6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. FENTON presented a petition signed by 367 Christadelphians, praying that the members of their organization might be exempted from military service.
Petition received, and read.
– In compliance with the promise which I made to the honorable member for Hindmarsh last session, I now lay on the table: -
Railway Workshops at Port Augusta or
Quorn - Establishment of - Reports by Mr. A. E. Smith, Assistant Chief Mechanical Engineer, Victorian Railways, and Mr. A. Combes, Consulting Engineer, Department of Home Affairs.
Mr. TUDOR . (Yarra- Minister of
Trade and Customs) [3.6]. - Circumstances have delayed the return of the Prime Minister from Sydney, and he is therefore unable to meet the House to-day. He proposes to return to Melbourne tomorrow, but will leave the same afternoon for Adelaide. As he is anxious to be present in the House when the debate on the Ministerial statement of policy in connexion with the war takes place, the Government propose to ask the House to adjourn from to-day until Wednesday next at 3 p.m. I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
.- The Leader of the Opposition has also been prevented by important business in Sydney from coming here to-day, and I have not had an opportunity to_ speak to honorable members of the Opposition concerning the proposal that the Minister of Trade and Customs has just put before the House; but I feel sure that we on this side are all of one . mind in thinking that, during the present crisis, we should do everything we can to facilitate the course which the Government wish to take. I, therefore, support the motion.
.- I hope that these adjournments will not be persisted in, because I hold that in a time of war Parliament ought to be sitting. An honorable member, by addressing a question to a Minister from his place in Parliament, can get as much done in a moment as takes months to effect by representations to the officials of the Defence Department. Were the Minister for the Navy present, I would address to him now a question which I wish to ask concerning the treatment given by the Department to a woman with three children depending on her, whose husband deserted her, and enlisted in Sydney under a false name to swindle her, his niece being a partner to the arrangement. The niece is being allowed to retain money which should go to the wife. T am sure that the Minister would not allow his underlings to permit a poor woman and her children to be defrauded. When Parliament is sitting, the Prime Minister should be here, and he could be here if he so desired. No one in the community, and not even the whole force of public opinion, could prevent that strong-minded man from coming here if he desired to do so.
– He does not desire to be present this week, and there, is a reason for his absence.
– There may be reasons which he regards as justifying his absence from Parliament, and on this occasion I take no exception to what is being done; but, .so long as I represent Melbourne, I shall resent proposals like that which has been put before us bv the Minister of Trade and Customs. Having made my protest, I say no more.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In the absence of the Minister for the Navy, will the Minister of Trade and Customs state whether the Government will consider the advisability of constructing in Victoria, so aa to give Victorian workmen an opportunity of getting employment, at least one of the three steamers for the lighthouse service that are to be constructed by the Department of the Navy.
– The construction of lighthouse steamers has been under consideration for over two years. When the honorable member for Darling Downs was Minister of Trade and Customs, tenders were called for the construction of these vessels, and no Australian tender was submitted. The tenders were re-opened about October, 1914, so as to obtain an Australian tender if possible, and a New South Wales firm was the only Australian tenderer. There has been some difficulty in fixing up the plans and obtaining the material, but, as the Navy Department is the only Commonwealth Department that has expert ship surveyors and other constructional officers who could superintend the work of construction, the work was handed over to it. I have discussed the matter with the Victorian Minister of Public Works, who was asked the same question as has been put by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. The honorable member has also interviewed me with a view to giving an opportunity to Victorian workmen to participate in the construction of the vessels, but, as the matter is no longer under the Customs Department, I suggest that the honorable member should see the Minister for the Navy.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs say whether it is a fact, as reported in the press yesterday, that a New Zealand boat trading between South Africa and Victoria is obliged to leave Australia this week in ballast owing to the Commonwealth Government’s restriction of exports?
– I Baw in the press a letter written by Mr. Cowper to that effect, and that gentleman saw me on the subject yesterday. I referred him to
Senator Russell. Presumably, the complaint refers to wheat. There is no restriction on the export of wheat, except that it must be shipped through the Wheat Board. Mr. Cowper saw Senator Russell, and I understand that a statement by the Assistant Minister was published in. this morning’s newspapers.
– In the absence of the Treasurer, I should like to ask the Acting Leader of the House -
– In the absence of the Treasurer - who is confined to his bed - I ask the honorable member to put the questions on the notice-paper. Certain negotiations between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland are in progress, but I am not in a position to state the nature of them.
– Will the Actin? Leader of the House order the arrest and internment of Mr. Archibald T. Strong, under whose name there appeared in lastnight’s Melbourne Herald an article in which he stated that every vote cast against the referendum may mean the death of an Australian soldier? That statement may provoke a breach of the peace. If the Minister will not order the arrest and internment of Mr. Strong, will he allow the writers of opposing articles to make equally untrue and offensive remarks ?
– The honorable member rose to ask a question, and before he concluded made certain comments. The making of comments in connexion with a question is distinctly out of order, and if the honorable member adopts that course again I shall be obliged to take action.
– I will see that the honorable member’s question is referred to the Minister concerned.
– In last night’s Herald, Mr. Strong said that hundreds of deaths had occurred owing to the failure to send reinforcements promptly to Gallipoli, and that the same thing was likely to happen again, because, as he puts it, “ Some people are trying to make it happen again.” Will the Minister of Trade and Customs bring that statement under the notice of the Minister of Defence, so that the War Precautions Act may be enforced against Mr. Strong?
– It is a very sensible statement. Is it not true?
– It is not true.
– Whatever honorable members may feel towards one another, they should at least have some respect for the Chair. These questions across the floor of the chamber are not calculated to add dignity to the position of honorable members, or mine. In regard to the honorable member’s question, if I permitted honorable members to submit questions founded on something that has been stated in a newspaper, I would open up such a field that there would be no end to questions, and the House could not proceed with business. I am prepared to allow a certain amount of. latitude, but I ask honorable members to endeavour to confine their questions to matters relating to the business before the House.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs any statement to make with regard to the additional 6d. per bushel to be advanced to the farmers ?
– I understand that a similar question is on the notice-paper. The honorable member must not anticipate any question appearing on the noticepaper.
– Is the Minister aware that farmers interested in the * wheat pool have been denied through their auditor the opportunity of inspecting the books and transactions of the pool?
– I am not aware of it, but if the honorable member will place a question on the notice-paper, I can promise him that the Minister concerned will supply the honorable member with the necessary information.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs in a position to make any statement relating to the validity of the Queensland stock regulations, a matter to which I recently drew his attention, and which he promised to refer to the Attorney-General for advice?
-I have not had the opportunity of consulting the AttorneyGeneral upon the matter, but I have submitted to Mr. Garran, Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department, the letter which the honorable member sent to me, and I have asked him to let me have an early reply. I have not yet received that reply.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the continued high cost of living, and the consequent distress among old-age and invalid pensioners, will the Government immediately carry out the repeated promises made to increase the amount of pensions up to a living standard?
– The question is now under the consideration of the Treasurer, who hopes to make an announcement shortly.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Willhe appoint an officer to give military training and instruction to all private members of both Houses of this Parliament at such time and place as can be made to fit in with the proper performance of their public duties?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
All members of Parliament are eligible to either become members of existing rifle clubs or to form a club themselves. The rifle clubs constitute a branch of the Reserve Forces of the Commonwealth.” In view of the urgent requirements for instructors for the Expeditionary Forces, it would not be possible to appoint an officer for the purpose indicated in the question.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether he can inform the House when the Government intend to proceed with the erection of an arsenal?
– Final details in regard to thelay-out of the arsenal are now being considered, and it is expected that the work of levelling the site, preparing roads of access, &c., will be commenced at an early date.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Assuming the cane-growers of Queensland, as alleged, will not harvest the sugar-cane crop, will the Federal Government take steps to garner the crop, in order to prevent a sugar famine in Australia, paying the wages awarded by His Honour Judge Dickson?
– The sugar question is now the subject of negotiation.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will he inform the House when it is the intention of the Government to advance an extra fid. to the farmers whose wheat is in the pool?
– Arrangements have been made for the payment of the additional 6d. advance in all States before the end of this week.
asked, the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Is the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow producing the new rifle and bayonet with which British troops at the front are now equipped?
– The answer to the honorable- member’s question is as follows: -
The rifle and bayonet being manufactured by the Small Arms Factory are identical with those used by the British Forces at the front in France, with the exception that a different class of ammunition is used there, and the rifle is sighted accordingly. It is not considered necessary at present to incur the expense of changing over the Australian-made rifles and ammunition to the type mentioned, in view of the possible adoption of an entirely new rifle, -which matter is now under the consideration of the British Government.
Wearing of Uniforms: Preference in Employment.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Anzac Band, consisting of returned soldiers, was playing in the street in Australian Imperial Force uniform, and civilians wearing the Returned Soldiers’ Association badge were collecting for the band.
The whole of the band was marched off the street into barracks, but was released on the Returned Soldiers’ Association undertaking that they should cease playing in uniform.
The reference to the purchase of uniform is not understood, unless it is meant that the men purchased a special band uniform for themselves not of a military pattern.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Is it a fact that returned soldiers, on making applications for work in the Clerical Division of the Defence Department, were told that they would first have to join the Clerks Union, otherwise work would be denied them?
Mr. TUDOR (for Mr. Jensen).- The Department is not aware of any such cases. If any officer has so informed returned soldiers, it is contrary to the instructions issued, which explicitly state that returned soldiers and sailors are to be given first preference.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will instruct that the sustenance allowance allowed in Federal income tax deductions be increased from 12s. to 15s. per week?
– This question is already receiving consideration with a view to a possible increase in the allowance.
Construction of Lighthouse Service Vessels- Sugar Industry - Transfer of Telegraphists under Agreement - “ Disloyal Dukes “ - Censorship of Newspapers - Conscription.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to address myself to the question which I brought before the House at an earlier stage. We have in Victoria a large ship-building yard, but at the present time the ship-building trade is slack, and a lot of men are out of work. The Department of Trade and Customs is in need of three ships for the lighthouse service. The Minister has informed us that only one Australian shipbuilding yard tendered for the construction of these vessels, and they are to be built, I understand, in another State, under the supervision of the Minister for the Navy. I wish to express the view that Victoria should share in this work, more particularly as I am assured that the necessary arrangements can be made with the State ship-building yard. There is also a certain quantity of material in Victoria which I am afraid will be commandeered and taken to another State to be used in the construction of these ships ?
– But Victoria will not construct them.
– I have said that arrangements canbe made with the Victorian State Government for the construction of these vessel’s in the State shipbuilding yard, which is adequate for the purpose, and is presided over by an uptodate manager. In these circumstances, the people of Victoria will be justified in taking strong exception to the commandeering of the materials to which I have referred for the construction of these vessels in another State. I have no desire to set State against State, but the State ship-building yard happens to be in my electorate, and I think it only reasonable that it should receive a share of the work. I do not wish to tell tales out of school, but New South Wales is quite as avaricious as is any other State. There is a strong movement in New South Wales to secure steady employment for those engaged in the ship-building trade in Sydney. I do not blame any one for that, but I think I am justified in putting forward this claim. I hope that the Min ister for the Navy, and, indeed, the whole Ministry, will exhaust all means of constructing these vessels here before they resortto theunfair tactics of robbing the people of Victoria of their own material, and of a share of work to which they are entitled.
.- I think I should be neglectful of my duty if I did not at this stage inform the House of the strong protests that have been made regarding the existing condition of affairs in relation to the sugar industry in Queensland. I regret that the Minister of Trade and Customs did not see fit to give me any information in reply to the question I put to him a few minutes ago. Since we are informed by the public press that the Premier of Queensland has given notice of his intention to take, in the House of Assembly, the steps necessary to carry into effect a certain arrangement that has been made with the Federal Government, is it not extraordinary that Ministers here shouldprofess to know nothing of the transaction ? There are no fewer than 19,000 mens directly interested in the Queensland sugar industry, and there is nearly £12,000,000 invested in it. Owing to the crisis that has arisen thousands of these men are out of employment, although it is now harvest time; yet we cannot obtain from Federal Ministers any information as to their intended action. They will not tell us what arrangement they are making with the Queensland Government. We learn through the press that the arrangement is that no relief shall be given unless the Queensland Parliament consents to bend the knee, and” to do something which it. has already declined to do. The State Parliament, we are told, is required to pass the Commonwealth Powers Bill, which on the last occasion was thrown out by the Upper House. It is a very contentious matter, and are we to understand that, whilst the whole question is being fought out in the Queensland Parliament, those engaged in the industry are to remain in a state of enforced idleness? Is it just or reasonable that in these circumstances the Federal Government should fail to let this House know what they intend doing ?
– They have not yet had a chance. Give them a chance.
– If they have been able to tell the Queensland Government what they propose to do, surely they should be in a. position to supply the same information to this House. Are we not equally entitled with the Queensland Government to know what they propose? The Federal Government has entered into a contract with the State, and no one can sell a pound of sugar except through the agency of the Commonwealth authority. On the 5th July last the Central Sugar Mill desired permission to sell, outside the Government contractors, a certain quantity of raw sugar that was suitable only for beer-making, or some other manufacturing purpose, but was unsuitable for refining into white sugar. Its request was referred by the State Treasurer to the Federal Government, and the answer was received that the Federal Treasurer would not allow the sugar to be sold except through the Millaquin Refinery. The Central Mill was obliged to sell this sugar to the refinery for less than £12 per ton, although it was offered from £20 to £22 per ton for it by outside people. The Millaquin Refinery sold the sugar, without doing anything to it, at the higher rate to some at least of the people who had made the offer to the Central Mill. What has become of the difference? When I asked where the balance went I was unable to obtain any information from Ministers. Is it not extraordinary that the Federal Government should take possession of property in this way and allow the refinery to pocket between £8 and £10 per ton on the transaction, or pass it on to them? Is that a fair way in which to treat this industry ? It is this kind of treatment that is harassing the only industry that can justify Australia holding the northern portions of Queensland. How can we justify our action in preventing other nations dumping their population into the northern parts of this Commonwealth if we are not going to use the country ourselves, and if we cause the shutting down of the only industry that can be carried on there at a profit? It is only just to those who complain that I should lay before honorable members telegrams that I have received from the Mayor of Bundaberg, the Childers Chamber of Commerce, and the President of the Cane-growers Association at the same place. The telegram from the Mayor of Bundaberg is as follows : -
I have the honour to acquaint you as follows: - At a meeting of sugar-cane-growers, re presenting the whole of the Bundaberg district, held this day, it was resolved that, recognising the impossibility of continuing to produce sugar-cane under the rates of wages and conditions prescribed by the Dickson award, the growers decline to harvest any cane until the award is withdrawn, and that, in accordance with this resolution, the various mills be notified that no cane will be supplied. Copy of this wire sent Commonwealth and State Prime Ministers, and State Treasurer. - E. T. Step toe, Mayor of Bundaberg, chairman of meeting.
That telegram is signed by Mr. Steptoe, the Mayor, who was chairman of the meeting. I shall not weary the House by reading the other telegrams which are to a similar effect. I hope honorable members will realize the vital importance of this question to the whole of Australia. I am not here to criticise the increase that has been made in the wages of the labourers; but it is generally considered that these wages are outside anything that the growers can pay, unless they are given an additional £7 per ton. And even with an additional £7, there are other conditions in the award that make it almost impossible to work under it. The honorable member for Darling Downs, when this question was before us last week, mentioned the fact that the cane-cutters are now receiving £5 2s. a week; and this means that any boy of eighteen years of age may claim that rate if it is considered that he can do a day’s work. It is considered that a boy of that age can do so.
– That was not said when we were advocating a White Australia !
– We are not discussing that question now ; we have a White Australia, and no one is seeking to alter it. What is claimed is that the sugar-growers of Queensland, who are necessary to the defence of Australia, should have something like a fair deal ; and it is the duty of honorable members from other States to assist in attaining that object. This cannot be done, however, unless we insist on the necessary legislation as early as possible. There is another disability upon this industry, the product of which must be promptly treated. If men come from Tasmania and Victoria under agreement to cut cane, they can leave the work at any time without incurring a penalty. This means that if a fortnight before the canecutting is completed these men can get more permanent or lucrative work elsewhere, there is nothing to prevent them leaving the balance of the cane ungathered, and this, of course, spells disaster to the owner. We all know that the cost of living has increased, and this fact was recognised in the higher wages awarded to the workers; but no consideration on this score is given to the grower. According to the award, any nine men or over can claim a certain scale of food, and a very liberal one at that, for which only 19s. per week is deducted from the £5 2s. in the case of the cutter. It has been clearly shown that this scale cannot be provided for a small number of men like nine, or even for any number under a hundred, the cost proving nearer 30s. than 19s. It is thought that in the case of one hundred men or over, with a professional cook, and so forth, the scale could be provided for about 5s. a week more than is allowed. It will be seen, however, that, with thousands of men, a loss of 5s. per week each makes a big demand on the industry. I mention these facts to show honorable members that there are very strong grounds for the strike - for it is a strike. The growers simply refuse to cut their cane and send it to be manufactured, when they know that the only result can be disaster to themselves. These growers are not free agents, and cannot help themselves. Their sugar has been seized, and they are not to receive more than a certain amount in return. All is regulated between the Federal Government and the Queensland Government, and the latter, when appealed to, declare that they cannot act without the Federal Government, though nobody connected witli the Federal Government seems to be able to give any information, or the slightest idea of what they intend to do. I sincerely hope that honorable members will take an active interest In this most urgent matter.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the leader of the House, and the Prime Minister’s Department, a breach of agreement as between the Public Service Commissioner and some of his officers. Five or six years ago, Mr. McLachlan, the then Public Service Commissioner, in view of a shortage of telegraphists in Queensland, called for volunteers in the Department in New South Wales and Victoria to go to that State. He told those volunteers that fares would be paid both ways, with extra payment for undertaking the work, and that, after serving three years, they would be returned to theStates whence they came. Many men in Victoria and New South Wales accepted the Public Service Commissioner’s terms, and have faithfully carried out the signed agreement. Now, however, the Acting Public Service Commissioner is flouting the agreement, and refuses to return those men, although some of them have served over four years. If the Government are not going to carry out their part of the agreement, how in Heaven’s name can they expect the men to respect their obligations under it? The agreement is all on one side.. The Postmaster-General has done all that is humanly possible to induce the Public Service Commissioner to fulfil his portion of it. Only to-day he forwarded to me a letter which he has received in regard to one officer who has filled the position of telegraphist at Goondiwindi, in my electorate, for the past four years. You, sir, know how trying it is for a man to be cooped up in a small country ‘ office in West Queensland for a period like that. The PostmasterGeneral has done all that he possibly could to insure that the agreement made with these men shall be honoured. But the Public Service Commissioner has not only flouted him, but has flouted the Government. We have frequently been told that the dishonouring of a “ scrap of paper ‘ ‘ was the primary cause of the present conflagration in Europe. Do the Government intend to adopt a similar code of morals here? If the officers concerned had not carried out their portion of the agreement, I venture to say that the Public Service Commissioner would have dealt with them very promptly, and in a very drastic manner. The letter which I have received from the Postmaster-General reads -
With reference to the representations made by you on behalf of Mr. P. M. Jones (writing from 72 Harold-street, Albert Park), who is desirous of being retransferred from Queensland to Victoria, I beg to inform you that I have since been in communication with the Acting Public Service Commissioner, emphasising the position as represented by you, and expressing the view that the circumstances warrant favorable consideration.
The Postmaster-General is anxious to see the agreement respected, but the Acting Public Service Commissioner will not permit him to honour it -
A reply has, however, now been received to the effect that, owing to shortage of telegraphists in Queensland, and in view of the fact that no examination for telegraphists can be held until after the termination of the war, Mr. Jones’ request cannot bc acceded to.
If the agreement was a good one for the Commissioner to make on behalf of the Government, it ought to be -equally good so far as the rights of the men are concerned. I shall move the adjournment of the House every day that it meets if I do not get satisfaction for these officers. It would be monstrous if the action of the Public Service Commissioner should be allowed to go unchallenged. I direct the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs to the matter, in the hope that he will bring it under the notice of the Prime Minister, with a view to seeing that the agreement is carried out in its entirety.
– I am sorry that the Minister of Trade and Customs is not in a position to give us a more satisfactory assurance regarding the sugar industry in Queensland. That industry is to-day in a serious condition. I presume that the Minister is still in control of matters affecting the industry, although I notice that the Treasurer, for some unknown reason, is charged with the administration of a portion of it. To my mind, the Minister of Trade and Customs is the proper authority to deal with the sugar industry from the point of view of trade, manufacture, and of the encouragement which should be given to it. In fact, it comes almost entirely under his control. It is well known that an award has been given. Before that award had-been made the conditions of the industry had been fixed so far as the growers were concerned. In the latest award, the Judge himself admits that the whole industry rests upon the growers, and the Minister knows that there have recently been imposed upon the industry conditions which render it impossible for the small growers to profitably carry on their operations. In giving hie award, the Judge seemed to hint that he expected some relief would be given by the Government. He said -
Seeing that the industry is of such very great importance, and seeing what an enormous interest the Government has in it, I am not for a moment going to suppose otherwise than that the Government will see that the industry is properly safeguarded, and kept in existence as ft national concern, and that this is being done is borne out by the recent legislation in that direction.
In that passage he indicates that he looks to the administrative authorities of the
Commonwealth or State to see that injustice is not inflicted on the growers as the result of his award. Now, there are only two ways in which relief can be given - either by allowing the previous award, known as the McNaughton award, to stand until the Commonwealth alters the conditions, or for the Commonwealth to accept the Dickson award, and to increase the prices to such an extent as to permit the growers to live. The growers cannot produce cane under existing conditions without being confronted with the Insolvency Court. It must be remembered, too, that the sugar industry is not a rich man’s industry. This Parliament specially enacted legislation with a view to making it a small man’s industry, and, as a result of. that legislation, large sugar estates were cut up, and men with little or no capital embarked upon it. Thus a large settlement of white population was effected throughout the northern and tropical parts of Queensland. All this was done in the belief that the interests of the growers would be adequately safeguarded. After having fostered the industry for fifteen years, we find that the total capital invested in it to-day is £12,000,000- a very large sum indeed. But we have also to consider the large number of small growers who are engaged in it. Owing to the recent award, these men are on the verge of insolvency.
– What does the general increase represent?
– It varies roughly from 23s. to 30s. per week throughout the different branches of the industry as it affects the grower.
– Does that include rations ?
– No; that is when the men provide their own. The ration scale prescribed by Acting Judge Dickson is on an exceedingly liberal scale. Assuming that the farmer provides rations on the scale set out, the allowance is 19s. in the south, and 20s. in the north. But to do so will cost a good deal more than the amount of the allowance. If the men insist on having these rations, it has been stated that it will mean that the grower will have to pay anything from Se. to 10s. a week in excess of the amount prescribed by the Judge. The matter was debated in the Queensland
Parliament only last week, and Queensland Ministers have approached the Commonwealth Government in regard to it. But the Minister of Trade and Customs, although he is charged with the administration of Customs matters, and ought to be in a position to do so, is quite unable to tell us what is the attitude of the Government upon this important question. I admit that the Prime Minister is dealing with one of the most serious problems that the Commonwealth has ever hadto face. We have no desire to impede his actions in any way. But that is no reason why the other Ministers here should not deal effectively with the conditions which are threatening the sugar industry to-day. The Queensland Government have evidently received authoritative advice from the Federal authorities, although the Minister has not told the House what the Prime Minister appears to have told the Queensland Treasurer. Apparently, the attitude of the Government, as disclosed in their communication to Queensland, is, “ You pass the Constitutional Powers Bill, and we will deal with the industry.” At any rate, they say, “The Federal Government would be prepared to consider the question of the Commonwealth taking control of the sugar industryin all its phases if the Queensland Government gave it the necessary power so to do.” The important point is that, while this big question, involving constitutional issues, is being raised during Che present war crisis, and a Bill is being debated in Queensland - and even if that is passed the whole question of the transfer of powers has to be considered - the unfortunate industry is perishing. This is a very serious position for those engaged in it. Even if the Commonwealth takes over these wide powers from the State, we are only told that the Federal Government “ will consider the question.” I trust that before the debate closes the Minister will be able to make a much more definite statement. Perhaps he will see his way to make a considered announcement, with Cabinet authority behind it, which will give the men engaged in the industry some heart and hope to go on. The seriousness of the position is apparent when it is remembered that almost the whole of the sugar supply of the Commonwealth is involved in the dispute. If the Australian sugar industry perishes, the Minister knows that he will have to pay a much higher price for sugar than he is paying to the white growers to-day.
– How is it that sugar is cheaper in New Zealand than here?
– I think the honorable member is under a misapprehension. If the Commonwealth had to turn to foreign sources for supplies of sugar, it would have to pay much more for it, so that this is also a consumers’ question. Men do not lightly take the serious step that the growers have taken. I am sorry to say that the statement of the honorable member for Oxley on Friday last is perfectly true - that price fixing has been carried to such an extent in Queensland that the price fixed for butter in Brisbane was lower by1s. per lb. than it cost the dairymen on the Darling Downs to produce it. It actually cost some of the dairymen 2s. 6d. to produce a pound of butter, and they had to take very much less for it. In several instances, price fixing has absolutely stopped growers from producing the article.
– That was not all the year round.
– Those were the conditions prevailing at the time the price was fixed.
– Was that during the drought ?
– Yes, when the farmer saw his stock dying, and was practically penalized for every pound of butter he was producing. Price fixing under those conditions seriously affected the Queensland dairying industry. The honorable member for Moreton has been present at gatherings of farmers, and can tell the House what their experience was. If a price-fixing policy is to be carried out, it should be carried outby men who know what they are doing, and with due regard to the conditions under whichthe article in question is being produced. I mention this matter for purely economic, and not for political, reasons. As soon as a man producing an article finds that it is costing him more to produce than he will get on the market, all he can do is to close down, and on a large scale that is the present condition of the sugar farmer in Queensland as the result of the award.
– Was not everything taken into consideration when the award was made?
– The Judge took into consideration what he considered the labourer was entitled to; but there were also fixed prices which had to be taken into account.
– Then why did theynot bring evidence to prove their case?
– The Judge took most complete evidence, and seemed to express the hope in his judgment that the Government would see that the industry was properly safeguarded and kept in existence as a national concern. I mean no reflection on him when I say that in making his award he appears to have looked at what he thought should be a fair return for the labourers in the mills and on the farms. That is the predominating view expressed by the great increase, amounting to from 40 to 50 per cent., in the wages rates.
– The growers must have been doing all right before !
– The farmers were certainly making an existence and making progress before, but an award of this character deprives them absolutely of the profits of their industry. They have protested in the “only way open to them by closing down altogether. This is a circumstance to be deeply regretted.
– Will the honorable member say that price fixing in the dairying industry caused a fall in the value of dairy holdings?
– At a meeting of farmersI heard one man, whose name and locality I can give, say, “ I tried to work my dairy farm under the conditions fixed by the Prices Board. I dispensed with labour, and used that of my family, but I found that I could not do it. I tried another property, and found that I could do no better. Under the existing conditions it does not pay me to carry on my farm, so I have closed down dairying, and am living on my farm.”
– They are doing well on cheese under a contract.
– I admit that they have a favorable contract in hand.
– What I asked was whether the price-fixing in the dairying industry lowered land values ?
– If the honorable member asks me my opinion, I would say that to-day in Queensland it is difficult to obtain the same values for dairying property that could be obtained before the imposition of the land tax and the pricefixing regulations; but I do not want to enter into a general argument of that kind. All I am asking the Minister is, assuming this award to be continued, and assuming that the award is a just award, that he will, on behalf of the farmers who are concerned, seriously consider what proposals the Government can take to continue the existence of the industry. I will ask the Minister of Trade and Customs also to consider that request, in view of the abnormal conditions prevailing. The trouble we have to meet in dealing with many of our industries at the present time is that the conditions are altogether abnormal, and I would point out to the Minister that we shall have ultimately to look at this industry, as at all other primary industries, from the point of view of competition of the markets of the world in normal times. In any case, however, I would urge upon the Minister to bear in mind that with this award in operation the sugar-growers of Queensland are really in a very serious position. Another request I desire to put before the Minister - I would not be insistent did I not know how seriously prejudiced the men in the industry are - is that he would get some expression of opinion from his Department as to the validity of the stock regulations now being operated between Queensland and New South Wales.
– From the AttorneyGeneral’s Department?
– Yes, and from the High Court; though I think the matter is one which affects the Minister’s Department more closely. These regulations have been in force for some eight or nine months, and some very serious losses have been involved. I know one case of a sheep breeder who carried his sheep through the drought at very great expense. He brought them on to the Darling Downs, but found he could not transfer them to New South Wales on account of these stock regulations, and his loss on the sale of those sheep, comparing the New South Wales price with the Queensland price, was £2,000. I know also of other similar cases. The whole idea of Inter-State trading, as agreed upon some years ago, was that Australians might trade freely with each other wherever they might be. There is no doubt that, in the absence of restriction, prices may vary, but the average level throughout the continent is fairly evenly maintained. This particular matter is becoming a serious one for New South Wales, who have asked the Queensland Government to repeal the regulations.
– But they did the same thing themselves!
– I know the New South Wales Government started the business, when they would not allow pigs to go into Queensland, but their attitude is different now. Every day the regulations create much irritation, and I hope the Minister will pursue my request to a satisfactory conclusion.
– It seems to me that, boiled down, the argument of the two honorable members who have just spoken is that these increased wages in the sugar industry cannot be paid-
– Under existing conditions, that is so.
– According to the award, there are increases of wages amounting from £1 3s. to £1 12s. If a man was earning £2 10s. before, his wages might be increased to £3 13s. or to £4 2s.
– They have gone up to £5.
– The highest is from £3 12s. to £5 2s.
– There is one increase from £4 4s. to £5 10s.
– That is an increase of 26s. I carry my memory back to the time when I went to Bundaberg to inquire into the kanaka question, and I am the only member of this House who went to see these kanakas on their home lands in the New Hebrides Islands. From that time I have taken great interest in them. I met a man in Queensland whose forbears came from Saxony, and I asked him. if he would give up sugar-growing were no kanaka labour available. He replied that he would not; and that he did not want anything better than to be able to get labour nearly as good as that of a white man, for 5s. per week. The difference between the pay of a kanaka and of a white man, at the rate of £3 a week, showed a difference of £2 15s. per week; yet the growers were willing to go on with their industry when they had to meet the increase. Now, when there was only a difference of £1 6s. between the wages paid before the award and after, there is trouble. The honorable member for Darling Downs repeated in milder language the statement that has appeared in the press, that, if nothing were done for the growers of cane, they would let their cane rot. I have only to say that such a thing should not be allowed. To prevent it, I would follow the example of Japan, one of our Allies, which has absolutely nationalized the growing and refining of sugar in Formosa. As a consumer of sugar, and as one who knows that sugar is one of the best of foods, I hope that the Minister will take action in this matter. Those who read novels written a century or so ago are aware that in olden days children never got lollies, and that sugar was much less easily obtained then than it is now. This is not merely a question of wages. Knowing as I do the record of Acting Judge Dickson, I feel certain that, having given a close and careful study to the question during a period of six weeks, in which he had under review the heat and terrible conditions under which work in the canefields is carried on - conditions which have, been described in speeches made in this chamber in the discussion of the kanaka question - I feel certain that he has come to a right decision, and I commend him for it.
– He has left a great responsibility with the Government.
– All Judges have to do that, because it is for Legislatures to make or alter laws. I understand that the new crop will not provide for the needs of Australia, and that a large quantity of refined or unrefined sugar will have to be imported. In New Zealand, sugar costs much less than in Australia. Thai has been the case for many years, and obviously a profit will be made by the Government importation of sugar. If it were clearly proved that the growers had suffered an injustice, I would devote part of that profit to their relief. I turn now to another matter which I desire the Minister in charge of the House to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister. In a newspaper paragraph, headed “ Disloyal Dukes,” the following statements appear : -
If there is one place where treason would be expected not to be found, it is the House of Lords. The gentlemen who are privileged to bc members of the Gilded Chamber ought to be above all suspicion of treachery to the Crown which guarantees them their coronets. Yet we find that two members of the House of Lords are now in arms against England, fighting for the Kaiser. They are the Duke of Cumberland and the Duke of Albany, very closely related, both of them, with our Royal family. The newspapers report that the Duke of Cumberlandhas sent to Kaiser William his “very heartiest congratulations on the occasion of the proud naval victory in the North Sea,” saluting him as “the creator and developer of the German Navy.” Yet this traitor continues to remain a member of the House of Lords and to hold several peerages. The House of Lords does not rise in revolt against his infamy. Mr. Asquith takes no steps to remove his name from the list of British peers, though Mr. Swift McNeill has urged such action and Mr. Markham has assured the Prime Minister that the House of Commons would pass a Bill of deprivation of dignity for both these Dukes in a couple of minutes. Nothing is done. Nothing will be done, unless the noble and ducal traitors join the Sinn Feiners; then they will quickly be dealt with and made to feel that there is a limit to British patience.
In my opinion,the Prime Minister should voice the wishes of this House, and inform Mr. Asquith that it is his duty to expel those traitors from the chief governing body of the British world. The British House of Lords controls the House of Commons, and, therefore, the whole of the British Dominions. Although it has a membership of about 600 peers, three form a quorum. The House that has the power of veto is always the stronger. The men referred to in the paragraph that I have read, or their forefathers, have received thousands of pounds of British money. The facts show what men, even in the highest positions, will do to gain still higher rank or larger emoluments. I intend to put on the notice-papera question which will elicit from the Government a formal statement of its views on this matter.
.- Apparently, either the honorable member for Melbourne is prepared to support the White Australia policy so long as it will not cost him or his constituents anything, or he has slipped in regard to Protection. I always understood him to be a staunch Protectionist; yet he compared the price of sugar in Australia under Protection with that of sugar in New Zealand. Notwithstanding his remarks, I contend that sugar is cheaper in Australia, despite the import duty of £6 a ton, than it is in New Zealand. If we boast of a White Australia, but are not prepared to pay for it, our patriotism is not very deeply rooted. In neighbouring countries men work for a few pence a day to produce sugar which, without Protection, would compete with Australian sugar in this market. Could we let such sugar enter Australia duty free, and allow our rich sugar land to go out of cultivation? It does no credit to the honorable member for Melbourne if he has such a thing in his mind. The Government have taken control of and established a monopoly in sugar. No one can import a ton of it without the permission of the Government. Previous speakers have not suggested thatthe wages award to which reference has been made should be interfered with, but unless the price of sugar to the public is increased in consequence of that award, the sugar industry must die a natural death. It is not the intention of the growers to let their cane rot. If these wages are to be paid, and the Government acquire the sugar crop at a fair price from the growers, they cannot sell the sugar to the public at present prices. The award involves a rise in the cost of production of £7 per ton of sugar before it can be placed on the Australian market. Are the public of Australia prepared to pay that additional £7 per ton for the sugar they consume? If they are, and the Government will see that an equivalent is returned to the growers, they will then, no doubt, go on cutting cane under the present award. It is impossible that we should saddle the few growers of cane in Australia with the whole of this enormous increase in the cost of production. When I left Queensland a few days ago in order to be present in this Chamber this afternoon, the feeling in that State was one of intense excitement as to what the Federal and Queensland Governments proposed to do in connexion with this matter.
– There was a feeling of great anxiety also.
– Yes, that is so. In my own electorate, mills have shut down, and in the north they are being shut down one after the other. When I left the State, there were something like 3,000 men directly dependent upon the sugar industry thrown out of employment. Not only are men connected with the industry out of employment in Queensland, but I find that a number of people are out of employment in Tasmania owing to the fact that they have been unable to obtain sugar there. I think that the Government should intervene quickly in this matter. I shall not presume to dictate to them what they should do, but they must act quickly if disaster is not to overtake the sugar industry. I wish now to make a few remarks on the subject of the conduct of the business of Parliament. I tried to do so on a previous motion, and, perhaps, I should have been able to say something on that motion which I cannot say upon the motion now before the House. I understand that the business of this House should first be submitted in this Chamber. The Prime Minister, when he arrived in Australia, was “ mum “ as regards his war policy, and we were asked to wait with patience until that policy was announced to the House. The remarks I propose to make involve something more than the. conduct of the business of this House, as they refer also to the supervision of the censorship of news and newspapers throughout Australia. It was rather remarkable, I thought, that I should be able to read in the press at Brisbane the gist of the Prime Minister’s speech to the members of this Chamber before he made it. Either there is some leakage by honorable members on the Ministerial benches, and information thus gets out, or the Prime Minister gave the information to which I refer to a section of the press before giving it to the members of this House.
– That is not a worthy statement to make.
– I am making no charge against any one, but the fact of the matter is that information has been published in the press which should first have been announced in this House.
– Published before the announcement was made here ?
– Yes ; published before this House met to hear the announcement.
– In what newspaper ?
– I shall give honorable members the particulars.
– The honorable member is imputing the blame to the Prime Minister.
– No; but I wish to know who was responsible. I say that either the Prime Minister sent out a copy of what he proposed to say here, or some member of the party opposite sent it out for him.
– The honorable member was not here last week or he would know that honorable members had to wait from 3 o’clock till 10 minutes to 4 while the Prime Minister, in an adjoining room, was fixing up the statement he delivered.
– That makes the case all the worse. I was aware that the House had to wait until 10 minutes to 4, or until 4 o’clock, to hear the statement made by the Prime Minister, but the gist of that statement appeared in. the Brisbane Daily Standard at 3 o’clock on the same day, Wednesday, 30th August.
– Does the honorable member say that the Prime Minister sent the information ? Perhaps it is something like the statement concerning leather cloth, which the honorable member had to withdraw when we were dealing withthe Tariff.
– I never made any such statement as the Minister suggests. I propose to read what appeared in the Brisbane Daily Standard, and I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, as Leader of the House to-day, to see that the censorship is applied to other newspapers only in the way in which it is applied to newspapers that are backing the Government. The Brisbane Daily Standard supports the Government, and it is really the Labour daily of Brisbane.
– Is it backing the Government now ?
– Honorable members will be able to judge from the statement I propose to quote. 1 quote from the second edition of the Brisbane Daily Standard for Wednesday, 30th August, 1916. This statement is introduced with scare headlines: “Australia’s Greatest Crisis “ - “ Mr. Hughes’ Announcement,” and is as follows: -
To-day Australia has reached the greatest crisis of her history.
Yesterday the last remnant of freedom of speech was shattered by the application of military law to the press in order to stifle discussion on this very question of Australia’s crisis.
Why this was done wo have not the least idea.
Presumably Mr. Hughes knows why we should have military dictatorship.
As this edition goes to press, Mr. Hughes is announcing what he has been pleased to term “ The Government Policy “ to the Federal Parliament, and as you read this the news is public property in Melbourne.
When this news reaches Brisbane through official channels later in the day,you will find that-
The Labour movement has been betrayed.
You will find that the Government has declared for militarism.
– This is fine support for the Government.
– Rather ! The quotation continues -
You will find that its policy will split the Federal Labour Party forthwith.
It will rend the Labour movement.
It will disrupt Australia from end to end.
The biggest and most bitter and momentous fight the Labour movement has ever undertaken begins in earnest to-day.
There are excellent reasons for stating that Mr. Hughes has announced to-day that the Government proposes to submit the question of compulsory military service to a referendum in October next.
– How did they know that?
– That information was given to this House only on Friday last, two days later than its appearance in this newspaper.
– No; it was given on the Wednesday.
– However, it appeared in this newspaper before it was announced to this House. The statement continues -
There are also reasons for presuming that Mr. Hughes will lead the conscriptionist party on the hustings.
Further, we know that the proposal will be that male citizens should be called up for compulsory military training in the following classes: -
Men of the age of 18, but under 35 years, who are unmarried or widowers without children.
– That is wrong.
– The statement continues -
That is a report of proceedings of this House on the 30th of last month. Dealing with the censorship of newspapers generally, it has been too rigid in some cases, and in others too much latitude has been given. I have here three or four copies of the newspaper to which I have referred. One is an uncensored copy, which is worth about 1,200 per cent. more than its intrinsic value.
– Was the copy from which you have quoted censored ?
– I think that the first edition, published on the Tuesday, was censored, but I am not sure about the issue for Wednesday. There cannot be the slightest doubt that this newspaper has made statements which appear to be inviting the Government to put up a fight, or otherwise their statments are such as might lead to very serious results. I shall have more to say concerning matters at which I am now hinting when I have had time to look more closely into the copies of the newspaper which I have brought over with me. The Government are responsible for the peace and order of society in Australia, and they are responsible for pushing on the war to a successful issue. If they do not accept that responsibility, they should get out of the way and let some one else take it. Whilst they have the responsibility, they should take action to prevent such trash as is published in this newspaper from finding its way to the public.
– Hear, hear ! That is what I suggest should be done with Mr. Strong.
– I understand that something is proposed to be done with the honorable member for Brisbane. I believe that it is proposed to give him a travelling scholarship, in order that he may be sent over to Germany to learn the real facts of the case.
– The honorable member’s friends stuck to the money, and would not hand it over.
– The money will be found if the honorable member will accept the scholarship. I am sure that the Minister of Trade and Customs will not be disposed to treat this matter frivolously, but will urge the Minister of Defence to see that a close watch is kept to prevent the issue of scurrilous productions, and to see that the peace of the nation is not disturbed by the publication of such stuff as I have read this afternoon.
.- I am glad to have had the opportunity of hearing the closing remarks of the honorable member forMoreton. I quite agree with the honorable member that a stop should be put to these scurrilous publications that are being issued at the present time. Things are being said that are a perfect disgrace to any free country. Let us have free discussion and fair argument; but I have already called attention to statements that are a positive disgrace to any community, and particularly to a democratic country like Australia. Mr. Archibald T. Strong, in an article published in last night’s Herald, said, “ Every vote cast against the referendum in October may mean the death of an Australian soldier.” That is about the lowest and dirtiest statement that any person could be guilty of. To say that any one who, from honest conviction and reasonable deductions, votes against conscription may be responsible for the death of a soldier, is just about as extravagant an abuse of language as one can possibly conceive. If those of us who are against conscription were to say that those who vote for conscription will be legally guilty of the murder of the persons they send to the front, I wonder what would be said?
– Some of them do say that.
– I do not say that, and I am not going to allow any one to say of me that by voting against conscription I shall be responsible for the death of any man at the front. These are not the kind of arguments that will give us peace and a successful issue to this war, as the honorable member for Moreton so much desires. In that wish I entirely agree with him.
– But we must do our bit to bring about a successful issue.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I have not the slightest doubt as to how we are going to win this war, but I might be just as -conscientiously opposed to conscription as a means of winning the war as the honorable member is in favour of conscription as a means to that end. Conscription is his way, but it is not mine. I think we can win the war without conscription, or I would not oppose that system. If honorable members could convince me that the adoption of conscription is the way to win the war, I would be prepared to consider it, but I do not think it is the way. Mr. Strong further stated -
Wo know that the failure to send reinforcements promptly to Gallipoli involved hundreds of such deaths, and it is difficult to think without rancour of the men who have tried, or are trying, to make this thing happen again.
What does that mean ? Senator Pearce, as Minister of Defence, was responsible for the sending of the reinforcements, as well as the original army to- Egypt and Gallipoli.
– He was not responsible for them going to Gallipoli.
– Does any one believe for a moment that Senator Pearce was guilty, as Mr. Strong has stated, of causing the deaths of the men at Gallipoli ?
– The writer does not say that.
– He says that the failures to send reinforcements promptly to Gallipoli involved hundreds of such deaths-
– Who was responsible?
– The Imperial Government were responsible, because immediately the men landed in Egypt they passed to the control of the Imperial authorities.
– There were 45,000 reserves in Egypt at the time.
- Mr. Strong argues on wrong premises. To commence with, he is saying things that are untrue, and then to bolster up his argument he is laying the blame on people in Australia.
– The trouble is the colour of your glasses.
– My glasses are all right; I am giving Mr. Strong’s actual statement that the failures to send reinforcements promptly to Gallipoli involved hundreds of deaths.
– Probably they did.
– That may be true, but the responsibility was not that of anybody in Australia.
– The writer is not fixing the responsibility.
– The honorable member overlooks the latter part of Mr. Strong’s argument : “ It is difficult to think without rancour of the men who have tried, or are trying, to make this thing happen again.” Does he accuse the British Government of trying to prevent reinforcements being sent to the men at the front?
– He may be referring to part of the Empire.
– No ; this is a conscription article, written for conscription purposes ; it is a denunciation of anticonscrip otionists, and of every man who chooses to hold a view different from that of Mr. Strong. The whole tenor of the article is that those who are opposing conscription are trying to prevent the sending of reinforcements to the front. A man ought to be ashamed to put forth a statement such as that.
– Why not tell him so on the platform?
– The press will not publish what is said on the platform.
The newspapers publish only what they choose, and in most cases it is a garbled report of what one actually says.
– I think the press is far too kind to the anti-conscriptionists.
– I do not. I know that what I say in this House is reported word for word, and that Mr. Strong and the public may read my actual verbatim statements. They cannot read my statements made anywhere else.
– You are giving Mr. Strong a good text for a reply.
– I hope that in his reply he will be able to prove what he says. If this is a sample of the arguments to be used in favour of conscription, are those who are opposed to conscription to have equal opportunity and freedom to use arguments along similar lines?
– Are you like the Yarra Bank gentlemen in their opposition to conscription ?
– I am not responsible for the attitude of the Yarra Bank gentlemen ; I speak for myself.
– Do you approve of their views ?
– It is not a question of whether I approve or disapprove.
– I do not think the honorable member forWide Bay could quote one of the Yarra Bank speakers.
– I was there last Sunday, and heard them.
– The honorable member is to be commended for going to the Yarra Bank and hearing first-hand what was said there. I was not there last Sunday, and I would be very sorry to depend on press reports for accounts of what actually was said at the meeting. I would no more think of going to the Argus for a fair report of an anticonscription meeting than I would think of going to theLicensed Victuallers’ Gazette for a testimonial of a Good Templar.
– They recommended you at the last election, at all events.
– That showed their intelligence. They said they would prefer a man who was honestly opposed to them to a man who was neither one thing nor the other.
– Are you opposed to them ?
– I am opposed to their business. I have no more to say just now, other than that if this statement by Mr. Strong is a sample of what we are going to have on this question of conscription, it will cut both ways, and I regret very much that this kind of argument has been employed. This big national issue can only be settled by reasonable argument. It cannot be settled satisfactorily by misstatements and falsehoods such as Mr. Strong has resorted to.
.- As a newspaper man, I desire to say there is not very much to complain about concerning the comments of the Brisbane Daily Standard on the question of conscription. It must be apparent to any man who has had any experience of newspaper life that some one made a very good guess of the probable future events, and promptly transmitted it to the Brisbane Daily Standard, which made certain comments upon it. That happens every week. If, however, the paper had published the statement which the Prime Minister made in this House an hour after the paper was issued, then I would say that there had been a leakage of information which should be stopped in future. But if the press is to be toned down to such an extent that no comments are to be allowed regarding any course of action which the press believes, on good authority, has been determined upon, then the press might just as well be abolished altogether.
– Is it not a fact that the contents of certain speeches are in the hands of the press before such speeches are delivered in this House?
– Everybody knows that in the case of the opening of a Parliament an outline of the Governor’s Speech is handed to the press as a confidential document before-hand, and the press is relied upon not to make it public until the speech has been delivered in Parliament. I know of no instance in which this confidence has been abused; but, on the contrary, I do know that a great deal of good has resulted from the granting of this privilege. I rose more particularly to urge upon the Acting Leader of the House the importance of having the sugar question settled without delay, because the position is very serious, owing to the enormous increase in the cost of production, as the result of the award by Judge Dickson. The cane crushing season is passing away, and it is imperative that no time should be lost in converting the cane into sugar. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not look upon this matter with indifference. The other honorable members who have spoken on this question have advanced very good reasons why it should be dealt with promptly. If any further time is lost, I am afraid very serious results for the sugar industry will follow. Many growers have had two bad seasons, and they are now faced with the prospect of an indifferent third season, so if they cannot realize upon their crop and convert it into sugar the outlook will be extremely bad for the industry, for the State of Queensland, and indeed for the whole of Australia.
– I desire to say that the matter raised by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is now in the hands of the Minister for the Navy. The sugar question, referred to by five or six honorable members, is now a matter of negotiation between representatives of this Government and the Government of Queensland. The Government realize that it has to be dealt with speedily, because some of the cane will arrow - that is tosay, it will be useless for crushing, and will not stand over till next season.
– Can the Minister indicate the nature of the negotiations ?
– No, I cannot.
– But the Queensland Government have given an indication.
– I have no intention of indicating the present stage of the negotiations.
– Is the statement appearing in the press this morning correct?
– I am not prepared to say if it is. The honorable member, being a lawyer, knows that if he keeps on asking questions he will probably be able to build up his case.
– Is it a fact that a large quantity of sugar cane is likely to rot?
– Yes, I believe that is the position. Some of the cane will not stand over till nextseason, as it becomes short of saccharine density, and must be crushed this year. I think all the honorable members from Queensland, with the exception of the honorable member for Oxley, the Speaker, and the Treasurer, who is ill, have spoken on the matter raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay. On the question raised by the honorable member for Maranoa, it is important that telegraphists sent from the other States to Queensland should, at the expiration of their period of three years, have the opportunity of returning to the other States. It is not fair that young men, many of whom are married, should be placed under any disability in this respect, and I will bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister. I have heard it said that if a man goes out looking for a thing he usually finds it. Now, the honorable member for Moreton looked in the Daily Standard for something which he found, and the honorable member for Brisbane also looked in the papers for something which he found, too. I have not the slightest doubt that the honorable member for Brisbane is ready to affirm that the Labour papers are not being treated fairly so far as the anti-conscription meetings are concerned; that they are censored and gagged in such a way as to prevent them from telling the truth. On the other hand, the honorable member for Moreton alleges that the Labour papers can publish in regard to anti-conscription matter that other papers would be prevented from publishing.
– I did not say so.
– The fact that these two honorable members, having set out to look for something, have both found it in opposite directions, is proof positive that the censor is dealing fairly in this matter. When the honorable member for Lilley, an old pressman, was speaking, I. looked round the chamber, and saw halfadozen newspaper men sitting on the benches. I am sure that they will admit that any smart reporter of average intelligence, with a knowledge gained over a number of years of the views of honorable members, would be able to make a tolerably good guess as to what had taken place in any Caucus meeting of honorable members on the other side, or party meeting of honorable members on this side. However, I shall bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the urgent need for settling the sugar question, and also the other matters referred to by honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 5.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160906_reps_6_79/>.