6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Brisbane Election - Translation from German leaflet of article re Mr. W. M. Finlayson, M.P.
Strategic railway, Brisbane to Port Augusta viâ Hay - Corrected Map (in substitution for that attached to Mr. Combes’ Report, laid on the table on 18th May last).
Federal Capital - Documents necessary to complete Paper laid on the table on 16th June, 1915:
Railways - Report, with Appendices, on Commonwealth Railways and Progress of Operations to 30th June, 1916, by the EngineerinChief and Acting Commissioner.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway - Comparative Statement of Cost at 1st July, 1916, with Mr. Deane’s Estimate of 20th September, 1911, with Explanations, also Comparative Estimates of Cost.
Interim Financial Statement for the years 1915-16 and 1916-17, made by the Honorable William Guy Higgs on the 27th September, 1916.
Arbitration (Public Servioe Act) -
Copy of Awards dated 19th day of September, 1916, made by the Deputy President of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration on plaints filed by -
The Australian Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Officers’ Association,
The Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association, and
The Australian Letter Carriers’ Association.
Statement of the Laws and Regulations of the Commonwealth with which, in the opinion of the Deputy President, the awards are not or may not be in accord.
Copy of “ reasons forjudgment “ of the Deputy President.
Copy of a memorandum by the Public Service Commissioner.
Opinion of the Attorney-General on each of the three Awards.
Inter-State Commission Act -
Inter- State Commission - Tariff Investigation Reports -
Enamelledware and Holloware.
Iron and Steel.
Machinery : Engines and Boilers, and Machines generally.
Machinery and Implements, Agricultural; also Incubators and Irrigation’ Apparatus.
Machinery, Electrical, and Electrical and Gas Appliances, Telephones,&c. Manures) Native Sulphur, and Pyrites.
Motor Cycles and Cycle Parts.
Stoves, Fuel and Gas, and Register Grates, Asc.
Wire Nails and Barbed Wire.
Miscellaneous Group III. - Cookers, Steam. Gold Leaf. Gold and Platinum Sheet, Wire and Solder. Lead
Wool, Incandescent Mantles. Malleable Iron Castings. Metal Plate Goods. Metal Printing. Motor Car Lampware. Oil Drums. Picks, Miners’. Snap-Hooks, DrawerHandles, Pulls, Ticket-Holders, Twine Holders, and Reel PaperCutters. Spirit Gas Stoves (Heaters). Wire, Brass Pinion. Wire Netting. Woven Wire and Woven Wire Fencing. Electrolytic Zinc. Manufactures of Metal, n.e.i.
Ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether there is any truth in the statements that are being made that there has been a considerable influx of Asiatics into Australia within recent times. I ask him if the Immigration Restriction Act is being violated?
– The honorable member’s mention of these statements is the first that I have heard of them. They are incorrect. There is no influx of Asiatics into Australia, the provisions of the Immigration Act being strictly enforced.
– Is the Minister for Home Affairs aware that grave complaints are being made as to the manner in which the referendum vote is to be taken among the soldiers ? I ask the honorable gentleman what provision he is making to see that the votes cast shall represent in every case the views of the soldiers themselves, and to prevent undue influence being exercised by superior officers.
– I shall bring the question under the notice of Senator Russell, who is in charge of the Electoral Department.
– While the Prime Minister was absent in Great Britain, the Acting Prime Minister, together with the Premiers of the States, issued a joint appeal, which was published throughout the Commonwealth, for donations to provide a fund for repatriation purposes. Tribunals were also created for the management of such a fund. Is it the intention of the Government to continue to appeal for contributions in addition to the £10,000,000 which is to be provided by direct taxation?
– As chairman of ite Repatriation Trustees I have made a full statement of my views on this question. Shortly, the position is that donations for the Repatriation Fund, according to the amount, will be regarded as a set-off, or as a payment in full of the levy that is to be provided for. Donations to other patriotic funds may be deducted from incomes upon which income tax is levied. As bo the distribution of the money that has been contributed voluntarily, I am not able to say now to what extent that will be at the discretion of the local trustees, but their recommendations will be considered, and unless there are good and sufficient national reasons why effect should not be given to them, will be regarded as indications of the way in which the money should be dealt with. I cannot now declare more fully the policy of the Government in this matter, but after the referendum campaign the repatriation trustees will have an opportunity to consider the whole matter in the light of the new taxation proposals of the Government, and I shall then be in a position to state publicly the extent to which the local trustees may control and distribute funds raised voluntarily.
– In reference to the levy to be made in connexion with the Repatriation Fund, will future voluntary contributions to that fund be taken into consideration as part payment of such levy, or will only voluntary contributionsmade prior to the announcement of the intention of the Government be taken into consideration?
– Any future “voluntary contributions to the Repatriation Fund will be a deduction from the levy, just the same as will contributions made prior to the announcement of the Government.
– I ask the Prime. Minister whether the attention of the Government has been directed to the two prevalent diseases in cattle in Queensland and Western Australia, namely, tick and nodules, which have resulted in a loss of £250,000 annually to the Commonwealth; and whether he will request the Bureau of Science to investigate those diseases with the view to endeavouring to prevent their spread and ultimately eradicating them?
– My attention has not been called to this particular matter, but the Government are quite alive to the importance of dealing with those things which clearly affect the possibilities of the primary industries and of the whole of Australia. I shall remit the matter to the Council of the Science and Industry Bureau, in order that they may make such recommendations in regard to investigation as they think fit, and I shall communicate those recommendations to the honorable member.
– The matter has been under investigation for five years.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave of absence for the remainder of the session be granted to the honorable member for Ballarat, absent on military service with the Australian Military Forces.
– Will the Treasurer take into consideration the question of whether moneys collected under the war time profits taxation will be exempted from income tax?
– When the Government have a little time at their disposal they propose to go into the War Time Profits Bill in all its aspects.
– Has the Prime Minister the interpretation of the circular, which was presented to him yesterday by the honorable member for Wentworth, bearing the image and superscription of the honorable member for Brisbane, and printed in a foreign language?
– I am much obliged to the honorable member for reminding me of that document. I have what purports to be a translation of it. It is authorized by Edward Wetzel, who gives his address as 40 Arthur-street, Spring Hill, Brisbane, and it is printed in the printing office of the German newspaper published at 128 Elizabeth-street, Brisbane. It exhorts the people to vote for Mr. Finlayson because he is the kind of man who votes for people of German extraction. The date, which is the only thing which is material, is omitted. I move -
That the document be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. The following paragraph appeared in this morning’s Argus: -
asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in the House of Representatives yesterday - Does the -prohibition against the publication of matter in German extend to the reproduction of such an appeal as I hold in my hand made in German for German support from Herr W. F. Finlayson?
The last statement was deliberately and maliciously misleading.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– The honorable member for Wentworth takes no exception to it.
– Because it was obviously so characteristic.
– I withdraw the remark. The document which the House has just ordered to be printed bears the signature of a German citizen of Brisbane, and appeared in the German newspaper printed in Brisbane in May, 1913, during the Federal election campaign of that year. The following is a translation of the article: -
Mr. W. F. Finlayson, M.P.
The people of German descent now settled in Australia number a good proportion of the population, and have always been warmly welcomed to this country as most desirable citizens. Under Australian laws they have had every freedom and consideration, and with ‘the generous assistance so willingly accorded them, many have prospered greatly, and all have been able to make comfortable homes for themselves. The opportunity to become naturalized citizens has been freely offered, and accepted by most Germans, thus giving them a share in the Government, and a voice in the making of the laws under which they have to live.
On May 31st, the people of Brisbane will be called upon to elect a member to represent the city in the Federal Parliament, and we cordially recommend to all German citizens of Brisbane, the man who has so very faithfully served us in the House of Representatives for the past three years, Mr. W. F. Finlayson. He has made a splendid record during that time, and has always been ready and willing to assist and advise those who sought his help and counsel. He is now well known all over Australia as a bold and fearless advocate of the rights of the people, and the workers have found in him a courageous champion.
Mr. Finlayson is a member of the Labour party, and has loyally supported the legislation of that party, which has extended the oldage and invalid pensions; secured the maternity allowance of £5 to the mothers of Australia; broken up the’ large estates by means of a land tax, and so made large areas of land available for settlement; provided for the defence of the country by sea and land; developed the industries, and fostered the export trade with other countries; widened the powers of the Arbitration Court to secure the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes; established a Commonwealth Bank; and in many other ways guaranteed the workers a n larger and better share in the advantages and opportunities of the Commonwealth.
Mr. Finlayson is a true Socialist, not an extremist or a syndicalist, but a genuine reformer, seeking to establish better conditions under these sunny skies than obtain in the older countries of the world. A national insurance scheme, which, in addition to pensions and maternity grant, will include sickness and unemployment benefits, on a taxation rather than a contributory basis, is receiving his earnest support, and in this respect he is right in line with the great and fast-growing socialistic movement in Germany.
The Socialist party now number 110, in a total of 397 in the Reichstag, and, like their comrades in all civilized countries, they stand solidly for peace both at home and abroad.
Mr. Finlayson can be depended upon to give active support to all measures which seek the highest good of the whole people, without, distinction of class or creed, and we strongly urge our readers to give him their vote on May 31st by putting their mark in the square” opposite him thus: X Finlayson, W. F. mat article seemed so good to me that I ordered 1,000 reprints.
– Was that before or after it was published ?
– After it was published. My attention was drawn to it, and I had the 1,000 reprints placed in the hands of my committee for circulation. I wish to say quite clearly that I make no apology, offer no excuse, and certainly withdraw nothing in regard to my action in distributing this circular in Brisbane during the li)l3 election.- The honorable member for Wentworth tries to make it appear that this circular is of recent issue - tries to make it appear that it is being used at the present time in order to secure German support against conscription.
– The honorable member for Brisbane is now going beyond a personal explanation.
– I have much that I should like to say as to the people with whom the honorable member for Wentworth is associated.
– This is very important, and I ask whether I am at liberty to move the adjournment of the House in order to call attention to it.
– If the honorable member desired to move the adjournment of the House, his proper course was to have acquainted me with the fact before I opened the business in the chamber. The honorable member is too late now, and I cannot accept such a motion.
– Then must my personal explanation finish here?
– I cannot tell what the honorable member is about to say. The honorable member can merely give statements of fact without comment.
– I wish to give statements of fact as to advertisements -
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing that.
– I wish to give statements of fact as to advertisements that have appeared in the public newspapers, and particularly in the German newspapers, at Brisbane, in May, 1915, during the war.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing that.
– Then I must say what I have to say under some other motion; and when I have done so, the laugh will be with those who laugh last. Further, I hope that the honorable member for Wide Bay will be here when I do so.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Home Affairs-
– I point out to the honorable member that that question was asked twice in one day a little while ago, and I cannot allow its repetition to continue.
– Will the Prime Minister approach the Minister for Defence and see what can be done in the case of men who have returned from the front, and have, some of them, been here eight months, and yet have not been handed the balance of their pay, owing to the fact that the necessary information has not been received by the Department from Egypt? These men have been discharged with large sums of money owing to them, and this money they cannot get, owing to the remissness of the Department in Egypt. Will the Prime Minister expedite the furnishing of the information?
– I am not familiar with the facts; but, accepting them to be as stated, I shall ask my colleague to look into the matter with a view to discharging, at the earliest possible moment, the obligations of the Department to those citizens who have been to the front.
– A little while ago, the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States combined to make appeals for voluntary contributions throughout Australia for the purpose of the repatriation of our soldiers, and provided machinery for the purpose. Is it intended, in view of the proposal to raise £10,000,000 by taxation for that purpose, to continue the voluntary system ? Can the two systems run side by side? Further, is any provision intended to be made for the taxation of these men who have no accumulated wealth, but are in receipt of magnificent incomes ?
– I shall bring the first portion of the question under the notice of the Government. As to the latter portion, referring to those individuals in the community who have no real or personal property but have very large incomes, it will be considered.
– I am not aware that there ia any Bill before us to provide for a moratorium, and, therefore, I should like to know from the Prime Minister what protection the “ moratorium,” which he says is nowin force, is to the citizens?
– The policy of the Government is to prevent the foreclosing of mortgages during the war, and this applies to all mortgages without respect to class or kind, legal or equitable. Further, it is our policy to prevent the increase of interest payable under mortgages ; and that, also, applies to all mortgages. As to a moratorium other than that, wherever, under any binding instrument, an obligation is thrown on a person, now or hereafter, who may be a citizen soldier, that binding obligation will be discharged, or, at any, rate, suspended, during the term of his absence from Australia.
-Will the PostmasterGeneral have inquiries made in regard to the possibility of giving a more efficient mail service to the north-western portion of Western Australia?
– I will have inquiries made.
– Is it intended that the absolution from taxation promised to contributors to the war loans shall include the levy upon property?
– I understand the honorable member to ask whether, if any person has money invested in the war loan, that investment will be affected by the levy. The answer is that the money invested will be affected by the levy, but not the interest accruing from the investment.
– When the Commonwealth war loan was issued the public were told that all contributors would be freed from Federal and State taxation, so far as the income derived from the war loan was concerned. Will the Treasurer’s proposed levy extend to holders of Commonwealth stock?
– The interest earned by investment in Commonwealth war loans is free from Federal and State income taxation, but the capital invested in war loan bonds will be subject to the levy.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that, notwithstanding his assurance to the contrary, the censor is presuming to censor the words in a printed article directed to proving that under the Prime Minister’s scheme married men must be called up for service about the end of the present year? I hold in my hand a document upon which the censor has so operated.
– I do not justify that action on the part ofthe censor. The instructions to the censor are very clear, and they have been reiterated again and again in this House. The matter referred to by the honorable member must be the subject of argument, the statement of one man against that of another. The censoring of an argument of that kind is not in accordance with the instructions, and will not be permitted.
Rations on Transports - Protracted Training.
– Has the fact been brought under the notice of the Defence Department that the cooks on transports are selling to soldiers during the voyage provisions which have been cribbed from the rations of the men?
– I will refer the question to the Minister for Defence. If the honorable member has evidence of such an occurrence, I ask him to let me have it.
– Is the Minister for the Navy yet in a position to answer the following questions, which I asked on 20th September: -
– On behalf of the Minister for the Navy I submit the following answers to the honorable member’s questions : - 1. (a) In camp for twelve months - 161 officers, 113 non-commissioned officers, 278 privates; (b) in camp for six months - 306 officers, 1,018 non-commissioned officers, 3,290 privates.
Note. - Numbers for all ranks in camp for twelve months included in numbers shown in camp for six months.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the poll to be taken at the front and on Salisbury Plains will be under the supervision of the High Commissioner and his officers? Will the ballot be absolutely secret wherever taken, whether in the camps throughout Australia, on board ship, and on the other side of the world?
– The electors, wherever they may be, whether in Australia, on the water, or in Europe, will vote under the same conditions, subject to the particular circumstances in which they find themselves. A man in a front trench in France cannot be expected to proceed about the business of voting in the orderly and leisured way of an elector who votes in a polling booth in Australia. Subject to that qualification, the ballot will be secret, and conducted in the usual way. The High Commissioner will be the officer appointed by the Commonwealth to see that the law is carried out, so far as the voting in Great Britain is concerned.
– I am not hostile to the repatriation proposals of the Government, but I wish to know from the Prime Minister whether it is intended to continue the voluntary appeal for subscriptions? Under the Government’s taxation proposals, a man owning an estate worth £10,000 will have to pay a wealth tnx of £150. Will he, in addition, be asked to subscribe voluntarily to the Repatriation Fund?
– There is no intention of interfering with the voluntary appeal, because, although the Government have stated that itmust have £10,000,000 for repatriation purposes, every one who has looked fairly at the circumstances must realize that that amount will be very little should 200,000men come upon the fund. It would be most inexpedient to make a higher levy on wealth than that which we propose, because the effect would be felt by all persons in the community, irrespective of their circumstances. There are many, however, who can afford to give much more than they will be compelled to pay to the Government. For that reason we shall continue to ask the wealthy men of the community to give of their money, and those who have not money to give of their personal services.
– Will the Prime Minister kindly inform the House what is the date of the commencement of the moratorium relating to foreclosures?
– No foreclosure under any mortgage is lawful after the date on which I declared our policy in Parliament on this matter. The Government considers that this will prejudice the vigorous prosecution of the war. The onus of justification will be on the person who forecloses.
asked he Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– May I refer the honorable gentleman to the answer which I gave earlier in the day ? That, I think, covers the ground. At all events, it contains all the information that I can give at present.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– Full inquiry has already been made at Tumbarumbah, and all papers have been submitted to the Crown Solicitor for advice. After consideration of the Crown Solicitor’s opinion, it has been decided that no further action be taken, and those who have requested an inquiry and prosecution have been informed accordingly.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Adelaide asked the following questions : -
I have now received the following replies: -
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1914 by making provision for the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner of Taxation.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Income Tax Assessment Acts 1915 by making provision for the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner of Taxation.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act relating to the imposition, assessment, and collection of a tax upon payments for admission to entertainments.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply:
Consideration resumed from 27th September(vide page 9039) of motion by Mr. Higgs -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1916-17, for the purposes of Additions, New Works. Buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding Nine hundred and eighteen thousand pounds.
.- I congratulate the Prime Minister on the introduction of a scheme of taxation which, while it does not suit the extremists of either side, will provide Australia with, the money that it requires, and is, subject to certain analysis, all that could be desired under the circumstances. There are phases of the proposals which will give rise to considerable discussion. To my mind, they require modification or alteration in certain directions. For instance, their incidence needs to be better defined. It is proposed to take all the war profits made by firms or companies which exceed 8 per cent, on their invested capital, an exemption of £200 being allowed. No doubt that is a just proposition in regard to many well-established firms which have large sums safely invested, and which, in many cases, do not make more than 5 per cent, or 6 per cent, on their ordinary trading operations from year to year. But there are what may be called speculative businesses which those concerned in them, having risked money in other ways, will decline to keep going simply to make revenue for the Government. That attitude may be regarded as unpatriotic, but it would be essentially human. Thus we are risking the suspension of enterprise in many directions.
– By the honorable member’s process of reasoning, men ought to refuse to go to the front.
– I am not discussing military service; I am speaking of human nature. If some honorable members would read of the experiments that have been tried by other’ countries, they would be less desirous of trying them here. The past shows very clearly that anything in the nature of confiscation which makes it undesirable to pursue business leads to men who would otherwise be in business ceasing operations. Not many years ago, when Egypt was in a financial fix, the ruler Mahomet Ali imposed a tax on date palms. What was the result? The Egyptians cut down their date palms. I admit that it was a wrong thing to do, but it was a natural step for the people to take ; it was human nature. We must allow for human nature. We cannot compel a man to carry on his business if he is not inclined to do so. .The honorable member for Wide Bay gave us a case in point yesterday, when he told us that the Government were imposing conditions on the sugar-growers which, they say they cannot bear.
– Does the honorable member say that we cannot compel business people to do things?
– The honorable member remembers the old axiom, “ You can take a horse to water, but you cannot compel him to drink.”
– But you would compel men to fight.
– There is no means by which we can compel men to till the land or work. Honorable members who have been loudest in their cries know very well that, when men are disinclined to accept the terms of employment that have been laid down, they do not work. In economic matters men have a perfect right to put a price on their labour, and if they do not wish to work they need not do so,. Many compromise schemes have been devised for the purpose of bringing refractory industrial elements together. My friend has endeavoured to draw me off the track by his reference .to compulsory military service. When the nation is in danger, and when all the conditions which we seek to impose in times of peace are challenged, it is due to every man in the community that he should do all that he can to “down and out” those who are challenging them. The greater includes the less. Some men cannot reason from small things to big things: The fact that those gentlemen who are raising a certain clamour are likely to lose all that they have held dear, and their right to voice their sentiments as freely as they choose, is sufficient reason, if they only had the sense to see it, for impelling them to do all they can to preserve that right, and not wait to be compelled to do it. The issues are so wide apart that there is no parallel between the case with which I was dealing and that of sending men to the war. Reverting now to the proposed taxation, I have no objection to taking war profits, but, as I have few worldly possessions, I am hardly as qualified to speak on the point as older men who have considerably more. It is easy enough to make laws for the other fellow, but what strikes me about the proposal is the fact that it will be selfdestructive if it is not tempered in some way, particularly in regard to speculative businesses, such as mining, and more especially gold mining. . In gold mining men hope to secure some tremendous return, altogether out of proportion to the money they have invested - they may have been waiting many years for it - and if the law says that they are to lose that return, then they will not seek to win it. I do not know any law that will compel them to do so, though perhaps the Government could send an army to work the mines. There is one important matter I wish to deal with : Those who are controlling the affairs of this country, in view of the crisis through which we are now passing, should be men of one mind? It is an anomaly that we find them divided, among themselves. Some gentlemen associated with the Cabinet are simply taking cover until the storm blows over, playing the part of camp followers until the battle is done, when, presumably, like other camp followers, they will seek the spoils. I am distinctly opposed to such Conduct. In the present crisis, no persons should shelter behind the situation and stick to the position that happy chance has given them, until the trouble blows over. Their attitude is unmanly; their position is absurd; and, worst of all, their conduct is subversive of good government.
– Is the honorable member ready to take office 1
– I do not want office. I am not looking for it. If it were offered to me. I would not accept it. The Government know me well enough to know that I would not. I have turned things down before, and I can turn them down now. I repeat that the conduct of these gentlemen is subversive of good government. Those who are charged with tremendous responsibilities should .be unanimous in the interest of the country in seeing that those responsibilities are discharged with the very best possible effect. How it can be done when Ministers are not pulling together, I do not know. Perhaps we shall see something later. I consider that there should be a national Government at such a time as this. If there is to bo no party, then let there be no party, and let the affairs of the Commonwealth be in the hands of all parties, with representative men of all parties taking their share, so that, once and for all, factious fighting may cease until the greater enemy is disposed of. Then, if necessary, we can revert to the economic strife which has so distinguished Australia in the past. The proposal of the honorable member for Hunter to meet the financial necessities of the times by taking from every man everything he earns above £400 is further evidence of that primitive predatory instinct from which most men suffer more or less, and is but a degree removed from the proposal many advance to take everything in the form of accumulated wealth and divide it among the community. Such crude solutions of economic difficulties were exploded years ago.
– The suggestion put for”ward has never been tried.
– I refer the honorable member to the history of Paraguay. While the limit of £400 a year seems all right, and will no doubt tickle the ears of some of the constituents of honorable members on this side of the chamber, it will “ cut no ice,” because one of its first effects would be that those who are spending considerable accumulations of wealth would cease to spend, and many of those who are dependent entirely on those who have wealth would no longer participate in that wealth - because it would all be gone. Many big business establishments which are maintained by the well-to-do would not longer be able to keep their hands, or sell the finery, and all the rest of the little make-believes of modern life. I realize that what I am saying is liable to gross misconstruction by many of my fellow members. No one more than myself agrees with the dictum that the disproportionate distribution of wealth is unfair and hard, but I fail to see how legislation of this kind will secure a better distribution of it. On the other hand, it will assuredly shut up the channels ‘ through which it flows. For instance, the war-time profits tax which the Government propose will stop people from making profits as much as they can - in fact, in many quarters it will stop profits entirely. Those honorable members who think that they know everything will say, “ Let the Government control these sources of wealth, and take full charge.” I would like to see some of the gentlemen who talk in this way in charge of some of the modern concerns that require years of training, and not only special knowledge, but also certain qualities of character which those who are loudest in their clamour do not possess. In Australia there is more wealth unproduced than has ever yet been produced, and only proper combination and intelligent co-operation are needed to produce it. Nothing on earth could stop the malcontents from creating all the wealth that they require. They can clear the land, till their fields, and reap their harvests, and no one will say them nay. But they have not the initiative or capacity to do so. In the circumstances, how can they expect those who have initiative and capacity to act the part of benefactors ? It is more than human nature is capable of, or would consent to, to expect it. If I thought that we could “lick” society into shape by legislation, and give every man the full reward of his labour, I would say, “ Do it,” but I know very well that it cannot be done in that way. What is necessary is opportunity more than anything else, and I am all the time with reform that will provide that opportunity. Letus tax the land, so that it will be unprofitable to hold it idle. I believe in providing the freest possible opportunity. But when opportunities do exist, as we know they do in this country, we cannot get men to pull together to work out their own salvation harmoniously, each helping the other. They will not do it. They say, “Make the other fellow fork out.” The accumulation of wealth in the hands of those who have made it by fair means or foul is not nearly as great as that which could be earned by the intelligent co-operation on the part of those who have not any wealth if they would only work together. But at this stage of human development they simply cannot do it; and until individual regeneration takes place, it is useless to seek by legislation to make “ everything in the garden lovely.” The confiscation that I have heard spoken of would mean the cessation of industrial, commercial, and many other classes of undertakings. Those gentlemen who propose it say, “ Let us substitute our own men to run the concerns.” But where are we to get men with the necessary qualifications? Men in my own constituency have said to me, “You are all right, only you ought to be kicked over the border into the nationalization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.” But what could I do then? Who would run everything? What man could comprehend all the ramifications of modern social conditions and their economic aspect ? “ Oh,” my friends say, “ that is for you to do ; “ but I reply, “ The job is too big for me ; it can’t be done.” The honorable member for Dampier said, amongst other things, that there was no country in which such animosity existed between employer and employed as Australia ; and I am sorry to say there is a great deal of truth in the statement. I attribute this largely to the fact, that the industrial community here is in a transition stage. They have that “little knowledge” which is a “dangerous thing.” They see “as through a glass darkly” - and that is why there is suchdiscontent, such endless striving to extract more and more from those whom they would make their unwilling benefactors and always treat as their natural enemies.
– Is the honorable member here because those who voted for him did so with “little knowledge”?
– That is quite likely, although I represent a constituency that is rather renowned for its intellectuality. That is not only my own opinion, but an established fact.
– The honorable member is appealing for the votes he wants to get “ off his own bat.”
– What does the honorable member take me for?
– For what you are - a once-Labour man.
– A “once-Labour man”! I am a better Labour man than those around me. I did not get hereby “tickling the ears of the groundlings,” andI never promised more than I could perform. I never filled the electors with visions of Utopia, and, therefore, I am not like others who have found that they cannot accomplish what they promised and set out to do. I came in here as a Labour man, not because I said too much, but because I said the right thing. I told the electors the distinct limitations of Government action, and how much depends on themselves. I never ceased to point out to them that there is no royal highway to economic salvation, but that they have to begin with their own individuality - that nothing can take the place of a man’s own self, and that which is within him so far as reform and regeneration are concerned - and until Democracy learns that truth it will continue to flounder. That is how I came into this House, not because I talked like some of those who have come from hotbeds of Socialism, but-
– You accepted the platform.
– Yes, I accepted the platform, and when it is sought to alter that platform I resent the attempt. I made a contract with the people, and I refuse to vary that contract. Those who are now opposed to me have taken, as it were, a cheque from me for £100, and, having added a nought, they tell me that it is my cheque, and that I must honour it. I do not intend to stand that sort of thing. Those who do may bark as much as they like, but I take my stand on another plane, and I shall have nothing to retract when I go before my electors. The honorable member for Maribyrnong dealt particularly with the arsenal question. I have no objection to the establishment of an arsenal, but my point is that more attention should have been paid to the Munitions Factory that already existed. In the past I have dwelt at some length on the unjust conditions imposed on the town of Lithgow, particularly in reference to the Small Arms Factory there. This Government, to its shame, have exacted from that town all the co-operation that the lawabiding citizens could give. Those citizens have been induced to house 500 or 600 more people than the town can naturally accommodate, and then the edict has gone forth from an ill-advised Public Works Committee that the factory is to be removed to Canberra. No effort is made to accommodate those extra hands, which are an incubus on the people, and for whom the people did all they could in the interests of their country. Even to-day the congestion in Lithgow is terrible, and the effect, .in deterring people from building, and in the creation of unhealthy conditions, is very badly felt. Before we talk about an arsenal; and fiddle with new schemes, let us put our house in order. If we are sending extra machinery to Lithgow, let us house properly, not only that machinery, but the people who have to work it. The first (consideration of a Labour Government should be the accommodation of employees; if there is one thing they should be concerned about it is the provision of proper living conditions. The herding together of people, with narrow back yards and other insanitary surroundings, is more fruitful of social evils than anything else. Yet we find such conditions amongst those who, at this vital juncture, are con tributing most important aid to ourselves’ and our Allies. It is high time the Government woke up. On every occasion that I ask a question about this matter, I am told that it is being inquired into, or that progress is being made; but nothing is done, and the shadow continues to hang over the town, which has done more than its duty by the Government and the country. Nothing can be done, because the Government are going to move the factory. I promised the Government that I would never cease harrying them on this question, and I never shall until something is done; and if for nothing else, I hope to see a change of Government which shall lead to the intellectual guidance of the affairs of the country at this particular time. Nothing could be worse than to threaten an industry that is absolutely essential to us, and at the same time send more machinery, and call upon it for an increased output. It is high time we had a change. The honorable member for Dampier referred to another aspect of the situation when he referred to the company laws now obtaining here. Under the War Precautions Act a limitation has been placed on the promotion of companies, and on the enterprise of the people, to an extent that, in my opinion, is too great. With the honorable member for Dampier, I realize that the Government are on dangerous ground when they undertake to find out whether the venture will be profitable or not. I recognise the difficulty there; but I think the Government, when they get reliable reports from accredited men could, at least, encourage development, more particularly in the production of gold, which is the one commodity we require above all. I have been drawn into some of these matters, and I have been surprised at the attitude of the Treasurer on the question. Amongst other things, when I endeavoured to secure certain rights for certainpeople, and suggested that the money to be raised should be put into the war loan first of all - allowing the financing to be done on the bonds, and thus giving the Government at least something - I waa told that it was not a question of war” loan, but of protecting the investor. It ‘ waa useless for me to point out that, so far as I knew, the investor was well able to take care of himself. There was no attempt to approach the general public. Those who were participating in certain ventures, finding all the money and supplying the necessary data, were prepared, as moneyed men, to risk the loss themselves, and give the Government the benefit of all the capital that was raised for the ventures; and yet we were told that that could not be done. When the interested parties are prepared to stand any loss, and when all that can be ascertained as to the ventures is of a favorable nature, when they are supported by men of undoubted stability and credentials, the Government, by a teo harsh handling, of the situation, are only losing the chance to increase the circulation of wealth. I hope that something will be done, particularly in regard to gold-mining, for personally I wish to -see the country get all that is required. I Have no hesitation in saying that if the Government and the country require everything I possess they are welcome to it in this hour of trial; and I think that is the view of every decent citizen in Australia to-day. For that reason, I believe the proposals of the Government will be accepted by the people, though, ‘ of course, there would still be dissatisfied extremists. There are those, amongst others, who have been making their own circulation, and, on the other hand, there are, probably, moneybags, who will have their objections. The man who hoards his money, and not the man who spends it, is the menace. The man who is enterprising, who employs and co-operates with others, is doing good in thus keeping the wheels of industry moving ; but the man who, as some have done, locks up his gold in the safe deposits of the country, is a menace, and must needs be dealt with in order that his wealth may be utilized. I do not say that such money should be confiscated, but the owner should, at least, be made to contribute the whole to the loan fund.
– Do not men who have money place it in the banks so that it may be used by others?
– I am not referring to such men as that, because there can be no objection to a man who, satisfied with bank interest, allows his money to be utilized by others. I am referring to the man who locks up his golden sovereigns in the safe deposit.
– Such men are infinitesimal in number.
– But I happen to know some such men, and the amount involved runs into hundreds of thousands of pounds.- These are cases that require special treatment. As for the rest of the community, I believe that things will go well. At the same time, I hope that before many days have passed we shall see a cessation of party strife in this country, and the country’s affairs, for the remainder of the term of war, placed in hands that will make strife impossible.
– I listened yesterday with a great deal of interest to the statement by the Treasurer. While his figures indicating increased taxation in many directions are simply staggering, I am of opinion that the people of Australia were prepared for a very heavy increase of burdens in order that the war might be prosecuted to a successful issue. They regard that issue as of such vital importance to this country, and indeed to all civilization, that however great the price of success may be, the result will be worth it all. I believe that the people who will be called upon under these proposals to pay a larger portion of war taxation will do so cheerfully, but those burdens are of such a gigantic character that the taxpayers will insist that there should be, on the part of the National and State Governments, a wise, discreet, but nevertheless considerable economy in every direction. I regret to say that there are no evidences of such economy in connexion with either the National Government or any State Government. On the civil side of our activities we are looking extravagently at the future, whereas we ought to be setting our financial house in order; and wherever economy and retrenchment are possible we should recognise the extreme necessity for practising it. I do not advocate such economy as means stopping a great part of the public works of the country, and I do not advocate a retrenchment such as would mean putting men out of work and filling the streets with unemployed; but there is room for considerable economy in connexion with all the Governments of Australia, possibly running into millions of pounds a year, without destroying efficiency and creating an army of unemployed. We should remember that, particularly in big centres, we are experiencing a boom time, because of the expenditure by the Defence Department. Last year upwards of £40,000,000 of loan money was expended for war purposes, a large proportion of it in the Commonwealth. The war provision made by the Treasurer this year represents an increase of 70 or 80 per cent, on last year’s figures. In the cities we have had a distribution of millions of ‘pounds of borrowed money, not only such as we have never known before, but such as was never dreamed of before. Those millions of pounds expended by the Defence Department ought to assist us very considerably in providing work for everybody, and ought to enable us to cut down the civil expenditure from both revenue and loan. Yet we are providing for expenditure on the civil side from revenue and loan money at a rate in excess of any previous expenditure. In my opinion, this Parliament has not the grip on the public expenditure that it ought to have, and what is true of this Parliament is true of all the State Parliaments.
– I think there ought to be more honorable members present [Quorum formed.]
– There ought to be a considerable reduction of the expenditure throughout the Commonwealth, but particularly for public works which are not an immediate necessity, and which do not show any real prospect of returning .interest on the money borrowed. For many of these public works the State Governments, through the influence of the National Government, are appealing to the Mother Country for money, and such appeals at this time of supreme crisis for the Empire, simply mean that these Governments are living on the Imperial authorities, whom they should be doing everything in their power to assist, instead of increasing the crushing burdens placed upon them. In Federal expenditure there is room for very considerable economy, because we are not only undertaking expenditure in regard to works which are not immediately necessary, but we are not controlling that expenditure, and securing economy as we ought to_ do it. Several big works are being carried on by the Federal Government, and I desire to refer briefly to the present position of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway. Honorable members know that ever since the commencement) of the construction of that line, I have tried in this House in vain to get a proper business statement placed before us, showing the progress of the work, its cost, whether it was being carried out within the estimate, and if the estimates were being exceeded, how, and to what extent. I have repeatedly asked that Parliament should be informed what the KalgoorliePort Augusta railway would cost when finally completed, but the giving of the information has always been deferred. We have had no’ business statement of a tangible character put before us, and it has been very evident that no such statements have been put before the Minister by the officers responsible for the construction of this work, involving the expenditure of many millions of pounds.
– Are many officers responsible-?
– One would not think so, when one reads some of the minutes that have been written, and recollects how little information the Ministerial head of the Department from time to time has had. To-day, at my request, I have at last been supplied with a memorandum by the Constructing Engineer, Mr. Bell, containing an estimate of what this work is likely to cost. He says -
I have now to advise that the estimated cost to complete the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway from the 30th June, 1916, up to which date I gave the cost as £4,255,961 17s. lid., is £1,810,879 9s. 9d. The amount is net, after allowing for credit upon completion of the line.
If those two amounts are added together the total net expenditure on the railway is to be over £6,000,000. To-day, a printed statement from the EngineerinChief was laid on the table of the House by the Minister for Home Affairs. Having had only an hour to peruse it, I am not in a position to deal extensively and accurately with it to-day. I am still very much dissatisfied with the conditions obtaining in regard to the construction of this railway. To begin with, the estimate of over £6,000,000 must be increased by the rolling-stock by the amount of £804,000. That puts a different complexion on it altogether. Some portion of that £804,000 is no doubt involved in rolling-stock on the spot and rolling-stock -ordered. The statement, as a whole, when printed, ought to be scrutinized very carefully by honorable members, because it is the first attempt at big railway construction by the Federal Government, and in spite of reports submitted to this House to-day, I maintain, as I have on many previous occasions, that the general management from beginning to end has been anything but creditable. If this is to be an example of public works construction by the National Government, it will prove one of the most powerful arguments against Unification, which some honorable members of this House appear desirous of consummating. The fact of the matter is, the ‘Home Affairs Department, as the authority controlling the construction of this line, has been endeavouring through its Engineer-in-Chief and other officers to build, from Melbourne, a railway situated 1,000 miles away. It is utterly impossible to do that, and at the same time expect efficiency. The adoption of the daylabour system, uncontrolled and undisciplined, and its operation so far distant from Melbourne, could only hay e- one possible result, namely, to bleed the taxpayers of Australia to an enormous extent. In the earlier stages of its construction the telegraph lines were kept busily engaged, and the public were pretty well excluded during business hours from telegraphic facilities, because the Railway Department officials monopolized the wires with urgent telegrams between Fort Augusta and Melbourne, and very frequently with regard to the most trivial matters. And they call all this organization and efficiency I As a matter of fact, it has been an awful mistake, leading to confusion and chaos, and I think that at last even the Treasurer is realizing the magnitude of this problem, for he told the House yesterday, what I have preached since the inauguration of this scheme, namely, that this railway should not be regarded as a commercial venture, but rather as a railway chiefly for defence purposes. Having that acknowledgment as a guiding principle, I maintain that the capital, cost of the railway ought to have been kept down to a minimum. While the road should be good and well built to admit of fast traffic - because outside its defence aspect it is intended as a route to shorten the time in the transit of British mails between Great Britain and Australia - all other facilities in a country with a rainfall of from 5 to 6 inches ought to have been of a pioneer character.
– After the first storm we will hardly be able to find the railway.
– Time will prove that, just as it will prove many other things. Bearing in mind the fact that the railway should have been regarded as a line for defence purposes, all facilities other than those I have mentioned should have been of a temporary character. If, in the course of time, traffic increased, further provision could easily have been made. Unfortunately, the whole of the estimates regarding this railway were furnished on very unreliable data. The estimate of probable revenue and working expenses was prepared as far back as 1903. It was revised in 1906, and further revised in 1909. Honorable members who desire to be informed on this subject should obtain all the papers furnished during those years, and study them carefully. If they do that they will find that the basis on which the revenue was calculated related to a time of unbounded prosperity in Western Australia. That State had enjoyed eight of the greatest boom years that it ever experienced. During that time the population increased by two and a half times; the gold production increased by about nine times - the honorable member for Dampier will correct me if I am wrong - and the revenue expanded enormously. Western Australia during those years attracted male population from every part of the Commonwealth, as well as from the Old World. The State at that time was not self-contained, but drew enormous quantities of supplies and merchandize from the other States, particularly from Adelaide and Melbourne. While the boom lasted any vessel that could be utilized for the coastal trade was commandeered, and all the wharfs at Port Adelaide, Melbourne, and, to a certain extent, at Sydney, were crowded with merchandize for Western Australia. It was on the basis of that prosperity that the engineers from the five States framed their estimate of revenue for the first year of the railway, and they declared that if during the ensuing period there should be a corresponding increase in the general prosperity of Western Australia, they could fairly expect that the railway, ten years after the line was opened, would earn double the revenue received during the first year. Unfortunately, Western Australian prosperity did not continue, and instead of her population increasing by 100 per cent, during the second period referred to, it only increased by about 28 per cent. I regret to say also that there has been a decline in the gold output as well as in the population of the gold centres, which were regarded as contributing factors for the revenue of this railway. I make this statement with much regret, because we would all like to see Western Australia progressing into the front rank of the States of Australia. These, however, are the facts, and they demonstrate conclusively that the estimate of revenue for this railway was very much inflated. The other day I was complaining about departmental extravagance in the matter of locomotive rolling-stock, and the provision made for that stock, and, as a result, the Minister for Home Affairs promised that an impartial inquiry should be undertaken at the earliest possible moment. This promise was fulfilled, and the two experts who made the investigation did not themselves estimate the locomotive requirements. They were not asked to do that. They were given by the Department estimates which had been unrevised from the beginning, and based on the days of golden fortunes and enormous successes in Western Australia that are now a matter of memory. They had to take those data as their guide, and on them tell the Minister what the requirements of the line were. Provision had been already approved by the Government to the extent of £269,000 for permanent shops to deal with locomotives and other rolling-stock, or, at least, the first vote was made available, although it was afterwards withdrawn. The two experts reduced that amount to £32,000 for a temporary provision, which would carry the Government over the first five years or, at least, until time had demonstrated the nature of the traffic likely to be handled. The opinion of railway men in South Australia is that that temporary provision will see them over, not only five years, but a good many five years afterwards.
– That meant a reduction of how much so far as the workshops were concerned ?
– It meant a reduction of £237,000 on the first inflated estimate. They put forward, also, alternative proposals, one - of which I forget the figures - to be used if the expectations of revenue during the second ten years were realized, and the third to be used if the strategic railways suggested for the purpose of linking up the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway with the New South Wales railway system, and covering a longer line than the line now under construction, were built. Even on top of the probable success of the line and of an increasing revenue, and further strategic railways, they recommended an expenditure of only about half of the £269,000 which the Government had approved of on insufficient data - a thing for which we cannot blame the Government.
– Yes, we can.
– We can and we cannot; but I will deal with that later. The rolling-stock has to be added. There is a return now in the hands of the printer which, I suppose, honorable members will be able to get in a week or two ; but, speaking from memory, the cost of rolling-stock up to date, delivered and to be delivered within the next few months, represents £804,000. The experts, in order to determine what workshop provision was necessary, had to go into the question of engine power. Taking the excessive data of the probable traffic and mileage to be run, they estimated that forty engines would meet all the requirements of public traffic for the next ten years, and, I think, for the second ten. They also took into consideration the fact that in that dry country there would be available, particularly in some seasons, a supply of worse than indifferent water to play up with the boilers, and that, therefore, individual engines could not be expected to do the mileage that is expected of a similar engine in good country, where the water available for locomotive purposes is perfect. To meet this drawback, they allowed a margin of eight more engines, thus estimating that forty-eight would be required for the present and for years to come.
– I draw attention to the absence of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– The facts are that there are to-day held by the Department - most of them, I suppose, being in use on the east-west railway - and under construction to be delivered within the next five or six months, an aggregate of seventy-five locomotives. This is for a railway which the experts estimated would require,when in full swing, forty-eight, including a margin of eight, as I have explained. I want honorable members to remember this, and, remembering it, to look up the printed paper, which will be available in a few days)-
– How is it that you know all about it now ?
– I have obtained the information from the Minister, after trying for four years to get it.
– You are using a paper which honorable members have not seen.
– I am using a paper that is here, and which ought to have been here when the honorable member was Minister. I asked for it plenty of times. There has never been a progress report or a real business report that would do credit to a business department or a department of any magnitude in regard to this work until just now. The honorable member and I were trained in the same Parliament, and during our political novitiate we were surrounded by some of the keenest commercial men I have ever known - men who hadthe tenacity of a bloodhound on the track of public expenditure - andhere was no opportunity in any Department in South Australia at that time to spend any considerable sum without all the details being known, not only to the Government, but to Parliament.
– What about the Stores Commission in South Australia years ago?
– That was when the honorable member was a great deal younger than he is now. The stores were put on a satisfactory basis. The stores management in South Australia is very different from that in the Commonwealth to-day. The National Government are spending untold millions, and we have no check over the expenditure such as they have had in South Australia for the last twenty years. I want honorable members to satisfy themselves whether the opinion of the two experts that forty-eight engines were adequate for years to come-
– That is only a matter of opinion.
– I will give the honorable member another opinion that will keep him quiet.
– Only one of them is an engineer.
– The other was a mechanical engineer.
– The other was a surveyor. What does he know about locomotives ?
– If he is a surveyor he is a better engineer than the nonorable member has had on the eastwest line. If the honorable member had had a man of his brains and keenness when he was Minister of that Department he would have had a good deal of information that he ought to have had. I am not blaming the honorable member, because it has been the same ever since the beginning of the construction.
– I am not responsible for the rubbish that was on that road. Your friend, the honorable member for Darwin, who has been filling you up, was responsible.
– Two or three old engines were bought for a song in Queensland, or some other State, and the navvies said they had not strength enough to pull a clucking hen off a nest. I am not troubling about them, because they cost only a few pounds. I am speaking of heavy locomotives of the highest cost and type that have been constructed in the Commonwealth. Instead of getting seventy-five the Government should have got only as many as were necessary at a time when building was the costliest ever known in the history of engineering, leaving the balance to be obtained under more normal conditions later on.
– What about those engines that Mr. Hedges said the water fowls were roosting on ?
– They were the same as I mentioned before. There were only two or three of them, and they cost only theprice of old iron.
– The New South Wales Government sold them for more than they could get new ones for.
– That is not a fact. Let me tell the ex-Minister for Home Affairs that in his Department there was not a mechanical engineer until about twelve months ago. We know mighty little in this House about that railway.
– You have the ablest locomotive engineer in Australia in Mr. Henderson.
– He is a very competent draftsman- an inside man who has never had any outside experience or any knowledge of such a country as has to be catered for on’ the east-west line. If the various Governments or Ministers had sought from South Australia engineers who were not only highly competent, but were familiar with the conditions of the country, instead of going to a garden State for officers, they would have saved, not tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands of pounds in the expenditure upon that railway. The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows the railway track between Broken Hill and Port Pirie. I wish to tell him that just prior to the outbreak of the war the traffic carried over that section of the line reached 1,266,000 tons both ways. That is the biggest tonnage that is carried over any one set of rails anywhere.
– There is not such a paying road anywhere in the world. Any school boy knows that.
– If any schoolboy knows it, I want to tell the honorable member that the number of engines kept at Petersburg to cope with that traffic is forty-five.
– What is the length of the road?
– The length of the road does not matter. It is not a factor which enters into the calculation. The honorable member has only just begun to get his eyes even half opened. It is not a question of what is the length of the road, but of the number of trains that is run daily. Over that section of the line from fifteen to eighteen trains each way are run daily. It is a question of train mileage pure and simple, and the honorable member’s experts ought to have made him wise upon these points. I ask him again if fortyfive engines are sufficient to do the work on that line, and to cope with a traffic of 1,266,000 tons a year - altogether apart from the passenger express traffic - how in the name of conscience will more engines be required to do the business of the eastwest railway for the next twenty, and, possibly, fifty years? Yet, instead of forty-five engines, the Commonwealth has seventy-five. I would also point out that on the Broken Hill line there is not nearly as easy a grade as is to be found on the east-west line, in addition to which 3-ft. 6-in. engines are employed on the former. Seeing that on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway only powerful 4-ft. 8½-in. locomotives will be employed, the
Commonwealth is bound to have a lot of these locomotives idle. If we have such a wonderful locomotive engineer as the honorable member for Hindmarsh claims, that officer ought certainly to be brought to book for this condition of affairs, whilst the man who is in supreme command of the line must also accept the responsibility which rightly belongs to him. I would like honorable members to know that certain land was resumed at Port Augusta for the purposes of railway workshops. The honorable member for Hindmarsh knows all about the matter. I brought it before the House previously.
– What is the honorable member’s trouble? He wants the workshops at Quorn.
– No. My trouble has reference to the taxpayer. My trouble is that the people of South Australia know that there has been an awful, reckless, and wicked waste of public money upon this railway, because they have seen it. Railway men and engineers have seen it, and they say that that waste is without a parallel in any part of Australia. Talk about minutes. Here is one which relates to the resumption of land and houses at Port Augusta at a cost, I think, of £25,000. Two experts say that none of it was required. They affirm that, including this land, the Department has about two and a half times as large an area for railway workshops as have the Victorian Government at Newport. The minute reads -
The responsible Commonwealth railway officers recommended that the Marine Board reserve and other land, Conway Town, Port Augusta, totalling 227 acres, be acquired for Commonwealth railway purposes, site for locomotive sheds, carriage sheds, landing and storage of coal, &c., and urged that it was wise to look well ahead in such matters. Early in 1915 the land was acquired. A considerable part is below high-water mark, and will require to be reclaimed before use.
I have never previously heard of such a minute in connexion with any public Department. We could not find an example like that anywhere. It evidences what has been going on, and I do not hesitate to say that such expenditure would be outrageous even in the most prosperous times, but in times of stress and strain, like the present, when everybody, both rich and poor, are submitting to burdens that are almost too grievous to be borne, it is little short of criminal. It is high time that this national Par- liament demanded a closer scrutiny of public expenditure, both of revenue and of loan moneys.
– What did the Commonwealth pay for that land ?
– Too cheap. The water on it was worth that.
– It was the best investment that the Commonwealth ever made.
– The people of South Australia say that in making such an investment the Commonwealth was stark, staring mad. The finest officers in South Australiadeclare that God only knows why such a conception ever entered into anybody’s mind.
– The South Australian Government ought to have had the Islington workshops at Port Adelaide. The honorable member knows that.
– I know nothing of the kind. I know that the best results are not achieved by the establishment of railway workshops in places possessing the densest population.
– Does the honorable member know that the Commonwealth Railways Department also intended to have workshops at Kalgoorlie?
– Of course I do. Mr. Bell says so. I have the most profound respect for Mr. Bell personally.
– It looks like it.
– I ask the honorable member whether I am to sit in this House and to know that these evils exist without ventilating them, merely because I have a personal regard for the Engineer-in-Chief ? May I remind him that we may have an Engineer-in-Chief of the very highest type as an engineer, and yet he may be the very poorest of business men. I have quoted figures in support of my contention, and I ask honorable members not to think of the individual, but of the country.
– Mr. Bell has forgotten more than all the honorable member’s scarecrows ever knew.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh, when he was Minister for Home Affairs, did not know the merest alphabet of the business in hand. That was the trouble, and, as a result, the taxpayers will have to pay, not a few thousands, but some hundreds of thousands, of pounds. I wish to say that the Minister for Home Affairs, or the officer who is responsible for the construction and running of the railways, ought to have a monthly progress report presented to him as surely as the months come round. If the official in charge of construction does not see that his costings, month- by month, pan out as they ought to - in other words, if they come out on the wrong side, and he does not immediately report the fact to his Minister - he is not good enough for his position. He is not worth the salary that is paid to him, and such an official ought not to be made responsible for big undertakings. Further, if the Minister does not demand a monthly progress report from his responsible officer, and if he is not in a position to tell this Parliament how the public expenditure upon the east-west railway stands at any moment, he is not fit for his office. If any business - I do not care whether it is the biggest and most prosperous business in Australia - were conducted on such rotten lines, it would very soon be in the Insolvency Court.
– The honorable member knows that business people would not have built a railway there at all.
– That is the finest statement that the honorable member has made by interjection. If the interests of thetaxpayers are to be conserved in the construction of this railway, the most expert general manager in railway construction to be found in Australia should be appointed, and he should not be located in Melbourne, but should live on the line. He should submit monthly progress reports concerning the work to the Engineer-in-Chief. It is utterly impossible for an Engineer-in-Chief, who is responsible for all the undertakings of the Commonwealth which come within the purview of his Department, to pay due attention to such a gigantic work when it is 1,000 miles away. What is required is an officer of the highest type - a man of ability and experience in engineering, and particularly in organizing, because the secret of success is in being able to select the right men for the right positions - moving constantly on the line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie. Then, if officers do not justify his expectations, they should be dismissed, and the process should be continued until suitable officers are found. That is how contractors build railways, and that is how they make money, whilst the Government waste it. If we had an officer of great capacity in the position I have suggested, what would be his influence on the 2,000 men who are engaged upon the east-west line? From the engineers, inspectors, and gangers, down to the rank and file, they would know that they had dealing with them an officer who thoroughly understood every detail of the business. What sort of results would flow from such an appointment, compared with the shocking goasyouplease, chaotic conditions that have prevailed from the very first day this big undertaking was commenced? Conditions may have improved a bit since then, but they are bad enough in all conscience today.. There has been no organization and no system. This business ought not to rest here. Honorable members will give me credit for sincerity when I say that to speak in this fashion about public officers is exceedingly painful to me. I do so only from a sense of duty. The South Australian people tell me that I know all about this business, and should say what I know about it. If honorable members would look at the South Australian newspapers from day to day they will see innumerable letters published concerning the conduct of this work. The newspapers have been deluged since the railway started with complaints of the shocking mismanagement, wasteful expenditure, and want of efficiency in the conduct of the work, and not 1 per cent, of those writing to the press take the other view of the matter.
– Because all the rubbish was shot there.
– I may tell the honorable member for Hindmarsh that South Australia generally admired him when, as Minister for Home Affairs, he set his foot down and told the men who were loafing on the job what he thought of them, and informed them that they had “ to get.” That was to the honorable gentleman’s credit.
– What about the engineers who were shot out too?
– The honorable gentleman was perfectly right to shoot them out if they were no good. That is just where the competent manager would come in. He would not care whether a man was an engineer, a ganger, or a labourer; he would not have him if he was incompetent.
– Who was responsible for the rubbish being there?
– The Lord only knows.
– The honorable member knows.
– I know that it was there, and that there were very many inefficient men there.
– During the term of office of the honorable member for Hindmarsh?
– I believe that my friend, the present Minister for Home Affairs, had them there.
– No ; I only appointed Captain Saunders, and he is still there.
– The honorable gentleman appointed Mr. Chinn.
– Yes; and he was the best railway man they ever had on the western side.
– I do not mind saying that Mr. Chinn got more work out of the men than some of the other engineers have been able to get out of them.
– He never got the work out of them that Mr. Darbyshire has been able to get out of them.
– I am satisfied that Mr. Darbyshire is an excellent engineer.
– The honorable member admits that?
– I never said anything else. I have no prejudices about me. We have had an estimate of £6,000,000 as the cost of this line, but with the various credits it will mount up to £7,000,000, and the railway is not to be finished for two years more. The ballasting will cost £1,000,000. Mr. Bell has pinned himself down, for the first time, to a price for finishing this work; and, with the credits, the total cost will be £7,000,000- and wait a bit until it is finished.
– Where is the money to come from?
– Where all the money comes from - from taxation with a vengeance. In regard to discipline and control and the output of work, there is a thing in existence on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, and it has been there from the beginning, which people now politely describe as “ slowing down.” It used to be called “ loafing.” I do not know why it is not called loafing now.
– That is the right name for it.
– There is no doubt that that is the right name for it. Imagine men loafing on a job on which there are being paid the highest rates of wages for labour that are paid anywhere in Australia and perhaps in the world. From some of the gangs we do not get more than 10s. worth of work for every £1 spent upon labour. The honorable member for Hindmarsh was reminded in this House by the present Minister for Home Affairs that during his administration there were sixty-one strikes in. the year. The honorable member replied that he knew that that was so, and that they were all organizers’ strikes. It is true that they were organizers’ strikes, and it is a scandal that such things should be possible in connexion with our public works. We are carrying on our public works by day labour, and our friends opposite scorn the public contractor. Day labour has had a long trial, and while it was pretty bad nearly all the way through, it is awful to-day.
– It has not been convicted yet of what the contractors urge against it.
– It is convicted in the books of every Government in Australia.
– Only in the opinion of those who hold a brief for the contractor.
– It has not been convicted in Queensland.
– It has been convicted in Queensland. We were deceived for years by the statement that railways in Queensland were successfully carried out by day labour. They were never carried out by day labour.
– It is on record by a Liberal Government that they were.
– The very first thing which Mr. Bell, the Commonwealth Engineer-in-Chief, did when he was transferred to the Commonwealth service was to supply a report in which he showed that the Queensland railways were not built by day labour, but by the butty-gang or small contract system, and that day labour was employed only where the other systems could not be effectively adopted. Day labour has had its chance, and while I do not ask honorable members opposite to do away with day labour, if they do not wish to do so, I do ask them to see that the day-labour system is made to toe the mark with the public tendering system. The slowing down business has developed in Australia to such an alarming extent that it is crushing industry and crushing the workers with the rest of the community. If honorable members opposite have such faith as they profess in the day-labour system, why do they not let it go to the test of the public tender?
– There is absolutely no evidence in support of the honorable member’s statement.
– An honorable member who can say that should not be here, where the taxpayers need a man who can protect their interests. There is overwhelming evidence of the truth of my statements in the books of all the Governments of Australia. Any man who will defend the day-labour system after the experiences of the “ Man on the job “ in Melbourne a few years ago, should have himself examined by a doctor.
– There was not a tittle of evidence to support the statements which appeared in the Argus.
– There was the evidence of the eyes of the people. I can refer the honorable member for Fawkner to another instance in support of what I have said. I refer him to the cost of the Commonwealth Offices. The Minister for Home Affairs made an admission in connexion with it by interjection the other day. It was the first time we had got such an admission, and I do not think the honorable gentleman intended to let the secret out. He said that the Commonwealth Offices cost about double the price at which the State Government offered to build them.
– Not quite.
– I will allow my honorable friend that qualification, and then I ask the honorable member for Fawkner what he has to say to the Minister’s statement? The New South Wales Minister for Works might make such admissions until he was blue in the face, and yet he would not get through the list of similar instances in that State. The experience has been the same in Western Australia, and wherever the daylabour system has been tried. The taxpayers have been squeezed to death to keep it going.
– What remedy does the honorable member suggest?
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the taxpayers of Australia are any worse’ off. to-day than they were when public works were constructed by contractors?
– Yes, and the industries of the country are worse off. I tell the honorable member who, as a Protectionist, wishes to develop the industries ,of the country that he may have any kind of Tariff he pleases, but if we do not get a quid pro quo for the money we pay for labour we shall never be able to develop our industries. We cannot hope to develop them if we get only 15s. worth of work for every £1 paid for labour.
– Is it a fact that the day-labour system has been abandoned in the Northern Territory for the buttygang system ?
– We never had the day-labour system in the Northern Territory.
– I am delighted to hear the honorable member for Hindmarsh say that we never had the day-labour system in the Northern Territory. It is so far away from the political pressure which can be exercised in the big centres of population that evidently the Government could do a little bit with the butty-gang system on the quiet. They are not game to do it in the big centres where political influence and pressure is adding 25, 30, and, in some cases, 50 per cent, to the cost of our public works.
– It is the public contractor’s complaint that he is not allowed to do a little bit on the quiet as he used to be able to do.
– If I had the time I could tell the honorable member for Fawkner all that he wants to know about the contractor. He should remember that there is in the public contractor, as there is in himself, a good deal of human nature. It is always necessary to watch him, and those who do not watch him do not know their business. The excess of expenditure over estimates in the case of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway is not all accounted for by the slowing down business. There are some men on that job who do not slow down. If we had a good man in charge the slow down men would have to go, and I should have no objection to the continuance of the day-labour system so long as it gave satisfactory results. The Minister for Home Affairs asked me whether I can suggest a remedy. I can. It is that an inquiry should be undertaken, not by a Judge of the Supreme Court, but by practical men. Mistakes innumerable have been made on that railway, and are buried up to-day. We shall never know what they were, or what they cost, unless the business is inquired into by two practical men. One should be a keen accountant, and the other a railway engineer. And they should be given the schedules for all the sections of that railway from A to Z, and the costing returns. These should be available, and practical men should be appointed, with the schedules and costing returns before them, to go right through the workLet them go to the engineers, inspectors, and other responsible officials, armed with costings and schedules, and say to them, ‘ We wish to have your explanation of these so that we may know where blame attaches.” If that were done, a considerable discrepancy between the expense of the work done by the navvy and the whole cost given to Parliament would be discovered. There is superimposed on the expenditure for navvies’ work, engineering, and other charges which amount to an enormous overhead loading. There are 100 clerks between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie.
– At Cockatoo Island there is a clerk for every twenty men.
– The proportion of clerks to other employees on the transcontinental railway is staggering. When Messrs. Bavey, Brooks and Frazer built the railway from Port Augusta to Hergott, through the Pitchie Ritchie Pass, and across very rough country, they employed only six clerks. In addition to the cost of the clerical staff, there is the cost of the Stores Branch and of the Melbourne office.
– When a contractor is doing work for the Government you have to put on an inspector for every man.
– Nothing of the kind. I know what happens, because I have controlled a number of works. I appeal to honorable members for a thorough investigation of this matter so that we may find out where the money has gone. Mr. Bell says that the original estimates were incomplete.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Thartj statement cuts both ways. Some estimates were too low and others too high. I ask honorable members to carefully analyze Mr. Bell’s returns, noting the increases and the decreases. I have not time to do that now, but I intend to go thoroughly into the matter, and if Mr. Bell’s case is no better than I anticipate I intend to deal with his report when the House meets again. I know the character, prestige, and status of the men responsible for the original estimates. They were, first, the engineers-in-chief of Australia, and, later, the South Australian engineer and Mr. Deane. Nowhere iri the world would you find a stretch of 1,060 miles of country more easy for railway construction. A tremendous lot of the waste that has occurred has been due to inexperience, inefficiency, and bad management. That kind of thing should be stopped.
.- I think that honorable members must feel very pleased with the new taxation proposals. We on this side are satisfied with them.
– I am not.
– I do not think it would be possible to satisfy the honorable member. The manner in which the Opposition has received these proposals is surprising. Not one man on that side has spoken in disapproval of them. We all know that this is not likely to be the last attempt by the Treasurer to increase taxation, because it is apparent that more money will be needed for the prosecution of the war. We believe that more money is available, and that those who have it wish to hold on to it longer in the hope of getting higher interest. The right honorable member for Swan, who followed the Treasurer, did not criticise the new taxation proposals. He merely dealt with the method suggested by the honorable member for Hunter for the raising of money. The manner in which the Opposition has accepted these proposals justifies the conclusion that additional taxation, when proposed, will be equally acceptable.
– If necessary.
– It will be necessary for the prosecution of the war and for the development of our resources after the war. I trust that the people of the country will continue their generous subscriptions. There have been many references on this side to the conscription of wealth, and to raise £10,000,000 for the Repatriation Fund, the Government has taken a step towards the conscription of wealth by a levy of1½ per cent. on private property.
– Every tax is the conscription of wealth. Citizens are not asked to subscribe voluntarily to the revenue.
– The Government would not get sufficient if they were. We have reason to be grateful to those who have subscribed liberally for war purposes, but there are many who have not done what they could have done in this matter. In my opinion, we are only beginning what will have to be done to raise money to meet the obligations imposed by the war. As to the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter, I do not think that it would be agreeable to many honorable members to live on £400 a year; but our financial obligations can only be met by taxation such as that proposed by the Treasurer. I trust, however, that his estimates of revenue have not been exaggerated. In my opinion, he will not get £1,000,000 from his tax on war profits, although many business houses have done very well during the past twelve or eighteen months.
– The shipping companies have made half that amount.
– They may have done so. I am not in their secrets, as the honorable member seems to be. Many of the vessels that used to ply along our coast have been taken away, and although, no doubt, every vessel is making profits for its owners, I do not think that the gross profits will amount to so much as the honorable member suggests. Nor do I think that the amusement tax will yield £1,000,000 within six months, or £2,000,000 per annum. I am afraid that the estimate’ of its yield was made by some one who is hardly acquainted with the facts. The 25 per cent, increase of the income tax will probably give the amount estimated, though, in my opinion, there should not have been an all-round increase in the manner proposed. Some firms in the Commonwealth are making a profit of £100,000 a year. The Brisbane Tramway Company, for instance, made a profit last year of over £150,000, and I think that the increase in the income tax should have been graduated so that a greater amount of revenue could be obtained from those in a position to pay it. However, we can wait, and if the return is not satisfactory, we can re-arrange the tax so as to compel these people to pay a greater proportion of their profits to the Commonwealth. Many honorable members opposite find fault with the Government’s proposals for additional expenditure on new works, but unless the Government are prepared to proceed with new works that are necessary for extending the Commonwealth’s activities in many centres, we can hardly, in face of the proposed taxation, expect the private individual who has money at his disposal, and is anxious to adopt a new calling, to do so. Although honorable members opposite object to the expenditure of £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in this direction, they are pleased to note that the money is to be spent for the purpose of completing our defence system, which is so inadequate for the requirements of the Commonwealth. Some of the money is to be spent on drill halls, and on completing works at the Federal Capital; and after hearing the honorable member for Maribyrnong last night so eloquently giving full details as to the great necessity for an arsenal, I am sure honorable members will admit that the Government are taking the right course. The absence of an arsenal prevents us from carrying out work of the most primitive character. As the new taxation is likely ‘to create a feeling of fear in the minds of business people, and as private expenditure is likely to be curtailed in every possible way, the Commonwealth will experience a period of great hardship, and there will be many unemployed, unless the Government set an example by spending money on new works. Unfortunately, further taxation will probably have to be imposed in order to meet the heavy expenditure which will have to be faced within the next year or two.
– This speech is worthy of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– Unfortunately, the Government have not seen fit to make provision for very many urgent works. They have limited their new expenditure to Naval and Military works, whereas there are many post-offices which are urgently required, and in reference to which many promises have been made by Ministers since the outbreak of the war. When the Hon. Agar Wynne was PostmasterGeneral he purchased sites for post-offices in South Brisbane and Wynnum, and his successors have both visited Brisbane for the purpose of inspecting these sites with a view to proceeding with the buildings, but, so far, no step has been taken to erect them. The suburb of South Brisbane has progressed considerably during the last few years, both from a business and residential point of view, but the people have no postoffice, and the telephone service is very inadequate because of the congestion at the Brisbane General Post-office; in fact a new exchange has been promised for a long time. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give some heed to the necessity for this work. I hope also that he will carry out the promise made by the Department to build a postoffice at Wynnum. The municipal council has presented several urgent requests for the prosecution of the work, but this rapidly -growing district is still without a post-office, because the PostmasterGeneral has said that he does not intend to build new offices until the conclusion of the war. I hope that he will not turn a deaf ear to these requests. The Public Works staff at Brisbane is not wholly occupied now that the Government are not proceeding with necessary works, but apart from this aspect of the question, we are likely to have a great army’ of unemployed among men over military age in the building trade in Brisbane. Early last season the Queensland Government” felt’ that they were unable to handle the > sugar question as satisfactorily as the Commonwealth Government perhaps could, and as the result of the representations that were made, the Commonwealth Government came to a decision to purchase the whole of last season’s crop, as well as that of the approaching season. It was thought that greater benefits would accrue to the farmer as well as to the consumers. At the time the men who were employed in the industry complained that they were not being paid a sufficient wage to enable them to live in decent comfort. The Queensland Government, with the object of meeting the situation, allowed a case to be stated before Acting Judge Dickson, and, having heard the arguments from each side, from the men as well as from the growers and the mill-owners, he came to the conclusion that, owing to the high cost of living occasioned by circumstances over which they had no control, the men should have increased wages. He said that he was not so much concerned with the conditions under which the industry might pay as he was with what it cost the men to live in the areas where they were working. Probably he believed that some adjustment might take place in connexion with the price of sugar, or in some other way quite foreign to his inquiry, and in which he was not concerned in giving his decision. Consequently we have an award with which it is impossible to comply. The honorable member for Wide Bay suggested that the Commonwealth Government should raise the price of sugar to the consumers.
– I did not suggest that.
– I understood the honorable member to do so.
– I suggested that the price should be raised to the grower, and that the Treasurer should hand over the profit made out of sugar grown and sold in Australia.
– That would really mean an increase of price to the consumer.
– We do not know what profit the Treasurer is making.
– He is supposed to be making a profit of £5 a ton.
– And expects to make a total profit of £500,000.
– The Government cannot be expected to depart from the agreement made with the Queensland Government. Of course, we know that the Government are making a profit,1 because they propose to expend it in connexion with the importation of the necessary sugar. If the industry has to be maintained, the difficulty must be got over in some way.
– The honorable member will admit that the Government are making a profit out of white-grown sugar to pay for the introduction of black-grown sugar.
– I am not going to admit anything on that score.
– It is a fact.
– Whether it is a fact or not, the profit may be necessary in connexion with the importation of the necessary sugar.
– On account of the drought ?
– Probably. But I am afraid that we ‘have not sufficient land under cultivation to supply Australian requirements.
– Under normal conditions we have.
– We have only supplied our own requirements on one occasion. However, the Federal Government are not going to sacrifice the agreement in any way. There are ways out of the difficulty, but those ways are blocked by the Queensland Legislative Council.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– I am sorry I cannot agree with the idea of the honorable member for Wide Bay that the Federal Government should use the War Precautions Act for the purpose of compelling the Queensland Government to (repeal the Dickson award. I cannot think that that would be a proper course to adopt. The honorable member can hardly have considered the question, or he would not propose Unification to the extent he has, for there is no doubt that the exercise of such a power would be the first step to Unification.
– If the Federal Government had the power, do you think it would’ be necessary to raise the price to the consumer?
– I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details to be able to say. I do not favour the Federal Government taking power from any one State, unless they take it from the whole of the States, a step which might prove of great benefit; to the Commonwealth as a whole.
Many honorable members are of opinion that if there had been Unification, the present trouble would not have arisen, for then the Federal Parliament would have had full control over the industry, and could have taken any steps necessary.
– If the Federal Government were faced with such an award, what could they do?
– I feel confident that the Federal Parliament would be able to handle the matter in a way that would be satisfactory in every respect; but I am not in the secrets of the Administration, and cannot say what they would do. We have the assurance of the Government that, if the Queensland Parliament will pass the Commonwealth Powers Bill, they are prepared to meet the situation. That Bill has already been passed by the Legislative Assembly, but it is impossible to say what action the Legislative Council may take. If the Legislative Council should hold up this industry, and the position is as serious as honorable members opposite, and I also, think, we cannot say what is likely to occur. According to the financial statement of the Treasurer, it has been suggested that the Inter-State Commission should make inquiries, in the hope of a solution.
– And in the meantime the Dickson award should be suspended.
– To do that, the Government would have to move under the War Precautions Act.
– The Government took possession of the sugar under that Act.
– With the consent of the Queensland Parliament.
– But not with the consent of the growers.
– The arrangement was agreeable and satisfactory to the growers.
– Yes, providing they could get enough to live on.
– This Parliament is anxious and willing to meet the situation if the Queensland Government and Parliament will give the necessary powers. I am sure, however, that the honorable member for Wide Bay is neither anxious nor desirous that this Government should usurp in any way the functions of any State Government.
– The State has passed over the sugar to the Commonwealth.
– The State has sold the whole of the crop to the Commonwealth; but, until the Queensland Parliament passes the Powers Bill, we shall still have the present unsatisfactory position. I am hopeful that the atmosphere will be cleared in the near future, for the more land we can induce the cane farmers to put under cultivation the greater benefit will accrue to the community generally. If the Federal Government were to resort to the War Precautions Act, they might have to meet other cases in a similar way elsewhere, in which case the powers of the State Governments would be absolutely destroyed.
– Do you admit that, if the Government had not interfered, the growers, during the war, could have got sufficient money for their sugar without any aid, and have even complied with the award ?
– I do not think it would have been advisable for the Government not to interfere under the circumstances. I agree that, not only the cane farmer, but the butter producer, has suffered greatly, the latter from a long and severe drought, and that, immediately he was in a position to put a little of hia produce on the market, the Governments of the States practically commandeered it, and paid him what they chose. This practically ruined many farmers, and it will take years for them to recover. I think it was necessary to have some regulations in the Commonwealth in regard to prices, for otherwise the farmers would not have got as much as they are getting to-day. In the absence of such regulations, there are people in the Commonwealth who would have made immense sums of money by trading in produce during the war period.
– The Cane Boards Act would have prevented that.
– Then why say that the farmers would have got considerably more for their cane ?
– They could not do it after the Government had got possession.
– The cane-grower was satisfied with the price he was getting, providing the conditions were the same, or, perhaps, a little better than they were at the time the agreement was entered* into. We all agree that the award is absolutely ridiculous, having regard to the prices which the grower is to receive for his produce, and I am hopeful that the question will be settled in the near future. Both cane-growers and dairy farmers have declared that they are going out of business j but this they cannot do, and, therefore, more attention should be paid to those industries, and further encouragement given to their promotion. I hope the Queensland Legislative Council will agree to the Commonwealth Powers Bill, so as to enable the Federal Government to take full and absolute control of the sugar industry. We are all delighted, I am sure, at the news that an extra 2s. 6d. is to be paid to old-age pensioners, and, like other honorable members on this side, I am anxious to know when the increase is to be carried into effect. In this connexion the Treasurer has incurred a liability of £875,000, and if he were to agree to pay the full pension to the blind, irrespective of their earnings, it would not have amounted to another £100,000 per annum. Every one will admit, I think, that the blind are as fully entitled to the full pension as are the aged and invalid people. Many of these blind people lost their sight in the development of this country and in following useful occupations. The Government are not doing the right thing by these people in denying them their full pension. Many blind people will not benefit by the increased pensions which the Government have decided, to give to the aged and invalids. A blind man who is in receipt of a full pension of 10s. may be earning an additional 10s., but the increase of 2s. 6d. per week will not be paid to him, because his income at present is £1 per week.
– That is not so in Victoria.
– The law is the same throughout the Commonwealth. If a man earns 15s. per week, his pension is limited to 5s., and if he earns 17s. 6d. he receives only 2s. 6d. by way of pension. I had occasion recently to support the application of a man for a pension. The authorities in the Brisbane office said that as he was earning 17s. 6d. per week, he could receive only 2s. 6d. I referred the matter to the Treasurer, and he supported that view ; but as the applicant thought it was not fair, he refused to accept the 2s. 6d. The blind people are not in great numbers throughout the Commonwealth, and I think only £70,000 or £80,000 per annum would be required to pay all of them a full pension, but as many of them are already in receipt of the pension, the additional outlay might be very small indeed. Many of those persons who go to the institutions, or elsewhere, in order to make a livelihood, have to pay a boy a few shillings a week to lead them to and from the scene of their operations. I am sure the Government have not given serious consideration to these proposals, otherwise they would not hesitate” to grant a pension that has been so repeatedly asked -for by honorable members in this Chamber. A vote of honorable members would show that a majority of them are very agreeable that the Government should pay to the blind people a full pension, irrespective of outside earnings.
– It will require an amendment of the Act.
– So long as the Treasurer promises that an amendment will be introduced, we will be quite agreeable to have the Bill before us on the reassembling of the House. Another matter with which I wish to deal is the restriction which the Treasurer has placed on the flotation of companies. - I am at a loss to understand how people are to make any money for the purpose of subscribing to the war loan, as the Treasurer desires them to do, if the operations of business are to be prevented in this way. Many applications have been made to the Treasurer for permission to form companies which would create much employment, and afford relief to persons who are now looking for work, but, so far, the Treasurer has not agreed to the flotation of any new companies.
– I do not think I have refused 5 per cent, of the applications.
– I know a few which the Treasurer has refused, and which, in my opinion, he1 might legitimately have granted. We shall want many of these new companies in operation in” the near future, because many of those which are in existence to-day are likely to restrict their operations on account of the new taxation which the Government propose. We should welcome any new companies that would be likely to increase employment, because, on account of the increased income tax, and the impost on war profits, and the uncertainty as to what may happen in future, many firms may decide to curtail operations, leading to the creation of a big army of unemployed in the Commonwealth. I hope the Treasurer will give a little more consideration to the desires of people who are ready to invest capita] in new concerns.
Mr. GROOM (Darling Downs) [6.3J. - I think there is a general consensus of opinion that the sugar industry is in such a critical position that there ought to be no delay in dealing with it. Every hour of delay in tackling . the matter must mean very heavy financial losses, both to the growers and to the people of the Commonwealth as a whole. The suggestion made by the honorable member for Oxley is not likely to lead to a quick and practicable solution of the difficulty. He suggested that the Queensland Parliament ought to be asked to transfer to the Commonwealth all the powers asked for under the referendum proposals, in order that the Commonwealth Government might be enabled to deal with the industry as a. whole. How long would it be before that could be accomplished ? The Treasurer has spoken very sympathetically in regard to this industry, and if there is any man in Australia who knows the necessity for prompt action in this matter it is the Minister. The industry has been hung up for a considerable number of weeks, mills are closed down, cane is not being cut, hundreds of men are out of employment throughout the towns in the sugargrowing districts, and the Queensland Government have had to go to their assistance and grant relief, whilst the merchants in the towns dependent upon the industry are in a state of grave anxiety. Injury to the’ sugar industry does not involve only the 20,000 people engaged in the industry itself. That injury affects also towns like Bundaberg, Mackay, Cairns, and Maryborough, and the whole of the coastal shipping trade. Yet neither the State Government nor the Federal Government appear to be expediting a solution of the crisis.
– Is the honorable member of opinion that the majority of people in the various sections affected by the award would be willing to accept an inquiry by the Inter-State Commission?
– I shall deal with that question. It is essential that something should be done immediately. It is an utterly hopeless and impracticable suggestion, and one grossly unfair to the sugar industry, that we should mix up the solution of the present difficulty with a big constitutional question involving the surrender of wide powers to the Commonwealth, and involving, also, probably a conflict between the two Houses of the Queensland Legislature. We desire a settlement of the trouble quickly, and the suggestion to throw on the Legislative Council of Queensland the responsibility for the failure of the industry, if it will not consent to transfer the whole of the powers asked for by the Commonwealth, is too patent a political trick to be worthy of consideration. That is not a fair and proper method of dealing with this industry ; I speak in the interests of the workers as well as the growers.
– The Prime Minister suggested that.
– If the honorable member will look at the report of the interview between the Treasurer of Queensland and the Prime Minister, he will see that the Prime Minister in the course of his remarks said that if those powers were transferred to the Commonwealth, the Federal Government would be willing to consider the question in all its aspects, but he could hold out no hope of an increase in the price of sugar to the consumer. While we are debating this big crisis, the trouble in the industry is intensifying, and loss is being borne by the workers and the growers. I believe the Treasurer is anxious to effect a peaceful solution of the problem, and the last paragraph of his statement regarding the sugar crisis reads -
The Government have been asked to invite the Inter-State Commission to inquire into and report upon the crisis, and are willing to do so, providing that the agreements entered into between the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the Millaquin Sugar Refining Company are not to come under review.
Practically he has made an agreement with the Queensland Government fixing the price of raw sugar at £18 a ton, and is willing that the Inter-State Commission should report on the whole dispute, leaving out of the scope of its investigation the propriety of the price so fixed. This £18 is to be divided between the workers, the cane growers, and the sugar manufac- turers. The Treasurer iswilling that the Inter-State Commission should report upon the present dispute . We are all concerned in getting a speedy solution of the difficulty. Necessarily the award of Acting Judge Dickson must come under review. According to Queensland papers, the Treasurer of the State views investigation by the Inter-State Commission as a possible solution. I wish, therefore, to ascertain whether the Treasurer of the Commonwealth has merely announced his willingness to have this matter submitted to the Commission, or has stated that he intends to take definite action to that end, and has submitted a proposal to the State Government for adoption or rejection. It is most important to all connected with the industry that action should be taken at once, and the Commonwealth Government should, in tne interests of the community at large, try to come to terms with the State Government in the matter.
– The Commonwealth Government has not been asked by all the parties to interfere, and I desire to know from the honorable member whether he is satisfied that a majority of each party concerned would be willing to accept the Inter-State Commission as an intermediary ?
– I certainly cannot speak with authority for the employees, but I have reason to believe that the producers would be satisfied with the arrangement proposed . It is for the Government, which has the responsibility of the administration of the laws of the country for the benefit of the whole community, to take the initiative, when big interests are at stake, to see if justice cannot be done to all parties. If the Government is satisfied that one of the parties would welcome the course proposed, they might approach the other parties to ascertain their views. Apparently the Treasurer of Queensland is willing to consider investigation by the Inter-State Commission, with a view to obtain a solution of the difficulty in the manner indicated
– The Premier of Queensland is acquainted with the views of this Government, and it is possible that he is making inquiries on the lines suggested by the question I put to the honorable member.
– I am glad to hear that. I hope that there will be an early decision. Expedition is much to be desired. Acting Judge Dickson collected evidence from all parts of the State, and the report of that evidence could be put before the Inter-State Commission. The evidence could, if necessary, be supplemented by a further examination. The Commission could quickly be put into possession of the facts of the case.
– Would it take fresh evidence ?
– I think that it would’ be found that sufficient evidence has been taken to enable it to form an impartial judgment.
– It might ask that a representative of each interest should address it.
– I think that it would be well for the Commission to have before it Mr. Crawford and Mr. Martyn, if they are available. Whatever is done should be done expeditiously.
– The Inter-State Commission could visit Brisbane.
– Yes. I do not think that it has duties to perform here whose urgency would prevent that. In the meantime, the Treasurer might get the consent of all parties to the continuation of operations under Judge MacNaugh ton’s award until the matter was finally settled. The Inter-State Commission could consider, in view of all the circumstances, whether any decision should be retrospective in its effects.
– The Queensland Government would have to consent to abide by the determination of the Inter-State Commission.
– As far as they are concerned. The Commonwealth Government is responsible, to some extent, for the present position, because, by fixing the price of sugar, it has prevented the passing on to the public the burden created by the increase of wages.
– The representatives of the growers were satisfied with £18 a ton for raw sugar.
– Under the conditions then obtaining, under the award of Judge MacNaugh ton. He was guided by the principles by which Acting Judge Dickson claims to have been guided ; but Judge MacNaughton expressed doubts as to whether the industry could then stand the conditions decided. In his judgment, Acting Judge Dickson said -
As I am fixing the minimum wage atan amount not more than a living wage, I have in that connexionnoneed to consider Mr.
Grove’s arguments in reference to the ability of the industry to pay it.
He said further -
Having carefully investigated all the evidence, statements, and exhibits in connexion with the cost of production, I am satisfied that a sugar farm, if cultivated upon proper methods, and upon business and scientific lines, in an ordinary average season, is well able to pay the wages that the labourers ought reasonably to receive for their work, provided, of course, that the price of cane be fixed, as I believe it will be, at a reasonable scale.
I hope that the Treasurer will do his best to prevent delay and to keep the issue free from political considerations. It is only fair to the industry that the constitutional issue regarding the transfer of powers to the Commonwealth should not be allowed to interfere with the settlement of the difficulty.
– May I suggest to those who think the Inter-State Commission the proper body to investigate and report on this matter, that they should satisfy this Government that that procedure would be acceptable to the majority of persons concerned ?
– The determination should not be based on the will of majorities, but on a consideration of what is right and just to all concerned. There should be a fair and equitable distribution of the money received from the products of the industry. Questions of justice and equity are not to be decided on ballots of the persons interested. It is a rule of British law that no man shall be a judge in his own cause.
– Does the honorable member know whether all interested are likely to accept the arrangement?
– It is our duty to try to obtain a fair distribution. No one can guarantee that there will not be discontent among minorities, whatever the determination.
-Would it not be satisfactory to approach the parties, in order to ascertain their views?
– The matter now is one for the Commonwealth and State Governments. The award of Acting Judge Dickson, as every one admits, makes it impossible to continue to carry on the sugar industry in Queensland under existing conditions; but the award having been gazetted, there is practically no method of appealing against it.
– The honorable member would not expect them to take any other ?
– I expect every Government, no matter what political party may be in power, to see that justice is done.
– The Queensland Government have no opportunity to interfere.
– I think they have.
– By repealing the award ?
– No; by arranging for the award to be reviewed by the InterState Commission.
– I believe that the Queensland Government will agree to that; but will the parties concerned do so?
– The producers are willing, I understand, that there should be this appeal. It has been suggested to the Treasurer of Queensland by a grower. It is practicable to have the award reviewed in this way. In the meantime, our chief object should be to keep the wheels of industry going, and it can be done by suspending the award for the time being, and having the whole matter reviewed from the date of the award until a report is received from the Inter-State Commission. All parties are deeply interested in this matter, so that there can be no political feeling in regard to it. In one portion of his award, Acting Judge Dickson said -
Mr. Kerr admits, on behalf of the Treasurer, that, notwithstanding the bad times that the industry has recently passed through, it is able to stand a rise of 5 per cent. in wages, at any rate.
The State Government own several mills, and that is how their representative regarded the position as it affected the particular interest. Yet, according to Mr. Crawford, who appeared to conduct the case on behalf of the growers, and who has worked out the schedule carefully, the increase given is from 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. - in several instances it is 30s. a week - and as the price of sugar has been fixed bythe Commonwealth Government, and that of cane by the Queensland Cane Boards, the whole of the burden of the increase is placed on the growers. I am sure that the Treasurer thoroughly appreciates the seriousness of the position, and will not permit of any delay, further than is absolutely essential, in securing a fair and equitable rate for all the parties concerned. The Commonwealth cannot afford to allow the industry to dis- appear. When the Prime Minister was in Great Britain he strongly urged the supply of all the sugar required by the Empire from within the Empire itself.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4-5 p.m.
– The Prime Minister looks forward to the sugar industry becoming an Imperial industry. Speaking before the British Empire Producers Association, at Caxton Hall, London, on the 8th May, Sir Edward Rosling presiding, he said -
In dealing with sugar production, we are really not concerned with one industry alone, but with many. Intertwined about sugar production and sugar consumption are a dozen other industries, which, in their turn, are directly or indirectly concerned with others, so that, like ripples in a pool, they spread outward, until finally they become enveloped in the. great ocean of British industry.
As far as Australia is concerned, if misfortune befell the sugar industry in
Queensland, it would be a misfortune to the whole of the Commonwealth, affecting Victoria with its refineries and New South Wales with its refineries, and the whole of the jam-making industry, and the whole of the confectionery industry, which we have built up by means of our protective Tariff until we produce an article the quality of which cannot be surpassed anywhere in the world. All of these industries are dependent on the great sugar industry of Queensland. As to the necessity for encouraging our primary industries, we are all agreed. They are the basis of all of our secondary industries. We cannot export the produce of our secondary industries ; we have to look for a market for them within the Commonwealth. It is the high prices that are obtained in the markets of the world for the products of the primary industries which we export that furnish us with the means by which we can pay the high wages prevailing in Australia today. Any blow to our primary industries is a serious blow at our secondary industries. The more we expand our primary industries the larger the home market we provide for our secondary industries. It is, therefore, particularly important that
Parliament should support our primary industries. If an award, such as has been given in connexion with the sugar industry, were imposed on other primary indus tries - assuming they also were subjected to price fixing - they would certainly have a hard struggle to make any progress, or even to exist. The Prime Minister’s sympathetic reference to-day to primary productions expresses, I think, the feeling of the Australian people and this Parliament towards them. ‘
I ask the Treasurer to bring under the notice of the Minister for Defence the case of married men who are serving with our Forces whose wives do not happen to be living in Australia. In one case, because the wife happened to be in England temporarily on account of illness when the husband enlisted, she has been deprived of the separation allowance. This is neither right nor just. The Australian soldier, wherever he happens to be fighting, is fighting for Australia, and the wife, wherever she happens to be, should not be deprived of the separation allowance. I have put forward this request on a previous occasion without success, but I find there are many cases which are equally unjust. The wives of our soldiers were not allowed to go to Egypt, but now some are proceeding to the Old Country, and surely it is no crime for them to wish to be near to those who are dear to them, and who are fighting for the liberties that we cherish. I hope that the Treasurer will make strong representations to the Minister, and have justice done in this matter. It will not entail any heavy expenditure, but even if it does it is a question of doing justice.
I also ask the Treasurer to make representations to the Postmaster-General with a view to his being a little more sympathetic in regard to country districts, and not curtailing postal facilities in outlying places. I am informed that there is a tendency to reduce services, and that there is a difficulty in obtaining telephone facilities. To-day the Prime Minister spoke very pertinently of the necessity for inducing people to settle in country districts. There are plenty of temptations drawing people to the city. We should administer our Departments in such a way as to secure facilities for those people who are doing the pioneering work in our outlying districts. The Treasurer has to keep control of the purse, and is quite right in insisting on economy, and seeing that our expenditure is not unduly inflated; but I ask him not to be too rigid in regard to the postal facilities to which country districts are justly entitled. The Treasurer himself represents a country district, and he knows* of places where people are living miles away in the backblocks. He has, I dare say, been on lonely selections where the one excitement was the arrival of the weekly mail; and I am sure he will view with sympathy people living under such conditions. There is a tendency on the part of those who live in cities, -and who enjoy so many privileges, to underrate the value of postal services, but those services are of the utmost value to the people of the far away places of this country.
.- I can indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Darling Downs in regard to the injustice which is suffered by an Australian soldier’s wife who may, for various reasons, find it necessary to take up her residence in England, and who thereby loses the benefit of the allowance she would enjoy if she remained in this country. I am sure there is no desire on the part of the Minister, or of Parliament, or of the people outside who find the money, to inflict any hardship in this way. I do not know what people the honorable member for Darling Downs has in his mind - whether or not they are members of what is known as the “ Government House push “-
– They are working people, one a farmer, and the other, I think, a tradesman ; but there are other cases.
– The case I have in my mind is that of a young fellow whose wife’s relations in England desire her to live with them, and she is going; thus, under present conditions, depriving herself of a just allowance. We all know that if a member of the “ Government House push “ goes to the Department, he is politely invited in and attended to, whereas common workers have no such chance. When the honorable member for Darling Downs was speaking on the sugar question, I interjected several times, but, as I confess I have done myself on occasions, he did not choose to hear me. I asked the honorable member what wages he would consent to, and on whose behalf he was speaking, but he did not answer.
– I was dealing with another subject at the time. I desire .that every one should receive reasonable remuneration, and enjoy a fair standard of life.
– I take it that, if a fair advance were made on the old rates of wages, the honorable member would not object. I must own that the advance under the award is a very large one, as is shown by figures recently published in the Age. In the case of the firemen, the wages are raised from £2 18s. to £4 5s., or 46 per cent., and the greasers’ wages from £2 17s. to £4 2s. So far as I can see, the firemen represent the greatest percentage of increase; but I should like to recall to honorable members the time when kanaka labour was in full swing.
– The cane-cutters have had their wages raised from £3 12s. to £5 2s., and enjoy other advantages.
– But the increase in the case of the firemen represents a greater percentage than that in the case of the cane-cutters. When the kanaka was employed he was paid £6 a year, or not quite 5s. a week, so that 10s. would fully represent the weekly cost of his employment; and the increase to the present wages, as compared with those of the kanakas, represents 480 per cent. I know that the Government of the day assisted the farmers by means of a bonus; and in discussing this matter I can speak a little from personal experience, because, fortythree years ago, I took up a selection in this State. At that time the fool of a Government in power, and an idiotic Lands Office sent me, a miserable little bank clerk, into some of the heaviest timber country in Victoria, where all I acquired was a pretty broad chest. A policy of that kind is hardly the one by which to settle people on the land. As to the sugar trouble, I made personal inquiry on the spot in Queensland, and on one occasion I listened quietly for two hours while a representative of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company placed the case before me. He said he was quite sure “he had proved to me that a white man could not do the work ; that a kanaka could do it better; that the industry was not possible without the kanaka; and that the kanaka’s wages were equal to what a white man’s wages were. In reply, I said that I disagreed with him ; but that, if lie would satisfy me on certain points, I would take the platform in Queensland and advocate the continued employment of the kanaka. The conditions I laid down were that there should be an eighthours day of six days a week, and the payment of a white man’s wages ; but the representative of the Sugar Company said they could not do that in the case of a kanaka. Subsequently I interviewed a foreigner, who had a 50-acre block outside Bundaberg. I asked him whether, if the kanaka were sent away, he would give up sugar growing; but he replied, in forcible language, “No- fear.” He then pointed out to me a white youth, who appeared about twenty, but who was in reality only sixteen years of age, and told me that he would back him to cut and load cane against any kanaka. This man urged that growers could not be blamed if, for 5s. a week, they could get work nearly equal to that of a white man. they availed themselves of it. I recognise that the representatives of Queensland must necessarily know more about this matter than I do; but I know that if an industry is injured in any one part of Australia, the whole of Australia suffers. My idea is that the Government ought to nationalize this industry, and thus give the growers a fair chance, while preventing the huge profits which the Colonial Sugar Refining Company have made,in the past.
– The honorable member will remember that a Royal Commission appointed by a Labour Government said that that would be a mistaken policy.
– When shadows cease to exist and all things are known we shall, perhaps, understand why some members of the Commission came to that conclusion. The honorable member knows what I mean, and I shall say no more. I think that that report was an unjust one - a wrong and wicked report - and I am not alone in that opinion.
– Do not say that; but say that you disagree with the report.
– I am speaking of what I have heard from men outside, who know more of the matter than either the honorable member or myself. The cane grower should have a fair chance; but when he threatens to let the cane rot in the ground it suggests another observation to me. .Before I went to Queensland on the visit to which I have alluded, I was told that I would be there in the hottest part of the year, and I learned that the cane was cut sometimes six months out of the twelve - that it was not cut in a single month or in a fortnight.
– The season commences in July, and we are now past July.
– It commences in July and goes right on to December, and, as in the case of shearing, a delay may cause a loss, but everything is not ruined. Any man who goes into the question will know that cane can be preserved in the stalk for a much longer period than when it is cut. This is the first time in my political experience that a Judge has given’ a decision to raise wages to an extent he considers fair under trying climatic conditions, and to such an extent as in this case; and I therefore hope that the Government will seriously consider before they alter his award. I think and hope that assistance will be given to the growers, but I also hope to see the industry nationalized. A medical man, who is one of the greatest authorities on the earth-eating disease, when he tested a gang of white men, Chinese, Japanese, and kanakas cutting cane under -the same conditions in the same field, declared that the white man “ came out on top.” That, however, did riot please his employers, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and because of his publication of those results the company made his position so awkward that he had to resign. I know that the company supplies New Zealand with sugar at a price many pounds below that at which it was sold in Australia. That sugar was grown by coloured labour in Fiji, but the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, like any other Trust or Combine, does not care a hang so long as it can draw the last penny from the consumers.
I regret that there is at present no Minister for Customs to whom I can now address myself. I honour the honorable member for Tarra for the course he has taken, and I know his name is received with cheers through the length and breadth of Australia. In my opinion, the Government financial proposals ought to include a heavy increase in the Excise duty on colonial wines. When the Excise duties were raised on a previous occasion, the wealthy wine makers in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia not only raised their prices to the consumers, but made huge profits in other ways. The income tax returns will prove that they are making very large incomes, and at least half a million a year could be taken from them by means of an extra impost upon their industry. Unless the Government are going to fool the people and throw the Tariff to the dogs, it is their duty to put an increased Excise duty of from 6d. per gallon upwards on colonial wines. The price of wines to the consumer has increased considerably in recent years, and the profits of the wine makers have been enormous. One wine maker has been able to spend from £80,000 to £100,000 a year in advertising, yet these wealthy merchants, like all other Combines, continue to take advantage of the public. A further impost should also be placed on colonial spirits. The head man of one big distillery said, “ Give me rectified spirits, and I will give you any spirit you like to name.” By that statement he simply meant that by the use of flavouring essences he could produce from the one foundation brandy, whisky, and many other spirits. The distillers have been receiving a price only a few shillings less than that of the imported spirit, which has to pay a heavy duty. The Excise duty has not been increased in proportion.
– Yes; the Excise duties have been increased.
– Still the distillers have unjustifiably taken advantage of the market, and raised their prices unduly to the consumer.
– The Excise and import duties were increased 3s. per gallon on all spirits.
– Stagger- juice is no good to anybody.
– I do not think that the Almighty created anything which is an evil per se. It is the abuse of a thing which makes it an evil. Roast beef, weight for weight, is more deadly than beer. I notice that the anticipated increase in income taxation amounts to £680,000. The income tax in England is much higher than that proposed by the Government. The larger incomes ought to pay increased taxation, and I agree with the arguments which have been put forward by the honorable member for Hunter. Applying a very coarse phrase used by the Prime Minister when he said that we should “pool” our manhood, I say that we should “pool” our lucre. Let us adopt the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter, allowing a living rate of £200, £300, or £400 a year - I do not care what it is - and let the balance be paid into the national coffers. Let that apply from the Governor-General downwards. I am afraid, from past experience, however, that Governors and Judges will be spared. One Governor in Queensland was so seised of the infamy of his exemption, that he sent to the Treasury the taxation he would have had to pay as a private citizen. All Governors are not like him; and if the Government were to put a question to the people as to the abolition of State Governors, I am sure they would all be swept away, and good riddance to them.
In the early days of the war, knowing that the population of Broken Hill was solely dependent on the output of the Barrier mines, I suggested to Mr. Fisher, then Treasurer, that he should buy all the Broken Hill metals at the prices ruling in London before the declaration of war.
– He did not understand you.
– I am afraid his Scotch cautiousness made him too careful, and in finance decision is a great factor leading to success. I proposed, as a condition of that arrangement, that the companies should continue in full operation, so as to keep their men in employment, and that if they failed in that respect, the New South Wales Government, acting on the law of eminent domain, should seize the mines and work them at the risk of the shareholders. There would have been no risk. All the workings and the machinery were there, and the Government would have bought the product at 2s. per ounce, without the companies having the risk of sending it to London. Subsequent to the publication of that suggestion in the Age, Mr. Baillieu, on behalf of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, interviewed me, and said that not only would the company be prepared to accept that price, but that they would be willing to accept 30 per cent, less than the market price. Silver was quoted at 2s. on the London market a week before war was declared. If the Government had bought the silver at 30 per cent. below that price, they would have obtained it at1s. 4 4-5d. per ounce, and each ounce would have made 5s. 6d. worth of currency. Thus there would have been a profit of 292 per cent. So that if £1,000,000 worth of Commonwealth notes had been expended in purchasing £1,000,000 worth of Australian silver, the Government would have had, in actual silver currency, £3,900,000, after paying for the cost of minting. Today silver is quoted at 2s. 8 15-16d. ; thus, upon every ounce of silver the Government would have made a profit of 1s. 411-80d. per ounce. When honorable members recollect that the output of Australian silver mines represents hundreds of thousands of ounces per annum, they will understand what a huge profit the Government might have made. Unfortunately, Mr. Fisher could not see his way clear to adopt the suggestion ; but I take this opportunity of thanking Mr. Baillieu and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company for the extremely generous offer they made.
– It was too big for Fisher; so was the purchase of that block in Sydney.
– The interjection recalls to my mind that, if the suggestion made by the Minister for Home Affairs had been carried out, namely, that the Government should purchase that huge block in Sydney bounded by George, Pitt, and King streets, which was under offer to the Minister of the day, they would have made, on the basis of the price of the property early this year, a profit of £1,000,000. Another property purchased in Perth, actually made by the honorable member for Darwin, is returning the Commonwealth over 8 per cent. on the money expended, and has provided, free of cost, enough land to build a fine General Post Office. Owing to the Minister’s splendid business capacity, the Commonwealth saved at least £80,000 in Perth, and might have made £1,000,000 in Sydney.
I am glad that an extra 2s. 6d. a week is to be given to those poor old souls the old-age pensioners. I do not know of anything that gave me more pleasure than the passing of the Old-age Pensions Act, and I cannot remember anything that I regretted more than the reduction by the honorable member for Flinders of the Victorian allowance to the old-aged from £200,000 to £150,000. In those days, a pensioner had to be sixty-five, not sixty, years of age before he could get a pension. I am glad that the burden of those who have grown old and weary in the service of the Commonwealth, and whose hairs have been whitened and shoulders bent by their long years of toil, is now to be lightened a little.
I regret that a promise made by the Right Hon. Andrew Fisher has not been put into effect. When the war commenced, he promised that pensions should be provided for widows and children, and I am sorry that that has not been done.
I advocate a destitute allowance. I would give an allowance to every human being who was willing to make a statutory declaration that he was absolutely penniless, homeless, hungry, or wanting clothing. I remember the débâcle that followed the bursting of the boom in Victoria, when every financial institution in the State either closed its doors or was trembling on the verge of extinction. At that time we, in the Trades Hall, provided over 200,000 meals for the hungry. From the abattoirs three loads of sheeps’ heads and two loads of shins and heads of cattle were placed at our disposal every week. They were not of as much value then as now. We had them made into soup, and gave the soup to the mothers of families who were hungry. We provided, also, 30,000 beds.
The Government propose to obtain £10,000,000, spread over a period of three years- that is £3,333,000 a year- for the repatriation fund; but that will not be enough to meet the needs of over 200,000 returned soldiers.
– The Treasurer should do something more for the blind, too.
– Yes. I should like them to get more money.
As forthe proposed taxation of war profits, I think that, as it was found possible to ante-date the measure providing for the holding of the referendum on the 28th October next, it is possible to antedate legislation taking away the profits of the thieves and scoundrels who are raising rents and otherwise robbing the poor. A large firm in this city recently bought a property and raised its rents by from 15 per cent. to 20 per cent., and in one case 16 per cent. I waited upon the managing director, who, I found, was personally known to me, and asked him to put the rents back to the old rates until the war was over ; but he said that he could not consider the suggestion. My reply was, “ I am going to speak very strongly on this matter in public, and to give every landlord who raises his rent a free advertisement.” He asked why did not the Government bring in a Bill to prevent the raising of rents, holding that it was wrong, and I told him that we had hopes of having that done, but that things were rather mixed just now. However, he would not do anything; but next morning, I am glad to say, I got a letter from him telling me that, after further consideration, he had granted my request. Loathing and hating the Prussians as I do, I say that they are open enemies, and, vile as they are, the enemies within our gates are equally vile. The shipping companies of Great Britain, have made £200,000,000 in profits since the war began. Lord Tollemache, in his Chats with Gladstone - a book in the Library - when discussing with that statesman the chances of a war with Germany, which Mr. Gladstone did not think probable, asked him whether he thought that if the shipping companies of the United Kingdom were asked by the Germans to land an enemy force in Great Britain they would do so, and Mr. Gladstone replied that he believed that the shipping companies would, for the sake of lucre, agree to land enemies in the port of Heaven. They have justified Mr. Gladstone’s opinion of them, and it is time that the Government seized their profits. Nowhere in the wide world, except on the coast of Western Australia, have rates remained unaltered during the war. Rates have remained steady there because the shipping is owned by the Government of the State. The citizens of Broome, and of other ports south of Perth, told me that passage money and freights were lower on the Government steamers than on the vessels of private companies, and that, but for the Government line, rates would have been increased.
– Is it a fact that the public will not travel by the Government steamers?
– My experience is that berths have to be booked well in advance, and on the vessel by which I travelled, there was not room’ for any more stock than were being carried. I do not care who the man may be - even though he might be a church-goer attending a religious service once a day - I would confiscate his war profits for the benefit of the community. I trust, Mr.
Chairman, that you will regard favorably the moving of an amendment which will provide for the confiscation of all war profits made since the beginning of the war. Only in that way can we get at these creatures.
It is proposed to increase the income tax rate by 25 per cent. That will increase the yield from income tax by about £200,000, it being estimated that the ordinary yield this year will be about £750,000 less than it was last year. As to the reduction of the exemption to £100, I do not like the look of it. I hope to see the time when no man able and willing to work will get less than £3 a week.-
– For a married man, the exemption is £156 a year, so that the married man with two children would have an exemption of over £200 a year.
– If the proposal of the Treasurer really amounts to a tax on bachelors without dependants, there is not much to be said against it; but I should have preferred a straight-out tax graduated according to income. That would be much batter than having a flat rate. This is the first occasion on which a levy on wealth has been brought forward in an Australian Parliament. It reminds me of the suggestions put forward by Alfred Russell Wallace, in his Studies Scientific and Social, that the State should be heir to certain landed properties, an idea which was enlarged by another social reformer of great renown, who suggested that the State should be heir to not only landed property, but also all wealth. On page 273 of volume 2 of his Studies Scientific and Social, Wallace says -
It is, therefore, proposed that a law shall be enacted by which all landed property in Ireland shall legally descend for three generations beyond the existing owner, and then pass to the State.
It was an effort to do away with that accursed law of entail which has been a bugbear in England, and the great cause of the infamy of the British land system. On page 274, Wallace proceeds -
By means of the law of intestacy, as already explained, a few estates would at once drop in; while from the law which limited the future transfers of land to three in number, other estates would lapse in the course of a very few years, and afterwards in gradually increasing numbers, just as the more perfect State and local organization and modified habits of the people became better adapted to utilize the changed conditions of tenure.
We know from Mr. Charles Booth that there are in the city of London at least 1,300,000 people whose wages are below that line which allows a man with a wife and children depending on him to live a healthy life and have healthy food. We have the picture of the agricultural labourer in Oxfordshire endeavouring to bring up a family of five children on a wage of 15s. a week, making three pints of milk do for a week, in six half-pints, by doing without milk on the Sunday. Yet every cup of tea and spoonful of sugar paid a minute fraction of the interest on the debt of the Napoleonic wars. That is why I do not wish to see our indebtedness handed down to future Australians, and as far as my brain can think and my lips utter words, I shall use them on every platform, in private and in Parliament, to prevent it. Do we not recall the glorious words of Thomas Paine, “ No king, no tyrant, no Parliament, no dictator, has the right to make the laws that future generations must obey”? No Parliament has the right to insist on laws which cannot be broken by succeeding generations; in other words, no generation has the right to fix on future generations shackles such as I have pictured - unfortunate people endeavouring to bring up families on mere pittances. Let us have the truth. Before the war universal manhood was the suffrage in Germany. What is the franchise in England, Ireland, or Scotland? The vilest in Europe, except in the case of Turkey.
– What is the franchise of the Upper House in Germany, where the real power is?
– What is the franchise of the House of Lords that kept children working in the mines, and kept women half naked working in the mines, that would never have allowed a Jew or an Irishman to vote? What about the House of Fossils in Victoria called the Legislative Council? But before proceeding with that point, let me continue what I was saying about the national debt. I have here an authority equal to Darwin on the great question of evolution, and the greatest authority in the world in regard to ‘the nationalization of land. His discoveries in the islands of the north of Australia staggered the world, showing, as they did, the advantages the people of those islands enjoyed compared with the down-trodden masses in England. This is what he says about public debt -
Interest-bearing debts, railway shares, &c, afford the conditions by which perishable wealth is changed into permanent property, and offer facilities for the most gigantic and harmful system of gambling the world has ever seen.
No one would get on a platform in even the most Conservative constituency in Australia and claim that it is just or equitable that one House of Parliament - and that the dominant House, because it has the right of veto - should be chosen from one class only. I point my finger of scorn at the Upper House in Victoria, because it represents one class only, and that the landlords. This authority proceeds -
There is yet another consideration which leads to the same conclusion as to the evil of hereditary or unearned wealth - its injurious effects to those who receive it, and through them to the whole community. It is only the strongest and most evenly-balanced natures that can pass unscathed the ordeal of knowing that enormous wealth is to be theirs on the death of a parent or relative. The worst vices of our rotten civilization are fostered by this class of prodigals, surrounded by a crowd of gamblers and other parasites, who assist in their debaucheries and seek every opportunity of obtaining a share of the plunder. This class of evils is too well known and comes too frequently and too prominently before the public to need dwelling upon here; but it serves to complete the proof of the evil effects of private inheritance, and to demonstrate in a practical way the need for the adoption of the just principle of equality of opportunity.
When I asked for the rights for little children, whom 2,000 years ago Christ had taken in His arms and blessed, the Legislative Council of Victoria, that threw out women’s suffrage thirteen times and manhood suffrage fourteen times, did not contain one man who would stand up and give them. Mr. Angliss is a member of that body. I do not hesitate to say that a man like Mr. Angliss should be in gaol. There is another member, one of the “win, tie, or wrangle” sort, who, by a legal technicality, caused Mr. McNamara, a man whose youth, ability, and sterling honesty had appealed to the electors, and who had beat him in a straight-out vote, to lose his seat. I refer to Mr. Aikman. By his paltry pelf he now sits in that Council, and is called “ honorable,” whatever the people outside, the men and women who voted against him, may consider him. Bos position is contemptible, and only worthy of a mean parasite that would scratch a mangy dog’s tail.- In regard to the last war loan, it was explained in the press that a £10 bond could be purchased by payments of 5s. per week. I endeavoured to get four of those bonds for myself and three other individuals, but I had the greatest difficulty. When I went to a post-office and asked for an application form, I could only get one that applied to the £1 per month instalment system. They could give me no information about the arrangement for the payment of 5s. a week, and it was suggested that I should inquire at the State Savings Bank. It will be agreed that the Savings Bank of Victoria has not received due credit for the splendid work it has done in’ assisting the promotion of these loans, for it is not generally known that it has performed duties which many think were performed by the Post Office. I went there and paid £1, and, naturally, thought I could pay 5s. each week; but that was not so. I found that I would have to pay £4 before the first of the next month, and I at first refused; but when a young clerk came and told me that by doing so I would get him out of a difficulty, I consented. There ought to be an arrangement by which these securities can be obtained at any time, as in France, and, as I understand, in New Zealand. I desire that security shall be given’ to the poor fellow who has only £10, in spite of the sweater manager of the Commonwealth Bank. There is not a single bank in Aus.tarlia that does not pay its clerks tea money if they are detained for only one minute after half-past 6 o’clock, and certainly not one bank in which there is a notice posted that the hours are from 10 o’clock in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. These bonds ought to be transferable by indorsement, and thus give the subscribers the security they ought to enjoy. There is not a mining company that does riot make its shares transferable, and surely the Commonwealth could do so in the case of those men and women who wish to help their country. I protest against the sweating that is carried on by a so-called Labour Government. It is infamous that, because men volunteer and put on a uniform, they should be taken beyond the scope of the laws of their country as represented by Wages Boards. Under the finding of such Boards, every temporary clerk must be paid overtime, double time on Sundays, and be paid tea money ; but the Defence Department most contemptibly get their clerks into uniform and thus deprive them of their rights of citizenship. This is neither just nor honorable. They are compelled to work night after night, and many of them have to come back three Sundays’ out of four without receiving a penny extra. The reply to any protest is that in the Army there are seven days in the week, and that all are supposed to work on Sundays. But clerks who work outside cannot but regard the action of the Department as infamous. In the past the Labour Government did say that no adult in the Public Service should be paid less than £110 a year ; but that was the first great effort here to pay women the same price as men for the same work. There are some honorable members who think that a man should be paid more than a woman, but no one when purchasing clothing or any other goods, ever dreams of asking whether they have been made by men or women’. Every woman, thanks to our law, is a citizen, and I do not see why she should not have equal rates of pay. I am loath to believe that this idea of differential wages was brought home by the Prime Minister from his Conservative friends in England. He certainly would not get such an idea from the Labour party, the Irish party, the Liberal party, or the Radical party, and if it came from England it must be from the accursed Conservative party, which has ever been the enemy of the workers throughout the centuries. The ordinary expenditure, I see from the financial statement, has increased from £24,000,000 to £32,000,000, and I believe that that is not justified by experience. Why has the land tax not gone up to ls., seeing that it is now about 8d. ? If that addition were made we might then get to the “ last shilling “ that is being hoarded so carefully. But honorable members opposite must not think that the land tax is going to stop where it is, for up to the present we have got only to the thin end of the wedge, whether the Labour party be on this side or the other. As the manhood of the country has been pooled, so we shall have to pool the wealth of the country. What has been the curse of England?
She has the richest -wheat lands in the world as has been proved over and over again during many consecutive years, and yet she cannot raise enough food to supply her own population. And why did that rich wheat land go out of cultivation? Simply because of the cursed land system. One great economist has said that, perhaps, it would have been better if England had been conquered by Napoleon, because then there would have been no entailed estates, by which means the eldest son gets everything, and no instance of a father being able to leave his wife and children unprovided for. Such things as these could not occur elsewhere, not even in Germany. Then, as to the franchise in England, one lord said that women should not have the vote, because it would increase the number of voters from 8,000,000 to 24,000,000, an argument that showed that some 16,000,000 are being deprived of the franchise. No man in England ever has a vote as a man, for every elector must either own or rent property.
– The honorable member continually omits to mention Wales.
– Gallant little Wales has done more for Liberalism than any other part of the United Kingdom.
– It produced the Prime Minister, you know!
– And the Prime Minister is putting up a fine fight for freedom here !
– We shall see the result of that fight on the 28th of October. The abuse of a man being able to leave his family unprovided for was possible in Victoria until, at the instance of Mr. Prendergast, the law was altered; and I hope and believe that a similar reform will be brought about in New South Wales. We know that black and Chinese labour has been introduced into France, and there is no doubt that the capitalists will endeavour to keep coloured men there, because their wages must be less than what Frenchmen will work for. We found a similar condition of things in South Africa. I was a pro-Boer at the time of the war there, and I see no reason to alter my opinions; but not one of us thought at that time that England would be so just as to give the Boers their present freedom. That kindly act on the part of the Old Country has done more to conquer the Boers than all the arms brought against them. There is little doubt that when we send all our men away we shall have the introduction of coloured labour suggested in Australia ; indeed, one man at the Denton Hat Mills has suggested that after the war we ought to bring Japanese and Chinese workers here. I have said more on this topic publicly and in print than has been said at socalled private gatherings, and I would never insult an ally who has saved our cities from being blown to pieces. Even with the Australia and our other vessels we could not have protected our extensive coast from Brisbane to Perth. As I suggested in 1905, Australia should have been made into one huge arsenal for the manufacture of munitions of war, so that we could arm our men in time of need. Every one of us on both sides of the chamber who are too old to volunteer for active service would readily go into the factories to help in the production of munitions of war, and the women who today are knitting so gloriously throughout the Commonwealth for their soldier friends would willingly give their services. How valuable would such a system be at the present moment? Had those arsenals been started years ago, how much Australia could have helped the Mother Country, which has had to go to Canada and America to purchase munitions, just asRussia has had to rely upon Japan. Japan keeps a five-years’ stock of munitions always on hand, and a Japanese doctor informed me that when Russia asked Japan to supply her with munitions from those stocks, the Japanese Government answered, “No; we may have to fight you, or to go to war with somebody else.” Russia then offered every assurance that Japan would have no occasion to fear her. Finally, Japan said that Russia could put the proposal before the British Government, and, if Great Britain so recommended, Japan would adopt it. The British Government did recommend that Japan should help Russia in this matter, and Japan immediately emptied her stores. At that time Russia was fighting with one rifle to every three men. If the first man fell, the second took up the rifle, and when the second fell the third took it up. In that way was Russia trying to fight off the Prussian advance last year. The prompt action of Japan has completely altered the situation. Therefore, I say, let us not insult an Ally that has been faithful to us. But Australia has done more than its fair share. The Allies . have 700,000,000 people against the 143,000,000 of the enemy; there are 214,000,000 of white Europeans on our side, and 116,000,000 on the side of our enemies. Therefore, let it be clearly and distinctly known that it is not men, but big artillery, that the Allies want. I have been told by a consul who has fought through three wars, who has seen the election of two Presidents, and has been in Germany doing unofficial work, that the Russians would blast their way to Berlin in two months if they had enough artillery. Do we not know that Russia is sending men to France and to other fighting fronts because she has more men than she can ami ? Some honorable members suggested that I was. advocating that Australia should buy Russians to fight for us. It is an infamy to suggest such a thing; but I do repeat, what I said a few days ago, that we can do more good by applying our energies to the manufacture of warm clothing to assist our Russian friends in the winter campaign. It will be remembered that a few years ago the Kaiser assumed the role of prophet when he published a cartoon which showed the European nations grouped together facing the dark cloud of the Asiatic menace. Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and America stood with their weapons unbared. Britannia had not drawn her sword, and Italy, as her most intimate friend at that time, was endeavouring to persuade her to do so. That was the warning of the yellow peril which the Kaiser placed before the world. If it is the fate of Australia to be dominated by an Asiatic race, I hope the domination will be by the Chinese, and not the Japanese. I say that “without any intention of rudeness to our Ally, but from my reading of history I know of no nation so kind and just to tributary nations as China has been. The Chinese have acquired their huge territory more through neighbouring nations requesting to be absorbed than by conquest. I desire to say a few words in regard to conditions of employment in the Commonwealth Bank. The present Government was returned to power by the vari- ons Labour bodies and trade unions of Australia, with the assistance of a huge number of people who, although outside the Labour organizations, are in sympathy with the advance of humanity. Those people did not send us here to sweat anybody, but I accuse the Government of the sweating of Commonwealth Bank employees. “Why is the manager of the Commonwealth Bank permitted to do that? Simply because bank clerks were unjustly excepted by a Liberal Government from a Victorian Act. Are not the present Government strong enough to say that the conditions of employment obtaining in the Commonwealth Bank are unfair, and must be discontinued? If a man works in a private office he is entitled to the benefits of the law, but because he works in a Commonwealth Bank under a sweating manager he can be compelled to work till all hours without extra pay. What kind of retrograde movement is this? I protest as strongly cas I can against the proposal on which the referendum is to be taken, and shall take every opportunity to defeat it. If men are to go to gaol for passive resistance, I shall be proud to be one of them, fighting against the attempt to make Australians slaves under the lash of conscription. By what right is this to be done? Does any one think that if the French had the referendum they would tolerate this system and fight for lid. a day? Does any one think that the Germans, similarly endowed with the vote, would fight for that pittance, or that the Italians would fight for Id. a day, or the Russians for fd. per day? This glorious heritage, which has been secured to the men and women of Australia by lovers of freedom, will be exercised on this occasion to sweep into perdition this infamous proposal brought forward by Mr. Hughes, dominated by the Conservative party of England - a party which never gave the Englishman, Irishman, Scotchman, or Welshman the vote, as we enjoy it in Australia. And yet how few there are in Australia who know that this franchise is in the Constitution only by permission of this Parliament, and that possibly it will be curtailed if we get a retrograde Ministry, such ‘ as Irvine’s, which robbed every policeman, every public servant, and every State employee of Victoria of their votes, and which allowed a prisoner who had completed his sentence to have higher citizenship rights, probably, than the magistrate who had tried him. I honour the man who is a true Conservative. Even the Upper House of the State Legislature threw this legislation on to the dunghill of oblivion, where it deserved to lie. This franchise should be put into the Constitution so that no one but the citizens themselves may remove it. I was anxious to get the referendum and initiative included in the Constitution, so that the people would not have to wait for the kind permission of this Parliament for the exercise of that right. Now, I want to refer to another subject, which I regard as of supreme importance. If an honorable member walks down Collinsstreet, he will pass some of the most valuable land in Victoria - land that is worth £1,000 and more per foot, and much of it is wasted. Every double wall erected along that street means so much waste of good land, plus the cost of erecting the wall. I suppose a quarter of a million of money represented in good land is wasted between William-street and Russell-street on one side of Collinsstreet.. The idea that the State is the sole heir, not only of the landed property, but of every other source of wealth, was first planted in my mind by the writings of that great man, Alfred Russell Wallace, whose opinions were indorsed by two other great men of England, but whose names have slipped my memory for the time being. Under a social scheme based on this idea, every child would have equal opportunities, and be able to face the world properly equipped by means of State assistance. Every child would then be educated up to the highest point of its ability, be drafted into secondary schools, tested by examination for what is termed the higher professions, or be able to acquire knowledge concerning the cultivation of the land, so important to the fuller development of this country, which is only embroidered with cities round the edge of the continent. I look further into the future, to the time when every one at the age of, say, twenty-one years would receive money, or money’s worth, and perhaps at twenty- five years or later, an additional sum ; but that would not limit the ability of the moneyspinners, whose faculty for gathering wealth would not be interfered with. That would not be inconsistent with such a social scheme, because, after they had gone into the shadows, the money they had acquired would still belong to the State and the community. May I here, looking through the eyes of the scientist, further illustrate what I mean? We are told there are three types of intelligent living tilings on this earth - the ant, the bee, and the human. Never, in the nest of the ant, and never in the hive of the bee, do the young or the worker suffer for want of the necessaries of life. Can we say the same of human beings? We are told that we have been fashioned in God’s likeness, but sometimes I doubt it when I see how the poor and lowly are treated under our infamous laws. We pride ourselves on being the dominant race, but scientists tell us that the greatest of our engineering feats are not to be compared with what the ants have done by the erection of those 24-ft. high mounds in the Northern Territory. We know that countless human lives are being sacrificed from year to year for want of food, shelter, and clothing.
The ACTING CHAIRMAN (Mr. Charlton). - The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to take the opportunity which the presentation of this Bill offers of bringing under the notice of the Treasurer a matter which, I think, deserves serious consideration. Since the war began, estimable people throughout Australia have taken upon themselves the responsibility of providing, as far as they could, for the comfort of soldiers and the assistance of their dependants, and particularly for the alleviation of the distress of returned men. But since the repatriation scheme of the Government was announced, the instruction has been issued that this work is not to be carried further. The people of Australia could not have shown greater patriotism than in the sympathy, charity, and energy which have characterized these efforts. Women in particular have for more than two years been devoting themselves assiduously to providing comforts for the soldiers, and relieving the immediate necessities of their dependants, and much assistance has been given. As a rule, the mayor of the town or the president of the shire has been chairman of a committee, of whom the local bank managers and other persons of responsibility have been members. Working bees have been formed, and every mail brings testimonials from the boya at the front as to the good that has been achieved. I had a letter, a day or two ago, from a town in which the sum of £100 or so has been raised to alleviate cases of distress, and I can give many instances in which this and similar funds have proved of great value. Women who have required medical attendance, and perhaps hospital treatment, have been assisted; in some cases food has been provided for children, and much good has been done generally. Occasionally, without this help, the families of soldiers would suffer great hardship through delays in forwarding pay, and it often happens that the allotment money is insufficient for their maintenance. My desire is that the Government shall not interfere with the work of these committees and associations, but that it shall support their philanthropic efforts. It would be well to have every member of the community assisting in this great crisis. Certainly neither Parliament nor the Government should do anything to deter persons from contributing to war funds, or giving their labour to assist in alleviating distress. I trust, therefore, that, before the debate closes, the Treasurer will announce that the Government intend to allow the various committees to continue their splendid work. Their accounts are available for audit if that be desired. They are working in accordance with the best methods, and are doing great good. I fear, however, that charitable effort has already been discouraged. One or two schemes for raising money which promised to be very successful, and should have realized some hundreds of pounds, have been stopped. No doubt the Treasurer is in sympathy with what has been done by the philanthropic, and I ask him to make the position clear. Some honorable members would concentrate all effort in the big centres of population. A fortnight ago I wrote to the War Council in Sydney about a case, and have not yet had a reply. No doubt the State War Councils are doing good work; but delay must occur when there is centralization, and it should be possible to relieve distress more quickly. I am disappointed with the proposals in regard to the old-age and invalid pensioners. I hoped that the Treasurer, who has promised for some time to consider this matter, would have gone further. A good deal of trouble and some friction has occurred from the begin ning, because of the disability of local hospitals in regard to destitute aged and invalid persons for whom they provide treatment and nursing. Should these persons die in the hospitals, even after they have been there only a day or two, the institutions are put to the cost of their burial, and they have already more than they can do to meet the demands upon them. I know that the cost of an individual funeral is not large.
– About 3s. 6d. was the contract price for the Adelaide Hospital, if my memory serves me correctly.
– The district which I represent treats its dead better than that; but I am speaking upon the matter of principle. I hope that the Treasurer will give sympathetic consideration to the request of the local institutions. I had intended to say something about the curtailment of postal services, but, as the Treasurer desires to close the debate, I shall defer my remarks on the subject. I ask him to make an early announcement regarding the war chest leagues and Red Cross associations for helping wounded soldiers and their dependants.
.- I am profoundly disappointed with the proposals of the Treasurer. I feel that the people have, in a sense, been tricked. We are within an ace of having forced on us, whether we like it or not- and many of us do not like it - what, in the view of a great body of the public, is one of the blackest blots that could be placed on Australia. It is announced in to-night’s Melbourne Herald that there are two more days of grace. To-morrow it will be one day. I hope, for the sake of Australia, that the people will accept what is proposed in the best spirit; but, if the country be turned upside down, there will be only the present Government to blame for it. Australia will not be grateful for being told that it is going to have foisted upon it one of the worst and most tyrannous systems under which the Old World has ever laboured. That question is done with, but we were informed by the glib politicians of to-day that the sacrifice was to be equal, that there would be equality of sacrifice, that wealth must contribute its share, that everything must be put into the melting-pot. The Leader of the Opposition himself, on the 14th, said-
– Who are the Opposition now?
– I am referring to the mau who was the accredited Leader of the ‘ Opposition that was “ before the Prime Minister came back. He said -
The whole of the available resources of the Empire, including men, must be placed unreservedly and unrestrictedly at the complete disposal of the military authorities of the Empire.
Will the Treasurer say that his proposals in any way meet that declaration made by the right honorable member for Parramatta, if honorable members will not have him referred to as the Leader of the Opposition ? I know he has been taken to the bosom of the Government - or has taken the Government to his bosom. The Conservative elements of the community have again fused, and this time they have fused with some Labour men. God knows what kind of metal will result after they have fused a few more times.
– Why do you not say they have “ Hughesed “ ?
– They have either “ Hughesed “ or “ oozed “ ; but there is one thing certain, they are not going to be forced to “ ooze “ out the money necessary to conduct this war. The Treasurer cannot in any sense claim that he has met the contention of the right honorable member for Parramatta, or that of honorable members on the other side, including the honorable member for Flinders, who seems to be very sincere in regard to the danger in which the Empire in general, and Australia in particular, stands, and the extent to which he is prepared to go to protect the liberty that we to-day call ours. But the honorable member is not on the Government bench conducting these proposals, and no proposition has come from the other side to indicate what they consider to be a fair and equitable way of apportioning their responsibility in the war. The right honorable member for Swan, who has himself been Treasurer, merely voiced the good old Conservative suggestion, “ Go to ‘uncle’” - and the present Government have not got very far away from it. No one on the other side has yet given us a lead as to how far they are prepared to go towards putting everything “ unreservedly and unrestrictedly” at the disposal of the nation in this time of stress.
Beyond the glorious old principle of “ going to uncle,” they have made no suggestion as to what we should do. On the other hand, they have applied the epithets “ traitorous,” “ cold-footed,” and “ whitelivered” to the trade unionists who have not volunteered for the front. Those are the terms of which the Prime Minister approved yesterday when I called his attention to them. They say, “ You have another day’s grace before you are taken by the scruff of the neck and thrown into the firing line to protect the interests which you call yours, but which are, in reality, ours.” The people who use that langauge have no chance of being- conscripted. They have accepted the referendum proposal only because they could get nothing more drastic - because they could not get conscription by a more rapid method; that is, by putting the iniquitous War Precautions A.ct - made iniquitous by the method in which it has been administered - into operation to force men into the firing line. They are supporting the referendum only because the Prime Minister did not come back and say, “ My friends with the coronets at Home - those who have swum in champagne with me, who have staggered home with crooked legs after hiding under the table at the banquets at Home to escape the vials of my wrath when I have been pouring them out; those whose confidence I have won and which I do not want to lose - expect me to take direct action to enforce conscription on Australia.” If he had been prepared to take the course which the honorable member for Brisbane intimated that he should have taken, and brought conscription into force under the War Precautions Act, every man on the Opposition side of the House would have been behind him, together with the whole of the wealthy portion of the community.
– And they would have been prepared to bear the financial burden consequent on it.
– Tell me how they would have been prepared to bear it. Let them lay down a scheme whereby their sacrifice will be equal to that of the man who leaves his home and his wife and children, and lays down his life, losing thereby his all, instead of leaving the responsibility to future generations.
– Many of them are finding both money and men.
– Even if they find both, is their sacrifice then equal to that of the man who has only his life to give, and gives it, and who, when he does give it, has nothing to leave? If those on the other side go, I guarantee that, with their wealth, they will leave their people far better off than the bootmaker who has left his last.
– A great many do not want to find either money or life. Many are finding both.
– That is according to the view they take of their responsibility to the nation. They will record their opinions at the referendum poll.
– That is what they call equality.
– The honorable member is not game to get up and talk his equality or prove it. He, among others, says, “Why do you not conscript wealth?” But where has the conscription of wealth come in ? How is wealth bearing the burden of the war?
– Why do you not ask your Government ?
– My Government know my position on this matter. I am not supporting them in the financial proposals which they laid before us yesterday. I have not yet been able to form a Government. If I could do so, and have a following, honorable members would not have before them a financial statement such as this.
– We will live in hope.
– I live in hope, also. Although I may not be their leader, those holding views similar to mine, will some day form a Government for the benefit of the whole Commonwealth, and not of the section which always controlled the nation up to the advent of the Labour party. That time is coming as surely as the night follows the day.
– The honorable member for Wakefield had full sway in South Australia, together with those of his ilk, when I was a young man. About twenty -three years ago, in that State, we had no cohesive Labour party, and the other side used to do as they liked. The honorable member was then a Liberal.
– What is he now?
– It would be necessary to scrape him three or four times to get to the bottom. There are so many coats upon him that I do not know what the bottom one is, but at the time I speak of he was associated with the late Sir John Cockburn, Sir John Hannah Gordon (now a judge of the South Australian Supreme Court), the late Sir Frederick Holder, the late Mr. Charles Cameron Kingston, and Mr. L. O’Loughlen, who, like him, has changed his skin and put on coats galore until we do not know what a dissection at the present time would reveal. In those happy-go-lucky . days, when one could pledge himself on the platform and let the electors go to the devil as soon as he was returned, there was no payment of members, but when one looked into the accounts of the private contractors about whom the honorable member is prating so much to-day, one could see amounts for cab-hire and big feeds, and other things, and one could see how railways were run through lands to suit the friends of the Government in power. The honorable member for Wakefield knows all about that kind of thing.
– No, I do not.
– The honorable member knows all about it. It is on record, and cannot be refuted. If one could collect all the data it would make a very interesting volume as to the management of Australia under Liberal and Conservative Administrations. Next we came to the time in South Australia when we ran a man on the Protectionist ticket. I worked for him for twenty-eight years, and we thought that he would be a good man for us. We were anxious to see South Australia progress under a Protectionist regime, and foster its industries. That man was a good voter for the Protectionists, but that is all.
– Who was he?
– He was the man who so frequently said, “ I move that the House do now divide,” and we knew nothing else about him. Then a time came, well within the memory of the honorable member for Wakefield and men who are not as old as I am, when the great maritime strike was in progress, and it was said that striking was barbarous and inflicted a penalty on the wives and children which the men did not bear; and it was also said that if we were not satisfied with the laws we should get into Parliament and make them ourselves. It was thought that we did not have the necessary brains. Our opponents said, “ The common working man has not the brains to make laws. As for finance, good God ! he never knew the meaning of the word.” We took them at their word, and to-day they would bite out their tongues that gave us that advice, because within twenty-five years, not only did we get control of the Legislative Assembly in South Australia, but, as the honoraoie member knows, we also had a majority in the “ House of Dry Bones,” as they term the Legislative Council in South Australia. The State never saw such progress and development as took place when Tom Price was in power. At one time the honorable member for Wakefield accused him of not having done anything on the west coast, and the reply was that, while the honorable member had talked about a bridge here anda reservoir there, the Premier had not talked, but had done the thing. The Murray River waters question was never in the forefront of practical politics until Tom Price was in power. The development of the lands of South Australia was not taken up until the Labour Government came into office. The honorable member for Wakefield asks me how long it will be before we shall have a Government of my way of thinking that would be prepared to finance the war as an ordinary, honest housekeeper would finance his house, namely, by paying his way as he goes. In view of the wonderful work done by men who “ did not understand finance” and “could not make laws,” the common hobnailed variety, or, to come to a later date, and use the words of a Conservative Premier of South Australia, the “ unthinking mob “-
– The honorable member has never run the “ hobnailed “ business.
– I am using language that the honorable member’s crowd used. They have called us the “ hobnailed “ and “bowyangs” party, and Mr. Peake, who has been Premier of South Australia, designated us as the “ unthinking mob.” We think a bit too deeply for the sophistries of honorable members opposite. When the double dissolution was brought about in reference to the principle of preference to unionists, the cry was, “ Do not change horses while crossing the stream. We are the men to clean up this business and run the war . “ But the “unthinking mob “ took no notice of the cry, and to-day they have a majority on this side of the House. “Marvellous!” my friend says. It is marvellous. It is not an easy thing for those on this side of the House to get into Parliament. We have not every daily newspaper, and every little country rag in Australia, talking and lying for us. But notwithstanding the lying of the newspapers and the lying of honorable members opposite, they cannot score a win. The honorable member for Wakefield asks, “ How long would it take?” I have told him what happened after the maritime strike. If the Labour party could start from nothing, and within a short period capture five out of six State Parliaments, and the Commonwealth Parliament also, is the honorable member bold enough to say what it will do in another twenty-five years ? The people can see the truth that lies behind this financial statement. They can see how they are being tricked by this reduction of the income tax exemption to £100.
– That is the proposal of the Labour Government.
– It is not our proposal. The honorable member told us that he had dropped us, by which statement he also meant that he had dropped himself. The Prime Minister has asked us to face the facts as they are.
– It is only through fellows like the honorable member that the party is going to pieces.
– I know that we are in the shaking barrel, and have to get rid of the chaff. It has to be done in every institution. Tom Price said we would have our ups and downs. This is one of our downs. But it is not a down because our principles are at fault.
– Who are “ we “ ?
– I speak on behalf of the Labour party’ that remains true to the principles that made it. I am not speaking on behalf of the honorable member, or those who have pandered to the side that would cut its throat. I am making this speech, and I am giving my opinion of the financial statement that has been put forward by the Treasurer. The honorable member for Macquarie has stated that the Labour movement is possessed of that little knowledge which is a dangerous thing. The very fact that he is here shows that it does possess that little knowledge which is dangerous, otherwise it would have selected to represent Macquarie a man who, in the crucial test, would have been proved pure gold instead of dross.
– Who are the judges?
– Those who rejected the honorable member the other day in Sydney. I might go on indefinitely relating facts concerning the triumphs of the Labour party, but it would be idle to do so, seeing that the community is so obsessed with the virtues of our party that for the past seven ‘ years it has been in power in this Parliament. Its latest triumph was the action by the Political Labour League in Sydney about a week ago, when it ejected from its ranks all those who were not true to the colours.
– The honorable member does not call ‘that being true to the colours. The real colours are those for which we are fighting.
– If I were a jingo I might say that.
– The honorable member means the red flag.
– The red flag is something by which we have stood in times of peace, and we ought not to discard it now. But the real question at issue is, “ How are we going to do the fair thing in regard to this war?” In the first place, we are going to conscript soldiers for service overseas. We have been assured by the Prime Minister that when it came to paying for the war the men who stay at home should submit to an “ equality of sacrifice.” I confess I do not like the phrase, because I hold that the entire cost of the war should fall upon those who can bear the burden by making the least sacrifice. The working men cannot bear it. Some honorable members are constantly prating about the high wages which workers receive in various avenues of production. But in the majority of cases those wages are the subject of an award either by the Arbitration Court or by a Wages Board, and I do not think it can be said that either the Judge of an Arbitration Court or the Chairman of a Wages Board ever exhibits a big leaning towards the working man.
– What about the sugar award ?
– I have not gone into that. The honorable member should put his question to a representative from Queensland. But I do know that Acting Judge Dickson based his award on the cost of living in tropical Queensland. The honorable member for Wakefield knows that one union in South Australia has recently been mulcted in heavy legal fees because of an endeavour to secure better labour conditions for its members. The legal cormorants at that inquiry were paid £2 15s. per hour, or £15 per day. They were engaged upon the task of ascertaining the basic cost of living, and working men’s wives had to go into the witnessbox and swear that they paid so much rent weekly, that they spent so much upon groceries, so much upon medicine, and that occasionally they visited a 3d. picture show. Yet we are told that our unions batten upon industry. When Judge Gordon officiated in the brushworkers’ case he said that the fixed wage of 7s. was the poverty line - that he found it cost that much to keep the prisoners in the Stockade. This was the remark of a Judge appointed to fix a reasonable living wage, and it is the basis on which all these tribunals start.
– It is only fair to Judge Gordon to say how many years ago it is since he heard that case.
– I grant that. That case was one of the first under the Arbitration Act in South Australia, seven or eight years ago, when the wages generally were 7s. a day. The workers are accused of ever and always wanting* more; but how can that taunt be thrown out when it is proved that living costs so much, and we consider the value of their skill, knowledge, health, and strength? Certainly the worker is ever and always wanting more, if he can get it. He is in business, and his business is to work, but he has only his labour to sell, and he can never sell it at an exorbitant profit. If there is a dearth of labour, there is a talk of immigration, and if labour is plentiful the worker has to scratch for his living - to subsist on sheep’s heads or be fed at a soup kitchen in the manner instanced by the honorable member for Melbourne. This sort of thing took place less than two years ago when there was a drought. I was then instrumental in getting the Minister for Defence to allow the stale bread from the camps, not to be sold, but to be sent to the Trades Hall, and there distributed to those in need. These are some of the hardships that working men have to put up with year in and year out. It is true that when there is a drought the farmer suffers loss, but he can always manage to hang on to his farm until there is a good season, and two goods seasons in succession take him out of the mire. The working man, on the other hand, suffers from a drought just as severely as does the farmer, but he cannot get out of his difficulties so soon or so easily. All this is, perhaps, not very relevant to the financial proposals of the Government, but I had to say it in answer to arguments we have heard from the other side.We are told that the Government requires £85,000,000 odd during the next year, and their first proposal is to raise an extra £1,000,000 from the income tax. Single-taxers religiously hold - and I suppose the honorable member for Lang will agree with this - that it does not matter what the form of taxation may be, other than taxation on land values, it can be passed on. It follows, therefore, that no matter what taxation the Government propose, when the financial schemers get to work they will so juggle and adjust them as to throw the burden on the back of the producer, leaving the wealthy man to make just as much money as before. The extra income tax revenue is to be raised by reducing the exemption and increasing the ratio of the tax already imposed.
– That is sound Labour finance.
– I am, I hope, a “ pure merino “ Labour man myself, in spite of what the honorable member for Macquarie may say, and I shall have to hear the Labour bodies approve of the proposal before I can accept it.
– I think for myself!
– Were not all these things settled by the Caucus upstairs?
– On this question I am not “settled” upstairs. The honorable member for Macquarie says that he thinks for himself ; and on this occasion I am thinking for myself as against the Caucus.
– The organizations outside are thinking for you !
– I am thinking for the organizations. I came here as a pledged man to do whatever the Conference of Labour desired me to do. They desired me to oppose the conscription of human life, and I am going to do so, and, as they are in favour of conscripting wealth, I shall bring that about if possible.
– You are not a free man!
– I accept the honorable member’s statement, but I say that I am shackled in a very pleasant manner, and with the object of making conditions better, not worse. On the subject of the reduction of the exemption to £100, I want to make a quotation from page 5846 of Hansard for 18th August, 1915. I find that an honorable member said -
There are some who suggest that all war expenditure should be met out of loans. I have no doubt whatever that is the ideal of those gentlemen who speak so loudly to-day of economy. What they mean is that there should be imposed on the poorer classes of this country an economy which would reduce them below a fair and reasonable subsistence level, and that all extra expenditure should be provided for out of loans. On the other hand, there is a section of the community who believe that all expenditure should be met out of taxation. The first of these plans is grossly inequitable upon the mass of the people, who are always too heavily taxed, and everywhere contribute more than their fair share of the cost of government; and the second plan is impossible.
That is to say, taxation on the mass of the people who are already taxed below the subsistence level. The same honorable member considered that the whole of the expenditure should not be met out of taxation. At page 5848, I find that he said -
I ask every honorable member in this chamber this question: If he had to live on £156 a year, or, as most of the people in this country have to live, on an income of between £ 104 and £156 a year, how would he do it? Every man knows that there is absolutely no margin left for taxation with such incomes.
– What is the honorable member quoting from?
– Written extracts.
– -If the honorable member is quoting from debate of the present session, he is not in order.
– I am only refreshing my memory by a reference to written extracts.
– Does the honorable member assure me that he is not quoting from debates of this session ?
– I am afraid, sir, that you are too inquisitive. I cannot say that. Honorable members will find it stated in Hansard that, upon an income of £156 per year, there is absolutely no margin left for taxation. Any honorable member who desires to know the opinion of the Prime Minister as to what is the irreducible minimum income upon which taxation can be levied, has only to look at the extracts which I am not permitted to quote, but which will be found at page 5848 in Hansard. They were made on the occasion when the right honorable gentleman introduced the last income tax proposals. Honorable members will find that the Prime Minister said it was impossible to tax a man on £156 a year without going below the subsistence level ; but to-day he would not only tax a man with an income of £156 a year, but proposes to reduce the exemption to £100 a year. To use his own words, to meet the cost of this war. a working man earning £2 a week is to be called upon to subscribe a fiat rate of £1. As soon as his income reaches’ £100, he is to be called upon to pay away £1 of it as a flat rate, although, according to the Prime Minister, if he earned £156 a year, he would have no margin left for taxation.
– What would the honorable member have said about the Liberal party if they had submitted such a proposal ?
– I would have said sufficient to the electors at the next election to be quite sure that after it my honorable friends opposite would be found in this House where they are at the present time. I say that this proposal is not one whit worse than any the Conservatives could have brought forward. There is only one item of the proposed taxation of wealth that cannot be passed on, and that is the proposed levy of 1£ per cent, upon the wealth owned by a person, the payment of which is to be extended over three years, and the revenue from which is to go to the Repatriation Fund. One-half per cent, per annum of wealth is to go to the Repatriation Fund. I like our friends when they say, “ Our liberties are being protected.” “ Our liberties,” bless the Prince of Wales! When they talk of the protection of their liberties, what they mean is the protection of their dollars, of their broad acres and billy goats.
– How can the farmer pass on his income tax ?
– I have never been a farmer. When I have been in the business and have done some farming, I may be able to answer the honorable member. If he ia a farmer, he might let me into the secret. I am prepared to exonerate the farmer from doing anything of the kind, but it is the farmer who farms the farmer, who waxes fat on that kind of thing - the Flinders-lane men, and the King William-street men in Adelaide. They see that the farmers do not have too much when they are done with them.
– And the Goulburn-street squatter in Sydney.
– That may be so. I suppose the honorable member is handinglove with them, and knows all about them. I have referred to one method by which the £87,000,000 is going to be raised- With regard to the amount of £10,000,000 to be raised for the Repatriation Fund, I am informed that it will only be a side line, because the States are to provide the land and put the soldiers on it, and to raise the money and control the real repatriation scheme. What we axe considering is merely a proposal to assist the State Governments. We are calmly informed that the State Governments are going to borrow £23,000,000 to do what they are expected to do in connexion with the repatriation of our soldiers.
– Where will ‘they get the money 1
– If the “ money-bags “ are ready to give it up, they willbe able to get it all right. Every man has his price, and you have only to fix the interest high enough and the “ Goulburn-street squatters,” to whom the honorable member for Calare referred, will find the money. This scheme is based on a twenty-five years’ redemption fund, but I remind honorable members that never, in the history of Australia, have we repaid a loan. We need not worry; we are not going to repay this money. It is all very well to say that, in connexion with this loan, there will be a sinking fund, which in twenty-five .years will repay the loan. At the end of twenty-five years we may all be dead. Other people will be in this Chamber, and representatives of the other side may be in charge of affairs, and they will not be likely to give effect to the intentions of the people who are passing this legislation at this time.
– This is a proposal of the honorable member’s own Government.
– I know that; but is the honorable member for Franklin not aware of the condition of things ? Is it necessary that the obvious should be demonstrated to him ? Does the honorable member not know that the present Government have done something, not only in connexion with the referendum, but in connexion with these proposals, that is not approved by their followers?
– Then why does not the honorable member go to the other side 1
– I do not intend to go to the other side.
– The honorable member is sheltering himself behind the Government on this side ; why does he not go to the other side?
– Why should I go to the other side ? Are the Government not open to criticism ? I told the Prime Minister that I was not going to support the loan proposals. I am incurring the same risk in the stand I have taken as is the honorable member for Grey by the attitude he has adopted.
– The Honorable member told his own executive that he would support the Government’s proposal in the country
– No, I did not.
– Other members of the executive say so.
– I told them nothing of the sort. But I desire to tell the community how the capitalist is shouldering the expense of this war. The lives of our people are being demanded now. No man of military age who comes within the scope of the Bill that will follow the referendum can say, “ I will do my fighting twenty-five years hence, or I will put it on to baby.” A man cannot pledge his youngster to do his fighting; he must give his services now, while the fighting is on. That being so, let us have a financial policy which will make the same immediate demands upon wealth, saying, “ This is the cost of the war, and this is the means of paying for it.”
– Permit me to state that 240,000 people out of Australia’s total population of 4,900,000 pay the land tax and income tax, amounting to £6,000,000.
– If they pay that amount, and they own the wealth, why do they not go and fight for it? Do honorable members expect a man who has gone to the front, and has nothing, to pay anything towards the cost of the war ? Who should pay for the war if not the 240,000 people mentioned by the Treasurer? We cannot go to an empty well to draw water. I know that the feeling of the people whom I represent is that the cost of this war must not, like somany of the burdens created by Liberal Administrations, be left for posterity to bear. Honorable members are trying to lead the public to understand that the whole cost of the war is. being paid by a certain section. I do not say that the projected additional taxation will not be paid by those people, but they are the persons who have the money with which to pay. The Prime Minister, when speaking on the last Income Tax Bill, said that incomes under £156 a year left no margin for taxation. The Government now propose to reduce that exemption, and that means that the men with an income of less than £156 a year must sacrifice something in order to pay the taxation. Either the Prime Minister wai talking with his tongue in his cheek when he made that statement, or the proposal to reduce the exemption to £100 will fall unfairly upon a section that cannot stand any further burden. I wish to revert to my point that in the conscription oi manhood the Government are taking the men at once. Already 6 per cent, of the fighting population of the Commonwealth has gone to the front, and if effect i& given to the proposal outlined by the Prime Minister, within eight months the whole of the fighting strength of the nation will have been drawn away. But in regard to wealth, the Government propose to take only 1£ per cent., and the levy i& to be extended over three years. In other words, they will take only J per cent, each year. If you told a man thai his liberty, his property, and his life were in danger, and that for J per cent, you would protect him, would he not gladly hand over that money ? And if you told him that his only hope of saving his life was to hand over all his wealth, would he not willingly pay that price ? My opposition to the Government proposals is that they are not in accord with the principles and ideals of the party to which T belong.
– Your party’s view is in the Government’s policy.
– I do not care what the honorable member thinks, but I do not approve of these proposals. This war is being financed, as every other undertaking is being financed, mainly by borrowed money. The Treasurer’s statement provides for £78,956,000 to be provided from loan and £6,000,000 odd from revenue.
– You know that the taxation proposals will pay off the loan in twenty-five years.
– I admit that that is the intention, but we cannot bind future Parliaments, and that system of finance does not meet with my approval. I have objected to that, and maintain that the wealth should be raised out of the community.
– But you would cripple our industries by that method.
– The honorable member knows that we would not do that. The Prime Minister is reported to have said that Australia is a very rich country indeed, the production per capita being the highest in the world, and that during the last decade it had increased from £36 14s. 2d. to £45 8s. 6d.
– Well, your scheme would prevent the production of that wealth.
– No. My scheme has been put forward in this House on more than one occasion. The honorable member for Grey knows that it is included in the Labour party’s platform. It is also on the plank of the party in Great Britain and America. I do not favour borrowing in order to finance the Commonwealth. The wealth is here, and it can be captured to meet the requirements of the time.
– But it is represented in land and machinery to a large extent, is it not?
– Yes, but the productivity of the land can be commandeered by the Commonwealth in this crisis.
– Do you think we could get over £80,000,000 in that way?
– We could get anything we liked, if there was a will to do it.
– But you would cripple our industries.
– No. The honorable member for Grey knows very well that the proposal I am advocating - the nationalization of banking and insurance - is within the four corners of the Labour party’s platform.
– We also know the Labour party’s platform approves the policy of borrowing in time of war.
– Yes, it does. This question was fought out years ago.
– I am not concerned with that. I know that the platform today affirms that expenditure ought to be paid for out of revenue. The honorable member would not do that. He would put it on to the babies, but he will not be here when the babies are squealing about it j he will be down, well underneath. The Labour party in Australia, as I have said, stands for the nationalization of banking and insurance, and a similar policy was indorsed by the British Labour Conference at Bristol, reported in one of our papers on 29th January as follows : -
The conference unanimously adopted a resolution tabled by the Independent Labour party in favour of covering the cost of the war. as far as possible, out of current revenue. The means suggested were heavier graduated taxation, a special tax on land values, increased estate duties, the graduated taxation of capital, and the State acquisition of railways, mines, shipping, banking, and insurance.
Honorable members will see that the Labour party in Great Britain want to get hold of the wealth-producing avenues for the benefit of the nation; and if I understand the ideals of the Australian Labour party aright, that is what is desired in this country, and that is what I am advocating. I am not bound, to the Government on this question. I have a perfect right to oppose their proposals for financing the war if I think they are not within the four corners of the Labour party’s platform. Let us see what the Labour party in America, where they are not so well organized, are thinking on the matter.
– Will you divide the House on the question?
– I shall cry “No,” and if there are two I shall divide the House, as I did on the loan proposals. Clause 19 on the platform of the American Labour party reads -
We favour a system of finance whereby money shall be issued exclusively by the Government, with such regulations and restrictions as will protect it from manipulation by the banking interests for their own private gain.
There is expressed the same ideal as is found in the platform of the party in
Great Britain and in Australia. If the Government had come down with a graduated land tax on the unimproved land values, I would have supported them, even if it had been heavy enough to meet the expenses of the war within five or ten years. If things are so awful as we are given to understand - and I do not want to say that war is not one of the greatest disasters in the world - we shall have to make a lot of sacrifices, and perhaps do a lot of extraordinary things. But if things are so serious as we are led to believe, we should follow the course taken by Great Britain, where the Government have stepped in and taken over control of certain industries. When the present Government came into office after the elections of 1914, the majority of the people were then of opinion that banking and insurance should be a national undertaking, and I now urge the Government to be bold, and go to the banking institutions, and say, “ During the time of this war, and until the whole cost has been met, these banks belong to the nation.” Let them tell each depositor that he will not get a penny interest, and let the Government take over all insurance companies.
– Would you apply that treatment to savings bank depositors as well?
– I would apply it to every banking institution in the Commonwealth. The savings bank depositor ought to make some sacrifice as well as everybody else, but the honorable member for Grey knows that if we tax the earnings of a man getting £2 a week there will be very little left for him to put into the savings bank. If I have £100 in the savings bank, it is money that I have not needed to use. I have been able to put it by, and to increase the sum through some one else’s effort. I make the suggestion that the banks should be taken over by the Government, in the interests of the nation, and that it should be made a penal offence for any one to lend money except through the Government. There should be no other money-lending institution. Thus you will get hold of the profits that are made. The banking magnates of the Commonwealth have told you what takes place, but you will not listen to them. Let me quote again from an article by the banking expert of the Adelaide Register -
The whole of the banks trading in Australia will be affected by loan subscriptions, for, directly or indirectly, the bulk of the money subscribed will pass from their control into the Commonwealth Bank. It will revert to the trading banks only after it has been disbursed locally.
It does not matter what amount is borrowed locally so long as it is spent locally, because the money simply circulates.
There is the trick of the coin made plain to you. So long as money is borrowed and spent locally, it simply circulates. Let the Government take over the control of circulation for the period of the war, or for so long as may be necessary to meet the cost of the war. It can make banking operations pay, and can lend money to industrial concerns, as the banks do now. I do not say that that is not perfectly proper, but the Commonwealth could control the business as well as the banks. What I suggest could be done if the Government had a penn’orth of “ punch “ in them, and were prepared to do something extraordinary in extraordinary circumstances. They have not proposed anything more than a Liberal Government would have proposed. Indeed, I think that the Liberals, after all that has been said about equality of sacrifice, would have been ashamed to propose a wealth tax of only J per cent, for three years for repatriation purposes.
– The proposal is to take 1-J per cent, of the entire wealth of Australia.
– Yes; but the levy can be spread over three years, ^ per cent, being contributed each year.
– Does the honorable member know that our taxation is equivalent to 4£ per cent, on £300,000,000 ?
– Yes; but we have been paying taxation to meet interest ever since the first loan was floated, and our children’s children will be taxed in the same way. The principal will never be repaid. I do not like that method of finance. The party to which I belong has struggled until now to get from under the heel of capitalism, which grinds down those who produce, and lives on them. I am out to destroy capitalism. But the honorable member for Grey, like Mr. Micawber, thinks that you can pay a debt by giving a promissory note. My opinion is that we should manage public concerns as we do our private concerns. We try to pay as we go along, instead of leaving our children with heavy burdens of debt. It has been the rule of my family to keep out of debt, and 1 thank my guardian angel that I have always been able to pay 20s. in the £1, and to keep out of debt. If our national finance were properly regulated, the country would be in the same position as I am; but we are so obsessed by the financial ideas of big, fat, bloated motor-hogs that no change can be effected. The present financial system is a sort of legerdemain. Wealth is turned over and over, and the individual who turns it over makes* money by doing so. The Commonwealth could take up the business of lending money. The establishment of a State Bank in South Australia was opposed by persons who told Ihe farmers that their industry would be killed; but to-day the State Bank is saving the farmers. It is a good asset to South Australia, and its operations have had a beneficent effect. The National “Bank, too, is a wonderful institution. It has given stability to the private banks, mid honorable members propose to allow them to make’ profits out of that stability. I wish the Government to take over the whole business of banking. If they did that they could finance the war. Let me, in connexion with the war profits proposal, read an extract from an article which appeared in the financial columns of the Register on the 25th January last -
The New South Wales banking averages for 1915 showed the greatest increase in the deposits on record - £9,401,000, of which no less than £7,598,377 accrued to current accounts, and the deposits, advances, and cash held all broke previous records.
– That was because of the money borrowed by Mr. Holman.
– Did he do all his borrowing in 1915? I am inclined to think that the borrowing of the Commonwealth had something to do with the position. As the Minister for Home Affairs pointed out on one occasion, if he borrowed £4,000 from a bank, that was shown as “ business out,” and if he paid it back again, that was shown as “ business in,” the whole transaction appearing as £8,000 worth of business, though not a copper was spent. To continue my quotation -
The proportion of cash to deposits is also the greatest of which there is any record, and the hanks are maintaining a strong position. It is probable that the loans to general customers have not expanded during the year, but loans to and investments with the Governments have certainly done so, and this is a time when the Governments need support, more particularly the Federal Government. Up to last year the cash holdings of the banks were never near the £20,000,000 level, and now they reach £23,130,608 in New South Wales alone. The gold has dropped £3,172,350, but the Government notes held have increased £8,656,611, and the total cash is greater by £5,484,261. That is remarkable. But the increase in the current accounts is still more striking, and it serves to show that the public in these times are doubtful as to the outlets for their surplus funds. For the first time on record the current accounts in 1915 exceeded one-half the total deposits. In 1890 the current accounts were only 29 per cent, of the deposits. In 1905 they reached 40 per cent., and now they are 52i per cent. That means (says the Sydney Daily Telegraph) that a much larger proportion of the banks’ resources are drawn from the current business of the country, and the expansion has gone on in the face of a rapid development of the Savings Bank operations.
There are, therefore, other means of financing the war if the Government so desire. We are not making wealth pay. The Government are not doing what a good Labour Government, who believe in the platform they helped to make, ought to do. All they have done is to go in for fancy forms of taxation which will be passed on. The only one that will not be put on the back of the worker is the tax on wealth. No matter what tax is imposed, these fellows are too cute, and have too big a pull in the community, to bear it themselves. If the Government had grabbed the avenues of wealth, and manipulated them in the interests of the nation, they would have been able to finance the war properly, instead of being £85,000,000 in debt, as we shall be at the end of this year, for war purposes only, and the bill is not likely to stop there. We must go on until the job is finished, and no one can estimate what the actual cost of the war will be to Australia. One thing that can be said with certainty is that, if the Government remain as they are at present, and the same process is adopted, it will be borrowed for and put on to baby, and the man who now says he is prepared to give his last shilling will take the last shilling he can get out of the war, as he is doing at the present, time. He will do anything but come up to “ scratch,” like every man has to do in his daily life, and meet his expenses as they occur. A great deal more could be said about the proposals to finance the war, because the whole thing reeks. The amusement tax will be paid by the general community. The worker will have to pay a½d. on his little three-penny picture show. Although, as pointed out by the Prime Minister, with a wage of £156 there is no margin for taxation, the little pleasure the citizen gets by going with his wife and kiddies to a picture show is to be taxed. The time is coming when the mother and kiddies will have to go to the picture show alone, father having gone to the front, and mother and kiddies will have to help to pay to keep father at the front. That is how the money-hogs finance the war.
– Do not call the Labour Government money-hogs.
– Some of them may be even that. I wish to bring under the notice of the Minister for Defence, through the Prime Minister, the case of Nurse Stacey, of South Australia. She gave every satisfaction while in Egypt, and assures me that all. the time she was in the hospitals there was not a word of complaint against her service or a mark against her character. She was returned from Egypt, and has a clean discharge from the military authorities. Every one of the questions could not be answered more satisfactorily than they were in her case. She made application to go to the front again, but her request was refused. At her request, I brought the matter before the Defence Department, who informed me by letter that she could not go back on account of unsuitability. Colonel Fetherston, when I saw him on the matter, shook his head, and would not tell me the real reason. He was not inclined to define the unsuitability. There are rumours that some nurses have returned from the front who would not like people to know why they cannot go back; but this nurse has nothing of that sort against her. She courts and would welcome an investigation into her abilities as a nurse. I want the Minister to take a note of this case, and see that I am not put off by any allegation of unsuitability. The alleged reason for which she was sent back has nothing to do with her skill or attention to duty or personal character. It is a matter of snobbishness on the part of those in charge. The iron heel of militarism extends even into our hospitals, and this is a case in point. This nurse has, apparently, happened to offend some one just a little above her. The position she is now in is that she cannot go back, and people can think what they like of her. There is another matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the Committee. On 18th August last year, Senator de Largie asked for a return showing the militia officers who had not volunteered for the front, but were holding paid positions. Among the names for South Australia was that of Major W. S. Hanson, aged 39 years 8 months. He was described as acting as D.A.Q.M.G. He is now holding the same position at the Keswick camp, and he keenly feels his inclusion in that list, believing that it classes him as one of the cold-feet brigade. I have known Major Hanson in civil life, and I could not select a more energetic or capable man for any post. In the course of a letter he has written to me on another matter, he remarks -
I tried to get away with the Expeditionary Force, and was twice turned down by the Principal Medical Officer, Lieut. -Colonel Shepherd, who happened to be my own medical officer, and who had fairly recently attended me for a somewhat serious stomach ulcer. When offered a troopship, which 1 regarded as a picnic, I refused. I wanted to do service at the front.
If any man would do his duty to his country it is Major Hanson. I am satisfied that he has secured his rank by the outstanding ability that he possesses. There is also a matter to which I should like to direct the attention of the Minister for Home Affairs. A request has reached me from the Adelaide City Council which has reference to a continuation of Oddfellows-place, off Franklin-street, Adelaide, to give access through to Waymouth-street. If the contents of the letter are a sample of what takes place in the Department for Home Affairs, it is no wonder that an inquiry into that Department was deemed necessary. The attachment to the letter is as follows : - (Copy of letter sent to the Minister for Home Affairs on the 2nd December, 1915.)
I have the honour, by direction of the City Council, to refer to the land in Franklin-street, Adelaide, which was acquired by the Commonwealth, in accordance with the Gazette notice of the 18th September last, and to respectfully ask that your Government will take into consideration the question of continuing the roadway north from Oddfellows-place through to Waymouth-street.
I desire to point out that at the present time there is no crossstreet between Franklin and
Waymouth streets for a distance of 2½ acres, and the proposed roadway would be a great advantage. (Signed) H. P. Beaver,
On January 24th, 1916, a reminder was sent by the Town Clerk, stating no reply had been received to previous letter of 2nd December.
On January 27th, 1916, a printed acknowledgment was received from the Acting Secretary for Home Affairs.
On July 6th, 1916, another letter was sent by the Town Clerk, asking for reply as to what action had been taken. (No acknowledgment was received of this letter.)
On July 24th, 1916, a further letter was sent by the Town Clerk, asking for a reply to our previous letters.
On July 27th, 1916, another printed acknowledgment was received from the Acting Secretary.
On August 29th, 1916, the Town Clerk wrote a further letter, referring at length to the correspondence, and again asking for a reply.
On September 4th, 1916, another printed acknowledgment (the third one) was received from the Acting Secretary.
– Order ! The honorable member has reached his time limit.
– I shall be obliged if honorable members will permit this Supply Bill to go through as soon as possible, because honorable members of another place will need to have the Bill to-night. After this Bill is disposed of I ask honorable members to permit us to deal with certain formal measures having reference to the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. To-morrow, with the permission of honorable members, I wish to put through a Bill for the purpose of amending the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act in order to permit of increased payments to old-age pensioners commencing in October. As honorable members are desirous of an opportunity of discussing matters of urgent publicimportance, I propose to take Ways and Means as soon as the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill is out of the way. This will provide every opportunity for further discussion.
– When will the entertainments tax be introduced?
– I would like to go on with that tax, but I am afraid that it, with other measures, will have to wait until the House resumes the sitting after the referendum campaign.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– In moving -
That this Bill be now read a second time,
I wish to supplement my remarks concerning old-age and invalid pensions by saying that I am not able to give honorable members the opinion of the Government on the merits of the request which has been made that blind persons should be permitted to earn a certain sum whilst chey are in receipt of a pension. The Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act will be amended to permit of the increased payment of 2s. 6d. per week, which the blind pensioners will receive in common with other pensioners, but as to the amount that they ought to be allowed to earn, I promise that the Government will take the matter into consideration, and announce their decision to the House when it reassembles. The question cannot be dealt with off-hand, but must be considered in all its aspects. If we permitted blind pensioners to earn 30s. a week whilst receiving a pension of 12s. 6d. per week, we do not know where we might be landed.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment.
– Some time before the death of the late Commissioner of Taxation, Mr. McKay, a very able officer-
– I would point out that the Treasurer can proceed with the second reading of this Bill only by leave of the House. In the absence of that leave fresh business cannot be taken after 11 o’clock.
– Then I object.
– I think I secured permission to move the second reading of this Bill at a later hour of the day.
– But it is entirely new business, and the honorable gentleman can only proceed with the consent of the House.
– I would like the permission of honorable members to put this Bill through.
– I object. An infamy has been done of which the people are not aware.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes’ of this Bill.
Mr. SPEAKER announced the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral recommending that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of this Bill.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I must express my regret that the honorable member for Melbourne declined to allow me an opportunity to put through the necessary Bill for the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. The Bills with which I desired to deal this evening are part of the programme of the Government, and must be taken in their order. They include, besides the Supply (Works and Buildings) Bill, a Bill for the appointment of an Assistant Commissioner of Taxation, and a Bill for the amendment of the Old-age Pensions Act, to authorize the payment of an increased pension. If the honorable member for Melbourne is prepared to take the responsibility for delaying the payment of these pensions
– As a point of order, I wish to know whether the Minister is right in debating the question, because, if so, I also wish to debate it.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House I have very little control over what honorable members may say.
– The Government are very anxious, having announced that this increase shall be paid–
– The honorable member must not debate the Bill.
– I do not propose to debate the provisions of the Bill, but merely to point out that it is ungracious on the part of the honorable member to delay the payment of the increased pensions by such action as he has taken to-night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160928_reps_6_80/>.