situation in Victoria. In this State the real power is vested in the Legislative Council, for which men are refused a vote unless they possess certain qualifications.
– The honorable member is not serious about that, surely.
– The honorable member knows as well as I do that in the Parliament of Victoria we have not those powers which even he would desire.
– I would widen the franchise, it is true, but that would not make much difference.
– I repeat that the people of Victoria do not possess the power they are entitled to for their own protection.
– Whose fault was that1? They had an opportunity to obtain wider powers, and they turned it down.
– Nobody regretted that more than I did, but I do not feel spiteful against them, nor do I say that they deserve it. As a matter of fact, in this movement there are men who are harassing and abusing the Government at every opportunity. The only way to cure them would be to hand them over to the tender mercies of the Opposition for a while.
– You have said stronger things against the Government than the Opposition. You would not trust them with, the power of conscription.
– Although the people turned down the opportunity they had to obtain wider powers, there were reasons for their action. The press of the country then was strong enough to beat the platform, but the time will come” when the platform will beat the press. The average working man here has no. power to mould his own destiny, and,, from that point of view, conscriptionwould be unfair. He might be told, of course, that conscription would be the action of the Federal Parliament, for which he has a vote ; but, as we all know, the powers of the Federal Parliament are limited.
– Not in this respect.
– The honorable member for Balaclava knows that if we had a fair representation of the people in the constituencies, instead of having eighteen representatives in the State
Parliament, we would have about twentyeight, because some of the metropolitan constituencies are as large as three of the country electorates, though their representation is the same. But, supposing that, by a chapter of accidents, we secured a majority of Labour men in the Legislative Assembly in Victoria, the power would still be in the hands of the Legislative Council. The honorable member for Balaclava realized that fact when he led the Liberal Government, and he had to threaten the Legislative Council before he could get anything placed on the statute-book.
– We got what we wanted on the statute-book.
– It is notorious that industrial legislation is always being turned down in the Victorian Legislative Council, and I maintain that until the people have real control, there should be no conscription. Thus we arrive at the question of th’e parliamentary vote for women. We all remember the trouble at Home with the women who aspire to vote, and how we were told by British politicians that women are useless in the political, world. I have heard men ask why women should vote when they cannot fight; but to-day the women of the world are filling positions equally dangerous with those filled by men. I understand that in the production of munitions in England alone 300,000 women are employed; and yet we hear people say that women can produce nothing for the defence of the country, and, therefore, should not have votes.
– Unfortunately, a large number of Labour men are opposed to the franchise to women.
– I know that, but, in my opinion, the question has passed the stage of argument. Those who have to obey the laws have th’e right to assist in making them ; and that is why I contend that a universal adult franchise is the basis of Democracy.
– We have it here.
– We have not, because the powers of this Parliament are limited.
– Adult suffrage is provided for in the Constitution.
– We in this Parliament cannot control our destiny. The Legislative Council of Victoria moulds the destiny of every man and woman in the State.
– It must be a benevolent despotism, because we are reasonably happy, are we not?
– Before we dropped the referenda proposals I understand that the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Balaclava, in consultation with Sir Alexander Peacock, came to a certain understanding. I believe that when Sir Alexander Peacock made that compact it was his intention to carry it out, and that he did that so far as he could. I have heard Mr. Fisher say that Sir Alexander Peacock, although opposed to the Labour party, was one of the Premiers with whom he could deal and treat better than others. We may not agree politically with Sir Alexander Peacock, but we all like him personally; and, as I say, he did keep the compact as far as he could. Further, I understand that Mr. Hagelthorn, or some other member of the Legislative Council, was of the opinion that the proposals then made would be accepted by that Chamber.
– That was so.
– But what took place? This Parliament has not the powers that we desire, and which I believe the people would desire if they could see as far as their noses, and were not led astray; and yet, after all our trouble, we dropped the referenda and handed ourselves over to the tender mercies of the Legislative Council of Victoria. And how did that Chamber treat us? The legislation then proposed would have been in operation now if the Legislative Council of Victoria had kept the compact.
– Allow me to join issue with you. Where the thing fell through was in the Assembly, and not in the Council, where there was a majority to pass it.
– The Speaker in the Assembly ruled the proposals out of order.
– Apart from that, the Ministerial party in the Legislative Assembly absolutely refused to proceed with the measure in their House.
– There was a majority in the Assembly, and I do not know who “ sold “ us.
– According to the Speaker, there was not a constitutional majority.
– It was not a matter of “ selling,” but a stampede of the Ministerial party in the Lower House.
– The information I have is that in the Legislative Council there was no chance of passing the measure.
– That is not correct.
– The honorable member for Balaclava is correct; a number of the men behind Sir Alexander Peacock are frauds.
– The failure was in the Lower House.
– That, I understand, is correct because of the ruling of the Speaker; but previous to that the information abroad was that there was not the necessary majority in the Legislative Council. In any case, the Legislative Assembly is returned on a franchise that is not broad ; at any rate, the representation is not fair.
– The franchise is the same as in the Commonwealth.
– No, it is not.
– It is universal suffrage.
– But under certain circumstances a person may exercise two votes.
– If the person likes to exercise an option, but it is very seldom done.
– It may be undemocratic, but I would prefer a nominee Legislative Council like that of New South Wales to an elective Chamber like that in Victoria. Strangely enough, the nominee Chamber is the more democratic, because, under certain circumstances, and with certain constitutional limitations, the Legislative Assembly may take such action as will insure the passing of desired legislation. Until the conditions are equalized, I am against military conscription, especially as we know that the desire of the Conservative press is also to have industrial conscription. I now wish to say a few words on alcohol. I listened, as I always do, with pleasure to the honorable member for Brisbane, because, when he is talking about alcohol, his accent is much pleasanter. The other day he spoke of the reluctance of the mothers of Australia to allow their sons to enlist because of the existence of a canteen at the camp in Egypt. But anybody who has had any association with the British Army will recognise that a well-regulated canteen is better than no canteen at all. When I was a lad in Colombo there were two military barracks there. One of these was occupied by infantry and the other by artillery. In both places there was a canteen at which there was a man in charge, who was assisted by two other men. I recollect one occasion upon which a soldier walked up to the counter of the canteen with a big pot, banged it on the table, and said, “ Gunner, another pot.” The gunner in charge looked at him, and replied, “ Walsh, you have had enough.” Thereupon, Walsh called him so-and-so, and asked what he had to do with the matter. The gunner quietly turned round, and calling to the sergeant, said, “ Sergeant, Walsh has abused me because I told him that he had had enough.” “All right,” replied the sergeant, “he will get no more for a month.” Walsh was so disturbed by this announcement that he answered, “ Sergeant, I did not abuse Corrigan. I merely took exception to his action.” The sergeant replied, “Very well, if you apologize you will get off with a fortnight.” That was the way in which the canteens were managed there.
– Could the man not get drink outside?
– No, People outside were not allowed to serve soldiers with drink. Occasionally when men went out of barracks they used to buy toddy and arrac from the natives. But it was a case of God help them if they got drunk outside. In such circumstances they would get six months inside the barracks without drink. In other words, the authorities kept the men sober in the interests of the community. But here the Minister of Defence and the Government, backed up by the honorable member for Brisbane, are perpetrating crimes day after day by preventing the establishment of canteens in our camps, when by adopting a common-sense policy, the consumption of liquor by the troops could be regulated. What takes place in our military camps ? I deny that the Australian youth is a drunkard. It is not the young men in our camps who transgress the rules of sobriety, but the men who are between thirty and forty years of age. They are not allowed to obtain liquor there, and they get out of camp as often as possible in order to obtain it. The solution of this problem is to be found in the establishment of a canteen at each camp.
– Why not have a dry canteen all over the country?
– That is where the intemperance of the temperance man comes in. Because his palate has not acquired a taste for the elixir of life, he would prevent everybody else in the community from obtaining liquor. When the honorable member for Brisbane condemns the authorities in Egypt for having established a canteen there, be forgets that drunkenness amongst the troops was infinitely worse before that canteen came into existence. Sensible men, in spite of the fanatic from Brisbane, are desirous of keeping the soldiers in the condition in which they ought to be kept.
– Order ! If the honorable member addressed that remark to a member of this Committee it is distinctly out of .order.
– I do not object to it.
– Instead of the honorable member for Brisbane, and those who think with him, condemning the presence of canteens in military camps, they ought to laud them. If ray friends wish to prevent drunkenness, they will regulate drinking, and will not attempt to prohibit it. I hope that by an amending Bill introduced during this short session, or by some regulation,, an effort will be made to alter the operation of the War Precautions Act. The Government under that Act have imprisoned a man named Barker. I admit that his cartoon and article were silly in the extreme. They were so silly that there was no need to put the War Precautions Act into operation against him. No one read his newspaper.
– What is the name of it?
– I think it is called Direct Action. This man and the cause he advocated were known only to his own small circle; but he has now been made a martyr, himself and his newspaper have been advertised, and, as a result, he may possibly secure some adherents. It is true of other movements, as it was of Christianity, that persecution . increases the number of their adherents. This man Barker was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment; and 1 say that the man who gave him that sentence, and the Government who are behind its imposition, are as silly as the man who received the sentence.
– Will the honorable member permit me to agree with him this time ?
– There are many occasions upon which the honorable member and I agree. Then there is the case of a mau named Scurry, who also cameunder the operation of the Act. He was in the habit of giving addresses to hia own little circle. He did not force people to go into his hall and listen to his addresses. Some people describe this man and those who agree with him as cranks. Before the war I agreed with these people, and talked peace to the world. After the war is concluded I shall probably again talk peace. It is only hecause I recognise what is involved in this war that I have for the time being ceased” to be an anti-militarist and to talk peace. There are many people who believe that it is just as well to keep theidea of the brotherhood of man and universal peace alive, and they meet to exchange their views. I want to know how anything these people say can interfere with the prosecution of the war. It issilly to prosecute them ; and I wonder why the police take action, why magistrates sentence them, and why the Commonwealth Government allow them to remain in prison for one day. Let me refer now to the people who address gatherings on the Yarra bank. There is a piece of ground handy to the Alexandra Avenue where these people used to congregate; but, under a regulation, the gatherings were prevented. They now take place in a locality which is quite isolated, and no one attends them but those who wish to hear what the speakers have to say. Ho one is compelled in any way to listen to them. It all depends upon the turn of a man’s mind whether he will attend these gatherings or not. If he is a devout Christian, he may go to the Yarra bank to hear Christian exhortations. If he holds other views, he may go to hear the anti-militarists, the advocates of peace, the dynamitards, or “Chummy” Fleming. Many of the speakers at these meetings may be considered cranks, but they believe that certain opinions should be kept alive. I do not know what has tempted returned soldiers to attend these meetings on the Yarra bank, but I do say that our boyswho have been to the front are very foolish to go down there and interfere with these people at all. They can gain nothing by it. Let the Yarra bank orators talk to the winds, or to an audience, and they will do no harm. They will certainly not interfere with the prosecution of the war.
– Sedition always has small beginnings.
– It was because of action taken with that view that the British Government alienated the Irish from the English people. It was because of similar action that Great Britain lost the United States of America - because they were intolerant of criticism and of the expression of the opinions of other people.
– That is a new explanation for the independence of the United States of America.
– Well, what really took place? The Americans objected to being taxed without representation.
– That was tlie culminating point.-
– That may be so; but if they had not gathered in villages and drilled, and talked of fighting the British, and if notice had not been taken of that kind of talk, the trouble would not have occurred.
– Before that talk, they took tea in Boston harbor one night.
– We know all about that; but the British could have landed the tea and their men in Boston if they pleased. What they did do was to land a couple of companies of men, and send them into the country to prevent tho Americans from gathering together and talking loudly about what they were going to do. To their surprise, the British soldiers were met by a few villagers, and many of them were killed, and they had to retreat to Boston. If their blood had not been shed, it is quite possible that American independence would not have taken place. The honorable member for Balaclava knows as well as I do- that the Americans were quite unprepared for war. When they tried to repel the landing of the British soldiers they had no arms or ammunition to speak of, and the only gun they had was one which had been on the roadside, and which they cleaned and used. But when dozens of British soldiers were killed and wounded, the British Government had to go on with the matter. I am satisfied that if the men and the tea had beer) landed at Boston, and if the men had remained there at the time, no trouble would have arisen. The same kind of. action has been the cause of trouble in Ireland.
– I do not agree with that.
– If the British Government had allowed the Irishmen to talk and vent their grievances instead of passing Coercion Acts, there would have been no trouble in Ireland. The Coercion Act of the honorable member for Flinders blasted his name for ever.
– He did not place that Act on the statute-book.
– I admit it; but he introduced the measure, though it did not pass, and though he had many admirers in Victoria, that one desire to use coercion blasted him so far as they were concerned, lt is foolish for any people who rule to be unnecessarily harsh, and I say that if the men and women who speak on the Yarra bank are left alone they will not interfere in any degree with the successful prosecution of the war. The War Precautions Act was passed with the object of preventing persons from doing anything to injure the successful conduct of the war; but what these people say can have no more effect on the war than a fly alighting on an elephant’s back can have on that animal.
– Even if it were otherwise, can the action of the Government be justified?
– I do not propose to allow the honorable member to catch me on that point.
– Why was the lawpassed if it was not intended to use it?
– It was not passed in order to be applied to those people in the way it has been. I remember the trouble I had to get the trial of offenders removed from a military court to a civil court, because I thought the magistrate in a civil Court would exercise a wiser discretion than a military man; but, unfortunately, these cases were brought before some old dunderhead knowing as much about justice as he does about heaven. The fact that these men were punished shows that there are magistrates who should not sit on the Bench.
– There are some very good magistrates in charge of the Melbourne Courts.
– I admit it; but in these cases they must have allowed their judgment to be carried away by strong feeling in regard to the war. There was a case at Albury, where a man had said something silly in his cups at 2 o’clock in the morning. He was sentenced to twelve months’ imprisonment. We placed the War Precautions Act on the statutebook in order to prevent persons from doing anything detrimental to the interests of the Empire in the prosecution of the war. Have Ministers reviewed the case of Barker, who was imprisoned? Do they think that what was charged against him was sufficient to justify a prosecution, let alone a conviction?
– I understand that the Attorney-General has had the matter under review. I do not know what action he has taken.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am not in favour of the adoption of conscription, at any rate until wealth has been conscripted as well as the manhood of the country. We are engaged in one of the greatest struggles in which the British Empire has been involved, but I feel sure that we have enough grit and determination in the Empire to see it through without resorting to compulsion. Great Britain has fought some of the greatest wars the world has known, and has always come out on top, and though it may take a long time, I feel sure that on this occasion Germany will be beaten. I have been five weeks on a recruiting tour: three weeks in my own electorate, and two weeks on the northern rivers. There were four of us - two politicians and two recruiting sergeants - on the tour of the northern rivers, and although we had to contend with wet weather, and many meetings had to be abandoned, we were successful in enlisting 162 men. I feel sure that good work could be done by similar tours. There is any amount of material to be got under the present system, if men will only put in the work in order to get it. But my tour acquainted me with many of the arguments advanced for refraining from enlisting. One of the grievances is our treatment of men who have returned maimed, and this grievance has been widely advertised, and is doing a great deal to stop recruiting. In my electorate it has had such an effect that recruiting committees have written to me upon the subject. Many of the men were told that if they were permanently incapacitated or lost an arm or a leg they would be entitled to a pensionof £1 per week, but to their amazement, now when they have suffered in this way, they find that they get the £1 a week for six months only, and the pension is then cut down to 10s. a week. A young resident of Wollongong, named Annetts, whose arm was taken off at the shoulder, was returned, and is receiving £1 a week up to June next, but has bean notified that after that date he is to get only 10s. An artisan getting £3 or £4 a week may lose an arm, and be unable to go back to his own occupation. Difficulties will be placed in the way of his getting work, and it is too much to expect young men in those positions to live on a paltry pittance of 10s. a week. There is a woman at Balgownie receiving the invalid pension. Her only son helped to maintain her before he left. The mother put in an application for the separation allowance, and has been notified by the Department that, as she is receiving 10s. a week by way of invalid pension, and the son was helping to maintain her before he went away, she is not entitled to any allowance. These things are advertised around the district, and tend to retard recruiting. Balgownie has responded to the call better than any other place in Australia. The War Census cards disclosed 105 men in the locality eligible for service, of whom over seventy are either at the front or on their way, and twenty odd have been rejected as medically unfit, leaving only fourteen or fifteen unaccounted for. Conscription could not have done better. About 300 young men have gone from another town, and from a third, with 1,200 names on the electoral roll, over 200 have gone. Similar proportions can be found to obtain all along the South Coast. At Hurstville a woman had two sons - one joined the Navy, the other the Expeditionary Force. The latter was killed. The mother had £74 in the Savings Bank, and was getting 10s. a week from the son in the Navy. She has been allowed only 5s. a week for the loss of the son killed at the front, the reason given being that she had money in the bank, and an allowance from the other son. That case has been circulated far and wide, and it is no wonder that mothers urge their sons not to go while such conditions exist. The son in the Navy has since married, and the amount he allowed his mother has been cut off, but when I wrote again to the Department informing them of the fact, the reply was that they were not going to allow the mother any more, because she had £74 in the bank. If that sort of injustice can be rectified there will be no necessity to talk about the conscription of our manhood. Australia has done well even under those conditions. When “the Leader of the Opposition, as Prime Minister, first offered 20,000 troops, if anybody had said on the put) llc platform that it was possible to raise 250,000 troops in this country, he would have been laughed at. Before the end of the year our total contribution to the Empire will probably be over 30~0,000 men. Australia has done more than any of the other Dominions to help to bring the war to a successful issue.
– If you consider it as foreign service she has done better than Great Britain.
– That is quite true. We are living in a state of security, engendered by our distance from Zeppelin raids or submarine attacks. If we had dangers of that kind to contend with, I am sure that under the voluntary system half-a-million men would join the colours if they were required. I believe that wealth ought to be conscripted, and no country has gone further in that direction than Germany itself. The German banks and the whole of the currency of that country are controlled by the Government, a fact which is largely responsible for Germany’s ability to carry on tlie war so long. If we had taken control of the whole of our banking system there would have been no necessity for us to go on the loan market. I find that the honorable member for Flinders, speaking at Wesley Church, on 14th June of last year, said that he was not in favour of conscription. If the speeches of honorable members opposite were analyzed it would, I think, be found that hardly one of them was in favour of conscription twelve months ago, although the position of the Empire and its Allies was infinitely worse then than it is now. If no necessity existed for conscription at that time, there is less need for it now, when Great Britain is in a much better position in regard to muni tions, men, and everything else. Sir William Irvine said -
But Germany had reverted to ancient and barbarous methods of warfare, and, should she win, she would take possession of Australia, and titles for property that now existed would bc worth no more than the paper they were written on.
If the titles of property would be so insecure under German rule, it is only right that the owners of them should contribute something towards financing the war, which, if successful, will preserve the value of those titles. The wealthy classes are lending money, but at 4£ per cent., without taxation. That is a better investment than is offered by any of our commercial concerns. Where is the patriotism in lending money on those terms? If the country and property titles are in such danger that it is necessary to conscript our manhood, surely the rich classes should place their wealth in the hands of the Government - not to be confiscated, but to be taken over for the time being, and handed back when the war is over. In conclusion, I desire to support the remarks made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports on the subject of Protection. We have too long delayed dealing with the important matter of Tariff revision. Che Government’s new Tariff proposals were brought down many months ago, and they are in operation; but Parliament has had no opportunity to deal with them. In any case, they do not satisfy me. I wish to see higher duties on some articles, and lower duties on others. Encouragement and assistance should be given to industries which could be built up in Australia, but which have not been stimulated by past Tariffs. Honorable members have stressed the fact that our soldiers will be returning to Australia when all the glamour of the war has worn off, and work will have to be found for them. The only way in which that work can be found is by opening up new industries in the Commonwealth; and to that end we should deal with the Tariff without further delay. An honorable member interjected this afternoon that our population cannot be allowed to remain at its present proportions. Instead of a population of 5,000,000, Australia ought to have 50,000,000 people; and we can attain that only by following the example of the United States of America in imposing a high Tariff wall that will stimulate local industries and give employment to people who are here, or may come after the war is over. In the countries which are engaged in the present international struggle industries have receded, and some time will be required after the declaration of peace to re-establish them. Many people belonging to the allied, nations will be out of work, and we should offer every inducement to them to como to Australia. In the meantime, we should build up industries which would provide work for them. I hope the Government will give consideration to these views, and take steps to deal with the Tariff at the earliest opportunity. The result, I trust, will be a Tariff that will give to Australia a measure of Protection which will enable it to take its place as one of the foremost countries in the world.
.- I regret that neither in the Ministerial statement read to the House nor in the Budget speech of the Treasurer did the Government take members into their confidence as to the position which the Prime Minister will occupy at the Paris Conference. The Prime Minister has certainly done excellent wark in England, and we are proud of the position to which he has attained. No individual from Australia has so advertised the Commonwealth in England as the right honorable gentleman has done. I should like to know, however, whether at the Paris Conference the Prime Minister will be the representative of Australia or of Great Britain. Prom what we have read in the press, and also from the answer given by the Acting Leader of the House a few days ago, it would appear as if the Prime Minister will be one of the representatives of the British Government. Whilst I am pleased that he is to attend the Conference, he seems likely to occupy a peculiar and anomalous position. The Conference is to discuss the trade relationship of the Allies, and can the Prime Minister, at such a gathering, be the representative of the British Government and yet practically voice the sentiments of Australia? He could do that if the interests of the two countries were identical. Some people belonging to the school of unadulterated Free Trade will say the true interests of Australia anc? Great Britain are identical, and that,, therefore, one man can represent both, equally well. Others argue that there isan essential difference between an oldcountry, having established manufacturing industries, but poor in raw materials,, and a country which is just beginning: to throb with the pulsations of life. This country is new, and has practically no manufactures, though it is rich in natural products and the raw material of industries. If Mr. Hughes represented the people of Australia at the Conference, he would have to look at things in a different light from that of the British people. But if the Conference is to be of an academiccharacter, I suppose it will not mattermuch in what capacity he attends that gathering. It would have been wise if the Government could have taken us into their confidence as to the position. Per,sonally I have no objection to the Prime Minister attending that gathering, for it is quite possible that the views he may advocate will be in accord with views which I hold, though whether they are held by the majority of the people of Australia is another matter. Prom what we have been able to gather from thespeech of the Prime Minister in England, he is advocating a thorough and? complete elimination of all German influence within the British Empire, not only during the war, but afterwards. No one would rejoice more than I if it were possible to do that, for the nation that would not hesitate to torpedo the Lusitania, and the nation that seemed to rejoice because the submarine was successful in that dastardly outrage, is one with which we should have no dealings whatever. I feel sure, however, that it will be almost impossible to give effect to this policy, because capitalism is a little too cosmopolitan in all countries, and it is not likely that capitalism will bepatriotic enough to stand the temptation: of 5 per cent.
– I do not think anybody would, if it were a case of a ls. article as against one at ls. 3d.
– The honorable member is quite right. It is difficult to keepa particular article of manufacture out of the country where it is a case of cheapness. If, however, we are able to utilize the whole of our surplus products in our secondary industries, we may be able to do something along these lines; but, as a rule, we have heavy surpluses of wheat, apples, wool, and metals, which have to be sent away. I take it to be the desire of the present Government, if possible, to utilize all our products here, because I drew some attention to this matter in a question the other day, in relation to a statement by the Government deprecating, it appeared to me, the increase of imports into this country. But if we export products we must import products in exchange. If we had a surplus of any particular commodity, it would not be possible to keep it here, and I do not think that British people as a rule give away any of their surplus products; usually they want something in exchange. Thus it would be rather difficult, I think, to eliminate completely German influence even after the war, though we should go as far as we can in that direction. I desire, therefore, to congratulate the Prime Minister upon what he has been able to do in connexion with the metals question up to the present, and I only hope that after the war his policy may be continued. If we are to do this, it appears to me that all future companies should be registered in Australia; their head. offices should be here, and, moreover, no director of any company should be other than a Britishborn subject. I understand that, long before the war broke out, in Russia, no person, unless he happened to be a Russian subject, could be a director of a company, and if we were to adopt that policy, it is possible that we would be able to eliminate German influence in trade to some extent.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
Motion agreed to.
– May I suggest that the other items on the Estimates be taken in globo ?
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Estimates be taken in globo ?
– Before that suggestion is agreed to, I should like to say a word or two. I wish to ask the Treasurer about the proposed expenditure of £20,000 on an arsenal at Canberra, and, particularly, the small arms section of it. I should imagine that now a Royal Commission is to inquire into the whole of the adminis tration of the Department of Home Affairs in relation to a number of items connected with the Territory-
– There has as yet been no expenditure on a small arms factory in the Territory.
– That is precisely why I am suggesting there is no need to vote the £20,000.
– Does the right honorable member nob wish the defences of the country to be strengthened?
– What nonsense I
– Is it nonsense?
– What I am suggesting will not interfere with the defences of the country in any way. We must have the next year’s Estimates before us immediately the House reassembles, and the defences of the country cannot be prejudiced in any way by the elimination of the item at this stage. Moreover, quite a number of honorable members, who are interested in the item, have gone away; and, under the circumstances, I submit that it would be only fair to eliminate it from the Estimates. Then, so far as I can see, there would be no difficulty in carrying out the arrangement suggested by the Treasurer.
– After what occurred the other night I think we ought to eliminate every item connected with the Department of Home Affairs.
– All the extra expenditure connected with that Department should, I think, await the issue of the inquiry by the Royal Commission. Particularly is there no need to press this item.
– Has not the money already been spent?
– Not a farthing has yet been spent on the arsenal in the Territory.
– According to the Acting Prime Minister, this is the building to be first erected there.
– That is so, and it would appear that the Chairman of the Public Works Committee is the only man who does not know all about the matter.
– I shall tell you all I know about the item.
– That shows that, after all, this is a controversial item; and that is precisely why I am asking that it shall be postponed until ft can be considered in a full House, and in proper circumstances.
– Let us pass all the items up to the Department of Defence.
– Why cannot this particular matter be dealt with now ? I make the suggestion so that the Treasurer, so far as I am concerned, may have his Estimates. If the matter goes to a vote, there is bound to be controversy, and I, for one, do not think it fair to pass this item until after full consideration. As we are prepared to treat the Treasurer in other ways perfectly generously, I think that he might at least meet us in the direction I have indicated.
– Is the right honorable gentleman objecting to the arsenal at Canberra because he desires to retain the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow ?
– My opinion is that this item should be postponed until the whole Department has been cleared up, and until it can be considered in full, fair, and reasonable debate. This is a great new departure in procedure and policy, and it is not fair to inaugurate it, involving, as it does, before completion, millions of money, until all the circumstances have been taken into consideration.
– It is a departure in policy only so far as Australia is concerned; all other countries have their own arsenals.
– I wish honorable members would get it out of their heads that I object to an arsenal. There has been fierce debate as to whether we should proceed to duplicate the Small Arms Factory.
– May I point out that the Small Arms Factory at Canberra is not included in the Estimates immediately before us, but is under the head of “New Works and Buildings,” which will come up for consideration later?
– I am merely making a suggestion with a view to expedition; and if the Government will not accept it, I can do no more.
.- The Leader of the Opposition is willing to give the Treasurer the whole of the Estimates, with the exception of this item,’ and all the Treasurer has to say is whether he will accept the suggestion that has been made.
– Will you again permit me to point out that the Estimates before the Committee do not contain the item of a new arsenal at Canberra, which will come up later under “ New Works and Buildings” ?
– But if the Government agree to give way on the point, the decks will be cleared, and we may go right on.
– Scores of members who are interested in this item have gone away.
– It would seem that the members of the Public Works Committee have taken this on their shoulders in order to carry it as a white man’s burden for the whole of Australia. This is a very strange affair. I have been in the House for fifteen years, and it would seem that this is the only time, when we are in the middle of a great war, that an arsenal is required. The members of the Public Works Committee, or some of them, appear to think that, because an honorable member speaks against this particular motion, he is speaking against the Committee.
– No, no!
– There is no suggestion of that.
– What else can we infer? Surely we have the right here to veto any proposed expenditure ? I can tell the Treasurer that it is the wish of many honorable members sitting behind the Government that this item should be, not abandoned, but postponed. Can there be any serious consequences from our waiting, as the Leader of the Opposition suggests, considering that, in a few weeks, next year’s Estimates will have to be prepared ? I submit that the item ought to be postponed until the next year’s Estimates are considered.
– The item referred to is in the Estimates for New Works and Buildings, and surely the other items, for the general services of the Commonwealth, could very well be passed.
– No; that is not a fair way to put it.
– The intention of the Government is that not one machine at present in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow shall be removed to Canberra until Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing the wisdom or otherwise of establishing such a factory there. But any new machinery for the manufacture of small arms which may come to hand will be installed in the arsenal at Canberra.
– That is the whole question at issue. The point in dispute is whether the Government are justified in spending money to establish a new Small Arms Factory at the Federal Capital.
– If the Capital is to grow, we must have our own munition factories there. The advantage of having an arsenal in Federal Territory must be apparent to everybody.
– Is not that a matter which is worthy of the consideration of this House ?
– Honorable members need not be apprehensive that the Government intendto inflict any injury upon Lithgow. They do not intend to remove one machine from the Small Arms Factory there to the arsenal at Canberra until Parliament has had an opportunity of being Heard upon the matter.
– Until after another establishment has been erected at Canberra which will render the Lithgow Small Arms Factory useless.
– It is the intention of the Government to establish the arsenal in Federal Territory.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs has said that the Government do not intend to remove any of the machines in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow for the present, but that they are going to install any new machinery which may arrive in the arsenal at the Federal Capital. Can honorable members conceive of this Parliament maintaining the Factory at Lithgow after a similar Factory has been established at Canberra?
– Why put all our eggs in one basket?
– Because we do not want more than one Small Arms Factory in Australia for generations to come.
– The right honorable member does not object to the establishment of an arsenal ?
– Not in the slightest. But I do suggest that before this new departure is made, Parliament should have an opportunity of considering the position untrammelled. It will not be untrammelled after we have installed machinery for the manufacture of small arms at the Federal Capital. There will then remain only one question to be discussed, namely, “ How soon can the plant at Lithgow be dismantled?” I am merely suggesting that the wisdom of spending this money should stand over until there is a full attendance of honorable members. I do not wish to rake up what has been done during the recess, though I feel very strongly about it.
– What about?
– The honorable member should not glare at me so savagely. He frightens me.
– What is the use of suggesting all sorts of things if the right honorable member will not state them ?
– I will please myself. Since the honorable member has become a member of the Public Works Committee, he appears to imagine himself a veritable Pooh-Bah. I am merely asking what is a fair thing in the circumstances ? The question of the wisdom of voting this money should be deferred until Parliament has had an opportunity of discussing the whole matter in relation to the great subject of national defence. I submit that in the interests of Ministers themselves and of their business the item should be postponed.
– That means that we shall have to hang up the whole matter of establishing an arsenal.
– I reckon that the Government ought to hangupthe whole of the works at the Federal Capital.
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- If this money were voted now, not a shilling of it could be spent until Parliament re-assembles. I challenge the Minister to say anything to the contrary.
– The discussion has been somewhat out of order. That it may be continued in order, I ask whether the Committee is agreeable to pass the Estimates up to the division containing the item which the Leader of the Opposition desires to have discussed ?
– I am afraid we cannot agree to do that.
– Will the Committee be content to have the Estimates put in Departments ?
– I have just been trying to make an arrangement with Ministers, and as they will not meet me I think the Estimates must take their usual course.
– The right honorable gentleman has been very amiable up to the present time.
– We appear to gain nothing by our amiability.
– I thought we were getting along very well, indeed, until about ten minutes ago. The reason I desire to have the Estimates put through up to the item which is regarded as a bone of contention is that honorable members have an unfortunate habit of strolling into the chamber late in the evening and suddenly remembering that there is something they wish to discuss.
– The Minister knows now as well as he will know when we get to the item what the Government are going to do about it.
– One can never tell what will happen in Parliament. When we get to the item we can discuss it calmly, and the honorable gentleman may be able to advance such arguments as will move the Leader of the Government in this House to take the course he proposes.
– I ought not to be asked to submit any arguments until honorable members who are keenly interested in the matter are present.
– It is the intention of the Government to try to get the Estimates through.
– Honorable members will recognise the difficulty in which I find myself. If we talk about the arsenal at Canberra at half -past 10 o’clock to-night, some festive member may then enter the chamber and wish to talk upon the vote for Parliament.
– I am suggesting that there should be no talk about it.
– I wish to prevent an honorable member entering the chamber for the first time about half-past 10 o’clock endeavouring to talk about some other matter. I am sorry nothing can be done. Ministers have a great deal to do. I believe that I am working about eighteen hours out of the twenty-four. There seems to be nothing for it but that the Chairman should put the Estimates in the ordinary way.
Division 1 (The Senate), £7,733; division 2 (House of Representatives), £10,664; division 3 (ParliamentaryReporting Staff), £9,839; division 4 (The Library), £6,670; division 5 (Parlia
Works), £1,811; division 6 (Joint Committee of Public Accounts), £1,770; division 7 (Refreshment Rooms), £1,216; division 8 (Water Power for Parliament House), £150; division 9 (Electric Lighting, &c.), £2,070; division 10 (Queen’s Hall), £520; division 11 (Parliament Gardens), £677; division 12 (Miscellaneous), £1,456, agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Division 13 (Prime Minister), £19,257, agreed to.
Division 14 (Executive Council), £149.
– I wish to refer to an item relating to the Royal Commission on the Pearlshelling Industry. Honorable members away from Melbourne, and engaged in the work of that Commission, are very keenly interested in the question to which I have been alluding.
– Order ! The item to which the honorable member is now referring is contained in Division 13, to which the Committee has just agreed.
– I wanted to ask when the Pearl-shelling Commission is likely to hand in its report. Its inquiry has been going on now for several years.
– I have been informed by the Acting Prime Minister that the Chairman of the Commission has stated that he expects to furnish his report next month.
– I am glad to hear that.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 15 (Audit Office), £31,037; division 16 (Public Service Commissioner) , £17,702, agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Division 17 (The Treasury), £26,684.
– It is time that the Government told honorable members what their policy is regarding the continuance of the Department of the Public Service Commissioner as carried on at the present time. The Committee should know what is in the mind of the Government. We hear all sorts of things as to what is in contemplation. I should like to know if the Government can tell us whether they have in mind any new policy concerning the Public Service of the Commonwealth as at present administered by the Public Service Commissioner?
– I regret to have to point out that the item which the honorable gentleman is discussing has already been approved by the Committee in the last Division agreed to.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 18 (Australian Notes Branch), £8,497.
.- There is an item in this division which reads as follows: - “Less savings caused through absence of officers with Expeditionary Forces, £200.” If the officers of our Departments go to the front we should see that their families are no worse off than they were before. Some institutions, about which I have heard honorable members opposite say very hard things, make up to their servants the difference between their pay as members of the Expeditionary Forces and the salaries they previously received, and it is only fair that the Commonwealth Government should follow suit. State Governments are doing it, and I believe that the Commonwealth Government is the only large employer of labour in Australia that is not making up to its servants who have left the Service to serve the country in another way the difference in salary to which I have just alluded.
– The State Government in Victoria is not doing it.
– The New South Wales
State Government is doing it. I know that there was a decision in this regard, but I think that it was wrong. Some employers are paying to the wives of those whom they employed on a daily wage the difference between their pay as soldiers and what they were formerly receiving, and what a private employer can do the Commonwealth Government should be able to do. The saving is infinitesimal alongside the huge expenditure in connexion with our Expeditionary Forces. The Treasurer might tell us how it is effected. I have heard it said that those who are left behind are not entitled to any of the honour and glory; but I know of none entitled to more honour and glory than the wives and families of those who have gone to the front. They have a claim to the best we can give. The sacrifice that the wife makes is in some respects a greater sacrifice than that which the man makes. My request is that we should do justice to these women, and I ask the Treasurer to consult his fellow-Ministers, and see whether it is not possible to reverse the shabby policy they have adopted in this matter. Several men have given up salaries of between £200 and £300 a year and gone to the front as privates. Their comfort will not be interfered with very much by the pecuniary sacrifice, but the loss of income makes a great difference to the women and children.
– They cannot live on 6s. a day.
– It must be very hard for them to do so, but thousands of women are making the sacrifice.
– When the War Pensions Bill is before us, I hope the honorable member will treat the soldiers who return as generously as he seeks to treat those at the front.
– I shall be glad to see the Bill brought forward. I have nothing to say against it. In some respects it might be improved; but it is impossible to give largess as one would perhaps like, or to do full justice in the matter of pensions, but in this case we have the example of hundreds of private employers of labour, who, out of their own pockets, are paying money to the wives and families of men who have gone to the front. Yet the Commonwealth Government are unwilling to do that. We should have been the first to do it, and I cannot understand what the objection is. I am well aware of the agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth and State Governments, and I was sorry to see it reached.
– It would not cost a great deal, any way.
– It should not. The proposed saving of £200 is nothing in comparison with the huge expenditure on the war. If we went through the Commonwealth Service, and reckoned all who have gone to the front, leaving dependants behind them-
– Would you extend that principle to the casual labourers employed by the Government who have gone to the front?
– Yes, if it could be established that the man had been an employee of the Government for a considerable time. There would be a good number of these cases; but the amount involved would probably not be more than £20,000 or £30,000 - I am talking only of those who haveleft dependants. Their women and children are suffering through their absence, and have had to make great sacrifices.
– That argument would apply equally to persons outside tlie Service who have given up big positions and gone to the front. If it is right to pay the Commonwealth servant, it is right to pay everybody else in similar circumstances .
– I do not think so, because there is a distinct difference between the Commonwealth employee and the ordinary citizen. Many citizens have been provided for by their employers.
– Not very many.
– Yes; the banks alone have provided for a large number.
– How many were unemployed when they joined?
– That does not affect my argument.
– It means differential pay.
– Not so far as military service is concerned.
– One man would be getting £200 a year for fighting, and another poor beggar, who would fight just as hard, would receive only £150.
– Both would get the same pay for fighting; but the wife and family of one would have made up to them that means of comfort which they enjoyed when he was here. If we were able to give our employees some additional provision, it would help very materially to tide their families over a most difficult period.
.- If the saving of £200 in the administration of the Notes Branch means anything, it means that a senior employee of the Government has gone to the war, and another is performing his duties, the Government receiving the benefit of the difference in their pay. Parliament never intended that state of things to exist, and unless some good reason is given for it, I feel inclined to test the feeling of the Committee on the item. If it were applied generally to the Service, it would mean that, should half the officers of the Commonwealth go to the front, the Government would receive a great monetary benefit from the war, while still getting the work of the Departments done. Any officer who has gone should certainly receive his proper pay. If another is put in his place here, there should be some understanding that the Government are not to pay two salaries; but in this case the Government appear to have beneficed. If there is any reason for this, the Committee is entitled to hear it. Two hundred pounds is not a very large amount, and if that is the only saving of this kind in the Estimates, we should certainly direct the Government to pay the officer concerned his* proper salary. If there had been some falling off in the work, there would be some justification for reducing the vote; but I am given to understand that the Notes Branch has been exceedingly busy since the war began.
– The sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Richmond do him great credit, and if the Commonwealth could afford to treat everybody alike, and make up to those who have gone to the front at 6s. per day the wages they were getting in various occupations previously, whether they were permanent or temporary hands, we might be able to do something, because we ought to treat everybody alike. I listened carefully, however, to what the honorable member said, and came to the conclusion that he was not so much concerned about the casual labourer outside, who was getting 8s. or 10s. a day, and went to the war for 6s., or perhaps was compelled to go to the war at that rate because of unemployment, as he was about the officers in the Civil Service, who were, in many cases, very well placed. The explanation required by the honorable member for East Sydney is this: Certain officers have gone away in almost every Department. There is an item in the Customs Department of £5,730 in that connexion. We have put on temporary men to take the place of those permanent officers, and the Commonwealth is not getting the same expert service from them, because, naturally, they could not be expected to do the work so well as the men who were there for years. For that reason they are not receiving the same pay as expert officers who have gone to the front. I am willing to bring the matter before the Government for consideration, but if the Government do consider the proposal to make up to those higher paid officers the difference between their military pay and their civil salaries, they must also consider the matter of making up the salaries of the lower paid men.
.- I cannot follow the Treasurer’s argument. If the Notes Branch was not overmanned or overpaid in peace time, why is a saving shown ? Surely there have been some officers left behind to carry on the duties of the office, and apparently they, knowing that their fellow workers have gone to fight for the Empire, have been prepared to do portion of their work without receiving extra remuneration. Should not the amounts thus saved go to the families of those who have left their civil duties in order to go to the front?
– It is deeply to be regretted that every question raised concerning the war is immediately given by honorable members opposite a party tint. The honorable member for Richmond raised the question as to whether officers who had gone to the front should receive the balance of their civil pay. The Treasurer must know that that concession has been made in nearly every State. The Labour Government of New South Wales is following that policy. Mr. Holman and his Ministers, therefore, must be open to the same accusation as the honorable member for Richmond - that they are not considering the outsiders at all, but only those in the Civil Service, and that they have been playing to the highly paid members of the Service and ignoring the poorly paid men outside.
– On the merits of the question, is it not preferential treatment to one class of servants?
– It is this preferential discussion that I am protesting against. The honorable member for Richmond raised an issue, and was immediately told that it was for a privileged class he was speaking. But the State Labour Governments can adopt that policy, and honorable members opposite have not a word to say against it. I am entering my protest against this party treatment of these war questions. Immediately anything relating to the war is mentioned, Government supporters drag party politics into it and make all sorts of sinister accusations. Is it not time that that sort of cant stopped? The Treasurer also spoke of those men who have gone to the front because they had no work to do. Does he know of any men who went to the war merely because they were out of work ?
Mr.Finlayson. - Plenty of them.
– And who would not have gone if they had been in work ?
– That is a different matter.
– But that is the question.
– The honorable member has no right to distort my remarks.
– I am taking the Treasurer’s remarks in their literal signification.
– Some men were told to enlist or they would lose their jobs.
– Many men have been told that.
– All I can say is that if they are good fighters and eligible single young men, I am glad they went to the war. But we shall be lucky if, before the war is over, we have not to adopt some means of impressing men to go to the front. Make no mistake, this war has a long time to run yet.
– I hope you are a bad prophet.
– I hope I am, but when we are engaged in a world’s struggle we must make provision for the extreme possibilities.
– We must make greater provision for the men who go to the front.
– Perhaps so, and I notice that many of the things I advocated when the war pensions were under consideration previously are included in the amending Bill. I understand that the Minister proposes to place before Cabinet the matter raised by the honorable member for Richmond. I tell him frankly that I have always held the view that all the men who went to the war should have been treated alike in the first instance. I can conceive of no other fair rule in a Democracy. It is an unfortunate fact that, though an agreement to that end was made, some Labour Governments straightway broke it. It is a sorry piece of history, and I regret it exceedingly. It appears nowadays that undertakings are given very lightly by Ministers, and just as readily departed from. The question under discussion provides another instance of the kind, hence the inequality which exists throughout Australia to-day, and which is, no doubt, giving rise to a great deal of heartburning. Commonwealth employees who are in the trenches might well say, “ Why are we paid only 6s. per day when State Labour Governments can pay their employees the exact civil salary they were receiving?” I notice that Mr. Holman, at the Labour Conference, laid down the doctrine that the State Governments should restore soldiers to their full economic value of pre-war days. I understood him to mean that if a man had been earning £4 or £5 per week before the war, the State Government should guarantee the same income to him on his return. It is very unfortunate that we have not unity of action in our war policy. There is only one war authority, and that is the Federal Government, which alone should shape and determine the conditions of the men in the war and affected by the war, so far as direct Ministerial action is concerned. I say that it was to conciliate a conference that had been heaping censure on him, and practically booting him out, that Mr. Holman went back and made all these fulsome promises. However, I see that the Commonwealth Ministry, in the War Pensions Amendment Bill, are meeting him on quite another point. I think it has been done rather cleverly, and I congratulate them upon their adroitness.
– We will fix him, I think, although it was unintentional.
– It has been done so very well that I really thought there was a good deal of intention about the matter, and it now appears that Mr. Holman’s fulsome promise to the Labour Conference will not count for very much. It is a pity, I repeat, that there is not one war authority in Australia; it is a pity that the State Governments continue to do these things on their own account without, I apprehend, consulting the Federal Government. This differentiation of policy, according to the requirements of the moment, is not the way to fight a war to a successful finish, and it is not the way to conserve the national stability in war time. I should like, therefore, to see this Government declare that there is to be only one war authority in Australia to deal with all matters affecting the soldier, both at the war and at home, for that is the only consistent policy.
– We could not interfere
With the State Governments on the question of settling soldiers on the land.
– I am aware of that; but there is another item in the Estimates which we will come to directly, and upon which we can speak. I emphasize now that there should not be any differentiating policy in the States, and I believe we have not yet seen the end of it, but that probably when the war is over a whole crop of difficulties will arise because of this tinkering with such a supreme question.
– I think I am kinder to the honorable member than he has been to me. He discussed several questions upon this item, but I am not going to chide him for what he said about my remarks concerning men who were unemployed going to the war. There was no intention on my part to suggest that if these men could not have got 6s. a day, and had not been out of employment, they would not have gone to the war. Honorable members who are suggesting that the Commonwealth should spend a lot of money will excuse me if, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, I regard it as my duty to consider our obligations. I cannot help thinking that we are doing very well in the matter of pay, for our soldiers at the front receive six times more than the soldiers, of any other nation, and in some cases we are paying £1 ls. a day, for seven days a week, to lieutenants who, before the war, were perhaps in receipt of £2 or £2 10s. a week. In addition to that, they are being maintained at the front.
– On the other hand, you must remember that you are paying 6s. a day to some men who, before the war, were in receipt of incomes of £20 a week.
– I am aware that there may be some such instances, but does the honorable member propose that the Commonwealth should make up discrepancies in every case ?
– I do not.
– I cannot help looking forward to the very heavy bill we shall have to meet after the war is over, and for some years afterwards, and, therefore, I do not feel disposed to agree to all the suggestions made, though I shall certainly bring them under the notice of the Government. By the way, I believe that the Premiers of the States at a conference some time ago agreed not to make up the difference in pay to officials who had enlisted.
– That is so. There was a solemn agreement to that effect.
– That being the case, T presume the Premiers considered some of the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Richmond before they arrived at that decision, and that they came to the conclusion that the States could not afford to do it, or if they could, that the proposal, to be equitable, would have: to apply all round. As I have already stated, I shall bring these matters before the Government and see what can be done.
– I am of opinion that the amount paid tothe private in the ranks - 8s. per day is the maximum - is altogether too low. He is allowed to take1s. himself, there is1s. deferred pay, and 6s., the balance, is paid to the wife left behind with perhaps six or seven children to keep. That is all she has to exist on, and in many cases, I am sorry to say, she has to pay a considerable sum out of that to the landlord, who, in many cases, has not reduced his rent one iota. This has been brought home to me repeatedly in my own constituency, and when I hear persons talking about the last man and the last shilling, I feel inclined to say, “ Well, let us act up to it.” War is an expensive game. It has been made too cheap in the past, but we are not going to make it cheap in Australia, and if it proves expensive to all concerned, nations will not feel inclined to rush into it so readily as they have done in the past. I hope that during the recess the Treasurer will take this matter into consideration, and let us know, when we meet again, whether it is not possible to give the men whom we ask to go to the front, at the risk of being shot, a maximum of 10s. per day. We have the money here to pay for it, and if our income-tax is increased by another £20, what does it matter? We are enjoying our health and strength, thanks to the protection afforded by these men. I pay an income-tax of about £23 - Commonwealth and State - and I would willingly double it to-morrow if, by doing so, these men were given a reasonable living wage. We can get the money. Let us, I say, make the maximum pay 10s. a day to the rankers. We will then get them without the trouble of going round the country calling out for men to join the ranks. Many more would enlist to-day, and fight for the liberty we all enjoy, if they knew that everything would be right with those they would leave behind them.
Let us make it possible that those who leave our shores for the front shall be assured that those near and dear to them will be well looked after.
.- I support the honorable member for Denison in the attitude he has taken up. I know a case in which a mother, with a family of six children, all under fifteen or sixteen years of age, and none working, gets the maximum military pay of 8s., while another woman, with only two children, is given the same amount. Such anomalies should not be permitted, but provision should be made to allow 4½d. a day for each child who is not earning anything. In several case, I am informed, house rent and other expenditure absorb nearly all the money; and, whatever the cost of the war may be, we ought, at least, to see that the mothers and children are well looked after when the bread-winner is at the front. I hope that what I have said will be noted by the Treasurer, because the people of Australia are quite willing to pay anything needed by those who are left behind.
Mr. FINLAYSON (Brisbane) [9.131.- The Treasurer is not so happy in his choice of words as he usually is, and the words in the Estimates, “ Less savings through absence at the war,” read very badly. It would be much better to save in some other way, because we do not desire savings at the expense of officers at the front. If the Federal Government is going to accept the principle of making up the difference between the pay received in civil employment and the pay received in military employment, we cannot stop at the Commonwealth servants, but should make the application general.
– That is another matter altogether.
– Otherwise I refuse to accept the application of the principle to Commonwealth servants.
– We pay pensions to Commonwealth servants on their retirement.
– Not a “ bob “ !
– Then we ought to.
– The Commonwealth should make no distinction between its own employees and the employees of outside firms. If the honorable member for Richmond is willing to agree that the difference should be made up to every man at the front, he is on good lines; but how does he propose to meet the case of those men who are now getting more pay than ever ? . Some young men are getting ten times as much, and many others five and six times as much, as they previously earned in civil employment; but I do not think that any one would propose to disturb them.
– Make them all lieutenants !
– The best suggestion has come from the honorable member for Denison and the honorable member for Hunter, namely, that we should pay to the soldier a minimum wage sufficient to cover the ordinary expenses of an individual with increases depending upon whether he is married and the number of children he has. In other words, the pay should be conditioned by the necessities of those left behind. At any rate, we should at least guarantee that every man should go away satisfied that those he leaves will be allowed sufficient to live on in decent comfort. At present that is not the case; and the position is aggravated by the fact that, since many of the men went away, the money they left behind has become of less value than ever owing to the increased cost of living. This makes some of them worse off than before, their loss in pay being intensified by the fact that the purchasing value of money is much less.
.- I quite agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Hunter and the honorable member for Denison. As to the Commonwealth servants, the Government have their general obligations to the community, and also special obligations as an employer of labour.
– Are private employers making up the difference in pay 1
– A great number are.
– Are the Broken Hill Proprietary making up a difference in the pay of their men who have gone ?
– I do not know, because I do-not happen to represent that portion of New South Wales where the company’s mine is situated. Possibly the honorable member himself knows most about that matter.
– The banking companies are doing so.
– That is so, I think.
– I have no doubt that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company is doing so in the case of their office employees.
– The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is doing so.
– And so is one of the tobacco companies.
– Quite so; together with a large number of firms in Sydney and Melbourne.
– Have the pastoralists done so in the case of the shearers 1
– I do not know; but I know that a great number of pastoralists are doing so in the case of the hands they were employing. I rise only because I feel that the Commonwealth, as one of the greatest employers of labour, ought to set an example to the rest of the employers. As things are, private employers, to a large extent, are making up the pay, while the Commonwealth is not doing so; and I think that the public servants have fair grounds for complaint. Notwithstanding that, we must pay the highest tribute to the men who, despite the sacrifice, have gone to the front, and, perhaps, a still higher tribute to those of their dependants who have been left behind and have to put up with suffering and inconvenience.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 19 (Invalid and Old-age Pensions), £50,097; division 20 (War Pensions), £175,000; and division 21 (War Pensions Office), £4,168, agreed to.
Division 22 (Maternity Allowance Office), £13,605.
.- In this division there is an item which reads, “ Rewards and expenses in connexion with maternity allowance frauds, £60.” I should like to know what these rewards are paid for.
– For the discovery of bogus claims.
– To whom are they paid ?
– To persons who furnish the desired information.
– It is a most extraordinary thing that we should offer rewards in cases of this kind. I should like to know what the rewards are paid for, and the amount of them.
– It is the practice of all Departments to offer rewards for the discovery of cases of attempted fraud. The amount set down under this heading upon these Estimates was chiefly paid in connexion with the arrest of a person who had been making bogus claims in Adelaide.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 23 (Land Tax, Estate Duty, and Income Tax Office), £158,217.
– On page 44 of these Estimates there appears so extraordinary a list of increases that some explanation of them should be furnished. The cost of this Department is growing rapidly. In it there had been a total increase from £78,737 last year to £158,217 this year, or more than 100 per cent. The cost of “postage and telegrams” has increased from £1,499 last year to £5,000 this year. In the same way, it is anticipated that there will be an increase for “ office requisites, exclusive of writing paper and envelopes” from £1,127 last year to £5,000 this year. That is an extraordinary increase. Then, the expenditure on “ writing-paper and envelopes, including cost of printing and embossing thereon,” has grown from £291 last year to £1,600 this year. Similarly, there has been an increase in the cost of the next item from £198 to £750. Last year “ other printing “ cost £1,832, and the expenditure under this heading for the current year is set down at £5,000. The cost of “ travelling expenses other than for valuations “ has increased from £314 last year to £800 this year. “Temporary assistance,” which last year cost £14,178, will, it is anticipated, cost £35,000 this year. “ Incidental and petty cash expenditure “ has grown from £2,633 last year to £6,000 this year. “Law costs,” too, have increased from £7,164 last year to £12,000 this year. “Valuation fees and expenses other than travelling “ involved an outlay last year of £11,332, but this year they are expected to absorb £15,000. Then, “ travelling expenses for valuations, including upkeep of motor car,” cost £7,031 last year, whereas this year it is anticipated that they will cost £10,200. Then, there is an item of £700 for the “ purchase of motor cars.” Last year the expenditure under this heading was £206. Does that mean that a motor car was purchased last year? If so, it must have been a very cheap runabout.
– Who uses the cars”?
– The valuers use them in travelling from place to place.
– I would like some explanation of these abnormal increases.
– The public expenditure is increasing enormously, and I wish to ask the Treasurer if he does not think there might well be some co-ordination of the work of the Commonwealth Taxation Department with the work of similar Departments in the States. There is a reasonable expectation of such co-ordination between Commonwealth and State Departments in the matter of electoral administration. If he should attend the Premiers’ Conference the Treasurer might raise this question for discussion. Valuations, for instance, involve a tremendous amount of work, but similar work is done for each of the State Taxation Departments. I see no reason why a valuer for a State should not be able to carry out the work of valuation for the Federal authority. In that direction alone it should be possible to make a very considerable saving. With a central Commonwealth office at the Seat of Government, I do not see why most of the work in the States could not be done by the State officials for the Commonwealth. Scores of thousands of pounds might be saved by some such arrangement.
– I should like to direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition to the estimates of receipts shown at page 3. He will agree that we cannot expect to collect income tax to the extent of £3,200,000 without some expense. TE is true that there is an increase shown for the Land Tax, Estate Duty, and Income Tax Office, of from £78,737 to £158,217, but the Income Tax Office is an entirely new branch of the Department. I believe that when the officers of the Treasury have time to go into the matter, it will be found that our income tax costs less to collect than any other tax we have imposed. As to the point raised by the honorable member for Wakefield, I should like to say that the word “co-ordination” is becoming nearly as blessed as the word “ Mesopotamia.” The Premier of Victoria has suggested that we should try to come to some arrangement to economize in this matter, but I wish to remind honorable members that when, in the early days of Federation, we had six deputy collectors of Customs, giving in many instances six different decisions, the result was a great deal of irritation. The necessity for. a Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation who will give decisions that will obtain throughout the Commonwealth makes it impossible for us to hand over to the State officials the collection of the Federal income tax.
– I assume that there will be a Commonwealth DeputyCommissioner of Taxes in each State.
– The honorable member for Wakefield will be glad to know that the Government are considering the question he raised.
.- I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the votes to which he has referred require explanation. The increases shown are out of all proportion to the additional work to be performed. These votes indicate the way in which expenditure is heaped up year by year. The vote for office requisites, exclusive of writing paper and envelopes, shows an increase from £1,100, the appropriation for last year, to £5,000. No one can tell me that the establishment of a new office is sufficient to account for such an increase of this vote. The matter is one which should be looked into. We are accustomed to allow these things to go through without discussion, and afterwards to complain of the increased cost of government. To me these increases are striking, and require explanation. The vote for “ writingpaper and envelopes, including cost of printing and embossing thereon,” is increased from £380 to £1,600. Why should there be such an increase in that vote? The fact of the matter is that the sooner we standardize the different requirements of Commonwealth Departments the better for all concerned. At present, each Department is running on its own, with the result that these votes show an increase year after year. You may get scores of forms with different headings in one Department, and paper of first-class quality is used for work for which inferior paper would be quite good enough.
– The income tax office is new for this year, and to collect £2,300,000 a great many notices have to be sent out.
– That will not account for the increase of this item from £380 to £1,600, which means that four times as much stationery is to be used this year as was used last year.
– I think that that may well be so.
– I do not think it is necessary. The time has arrived when the whole of the stationery required by the different Departments should be under the control of a single officer. A recent report advised that this officer should be the Government Printer. There is a lot of stationery wasted in all the offices.
.- I thoroughly agree with what has been said by the honorable member for Hunter. I can remember what occurred in the Bank of New South Wales some years ago. A new branch accountant was brought into the office in Sydney, and he saved in stationery between £11,000 and £12,000 a year, chiefly by doing away with a lot of absolutely unnecessary returns. I venture to say that if we put a first-class man into a number of our Departments to go through the routine of the returns which are called for, he could effect a wonderful saving in the matter of stationery alone. The bank official went through the forms that were employed by the bank, and found that a number of them could be used on both sides; he found that a vast amount of stationery could be saved by an alteration to the form in which accounts were presented, and that many large sheets were used where small slips would do as well.
– The honorable member must recollect that the cost of paper has increased by about 50 per cent.
– I am aware of that fact; but the probability is that this Department, starting on a new departure in regard to the income tax, had not the faintest knowledge of what they would require, and they made sure that they would order at least more than would be required. In the bank of which I am speaking, there was not a single item on all the branch managers’ requisitions for stationery that was not challenged by this officer upon his appointment, and the only provision he made for wastage on the forms he supplied was one extra copy, so that if a clerk happened to damage a form he had to rule a fresh one. I do not say that the same cheese-paring policy should be adopted in the Commonwealth Service, but I am satisfied that there is an enormous amount of waste. I cordially agree with the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter that we should have one branch dealing with the supply of stationery to all Departments, and standard sizes of stationery. It would lead to a vast saving. I have seen a return of the different kinds of stationery used in one Department, and it was staggering. One could hardly believe that heads of Departments would allow such a system to develop. It would seem that if the head ofa branch developed a taste for a particular class of stationery, perhaps because it suited his handwriting, he was allowed to order it. If the Treasurer does not grapple with this matter now, the waste will go on indefinitely. If there is real organization and co-ordination in the matter of ordering stationery, and control over its issue, at least £30,000 to £40,000 a year should be saved.
– In war time, when a Minister has multifarious duties imposed on him by the war, he cannot always bring about the reforms he would like to institute, if they can be brought about and if they are necessary.
– War time is the very time when the matter should be tackled. Surely the Minister can delegate the duty to some one he can trust?
– The Postmaster-General is making an attempt to reform.
– Yet I received a letter from the Postmaster-General this morning. It was a letter of three lines upon a full sheet of foolscap.
– Can the honorable member imagine a file of correspondence with some foolscap sheets, some sheets 2 inches deep, and others 3, 4, and 5 inches deep ? What kind of file would it be after being handled a dozen times a day? Some files run into 250 pages.
– A great deal that appears on these files need not have been written. The fondness of public officers for writing letters often leads to waste of stationery. The sooner the Treasurer looks into the waste in the departmental stationery the better, but apparently he has too much to do.
– It would create another Department to standardize supplies.
– Not necessarily.
– All they want is a business man in the Ministry.
Mr.GREENE. - I thought they had the only business man in Australia. I shall be glad if, in the temporary absence of the Treasurer, the acting Leader of the Government will give the Committee a definite assurance on this really serious question.
– A Committee of the various Departments was appointed to go into the question of tendering and sup plies for all Departments, and, if possible, to bring about a better system. They met and made certain recommendations, by which, instead of each Department ordering its own supplies, one central body has the matter in hand. By this reform, instead of eight or ten Departments doing their own ordering, there will be more coordination between them than hitherto.
.- The item under discussion is only one amongst quite a number equally deserving of attention. In addition to the very good suggestion already made, I want to offer two others which will help considerably to avoid waste and save expense. We urgently need the appointment of a Supply and Tender Board to deal with supplies required in the Service, including, not only ledgers, papers, and envelopes, but all the thousand and one articles used by the Departments throughout the Commonwealth.
– It was no fault of the Liberal party that that Board was not appointed.
– The honorable member for Wakefield had a motion before the House on the subject, and the urgency of the appointment of an independent Board becomes every day more apparent. I offer strong objection to the proposal that the Board should be composed of departmental officers. What we want in the Departments more to-day than ever before, and will want more in the future even than now, is ordinary common-sense business methods; but departmental officers are so wrapt up in the routine of their offices that they have not the opportunity, even if they had the inclination, to make themselves acquainted with the most modern business methods. We want men of experience in the business world, and three men with knowledge of commercial affairs would save us, not only their own salaries - which would have to be a decent amount - but anything from £20,000 to £30,000 a year in the purchase of supplies. The second suggestion is the use of official envelopes specially marked in the corner so as not to require the use of adhesive stamps. These are in common use in many countries, particularly in America, and are already being used by the military authorities in this country. Many of us have received letters from Egypt with an official rubber stamp on them, instead of a postage stamp. It is a waste of money to use adhesive stamps for the enormous mass of correspondence passing between the differentDepartments.
– The Customs Department does not put stamps on its letters.
– In the Sydney Customs House one man receives from £156 to £180 a year for doing nothing else but entering up and keeping an account of the stamps issued to the various branches in that building. If ordinary common-sense business methods were used, that man’s present work would be useless. If he was intrusted with the issue of properly-branded envelopes each carrying its mark of value, and had to keep an account of them, his work would be much easier, safer, and more businesslike. The use of specially -printed envelopes of the kind would cause a great deal more care to be taken in their use, because each Department would have to account for their value. I shall put this matter before the Treasurer later in a concrete form, because I have a good deal of information on it, and samples of envelopes in use in other countries. The saving to be effected in that direction alone would be much greater than honorable members would think, because the waste of envelopes and paper, even in postage stamps, and the waste of time taken to check the issue of stamps, is much more serious than most people believe. The ramifications of Commonwealth activities in the different States, and the amount of correspondence passing even between branches of the same Department in the same building, lead to inexcusable waste.
– I have been advocating for the last six years the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board, and I was assured by the Prime Minister that it would receive Cabinet consideration, and that he was quite favorable to the proposal.
– The matter was dealt with by the Cook Government when they were in office, but honorable members opposite would not allow the measure to pass.
– I know that was the case. The honorable member for Brisbane said that the establishment of a Supply and Tender Board would possibly lead to the saving of scores of thousands of pounds. My own opinion is that a Commonwealth Board of experts, appointed on the same lines as the South Australian Board, and engaged in deal ing with the whole of the purchases of the Commonwealth, which are gigantic in the aggregate, would save hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum. I understand that thePublic Accounts Committee has recently taken evidence on the subject in South Australia, and I assure the Committee that the appointment of the Board in that State was one of the most valuable reforms ever instituted there. If such a Board, by reason of its expert qualifications, were to reduce by even a small percentage the cost of goods purchased by the Commonwealth, the aggregate saving would soon reach many thousands of pounds. Besides, the operations of such a Board would remove all suspicion from individual officers in connexion with purchases, and would provide a check on the Departments. “Under every Government there are Departments which are exceedingly extravagant, and the abolition of “ go-as-you please “ methods in connexion with the enormous disbursements involved in purchasing Commonwealth stores would result in a tremendous saving.
– The Government have referred that matter to the Public Accounts Committee, and we expect their report to be submitted shortly.
– I am glad to hear that. When the Board was first created in South Australia, it comprised three experts, one a financial authority, the second a commercial man, and the third an officer with shipping experience, whose business it was to deal with freights affecting stores coming to South Australia from the Old World. The savings in South Australia through the operation of the Board have been considerable.
– A report on the subject by the Public Accounts Committee will be published within a fortnight of the House resuming its sittings.
.- Honorable members are to be congratulated on having brought this matter before the Committee. It is high time that the Government looked into the minor details of expenditure. A good deal more money is spent than is necessary on stationery, not only for the Department, but for this Parliament. Members of Parliament receive volumes and volumes of published matter which they do not read. Let us follow the example of the PostmasterGeneral, who spoke of making one sheet of paper do where two sheets were required hitherto. In connexion with the letter paper for this Parliament, for instance, why should we have double sheetswhen single sheets with the imprint would meet all requirements? On the item of stationery alone, probably hundreds of pounds could be saved. At this juncture it behoves the Government to appoint a Government Supply and Tender Board.
– This matter of appointing a Supply and Tender Board was discussed at great length when the last Liberal Government were in office, and we made the only attempt that has been made to introduce that reform. We were told that honorable members opposite were the only people who could deal with this matter properly, but up to date nothing has been done, and the overlapping and waste continue. That is a serious tiling for the country. It is no laughing matter that scores of thousands of pounds should be deliberately thrown away every year through the failure to apply to Government purchases elementary principles of business management.
– A report from the Public Accounts Committee will be printed shortly.
– Is it not singular that all these reports are presented when they can be of no use to Parliament? I called attention some time ago to the fact that the Auditor-General’s report waspresented on the last day of the session, when it was of not the slightest use to honorable members for the consideration of the business concerning which the Auditor-General had reported.We are now considering the subject of stationery, and I am told that a report from the Public Accounts Committee is to reach the hands of the Government when the House has adjourned.
– The report will reach here to-morrow.
– The report ought to be in our hands when the item is before the Committee. It is of no use else. The report, I understand, cannot be here for a week or a fortnight at the very earliest, and, therefore, it will be of no use in connexion with this debate.
I would like to point out to the Treasurer that, while he alleges other war duties as a reason for not being able to investigate his Estimates with a view to proper economy, in the House of Com mons, where Ministers’ obligations are infinitely greater than here, this very year there has been a thorough overhauling of the Estimates, which have been reduced by many millions of pounds.
– There has always been a Committee of Finance in the House of Commons.
– Yes, there has always been a Committee on the Estimates, and a Finance Committee besides; but after the war broke out a special expert Committee of the House was appointed to overhaul the civil Departments, the expenditure upon which has been shorn down by many millions of pounds from the ordinary Estimates. Instead of the war being urged as a reason for a swelling of expenditure in the civil Departments of the Commonwealth, I submit it is an additional reason why economies ought to be effected, not perhaps by the Treasurer - who, probably, has quite enough to do in his Department - but by a Committee of the House, for I assume there is plenty of financial ability in this Chamber. The Government up to the present have done nothing at all in this direction, but have turned down every proposal made by other parties, and are going on extravagantly piling up the Estimates from year to year. Honorable members do not appear to realize the gravity of the situation with which we are confronted at present. However, I can do no more than call attention to these matters, and leave the responsibility to the Government.
– I desire to call attention to a couple of items, one being expenditure for temporary assistance in the Land Tax, Estate Duty, and Income Tax Office. There has been a tremendous jump in the Estimates here. Last year the estimate was £11,000, and the expenditure £14,000. This year the estimate has been increased to £35,000. I do not know how much has been spent, but I suppose the bulk of the vote has gone. It is nearly time that the House took some stand against the employment of temporary assistance to this extent.
– You cannot avoid it in the Land Tax Department, where so many men are employed for only a couple of months in the year.
– I admit there may be special circumstances rendering it necessary for the Land Tax
Department to rely upon temporary assistance to a greater extent than other Departments, bub these items should be carefully scrutinized. Then, there is the sum of £700 set down for the purchase of motor cars. The expenditure last year was £206 on the same account, and I think that when the Treasurer talks so much about the necessity for economy, something in this direction could be effected if. the motor cars were sold, and taxi-cabs hired on those occasions when it is necessary for a Minister or officials to have rapid transit. In the long run, I think this would prove considerably cheaper than the purchase and upkeep of motor cars.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 24 (Government Printer), £19,732; division 25 (Governor-General’s Office), £10,199, agreed to.
Division 26 (Coinage), £9,310.
.- I should like to get some information from the Treasurer in connexion with, the matter of coinage… A question was asked in the House of Commons the other day as to whether the silver coinage of Australia is legal tender in Great Britain, and I understand that tlie UnderSecretary to the Treasury announced that it is not. I gather from what I have seen in the press that a large amount of our silver coinage has found its way to England, and I was wondering whether the Commonwealth Treasury had been shipping any Home in payment of the troops - how it was that such an amount should be in England that attention should be called to the fact in the House of Commons. I can quite understand that if the Commonwealth were actually shipping silver coin to England, the British Treasury might very well object. We all know that the profit on silver coinage is very large, so that if we were shipping it to England, and it was going into circulation, it would to that extent interfere with the currency there.
– No silver coin has been shipped to London by the Commonwealth, but a large quantity has been taken Home by our soldiers. That coin finds its way into circulation in London, but we have made arrangements with the Commonwealth Bank there to cash moderate quantities of both coin and notes.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 27 (Miscellaneous), £675,794.
– I suggest that this is a fair time to adjourn, because I should like to say a few words on the repatriation vote.
– I am not in any way anxious to punish honorable members by keeping them here, because I have had so much experience of all-night sittings in the past, that I regard them as bad business. Last night, however, I understood that the Estimates were to be passed to-day, and it was with that object that we decided to sit on Friday night, a course that I do not think has been adopted five times since the Commonwealth Parliament came ‘ into existence There may have been no definite agreement, but there was an understanding that the Estimates were to be passed today.
– There was an understanding of another sort, too.
– The Government are anxious to get these Estimates through, and, in order to permit certain honorable members bo fulfil a public engagement, ib was decided bo sib bo-morrow and on Monday, instead of continuing over the whole of next week. There is nothing in the Estimates to object to until we reach the new works and buildings, and these votes I do not think we can complete to-night. I suggest that we sit until about 11 o’clock, and then adjourn whether the Estimates be completed or not.
– I do not think that the subject I have referred to is one that ought to: be discussed at this time of night; indeed, I think it disgraceful that such a vote should be forced through now. As to the arrangement spoken of, I find - I regret to have to say ib - that such arrangements are not kept. Many honorable members have left the House to-night with a distinct understanding and belief, rightly or wrongly, about the matter to which the Minister of Trade and Customs has referred.
– That is not correct so far as I or any member of the Government is concerned.
– I do not wish to raise the question, but I know what I was led bo understand
– Because you cannot get your own way you have made about forby speeches !
– How many has the Treasurer made on previous occasions ?
– After eleven years’ experience in Opposition here, I have never seen two Ministers prepared to concede less than those honorable gentlemen here to-night.
– That is scarcely fair after I have just promised to adjourn at 11 o’clock, whether the Estimates be completed or not.
– I submit that we might very well adjourn now, and the Treasurer can take it from me that by making this little concession he will not lose anything in the long run. I am as anxious to complete the business as the Treasurer is himself, but it is not a fair thing to put votes through the House in the absence of honorable members who. had no idea that they were to be dealt with.
– Are you speaking of the repatriation vote?
– No, though I should like to make a suggestion in regard to that.
– Then make it.
– That is the sort of courtesy one receives!
– The Leader of the Opposition promised the Estimates last week.
– I regret to have to ask honorable members not to take any notice of what the Treasurer says. This is, perhaps, the most important vote in the Estimates, and it is not fair that we should be deprived of an opportunity of discussing it.
– Does the right honorable member wish to strike the vote out, reduce it, or increase it? What does he wish to do?
– I must ask you, Mr. Chairman, to stop the Treasurer making these insulting observations. He wishes to get his Estimates through, but he is not going the right way when he makes ugly sinister remarks of this kind.
– Division 27 is before us, and I must ask you, Mr. Chairman, as a point of order, to keep the right honorable member to the question, instead of allowing him to discuss my personal qualifications.
– Will the honorable member for Parramatta proceed ?
– We have here a proposal to vote money before we have even approved of a scheme of repatriation.
– Will the right honorable gentleman give us the whole of the Estimates to-morrow if we adjourn now ?
– So far as I know the Estimates may be finished tomorrow.
– I have no desire to enforce the rules in any harsh manner, and I have allowed much latitude to both Ministers and honorable members; but any arrangements should be made in the House and not in Committee.
.- The Leader of the Opposition assures me that he will give us the Estimates to-morrow, and consequently I propose to report progress.
Bill received from the Senate and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn till 10.30 a.m. to-morrow.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to call attention to a dispute which has occurred amongst the clerical staff employed at the Fitzroy Dock. These men are amongst the lowest paid men on Cockatoo Island. They brought their case before the Arbitration Court, and have been disappointed with the award given by Mr. Justice Powers, who saw fit at the conclusion of the case to offer them some sound advice, which costs very little. His Honour told them that they could not expect any increase of wages in time of war. That is very nice advice to come from a gentleman occupying a high judicial position in this country, and one who is not making any sacrifice from a financial stand-point. At the present time we are spending millions sterling on account of the war. These men are part of the machinery of the war, and it is to be regretted that His Honour should have made the remarks which he did. Before the outbreak of the war, the clerical workers at the dock were in receipt of £3 per week. Since then the purchasing power of the sovereign has seriously declined, so that, to-day, their wage does not represent more than the equivalent of £2 10s. per week. The manager of the Fitzroy Dock has recommended that certain men on the island should be granted increased wages, and I understand that the Minister for the Navy is favorable to the granting of those increases; but the Government have laid down a hardandfast rule that no increases are to be given unless they represent an award of the Court. I say that the policy of the Government should be one of conciliation. We all know that if men do not get justice they will strike. That is what has occurred amongst the clerical workers at theFitzroy Dock. Why should not the Minister be allowed to exercise his discretion in this matter ?
– Why have an Arbitration Court at all ?
– There are times when a Court fails to do its duty. The idea of a Judge of the Arbitration Court telling these men that they must make sacrifices on account of the war ! Other men on the island have been granted increases, whilst the clerical workers have been denied them. They ought not to be called upon to make sacrifices while mechanics employed there are being granted increased wages. I hope that when we meet again the Government will be in a position to state that the dispute has been settled, because if it has not, there is a danger that it may extend to other branches of industry.
.- Perhaps the Minister of Trade and Customs, in replying on this motion, will say whether any further action has been taken in the matter of the embargo on the export of coal.
– In reply to whathas been said by the honorable member for South Sydney, I have to say that it is a fact that a strike took place to-day at Cockatoo Island of all the clerks employed there. These are temporary clerks who have been employed on the island for two or three years in that position. It was only this week that I brought the matter before the Government with a view to seeing whether they could not be made permanent employees, and so secure some improved conditions, as they would be doing a superior class of work. The Government consented that I should look into the matter with that end in view, and, strange to say, although I sent this word to Cockatoo Island, we have been informed that the men are out on strike. I hope that it will prove a very temporary affair, and that the difficulty will be promptly and suitably adjusted.
.- I wish to ask the Government, when arranging for the appointment of the Royal Commission to inquire into the charges made by the Postmaster-General, to consider whether it would not be wiser to appoint the InterState Commission or a Commission composed of members of this House, instead of a Judge of a Supreme Court, for the reason that the charges deal with business matters which a Judge is not as well trained to discuss as are the members of the Inter-State Commission or members who might be appointed from this House.
– I did not know this question was going to be raised, and while, personally, I shall offer no objection to the appointment of a Judge, I cannot help thinking, with the honorable member for Henty, that it would be much better for the purpose we have in view if the inquiry were delegated to the Inter-State Commission. I understand that Mr. Lockyer is away on his holidays.
– He is voluntarily giving up his holidays to do good work for the Defence Department.
– I am aware that he is doing very useful work. There are two other members of the Inter-State Commission, and Mr. Swinburne possesses a knowledge of engineering.
– He is engaged in the Treasury.
– He is, and is doing splendid work for the Commonwealth in the Treasury .
– I think he might do splendid work in the conduct of this inquiry. There are few men possessing better engineering qualifications and knowledge. He would be invaluable in an inquiry of this kind. Then, Mr. Piddington has the judicial faculty, and would be the equal of a Judge in the conduct of the inquiry. I do not know that you could better a delegation of that kind to make an exhaustive inquiry into the charges that have been made.
– The Government have decided to appoint a Judge as the Royal Commissioner to make the inquiry referred to. I gave that answer to a question put by the honorable member for Balaclava at the opening of to-day’s sitting, and action has been taken in that direction. The matter is not finalized, and no doubt the suggestions which have been made will be given consideration. 1, personally, think that a Judge would be the proper person to conduct the inquiry. In reply to the honorable member for Hunter, with reference to the embargo on neutral ships carrying coal that refuse to carry wheat, I am very glad to be in a position to say that it has been relaxed, and two vessels, the Stella and the Transvaal, neutral boats, as well as a Peruvian barque, the name of which I forget at the moment, were approved of to-day to carry coal. The honorable’ member for Hunter, I am sure, realizes that the Government have a great’ responsibility in the matter of the shipment of wheat, but we shall do our best for the coal industry as well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160519_reps_6_79/>.