6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for
Trade and Customs, in the absence of the Treasurer, whether the Government intend to take steps to relieve the position in which sugar cane growers have been placed by the award of Acting Judge Dickson.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay has on the notice-paper a question relating to this matter, for which I am furnished with an answer.
– Will the Minister deal with the general question in his reply?
– The reply to the question on notice will cover the question just asked.
– Is the Minister aware that, as is stated in this morning’s newspaper, the Treasurer of Queensland is now on his way to Melbourne to consult with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth regarding the increasing of the price of raw sugar, and might not the matter be left in abeyance for the time being ?
– The honorable member’s remarks contain both the question and an answer to it.
Report of the Public Works Committee on the Water Supply for the Flinders Naval Base, presented by Mr. Riley, and ordered to be printed.
– It has been persistently reported that the conditions governing the competition for a design for the Parliament House at Canberra have been determined upon, and as these, as stated in the press, are very unsatisfactory, will the Minister give the House an opportunity to discuss them before they are finally approved?
– They have been approved. We have merely revived an arrangement made by the honorable member for Wentworth when Minister of Home Affairs, and everything is now going swimmingly.
– As the 10 per cent. ad valorem duty on cornsacks does not benefit Great Britain by giving her manufacturers preference, will the Minister of Trade and Customs take steps to have cornsacks put on the free list, as they were originally ?
– Once a Tariff has been announced, it is not in my power to deal with its provisions except on the floor of this chamber.
– Has the attention of. the Minister of Trade and Customs been drawn to a statement in last night’s newspaper to the effect that the Government is negotiating for the purchase of the Chillagoe railway and mine for £450,000? The paragraph reads-
At a meeting of the Chillagoe Railway and Mines Limited-
– The honorable member, in asking a question, must not read extracts from a newspaper. Having asked a question, he may not proceed to comment on its subject-matter.
– To-day’s Argus states that it is the Queensland, and not the Commonwealth, Government that has made the arrangement referred to.
– Is it a fact that a depu tation waited on the Minister of Trade and Customs yesterday, and asked him to remove the embargo on the export of butter?Is it not true that there is a great shortage of butter in New South Wales?
– I have had deputations from persons interested in the butter trade in the three eastern States, and yesterday a deputation of the butter exporters of Victoria waited on me. Its members asked that the embargo on the export of butter might be raised, and that, failing that, the export of second and third grade butters might be permitted. I replied that the export of” third grade butters had been permitted for more than a fortnight, and that half the second grade butter in store could be exported. We have not yet allowedthe export of first grade butter. I have read in the newspapers the statement that there is a shortage of butter in New South Wales, and, as I informed the deputation yesterday, I must look at these matters from the Australian, and not from a State, point of view.
– I ask the Minister of Home Affairs, in the absence of the Prime Minister, whether arrangements are being made to enable our soldiers at the front to vote at the conscription referendum which is to be taken shortly?
– That matter is in the hands of Senator Russell.
– Is there no Minister in this House who can answer the question ?
– Is it the intention of the Government to utilize the provisions of the War Precautions Act in order to lock up all who are objecting to conscription? A start was made in Melbourne last night.
– The Government will not hesitate to use its powers under the War Precautions Act in any and every direction necessary for the welfare of the country. Whether the exercise of those powers is necessary in regard to the matter mentioned by the honorable member I will not say just now.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether his announcement on Wednesday with regard to conscription is limited to making up the number of recruits who were promised before he went to Great Britain, and who were not sent?
– As I propose to give the House the opportunity of discussing this matter at some length, and intend to continue my speech upon it, I do not think that any answer to the honorable member’s question is necessary, further than to say that the present situation has arisen entirely owing to a direct request by the British Government for a specific number of troops.
Reinforcements : Employment of Returned Soldiers
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the statement appearing in the press, that a quota of reinforcements required during this month for the Expeditionary Forces is 36,000, was supplied by him or his Government?
– No figures were supplied to the press by me.
– In reference to the employment of seventy or eighty returned soldiers at the Sydney Post Office at. rates of pay lower than those paid to the permanent staff, and in view of the fact that these men are said to be performing the same work as members of the permanent staff, has the PostmasterGeneral considered the advisabilityof placing these returned soldiers on the same footing as members of the permanent staff in regard to pay ?
– The matter is controlled by the Public Service Commissioner, and does not come within my purview.
– Can the Minister for the Navy say whether it is a fact that the Government have acquired the Shaw wireless works? If so, is the Minister in a position to mention the price and the conditions of purchase?
– The Government have acquired these works for £55,000, which price covers land, buildings, plant, and stock.
– Did the contract for the purchase of the works contain a clause making the completion of the purchase subject to ratification by Parliament ?
– I am not aware of any such provision.
– For the information of honorable members, will the Minister lay the papers in connexion with the purchase on the table of the House?
– In view of the considerable shortage of freight space between Great Britain and Australia, have the Government taken action to prohibit the importation of articles that are unnecessary, such as luxuries, or harmful., such as intoxicating liquors?
– The question of the prohibition of the importation of certain articles which may or may not be regarded as luxuries, or not necessaries, has been carefully considered by the Government, but, in view of the fact that the conditions in Australia are so different from those prevailing in other parts of the world, owing to the length of the sea voyage here, Ministers have been unable to arrive at a definite decision as to what articles should be prohibited from coming here.
– Have the Government any intention of providing living accommodation for the congested population at Lithgow engaged in making small arms for Australia?
– The matter is now under the consideration of the Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the British Government have increased the old-age pensions paid in Great Britain by 2s. 6d. per week; and, if so, whether his Government will deal with old-age pensioners in the same generous way?
– The Government have considered the question, and agreed upon a policy, but I prefer that the announcement should be made when the Treasurer is present.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is intended to so register the sixteen ships which he recently purchased in London as to bring them under those provisions of the Commonwealth Navigation Act which bear upon foreign ships coming to this country ?
– That course will be followed as soon as a- proclamation can issue under the Act which will give us the power to do so.
– Has the attention of the Postmaster-General been drawn to a statement by Judge Heydon, of New South Wales, that the minimum wage at the present time is 9s. 6d. a day. If so, will he consider the desirableness of advising the Public Service Inspectors to raise to that standard the wages of temporary employees in his Department?
– -The policy of the Parliament in regard to such matters is laid down by law, and they can be arranged only by resort to that law. The raising of the wages of temporary hands, which would involve the immediate rais ing of the wages of all employees of the Department, is a matter -which I, as Minister, am not going to take out of the hands of the constitutional authority.
Royal Commission : Work at Canberra: Request for Improved Conditions.
– Can the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House when the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the Federal Capital administration is likely to complete its labours, and when work will be resumed at the Capital?
– Works are proceeding at Canberra in an economical way.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs lay upon the table of the House a copy of the printed request for improved conditions presented to him by the carpenters, bricklayers, and others at Canberra on the occasion of his recent visit ?
– I do not remember having received any printed request, but I will look into the matter.
Price or Cane: Carriage of Sugar: Freight
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer place on. the table of the Library a copy of the agreement and rates entered into between the Commonwealth Government and certain steam-ship companies for the carriage of sugar, or sugar in any form from Queensland, together with variations (if any) made in such agreement or rate during the last three years?
Mr. TUDOR (for Mr. Higgs).- The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
There is no agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the shipping companies. Queensland raw sugar has for years past been carried by the Adelaide Steam-ship Company for the Colonial Sugar Refining Company at an average rate of about 16s. 6cl. per ton. During this season the freight paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, with the consent of the Government, averages about 18s. 9d. per ton - an increase of 2s. 3d. per ton.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Cockatoo Island Docks : Numberof Employees - Employees at Naval Bases.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will he inform this House as to -
The total number of men employed at the Cockatoo Island Dock?
The total number of clerks employed, including tallymen, recorders, and providers?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
What are the approximate numbers of men employed by his Department -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr. JENSEN (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The recent advices from the Australian Military Head-Quarters in London indicate that satisfactory results are being achieved.
Employees on Public Works.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What are the approximate numbers of men employed by his Department -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Debate resumed from 30th August (vide page 8404).
– I desire to proceed to an examination of the proposals which I have the honour . to lay before Parliament, in order to ascertain whether they are adequate to meet the present circumstances. It is well that I should again state what these circumstances are. The British Empire, is involved in the greatest war in the history of mankind. Australia is not only committed, as a part of the Empire, to stand by her side to the end, but is. compelled to fight for her own existence and her liberties to the last man and the last shilling. This is our war, and upon the issue our fortunes and our future absolutely depend. We are fighting our own battle, and must not, dare not, fail. So far, by general consent, we have not failed. We have, so far, at least, done as well as any other portion of the Empire. I say no more than that. We may be legitimately proud that,’ in this great hour of trial, we have, at least, not lagged behind the rest of our race throughout the Empire. But the end is not yet. Though through the dark gloom that hems us about we see the bright promise of a new dawn, it will fade and leave us for ever in the shadows unless we press on, and still on.
Hitherto Great Britain has refrained from even suggesting to us how many troops we should send; but present circumstances have compelled her to disregard the traditional reticence which very properly hedges about the relations between Britain and the self-governing Dominions, and she now tells us, in plain words, what’we are expected to do. It remains for us to do it.
That being so, I intend to examine the Government proposals in the light of the position as I have just stated it, in order to see whether they are adequate to meet it. If they are, they ought to receive the unanimous support of the House; if they are not, they ought to be unanimously rejected. I say tha.t without condition or reservation of any sort or kind. What has to be done ? Our duty is plain ; it is set out in plain words. The nation now cannot permit itself to be the sport of mere hysterical emotion on the one band, or of apathy and indifference on the other. There is set before it a definite task which it cannot evade with honour, which it cannot neglect with safety. It has to provide 32,500 men in September, 16,500 men in October, 16,500 men in November, and 16,500 men in December. We may assume, although we are not told, that the demand for reinforcements thereafter will continue on that scale; that is to say at the rate of 16,500 men a month.
– Have you any figures showing the number now in camp ?
–Yes; I shall leave nothing unsaid. I shall lay all the facts before Parliament and the country. I am. standing here, not as the leader of a party, endeavouring to conceal things, but as a man charged with the responsibility of leading the nation at this critical moment, revealing everything, casting on every honorable member and every citizen that responsibility which none can evade.
A definite task is before us. The question is: Do the Government’s proposals enable us to perform it? In my opinion, they most certainly do. Let me now set out the position in detail, showing exactly what troops we are called upon to provide, the number already in hand, and how far the Government’s- proposals insure .that continuous and ample stream of reinforcements which are necessary. Let me repeat what we are called upon to do.
In September we must supply 32,500 men ; in October, 16,500; in November, 16,500; in December, 16,500 - being a grand total of 82,000 men up to the end of this year. Assuming, as we may fairly do - although the Army Council’s request is silent on the point - that the reinforcements for the three following months will be on the same scale, in January, February, and March, 1917, we shall have to provide 16,500 men a month, or a grand total to the end of March, 1917, of 131,500 men. This is what Britain expects Australia to do. The problem before us is how to do it.
Let us turn to the consideration of the troops already available to meet these requirements. Apart from the four divisions now in France, and the Light Horse Division and any details in Egypt, the troops available are as follow: - Tha number in camp in Australia, to within a few days ago, is 43,512; in England, 44,511; and on the water, 15,000- being a grand total of 103,023. From this total must be deducted 20,000 of the troops now in England, forming what is technically the Third Division, but which is really a Fifth Division for France; and the estimated wastage on 103,023 - that is 10,000- a deduction of 30,000 in all, leaving available for reinforcements 73,023 to meet the demands of the British authorities up to the end of this year, and the further reinforcements of 16.500 a month for the first three months of 1917.
Now, let me set out how we stand each month from the end of September of this year to the end of March, 1917. Assuming that no recruits, either volunteers or men who are compelled to serve, are added to the numbers now available, the number of our troops available in England during each of the months from September to January, 1917, will be as follows: - With the 44,500 now in England, and, say. 7,000 arriving this month, we have a total in England for September of 51,500. During that month there are required 32,500, leaving a balance of 19,000 in England. In October, the month’s normal reinforcements of 12,500 despatched from Australia from the troops already available will increase the balance of troops in England to 31,500, to meet a. demand of 16,500, leaving a balance of 15,000. In November, there will arrive 12,500 reinforcements from those now in hand in Australia, making a grand total in England of 27,500, upon which there will be a demand of 16,500 - leaving a balance of 11,000. .In December, there will arrive 12,500 normal reinforcements - still from the Forces already in existence in Australia - which increases the total in England to 23,500, to meet the demand of 16,500, leaving only 7,000 troops in England. The January reinforcements of 12,500 - from troops now enlisted - will bring the total up to 19,500, upon which there will be a demand of 16,500, leaving, at the end of January, a balance of only 3,000 men. I invite the attention of honorable members to these figures. They set out the whole position; its strength and its weakness. They show that a balance of 3,000 men will remain from the troops now enlisted, after complete compliance with the demands of the Army Council, without bringing one more soldier into camp. But they show also that we shall have then arrived at the end of our present resources, and that there will be left in England only 3,000 trained men, and none at all in Australia I
If we could be sure that the war would end on the 31st December, tlie position is one which we might leave to voluntary recruiting - although this has fallen, as I have stated, to some 6,000 a month - to adjust. But no man is to put a period to this war, and it would be criminal folly to assume any such thing. We should rather prepare for another complete year of war than anticipate any premature peace. And no proposals, which do not only provide for the demands of the Army Council by using all soldiers now available, but also insure a sufficient supply of recruits necessary to maintain adequate reserves of trained soldiers, can be regarded as satisfactory. What we want, and must have, are trained men. Nothing else will serve. Untrained men are of no avail. To send untrained men into the trenches is murder; to reinforce men who are fighting our battles, and for their lives, with untrained men will not help them or hasten the hour of victory. The one question, therefore, the House and the country has to consider is: Do the Government proposals insure a sufficiency of trained men, ready when they are wanted ? I say they do, and that no other practicable proposals can do so.
Let me prove this. On the 1st of October, if during this present month 32,500 men - equivalent to the number taken out under the Army Council’s demands, namely, 32,500 - do not join, the compulsory provisions of the Defence Act will be enforced immediately, so that, on that date, there will be not less than 32,500 men in camp, or getting into camp, who were not in camp on the 1st September. And thereafter there will come into camp each month, either in response to the appeal made to the patriotism of the people, or under the provisions of the Defence Act, 16,500 men. It follows, therefore, that the number of new men in training in Australia will exactly coincide with the number of trained men taken during that month to meet the re quirements of the Army Council. And this applies to every subsequent month. As the trained men are taken out, equal numbers of new men are put into training. And this is the essential point. We are not to consider any pet scheme that we may cherish; but to insure a sufficiency of trained men. Any scheme that does not insure them is to be condemned. Any scheme that does is to be applauded and supported.
– I do not accept that.
– It has been urged that the proposals of the Government involve delay. They involve no delay. On the contrary, I say, deliberately, that they are the only proposals that are at once adequate to the circumstances, and will not involve delay. What is the alternative to them ? Some newspapers which profess to represent public opinion, but in reality grossly misrepresent it, contend that we should show so little faith in Australia as to bludgeon her into a course that she will take gladly. The proposals of the Government are condemned because we do not attempt to force through this Parliament a measure compelling our citizens to serve overseas, without consulting the people, or having regard to the opinions of many honorable members of this Parliament. If any man can show me that such a measure would have received the sanction of Parliament within a period less than that necessary for the taking of the proposed referendum, and without violating the principles of representative government, I shall gladly abandon my proposals, and let him take the speedier way. But there is no middle pa.th. To all, save those who shut their eyes to plain facts, it is obvious that the alternative to a referendum is an election - a path that I am quite prepared to tread, but one no better, and not nearly so speedy, as that put forward by the Government. We have to deal with the Parliament as it is, not as some honorable members desire it to be. Every honorable member in this House knows that there is great divergency of opinion on this matter in Parliament, as well as outside. Will any honorable member deny that the introduction of a Bill providing for compulsory service would nave involved acrimonious debate and excited strong feeling in, as well as outside, the Parliament? Will any honorable member say that, although there may be a majority in this House in favour of compulsion, there is such a majority in the Senate? Sir,
I have, we all have, to look at the position as it is. I do not regard this question from a party stand-point. As every one knows, I am an advocate of what is termed conscription. Throughout my public life I have been in favour of compelling citizens to serve in defence of their country, and that at a time when it was most unpopular, when hardly one honorable member opposite, or indeed on this side of the House, was prepared to stand by me. But, while I have favoured compulsion for home defence, I have hitherto been against compulsion for oversea service. But now iron circumstance compels me, as it has compelled others, to disregard this distinction. We are faced with facts, and we must not turn aside, and so attempt to evade that which cannot be evaded . What does it matter wht we thought yesterday ? We have to consider now what is the best and quickest way of doing the thing that has to be done. This is the position the Government has had to face. These proposals do face it, and effectively. They are the best way of getting the men required, because they are at once the surest and the speediest. They insure adequate training of a sufficient number of men, and they involve no delay.
We have now troops sufficient to supply all requirements until the end of January. Under the Government’s proposals 32,500 fresh men will be in camp on the 1st October. As we give recruits about three months’ training here and then send them to England, where their training can, if necessary, be continued, it follows that as part of these 16,500 men will have been in training during the greater part of September and the whole of October and November, that early in December they will begin to be available for despatch overseas. The remainder of the 16,500 recruited during the latter part of September will be ready for despatch during the latter part of December and up to the 1st January. On the 1st November another 16,500 men will join, who will be ready to be sent away on the 1st February, and 16,500 thenceforward on the first day of each month. Our proposals therefore insure a sufficiency of trained men to replace those drawn from our present Forces to supply all the demands of the Army Council.
We come now to another point. As we are 12,000 miles from. Great Britain, and troops have to be sent overseas to effectively assist in this great war, sufficient transport accommodation is essential. The present transport capacity is about 13,000 men a month. If additional further transports are required the Admiralty will supply them. But these cannot be made available for at least ten weeks, so that, during this period, we cannot send oversea more than 12,500 troops a month. As the figures quoted by me show that the requirements of the British Government can be met by sending 12,500 a month overseas until the end of January, the balance being supplied from the troops now in England, it is clear that under our proposals all the troops necessary will be available as required. The need for additional transports, therefore, does not arise until January.
I come now to the referendum. This will be taken on 28th October, whether it takes two or five weeks to pass the Referendum Bill.
– Suppose the Bill had not been passed by that date?
– Then I should be inclined to find a remedy under the War Precautions Act. As well ask a man what he would do if the sky were to fall. The Referendum Bill will pass. That is assured. There can be none of that acrimonious discussion on a proposal to refer conscription to the people that would arise on a ‘ measure dealing with conscription itself.
It has been said that there is no need for a referendum. I say that there must be a referendum or an election; one or other is inevitable under the circumstances.
– Supposing honorable gentlemen opposite had been in favour of compulsion, would the right honorable gentleman then have thought a referendum or an election inevitable?
– I think so.
– Would it have been inevitable with a unanimous Parliament?
– If the Parliament is unanimous on any subject, it may fairly be assumed to reflect the opinion of the whole people. But those who are against compulsion reflect the opinion of a large number of persons outside, and, therefore, the people should be consulted. Taking Parliament as we find it, and remembering that it is our duty to achieve our purpose in the most expeditious manner, I conceive that we have taken the right course, because that must be the right course which insures the enrolment of the number of men required, and procures them as soon as possible.
– A referendum cannot bind the Senate.
– I do not say that it can. But I will say quite frankly that the Government will consider the verdict of the people as sufficient authority. What is more, I venture to say that every member of Parliament will do so.
– May I ask a question 1
– I have answered for myself and for the Government - that is sufficient. It would be an intolerable condition of things if Parliament deliberately flouted the expressed will of the people. What would be the use of going to the people?
– Will the Government, as a Government, be behind the referendum ?
– For myself, I say that I am going into this referendum campaign as if it were the only thing for which I lived.
– And the Government?
– I speak for the Government. It may be asserted that there is no necessity for either parliamentary sanction or a reference to the people - that is to say, that the Government might have imposed compulsion on the people without consulting Parliament or referring the matter to the electors. I do not know whether that view finds favour in the mind of any honorable member, but I venture to say that it is quite incompatible, not only with the principles of Democracy, but with parliamentary government, that it would not be tolerated, even by those who are very stalwart supporters of compulsion, and that, had it been resorted to, it would not have prevented the manifestation of strong feeling inside as well as outside Parliament. Indeed, it would have precipitated political chaos, because the Government that dared to take such a course would be immediately confronted with a Parliament indignant at being ignored. Members on both sides would set themselves against such a thing. A Government must have substantial support behind it, either the support of the people directly expressed, or of a Parliament representing the people and respon. sible to them; and no Ministry could live in a democratic country without such support. The Government, therefore, having to obtain the sanction of the people, or that of Parliament, has put forward proposals which insure the sanction of both. There may be a majority of honorable members in Parliament who are opposed to compulsion, but they are not opposed to a reference of the matter to the people, and once that decision is given, they must abide by it. As we are Democrats on both sides of the House, when the people have spoken there is an end of the matter.
– But already you have the support of the majority in this House.
– I dare say that I might be able to get a majority without some of my friends on this side; but, as the right honorable gentleman knows perfectly well, there is an august body - to which we are not permitted to refer other than as “another place” - which would make short work of measures to which it is opposed. For ten months the right honorable gentleman endeavoured to bend that other place to his will. He could not do it; and he and it had to go to the country. No doubt, the honorable gentlemen in that other place are now a little subdued, but their teeth are not all drawn. In any case, to have forced a measure for conscription through both Houses and given effect to it would have involved much delay, bitter debate, and strong public feeling; and if it had led to a double dissolution - as it probably would have done - this would have taken, at the very least, four months, and the appeal to the country another three months. After which we should have had to begin to do the thing that we are now doing. For the proposals of the Government are now in operation. That is the position on which I want to lay great stress.
When honorable members say that the proposals of the Government are insufficient, I ask them to show me where they are insufficient. Do they say that they are insufficient because the people may not carry the Referendum ? But the Government have absolute faith in the people. The electors know their duty as well as we do, and will surely do it. What an amazing argument this is, “ Supposing the people turn it down “ ! Have honorable members so little faith in the people of Australia that they believe the people, even though they realize the gravity of the circumstances, are not prepared to do their duty? If the people of Australia are of that mind, and would turn down this appeal to them, then I say that they destroy their whole case. They declare, in effect, that the Parliament would have been justified in resisting, at all hazards, the passing of a measure to impose conscription, and that an appeal to the people by way of an election would result in a Parliament returned against compulsion !
I believe that the people of Australia will carry this referendum by an overwhelming majority. No effort of mine shall be spared to bring that about, and, with the assistance of honorable members on both sides of the House, we shall do it. The submission of the question to the people by way of referendum will not excite that turmoil that surrounds an election, and we shall avoid that outburst of public feeling that would be engendered by an attempt to dragoon the country or the Parliament into compulsion against its will.
What Democrat can oppose our proposal ? What patriot can declare the course to be advocated unnecessary ? The gravity of the position being set out, the duty of Australians being clearly defined, the people are asked to approve of the Government taking the only course by which our duty can be done.
The people are to decide. The proposals of the Government, which I have shown to be adequate to the circumstances, are thus compatible with Democracy. It may happen there will be manifestations of popular disapproval by a section of the community. Last night we had a popular manifestation of disapproval of the proposals of the Government ; but Ministers know their duty, and will have no more regard for the attempt of a section of the people to overawe them by force than they will have for those articles of scurrilous abuse which are now heaped upon them by journals which, twenty-four or forty-eight hours ago, declared they had sunk all party considerations, and were behind the Government. The Government will go on, and it will do its duty; and I charge every man and every woman in this country to do their duty, and assist us in this grave crisis. They may think that what has to be done might have been done in a different way. No doubt; but not in a better way, not in a way that involved no loss of time, and so little friction. Let those who desire the welfare of their country cease from denunciation, from abuse, from factious criticism. Let them support the Government which is charged with the great responsibility of guiding the nation in this hour of trial. Let no one charge the Government with having neglected its duty unless it fails to get the men, and it can only fail to do so if the people fail it; and if the people fail it, God help Australia.
But I am as assured of Australia as I am of myself. Australia “will not fail. The people will have an opportunity of hearing the facts and of expressing their opinion on them clearly.
One word only, and I have done. It is said that the proposals do not reach the right men. If they do not, whom do they reach? There are now available, other than those in camp up to the 9th June, 152,910 fit single men, without dependants, whose ages run from eighteen to forty-four. But the Government, wisely, I think, do not propose to take men under twenty-one years of age.
Honorable MEMBERS.-Hear, hear!
– Many of us have sent our own sons who are under twenty-one; but it would have been better if the boys under twenty-one had not been sent. They cannot endure the fatigue, and they do not recover from their wounds as readily as older men. Let us, in this battle, fight, as far as we are able, with grown men. Making a deduction, of which we can only have an estimate, for those between eighteen and twenty-on years of age, we have an ample field to whom we can direct our appeal, and those are the men to whom the appeal is now made, and to whom the provisions of the Defence Act will apply. They are the men we seek to reach, and the men who will be reached. Thus our proposal will reach the right men, and will get them within the right time and with the least possible friction, and at the same time in a way compatible with Democracy. When we have the sanction of the people, we shall have the trained men ready to give effect to it without delay, and to comply with the demands of the Army Council. Australia will have done her duty. It is a duty that presses heavily on all sorts and conditions of men; but it is one that has to be faced. Confronted with difficulties of all kinds, the Government have taken a course that I am satisfied time and consideration will convince the overwhelming majority of the people of the country is the right one ; and I ask every honorable member of the House and every citizen of the Commonwealth to stand behind the Government, encouraging it with their support, and helping it to do its duty. I move -
That the Statement made to the House on Wednesday, 30th August last, showing the Government proposals for obtaining recruits for war service, be printed.
Debate (on motion of Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
Sugar Industry: Prices of Cane and Sugar - Inter-State Trade - Parliamentary Buildings, Canberra : Design Competition.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation for the purposes of< this Bill.
In Committee of Supply:
– On behalf of the Treasurer, I move -
That a sum not exceeding £5,023,580 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1017.
The Bill will provide for three months’ Supply. I intend to-day to proceed only with the formal stages, in order that the Bill may be at once circulated, so that honorable members will be in a position to proceed with its consideration on Wednesday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1917, a sum not exceeding £5,023,580 be granted out of the Con solidated Revenue Fund.
.- The condition of affairs now existing in Queensland in connexion with the sugar industry is of such urgent importance that it should receive immediate attention. The Minister representing the Treasurer said, in answer to a question that I put to him on the subject this morning, that the matter was out of his hands ; but, according to a statement made by the Treasurer himself, it is not. As recently as 5th July last the Treasurer of Queensland, when asked to sanction the sale of a certain quantity of crude sugar, under extraordinary conditions, to persons other than the contractors for the Federal Government, namely, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Refinery, replied in writing that the matter was out of his hands - that it was in the hands of the Federal Government. It is difficult to understand how the further statement that the Treasurer is not aware that the sugar industry is in jeopardy could have been made on behalf of the honorable gentleman this morning, in view of the fact that there are sugar-growers in one part of his electorate, and that he knows that those sugar-growers say that they cannot cut their cane and harvest it on account of the conditions now existing. I was told further, in answer to my question, that the price of sugar cane is fixed by the Cane Prices Board appointed by the Government of Queensland. The honorable gentleman knows perfectly well that no alteration can be made without the consent of his Government. The Minister representing the Treasurer also stated that the Queensland Government commandeered all the raw sugar at £18 per ton, and that the Commonwealth Government have no authority to increase the price. I invite honorable members to consider these replies to my questions in the light of the following statement, made in writing by the Under-Secretary to the Queensland Treasury on 5 th July, 1915 : -
Sir, - With reference to your letter of the 28th April, applying for a permit to dispose privately of your stock of raw sugar - product of the 1915 season - I have the honour, by direction, to inform you that the matter was referred to the Commonwealth Government for consideration, and advice has been received from the Acting Prime Minister that the application cannot be approved.
Seeing that it was essential to obtain the consent of the Federal Government to deal with this sugar, how can it be said that the Commonwealth has not control of the situation now existing in connexion with the industry in Queensland ? The position must be dealt with promptly by the Government. There are 19,000 people directly affected by the present state of affairs in addition to many thousands who are indirectly involved, while there is also a sum of not less than £10,000,000 directly invested in the Queensland sugar industry. A still more important consideration is that, if want of action on the part of the Commonwealth Government should result in the destruction of the industry, the Commonwealth will be faced with one of the greatest possible menaces by having all the rich sugar lands of the northern State thrown out of occupation. In that event, the question will naturally arise as to how far we are justified in holding this enormously rich territory without putting it to any use. If it is not utilized in the production of sugar, it is impossible, under the conditions existing in Queensland, for any products to be raised there profitably. No products in large quantities could be raised there other than those of a tropical character. I sincerely hope that the Government will take immediate steps to make some alteration in the price of the crude sugar of the producers, and that to enable the refiners to sell that sugar at a profit they will allow them to charge more for it. At all events, a proportion of the price that is already received by the Federal Government should be applied to the additional payment of the sugar manufacturers. It has been clearly stated by sugar authorities that the profit made on sugar by the Federal Government when it was sold at £25 10s. a ton was 25s. per ton, and that when the price was raised to £29 5s. - an increase of £3 15s. - not one sixpence of that increase was paid either to the sugar grower or to the sugar manufacturer. If a proportion of that increase were allowed to the grower and- the manufacturer, then the existing situation in Queensland* could be at once ended. 1 hope that the Committee will recognise that an industry like that of sugar production cannot be checked at harvesttime without bringing disaster to it.
– The growers themselves have taken action this time, have they not?
– They took action, for the reason that the payment of additional wages, amounting to an increase of about 43 per cent., has made it unprofitable to harvest their cane. They clearly see that it would be far better for them to let their cane rot in the fields than to harvest it at a direct loss to themselves. It is the bounden duty of the Government, in circumstances like these, to exercise the power which they did not hesitate to use when it was proposed to sell certain sugars on the 5th July last. I hope that they will exercise it, and say that, under existing circumstances, they will grant a higher price to the grower and to the manufacturer. It appears to me, however, that the Government show no sympathy with the sugar industry. It was only in July last that the Central Sugar Mill, at Isis, had an offer, from people outside the Government contractors, to purchase 75 tons of molasses sugar at from £20 to £22 per ton. The Isis Central Sugar Mill Company Limited authorities were told, however, that they could not sell it; that the sugar must go to the Millaquin Refinery on behalf of the Federal and Queensland Governments. They were consequently compelled to dispose of it to the Millaquin Refinery at less than £12 per ton, and without doing anything in the way of refining it, the refinery re-sold it to some of the very people who were prepared to buy it from the Central Mill at Isis. We are given to understand that notwithstanding that they did nothing to it, they got the price of from £20 to £22 per ton which was offered to the Central Mill. The difference between the price of less than £12 per ton which the Central Mill received, and the price at which the Millaquin Refinery sold the sugar has been taken from the Central Mill, the shareholders of which are all cane growers. Where has it gone ? Some one has received it. I asked the Treasurer some days ago, by letter, to tell me where this money had gone to, but the honorable gentleman has not had the courtesy to reply. I should like to read to the House the communication I sent to the Treasurer, because I think it is only right that honorable members should know how this matter has been treated. On the 17th August I wrote to the Treasurer in the following terms: -
I have been asked by at least one centra.) sugar mill in my electorate to inform you that they have been prevented by your Government from selling a considerable quantity of last season’s low quality of ration sugar of about 60 to 65 N.T., outside the Millaquin Sugar Refinery, Bundaberg, although they had a splendid offer for same, and all they could get from the Millaquin Refinery was something less than £12 per ton, although that refinery, I am given to understand, immediately on receipt, resold without further treatment for pounds per ton increased price to the very people who would have purchased direct from the central mill. It is understood the Millaquin Refinery will not receive anything approaching the difference between what they purchased and sold at, the Federal Government receiving the difference. I am requested to ascertain -
– Can you say who offered the £22 ?
– I have letters in my possession which show who made this offer. While this state of affairs is permitted, there is no wonder that the grower finds the industry to be useless to him, and has decided to let his cane rot in the field rather than harvest it. I appeal again to the House, and more particularly to the Government, to take steps to prevent this important industry being wiped out of existence, for nobody but the Government can prevent this disaster. The man who grows his cane and manufactures it has no power to sell except to the people named by the authorities, and a price is fixed which is clearly less than the cost of production. If the sugar is sold over that price, the balance does not go to the people who grow it and manufacture it, but it goes to the Treasury. I have much information on this subject, but at this stage I do not propose to go further into the matter. I earnestly appeal to the Government, as the only authority with the power, to do something in aid of this industry.
– I shall certainly direct the attention of the Treasurer to the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay. The Treasurer is just as much interested in this industry as the honorable member himself.
– He does not show any interest in it.
– It is very easy for honorable members of another political way of thinking; to attribute motives.
– What I said can bo proved up to the hilt, and I should say the same no matter on which side of politics I was.
– In the fourteen or fifteen years before the honorable member entered this House much interest in this subject was shown by honorable members from Queensland.
– Then the Government took no hand in it.
– If the honorable member will refer to Hansard of a little while back he will find that I was denounced by the very growers who are complaining to-day. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro, when he, as Minister of Trade and Customs, fixed the standard wage of 22s. 6d. per week, was denounced by Queensland members for fixing a rate that the industry could not pay.
– Were the workers all kanakas ?
– That was after the kanaka time, and I have several copies of the report of an interview on the subject between the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and a deputation. I realize, just as the Treasurer no doubt will, the difficulties of the position. However, this is a matter that is not under my direction at the present time, and it would be unfair for me to say anything which might prejudice the Treasurer or persons connected with the industry.
– I am sure that the honorable member for Wide Bay is glad to know that the Minister of Trade and Customs intends to bring this matter under the attention of the Treasurer, and I hope and believe that this will be sympathetically done. No one knows better than the Minister of Trade and Customs the grave difficulties experienced by the small farmers throughout Queensland in their efforts to translate into action a course whicha great many people in Australia advocated as a mere matter of theoretic policy and academic belief.
– The honorable member knows that I visited the districts myself.
– That is so; and I know that the honorable gentleman fixed a standard of wage which’, compared with this subsequent award, was an exceedingly modest one.
– Are you referring to the kanaka time?
– No; to a time quite recent. The honorable member for EdenMonaro, as Minister, took a keen interest in the question, and, in company with me, went through the growing districts in order to investigate the conditions of the industry. A similar course was taken by the honorable member for Swan when Treasurer. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro could tell honorable members the difficulties under which he found the farmers struggling in their efforts to develop the sugar-growing industry under white-labour conditions. These growers certainly deserve the gratitude of Aus; tralia for the work they have done in the way of settling with a white population the northern parts of Australia. The sugar-growers received the most sympathetic consideration from the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, and even today they have in their hearts kindly feelings towards him. The present condition is that the Government have purchased the sugar at a fixed price, and have fixed the selling price which shall obtain throughout Australia. The grower cannot get more for his crop than the price fixed for it; and if the cost of production is increased, the grower’s wage, to that extent, is taken away. According to the new award, the wages of field labourers are increased from £2 10s. to £3 18s. ; the wages of ploughmen, with one to three horses, from £2 15s. a week to £4 2s. ; ploughmen, with four to six horses, from £2 15s. to £4 4s.; tractor ploughmen, from £2 15s. to £4 3s. ; scufflers and scarifiers, £2 15s. to £4 ; cultivators, with two to four horses, £2 15s. to £4 3s.; horse-drivers of vehicles, with one to two horses, £2 15s. to £4; horse-drivers of vehicles, with three to six horses, from £2 15s. to £4 2s.; horse-drivers of vehicles, with seven horses and over, £2 10s. to £4 4s. ; and cane-cutters from £3 12s. to £5 2s.
– That is all very vague; what is the difference between the £2 15s. man and the £4 4s. man ?
– I merely wish to show what wages are now to be paid, and I do not desire, on the present occasion, to go into details. These wages represent the increased cost of production caused by the award of an Acting Judge in Court.
– Do you impugn his decision ?
– What I say is, that these men arc faced with increased cost of production, and, under the circumstances, are unable to pass that on by increasing the selling price. The increase is taken out of the pockets of the man the price of whose article is fixed by law.
– If they have to pay these wages, the cost of production will be increased to practically more than the selling price fixed by the Government.
– If these wages have to be paid, there ought to be a corresponding increase in the selling price.
– Did the Judge know all this when he gave his award?
– I think the Judge goes on the line that he has to fix what he regards as fair-wages conditions. There are others beside working men who -are entitled to a fair return for their labour; and the farmers of Australia, especially those men in the North, deserve every consideration at the hands of the people. Cane-growers would not, without very strong reason, turn their backs upon their work and allow their crops to perish.
– Similar statements were made during the kanaka trouble.
– That stage passed long ago, and we have now to deal with presentday problems. This is not merely a Queensland matter, but an Australian matter. I know that the honorable member for Herbert has taken a keen interest in the question, fighting for the growers as well as for the employees; and I am not raising this discussion in any political sense. Where men’s livings are concerned, the more we keep away from political aspects, the better for the industries involved. I am now dealing with an Australian economic condition. The fruit-growing industry in Australia depends, to a great extent, on the sugar industry of Queensland. This was shown the other day, when, owing to the blocking of a Queensland port by a strike, some 200 or 300 people were thrown out of work in Tasmania. The issue of Government price-fixing regulations shows that this is regarded by the Government as a Commonwealth matter; and, so long as the conditions are kept rigid, no assistance can be given. The report as to the effect of the award from which I have quoted is furnished by the president of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, and I give it on the weight of his authority. He was a member of the Royal Commission which inquired into the sugar industry, and I believe that his statements have not been impugned. There is one other urgent matter which I hope the Minister will bring under the attention of the Attorney-General, so that he may, if possible, give us a reply by Wednesday. I refer to the action of the Government in ignoring the provisions of the Constitution in regard to freedom of Inter-State trade. The matter was brought under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs, who properly forwarded it to the Department of the Attorney-General. The trouble has continued since last January, lt was taken before the High Court, but there appears to have been some compromise in the action.
– Did the cattle case go before the High Court?
– Yes; it was heard by Mr. Justice Isaacs, in Brisbane.
– Are not the lawyers stringing out the case, for some reason?
– One action was settled, but, in my opinion, there should be a definite decision by the High Court as to the validity of the action of the State Government. We do not want cases settled and judgment baulked so that we do not get the decision that we ought to get. The action of the Queensland Government has caused infinite injury.
– What about the action of the New South Wales Government in regard to the export of pigs?
– The dispute in regard to the pigs did go before the High Court, which held that the action of the New South Wales Government was absolutely illegal. The action of the Queensland Government is operating most unjustly. We were led to believe that Federation had wiped out -all Inter-State borders; but men who have a small property on one side of the Queensland border and another property on the other side have not been allowed to transfer stock unless they deposited with the Government 10s. per head for cattle as security for the return of the cattle to Queensland.
– Do you not think that the action of the Queensland Government in settling the case is proof that they have not power to do that?
– I do not think so,and the Queensland Government are still persisting in that policy. When travelling down from Brisbane a few days ago, I was informed that the border trade is seriously affected, and that many drovers are out of work. There is the further serious aspect that the transport of produce from one State to another has been detrimentally affected, and there is still uncertainty as to whether Inter-State trade in fodder is to be allowed. I therefore ask the Minister to consult the Attorney-General before Wednesday, so that we may have an early reply on the subject.
– If the honorable member will put a question on the notice-paper, it will come directly under the notice of the Attorney-General, but I will speak to him.
– This involves more than the mere answering of a question. I desire an assurance that the Government will take definite action to have this matter brought to finality. Thousands of pounds are being lost by the people concerned, and injury is being done to the industries affected.
.- In regard to the wages in the sugar growing districts, an award has been made by Acting Judge Dickson, of the Queensland Bench, who stated that he had had full access to the records, books, and documents of the various milling companies. Consequently, having regard to the fact that the Judge is a man with legal training and long Australian experience, we need have no doubt that the award was made conscientiously and justly. I am entirelv in accord with the honorable members for Wide Bay and Darling Downs in saying that the farmer is suffering. My sympathies are wholly with him. Perhaps I know the sugar-growing districts of Queensland more intimately than anybody else in this chamber, and I know the farmer is suffering in a way I very much regret. As regards the price of sugar, and the money that is being paid into the Treasury, the trouble is that when the Bill was being passed through this Parliament to give the Treasurer the powers he now enjoys we omitted to insert a provision compelling his Department to furnish Parliament with a return showing what was being done. Under the present Act the Federal Treasurer has power to withhold all information in regard to sugar transactions; but we should insist upon knowing what is being done in this matter, in order that we may be able to discuss it more intelligently. Whether the Treasurer is making as great a profit as is alleged we do not know; but we should be told what it is costing the Government to fulfil their obligations to the Commonwealth, the growers, and the millers, and I, as a representative of a sugar-growing district, will insist, so far as I am able to do so, upon the Treasurer furnishing Parliament with that information as early as possible. The information supplied by the honorable member for Wide Bay in regard to the transactions in molasses sugar shows that there is a considerable leakage somewhere. I do not question his facts at all, and we should be told what has become of the difference between the price at which the sugar was sold to the Millaquin Company and the price at which it was re-sold. The transaction may have been a singular one ; but, on the other hand, it is possible that there are other transactions of the kind. Reverting to the wages question, those who know what the conditions in the industry were in former years must recognise that they were not satisfactory to either the worker or the farmer, but they have been very much altered for the better.
– The increase in wages is startling.
– I admit that it is a big increase. The conditions all round are much improved, for the men are not merely under the award of a Wages Board, but conditions are laid down under the Workers’ Accommodation Act to insure certain accommodation and facilities that formerly were unthought of, and would have been laughed at if suggested. I have no intention of labouring the question; I rose merely to say that my sympathies are entirely with the farmer, and that some of the money which is said to be going into the Treasury should be passed on, so that the growers may share in the benefit. If a benefit is accruing to one class of people it should be passed
On. and be participated in by the other class.
.- I rise merely to support what has been said by the preceding speakers. It is the duty of honorable members in this Chamber to do what they can at the present time to protect the interests of the man on the land. Throughout this war the mcn in Australia who have suffered most have been the rural producers. I make that statement on the basis of an intimate knowledge of the many hardships suffered by men who have tried to eke out an existence under most unfavorable conditions. First of all, they had to contend with a severe drought, and subsequently they were met with the fixation of prices of nearly all their production. The price of butter was regulated, and Queensland growers have been prevented from shifting their cattle to other States, where they might have been sold at a slightly higher price. They have been prevented from removing starving stock to New South Wales because of lie fear that the stock might not be returned to Queensland. The New South Wales Government has interfered in a similar way, and the matter is of considerable importance to the whole of the people of Australia. I agree with the honorable member for Darling Downs that it is the duty of this Parliament to use whatever authority it may have to break down the trade harriers that have sprung into existence between the States during the last year or two. These disabilities, and the increase in wages and the cost of living are bearing heavily on the farmer to-day. An idea is held by many honorable members who are not acquainted with the sugar industry that the grower is making more than a reasonable amount out of it. As the honorable member for Herbert stated, the Judge who made the award in the sugar industry admitted that he had had access to all books and documents, and I think he stated also that he was not so much concerned as to what the industry could return as he was concerned in what it cost the labourer to live. He came to the conclusion that it would cost a man a certain amount to live in decent comfort, and if the industry cannot bear the payment of that wage under present conditions, it is within the power of some authorities to so alter the conditions as to enable the industry to flourish whilst still paying a living wage. If the Federal Parliament has that power I hope it will not hesitate to use it, and to raise the industry to that standard which we think it should attain. It will mean a little increase in the cost of sugar, but not a very great increase. Mr. Justice Dickson gave the matter full consideration, his inquiry in Brisbane occupying at least six weeks, I believe. The difficulty can easily be got over. I hope that the farmers will not be made to suffer what they must suffer if they have to continue under present conditions. I rose to support the remarks of others who have spoken on this subject. I shall offer all the assistance I can for the immediate settlement of the question, so that the man on the land may receive more help in the future than we have been able to give him in the past.
.- It is refreshing to hear from honorable members opposite the admission that because of the action of the various Governments of Australia during recent months, the man on the land has had a particularly rocky time.
– Those on this side have done their best to maintain Inter-State Free Trade.
– That is a point on which I shall say something. I do not think that the Government has done its duty in that matter. Although, in common with several other members, I urged the Minister to definitely determine what the law was, to enable producers who, perhaps, were not in a financial position to do so, to have the legal position made clear, nothing has been done in that direction. When some wealthy persons affected by the State regulations took cases to the Court, the Commonwealth intervened, but it acquiesced in a settlement, instead of insisting on a determination of the law points at issue. If these cases are finally withdrawn, will the Minister take no action to determine the law in this matter? I have not the slightest doubt that what is being done is illegal.
– I think so, too.
– The settlement of the cases to which I refer showed that the Queensland Government had a bad cause. It would not have paid £18 12s. 6d. each for bullocks in the south-west of the Stato, together with all expenses of mustering and legal costs, if it had not seen that it could not support its position.
– The New South Wales Government took similar action in regard to wheat.
– The Queensland Government has been a greater offender than that of New South Wales, and the Commonwealth Government is not blameless in this matter. It is the duty of the Commonwealth Government to have the law made clear at the earliest moment, because the , present position affects not merely the people of Queensland and New South Wales, but also every citizen of the Commonwealth. The embargo on exportation from other States has caused the people of Victoria to pay heavily for a great deal of what they have consumed of late months. Had the Minister used the powers which I believe him to possess, the price of butter would have come down in Victoria, because butter would have been sent here from the other States, and its price would have been nearly uniform throughout Australia.
– The Governments of New South Wales and Queensland both purchased butter.
– The Government of New South Wales did not purchase any butter except that which it imported. The Queensland Government purchased butter, but the transaction did not redound to its credit, because if there is one thing that has reacted harshly on the man on the land it is that particular purchase. Before we adjourned some months ago, I told the House that an embargo on the export of second and third grade butters would not affect the price of butter in Australia, that the effect of the embargo would be merely to force the dairy farmers to pay for the storing of those butters throughout the winter, and that ultimately they would have to be exported. That is exactly what has happened. The dairy farmers have had to meet the cost of storing these butters all through the winter, and no one in Australia has benefited. Now the Minister has allowed third grade butter, and a great deal of second grade butter, to be exported, and he might as well permit all second grade butter to be exported because the Australian consumption of such butter is very little, and a market can be found for it only overseas. I hope that, at any rate, the Minister will keep in touch with the position. Within the next few weeks, if we have a tolerably good season, and no adverse circumstances, the production of butter will greatly increase. At present, the Australian market price of butter is below London parity. The London parity is in the neighbourhood of from 150 to 155, whereas the Queensland price is about 140, the New South Wales price 144, and the Victorian price about 150. The producers of butter are entitled to London parity, at least. In most seasons they have to accept the London parity whether they like it or not, and I hope that the Minister will not take action to prevent them from getting London parity in Australia. I urge him” once more to watch the procedure in the Courts very closely. I do not know why his Government has not insisted on the law being definitely stated. If there is no definite statement of it in connexion with the cases that have been brought, I hope that the Minister will take action to have it stated, so that State embargos on free trade within the Commonwealth may be removed.
– I desire to call attention to a matter about which I asked a question earlier.’ The following statement has appeared in the newspapers : -
The Federal Cabinet has approved of the architectural competition in connexion with the Federal Parliament House at Canberra being resumed in the form previously decided upon. The date fixed for the submission of designs is 31st January, 1917. The drawings will be adjudicated by a jury of architects, as follows : - George T. Poole (Australia), Sir John James Burnet (Great Britain), Victor Laloux (France), Eliel Saarinen (Russia), and Louis I-I. Sullivan (America). Eliel Saarinen was substituted for Professor Otto Wagner, of Vienna, one of the jury originally selected.
The Minister of Home Affairs said this morning that the competition was to be renewed under the conditions sanctioned by Mr. Kelly when Assistant Minister of Home Affairs, I took exception then, as I do now, to those conditions, one of which is that the designs must be adjudicated on in London. I protest vigorously against adjudication outside Australia ou designs for an Australian building. We are foolish to belittle our country in this way, and to diminish the possibilities of Canberra. If the competition is to be of value, if it is worth while to pay £6,000 in premiums for designs, why not bring the adjudicators to Australia? The advertisement alone would be worth something. It is a reflection on the country, and a bad advertisement to the world, to allow designs for our buildings to be adjudicated on in London. Mr. Griffin, after winning the first prize for his design for the lay-out of the Capita] city, visited Australia at the invitation of the Government of the day, and then stated that, although ho could easily recognise Canberra from the drawings and contour maps that had been supplied to him, he had not been able to imagine the magnificent atmosphere of Canberra. No body of adjudicators, whatever their professional eminence, could properly adjudicate on a design for an Australian Parliament House without coming to the country and visiting Canberra.
– Not if the chairman were an Australian?
– No. I strongly object to the holding of this competition at the present time, although 1 desire that the building at Canberra shall be proceeded with as quickly as possible. To hold the competition now precludes from participation those whom, after our own architects, we should most consider, the architects of Great Britain, France, Russia, and Italy. While the war continues, a large number of these architects will be at the front.
– The architects who would compete are now largely unemployed.
– Architects, like members of other professions, have not escaped the duty of active service. In no country engaged in the war have they shown want of patriotism, and their offices have been denuded of those who would be relied upon to carry out a competition. The preparation of designs will take months, and to close the competition in January next, thereby excluding practically, if not actually, the architects of the nations with whom we are allied in the war, and for whom we should have special consideration at this time, is not fair. It seems to me that only one nation can compete. I have no objection to the American architects having complete liberty to compete, though Canadian architects will be at a disadvantage as compared with those of the United States; but under the conditions now imposed, or rather superimposed on the previous conditions, the only ones who will really have a chance of competing are those of the United States. I know that many architects began to prepare their designs when the competition was previously in vogue, and that they have been working at them ever since; but no architectural firm in the world could prepare the designs necessary for a Parliament House, and all the details connected therewith, within five months. It would need a staff of professional mcn. But those men arc not now available in the allied nations. I believe that America can provide a bigger range of parliamentary buildings and parliamentary designs than other parts of the world, because each State has its Parliament House; but to confine ourselves to one country, and deprive ourselves of the benefits of the architectural experience of the European nations, would not be fair to the architects of the world, nor consonant with the dignity of Australia, and it is a most unreasonable proposal at the present juncture.
– It was not for the purpose of disconcerting the honorable member for Darling Downs, whose opinion I value very much, that I asked the’ question whether ho opposed the decision of Mr. Acting Justice Dickson. I have taken a good deal of interest in this matter. I believe that I was the only member of either House who went to the Islands in order to see whether the kanakas were returned, and whether they received fair play - they did get fair play from Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company - and at that time remarks were made, justly perhaps, from a certain point of view, that wages would be greatly increased. . But the increased cost of employing white workers, in comparison with the rate paid to the kanakas, was greater than the increase that has been given to the workers by this latest judgment, that of Mr. Justice Dickson, who, I understand, has the honour of being the son of a former Minister of the Commonwealth.
– He was a member of the first Executive Council; but ho died before the first Federal elections toot place.
– If the cane is to be allowed to rot on the ground, it is time for the Commonwealth to nationalize the industry, and pay the wages that the Judge has awarded. Surely no one would impugn the Judge, or claim that he did not give the matter proper consideration, or that he did not have every facility to investigate all the papers. In the face of the fact that he gave the question consideration for six weeks, it would be most unfair to make such a suggestion.
– He suggested that it was the duty of Parliament to raise the price of sugar, and thus enable the producer to pay the wages.
– There is an amount of sugar required by the community which the growers cannot supply. In my opinion, the Government should make their profit on the sugar that has to bo imported, and the money could be refunded to the growers in order to make up for any loss, such as has been suggested by the Judge.
– The Government of Australia, led by the right honorable member for Parramatta, pledged Australia to tho world that a competition would be held in regard to designs for the Parliament House at Canberra. I hold that the word of a Government ought to be as good as that of a private individual. When I give a man my word, it . is just as good as his holding a bond on any property I- might possess. In the same way, I hold that no Government should break the pledge of another Government. The Cook Government gave the pledge to the world that there would be a competition. It was Australian architects who suggested to me some time ago that architects everywhere were idle now. If that be so, and if we can give the world a chance by this competition, should we stop it? In other words, when the war is over, will the architects of the world be willing to enter into a competition in which they must take their chances, and for which there are only a few prizes ? No.as a matter of fact, as soon as the war is over there will be so much work to be done all over the world that no architect will be bothered with a competition. Now is the best time. And when the soldiers are returning to Australia we want to be ready to set a lot of men to work at the Capital; that is, when we have cleaned up things there and put works on a scientific basis. If we are not ready to make that start, those who are now howling against the idea of holding this competition will turn round and say, “ Why were you not ready to commence? “ The business man looks ahead. In regard to the selection of London as the meeting place of the adjudicators, I may Bay that London is not only the capital of the British Empire, it is also the centre of the earth, the same as Athens was of old. Shakspeare does not belong to England, he belongs to tho world; Bacon does not belong to England, he belongs to the world ; London does not belong to England, it belongs to tho world; and why should not Australia select London, which is convenient and economical to get at, for the meeting place of these adjudicators? Why is London the centre of exchange ? Because drafts can be drawn on it from all parts of the -world. I did not choose these adjudicators. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition chose them. All I did was to carry out the proclamation of the Cook Government. If I could get better men, I would pick them, but I cannot; there are no better men in the world. We send Mr. Poole from Australia, and the ablest architects of the world will meet him there, and surely if we have any confidence in Britishers wo ought to have no doubt about London being the place where this matter should be settled. So far as I am concerned, I am going to do what my judgment as a business man tells me to do.
.- I wish to entermy protest against the scheme of the Minister of Home Affairs, against designs, against Parliament House, against the dams, against the lakes, against the sewerage scheme; in fact, against the whole bally show. It is a farce - perhaps I should call it a tragedy - to keep on spending money at Canberra. The expenditure should not be sanctioned at this time. The work should totally cease, and the money should be devoted to some other purpose.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
That Mr. Tudor and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Tu dor, and read a first time.
Obituary- Military andcivil Police.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Owing to the circumstances in which we met on Wednesday, and the Prime Minister’s desire to make his speech to-day without anything intervening, he was unable to refer to the deaths of former members of the Commonwealth Parliament during the adjournment, namely, those of the Right Honorable Sir George Turner, the first Treasurer of the Commonwealth; Colonel Foxton, who was Honorary Minister in the Cook Government; and Mr. W. J. Johnson. I understand that it is the intention of the Prime Minister to refer to the demise of these gentlemen, and also that of Lord Kitchener, when we meet on Wednesday next.
.- When Senator Pearce was asked by the ladies of the city to appoint female, military police to look after the girls in the camps, he replied that it was a matter for the State Governments. If that be so, I protest against the military police interfering with the procession in Melbourne last night. The civil police in Melbourne - as fine a body as ever existed - are quite able to control the traffic of the city and protect this building, as they have done during my knowledge for over a quarter of a century. Therefore, Ishould like to know by whose authority the military police were sent last night to interfere. If it should happen that the civil police made the request to the military authorities, it mightbe time to act; but I desire to know whether this is to be taken as a precedent, and whether the military police can act with or independently of the civil police. Until the civil police state that they cannot control the traffic of Melbourne, I take it it is almost approaching impertinence for any military official to send military police to interfere.
– I shall bring that matter under the notice of the Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 1 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160901_reps_6_79/>.