6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
Referred to Committee of Supply.
Report of the Public Accounts Committee on Stores and Supplies” for Commonwealth Requirements, and report (No. 2) on Stationery; Printing, and Advertising for the Public Departments, presented by Mr. Charlton, and ordered to be printed.
– Is it intended, in connexion with the taking of a referendum on the question of conscription, to restore the provisions of the postal voting sections of the Electoral Act?
– I shall submit the question to Senator Russell, who has charge of electoral matters.
– In this morning’s Age remarks are attributed to me in what is not quite an accurate report, and I desire to put myself right in the matter. According to the newspaper, I am an outandout conscriptionist, and it is stated that at a meeting held at Mathoura I so declared myself, and said that if that did not suit my party, it could get some one else in my place. What I said was that I had always been in favour of volunteer effort on the part of the manhood of Australia, and that I had done all I could to persuade men to volunteer, and thus avoid the degrading imputation that the manhood of Australia had to be forced to do its duty. I went on to say that as the conscription issue was to be referred to the people, my position was this: If the volunteer effort failed, I should have to consider what was needed for the welfare of the country, and I added that I put the welfare of my country before the ties of party, and should do what I conceived to be my duty.
Motion (by Mr. King O’Malley) agreed to -
That the paper laid on the table on Wednesday last - Railway Workshops at Fort Augusta or Quorn - Establishment of - Report by Mr. A. E. Smith, Assistant Chief Mechanical Engineer, Victorian Railways, and Mr. A. Combes, Consulting Engineer, Department of Home Affairs - be printed.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say why the regrading of the allowance post-offices of New South Wales has been delayed this year.
– I do not know that there has been delay. Regrading is now proceeding, and the conditions that were laid down some twelve months ago are being put into effect.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that it is reported that an official in the General Post Office, Brisbane, has been interviewing postal officials, and making impertinent inquiries as to their intentions with regard to enlistment for service abroad? Are these inquiries being made with the honorable gentleman’s authority and sanction ?
– I am not aware that inquiries of the kind referred to are being made. I have not authorized such inquiries, and, consequently, take noresponsibility for them.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether a contract has been made between the Federal and Tasmanian Governments for the supply of shale oil?
– The Tasmanian Government have been in correspondence with the Naval Department and with the Commonwealth Government, with a view to an agreement being made for the supplying of the Navy with Tasmanian oil. The matter has been considered by me and by the members of this Government, and we have offered the Premier of Tasmania to take so many thousand tons of oil a year, for so many years, at a certain price. That offer is now under the consideration of the Tasmanian Government.
– It has been stated out side, on the authority of a member of this House, that, in the event of conscription being carried, the pay of Australian soldiers serving abroad will be reduced to 10s. a week. Will the Prime Minister state whether it is intended to make any reduction in the pay of our soldiers ?
– There will be no reduction. There is no truth in the statement that there will be such a reduction. The only alteration contemplated is the increasing of the married men’s allowance.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether any embargo has been placed upon the sending” of reports of the proceedings of this House to England?
– No; I do not know of any such embargo.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs what he intends to do with Gilchrist, and whether the suggestion of Judge Eagleson about conferences between the Minister and Gilchrist at the Minister’s own house on departmental affairs have any foundation in fact?
– The honorable member for Wakefield informed me that he intended to put this question, and I have prepared a little reply.
– How long is the reply ?
– It is very short, but very truthful. I had intended to deal with Judge Eagleson’s report
– If the honorable member is going to make a long statement, I do not think he is quite in order in doing so in reply to a question. If the honorable member desires to make a statement, he may do so by leave.
– Then I ask leave to read my speech, which is not long.
– Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the honorable member have leave to read a statement?
– I intended to deal only with Judge Eagleson’s report on the trans-Australian railway departmentally, but the unfair attack upon me by the Argus, in its issue of the 6th instant, renders it necessary that I should place certain facts before the House in their correct setting. The Argus, in its editorial article, makes several charges against me. It is asserted, as an evidence of wrong-doing, that Gilchrist called at my private house in regard to his charges. The insinuation is plain that, as Minister, I conduct my affairs in a mysterious manner. As a matter of fact, when Gilchrist called upon me, I was a private member, and, as with all public men, callers on public business are numerous. Mr. Gilchrist made a number of complaints which appeared to me to be serious; but, as the matter had reference to Western Australian affairs, I advised him to see a
Western Australian member. This I understood he did. That is the beginning and end of any negotiations in which my private residence is concerned with the inquiry, and this could not have been mentioned except to misrepresent me before the public. To show how facts are perverted, it is asserted that Mr. J. J. Poynton, one of the railway officials - referred to as a most estimable public servant - was appointed by the Libera] Minister, the Honorable W. H. Kelly, who, let it be noted, took office only on the 24th June, 1913. Gilchrist is referred to in terms of opprobrium - Poynton in terms of commendation.
– And he is a very good officer, too.
– I am not saying anything against Mr. Poynton. What more natural thing for the Argus to associate my name with Gilchrist and the Liberal Minister with Poynton. Apparently, nothing worthy can come out of Nazareth. As a matter of fact, not only did I appoint Mr. Poynton, but - let everybody hold up their hands in horror - Mr. Poynton called at my private house several times early in 1912, to pre fer his claims to a post in the Commonwealth Service. I referred him to Mr. Deane, the Engineer-in-Chief, and later, after a trial of his services for six months, I appointed him, on the 1st November, 1912, as Chief Transport Officer, at £500 per annum - that is nearly eight months before Mr. Kelly took office. On the 1st January, 1914, Mr. Kelly changed Mr. Poynton’s title to “Director of Supplies and Transport,” with increased salary. Apparently, I committed some grave indiscretion in admitting Gilchrist to my private house when a private member; but another gentleman, receiving strong encomiums from the Judge, could come to my house during my term of office as Minister to transact business without fear of being tainted thereby, or giving breath to public scandal. This is a sufficient answer to the insinuation of the Argus. I should like to do all public business at the Federal Parliament House, or at the Department of Home Affairs, but, unfortunately, public men cannot set arbitrary limits to the use of their private houses. I would be delighted if one of the Argus proprietors would act as a brass-buttoned uniformed constable at my private house, and see that all persons looking for billets or favours have the Argus hall-mark of approval before admittance.
– I desire to ask the Minister for the Navy a question relating to soldiers’ leave. Will the military authorities take into favorable consideration the provision of facilities, arranging, possibly, with the Railway Departments to assist, for soldiers - married men with families particularly - who have been training in camps in other States, and have been brought to Seymour Camp, to occasionally visit their families? I understand that, under present conditions, this is practically prohibited.
– I shall be pleased to bring the question under the notice of the Minister of Defence, and will submit a statement to the House.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that complaints are being made, more particularly by members or representatives of the Returned Soldiers Association, that a number of returned soldiers are being worked under military discipline at Defence offices, in various places, long hours, and subject to conditions which are not imposed on others who are not under military discipline ? Is the honorable gentleman aware of the fact, and that it is a subject of great complaint ?
– I am not aware of the fact, and I should like the honorable member to give notice of the question.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer whether he has decided to pay the full pension to the blind people of the Commonwealth, irrespective of their earnings ?
– The matter is under the consideration of the Government.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral state what steps the Department is taking to challenge the validity of the stock embargo in Queensland?
– I shall ascertain, and let the honorable member know. I have no personal knowledge of what has been done, but I shall look into the matter.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General another aspect of the question which calls for inquiry. I am informed, on the very best authority, that certain stock-owners are able to take their stock across the border on paying a certain fee per head. Will the Attorney-General look into Tine Constitution and see whether there is power to do anything of the kind ?
– During the absence of the Prime Minister in England I obtained legal advice on the matter. The opinion I gave as Acting Attorney-General was that the Queensland Government had no constitutional warrant for their action.
– Can the Minister inform, honorable members why the Commonwealth Government acquiesced in the withdrawal of the case which was before the High Court, and which, if proceeded with, would have decided the question as to the legality of the embargo placed on stock “ passing from Queensland to New South Wales?
– Perhaps the honorable member is referring to the case of Fogitt and Company.
-Well. whatever the case was, the Attorney-General was only an intervener, and the action could be settled by the parties independently of the Commonwealth. However, if my memory serves me right, I issued instructions that a writ should be issued against the Queensland Government in order that the matter might be brought before the High Court and determined. The writ was issued, but I do not know what has taken place since.
– During the last few days honorable members have received the report of the Small Arms Factory, at Lithgow, for the year ended the 30th June, 1914, but printed only on the 4th September of this year. In view of the report of the Auditor-General on the taking of stores in connexion with this factory, will the Minister for the Navy insist on the report for last year being printed as speedily as possible, so that honorable members may have an opportunity of studying it?
– I shall be pleased to bring the question under the notice of the Minister of Defence.
– Will the Treasurer say whether any decision has been arrived at by the Government in regard to an increase of the old-age pensions?
– The matter is still under the consideration of the Government.
– In regard to the case of Mrs. Jones, whose husband enlisted under the false name of H. A. Fletcher, and who arranged with his neice to receive his money, thus depriving the wife and children of their rights, does not the Minister for the Navy consider that Mrs. Hart should be prosecuted and made to refund the money which she has been withholding from the mother and children ?
– I shall be pleased to bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister of Defence, but my own opinion is that, if any person knowingly takes money that belongs to the wife and children of an enlisted man, and allows them to be without means of support, that person should be prosecuted.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that last Wednesday I addressed two questions to the Acting Leader of the House, in’ reference to a certain offensive and untruthful statement which appeared in an article by Mr. Archibald T. Strong, in the Melbourne Herald, on last Tuesday week? Is he aware that the press was prohibited from making any reference to my questions or the Minister’s answer ? Is the Prime Minister aware that Mr. Strong repeated his statement in last night’s Herald? If so, may we take it that the embargo has been removed from the press and that those who hold opinions contrary to those of Mr. Strong will have an opportunity to reply ?
– I am not aware of what transpired in the House last Wednesday. I did not hear that the honorable gentleman had asked those questions, or that Mr. Strong had made certain statements in the press; nor am I aware that he repeated those statements yesterday. But I do know, and I take this opportunity of saying so, that both by word of mouth and through the columns of the press every person is at liberty to speak as he thinks fit, subject only to the laws of the land, to saying nothing to discourage voluntary recruiting, insulting to our Allies, or calculated to incite any persons to commit a breach of the law of any State or the Commonwealth. Subject to those restrictions, speech during the referendum campaign will be absolutely free to both sides, irrespective of opinions.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House what decision was arrived at as a result of the conference between him and the Treasurer of Queensland in reference to the sugar industry ?
– The result of my interview with Mr. Theodore was that I informed him that I would convey his request to the Government, but I could hold out no hope that the Government would agree to it.
Lord Kitchener - Sir George Turner - Mr. W. J. Johnson - Colonelfoxton - Mr. McKay.
– I desire to refer to the death of Lord Kitchener, whose name has been familiar in our minds for many years, and during the last two years has been a name to conjure with. His death in tragic circumstances we, in common with the whole of the Empire, deeply deplore. I need say nothing by way of his epitaph, except that his whole life was passed in an endeavour to do his duty, and in that endeavour he died. And though we mourn our loss, I think he would have chosen no better end.
Death has been busy in the ranks of men whom we knew very well, men who have been our colleagues and friends in this House. During the recent protracted adjournment Sir George Turner, whose name has been part of the warp and woof of the political life of Victoria for many years, who was a prominent figure in the early days of Federation, and occupied a high position in this House, passed away. I do not think that amongst all those men who knew him and who differed from him in his career he left one. enemy or one who does not sincerely mourn his loss. Another of our friends and colleagues, Mr. W. J. Johnson, who was a member of this House for some years, although a man no longer young - indeed, he was well behind that entrenchment of age behind which he could have rested securely - volunteered to fight for his country, and has died figuring. I knew him for nearly a quarter of a century. He always strove to do his duty; no obstacles or difficulties daunted him, and his death was a fitting end to a life passed in devotion to what he conceived to be his public duty.
Death has also gathered in Colonel Foxton, a member of this Parliament for some years, and a Minister in a previous Administration, a man who was well known in the history of the public life of his State, and who did his duty faithfully and well. I was not among thoseprivileged to know him intimately, but I can say that while he was in this House he conducted himself in a manner that left no room for reproach, and that his public career was passed in an endeavour to do what he thought was right.
– I join the Prime Minister in his sympathetic reference to those great and distinguished men who have passed from our ken. He did well to make special mention of them in this House. As for Lord Kitchener, it was my privilege to be in very happy and useful association with that distinguished man for six weeks during his visit to Australia. The result of his efforts during those six weeks is being experienced by Australia to-day. His was a colossal and towering figure, one which always seemed to typify the Empire in its solidity, efficiency, and endurance. The world knows how well he did his work. It was said that if you -would see a monument of Wren you must look around you. If we seek a monument to Lord Kitchener we must look around - at the Australian Army and at the British armies in Prance; we must look, indeed, through the whole world. In many spheres, and in many lands, we see monuments of the distinguished public service rendered by Lord Kitchener, a service that has not been excelled by any living man. Sir George Turner was one of the most useful public men Australia has ever known. How well he worked, how heroically, and with what grim determination during troublous times in the State of Victoria is now a matter of history. We know the pioneering financial work he did in this House, and in connexion with the inauguration of Federation. Such work is always difficult, and I venture to say that during his occupancy of the office of Treasurer of the Commonwealth, he set this House and the country an example which we should do well to have before our eyes at all times when discussing the spending of the people’s money. I knew Mr. W. J. Johnson well. He was a modest man, a good party man, one with no tinge of bitterness in his composition, and one who had the goodwill of members on both sides during the time he waa in this Parliament. I know that he was a good father and a good husband. His life in his home was irreproachable, and there is bitter grief in that home to-day over his departure. By going to the war as he did when over fifty years of age, he set a fine example to the men of Australia in the defence of the Empire and the freedom he- held dear. Colonel Foxton has been mentioned last, but he was not the least. His work was of a distinguished kind. I need only mention his efforts in London in connexion with the formulation of our present defence scheme on its naval side; for he was the man who brought that scheme to Australia ; he was the man who in London helped to formulate the Australian Naval Unit as we have it to-day. All these men have gone, and with them has gone out another whom I think we should mention here. I refer to the late Mr. McKay, Commissioner of Taxation. This country owes a great debt to him. He was a man of distinguished ability and of great probity; one whom every one believed to be just and upright. We cannot be too strong in our expres sions of appreciation of the lives and work of those who belong to that hierarchy of the’ public service who carry the whole of our institutions on their Atlas shoulders, and do their work unseen, while perhaps we pirouette in the limelight and are more seen of men. All these good men have gone, and we need never fear for our Empire while such as they are raised up in succession.
.- I suppose that I am the only member of this House who can make the statement about Lord Kitchener that I am about to make in reference to a matter on which I gave notice of motion to-day, never dreaming that this opportunity would be afforded me. In conversation, and subsequently by letter, I asked Lord Kitchener if the men who had volunteered and gone to South Africa during the Boer War, and had become officers, should nob have . preference on their return - all things being equal - over men who stayed at home. To Lord Kitchener’s honour I have his letter in which hd stated that the men who showed their patriotism by going abroad to fight should have an advantage over men who stayed at home. Therefore, I pay him that meed of praise. But I am sorry to say that, despite Lord Kitchener’s views on this point, men who stayed at home rose far higher in their positions than men who volunteered to fight for the Empire. I was, perhaps, the oldest political friend Sir George Turner had in this House. He and I entered Parliament on the same day. We were both members of the same swimming club when it was first suggested that we should try for parliamentary honours, and we were both successful. He was a stalwart man whose fight for true Liberalism no one in this House or outside can gainsay, and the friendship we formed before we entered parliamentary life was continued to the day of his death. He has done his duty, and, like all who have done so, and have passed through the shadows, he will meet with the reward he deserves. The late Mr. Johnson was the first honorable member of this House to lay down his life in the present great world war. That is honour enough for any man. *No man could do more than make the supreme sacrifice of giving his life for his country and the institutions in which he believes. The late Colonel Foxton and I were political opponents, but good friends. I always found him to be a courteous gentleman; and if, as I believe, those whom we have loved and lost in this life will but add to the number who shall welcome us when our time comes to cross the border, I shall not be disappointed if Colonel Foxton is there. Mr. McKay was a true man, straightforward and honest, and had he lived one great crime of that. Department would not have been perpetrated. He was too honest a man to have permitted anything of the kind.
– Will the Prime Minister consider, as a means of assisting recruiting, the expediency of closing the race-courses and stadiums throughout Australia, as they are at the present time only a drain on the resources of the nation ?
– There are so very many things that I would like to shut up, but which, I regret to say, I am unable to do, that I do not propose to take on this other little job.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Will the Minister for Defence grant permission for the members of the Returned Soldiers Association who were at Gallipoli to use the word “Anzac” (which they have made famous) in connexion with the Anzac Journal and the Anzac Memorial Band?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
So long as the Attorney- General is satisfied that the journal and band in question are conducted solely in the interests of the Returned Soldiers Association, no objection will be taken to the use of the word “ Anzac “ in connexion therewith.
asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In view of the difficulty the public has re the fixed prices of foods -
Will he cause the selling price of bread, of sugar, and of any other foods whose prices are fixed, to be posted up in all post-offices so that citizens can see them and understand them in the various States?
Will he also have posted up the names and addresses of the officers to whom complaint is to be made when any breakage of the law is made pertaining to the fixing of prices?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Tonnage of Ships Offered
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The honorable member should direct his questions to the Prime Minister.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he has considered the ruinous effect which the increased rate of interest is having, and will have, on farmers whose mortgages are falling due.
– I am carefully considering all questions relating to current interest rates.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
What are the numbers of electors enrolled in each of the five electoral districts of Western Australia?
– The number of electors enrolled to date in respect of each of the five electoral divisions of the State of Western Australia is as follows : -
This enrolment will be increased before the close of the rolls for the referendum.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Are the Australian-made rifles now in use at the front?
– A large number of Australian-made rifles has been sent abroad, but as they have been taken over by the British Government the Department is not aware of the locality in which they are being used.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act -
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 194.
Defence Act - Regulations amended -
Employment of Persons in a civil capacity -Statutory Rules 1916, No. 202.
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 209.
Military Forces (Financial and Allowance) Statutory Rules 1916, No. 208.
Ireland - Rebellion in - Report of Royal Commission - (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Report of the Royal Commission on the charges made by D. L. Gilchrist, concerning the construction of the Western Section.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Ashford, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Norfolk Island- Ordinance of 1916, No. 2- Export of Cattle and Beef.
Northern Territory Administration - Report of the Royal Commission appointed to inquire into and report upon certain charges against the Administrator and other officers.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 193, 196, 197, 199.
Public Service Act -
Promotions of -
H. Pye, as Postmaster, 2nd Class, Tam worth.
B. Rayner, as Postmaster, 3rd Class, Horsham.
T. Roberts, as Postmaster, 3rd Class, Ararat.
H. Bale, as Clerk, 4th Class, Lighthouse Branch, Central Staff.
V. Eagles, as Inspector of Excise, 4th Class (Beenleigh).
Appointment of H. J. Cottee, as Supervisor of Rifle Ranges, Class E, Professional Division, Public Works Branch, Victoria.
Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 190.
Belgium - Memorandum by the British Foreign Office relative to the treatment by the German Government of the civil population of Belgium.
Papers presented to the British Parliament -
India - Safety of alien enemies repatriated from, on the s.s.Golconda -
Correspondence with the United States Ambassador.
Further correspondence with the United States Ambassador.
Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Committee - Regulations.
Trading with the Enemy (Extension of Powers) Act 1915 - Correspondence with the United States Ambassador respecting.
War Precautions Act - Regulations amended - (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 102.
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 198, 200, 201, 203-207.
Regulations ( Coaling Battalions) - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 136.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to submit to a referendum a question in relation to military service abroad.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 84.27), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the statement made to the House on Wednesday, 30th August last, showing the Government proposals for obtaining recruits for war service, be printed.
– The observations that I rise to make concerning the statement of the Prime Minister will be brief. The situation, as I view it, is exceedingly grave, and the less the time occupied in the discussion of non-essentials, the more there will be available for dealing with the real crux of the proposals which have been submitted to us.I never before rose to address the House with a greater sense of gravity than I now feel. From whatever point of view it may he regarded, the position is very grave. The daily newspapers show that recruits are only dribbling in, while enormous casualty lists are piling up. War is marching in seven-leagued boots, aud we must keep up or perish by the way. The sooner we address ourselves seriously to the position, and squarely face the real interests of the country, the better it will be for us, for our honour as a nation, for the Empire, for the Allies, and the civilized world. In the first five days of this month, when the number needed was 5,420, only 1,460 recruits were enrolled, and in ten days, only 2,471 recruits were enrolled, although the month’s requirement is 32,500. During the same period over 5,000 casualties have been recorded in the newspapers. There is, therefore, no time to spare.
The Prime Minister has said that it is due to the public that they should be told how imperative and urgent the demand for men is. He has told us that the Government, after long and earnest deliberation, has arrived at the conclusion that the voluntary system of recruiting cannot be relied on to supply the steady stream of reinforcements necessary. The members of the Government, after giving the matter the most serious consideration possible, have arrived at the conclusion that the present system has broken down, and fails to meet the situation. To falter now, the Prime Minister continued, is to lose what we have gained. I entirely agree with him. Now, he says, is the psychological moment, when every ounce of effort is called for. It has been said that he gives twice who gives quickly, and the proverb is abundantly true when applied to the giving of men for the greatest of all services - the defence of the country. I read the other day a letter which that great democrat. Abraham Lincoln, wrote to the Governors of the States when, during the American Civil War, he proposed to raise a draft of 300,000 men by the method of compulsion. He wrote -
I should not want half of 300,000 troops if I could have them now. If 1 had 50,000 additional new troops here now, I think I could substantially close the war in two weeks. Time is everything, and if I get 50,000 new men in a month, I shall have lost 20,000 old ones during the same month, having gained only 30,000, with the difference between old troops and new troops against me. The quicker you send, therefore, the fewer you will have to send. Time is everything. Please act in view of this.
How true are those words of our present circumstances. Every man that we send now will be equal to two sent months hence. The sooner we face the situation presented to us by the Prime Minister, who, from his visit to the Old Country, and to the front, must know, in a way that we cannot, the requirements of the situation, the better it will be for the successful prosecution of the war, and the greater will be the saving of our brave Australian soldiers’ lives. The more men we can pour into the theatres of war now, the more we shall save from the hell, as it has been called, into which our men must enter for the defence of their country.
The voluntary system has broken down. All the figures show that. Our recruiting does not meet our requirements. There are some who do not believe in the compulsory method of raising men, who say that Australia has done enough. I hope that there are not many in this Parliament who think that. We have not done enough, and shall not have done enough until we have won the war, even if, to use the words of the exPrime Minister, it takes “ the last man and the last shilling.”
The Prime Minister said the other day that we have so far at least done as well as any other portion of the Empire, and have kept pace with the -rest of our race. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman meant the Empire as a whole, or the outlying Dominions; but, while we have done well, we have not done quite as much as they have done in the Old Land. We have sent away about 280,000 men - a fine army, infinitely creditable to the country. Our population being 5,000,000, this draft is equal to about 6 per cent, of the population. Great Britain, on the other hand, has enlisted about 10 per cent, of her population. According to the Treasurer’s estimate, our expenditure this year will be about £50,000,000, or a little over £10 per head of population, but Great Britain is spending £1,800,000,000, or about £40 per head of population. She has also done wonders in providing munitions. I do not think that if any other nation had begun where Great Britain was two years ago it could have achieved the same result. Any one who has read Boyd Cable’s latest book, Doing Their Bit, must have felt, as he laid it down, that the transformation in Great Britain, in regard to the making of munitions, has been nothing short of a miracle. We are proud of what the Empire lias done, and our contribution must be adequate, and in every way worthy of that effort. AVe must emulate the sacrifices that are being made elsewhere. While we have sent men, we have had to rely on the Motherland for rifles, shells, and guns of all kinds. We manufacture very little warlike material in Australia, and must go a long way before we have a selfcontained and efficient army. It is our duty to do the best and utmost that we can do. The late President Garfield made use of words which I commend to the notice of every man in this Chamber, and which I should like every man and woman in Australia to hear. Considering the possibilities of war, he said -
A nation is not worthy to be saved if, in the hour of its fate, it will not gather up all its jewels of manhood and life, and go down into the conflict, however bloody and doubtful, resolved on measureless ruin or complete success.
When great racial issues are being decided, the nation must burn its boats behind it, and be prepared to face either irreparable ruin or complete success. Without success in this war, Australia can no longer be free.
We are now coming to the real test of patriotism, and of sacrifice. Hitherto we have sent out of our abundance men and material. Now both are becoming scarcer. It is therefore more difficult to meet our demands by voluntary methods. It is times of stress and strain that are the real test of a nation. To give when we have a surplus of wealth and men does not test our metal so much as to give in these times of stress and strain when things axe not so easy. Now is the day of our real sacrifice. We have not been hurt much in Australia except for the sacrifice of some of the bravest and best of our men. I am not so sure that the war has not done us good actually, economically, in business, and in many other ways. Money has circulated plentifully, and we have not been hurt very much by the war yet.
– There is the aftermath.
– We must face the aftermath. We cannot go into a struggle like this without hurting ourselves; and the real sacrifice is when it does pinch and hurt us. We must face the conditions even though they be not agreeable to our preconceived notions. If our prejudices stand in the way, let us heave them overboard, and face the facts as they are, and do it courageously and boldly, as befits full-bearded men standing up to the responsibilities of nationhood.
Now I come to the figures presented by the right honorable gentleman the other day. These figures indicate not merely urgency, but a very serious condition of affairs. I should like the right honorable gentleman to follow my setting of those figures, for they seem to me to be little less than tragical as he presents them. He began by telling us of the number of men in the “ pool1’ in London: and I regret that the word “ pool “ has been introduced in this connexion. It seems to me that if we have a “ pool,” and we keep pouring some men in, while others are going out, we are apt to overlook the significance of the figures in their detail. Those figures of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence indicate to me that the question now raised is belated, and that what is now proposed should have been proposed many months ago. The Prime Minister tells us that there are 44,500 men in London, and that of these 32,500 are required for this month of September. I presume that those 32,500 will.go from the London pool, in which there will then be left 12,500 towards the October reinforcements of 16,500.
– I do not wish, to interrupt the right honorable gentleman, but T followed each month out.
– And I am doing so, too. After we have sent 32,500- men, we shall have 12,500 left. We face our October reinforcements from the London side with 12,500 men in the pool, and 7,000 arriving in London during the month of September. Of these 7,000 men, 4,500 must go to the trenches in October,, and, therefore, can have little training at the other end. That will leave us to face the November quota of 16,500 to be made up as follows: - We shall have 2,500 left of the quota arriving in September, and w,e shall have 12,500 October arrivals in London, and weshall have to get 1,500 of the men actually arriving in London in November to go straight to the trenches to make up that month’s reinforcements. These men will have to go without any training at all in England; and that is the serious aspect as I see it. The December quota for France will be made up of 11,000 November arrivals and 5,500 December arrivals. For our December quota for France we shall have to rely on 11,000 men who have not been in London a month, and on 5,500 men who have just arrived, and must be hurried away to France. For the January quota we shall have 7,000, this being the balance of the December arrivals, and 9,500 arriving in the same month. That is the point to which the Prime Minister takes us in his figures. At the Australian end we have pretty much the same state of affairs. The right honorable gentleman told us that we have here 43,000 men in camp. That was some time before he made his statement - on the 1st September - so let us say that there were 40,000 men in camp on that date. We are told that our reinforcements from this end are limited by transport conditions to 12,500 a month, so that, roughly, we have three months’ reinforcements at this end now in camp. These, therefore, will be all exhausted in November, and for our December quota we must rely on those we are recruiting now. If these be not enough we must get the balance from those proposed to be called up next month.
– I am satisfied that the troops in hand will supply the reinforcements until January.
– At the other end, yes; but they supply the reinforcements by exhausting both pools, as the Prime Minister himself pointed out; and those who go after - this is my point - those who go after the pools are exhausted, must go straight into the trenches, if this scheme is to be carried out.
– They will have four mouths’ training in Australia if the Prime Minister’s figures are correct.
– They will not - that is the point.
– If the Prime Minister’s figures are correct, the men who arrive for the January reinforcements will have started training early in September.
– But before they arrive they must have been nearly two months on the water. Look at the figures. There are in camp 40,000 men, or three months’ reinforcements; and those reinforcements, therefore, must exhaust themselves in November. The men to go away in succession to them in December can only have between now and the beginning of December to train.
– There are 102,000 altogether.
– It is deceiving to mix up the two pools like that. I am trying to show that this is a very grave and urgent matter, and that, even from the most favorable aspect, we have no prospect ahead, if these reinforcements go as planned, of sending men from here with more than two months’ and three months’ training, to go straight into the trenches from the London end. That is the position we are u;p against, and it seems to me to be a very serious one indeed.
– The trouble is that the casualties are increasing beyond the Prime Minister’s calculations.
– Exactly. The Prime Minister, the other day, very properly pointed out that to send men into the trenches untrained is little short of murder.
– I repeat that.
– And I am pointing out that if this scheme is carried out, as sketched by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence, we shall, perforce, have to send Australian soldiers into the trenches with two or three months’ training. Is that enough ?
– They will have three months’ training before they will have to go.
– They cannot have three months’ training here. We have not got the men yet, and we are within eleven weeks of the December quota being due, with only 2,000 men this month towards it.
– I am not going to say one word of excuse about sending men without sufficient training, but I do say that many of the troops that have gone to England, and are now in France, had not so long a training as these other men will have.
– Unfortunately, that is so. But is it not our scandal that, after two years of war, we should be sending men to the front with less than two or three months’ training? So far as my reading goes, I think Lord Kitchener insisted at the other end that men should have from nine to twelve months’ training before going to the front.
– What is the use of talking like that? We are at war, and must do the best we can in the circumstances, and we are doing our best. It is not a counsel of perfection, but a counsel that has to be accepted by the ‘nation in the face of the unique circumstances. We cannot give the men nine or twelve months’ training.
– May I suggest to my right honorable friend that I am not offering a counsel of perfection, but offering remarks which appear to me to be very serious as bearing on our Australian soldiers.
– I agree with the spirit of what you say.
– What is the use of remarks if they do no good?
– May I ask the honorable member why he did not begin a little earlier? I am only pointing out what is the absolute fact - that this scheme is at least six months behindhand. Since it is all behind, and since, under the most favorable circumstances our men cannot get the training they ought to have, the sooner we begin to get more men into camp, so that we may start to train them, the better for all concerned. That is an argument of urgency, and for the authorities having the power and right to do what is necessary to attain our supreme and vital objective. If this had been done earlier we should not have had all the trouble and confusion that we find on the public platforms of the country to-day. Either we are in this war to stand up to our pledges, our honour, and our responsibilities, or we are not. If we are going to make good our statements - if we are going to honour our pledges - to stand in and with the Empire to the end of this bitter fight, the sooner we set about remedying this dilatory condition of things the better for us all. It is not fair to the men to send them away as we have been doing, and as we propose to do, perforce, under this scheme. That is all I desire to say. I wish to import no bitterness into this matter. To me the condition of affairs is very, very serious. I am hoping, even yet, that some explanation may modify the position as I see it.
Here are the figures, and they show that both pools, that at the other end and that at this end, will be exhausted in January. It takes two months to transport troops to England, and, therefore, troops for the January quota must leave Australia early in December at the very latest. These troops we have not got yet, and we ought to begin to get them at the earliest possible moment.
Leaving that point, there are many things which might be suggested as to the best way of carrying through our task. The Government have decided upon the referendum. I believe that- every man on this side will assist the Government to the uttermost in the prosecution of that referendum.
– If it is a free referendum, yes.
– Exactly. I believe that every man associated with me will help the Government to the uttermost in the prosecution of the referendum.
– Will you help in prosecuting those who are against the referendum ?
– I hope the contest will be devoid of bitterness, that it will be one in which we may respect each other’s point of view, and persevere with our own proposals with as little feeling as possible. The outlook in that respect is not very promising, . I admit, but we must make the best of it. Here is the position as set forth to us by the Government in a proposal emanating from the Ministerial party and from the Prime Minister. We on this side have had nothing to do with the formulation of the scheme; we have not been consulted about it.in any way. It is not a national proposal, evolved by a national parliament, to meet a national emergency. At the best it is only a party expedient, but there it is; it is the Government’s responsibility; but the situation, as I conceive it, is so grave, and the need so urgent, that I will do nothing to interfere with the free course of the referendum, but everything to help, in the sincere hope that it may do what I consider to be necessary, namely, conserve our honour amongst the nations of the world, and enable us to take our rightful place in the Empire alongside our brothers who are fighting for our freedom and our liberties. It is our duty to stand behind the Government and help them to carry their proposals to success. We must fight on in this matter, and there must be no faltering. To palter now would be a national sin, a national calamity. As the Prime Minister has said, we must do all that we set out to do originally. We must see the fight through to the bitter end, and even if it costs us many more lives, and much more of the wealth of Australia, all must be given freely to this most sacred of all purposes, the defence of our country and the preservation of our civilization.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Poynton) adjourned.
Inter-State Trade - Sugar Industry - Old-age and Invalid Pensions - Pensions for the Blind - Pensions to Inmates of Charitable Institutions - Employment of Returned Soldiers - Dairying Industry : Fixation of Prices - Commonwealth Bank Employees - Destitute Allowance - War Pensions and Allowances - Super-tax upon Aliens - Administration of Patriotic Funds - Wheat Pool - Wheat Freights - Treasurer’s Advance Vote - Extravagant Expenditure - Small Arms Factory:rifles - Manufacture of Shells -Erection of Arsenal - Reproductive Expenditure - Treatment of Returned Soldiers : Pensions and Allowances - Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Oodnadatta to Pine Creek Railway - Internal Combustion Engines - AttorneyGeneral’s Department - Defence Department: Case of Dr. Heupt - Sydney Post Office.
– I move-
That this Bill he now read a second time.
I shall be very glad if honorable members will allow the Bill to pass at the earliest possible moment.
– Are you going to make a financial statement?
– I shall not be able to make any statement as to the finances for some days. The Government will require to consider ways and means to meet heavy expenditure.
– Surely we can get the statement this month.
– Yes; I am hoping to make a statement as to the finances before the House adjourns for the referendum campaign.
– Will you make any statement regarding sugar?
– As honorable members know, sugar is the subject of an agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments, and between the Millaquin Sugar Refining Company and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– But we desire to know the position ?
– I am in hopes that honorable members will postpone their discussion of that matter until I make my statement regarding the finances.
– I saw a statement in the press that you were to make a financial statement on the Supply Bill.
– That was my intention, and I endeavoured to make such arrangements as would permit of a statement being made at this stage, but, owing to various circumstances over which we have no control, I am unable to make that statement now, although I hope to do so before the House adjourns for the referendum campaign. The Bill covers a vote of £5,023,580, which sum will carry us on for a period of three months. We have already had a Supply Bill for two months, and this Bill will enable us to carry on until the end of November. It is just for the ordinary expenses of government, and there is nothing further to be said at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4.
– The Treasurer is asking for Supply for a further three months, so that he will be financed until the end of November. If that request is acceded to, we shall have voted away money for five months of the financial year. When does the Treasurer propose to make his financial statement? Last year we voted away the whole of the year’s Supply by means of these Bills, and the Treasurer is proceeding merrily along the same lines this year. In every other country of the Allies, although the commitments are infinitely greater than ours, and the situation is much more complex, the financial statement is made immediately after the close of the financial year, but in this
Parliament it is impossible to get a financial statement. Parliament must have some control over the public finances, even in war time. Indeed, I think it is more imperative,0 with all this additional and extraordinary expenditure, that we should know at the earliest moment what the spending has been, and is to be. I know that the Treasurer has been ill, but I think he ought to be able to fix a definite date for the delivery of his financial statement.
.- I take this opportunity of lodging my protest against the unnecessary delay in settling the constitutional question as to the embargo imposed by the Queensland Government upon stock crossing its borders. In South Australia, beef is quoted to-day at something like 80s. per cwt. I understand that the case which was recently before the High Court was settled by mutual arrangement. The Queensland Government commandeered cattle at something like £11 per head, but I am told that the settlement of the High Court case was agreed to only on the condition that the Queensland Government paid the lady concerned £18 12s. 6d. per head, instead of the price originally fixed. That arrangement is all very well for the lady, but, in the meantime, people in South Australia are paying from 20s. to 30s. per cwt. more for beef than they would have to pay if the embargo were not in operation. I am told, also on the best authority, that the Queensland Government is still charging the pastoralists in some cases a certain amount per head for sheep allowed to cross the border.
I am not a constitutional expert, but it must be apparent to any layman that if the Queensland Government can charge pastoralists for the right to take their stock across the border, or if they can prevent stock from crossing the border, the Federal Constitution should be put into the melting-pot as soon as possible and radically amended; because if there was one thing more than another for which the States agreed to federate it was in order that we might have freedom of trade within the Commonwealth. If by any subterfuge a State may raise barriers to trade it is equivalent to the collection of Customs duties at the borders. I hope that the Minister will bring this matter under the attention of the prover authorities, and see whether a case cannot be set down for hearing before the High
Court at an early date, and I hope that there will be no agreement to an adjournment of the case under any circumstances so that we may know the true position at the earliest possible moment.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (Lang)
T4.371. - I take this opportunity of asking the Treasurer whether he proposes to take into serious consideration the question of raising the amount of the old-age pension which was fixed some years ago, when it was thought that the allowance bore a fair relation to the cost of living. Since then, however, the cost of living has considerably increased, and other disabilitieshave arisen placing the old-age pensioners at a very great disadvantage. While T have due regard to the fact that the expenses of government have increased enormously, and that now we have responsibilities which did not previously exist, still I think ways and means should be found to meet the present necessities of the old-age pensioners. It has never been an easy matter to make ends meet on the allowance, but the difficulties cf the pensioners have certainly increased of recent years, especially since the outbreak of the war. The cost of living has gone up enormously. Those who are earning wages or salaries find great difficulty in making ends meet, the cost of living having increased in greater ratio than their rate of remuneration. But pensioners have had no increase at all. to meet the increased cost of living. I appeal to the Treasurer to give the matter his serious consideration. I offer the suggestion that he should remodel the payment of some of the maternity bonuses. It is a wellknown fact that there are thousands of women in receipt of the maternity allowance who have no need for it, and do not require to spend it for the purpose which was contemplated by the Act. As a matter of fact, statements have been made in this chamber that the money was in many cases devoted to purposes altogether foreign to that for which it was intended to be used.
– Talking by and large about “ thousands of cases “ is useless. - Let the honorable member give detail? and some names.
– If J went into details the Treasurer would be one of the first to ask me if I could nos cut mv remarks short, or defer details to some future occasion which probably would never arise. I do not wish to go into details now. I merely offer the suggestion I have made in view of statements which have already been made ‘n the House, as to the money having bee a devoted to political and other purposes instead of the purpose for which it was really intended. Many thousands of pounds are distributed yearly among welltodo women which might be diverted to relieve the old-age pensioners. I hope that the Treasurer will take the whole matter into his serious consideration, and devise means to meet the situation with a view to relieving the necessity of old-age pensioners who are at present under such grave disabilities.
.- I am very glad that the honorable member for Grey has again raised the question of the embargoes that are being placed by various States on the free passage of stock and produce from State to State. I have been talking about this matter for eighteen months.
– Does the State of New South Wales allow pigs to pass into Queensland 1
– The New South Wales Government allows it now, because a case has been definitely settled in Court, and the decision prevents any prohibition in that direction; and, in my opinion, if the other cases against the Queensland Government had been taken into Court, the law on the point would have been determined in a very short space of time, provided the Commonwealth Government had done their duty and pressed them to a finish. When the case to which the honorable member for Grey referred was brought before the Court, the Commonwealth Government appeared as an intervener, but when it was settled on terms which were very advantageous to the plaintiff, counsel representing the Commonwealth Government acquiesced in the withdrawal without a solitary word of protest. I have heard honorable members in this House, representing the States of Victoria and South Australia, talking a great deal about the rise in the cost of living - the Minister of Trade and Customs never tires of talking about it- - but if the Commonwealth Government had done their duty, and seen that the law, which is, I believe, in the opinion of every lawyer of Australia, undoubted on the point, was enforced, the cost of three-fourths of the articles produced in Australia which the consumers in the southern States are eating, would have been materially reduced long ago. But what is the position? The Labour Governments of New South Wales and Queensland have adopted a doginthemanger policy, and set up these embargoes at their various borders in order to supply their supporters in the cities with goods at a lower price than the proper market price in Australia, regardless of the fact that all the time they were penalizing their supporters elsewhere.
– Do you not think that it is time Australia adopted Unification 1
– That is another matter, perhaps a matter for the future ; T am speaking of the present, and I press on the Treasurer the fact that if the Commonwealth Government had done their duty months ago, these embargoes would have been swept away, and the average price of the various commodities to which they apply would have been to the advantage of the great number of the consumers in Australia, as well as of the producers.
– Would not the Commonwealth Government have been in the same position as when the Government of New South Wales commandeered the whole of the wheat in that State ?
– The commandeering of all the stock in Australia would be quite impossible for any Government to attempt. Queensland has not attempted to do it.
– The Queensland Government has commandeered all the butter produced in the State.
– I doubt very much whether ils action in that respect is legal. I do not wish to labour the question this afternoon. The whole fault for the existing condition of affairs rests on the shoulders of the Commonwealth Government. It could have set matters right long ago. I wish to know why, when two Queensland Ministers came to Melbourne and conferred with Ministers here, the Commonwealth Government acquiesced in the withdrawal of the before the Court without a single word of protest. It is plainly evident that if the cases had gone to a hearing and had been decided against the Queensland Government - as I believe they will be eventually - the little scheme the Queensland Government had on foot in regard to stock” in their State would have been upset. They have an arrangement whereby they charge one price to the Imperial Government and another price to their consumers at home. They charge the Imperial Government1¼d. per lb. more. It these embargoes were swept aside, that scheme would have been upset, and they would have had to charge the market price for the whole produce.
– They could not export to Great Britain and charge the same as is charged locally.
– The extra charge is free on board in Queensland, and is1¼d. per lb. more than the price at which they supply meat to the State shops in Queensland.
– There is not very much harm in that.
– But if the embargoes that exist at the State borders are swept away, they cannot do it, and their scheme will be upset altogether. So I was not very much surprised that there was a hurried visit of two Queensland Ministers to Melbourne when these cases came into Court, and they were settled on terms very advantageous to the plaintiffs, the Commonwealth Government acquiescing. Are the Commonwealth Government doing their duty to the people of Australia by lending themselves to a proceeding of that description ? No. On the other hand, they are guilty of a very serious dereliction of duty. The honorable members for Wide Bay and Moreton, and others have dealt very ably with the serious position of the sugar industry, a matter upon which the Treasurer should give the House and the country some information. I do not think we ought to be called upon to wait a day longer for information upon these very serious matters. Unless something is speedily done, not only will the sugar industry in Queensland be brought almost entirely to an end, but it will not be very long before the people of Australia have no sugar at all. The award that has been made by Acting Judge Dickson, of Queensland, has increased the producing cost of sugar by, roughly speaking, about £7 per ton. It is obvious that since the profit at the present time is a very great deal less than £7 per ton, it is utterly impossible for the growers to carry on, and if something is not done, and done quickly, the production of sugar in Queensland will come to an abrupt termination. No cane will be harvested, and no sugar will be pro duced. As every one knows, we cannot import sugar under about £34 per ton, and the probabilities are that it will be utterly impossible to import any at all until that period comes when, under normal conditions, the local supplies will have been exhausted. Thus, if we do not set in motion very rapidly the wheels of the sugar industry in Queensland, we must be within measurable distance of the time when we shall have no sugar whatever in Australia. I fail to understand why the Commonwealth Government are not prepared to act. The presumption is that, unless the Queensland Government - which is the only authority that has the power to intervene - steps in and suspends the operation of this industrial award for the timebeing-
– I do not think they are likely to do that.
– Possibly not, but unless that is done, or unless the Commonwealth Government raises the price of sugar, no sugar is going to be produced in Australia. The Treasurer knows the facts as well as I do. He is as well seized as I am of the seriousness of the position. He represents an electorate in which a considerable quantity of sugar is grown, and he knows that it is impossible for the growers to carry on under the existing conditions. He knows also that the award in question has not only taken from the growers all the profit they could make by producing sugar, but has put them altogether on the wrong side of the ledger. Under these conditions no one is going to spend his money in raising sugar, knowing that when the product is obtained he will be still further on the wrong side of the ledger. In these circumstances action must be quickly taken. The honorable member for Oxley has said that the Queensland Government will not suspend the award. I am not now discussing whether or not the award is a just one; but if the State Government will not suspend it, the only other authority that can act is the Commonwealth Government.
– It is prepared to act if the Queensland Parliament will pass the Commonwealth Powers Bill.
– The suggestion has been made that if the Commonwealth Powers Bill be passed by the Queensland Parliament, the Federal authority will be prepared to act. Even if that measure were passed, how long does the honorable member for Oxley think it would take the Commonwealth Government to secure the power to do anything ? He knows, as well as I do, that there is one question which, above all others, is just now absorbing the attention of honorable members “of this Parliament,’ and that we shall adjourn long before it is possible for us to pass legislation dealing with the Queensland sugar industry. We shall be in the country for some weeks, and will come back probably some time in November. “Upon our return, this Parliament will again become the debating ground of the serious question to which I have referred. There will also be other matters of vast moment with which this Parliament will have to deal, and probably Christmas will come and still find us not in a position to pass the legislation necessary to deal with the sugar industry in Queensland. Of all the utterly foolish propositions that have ever been made for dealing with a national emergency such as this - and the position in regard to the Queensland sugar industry just now is a national emergency - I have never heard of one more absurd than that to give the Commonwealth power to deal with the matter by a reference of powers from the Queensland Parliament.
– No legislation is necessary.
– That is the point I was about to make. In my opinion there is only one party that can deal with this very seriousstate of affairs, and that is the Commonwealth Government. What is more, there is only one Department that can deal with it and meet the emergency at once, and that is the Department presided over by the Treasurer - the man who has control of the purse.
– Would he have control of the subsequent awards ?
– I do not know; but if any more awards of a like character are to be superimposed upon that already made in relation to the sugar industry, we shall have to erect a few additional lunatic asylums in Queensland. That, however, is not the point. The point I desire to make is that the sooner the Treasurer realizes that in this emergency the only thing possible is to raise the price of sugar, the better for all concerned. That is a simple way of cutting the Gordian knot and setting the wheels of industry in motion.
– But he might have to continue to do that.
– Then the consumers of the Commonwealth, I presume, will have to go on paying. After all, the natural operations of all these awards in practically every walk of life is simply a rise in the cost of living. That we have not been able to recognise this so acutely in connexion with other awards is because, in other industries, the prices of the products have not been fixed.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company could give up some of its. profits ?
– I have not gone into that question, but I venture to say that if the honorable member were to multiply 190,000 tons- that, I think, is the estimated total production of sugar in Queensland this year - by £7, which is the additional cost that the award has put on to the producers of sugar in Queensland, he would find that the additional cost would absorb, several times over, the whole profit of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in respect of the whole of its work in Australia. That profit, of course, is derived from several other sources besides that of the refining of sugar. Thus, if the Colonial Sugar Refining Company were prepared to forego onehalf of its profits - and I do not know that that would be fair in the circumstances - it would meet but a very small proportion of the added wages cost represented by the Dickson award.
– What is the total labour cost of the production of sugar now?
– I cannot tell the honorable member, but it is estimated that the Dickson award has increased the cost by about £7.
– What is the percentage increase in wages ?
– From 44 to 50 per cent.
– Hardly as much as that.
– It is.
– I have not gone into the figures myself, but those who are engaged in the industry, and have the handling of this subject, tellme that the award represents an added cost of from 44 per cent. to 50 per cent. It will thus be seen that, even if, as the honorable member for Grey has suggested, the Colonial Sugar
Refining Company gave up one-half of its profits, that would not nearly meet the added wages cost. Consequently there is only one thing to do, and that is to increase the price of sugar. I think I can show the Treasurer how that can be done. He has fixed the price of raw sugar at £18 per ton, and for every ton of sugar that he has sold he has received £5 5s. more than he is paying the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for the refined sugar. That is to say, under ordinary conditions, with the price of raw sugar at £18 per ton, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has always sold sugar to the merchants at a price £5 5s. per ton below that which the merchants are being charged at the present time. The Commonwealth Government, and not the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, is getting the difference. I ask the Treasurer whether the Commonwealth could not, in the circumstances, give up this profit of £5 5s. per ton to the men who have to pay it out, and, at all events, to that extent meet the national emergency that lias arisen? That, in the circumstances, is a reasonable proposition, and before we allow this clause to pass, we might fairly ask the Treasurer to tell us why he cannot give up this very large profit he is making on sugar that is being manufactured in Australia.
– Even if he were to do so, it would not make up the difference.
– No, but it would at least relieve the situation. If that is done, and it is still found impossible for the producers of sugar to carry on, the Treasurer must meet the situation in some other way. He has fixed the ‘price, and will have to do so again. It is perfectly evident that if the honorable gentleman does not do something, the sugar industry in Queensland will be dealt a deadly blow, and that one of the most promising and most necessary industries in Australia will come to an abrupt termination. The position is so serious that the Commonwealth Government cannot afford to lose a day in assuring sugar-growers in Australia that the present impossible condition of affairs is coming to an end.
– I rise to support the remarks of the honorable members for Grey and Richmond. Early in my parliamentary .career I stated that the people of South Australia and Victoria would probably suffer more than the citizens of any other State from an em bargo on the exportation of cattle from Queensland. For many years the population of the two States named have depended on Queensland for their supplies of fat stock. Of late, the Queensland demand for fat stock has been so large that there were very few cattle for export, apart from the embargo, and, consequently, fat stock were at higher prices in South Australia and Victoria than elsewhere in the Commonwealth. It is apparent to me, and I think to others who have given attention to the matter, that the Queensland Government saw that it did not possess the right to place an embargo on the exportation of cattle from the State. Had it been sure of its position, it would not have been so anxious to settle a case which was brought against it some time ago. But the actual powers of the State Governments in this matter have never been defined by the Courts, and it is the duty of this Parliament to see that they are made clear, so that those who deal in cattle, and the public at large, may know exactly how they stand. The Queensland Government is not the only offender. The Government of New South Wales attempted to prevent stock from being sent either to Victoria or to Queensland, and a Queensland firm successfully took action against it in connexion with the prohibition of the exportation of pigs to Queensland. These cases indicate that the Government of the States have not the power to prevent the movement of stock from one State to another, but, until the Commonwealth Government has the position made clear, there will be doubt on the subject.
Coming now to the sugar question, which has been dealt with repeatedly in this Chamber, I am confident that the Commonwealth Government desires to do something for the growers of sugar-cane; but it is prepared to act only under the conditions laid down in the interview between our Prime Minister and the Treasurer of Queensland, which took place in Sydney recently. The Commonwealth Government is prepared to take absolute control of the sugar industry if the Queensland Parliament, by passing the Commonwealth Powers Bill, will enable it to do so. In my opinion, the Government of the Commonwealth is the proper authority to deal with this question. Its handling of the sugar business so far may not have been altogether satisfactory, but it has been more satisfactory than that which obtained previously. The sugar industry is of very great importance to the Commonwealth, and I hope that this Government will so encourage it that the growers will be stimulated to produce sufficient sugar to enable Australia to do without importation. The honorable member for Richmond has complained that the merchants are now charged more for their sugar by the Government than the Colonial Sugar Refining Company charged. If so, the increase in price is due to a desire, not to make a profit, but to encourage the industry. The award of Acting Judge Dickson is considerably more than the industry can bear. He stated plainly that his concern was, not the interests of the sugar industry, but what it cost to live in the districts in which sugar employees had to work. In view of this award, immediate action must be taken if the industry is to be maintained. The Commonwealth Powers Bill is looked upon as a contentious measure by many of our opponents, but, in my opinion, the only way out of the present difficulty is for the Queensland Parliament to pass it without delay. Wo all know how important the sugar industry is to Queensland. At the present time, land should he got ready for the planting of cane. The Commonwealth Government, however, cannot interfere upon behalf of the industry until the State has given it the necessary power. I hope that the Legislative Council of Queensland will accept the Bill, and that the Commonwealth Government may thus be enabled to deal satisfactorily with the sugar industry.
There are one or two other matters to which I desire to direct the attention of the Treasurer. They are matters which I have mentioned on previous occasions. T take, first, the increasing of the old-age and invalid pension, about which the honorable member for Lang has spoken. I understand that the Government is shortly to make an announcement on this subject; but T. have some suggestions which may prove of value to the Treasurer. The honorable member for Lang has suggested that half of the money now spent on maternity allowances should be devoted to increasing the invalid and old-age pension. But to increase the latter by 2s. fid. a week would cost £680,000, and, according to the figures of last year, that is practically the yearly expenditure on the maternity allowance. Therefore the honorable member’s suggestion is of little value. Mr. Fisher, in the policy speech which he delivered in July, 1914, committed this Government to the increasing of the old-age pension. We realize that, since the war broke out, the Government has been faced with extraordinary financial obligations. Even those of our opponents who are desirous of seeing the old-age pension increased will admit that the Government has hitherto not been in a position to increase it. I feel, however, that Ministers realize that the present allowance is too small. We know how the pensioners would value an increase. Nearly every worker in the Commonwealth has had his wages increased of late, but these old people, who depend on the benevolence of the Government, have waited for a very long time for an increase. I hope that the Treasurer will announce that the increase is to be granted without further delay.
T desire also to state the opinion that all blind persons should receive the full pension allowed. I have made this statement on previous occasions. Every blind person, irrespective of his earnings, should be entitled to the full pension rate. There can be no greater affliction than to be blind. While many persons have been born blind, many others have lost their sight while endeavouring to develop the country, and have thus suffered in as noble a cause as that in which our returned soldiers have received their injuries. To pay the full pension to all the blind persons in the Commonwealth would cost about £85,000 per annum, but as probably half are now receiving the full pension, the cost of giving it to all would be so light that the Commonwealth would hardly feel the strain of it, and great relief would be given to those who are suffering a terrible affliction.
– Many blind persons earn a great deal more than the amount of the pension.
– The pension is 10s. a week. A blind person who is receiving a pension is allowed to earn 10s. a week apart from it without any deduction from the pension, but if his earnings increase beyond 10s. a week., a corresponding deduction from the pension is made.
– The Treasurer deals very generously with the blind.
– I know wharf labourers who earn more as blind men than they earned when they had their sight.
– Not many do that. The earnings of the blind at best are not very great, and many are unable to eke out an existence even with the assistance of the pension. This is a matter deserving the earnest attention of the Treasurer, perhaps more earnest attention than need be given to an increase of old-age and invalid pensions. I am sure that honorable members are prepared to grant the full pension, irrespective of any earnings of the blind, in preference to increasing the allowance to the other pensioners I have mentioned. It may be that both husband and wife are blind, and yet they have to subsist on a mere pittance. There is another matter which I should like to bring under the notice of the Treasurer. If a pensioner finds himself unable to live on his pension, and lie enters one of the State institutions, the Federal Government pay the State Government concerned 8s. a week on his account, and ‘thus effects a saving of 2s. In my opinion pensioners, under such circumstances, should retain the difference of 2s., considering what these old people have done in the way of blazing tlie trail and developing the resources of Australia, and thus making the lives of the present generation much easier.
– The right honorable member for Swan, when Treasurer, introduced a Bill; with that object in view.
– I am sorry that the right honorable member had not sufficient support to carry that measure through, though I do not think he was very serious about the matter.
– Why not? Is the right honorable member not as considerate to the blind as you are?
– Probably he is, but he did not proceed with the Bill, although his party was in power.
– Who blocked him ?
– Nobody blocked him.
– He was blocked by your own party.
– The Bill was only read a second time, and then dropped.
– Because it was blocked.
– However that may be, I hope the Treasurer will see the wisdom of introducing a measure of the kind. Many of these old people may live in public institutions for ten or twenty years, and never see the colour of a coin ; and if the Treasurer is not prepared to give these pensioners the whole difference of 2s., he might at least allow them ls. a week with which to buy little additional comforts not at present obtainable in these places. Although the State institutions are well maintained, much could be done in the way of increasing ths comfort of the old people if this little allowance were granted to them. We are committed to a pension for widows and orphans, but probably that is a matter to which the Government would give very serious consideration before introducing any scheme to that end. On the basis of the pensions already granted, even if only one in three of the widows and orphans entitled were to apply, ib would involve an expenditure of something like £3,000,000 per annum, which, under the circumstances, I am afraid is more than the Government would b3 prepared to attempt.
– Some of the States make an allowance of the kind.
– I am speaking of a permanent pension for widows and orphans; and I only hope that this very just reform may be carried out at no far distant date. I may say that pensions of the kind were foreshadowed in the policy speech of Mr. Fisher, at Bundaberg, in 1914; and it is to be hoped that the Treasurer will find himself able to introduce a measure that will prove satisfactory to the people of the Commonwealth. I know that after the many promises that have been made by honorable members on this side, a scheme of the kind would receive support from them.
.- I hope that before the clauses of this Bill are passed the Treasurer will answer some very necessary questions in connexion with the position of the sugar industry in Queensland. As far back as the 17th August. I wrote to the Treasurer asking him to let me know where the difference of £8 to £10 per ton between, the price the Central Mill got for its sugar and the price the contractors under the Federal Government obtained for the same sugar, went to. It will be remembered that an application was made to the State Treasurer of Queensland for leave to sell 75 tons of molasses sugar to a business man outside the contractors, and that, after three months, a reply was received from that Treasurer saying that the question had been submitted to the Commonwealth Treasurer and that the Commonwealth Government would not consent to the sugar being sold in the way desired. The result was that, although the contractors did not do anything in the way of manufacturing the sugar, and sold it largely to the very people who had been inquiring for it from the original holders, the last mentioned did not receive a single fraction of the profit. Under all the circumstances the Treasurer should give the House and the country some information as to where the profit has gone. The case I mention is not a solitary one, but I place it before the Treasurer so that he may dispel the darkness that surrounds the transaction. It has already been stated to-day that there is a profit of about £ 5 5s. per ton on the price that the refiners get for the sugar from the public ; but in regard to this we are also in the dark.We do know that if there were no interference with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the present growers, if they handled the sales themselves, would get £5 5s. per ton more than they are getting now.
– It is very hard to believe that!
– It is very hard to believe that the growers can be robbed to the extent of £8 or £10 a ton simply because of the prohibition by the Government. The Treasurer sits mute, and has not even the courtesy to answer letters on the subject. Three days ago, when the Treasurer was absent from his office through indisposition, I inquired after him there, and left my expressions of sympathy, together with questions that I asked here to-day, so that he might be prepared to answer them. Honorable members have seen how the questions were received; the Treasurer simply asked me to “give notice.” The honorable member for Oxley told us that it is the intention of the Government to assist, not only this industry, but other industries, if certain powers are given to the Commonwealth by the Queensland Government.
According to the Queensland Treasurer, the Prime Minister was prepared to consider the matter ; but we have heard from that right honorable gentleman to-day a distinct statement that he has already informed the Queensland Government that he cannot interfere. That is definite information that the Commonwealth Treasurer might have given us before this.
– Perhaps he did not know.
– He could have made inquiries. On the 4th September the President of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, which, perhaps, knows more about the industry than any other body in Queensland, wrote to the Premier of the State pointing out that the award of the Acting Judge of the Industrial Court meant nothing short of 50 per cent. of additional wages, representing at least £7 per ton additional taxation on the grower and manufacturer, and that, under the circumstances, it was impossible to carry on the industry. Apart from this addition to the wages, there are other conditions imposed by the award which, in the opinion of the Association I have mentioned, hold out not the slightest prospect of a continuance of the industry while they remain. We know that nothing can be done by the Queensland Government without reference to the Commonwealth Treasurer, whose consent has to be obtained in connexion with any sugar transactions. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Company are contractors under the Treasurer. It is the duty of the Minister to tell the people of Queensland exactly how they stand, and ‘to what extent it is in the Government’s power to come to their assistance in their present dire necessity. This question does not affect Queensland only. I am arguing the matter from a Commonwealth point of view. Does the Treasurer know that the output of sugar this year should have been worth £5,600,000, and that if the industry continues at a standstill until the 31st December fully £5,000,000 of that sum will not be realized ? Does he know also that, whilst the Queensland growers are forced to pay 15s. 6d. per day for harvesting the cane, he, if forced to buy outside the Commonwealth, will pay a higher price for black-grown sugar from Java, where the workmen receive 4d. per day in the field, and 4½d. in the mill? That is the Government’s way of protecting a White Australia. Mr. Hughes, the Prime Minister, addressing a large concourse of labourers in England, on 9th May, made this statement, as reported in the Morning Post -
In addition to commandeering the whole of the sugar output of the Commonwealth -
He admits that the Government have commandeered it, but the Treasurer says that he has nothing to do with it - lie had gone into the markets of Java and Formosa and other sources of supply and supplemented the home supply, and the fact that struck him as interesting in this connexion was that, although he had gone into the same markets as British buyers, the Australian Government was able to sell the sugar they thus obtained at 3£d., while they in Great Britain were paying 5d. and 6d. per lb.
– The British Government are getting 2d. of that price to carry on the cost of government.
– Although we have to pay higher wages than any other part of the world where cane sugar is produced, we still find the Commonwealth Government giving preference to sugar grown by black labour. The Government will not step in and save this industry. Does the Treasurer know that if he has to go outside the Commonwealth for the £5,000,000 worth of sugar that may not be harvested this year, and that if he removes the duty on the imported article, he will lose in revenue between £750, 00U and £1,000,000 during the current financial year ? Is not that something to consider in the interests of the Commonwealth ? The honorable gentleman talks about economizing, but does he practise it? Does he endeavour to render assistance in order to keep alive one of the most important industries in Queensland ? Does he understand that for the defence of the northern portions of Australia nothing has been done of so much importance as the development of the sugar industry ?
– Does the honorable member propose to take off the duty on sugar ?
– That is a silly question. The honorable member, when replying to a certain deputation which asked for permission to export gold for the purpose of paying off the difference between exports and imports, said, “ Put the gold in the Treasury, and I will give you Commonwealth bank notes.” Did anybody ever hear of anything so ridiculous? Yet his remark about taking off the duty on sugar is on a par with that answer. I have never known a man occupying a responsible public position like that of the Treasurer so absolutely lacking in courtesy. The sugar industry represents nearly £12,000,000 worth of capital, and employs 19,000 men. It is not a rich man’s industry, for there are no less than 4,000 small land-holders who are producing sugar, and they cannot afford to pay a 50 per cent, increase in wages unless they are recouped in some way. Unless the award can be suspended, I can see nothing ahead of the industry but complete destruction and the utter depopulation of the sugar districts, north of Bundaberg, at any rate. In view of the statement of Mr. Crawford, the President of the Sugar -growers’ Association, is it not my duty to endeavour to elicit from the Treasurer a statement of what the Government intend to do ? So that if they intend to do nothing, the Queensland Government, instead of endeavouring to force through Parliament the Commonwealth Powers Bill, with the idea that the industry might get some relief, may know that even if that measure is passed,, no relief will be forthcoming ? It is dueto them that they should know the attitude of the Commonwealth Government before they ask the Queensland Legislature to vote on the Bill which is now before the House of Assembly.
– Because I am unable to give the honorable member the information he seeks, it does not follow that I am desirous of being discourteous.
– There are different ways of conveying or refusing information. If the honorable gentleman had’ told me that he was unable to give the information, but referred me to the authorities who could give it, I should not complain. But if the Treasurer of the Commonwealth cannot supply the information, who can? The Federal Government are responsible people, and they should not shrink from giving an answer when the livelihood of so many people is at stake, for, besides the 19,000 employees of the industry who are directly interested, there are many thousands of people who are indirectly interested. Is the Treasurer aware that if this sugar is not harvested many business people wil suffer very severely because of the action of the Federal Government? The effect of their action will not stop at the sugar growers and workers, but people who have been standing by the producers for the- last twelve months, and expecting to be repaid out of the proceeds of this year’s crop, will also suffer. The honorable member ought to know that when sugar begins to arrow, it must be taken off at once, or it will be absolutely useless. Does he understand also that if the expected proceeds, amounting to £5,600,000, are not realized, the income tax returns will suffer? Will not the depriving of the producers of that income also affect the Commonwealth’s collections under the War Profits Tax? Surely these considerations are enough to stir the Treasurer to action with a view to giving help. The Premier of Queensland distinctly states that the matter is out of his hands, and in tlie hands of the Federal Government, yet the Treasurer says he knows nothing at all about it. It is an extraordinary state of affairs to exist in a democratic country, that when the fate of such a large and important industry is involved, neither of the two governmental authorities will admit its responsibility or come to the aid of the producers.
– The trouble is that the Treasurer does know, but will not tell.
– I hope that is not so. There is too much at stake to permit of his adopting any such attitude. If the Treasurer would only follow the manly and straightforward statement of the Prime Minister to-day, and explain what the position of the Government is, we should then be in a position to thrust the issue home to the State Government. The State authorities shield themselves behind the Federal Treasurer, and he allows that to be done. He does not say to the people who are so largely interested, “ It is not right for the State Government to shield themselves behind us; we have nothing to do with it.” Instead of doing that the Federal Government are using the Powers Bill as a subterfuge to acquire certain powers that have been already refused, on the pretence of an intention to help the sugar industry. when they know that they have no ‘ such intention. Is that not wrong ? Should not they save the time they are spending in trying to pass that Bill, and turn their attention in some other direction in order to save the present crop ? Every week the loss runs to tens of thousands of pounds sterling. 3 have a great deal more of importance to say on this question, but I sincerely hope that at this stage the Treasurer will state definitely the position he occupies in connexion with the sugar industry, and perhaps save me from saying anything further. Then we shall know whom to attack.
.. - 1 hope that the Treasurer will convey to his colleagues a message in respect to a very important matter. There are many returned soldiers who are not being found employment. When they enlisted, certain promises were made by private employers, the Federal Government, and State Governments, but those promises are not being fulfilled on their return. Nearly every honorable member has had instances of this. I have had many cases brought before me. One, in particular, that came under my notice to-day, has led to my bringing the matter before the Treasurer. It is becoming a public scandal.
– Why bring in the Federal Government?
– If State Governments and private employers will not keep their promises to these men, the Federal Government should undertake the responsibility of finding employment for them when they are discharged.
– Are the Federal Government to keep the promises of other people ?
– All I ask is that the Treasurer will convey my remarks to his colleagues. The position is extremely serious.
– That is why recruiting is falling off.
– When a man has gone to the front and done everything possible except sacrificing his life, and perhaps come back not so fitted to follow his occupation as he was before he left, there is added reason why the Federal and the State Governments and” private employers should stand by him ; because the manner in which some of our returned soldiers are being treated is being made known broadcast, and men with responsibilities - there are many single men with responsibilities - are refraining from volunteering.
– Does the honorable member know of any case in which the State Governments have refused to fulfil their responsibility ?
– I can say that I have had the greatest difficulty in having cases listened to. Many private employers have refused to keep the bargains they made when men enlisted. This fact is hindering recruiting in Victoria. We are asked to refer returned soldiers to the State War Council, which is said to be the body that is authorized to find them employment; but I know of men who have been waiting three months for the War Council to come to a conclusion in regard to their applications. A young man called on me to-day. He is somewhat defective in hearing, and not quite so strong physically as he was when he went away. He has a mother to support. For three months that young fellow has had an application for employment before the State War Council, and his request has not been satisfied. If that were a solitary case, it would be sufficient reason for complaint.
– If we have conscription, the complaint will be more general.
– I do not know what is going to happen in regard to conscription, if it does come about. We shall discuss that later. In the meantime, I am pleading for these returned soldiers. The Postmaster-General has asked if the Federal Government are to keep the promises of other people. If other people are so renegade in regard to their promises, are the Federal Government to stand quietly by and say, “You can find work if you can get it, but Ave are not going to help you?”
– We are putting on scores of returned soldiers in the Post Office.
– I am glad to hear that statement. When we refer these men to the State War Council, it is said that that body keeps them wandering about trying to find employment. If that is so, it is not doing its duty. It is high time that the Federal Government should see that these men obtain, work. The shameful way in which many returned soldiers have been treated has certainly hindered recruiting in Victoria. I hope that the Treasurer will have a conversation with his colleagues, particularly the Minister of Defence, and see if something better cannot be done for these men. Organization is absolutely essential. If we treat these men well, those who are now going away will go with a feeling that the Federal Government will stand by them and theirs on their return. I could mention details, but I do not wish to do so. What I put forward in a general way is founded on fact, and I hope that the Government will pay some heed to what I say.
Mr. SAMPSON (Wimmera) 5.68]. - I am sorry that the Minister of Customs is not in the chamber. In war time, this House, as well as the people of Australia, would do everything possible to prevent the wholesale exploitation of the people in the ordinary course of commerce, but it seems that in the middle of the war period, when there is a disposition on the part of the House, particularly the Opposition, to help the Government in their policy, and concentrate as far as possible on war measures, Ministers are taking advantage of the position in order to specially finalise the primary producers of Australia. Nearly every piece of price fixing we have had has been in respect to the primary producers. We have had the forcing down of the price of wheat. We have had the Minister of Customs placing an embargo on butter, and dealing a serious blow to the dairying industry immediately following upon the most disastrous drought in the history of Australia. The honorable member for Richmond has told us of the position in New South Wales, but here in Victoria, by the action of the Minister of Trade and Customs, the dairying industry has been deprived of £30,000 or £40,000 that would have come to it had its producers been permitted to export butter, which could have been done without causing any shortage in Australia.
– Would it not have increased the price here?
– The embargo on the exportation of butter was only another means employed by the Minister to fix the price of butter. No one wishes to pay too high a price for foodstuffs, but while we have a Protective Tariff protecting the manufacturer of Australia, and while we have Arbitration Courts that are increasing the price of labour in connexion with the whole of our industrial classes - there has been an increase every time employees have gone before the Arbitration Court - the Government have taken steps to force down the price of the products of the primary producers. If there was any intention on the part of the Government to spread the burden over the whole community, if that £40,000 was to be lost to the butter producers of Victoria, why were not the people as a whole forced to refund that loss out of the Consolidated Revenue, or make it up in some other way to the industry, which we know is recovering very slowly indeed from the disastrous drought conditions of last year? The price of milking cows has been forced up from £15 to £30 a head, and the fullest investigation in Victoria has proved that the outside price that can be paid for labour employed in the dairying industry is 9d. an hour, as against ls. 9d. and ls. lOd. an hour paid in industrial operations. The honorable member for Maribyrnong can say that, during the period he was in association with the industry, the London parity was always well ahead of the Victorian price. The Minister of Trade and Customs is constantly quoting New Zealand> and comparing the large quantity of butter kept in cold stove there with the quantity stored in Australia.
– He is making the New Zealand trade at the expense of ours.
– We have had to import butter from New Zealand owing to the action of the Labour Government in Queensland in impounding the whole of the produce of that State.
– New Zealand is cutting Australia out of the Eastern trade.
– Yes; that is a very important phase of the question. Conditions in New Zealand are not parallel with ours. We can produce butter for the whole of the year, and with a proper system of Inter-State free trade, can have transfers of supplies from one State to another, in order to meet deficiencies at any particular period. We are selfsustained in regard to butter if the full flow of free trade is allowed between the States. It is quite bad enough to have the State Governments operating in a manner that is helping to kill the industry in New South Wales and Queensland, but on top of that we have the Minister of Trade and Customs intensifying the posi tion, by a serious blow at it. Taking the figures for three or four years past, we see that the butter industry in Victoria has not taken advantage of the position when there has been a shortage; that is, when tthere has been no butter to export. The difference between the Lon don price and the Victorian price is generally greater than the amount of freightage from Victoria to London.
– On one occasion they made a mistake, and the price was putup to 2s. 6d. As a result, the people boycotted them.
– What was the reasonfor that -price ? The reason was that we had no butter in Victoria. We had to import it from New Zealand. Another reason was that the Labour Government in Queensland had impounded butter which they could not use, and which they had commandeered at 140s., at a time when it would have realized 200s. in Victoria. But for this we should have had a sufficient supply without importing from New Zealand. Summing up the position, we find then that the Commonwealth Government at the present timer are specially penalizing the primary industries of Australia, notwithstanding that in this period of war no attempt is being made, as far as I can see, to economize in any Department. Every time that the industrial sections of the community appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, an increase in wages is made, and there is practically no attempt on the part of the Government to restrict! prices in any branch of cur manufacturing industries. In the few cases in which the Government have taken action to fix the prices of manufactured products, the only result has been to shut the goods out of the market, the prices fixed being lower than those at which retailers could obtain them from the merchants. We have a constant muddle in connexion with the price-fixing efforts of the Government. This is because of the want of knowledge” displayed, and also because it is almost impossible to fix prices where there is a constant fluctuation in supply and demand - sometimes a shortage, and sometimes an over-supply.
– And also because of the enormous area to be dealt with,
– Quite so. I intend later on to make further reference to this subject. I T hope the Treasurer will bring under the notice of the Minister of Trade and Customs the observations I havemade, and that we shall obtain before the House rises a declaration of his intentions regarding the embargo on the export of butter. We should have an early statement as to whether the Government intend to continue a policy which. strikes directly at one of the most important industries of Australia, and one that has not yet recovered from the cruel drought that operated during the period of greatest scarcity in Australia.
.- In Victoria a few years ago two Flindersstreet agents brought before the public in a very prominent way the fact that the price of butter to the consumer had been unjustly raised, and the result was that a Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole subject. I recollect that, later on, in order to prevent two men who had made a fortune out of the business, being criminally prosecuted, certain books were deliberately burned. The Minister of Agriculture of that day, Mr. George Graham, resented what had been done, and from his place in Parliament made his protest. That was our first experience of the butter pool in Victoria. We know, that when farmers in this State have suffered loss by reason of drought or fire, the Victorian Government have very rightly come to their assistance; but the honorable member for Wimmera cannot tell me of one case where the Victorian Government have gone to the assistance of a manufacturer who has suffered heavy loss, or has been ruined.
– As a matter of fact the butter business wants to be left alone.
– That is exactly what was said by the swindlers of whom I have been speaking.
– The position is different to-day.
– I know that under the law as it stands to-day such men cannot play the pranks in which they used to indulge. But, still, the public suffer. On one occasion in the State Parliament I suggested that the space lying idle in the municipal cool storage buildings in Flinders-street should be utilized for the storage, not only of butter, but of meat, and that meat should be sold to the citizens at the London price. The powers who held control, however, pulled the strings, and I was told this could not be clone. I regret that we were blocked in putting our referendum proposals before the people. If we had carried them we should have to-day real control over food prices. The Government of the day said they had no control, but a member on this side declared that they had ample power in war time. Prices are now being fixed in a ridiculous way, and are being set out in the Government Gazette in such terms that they can be understood only by an accountant. I brought this matter before the House to-day by means of a question addressed to the Minister of Trade and Customs. I cannot blame the Minister himself, since he was absent, but I pity the man who had the brains to formulate the answer I received. In that answer I was told that instructions had been issued to the effect that special steps should be taken to insure files of the Gazette containing food prices being open for inspection at all post-offices. It would be ridiculous to expect ordinary people to gather from the Gazette notices what were the prices fixed. What I desire is that there shall be posted up in every post-office in the Commonwealth a small sheet setting out clearly the prices ac which flour, bread, and other commodities must be sold in the district in which the notice is exhibited. All prices that have been fixed should be so displayed, and at the-, bottom of the notice there should be given the name of the officer to whom complaint may be made where the fixed prices are not being observed. A resident of Toolangi, Lilydale, or Ballarat does not want to know the prices of wheat or bread in Perth or Sydney. What he does want to know is the prices fixed for their sale, and for the sale of other commodities, in the district in which he lives. While travelling to Healesville I learned, at no less than five places at which I made inquiries, that the price-fixing regulations were being disregarded. No local resident seemed to know to whom he should complain.
– The Prices Adjustment Board put before the Government a scheme which would have provided long ago for all-these points.
– When shall we have some sense displayed ? The Honorary Minister under whom the Board worked appeared to suffer suddenly from an apoplectic fit or swelled head. I received nothing but courtesy from the Board, and always obtained from them a fair statement of their determinations; but the Minister’s notifications in the Gazette as to the prices fixed are absurd in the extreme.
– But all that has been remedied, has it not ?
– Certainly not.
– We have had the Minister sending to us to ask what was the meaning of a notice in the Government Gazette.
– The Board has displayed some sense. I can indorse all that has been said by the honorable member for Maribyrnong regarding the treatment of returned soldiers. His remarks recall to my mind the promise that fell from the eloquent lips of the LieutenantGovernor of Victoria, Sir John Madden, at the time of the Boer War, that every man who volunteeredwould be found work when he returned. A greater lie was never put into the mouth of an honest man. I am glad to say that Sir John Madden has since expressed regret that the promise made was not kept. I dare say every honorable member feels as I do when he sees in our streets poor, unfortunate returned soldiers, many of them maimed, who are unable to find work.
– In New South Wales the joining of a union is made a condition of employment. Surely the honorable member would not insist upon that.
– I know that all the returned soldiers will join aunion.
– In New South Wales they cannot obtain a job unless they do.
– My honorable friend is partly right and partly wrong. Preference is given to a returned soldier who is a unionist. All can join a union, and 98 per cent. of them have done so.
– To get honest employment, a returned soldier must sink his principles.
– I propose to deal later on with some of the honorable member’s figures. I wish to. refer to the fact that the places of many of our men who have gone to the front are now being filled by girls. Our party believes that, where a woman does a man’s work, she should receive a man’s pay. When a man buys a hat, a pair of boots, or a pair of gloves, he does not ask whether they were made by a man or a woman; and why should not women who are doing the work of men receive the wages usually paid to men for such work? Why should young women, who are doing splendid work in banks and offices, be sweated? I fear that when the war is over some of the beautiful capitalistic dividend paying concerns will try to continue to employ girls at reduced wages in place of men. If they do, we shall have to legislate to provide that, where women do the same work as men, they shall receive the pay of men. In that way we shall rid ourselves of some of the miserable subterfuges that some of the great financial institutions in Collins-street are resorting to. I understand the Commonwealth Bank is likely to employ girls. God help them if they come under that bounder and sweater, who receives£80 a week and £3 3s. a day expenses whenever he deigns to leave Sydney.
– The honorable member’s own Government settled the Commonwealth Bank Governor’s salary.
– When his salary was fixed, there was a slight protest on the part of the Opposition, and also, I think, on the part of some honorable members on this side of the House. I did not know this man then. In some of our banks, clerks who work a minute after 6.30 are allowed tea money. I am sure the honorable member for Richmond would not support a bank which drags back its clerks night after night, and not only refuses to pay overtime, but will not allow tea money.
– They should certainly be paid tea money. Is that how the Commonwealth Bank makes its profits ?
– I do not know; but it is a disgrace to the man who draws £80 a week and twenty-one guineas a week expenses, when he travels.
– Then the Commonwealth Bank is worse than the so-called capitalistic institutions.
– Absolutely. I do not know of any capitalistic institution that is so mean and contemptible as is the individual to whom I am referring. When the Commonwealth Bank was established it secured the cream of the bank clerks in Melbourne ; yet the Governor of the Bank had the impertinence to say that if the clerks were brought back at night it was because of the mistakes they had made during the day-time. One will never see in any of the private banks in Collins-street so many customers as are to be found in the Commonwealth Bank at all times every day.
Yet, although there are men and women in the community needing work, its young men are dragged back night after night without being given even tea money. Such a state of things is disgraceful, and a dishonour to the institution. The bank in which I was employed in my early days was not one of the largest banking institutions in the country, but whenever a ledger-keeper or cashbook-keeper was compelled to work at night, he received tea money. At the present moment the Commonwealth Bank has more gold and silver in its vaults than is held by any European bank except national banks like the Bank of England, the Bank of Italy, the Bank of Prance, the Bank of Germany, and the Bank of Russia. It has more in its coffers than even the London Joint Stock Bank, which has a turnover of £150,000,000. The advance that the Commonwealth Bank has made in four years is wonderful, though it started with advantages which no other bank in Australia, perhaps no other bank in the world, had had. But over its portals should be written, “ This Bank” is managed by a sweater.” I hope that, in an amendment of the pensions law, provision will be made for granting to the blind an advance of 100 per cent. on the present rate until they can learn a trade by which they can earn more. Visitors and citizens should not be offended by the sight of blind persons begging in the streets. I think that honorable members generally are in favour of doubling the pension paid to the blind.
– To do that would not stop street begging. I have known blind men to refuse £3 or £4 per week in order to beg.
– I knew of a blind man who had £1,250 in the bank.
– In the bank in which I was employed, a fine old fellow had a good deal of money deposited. We could make it an offence to beg in the streets, for which there should be no excuse. The blind asylum teaches trades at which the blind can earn from 25s. to £2 a week. No doubt it is the duty of the Treasurer to keep a padlock on the State money chest, just as it is our duty to try, by appealing to his kindly nature, to get money distributed. I advocate the institution of a destitute allowance. I would allow any man or woman to go to a duly appointed officer - a State school teacher, a magistrate, a postmaster, or some other official easily approached - and make a statutory declaration of absolute penury. That being done, I would allow him to be assisted by the payment of 10s. per week, with an additional 2s. 6d. per week for dependent children. Persons making a false declaration would run a serious risk, because they would be committing the crime of perjury.
– What would the honorable member do to such persons who, being offered employment, refused to take it ?
– I would stop their allowance.
– Is that all ?
– What more could be done ? Men cannot be allowed to starve. Cardinal Manning, the greatest Englishman who ever turned to the Roman Catholic Church, said once that a starving man has a right to his brother’s bread, that necessity knows no law. I have known of little babies, through the inefficiency of the Defence Department, being dependent for their support for six weeks on the kindness of private persons. I have been fighting the Department to get money for children so placed. The honorable member for Henty, between whom and myself some harsh words passed this afternoon, had in his mind, I think, a case other than that to which I was alluding.
– What has become of the money subscribed to the war funds ?
– I think that much of it has been put to uses to which it should not have been diverted. At the very beginning I asked that the Government should appoint an authority to overlook the expenditure of these funds, so that the money might be properly spent. I attended at the Defence Department for over five weeks to get justice done in the case of the family of a man who, having deserted his wife and three children in Melbourne, enlisted in New South Wales under an assumed name. He became a non-commissioned officer, and made an arrangement with his niece, who knew of the circumstances, by which his wife and children were defrauded of money that should have come to them. Differences will arise now and again between man and wife, but nothing justifies a man in neglecting his children, and robbing them of their rights. The niece of this man had still less justification than he had for joining in what I must consider a fraudulent arrangement for robbing them of food and clothing. She obtained, I understand, the sum of £20, which should have gone to them, and I intend to press upon the Minister the desirability of prosecuting her unless she returns every penny which should have gone to the mother and children.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was remarking that the prices fixed for foodstuffs should be exhibited at all post-offices and town halls throughout the Commonwealth, so that every citizen might be able to see them. Those prices should be the prices fixed in the districts in which they are exhibited. I can assure the Treasurer that at five different places on the Healesville line, the law was recently broken so far as the price of bread was concerned. My suggestion, if adopted, would obviate the necessity for sending round to various places the Commonwealth Gazette, which nobody reads. I have often thought that if that publication were converted into a daily Hansard, and if advertisements were inserted in it, it might be made to produce a large revenue, and ultimately become the finest advertising medium in Australia. At any rate, at least £50,000 or £60,000 a year, which is at present expended in advertising in various newspapers throughout the country, would thus be saved. I have already spoken of the destitute allowance. In this connexion I mentioned the case of a little child who, owing to the incompetence of those charged with the management of the Defence Department, was left only a few weeks ago without food. I also referred to the case of a lady who has three children, and whose niece entered into an unholy conspiracy to defraud them of their rights under the War Pensions Act. All these cases would be met by the granting of a destitute allowance. I maintain that the problem of unemployment is not so pressing to-day as it will be after the war, by reason of the fact that the vacancies created by the young men who have gone to the front have had to be filled. But what will happen on the termination of the present struggle God only knows. That is why I am so anxious that proper provision should be made for our returned soldiers now.
– If we cannot deal with the few who have already returned, how shall we be able to deal with the many ?
– Exactly. I have no desire to see a repetition of the events which occurred upon the collapse of the land boom, when, in the city of Melbourne, we distributed over 200,000 meals to destitute people. At that time, owing to the kindness of the butchers at the abattoirs, I was able to obtain three loads of sheep’s heads everyweek, and these were distributed to the heads of families. To those who were destitute, but were without dependants, “free meals were given. During that period of stress more than 30,000 beds were provided for homeless creatures. The late Sir H. M. Stanley, I am glad to say, devoted the proceeds of one of his lectures towards relieving the distress which then obtained. The police helped to organize an entertainment in the Exhibition building which realized £1,000. It is because I desire to obviate a repetition of this condition of affairs in Melbourne that I would urge upon the Government the desirableness of granting an allowance to destitute persons. I maintain that any individual, by swearing a declaration to the effect that he, or she, is destitute, ought to be able to obtain immediate relief. I have no desire to decry the efforts of the philanthropic ladies in our midst. God knows there are some angel women amongst them, but there are also those who can see no good in any member of their own sex whose finger is not encircled by a wedding ring. They lack the charity of the founder of Christianity. If we have all been. fashioned in God’s likeness, surely it cannot be right that hungry persons should be compelled to wait until certain ladies have made diligent inquiry concerning them before they can be granted relief.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I can quite sympathize with the honorable member for Melbourne if he has ever attempted to extract anything in a common-sense way from the pages of the Commonwealth Gazette. As a member of the late Prices Adjustment Board I found it very difficult to understand what we had been doing from a perusal of that publication. Indeed, so utterly hopeless was it to attempt to follow the various regulations published in that journal that we were obliged to adopt a scheme of our own in order to keep our work up to date. But wo made suggestions to the Government which, if effect had been given to them, would have met the desire of the honorable member so far as fixed prices
Are concerned. Surely there is enough common sense in the Government Departments to permit of these prices .being published in the Commonwealth Gazette in such a way that people can understand them ! But under existing conditions, if one reads that publication, he is, perhaps, referred to regulation number 2098, and is obliged to search the records for twelve months previously in order to ascertain the true position of affairs. Even if it cost a little more, I cannot understand why the Government do not put the position in plain English. I desire to compliment the honorable member for Maribyrnong upon having introduced the question of affording relief to, or providing employment for, our returned soldiers. It is scandalous that at this early stage of the war there should be a single returned soldier out of employment in Australia. The welfare of these men who have returned from the front incapacitated should be our first care. They have laid their lives on the altar of their country, they have fought our battle, and surely the least that we can do is to see that when once they return to us they shall be placed in the way of -earning a livelihood for themselves. But while the honorable member for Maribyrnong sympathizes with my remarks thus far, I am afraid that he will not go the length . that I am prepared to go. One of the difficulties with which we are confronted to-day in the matter of providing employment for our returned soldiers is that of preference to unionists. I hold in my hand an advertisement from one of our semi-government institutions which recently appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. It is an advertisement by the Sydney Municipal Council inviting applications for labourers or working foremen, or gangers. A footnote to it reads, “ All other things being equal, preference will be given to returned soldiers being financial unionists.” It will be seen, therefore, that before returned soldiers can be granted the preference they must become unionists, whether they believe in unionism or nob. It has been said during the course of this debate that 80 per cent, of them have joined the unions.
– More than 90 per cent, of them.
– But they may not have joined the unions of their own free will. A measure of coercion has been exercised. They have to join unions in order that they may be allowed to earn a living. That, I submit, is a scandalous state of things. When these men volunteered to fight our battles we did not ask them whether they were unionists, but when they return to us, and desire to take part in the ordinary avocations of life, we say to them, “ You may do so conditionally that you become unionists.” It is a stain on the fair name of Australia to insist on such a condition, and it reflects very little credit on the Lord Mayor of Sydney to set such a bad example. I am satisfied, however, that our returned soldiers -will get fair treatment at the hands of Australia. They will insist upon it without being compelled to become unionists.
I wish now to say a few words upon the various embargoes that have been placed upon Inter-State trade.
One of the considerations which induced quite a number of persons to vote for Federation was that under the Constitution freedom of trade between the States was guaranteed. I have no hesitation in saying that the Government are responsible for seeing that the interests of the people are protected, more especially at this time of national peril and disruption. This is a time when the resources of Australia should be thoroughly organized and at the disposal of the whole of the people. There should be no waste and no cornering of supplies. I was under the impression when the Prices Adjustment Board was formed that one of the principal functions would be to see that no cornering of supplies was permitted. I am up against the man or the firm that corners supplies, and I remind honorable members that the position of the people is not improved if it is the Government and not private persons that corners supplies. The various Governments of Australia, including the Federal Government, have since the war broke out been cornering supplies to the detriment of the people of Australia. There is an abundance of food produced in the Commonwealth if we could only get it to the people. If the Government had the interests of the ‘ people at heart, they would make it their business to see that all necessary supplies are made available to the people. Something was said tonight about the price of butter in Victoria. The Federal Government, as well as the St; te Governments, must accept responsibility in this matter. The Queensland Government first of all violated the Commonwealth Constitution by prohibiting the intra-State export of butter. The New South Wales Government did the same thing. The result was that South Australia and Western Australia had to draw upon the Victorian market, and the price here went up because the supply here was not sufficient to meet those markets. The local Victorian price had to gu up to enable those dealing in butter to draw supplies from New Zealand to meet the demand in South Australia and Western Australia. Thousands of boxes of butter were imported from New Zealand for this purpose, whilst at the same time thousands of boxes were lying in Queensland cool stores, and could not be released because of the embargo put upon export by tlie Queensland Government. Queensland third-rate butter might have been packed here in Melbourne for the Eastern trade, but Queensland producers were not allowed to take advantage of the Eastern market. Victorian dealers in butter imported butter from New Zealand packed it here under bond, and eli en sent it away to supply a market which could have been supplied with Australian butter. Whilst New Zealand butter was being imported to supply Victorian and western demands, the producers of Queensland were compelled to pay storage on their butter for month after month, and to see it deteriorate in quality because they were not permitted to export it. The members of the Federal Government may ask how they could prevent that kind of thing, and I say they might have made an attempt to do so. They have interfered with private enter.prise and with State Governments also, in other cases, and they might have taken similarly drastic action in this case. They might at least have interfered to the extent of seeing that the Commonwealth Constitution was not violated. Queensland producers were told not long ago by the Minister of Trade and Customs that they might export their surplus butter. There is room here for the organization of our Australian resources. We are now shipping thousands of boxes of butter to London and filling up ships that might be taking away the wheat that is rotting in Australia. We are paying high rates on butter, whilst we have been importing butter from New Zealand to feed our own people. When the Federal Government stepped in to fix prices, they did an .equally stupid thing. If the fixing of prices is to be resorted to at all, it should be done judicially and in- such a way as to prevent a shortage of supplies. The price of butter in Sydney was fixed at the same price as in Queensland. I understand that the Victorian price has not yet been fixed. At present there is a shortage of butter in New South Wales and a largesurplus in Queensland, but the Queensland producer will not send his butter to Sydney for sale at 140s. whilst the Queensland price is the same. The New South Wales price should be brought up to a figure which would enable the Queensland producer to sell his butter in that State at the Queensland parity. Butter prices generally existing in Australia, now are very much below the London parity. Seeing that wages have gone upall round, and that almost every one elseis being considered in this regard, it seemsto me that the butter producers of Australia should be able to demand the world’s parity for their produce instead of having to accept from 15s. to 20s. below it. If this should result in injury to the industry the people of Australia will have to pay considerably more forbutter in the future than they have had topay in the past. The butter producers do not ask for any assistance. All that they desire is fair play, and if they are given that they can carry on. I wish now tosay a word upon a rather delicate subject. We have confronting us the difficult’ problem to do our best in connexion withthe great struggle that ( is taking place in Europe, and not merely to limit our efforts by what may be done elsewhere. It is up to Australia to do her level bestto win the war that we may retain the* privileges of which we are all so proud. 1 consider that in order to do so we should’ take some action with respect to alienenemies within our gates. I do not suggest that we should do anything harsh,, but that we should act with discretion anddiscrimination.
– The honorable member means that we should lock up theanticonscriptionists.
– No, I am dealing now with aliens within the Commonwealth. I regret to say that it would he just as well, perhaps, if some of our own folk were locked up, but I point out now that one of the great restrictions upon recruiting in many parts of Australia today is the knowledge amongst our people that aliens are permitted to continue to earn their living unmolested, and to take the place in this country of our boys who are going to the front. I do not advocate that these aliens should be prevented from earning a living. The Treasurer is always anxious for a hint which may enable him to fill the exchequer or increase the “War Fund, and I ask the honorable gentleman to seriously consider whether something might not be done to compel aliens in the Commonwealth to contribute to the expenses of the war. I would not advocate that they should be sent to the front, however loyal they might be, but they should be made to bear some of the burden which the nation has to shoulder at the present time. My suggestion is that the Commonwealth Government should impose upon aliens in Australia a super-tax to help (to meet the enormous expenditure due to the war, which is from day to day growing heavier. Why should they be allowed to continue to accumulate wealth in the way they are doing? Many of them are already very wealthy, and some of them have not contributed to the war loans or to any of our patriotic funds. We do not expect them to contribute flesh and blood to fight our battles, but they could without hardship contribute something to enable us to meet the expenses of the war. I hope the Treasurer will be able to propose some scheme to deal with these aliens which will enable justice to be done without injury to any one. I wish before resuming my seat to commend the action which has been taken bv the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department in connexion with the proposed referendum. I have observed that notices have been posted in the tram cars warning people that the writ is to be issued on the 18th September, and that after that date it will be too ‘late to have their names placed on the electoral roll. As a rule, the Electoral Branch has been more inclined to prosecute people for neglecting to enroll than to advise them to do so. They have sometimes been a little too harsh in this way, in my opinion. I like to praise a man while he is alive rather than sing his praises after he is dead, and I therefore think it right to congratulate the Electoral Branch of the Home Affairs Department upon having issued these notices, in anticipation of Parliament passing the Referendum Bill, reminding people of the necessity to have their names on the roll, so that every adult in the Commonwealth may be in a position to record a vote when the opportunity arises.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports) [8.121- - I wish to appeal to the Treasurer to provide some money for the assistance of families of men who are at the front or of men who have returned from the front. We . have had many patriotic funds established. There is one fund administered from the Melbourne Town Hall, and there is a Red Cross Fund, and the State War Council Fund. I do not wish to say nasty things about the administration of the patriotic fund at the Town Hall, but it is only used in one direction. If a woman has more than two children, she is given an allowance of a certain amount, but no matter what mav be the necessities of persons who are not similarly placed, no contribution from the fund is made to them. The Red Cross Fund is used solely for Red Cross work. The only fund with which any commendable work has been done has been that controlled by the State War Council, and I wish to give the members of the council the credit that is due to them on that account. The trouble is that they have had very little money to deal with. I do not know that they have had more than £7,000 altogether to expend, but they have done a marvellous amount of good work with the money at their disposal. I believe that there is shortly to be a button day to raise more money for their fund. I know that the secretary of the Returned Soldiers Association has rightly commended the State War Council for the good work they have done, but there are very many deserving cases which cannot be assisted because of the lack of funds. I think that the Treasurer should come to the assistance of the State War Council’s fund. Failing that, I think that the people in charge of other patriotic funds should be called upon to vote a certain amount to the State War Council to enable them to continue their work. If something of the kind is not done, I am afraid that we shall have many cases advertised in Victoria of a very unsatisfactory character. We had an example of that kind of advertisement only the other day, and though the statements made in that case were proved not to be true, there are many cases in which the conditions are so nearly what were then described that people are only too willing to believe the statements made in such cases. I understand that the Government have no supervision over these patriotic funds.
– It is time that they had.
– I think so, too. It seems to be a foolish form of philanthropy to build up an enormous fund like our patriotic fund, and then to be unable to use it in proper directions. Will the Treasurer make a special note to see if some assistance cannot be given to the State War Councils to help them in their good work? If something of that sort is not done, I and other members will have to bring before the House the position of many people in Victoria and the urgent necessity for money to relieve serious cases. A case lias been brought before me of a woman whoso husband has gone to the front. Before he went they were trying to buy a house. Certain legal expenses were incurred, and -although the lawyers have waited for twelve months, she has not been able to pay them and keep her family. I advised her to apply to the State War Council. She went there and waited an hour and a half, but not being in good health had to come home. I have advised her to write, but it is of no use to send these cases to the Council if they have not the wherewithal to meet the people’s needs. Another phase of the war demands serious attention. Some men, after being discharged, are allowed a pension. We have still not done enough for returned men who cannot follow any occupation, but many are able to do some work, and later on we shall have to give publicly the names of certain employers who, when a returned man applies to them for employment, want to know what he is getting by way of pension, or, if he is an applicant for a pension, how much he is likely to get. The inference is very plain, and. if any section of employers are going to take advantage of men in that way the sooner they are exposed the better. I do not say that when a man is totally incapacitated one employer should be expected to bear the burden that should be borne by the community, but 1 object to any employer using the fact that a man is receiving a pension as an excuse for paying him less for the work he does. This point will be” met with more frequently as more men return, and if we cannot prevent it by moral suasion it will be necessary to bring in legislation to stop it.
.- Some inquiry should be made by the Government into the charges made to-night by the honorable member for Maribyrnong of failure on the part of the State Government and other employers to keep their promises in the case of many returned soldiers. The honorable member’s statements were very serious, and constitute a great reflection on the Government and a still greater reflection on the War Council, because I am satisfied, knowing the honorable member as well as I do, that he must have put the cases before the War Council, and they should have been investigated long before this. The promises made to those who went to the front should be held sacred, hut I have had the feeling” for a long time that, more particularly in matters over which the Government have had some control, especially after reading the recent remarks of the Mayor of Sydney, a good deal of trouble in connexion with finding work for some of the men is due to the fact that they cannot get employment unless they first become members of aunion. If that is the case, it is a lasting discredit to the Government and the nation. The Minister for the Navy gave a most emphatic denial to the statement that membership of a union was insisted upon in the case of returned soldiers, but in any case the statements of the honorable member for Maribyrnong should be investigated, and we should be told the facts. A matter of great moment is the operations of the wheat pool. Under regulations, no person can export wheat or flour except through the pool, and over 30,000,000 bags of wheat are at present in Australia with very little hope of shipment for a long period.
– And British shippers are making from 200 to 300 per cent.
– The Commonwealth Government bungled in giving the whole control of obtaining charters to two firms which had no knowledge of this special class of business. If the Government had said they were prepared to assist in the removal of the wheat, and allowed others to buy it, or to charter ships and send it away, they would have done some good, but when they took the whole control themselves they, as a Government Department usually does in such cases, absolutely bungled the whole business. There has been a smaller area of wheat under production this year, but we ought to have as speedily as possible a statement from the Government of what they propose to do so far as next season’s wheat is concerned. If the Government want to commandeer the crop, let them, and let the farmer know exactly his position ; but the sooner the Government take decisive action, and let us know the position, the better it will be for the country. Every statement made by the Treasurer has emphasized the need for economy. We all agree as to that, but economy is more particularly necessary at this moment, because we must conserve all our resources. When after the war a couple of hundred thousand of our soldiers come back, and we have a consequent influx of population through them inducing a large number of others to settle here, we shall have to try to find employment for them. There should surely be ample work in this country to-day, with 260,000 people away from the ranks of the workers, for those who are here if they choose to look for it.
– I am glad to hear you admit that all the soldiers are workers.
– I suppose that out of the 260,000 you would not find more than 10,000 of independent means. The honorable member apparently assumes that only the members of trade unions are workers. I leave him in that belief, but I do not want to pass any reflections on unionists so far as enlistment is concerned. I am sure a big proportion of them have joined the ranks, and great credit is due to them for doing so, but there is no doubt that those who control the unions, those at the head of the Trades Hall, are the shirkers, and are trying to keep back the slackers in Australia. Any expenditure incurred at the present time should be only on works which will be reproductive. Our one object should be to build up our industries so that we shall have wealth and work for our soldiers when they return. Apparently, the Treasurer, when he prepared the details of the Supply Bill before us, worked out what hethought he would need, and then added: 25 per cent, to spend in any way he. liked, as he gives us details for something, less than £4,000,000, and then adds, . “Advance to the Treasurer, £1,100,000.” This he can expend in the few months . covered by the Bill. I do not know what it will be used for. Unfortunately, I. was not here during the last short sitting,, but I well remember a distinct promise- being given to the House that no work would be done in the construction of an arsenal which is going to cost from- £2,250,000 to £2,500,000, until Parliament approved of the site. Yet, during - the recess, the Treasurer advanced £40,000 to enable the work to be started at Canberra. If there is any work that should” be controlled by the Government it is the manufacture of munitions, but we should get fair value for our money, and when an expensive item is sent out from a Government factory it should be of thehighest calibre. There is too much extravagance going on at cue present time. Only recently a deputation waited on the Minister of Home Affairs at Canberra. Carpenters asked for 18s. a day, wilh 2s. a day extra if they had to go more than 20 feet from the surface, while bricklayers wanted 19s. a day, and 2s. a day extra for working 40 feet or more from the ground. I do not believe the Minister acceded to those demands, but that is the attitude adopted by a good many of those who do not feel called on to look after the best interests of Australia at the present time by enlisting. TheGovernment are constructing a . railway in the far north. The butty-gang system is the letting of small contracts of earthworks to workmen, and the engineer, when he fixes the price for a butty-gang, usually fixes it according to what work of that nature is costing him by day labour.I have heard of labourers on the buttygang system there earning over £50 * month, so that honorable members canimagine what men working on day labour are earning. We have something like the same class of expenditure in the manufacture of our munitions. “The Minister of Defence, at Bendigo, recently drewspecial attention to the fact that we weresupplying not only our own needs far rifles, but also to some extent those of another Dominion. But this country is not doing its duty in regard to the” output of munitions. It is sending out of the factory at Lithgow rifles which are a disgrace to the factory and a discredit to the Government. Now, with regard to those rifles, the last report we have had from the manager of the factory is for the year ending 30th June, 1914, in which credit is taken for “manufactured product inclusive of component parts “ to the value of £254,000, but the AuditorGeneral in his remarks states : -
The amount shown in tlie manufacturing account above for material expended in manufacture, and the amount exhibited as manufactured product. &c, are both inflated, owing to cost of partly finished product issued for further processes being again included in the charges.
The Minister should insist upon reports being issued at an earlier date, and should see if something could be done to get a more careful analysis in regard to the conduct of this factory. So far as I can judge, the rifles are costing over £15 each, whereas according to the specifications when the factory was started they should cost only £3 9s. Id. I would not mind flint so much if, when the rifles were finished, they were fit to he sent to the front. But so far from that being so, it would be just as well if we sent men to the front with their hands tied behind their backs as to supply them with some of the rifles that have been turned out by the Lithgow factory.
– Every rifle is tested before it is sent out of the factory.
– “Well, I ‘ can only speak of the rifles that have been sent to Western Australia. I do not know what may have occurred in regard to the supply in the other States, but I have here a list of 360 rifles sent to Western Australia. Out of that number over 100 were sent back because they were not fit to be issued to the men.
– What was wrong with them?
– Here are some of the defects described -
Bog. No. 1501 will not take .303-gauge holt, breech will not close on .004 gauge; 1503, defective near muzzle; 1506, rifle defective about two inches from muzzle; 1507, will riot take 303 gauge; 1550, badly finished rifling near chamber; 1559, flaw in bolt-head; 1571, will not take .303 gauge, and scored at muzzle; 1501. will not take ‘.SOS gauge, bolt breech will not close on .004 gauge; 1503, spring gear broken: 1000, bolt breech badly fitted; 1615, will not take .303 gauge, rifling in an unfinished state; 1702, rifling defective at the muzzle; 1703. will not take .303 gauge, bolt will not close on 004 gauge: 1724, badly finished at muzzle; 1725, badly scored near chamber.
– What are you quoting from?
– I am quoting from a perfectly correct and authentic document, and I am speaking from my own knowledge. I saw three rifles, the wooden forearms of which snapped like a rotten carrot. Just imagine a man going to the front with a rifle like that! So far as I could judge, the defect was due to the fact that the timber had been sawn against the grain. I saw two other rifles with the bolts so slack that there was over one-sixteenth of an inch play, and the little clip which runs along the groove would come loose at any portion of its journey, whereas it should only come loose when pulled right back. The worst feature of the whole business is that the complaint I am making refers to what took place in 1914. Surely it was known to the Department that defective rifles were being sent away from the Lithgow factory.
– -What time in 1914 do you refer to ?
– I cannot give the honorable member the ‘exact date, but it was late in 1914. All these complaints have been suppressed. Of fifty rifles that were sent down to the Claremont Camp nineteen were found to be defective, and were returned to the armoury. Surely it is time there was an investigation into this matter. Let me now turn to another phase of the problem connected with the war. Recently the Minister of Defence, in a statement made to the press, referred to the perfect shells that were being made in Australia, instancing thirty-six shells that had been sent to the Old Country and tested there with satisfactory results. A large number of shells have been made in Australia, and, as far as I can learn, the workmanship has been equal to the workmanship on a similar product in Great Britain. So far as the workmanship was concerned, we were more than justified in endeavouring to manufacture high explosive shells in Australia; but not long after this work was entered upon it was made clear that the class of steel made in Australia was not sufficiently good for the purpose.
The steel had what is known as ghost lines, which make it absolutely unsafe for the manufacture of high explosive shells. I presume that approximately halfamillion of money has been expended in the manufacture of these shells, and the largest portion of that money has been disbursed since the Department was made well aware of the fact that the steel was useless for the purpose. I think I am right in saying that not 1 per cent. of the shells manufactured in Australia will ever be used.
– The Germans would be glad to know this.
– If only our people would realize their responsibilities, and if only we insisted upon first class workmanship,we would have a different condition of things here.
Mr.West. - You are an absolute puzzle. In one breath you are praising the Australian workmen, and in the next you are condemning them.
– So far as the Small Arms Factory is concerned, the specifications set out that 150 unskilled and two skilled workmen could turn out a certain number of rifles in a working day of eight hours ; but when we were there as a Committee of Inquiry there were 390 men on the pay-sheet, and I do not want to make any further comment in regard to the rifles thatwere turned out. Nothing could have been more discreditable than the product of the factory at that time.
– The manager has been changed since then.
– In my opinion, if therewas a perfectly independent Committee,with absolute control, better results would be obtained at that establishment. So long as the Government have control
Ave shall not get the best returns. I hope the question of the arsenal will be delayed until after thewar, because it involvesvery heavy expenditure - I estimate that it will cost something like £2,250,000 starling - and so far, with the exception, perhaps, of Colonel Owen,we have not had a report from any expert who is qualified to speak on this question of the manufacture of munitions. We also know that the expenditure of this moneywill be without result, so far as the presentwar is concerned, because it will probably take three or four years to get the arsenal into proper working order ; and we should see to it that we get the best expert advice in regard to its erection. I believe that we shall be able to get a far better class of plant after the war, and at probably one-third of the present price, than ifwe go on with the project now. At a time like the present,we want to do everything we can to induce the people of this country to become primary producers, because it is they who have given Australia itswealth. Only the successful working of the primary industries will keep the people in the cities and the country. Therefore, Ave should see to it that all available money is spent upon reproductive undertakings; such works, for instance, as thoseweirs across the Murray River, because, as a general rule, where one man is making a living in a primary industry, there are three or four others living upon him. Kalgoorlie, for instance, to give one illustration, employs about 6,000 miners, andhas a population of about 30,000 people. At Broken Hill the experience is the same; and if we can get 10,000, 20,000, or 30,000 people settled on the Murray lands Ave can confidently expect an enormous addition to the population of Australia. Assistance also could well be given to the States for the construction of railways which would promote settlement. We should get some explanation from the Minister concerning the expenditure of this £1,100,000 on the Estimates, andwe should insist that all expenditure at present should be on works of a reproductive nature, so that when our men come back from thewar in their tens of thousandswe may be able to provide for them in the best possible way, and in the best interests of Australia.
– I desire to offer a few remarks with regard to the statement which has just been made by the honorable member who has resumed his seat concerning the wheat pool. Since the inception of this scheme it has been asserted that the arrangements could have been carried out better under private enterprise than by the Government.
– Far better.
– In regard to wheat or other matters, apparently, the Government cannot do anything right, in the opinion of honorable members opposite. I think I have the honour of representing a community that grows as much wheat as does the community represented by the honorable member; at any rate, one centre of my electorate grows a greater amount than any other part of Victoria. Be that as it may, I have endeavoured to make myself acquainted with the actual working of tlie wheat pool, and I think it behoves the honorable member for Hume to do the same, because, had he done so, he could not have made the statements he has against the Government. At the last farmers’ conference in Victoria, which met in the light of past experience, it was unanimously decided to ask the Government to continue the arrangement for next year.
– The honorable member is right; but that was only for the war period.
– That is to say that, at the greatest crisis in their lives - when they were in the greatest difficulties - the farmers had to ask the Government for assistance. That, I take it, is the best compliment that could be paid to the Government. Mere assertion proves nothing. It is actual facts that tell; and I am going to give facts which I challenge the honorable member for Hume to contradict. I have obtained my information from the most reliable source available, and I can say that, since the inception of the wheat pool, freight has never been beyond 110s., but has averaged about 86s. If the honorable member for Hume, who condemns the action of the Government, wishes to follow his argument to its logical conclusion, he should show where, in any other part of the world, under private enterprise, the arrangements have been better. That, however, the honorable member is unable to do. In the Argentine, for instance, the freights have never been under 175s.
– But they have got their wheat away.
– They have not; and I must ask the honorable member’s authority for that statement. In the Argentine they have to face the same difficulties that we have to face here; and they have not got their wheat away, owing to the lack of shipping facilities, which has been felt all over the world, and is inseparable from the war. The average of S6s. in Australia amounts to about 2s. 3d. a bushel on the farmers’ wheat. If the honorable member for Hume can persuade the farmers of Australia that they are better off under private enterprise, which means a drain of 2s. 3d. a bushel, he has a seat for life. At Bombay, which is about two-thirds the distance from Australia, the freight throughout has been 50s. higher than. here; in other words, it is 90s. higher from Argentine, and 50s. higher from Bombay. The difficulties in regard to securing freights are the same all over the world at the present time; and if it is shown that, under Government enterprise, .the farmers have benefited to even half the amount I have mentioned, he is a bold man who, in an assembly of this kind, will criticise and condemn a scheme which has pulled the man on the land through the greatest crisis in his history.
– Where does the honorable gentleman get his figures as to the freights from Argentine and Bombay ?
– From the Prime Minister’s Department.
– The shipping jour.na.ls do not show those figures.
– The Prime Minister has taken a very active hand in this matter, and I should say that the figures are absolutely reliable; at any rate, I went to the final authority in order to acquaint myself with the full facts.
– The Prime Minister should put those figures on the table, so as to place the matter beyond dispute.
– Surely there is only one test, and that is-
– I Lave before called honorable members to order, but the interjections are getting more numerous. I must ask honorable members to restrain themselves.
– A statement that will be verified, and is being verified at every meeting of farmers in every part of Australia, is that, for the first time in the history of farming in this country the growers have received 3s. a bushel for their wheat before it was sold… The whole objection of honorable members is that this is due to Government enterprise. Those gentlemen, who in the past have enjoyed pickings at the expense of the man on the land have not been able to continue to enjoy the pickings; and, naturally, their friends here are a bit anxious. If there is anything in the statement that the Government arrangement has failed, those who make that statement should show where, under private enterprise, in other parts of the world, farmers are in a better position.
– Is not the real test the net return to the farmer, himself, on the whole crop?
– Yes, the net return; but, before the right honorable gentleman can compare the net return he should be able to say what the net return would have been if the Commonwealth Government had not stepped in. I know that several farmers had made arrangements before the scheme was finalized to dispose of their wheat for 2s. a bushel; but the Prime Minister’s warning had tlie effect of saving a great many of them. I venture to say that no man here would seriously contend that the farmers of this country are not in a better position under the Government arrangement than they would have been at the mercy of private enterprise. I wish now to say a word about a defence matter. The cases to which I refer I have not been able to get finalized by any amount of correspondence; and I believe they are typical of other instances referred to today. I wish to enter my emphatic protest against delay that has taken place in regard to pensions at the hands of somebody in authority in the Defence Department. I do not know what the reason is - whether there is a lack of sympathy, or what - but that of which I complain characterizes the Department at this particular time.
– Nothing that the Government can do is right!
– I am not blaming the Government; and if the right honorable gentleman were in power now I should say just the same thing. Of course, I know that no Minister can go round his Department and see that the heads are doing everything that they should do. I am sorry that the Minister for the Navy is not present, because I wish to refer to a case which has been hanging on for about six months, and in regard to which I cannot reach finality. It is’ a case where the authority for pay ment was passed nearly two months ago, and it is typical of a whole lot of other cases. A young fellow was invalided home with meningitis, and had to keep to his bed under the care of a doctor and a nurse; and for a whole month two policemen were on guard outside his house. This, I may say, occurred in a remote part of the country. When this man’s people applied for expenses, they were told that he should have gone to the Base Hospital. I brought the matter before the Department, with the result that, after about three months, the application was indorsed with a promise of compensation. But payment has not been made, and notwithstanding that that assurance was given some two months ago, I can get no finality in regard to it. The reason is that there does not seem to be that sympathy amongst those in authority in the Defence Department that one would expect in a time like this.
– Have you put the matter before the Minister ?
– I am putting it before him now. I have made it a rule not to run to the Minister with all cases like this. I go to those in charge of the Defence Department, and there’ should be no necessity to worry the Minister about these matters. When this claim was passed for payment one would have thought that that was the end of it. But it is evident that something is radically wrong in the Defence Department.
– If you had gone to the Minister direct, it would probably have been done at once.
– This is the first occasion on which I have had to resort to my privileges in this chamber in order to get grievances redressed. I know another case concerning a young fellow who had done his duty nobly and well at the front, and had been invalided home. At present he is using a crutch, and has one leg in bandages. He has a wife and family, but he is unable to do work of any kind, and although he applied for a pension two months ago, he has been unable to get even a reply from the Department.
– Has his pay stopped ?
– Yes,, he has been discharged; and he has been under such a severe operation that it is impossible for him to accept employment.
– Cannot you get a reply from the Department?
– I have received a reply that the matter will be looked into. These matters are brought forward by me only to indicate what is taking place. I could continue without end mentioning cases of the kind, and I venture to say that if one thing more than another has done injury to voluntary recruiting it is the shameful treatment of some of the men returned from the front. If those men had been given a fair deal, and had received their pensions promptly, I do not think there would be any necessity to discuss the introduction of conscription.
– Who is responsible for this state of affairs?
– I have already said that I believe the responsibility rests with those departmental officers who are lacking in sympathy. It cannot be that they are unable to cope with the work, although I know it is very heavy. It seems to me that the whole Defence Department requires rooting up, and there seems to be no other way of effecting an improvement than for the Minister to assert himself and deal in a strong way with those who are responsible. They are continually dillydallying; they tell us, “Your communication has been received and will be given consideration.” The Minister must assert himself in order to put an end to the almost inconceivable delays that take place under the present circumstances.
– With the greatest possible deference to the honorable member who has just resumed Jus seat I desire to say that the farmers of Australia will be delighted when they can get back to what my honorable friend terms private enterprise in the marketing of their wheat. If the wheat-growers can get back to the men who handled the wheat of the Commonwealth and put it on the world’s market - the men who are referred to very often by honorable members opposite as exploiters - I, as a wheat-grower, can say that they will be very glad. According to newspaper reports, the honorable member was quite correct in stating that the farmers, at a conference in this State, requested the Government to again handle their wheat for the ensuing season. But they had no option. When the wheat pool, operating as it has done this year, will not allow a parcel of twenty or thirty bags of wheat to be sold by the farmer except through the pool, and when, according to the present outlook, only about one-third of last season’s wheat will be removed overseas, and the balance will be left in the pools when the new season’s wheat comes in, is it to be supposed for a moment that the wheat pool will allow the farmer to sell his new wheat for next season until the grain already in the hands of thepool has been disposed of ? So what alternative has the farmer but to request the National Government to continue the pool for another year and until its stock of wheat is cleared. But the very farmers who desire a continuance of the wheat pool for another year unanimously hope that the pool will alter many details of the scheme they have been operating this year, and will have infinitely more success in handling the wheat in the future than they have had in the past. I have no desire to say anything ungenerous of the Government. From the beginning I contended that under the conditions obtaining it was impossible for private enterprise to handle the business, because the Imperial Government had commandeered 55 per cent. of the Empire’s shipping, and shippers do not know from day to day what further extensions of the commandeering principle may be resorted to. I cannot indorse the statement that the wheat pool did brilliant work in not paying more than 85s. or 90s. for freight. It would have been profitable to the pool to have paid up to 120s., and by so doing possibly have placed two-thirds, instead of one-third, of our wheat on the world’s market, and the money for the wheat would have been in Australia to-day.
– Up to 120s. was paid in some instances.
– Very little freight was obtained at that price. A big volume was available at 120s. or under, but it was missed by the charterers for the wheat pool, and some of the ships departed in ballast. Some wheat merchants had extensive charters, and the wheat pool ought to have brought those merchants into the pool to the extent of their charters, and given them the ordinary commission. There are many ways in which the pool, or its charterers, or both, could have done very much better, and the farmers sincerely hope that those con trolling the pool will have learnt by experience, and show improved results in future. I am reminded that there was obtainable 500,000 tons of shipping in one lot at 80s. 6d., and that a certain firm in Adelaide had a confirmation of that offer from their office in London. I suppose the charterers thought they were going to do smart business, and secure lower freights, but the result was that that 500,000 tons, together with another 500,000 tons of shipping, was secured by Russia. The old gag that has been used extensively for many years for political purposes, about the wheat buyers exploiting the farmers, was exploded long ago. There is not a country on the face of the earth where the farmer is better treated in regard to the marketing of his wheat than he is in Australia. I am very sorry that I have not the time at my disposal to go as extensively into the matter of the East- West railway as I would like to do. But even if I had the time I have not the necessary data. The Minister has promised to lay on the table of the House to-morrow a good deal of data that I would require, and I would prefer to speak on this matter after they are available; but, as the Government desire to have the Supply Bill put through to-night, I wish to refer now to one phase of the reckless extravagance and shocking mismanagement of affairs on the railway. I wish to repeat a charge that I made in this House earlier in the year.
– Gilchrist also tried to prove it.
– Do not make too much capital out of the Gilchrist business. To get to the bottom of things in regard to the East-West railway we might as well give the task to a watchmaker as to a Judge of the Supreme Court; but I speak from the testimony given by scores of men employed on the railway, and that testimony is that there is more exploiting of the Government on that work than on any other public work that has been carried out, or is likely to be carried out, because they say there is no country that could stand it.
– Why did they not give evidence when they had the chance to do so ?
– The honorable member will get no evidence from the men working on the railway. If he wishes to get bed-rock facts, he can only do so by employing expert railway men who know their business, and can take the cost schedules from A to Z and follow the thing right through, and tell the country how the money has been spent.
– This is a warning to us when we take on the construction of the North-South railway.
– It is not a question of the North-South proposal. What obtains on the East- West railway obtains to a greater or less degree on all works of the Commonwealth.
– If no one but a railway expert can find this out, how does the honorable member come to know anything about it?
– The honorable member for Cook thinks that he is an expert on everything, but he knows precious little about anything. I can tell the honorable member how I came to know something about the East-West railway. For nearly six years I was a Minister for Railways and Public Works in South Australia, and beyond the little experience I gained during those years I made friends with a great many railway experts and railway officials. My friendship with them stands to-day, and I have their testimony, particularly that of the officials working on the great northern section of the South Australian railways, who come into daily contact with the EastWest railway. The greatest condemnation of the railway that I have heard comes from these railway men, and that is in addition to that which has come from the very men who are employed on the railway itself. The honorable member was not here last May when I referred at some length to the extravagance and the piling up of capital costs in the construction of a railway that does not go through very rich, fruitful country, but, on the other hand, goes through country of a second class character - in fact, a good deal of it is of third class character.
– Is the honorable member referring to the South Australian section ?
– When I spoke previously, I did not have the pleasure of the presence of the right honorable member for Swan. If my remark has offended the sensibilities of the right honorable gentleman, I shall confine it very largely to the country this side of the South Australian border, giving him the consolation of still being able to think that the country through which the line runs beyond the border is very fertile, although it is not, as he knows. I am sure that no one will be more sympathetic than the right honorable gentleman with my desire to keep down the capital cost of the railway.
– It must be remembered that the right honorable gentleman is responsible more than any other man for the railway.
– I give him that credit. I do not think that the line would have been built if it had not been for his unceasing advocacy of it.
– The honorable member is merely questioning the extravagance, and not disputing the desirability of the railway?
– I ask the right honorable member to give notice of that question. I say honestly that the line was first of all built to honour a compact with Western Australia which led that State into the Federation.
– Does the honorable member think that the East- West railway will pay as well as the Oodnadatta line ?
– It will cost as much as should have built it and the section from Oodnadatta to the Macdonnell Ranges. Time will prove this assertion, which I make without fear of contradiction. It was to have been built for £4,500,000. It will not be built for less than £6,500,000.
– The first estimate was framed when wages were 8s. a day, and there was to be no ballasting.
– The cost was estimated on the basis of 10s. a day at Port Augusta and Kaigoorlie, and 12s. a day in the middle section, while about £400,000 was allowed for ballast.
– Is the honorable member aware that when tenders were called for one section the Government subsequently constructed it at about £20,000 lower than the lowest of the three tenders that were submitted ?
– Yes. I am aware of something more. When those tenders were turned down I begged the Government of the day to call for fresh tenders. I had sufficient knowledge to know that re-advertising would have brought in tenders that would have astonished the Government.
– Were the first tenders faked ?
– There is such a thing as tenderers putting their heads together. It is not uncommon for members of Parliament to come that game occasionally. Any keen administrator would know whether certain men were putting their heads together. If another advertisement had been inserted calling for fresh tenders, there would have been a mighty difference in the tenders submitted. If a contractor had been given the whole of the line to construct, and had secured what the Commonwealth Government had wasted upon it, he need not have taken another contract; he would have been almost a millionaire.
– It would not have been the first time in Australia. The private contractor has had his chance.
– He has had his chance - too good a chance. Then came another period, when the private contractor had to compete with the public tendering of a Government Department on the same terms. Thus the contractor had his wings clipped. Then the Government proceeded to the other extreme by shutting out the public tendering system and adopting the day-labour system, and now the Commonwealth Government have gone beyond that extreme, and to-day the public are being fleeced more than in the old days. I shall return to this point when the promised data are laid on the table. In May last, when I was speaking on this subject, I referred to one proposal showing unpardonable extravagance in the management of the railway. But let me say, in passing, that we shall never build public works efficiently and satisfactorily if we are building them a thousand miles away and doing the business in Melbourne. We must have a competent man on the job, and a general manager with authority as well as ability on the spot, so that works may be co-ordinated. Only then can we expect a fair measure of success, because many of the blundersthat have been made at Port Augusta have been committed in Melbourne.
– Hear, hear!
– I have no time to refer to that aspect of the matter to-night, but I say that if the Minister would appoint a keen competent financial man with authority, and give him the schedules and let him go right through the business, that man would be able to tell him where the money has gone. Last May I complained about the proposal of the officials to purchase unnecessary land for the erection of a big costly locomotive shop, one altogether beyond any reasonably sane requirement for the railway. The Minister consulted with the Government, and the Government promised that an inquiry would be made. That inquiry has been made by two independent experts, with the result that the purchase of that land at the cost of about £25,000 has been shown to be absolutely unnecessary. When the land was purchased, it gave for shops, sheds, and so forth, at a place like Port Augusta, an area of 401 acres, whereas the Victorian railway workshops at Newport occupy not one-half of the area thus acquired. As every one anticipated, the verdict given as the result of the inquiry was that this land was not required.
– Are they going to erect workmen’s residences upon it?
– They had ample room for such residences, seeing that they had at Port Augusta for a railway which demands two, or, at the outside, a service of three trains a week, an area two and a half times greater than that of the Newport workshops in Victoria.
– They wish they had more land at Newport.
– The honorable member shows when he talks in that way that he ought to go to school again.
– Does not the honorable member think he should have waited until the paper had been printed before referring to it.
– I have taken my facts from the paper which was laid on the table of the House a week ago, and which the honorable member himself has seen. It went to the Government Printer to-day.
– But it is not yet printed. Is it of no concern to honorable members generally ?
– It is, and I hope that every honorable member will read it. The report of the two experts as to the mileage required to be run is based on data submitted by the Department. That mileage is most extrava gantly computed, and is at least double what the necessities of the country to be served will require for many years to come;.
– They must look ahead a little.
– They are doing so, but the right honorable member must recognise that a 5 or 6 inch rainfall per annum is going to regulate the development of that part of the country.
– What about the people at the other end of the line ? There will be a million there by-and-by.
– Having quoted certain figures, I shall turn to the right honorable member’s suggestion, and will show him that the numbers, instead of going up, have been going down very seriously. I shall give him all he wants and a little bit more. The two experts in Question have recommended that temporary provision be made, at a cost of £32,792, to carry the Department over the next four or five years, or until a sufficient time shall have elapsed to enable a determination to be arrived at as to what volume of traffic will be required. That is a very rational proposal.
– The report contains another alternative.
– It contains two or three, but the honorable member will obtain no change from any of them.
– The honorable member for Wakefield has got no change out of the report.
– If the honorable member for Maribyrnong would have a little more concern for the taxpayers of this country it would be much better for all concerned.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired. Is it the pleasure of the Committee that he be allowed to proceed ?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– The first recommendation of the experts is that temporary provision be made at a cost of £32,792 to carry the Department over the next four or five years, or until it has been demonstrated what the volume of traffic is likely to be in the future. The next suggestion made is that if, apart altogether from financial results, it be the policy of the Commonwealth to run a certain number of trains and to link up the 4-ft. 8½-in. line with the New South Wales system, new permanent shops should not be long deferred. Further, if rolling-stock is to be built at Port Augusta the cost involved in building and equipment necessary to construct express cars would be £21,700. That would provide not only for this railway, but for the proposed strategic railway to link up Sydney with Fremantle.
– Have the officers had an opportunity to report on that report?
– I do not know. Has the honorable member ever heard of departmental officers reporting on a report provided, at the instance of Parliament, and for its use, before it has been submitted to the Parliament? Such a thing would be a farce.
– This is not the last word on the subject.
– Not by a long way. The experts report, further, that ifthe train mileage were increased, say, 50 per cent. over the Commonwealth Railway Department’s estimate for ten years hence - and the estimate for ten years hence is double the estimate of today - all that it would be necessary to expend is £131,400, instead of the £266,650 that has been asked for, and the first section of which had been approved by the Cabinet.
.- I claim the attention of honorable members for a few minutes while I put before them a few facts bearing on the much-vexed question as to whether or not the wheat pool benefits the farmers. As a wheatgrower for the last twenty-six years, and asone who during that period cropped an ever increasing area year after year I must say that I have enjoyed the most successful year in my. experience under the benign influence of the Wheat Board. If ever there was a class of people who might well ask to be saved from their friends it is the Australian farmers.
– Does the honorable member mean that under the Wheat Board he has had the best price for his wheat ?
– The best return. Whilst I do not for one moment attempt to belittle the farming knowledge of honorable members opposite, I think that many of them must be commission agents first of all, and farmers afterwards. If ever there was a great national undertaking that benefited the whole continent it is that of the Australian wheat pool. Notwithstanding that freights have risen to an extraordinary extent, we Australian farmers, when the additional 6d. per bushel that is now being distributed has been paid, will have received £12,000,000 more than we ever received for a wheat crop in the history of Australia. And this in the face of the fact that the country is supposed to be labouring under the tremendous imposts that war puts upon us - the diminution of man-power, and a drain upon our resources in every direction ! Despite all this, we farmers are in the position i have mentioned. We were recently told by the Victorian and New South Wales Ministers for Agriculture that the farmers can look for another1s. per bushel. That will mean another £8,000,000 in the pockets of the farmers, or £20,000,000 more than wheat has ever before yielded in Australia.
– And more than the three previous years.
– Yes. In the speech made by the Governor in opening the Victorian State Parliament the other day, the Government triumphantly pointedto what the wheat pool had done for Victoria. They showed that never before had the wheat crop of this State realized £6,000,000, whereas within a few days the wheat farmers of this State will have been paid almost £11,000,000 in respect of last year’s crop. In face of all this we are told that we are ruined. As a man who has grown wheat for twenty-six years, and who has sold wheat for less than 2s. a bushel when freights were normal, I desire to say that I personally have made the best year’s profits that I ever made in wheat-growing, and the gross figures show that the majority of farmers must have done the same.
– I suppose the honorable member also had last season the biggest yield he ever enjoyed?
– No, I once had a bigger yield, but it was in respect of a more restricted area. The average yield for the continent last year was, however, greater than ever before. Quite apart from my personal knowledge as a farmer, I am able to speak of the experience of others. For some months - practically ever since the institution of the wheat pool - I have been touring the whole of New South Wales with a Royal Commission dealing with rural industries. We have taken evidence on oath before that Commission, and have examined all sorts of men - farmers who follow the share sys tern ; farmers who employ men on wages to work the land; ordinary small farmers and share farmers, and not 10 per cent, have failed to say that, in the circumstances, they believe the best thing that could have been done was done in the interests of the farmers, and that they were certainly looking forward to the maintenance of the wheat pool during the war. As a practical farmer, I hope it will be continued for all time. I desire now to address myself briefly to the question of how and why the wheat pool was formed. Honorable members are aware that it was intended at first to pass merely a Commonwealth Freights Act, and to enable ordinary buyers and shippers to operate as heretofore. On account of difficulties, more particularly in regard to freights, due to the war, the gentlemen interested in the buying of wheat decided, after a three days’ conference, to do no speculative buying at all. They said, “ If you will allot us freight, we shall proceed to sell that freight in the London market, and then we shall come to the Australian market to purchase wheat.” If no freight could be purchased there was to be no sale, and if the Dardanelles had been forced there would have been no sale. What would have been the position of the Australian farmers, the majority of whom are needy growers, with only this rotten stick to lean on ? I do not blame the wheat buyers for the selfishness of their attitude. It was no time for speculative buying. They saw the British Government commandeering freight, and there was little freight obtainable except from neutral countries. But the agitation against the wheat pool has been engineered by speculators who are fearful lest their occupation be taken from them. It is a crying shame, considering the sacrifices that the people are called upon to make, that speculative profitmongering should be carried on, not only with regard to wheat, but also with regard to beef and mutton, the consumers being trampled under foot, and little being done for their protection. I say, as a wheat-grower, that if there is one class that has a right to complain of the wheat pool it is the consumers, not the farmers. As one who has nearly 20,000 bushels of wheat in the pool, I say that the fixing of 4s. 9d. a bushel as the price of wheat to the consumer is likely to turn out a robbery of the consumer. No one can prove that just yet, but when the final London parity is discovered, and the wheat pool has cleared up its operations, I venture to say that the Australian farmer will not have received 4s. 9d. per bushel for his wheat at the seaboard, and the difference between what he has received and 4s. 9d. will have been taken from the consumer unjustly. The farmers know that, unless extraordinary circumstances develop, they cannot expect to receive 4s. 9d. per bushel for their wheat. I wish to show that there is evidence for what I have said as to the benefits of the wheat pool. The Prime Minister, speaking on the 11th November last, said that shippers and buyers had stated plainly that they would not buy unless freight was allotted; that they would buy only to the extent of the shipping available, and no more until the cargoes were sold; and that they would take no risk. When a deputation waited on the Acting Prime Minister to protest against the reduction of the alleged London parity to 4s. 9d., he told them that, were it not for the interference of the Government, the price of wheat, instead of being 4s. 9d., would be nearer ls. 9d., and that wheat had been sold for 2s. 6d. Mr. Hagelthorn stated in his pamphlet that but for the pooling wheat would have been ls. 6d., if saleable at all. Again, the Sydney Daily Telegraph in December last, quoting a Victorian; authority, said that the proposed advance of 3s. a bushel on wheat was in itself certainly a higher figure than would have been secured for a straight-out sale of wheat had some such proposals not been adopted, and the loss to Victorian farmers would easily have exceeded a couple of million sterling. I have found in touring the country that the opposition to the wheat pooling scheme is being engineered by agents and commission mongers, and to some extent its object is political, it being designed to discredit the Government. Some persons, when the scheme was instituted, went so far as to reflect on the Prime Minister, but the Victorian newspapers are now filled with suggestions for pooling lucerne and other commodities, and a great deal is being said of the robbery of commission agents in conducting produce and other sales. The grand ideal that Ave must set before ourselves in Australia is the adoption of really scientific methods of production and distribution. If Ave remove many of the hardships that the farmers are suffering, and institute truly co-operative marketing, then, although mistakes will be made, the net result will be a large economic saving which will greatly benefit the farming community. Most Australian farmers, like the farmers of all new countries, are needy growers. I was a needy grower once. As soon as I had got my wheat into bags there were persons waiting to be paid. Men in such a position fall like ripe plums into the mouths of the agents. It is idle to talk of co-operation among farmers when it is impossible to find capital to finance such men. Help can be given only by the Governments of the States and of the Commonwealth. Certain of my farmer friends believe in the right of private bargaining, and do not like the Socialistic idea. They do not wish the needy grower to get the same price as they get.
– Why should they want other men to get less than they get?
– I have known a farmer to complain on oath about the way in which wheat in the pool is being wasted in the stacks, and of the destruction wrought by mice. But when the wheat went off the farmer’s waggon on the weighbridge to the agents, who are paid 3)d. per bushel, they were responsible for the delivery of the quantity recorded, and it did not matter how much Avas wasted, the farmers were safe so long as the solvency of the firms could stand the strain. I have been delivering wheat over weighbridges to millers and agents for twenty-six years, and have sometimes stacked it, but I have never received anything but the price for the quantity recorded on the ticket given for that passed over the weighbridge. We never thought of protesting against individual buyers who exploited us in the past, but we are trying to make trouble with the Government because it is the Government. The great danger to the development of Government intervention is the immoral opinion that in taking down a Government one is performing a meritorious action. The farmers are as hard working and as honest as any class in the community, but they are not altogether free from that fallacy. Some of the share farmers condemn the wheat pool, but the pool has done so much for Australia that when what it has done has been thoroughly measured it will be unhesi tatingly admitted that it in a great measure saved the country. Notwithstanding the existence of a world war, land values have not seriously decreased. Everywhere men are hopefully clearing new land, and are responding nobly to the call to grow more wheat. Had there not been a wheat pool, the farming industry would have been paralyzed, and untold difficulties, which do not now exist, would have had to be combated. We ought not to hear so much criticism from men who, notwithstanding any knowledge of farming they may possess, are either animated by the desire to please profit mongers, or wish to participate in the profits themselves. Australia is under the necessity, not only of providing work for her people, but of seeing that the obligation to work is placed on every one. We should remove every man, no matter how capable, from positions in which his enterprise is not necessary to production or distribution, and apply hia brains, talent, and energy in some occupation that will assist in getting the country through the troublous times that it has to face. I shall not deal with other matters. As a practical farmer, I say that, although the wheat pool has made mistakes, and in many matters of administration has not been perfect, the net result of its operations is something for which we should be grateful, and I hope to see the extension of the principle which it embodies.
.- I do not propose to follow my farming friend through the interesting address which he has just delivered. His opening remarks showed an almost slavish regard for the good name of his party, and but small recognition of what he owes to other powers and influences that are perhaps quite as important. At the opening of his address he told us that one reason why he is so satisfied with the wheat pool - in regard to which I offer no criticism - is that he has had the best year which, as a practical farmer, he has ever known in New South Wales. He went a stage further and said that if it had not been for the beneficent, all-seeing wisdom of the little man to whom for the last fortnight he has been giving such a very bad time upstairs, he would not have had the magnificent season which he has had; for he told us that he based Iris prosperity, not only upon the price of wheat, but upon the yield per acre from his land. While he was putting a laurel wreath on the head of his party, he might, I think, have given some perfunctory recognition to Divine Providence which had granted him such a bountiful season. The argument that my honorable friend addressed in this connexion - an argument apparently denying the benefit of the season which he has enjoyed - irresistibly reminded me of another argument which was, perhaps, more appropriately put by the present Prime Minister a couple of years ago, when he appealed to the electors of Australia to vote for “the Labour party, because, during his tenure of office, pigs had multiplied in the most astounding manner.
But I wish now to address just a word or two in all seriousness to the Minister of Home Affairs with reference to the North-South railway. I do not desire to traverse the mistakes which have been made in connexion with our railway ventures, other than as a guide as to how we should conduct future enterprises. In the case of the EastWest railway, I think honorable members will admit that the proposition was not based upon a business-like basis. At the very outset, owing to the failure of the Commonwealth to make a businesslike arrangement with Western Australia, we were compelled, at great expense, to haul all the materials required for construction to the rail-head at Kalgoorlie before we started to build the line towards the east from the western end. Similarly, although the line is essentially a proposition for cheap traction, we did not make a sufficiently serious effort to evolve an internal combustion engine for use upon it. The Minister of Home Affairs, I am aware, did put a proposition for such an engine before his colleagues, but, from lack of appreciation of its merits, it was postponed and eventually lost. Now. one of the main difficulties of traction of the East- West line is to be found in the quality of the water that is obtainable along the route. When I was Minister of Home Affairs, it was thought by the Department that twenty-six engines of the “ P “ class would suffice for all purposes during the construction of the line, and, of course, for all purposes afterwards so far as freight was concerned, seeing that the greatest amount of freight carried would be during the period of construction. But we now find that seventythree engines are required to do the work which it was formerly recognised twentysix engines were adequate to carry out. The reason for this increase is to be found in the bad quality of the water obtainable along the route. The water is so full of chemical troubles that engines constantly have to be hauled up for repairs. I ask honorable members to imagine what it would mean if we could run this line with an internal combustion engine. Then, instead of having to undertake extensive repairs consequent upon these water difficulties, we should be able to run a service free from those difficulties. In addition, the radius of action of an internal combustion engine is practically unlimited, whereas with a water engine we have to be content with short runs daily. I think that about twenty station depots are required along that line. In the case of an internal combustion engine, the whole journey could, at a pinch, be covered in one shift with one engine. As a matter of practical working, however, it would probably be covered in two shifts, because an internal combustion engine could easily run 600 miles. Such an engine was being experimented with on the Prussian lines, where fuel is cheap, and where water offers no practical difficulties. How much more, then, ought we to have experimented with a similar type of engine in this country?
– It is not too late now.
– It is too late to get the full economic value of it on the East-West line. But on the North-South line it is the first step that we ought to take. At the outset, we ought to decide by experiment what type of engine we are going to use, and afterwards we should construct the line gradually. The use of such an engine would not necessitate any alteration in gradients or curves, but it would affect the number of stations and station - yards to be established along the route. The tremendous reward which might be the outcome of such an experiment would justify the expenditure of any sum within reason.
– Electric traction for a flat line like that ought to be all right.
– There is a difficulty in regard to electric traction. We would have to generate our electricity and transmit the current over a vast distance. That would be an extremely uneconomical way of handling such traffic. But in the case of an internal combustion engine we should be dealing with something that is in the embryonic stage. The internal combustion engine is the engine of the future in all dry countries.
–The honorable member’s argument is that we ought not to have started the construction of the EastWest line at all.
– I did not say that. If the Minister of Home Affairs had been free to evolve this type of engine - and it must be remembered that he had an offer from a firm in England to make an experimental engine of this pattern, which, although it might not have given a full success any more than the first motor car or the first aeroplane resulted in a full measure of success - would undoubtedly have led to further developments.
– Wo would still have had to buy these engines to carry on.
– Yes; starting the construction of the line at the time that we did.
– Could not the honorable member have secured one of these internal combustion engines when he was in office ?
– I made every effort I could in that direction, as the official files will show. I am not urging this argument with a view to traversing past mistakes, but merely as a reason why we should take precautions on the NorthSouth line against a repetition of those mistakes.
– I was offered those engines for £7,000 apiece.
– Yes; but Cabinet delayed a decision on the matter for a few months, and in the meantime the price went up to £11,000. The Minister might not have got £7,000 worth of value in his first engine, but he would have got full value in the ultimate consummation of the idea. 1 wish now to make a few remarks upon another matter. I think honorable members upon both sides of the chamber realize how extraordinarily undermanned is the Attorney General’s Department at the present time. Quite a number of new activities have recently been associated with that Department, so that it has now become utterly impossible for any one man to efficiently administer its affairs. I do not suppose that any man has a higher opinion of Mr. Garran than I have’. It is not fair to Mr. Garran, or to the Commonwealth that he is serving so laboriously. I am asking that he be provided with some assistance. At present if you write a letter to the Attorney-General’s Department it takes weeks to get an answer to it, because it is so hopelessly congested with work. I urge the Treasurer to bring my complaint under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral in order that this condition of congestion may be relieved.
.- I rise to make one or two remarks on two subjects. One has reference to the Minister of Defence, and the other I have been induced to refer to by the action of a number of my friends on the other side, who seem to look to me to confirm or deny some of the statements of their reputed champion farmer, whom they are always lauding and holding up to us as one of the brightest examples amongst those engaged in mixed farming in the Commonwealth. I am exceedingly glad that the honorable member for Werriwa should have achieved such a position in the party to which he belongs. I listened very carefully to his somewhat academic speech. I speak as a practical farmer who has never bought a bag of wheat, except for seed. I have never acted as an agent for stock or grain, and have carried on my farming operations with my own hands, and with the assistance of my boys - only one of whom is left to me, unfortunately, at present, as the other three are at the front - and the farm labourers I have had on my farm for some time. I can quite understand how tlie honorable member for Werriwa has gone out of the business personally and has left the whole of his farm to be looked after by share farmers. With respect to the honorable member for Indi, it seemed to me remarkable that he should put forward a claim to be a representative of the finest wheat-growing constituency in Australia.
– I did not say that.
– If the honorable member had claimed to be tlie representative of the finest growers of wool, or, for that matter, of goats, I should have been pleased to have accorded him my grateful acknowledgments.
– If the honorable member had been born in my electorate I should have been able to say that.
– I did not in the least desire to be personal. Those who know me best know that I never descend to such dirt. If the honorable member took a careful census of the farmers of my constituency he would find that they are not as whole-hearted in their belief in the efficiency of the wheat pool as he seems to think they should be. The honorable member has given us certain figures which I desire to criticise. In the first place he compared conditions in the Argentine with those in Australia, and he pointed out that freight from the Argentine to London was 175s. per ton. I have here the Statist of 22nd July, the latest edition I could secure, and I find that, according to this authority, the freight from the Argentine for 1914 was 11s. 4½d., for 1915 62s. 6d., and for 1916 155s. The honorable member, for Indi gave the Prime Minister’s office as the authority for the figures he quoted, and I am quite prepared to accept his statement, but it does seem remarkable that the Prime Minister’s office should quote freight from the Argentine at 175s. per ton, whilst the Statist, which is looked upon as one of the world’s authorities on these matters, should state the figure at 155s. per ton. The honorable member for Indi quoted Bombay as affording an extraordinary comparison in this matter with Australia. He said that from Bombay freights are 50s. per ton higher than we are paying, but these are the figures for Bombay given by the Statist:For 1914, 14s.; for 1915, 52s. 6d.; and for 1916, 92s. 6d. The figures given by the Statist for Australia are: For 1914, 17s.; for 1915, 75s.; and for 1916, 110s. per ton.
– It is much below the Argentine rate, according even to the honorable member’s figures.
– Quite so; but I have not mentioned these figures in order to dispute the honorable member’s source of information. I hope, however, that the honorable member will follow the statements of the Prime Minister on other questions as assiduously as he does on this question.
– I thought the honorable member said that he is never personal.
– I may be commendatory. I am not personal in this matter. I have expressed merely a pious hope, but I utter it most fervently. Honorable members on the other side overlook the real reason why farmers in Australia today are not as satisfied with the Government pooling scheme as the friends of the scheme desire. I think it was the Leader of the Opposition who put his finger on the proper button when he said that the aspect most interesting to the farmers was not the millions our honorable friends opposite have been talking about as the result of the crop, but the actual cash in hand he receives. When it is remembered that this year we had 60,000,000 or 70,000,000 more bushels of wheat in Australia than we ever grew before, it will be seen that we should have millions more of money to pay for the increased crop. Taking the figures given by the honorable member for Indi, it will be found that 175s. per ton freight works out at something like 4s. 5d. per bushel. The average price the pool has been paying for freight is 85s., which works out at 2s. 3d. per bushel. The price of 70s. per quarter represents 8s. 9d. per bushel, so that the Argentine farmers get 4s. 4d. per bushel cash in hand the moment they deliver the wheat, as against 3s. per bushel which the Australian farmers have been handling, though there is another 6d. a bushel to come to them later.
– Do you say that the Argentine farmer gets 4s. 4d. per bushel net?
– Yes, but he has to meet his own railway charges from the farm to the port.
– And commission ?
Mr.PATTEN. - The Australian farmer has at least1s. per bushel less to handle than the farmer on the other side. The Argentine farmer had no pool to take into consideration. The settling factor in wheat prices is Mark-lane, London, or the wheat-pit in Chicago, and the prices current there are just as available to our farmers as to those in the Argentine. I do not know whether the friends of the farmer on the Government side think the farming community are altogether fools, and never read the newspapers, or know what the
London parity is per day ; but if they have that idea at the back of their minds, let me tell them that the Australian farmer is as keen to follow the fluctuations of London prices as any other commercial man. When the deputation waited on the Prime Minister in the early part of the year, they protested against the pool managers selling their wheat under London parity, seeing that the Prime Minister, when he introduced the scheme, and invited the farmers to come in, assured them that he would bend his energies to get the best possible price, which would never be under London parity. Let me point out, for the edification of my friend the Royal Commissioner of Werriwa, that if the farmers are so whole-hearted in their support of Government interference by wheat pools, it is strange that 25 per cent. less area has been put in this year than last’.
– Why did the farmers and settlers of New South Wales, at their conference, indorse the pooling scheme?
– If the honorable member took the wool out of his eyes and ears he would find that they did nothing of the kind. Is it conceivable that a body of men dependent on an industry for their livelihood, having had a munificent illustration of a paternal Government’s care of their product, would, in a grand season like this - infinitely better than last year from a farmer’s point of view - put in 25 per cent. less crop than last year ? Whilst we in New South Wales are prepared to support the Prime Minister in all his promises when they are kept, we still believe that he was right when he said the farmer did not lose ownership in the wheat and that the wheat pool managers are merely agents for the farmer.We have yet to learn that any agent has a legal right to traffic in his client’s property. In view of the Prime Minister’s promise that the price to the farmer would be at least London parity, I hope we are not extravagant in expecting him to keep his promise. I have made repeated efforts, for months past, to get a reasonable deal in a matter connected with the administration of the Defence Department, and my patience is absolutely exhausted. Many months ago a gentleman with German degrees went to Egypt as a medical man - I presume in the A.M.C. - on a transport. He afterwards, in Egypt, assisted in hospitals by administering anaesthetics. He returned to Australia and was discharged, and ulti mately gravitated to Tumbarumba, in my electorate, where, after a time, he changed his name from Heupt to McLeod by the ordinary legal process. He was the authorized Government authority to pass recruits, and certain statements made by reputable citizens in the district, if true, go to show that he acted in a retarding way with regard to recruiting. The War Committee there thought it so important that they sent me a letter, accompanied by a whole sheaf of declarations before justices of the peace, as to alleged statements by this doctor, requesting that an open inquiry under oath should be held in the town to settle the question. I acknowledged receipt of the letter to Mr. Cunningham, the secretary, and forwarded the whole of the documents to the Minister of Defence, with a strong recommendation that the request of this public body should be granted. Since then, and up till recently, I and other members have received resolutions bearing on this question from municipal and shire councils and other public bodies in New South Wales. I have no doubt that the official file dealing with this matter is now as bigas the family Bible; but still we can get no redress, and the people up there are wondering whether I am doing anything in the matter or not, and they are wondering also what the Minister of the Crown is doing. Only the day before yesterday I heard that the doctor had cleared out on his way to Canada.
– What is his name?
– His name is McLeod.
– But what is his German name?
– His German name is Heupt. I interviewed the Assistant Minister of Defence not very long ago, and he assured me then that an inquiry had been granted, but on my way to Melbourne the other day I asked him once more about this unfulfilled promise, and he then told me that he thought he had made a mistake, and that the papers are now before the Crown Law officers. I do not want to introduce any heat into this matter, but if it has taken the Defence Department over nine months to deal with a matter like this, then, in my judgment, the. administration of the Department is extremely vacillating, weakkneed, and unsatisfactory. I protest against a public body like the War Committee at Tumbarumba being treated in this way by the Defence Department, and I ask the Minister in charge of the Committee to bring this matter before his colleagues and have it finalized as soon as possible. If it is true that the doctor has left the district with the object of going to Canada, I suggest that the Minister should ask the Minister of External Affairs to instruct that no passport be issued to the man giving him permission to leave this country until the inquiry has been held.
– If he has left Australia this Government should communicate with the Canadian Government.
– I do not care what they do in that respect; but I sincerely hope that some action willbe taken, because this agitation has seriously interfered with the recruiting movement locally. The district to which I refer has sent to the front a large number of the finest men obtainable in Australia - those men from the Snowy River country, all of them able to ride any horse brought before them - but since this agitation began, and owing to the delay of the Department in dealing with the complaint, recruiting has fallen away to practically nothing. One member of the Tumbarumba War Committee came to Melbourne at his own expense recently to inquire into the matter. He is a busy man, and as the Minister was too busy at the time to see him, he could not wait. I am sure that if the Minister will refer to the file in the possession of the Department he will see that it is of considerable dimensions; and in the interests of that part of my constituency I ask the Acting Leader of the Government to have this matter finalized, and the inquiry held.
.- There is ample machinery in the State for the investigation of cases of this kind. The War Committee of Tumbarumba is part of the organization in New South Wales, and if any influence is at work retarding recruiting in that State the Tumbarumba War Committee should have communicated with the. body in charge of recruiting in New South Wales.
– But the honorable member will see that the War Council of New South Wales has no power over that man, who is in the employ of the Defence Department.
– I am saying that if there is any complaint, it ought to have been brought before the New South Wales authorities. The honorable member is aware that a bonâ fide complaint about German influence came from his own district. That complaint was taken up by the State recruiting organization, and was exploded.
– The honorable member knows that there is no analogy between the two cases. This complaint refers to an employee of the Defence Department.
– The State Government of New South Wales have placed the whole of their police resources at the disposal of the State War Council for the investigation of cases such as these. Mr. Holman told the Council that if any instances of the kind were brought under his immediate attention, he, as Premier of the State, would see that a thorough investigation was made into the whole circumstances. If, instead of trying to load up the Central Administration with these complaints, the honorable member for Hume had given the organization of New South Wales the opportunity, the complaint would have been investigated.
– But the honorable member is not defending the Defence Department inthis matter, is he?
– No; but I am saying that it appears as if the honorable member for Hume has been trying to rake up grievances of some kind.
– But I have had two or three petitions myself about these cases.
– Suppose the charges are true, what authority would the State Council have to shift the man?
– If the State War Council were satisfied that recruiting was being interfered with, they could have asked for this man’s dismissal.
– Then you want the Minister to be approached through the State body?
– I am saying that there are facilities to make inquiries locally, and to deal with such complaints.
– But I was requested by the Tumbarumba War Committee to forward the papers to the Minister of Defence. If the New South Wales War Council has been ignored, that is their trouble with the Minister.
– I am not concerned about the State War Council being ignored, but I am concernedwith the proper investigation of the complaint, and I say that the means did exist in New South Wales, but that the honorable member was not prepared to take advantage of that opportunity.
– Twenty or thirty petitions have been sent in to the Defence Department.
– If the honorable member says that the work of the Tumbarumba War Committee and its recruiting activities are being retarded, the New South Wales War Council should be communicated with.
– But this was a question affecting an employee of the Defence Department; a man over whom the State War Council had no control.
– Many of these cases have been dealt with by the State machinery.
– If that is so, how is it the Minister did not send the papers on to the State body ?
– I do not know. There are thousands of papers loaded on the Central Administration, with which that Administration is not able to deal. When there is machinery for decentralizing the work, it ought to be taken advantage of. I suppose, now that this matter has been referred to the Minister, it would not be quite right to suggest that some inferior body should take it out of his hands. I believe that if the War Committee in New South Wales had dealt with its own parent body, this question would have been threshed out long ago.
Mr.FINLAYSON (Brisbane) [10.40]. - This is, perhaps, rather an unfortunate time to suggest that the ordinary expenditure of the country should be increased, but there are three classes of people who are deserving of special financial consideration. I have repeatedly called attention here to the treatment of returned soldiers, because I regard that treatment as neither satisfactory nor creditable to the country. They have returned wounded, invalided and unfit, and, after being in hospital for a few weeks or months, have been discharged, and, in the absence of employment awaiting them have been allowed to wander the streets of our cities and towns practically penniless. A case was brought under my notice to-day of a returned soldier who was discharged from hospital while still unfit for work. The whole of the pension to which he is entitled as a wounded soldier is being eaten up by doctor’s expenses, and he is dependent on his relatives for his maintenance. The fact that men are left without employment after having been discharged, and, therefore, in receipt of no pay, is not creditable to this country, and ought not to be tolerated; and the position of the men who are getting a pension, and are still under medical care, is, perhaps, even worse. We offered all sorts of guarantees, and made all sorts of promises, none of them extravagant or unworthy from the point of view of duty, that we would look after these men when they came back and if theynever came back would take care of their homes and their wives and children. We are not keeping our word - the employers of this country are not keeping their word - and the Government must take some action. I ask the Treasurer to favorably consider the proposition I previously put forward that the pay of a returned soldier should be continued at least until he is found suitable and satisfactory employment. It is not creditable that any man who has risked his life for his country, and has, therefore, rendered Australia a service beyond all financial computation, should be allowed to wander our streets without money, dependent on charity for his food. It is beneath our honour and dignity to ignore the claims of these men, and the Treasurer ought to have regard to the possible detriment on recruiting. Every returned soldier placed in such a position has a circle of friends and acquaintances, who use his case as an illustration against recruiting. We ought to remove every obstacle in the way of recruiting - we ought to make it as easy as possible to recruit - and there is no doubt that such cases as I have cited render it very hard and difficult. I hope the Treasurer will consider how he can guarantee these soldiers some reasonable consideration in view of the services they have rendered. The next class of the community to which I desire to draw attention has already been mentioned to-day - I mean the blind people. I know that the Treasurer is sympathetic, and that this matter has been before him for some considerable time. The Government ought to face the facts, and give to the blind that consideration they have a right to expect, and have been waiting for so long. It is altogether shocking that in this country, which, even in war time, can exhibit such signs of prosperity, we should be niggardly, mean, and paltry in this’ regard. All that is asked is that the pensions shall be paid to them irrespective of any little earnings the recipients are able to make. Some of these people, who are afflicted either by nature or accident, are fortunate in being able to do very well, but most of them do very badly indeed ; and the payment of the full pension would be a small recognition of our responsibility. I have also to ask the favorable consideration of the Treasurer for the aged people, and those who receive invalid pensions. According to Mr. Knibbs, the cost of living during the war has gone up no less than 34 per cent.
– The Treasurer says the matter is under the consideration of the Government.
– I wish to press the matter on the consideration of the Treasurer. Under present circumstances, those who are receiving the full old-age or invalid pension, are receiving practically about 6s. a week, and in cases where the full pension is not paid, there is a corresponding reduction. A pension of 10s. a weak was reckoned to be a fair thing, and we all know that to-day its value is not equal to that of two years ago by at least one-third, making the pension at the most 6s. 6d. It was hard enough in all conscience for the old people to live in anything like decency, not to say comfort, on 10s. When we recollect that, as in most cases, a pensioner has to pay the rent of a room, and find food out of such a sum, one wonders how he manages to live. The country is facing what the Treasurer has called a need for economy, but it is a peculiar kind of economy that begins with the aged, the invalid, and the blind ; and I appeal to the Treasurer for his favorable consideration. I know there is no lack of sympathy, but that it is a mere matter of financial arrangement. I am quite certain that the country would stand solidly behind a Treasurer who, even under the present conditions, decided that the needs of the old, the invalid, and the blind were sufficiently serious to demand our attention.
– I should like to know from the Treasurer the meaning of the item, “Advance to Treasurer, £1,100,000.” That advance represents no less than 25 per cent, of the whole vote, and it is at the rate of nearly four and a half millions sterling per annum - not much when it is said quickly - which the Treasurer i3 to have the right to spend without let or hindrance, of course accounting hereafter to this House.
– It is not a large sum 1o be provided in case a Minister requires an advance, considering that we shall be spending £70,000,000 or £80,000,000 in the year.
– I think it is a large advance in any case. If the honorable member says that he needs the money, and that extraordinary accounts are coming in at such a rate that he cannot meet them under specific votes, there is nothing more to be said. But the honorable gentleman should give some explanation as to why the advance is so large. Last year the Treasurer asked for no such advance as this.
– I think quite £600,000 was voted as an advance to the Treasurer for two months in the last Supply Bill.
– I recollect no such amounts in last year’s Supply Bills. I know that times are abnormal, and perhaps the Treasurer will not mind telling the Committee what is the need for these excessive advances to him.
.- I should like to indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Brisbane in regard to old-age pensions. After all, the money paid to the old-age pensioner is mostly spent to the advantage of the primary producer; it is spent in Australia, and is of assistance to the revenue afterwards, so that in reality the country does not actually feel the expenditure on the payment of the pensions. I remember reading, prior to entering this Parliament, that in debates in this chamber it was said that if old-age pensions were provided the country would go to ruin, and would never be able to provide the large sum involved. But we find that at no period in ‘ Australia’s history has there been such prosperity as during the time the old-age pensioners have received this small dole from the State. As a matter of justice, I appeal for an increase in our payments to the old people in the community, because, as has been pointed out by every authority, there has been an enormous increase in the cost of living, and, according to the percentages of increase that have been published, the pensioners are entitled to a further payment of 5s. per week if they are to be placed in the position they occupied in 1910, when the present amount of 10s. per week was fixed. Another matter I should like to deal with is the improvement of the Sydney Post Office. Since the present Postmaster-General has been in office he has seemed determined to spend money in trying to make that building more suitable for the requirements of the public and the Department. The honorable member might just as well try to squeeze an elephant into a rabbit hutch as try to meet public and departmental requirements within the present structure. I urge the honorable member to endeavour to get money from the Treasurer for the continuing of the building through to King-street by means of an arcade. Only in that way can he hope- to make the structure suitable for the work for which it is intended. Every room in the present building is unsuitable, and the employes work under such conditions that it is not reasonable to expect from them the results that would be obtainable in a building having proper accommodation. Prior to Federation, the State Government, in an effort to improve the Sydney Post Office, expended £170,000 in putting a new roof on it, and since Federation £90,000 has been spent on it in putting in iron girders and removing walls, so as to increase the space available. Yet the building remains unsuitable. The Postmaster-General is anxious to put in a few chutes and move a few walls. I know he has a very vivid imagination, which carries him away ; but I assure him that his proposals will not provide the employes or the public with sufficient space for the proper conduct of business. Five years ago there were 700,000 people living in and around Sydney. To-day the total is 960,000, and I predict that in the next five years the trade of Sydney will almost double its present proportions. Further, the geographical position of Sydney warrants the proposal I am making, inasmuch as when the Panama Canal is in full operation we shall have a considerable traffic from America’s huge population, in the persons of people desirous of seeing our city and beautiful harbor. Continual alteration of the building does not meet the public demand. An error was made some years ago, when Mr. Fisher was Treasurer, and the advice of the present Minister of Home Affairs and others, who took an interest in the matter, and recommended the resumption of this land, was turned down. What a fine speculation it would have been had land been purchased ! The price has since increased by 70 per cent. The public ought to be served. There is no grumbling when money is spent to meet a public requirement. The people grumble only when money is spent without results. If we give the employees of the Postal Department proper facilities for doing their work better economy will result, and the interest of the public will be served. I, therefore, urge the Postmaster-General to persuade the Treasurer to make available money for the resumption of this land, which, considering the site, can be purchased at a reasonable figure, and would provide the Australian nation with a very valuable asset. I would not have risen to speak at this stage but for the fact that honorable members have very little opportunity to bring under the notice of Ministers matters affecting the vital interests of the various parts of the Commonwealth. The Postmaster-General is anxious to hand down his name as an administrator. No better opportunity presents itself than by causing the erection of additions to the Sydney Post Office, and I ask the Treasurer to fall in with the ambitions of his colleague.
.- At this late hour I do not intend to occupy much time, but I have a suggestion to offer to the Treasurer in regard to the wheat pool. Numbers of farmers who have gone to the front have expressed a wish that the Government should advance them 4s. per bushel for their wheat, and take charge of their certificates. In that way all their arrangements could be cleaned up before they left for the front.
– In New South Wales Mr. Graham says that he is doing that.
– I have a letter from one soldier, who wrote to Mr. Graham to that effect, and got no satisfaction. He has asked me to bring the matter before this House.
– Do these farmers desire to see the wheat pool continued ?
– They would rather do their own business, but, as they are under the pool, naturally they seek to do the best for themselves while under it. The honorable member for Werriwa has said that this year the farmers are better off than they have ever been in any year before to the extent of £12,000,000. The next previous record harvest was in the year 19.13-14, when Australia garnered 103,000,000 bushels. Last season the yield was 167,000,000, or 64,000,000 bushels more than in the 1913-14 season. Allowing 3s. per bushel for each year, we have something like £9,000;000 more distributed among the farmers of the Commonwealth this year, but if the price in 3913-14 was 4s. per bushel, as in many cases it was, it brings down the excess this year to something like £6,000,000- as against the £12,000,000 referred to by the honorable member for Werriwa.
– My statement has been published all over Australia by the wheat pool without contradiction.
– I do not care. I am quoting my figures from Knibbs. The honorable member and his friends would give the wheat pool all the credit for the success. As a matter of fact, it is not to the credit of the wheat pool that £6,000,000 extra has been distributed among the farmers; the credit is due to the Almighty in giving us the beneficent season we enjoyed. In regard to the wheat pool, I take exception to some of the remarks that have been made. In the first place, the farmers were really the only people interested in the scheme, yet there is. not a farmer on the Wheat Board. It consists of men like Mr. Graham - a man for whom I have every respect, but who knows more about coal mining than wheat farming.
– He was not a coal miner.
– Then he was a schoolmaster. The farmers should have been consulted. They should have been asked bo appoint their representatives on the Board. If we were to appoint twenty farmers to the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, and empower them to dictate the policy- of honorable members opposite, what would they say?
– We would welcome them.
– Honorable members opposite would not; and it is just as ridiculous for them to think that we farmers should remain quiet under the dominance of outsiders. Coming to the question of freights, the honorable member for Wide Bay pointed out that 500,000 tons of shipping could have been obtained in Queensland at 80s. 6d.
– Was that neutral or British shipping?
– I cannot say. As a representative of the Blayney branch of the Farmers and Settlers Association, I attended a conference of wheat-growers in Sydney, and the day before it was held Mr. Twigg, a leading farmer of Cowra, and I interviewed three or four wheatbrokers in that city. We elicited the fact that one firm had chartered 150,000 tons of shipping; that another had chartered). 150,000 tons; and that a third had chartered 85,000 tons, or 385,000 tons in all, at 63s. These interviews took placea fortnight after Mr. Hughes had made the statement in the House that the Commonwealth Government had secured- 500,000 tons of shipping at 85s. These wheat-brokers, like the wool-brokers, had’ been in the business for very many years, and, knowing perfectly well that a prolific wheat crop was in view, they had secured freights to cover it. If Mr. Twigg and I were able to unearth these shippers in Sydney, it is reasonable to assume that there were many more, and, taking into account shippers in Adelaide, Melbourne, and Perth, I believe that far more shipping than ever the Commonwealth Government was able ‘to obtain would havebeen secured for the farmers by suchfirms. I am not going to adversely criticise the scheme altogether, but I object to farmers being forced into the wheat pool. Why should they not be allowed to do as they please? Why these coercive measures? Some honorable members opposite object to conscription, yet they have forced the farmer against his will into the wheat pool. Mr. Hughessolemnly promised the farmers that they would receive for their wheat the London parity. I do not think he quite played the game when he compelled farmers to supply the millers with wheat for home consumption at 6d. under the London parity. That was not fair. There is another matter that I desire to bring forward. As a representative of the farmers in my district, I, with others, waited on Mr. Graham, the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, who is a member of the wheat pool, and urged that we should be permitted to appoint an auditor to look after our interests. He kindly gave us his consent. We appointed an auditor, but he has not been allowed access to the documents and papers in the Department. The reply given to the Farmers and Settlers’ Executive in Sydney is, “ Wait until we have cleared up everything ; you can then see the papers.”
– Quite right.
– I would ask the honorable member for Werriwa what reasonable objection there could be to our auditor being permitted to see what is now going on. The chartered accountants employed by merchants do not always make their audits at the end of the year. They carry out progressive audits every month, or two months, as the case may be. If that principle holds good with regard to merchants and business people generally, why should it not be adopted in regard to the operations of the Wheat Board? Of what have they to be afraid ? If everything is straight and above board, why should there be any objection to our auditor inspecting the papers now ? I appeal to the Treasurer to use his influence with the Wheat Board with the object of obtaining permission for our auditor to investigate the farmers’ affairs as far as they relate to the pool.
– I wish to make something in the nature of a personal explanation. When speaking this evening on the question of freights I gave some figures which were subsequently disputed by the honorable member for Hume. I propose to repeat them, and to prove from the very authority to which my honorable friend referred that my figures were correct. I said that the highest charge from Australia was 110s. ; that the rate from Bombay had been 50s. more, and that the rate from the Argentine had been as high as 175s. The honorable member for Hume obtained one of the Statist’s bulletins.
– The July issue.
– And quoted, I think, 155s. as the freight from tlie Argentine.
– One hundred and fiftyfive shillings from the Argentine, and 93s. from Bombay.
– The honorable member said my figures were incorrect.
– I did not challenge the honorable member’s figures. I simply said I repected his authority, but I wondered where the Prime Minister got his figures.
– I am going to prove the correctness of my figures by a reference to the authority quoted by the honorable member, although my figures are not taken from the report for the same month. My honorable friend quoted from an edition that suited his purpose.
– No; I simply got the latest available.
– The point is - and my honorable friend cannot debate it - that the highest price paid from Australia has been 110s., whereas 175s. and 183s. are prices that have been paid from the Argentine. Of course, in regard to both the Argentine and Australia prices have varied. The prices from Bombay have also gone to a figure 50s. higher than the highest Australian price.
– It is due to the Leader of the Opposition to say that it is my intention to make a statement about the finances of the Commonwealth before we adjourn for the referendum campaign. It is from no wish to be discourteous that I have not availed myself of opportunities to speak this evening.
– I recognise that.
– The right honorable member knows that when in opposition one can hardly say too much, and that a member of the Government can hardly say too little. The schedule to the Supply Bill provides for the most part for ordinary expenditure. The sum of £1,100,000 is set down as an advance to the Treasurer to meet expenses to be incurred in connexion with the construction of the East-West railway, and of the extension of the Darwin to Pine Creek line, which may run into almost £600,000. We shall probably require also £100,000 for the transaction of certain business for the Imperial Government and the Government of South Africa. We are buying certain foodstuffs for India and South Africa. Then between £60,000 and£80,000 will be required for the referendum, and the money will have to be paid before Parliament will have an opportunity to vote it. Other smaller payments will have to be made from the account. The matters affecting the administration of the AttorneyGeneral which have been mentioned to-night will be brought under the notice of that Minister, and questions of defence and the employment of returned soldiers will be brought under the notice of the Minister of Defence. The increasing of the old-age pensions and of the allowance to blind persons is under the consideration of the Government, and I nope an announcement of its decision will be made to the House Before the adjournment for the referendum campaign. The Postmaster-General and the Minister of Home Affairs have been present during the debate to hear what has been said concerning matters affecting the administration of their Departments, and matters concerning other Ministers will be brought under their notice at the earliest possible moment.
Clauses agreed to.
Schedule, preamble, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 11.26 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160913_reps_6_79/>.