6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts concerning the establishment of a Public Works Department, presented by Mr’. John Thomson, and ordered to be printed.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether he is aware that the statement is being circulated about thecity that a number of men who were called up under the proclamation requiring enrolment for home defence acquired a certain disease, necessitating their removal to Langwarrin, and that immediately the proclamation was repealed they were released. It is alleged that these men numbered nearly seventy. I should like the Minister to inquire whether the statement is correct.
– I have not heard the statement before, but I shall bring the question under the notice of the Minister for Defence, and let the honorable member have an answer later.
– Will the Treasurer inquire whether better provision cannot be made at Bendigo for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions?
– I shall do so.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as fellow -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am unable to reply to the question, because I do not understand precisely what it means.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
With reference to the advertisement appearing in the Commonwealth Gazette of 30th November, calling for applicants for Chief Inspector of Dairy Produce, Class B, does this mean that the Commonwealth intends to appoint an officer to control the dairy produce of Australia, and to create a new Commonwealth Department ?
– The advertisement merely indicates an intention to make somewhat more direct the method of supervision of dairy products submitted for export. No new Department will be created. The matter is one which has been, and will continue to be, controlled by the Department of Trade and Customs.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether the Government intend to proceed with the consideration of the Tariff at an early date; and, also, whether any further effort is to he made torevive existing industries and establish new industries ?
– The question of the Tariff is under consideration of the Government.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I have not yet had time to ascertain what would be the cost of producing a return such. as would be necessary to answer the questions asked by the honorable member. In view of the need for economy, and the demand for it that is being made in every part of the country, I am not prepared to interfere with the ordinary work of the officers of the Department by engaging them on work of this kind until I can look into the matter and see exactly what is involved in the honorable member’s request. I shall let him have a definite reply to his question later.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 304.
The War - Internment Camps - Reports of Visits of Inspection made by Officials of the United States Embassy to various Internment Camps in the United Kingdom. - (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
interim Financial Statement - Ministerial Policy.
In Committee of Supply: Debate resumed from 7th December (vide page 9589) on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That there be granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending the 30th day of June, One thousand nine hundred and seventeen, a sum not exceeding £3,293,290,
Upon which Mr. Higgs had moved -
That the sum be reduced by £1,000,000.
– I take this opportunity to congratulate the new Ministers on their accession to office. Among them are one or two menwhose services to the party to which they have belonged for many years, and to which, I presume, they still belong, notwithstanding the recent expulsions, entitle them to the recognition that they have now received. I am glad that they have at last been given the reward that they have earned. I particularly desire to congratulate the Minister for Home Affairs, who is one of the oldest members associated with the Labour party, and whose services I thought would have been recognised long ere this by the gift of a Ministerial portfolio. I congratulate the Treasurer on having made some attempt during the short time that he has been in office to recast the finances of the country on a basis of greater economy. But his financial statement, as a whole, is by no means satisfactory to me. There is room for a much greater revision of the finances, with a view to lessening the load of taxation, and to decreasing expenditure. Much of the present expenditure is, in my opinion, unnecessary and without justification in this time of war. I think that the sources of revenue are being overburdened to meet ordinary expenditure at a time when money is urgently needed for the prosecution of the war to a successful issue. A great deal of money, which in normal times might justifiably be spent on railways and other extra public services of the country, should now be diverted wholly to war purposes. We are constructing a large number of costly public works which, in their very nature, are unprofitable. This involves the expenditure ofmillions of pounds. No attempt seems to have been made to curtail this expenditure, which is not needed at the present time. It should have been curtailed at the beginning of the war, and if it had been suspended, the community would have avoided enormous unnecessary taxation.
– What about the expenditure on the Federal Capital?
– There has been a lot of wasteful expenditure there. According to a report whichwas made by the ex-Minister for Home Affairs, the honorable member for Darwin, considerably more than £500,000 has been expended there uselessly, and in a perfectly unjustifiable way. But I do not wish to trespass upon matters which are at present the subject of an investigation, and I shall wait until the report of the Commissioner who is inquiring into the expenditure upon the Federal Capital is tabled.
– Has not the honorable member been agitating for a long time that the work of the Federal Capital should be pushed on?
– Yes, but in a legitimate way, so that the permanent expenditure will be justified by results which will serve the purpose for which the Federal Capital is intended. But I do not think that it would be proper for me to go into details with regard to the expenditure on the Federal Capital, for the reason that I have already stated. There is expenditure in other directions - on the transcontinental railways, for instance - which certainly should be deferred until a more convenient period, and until we once more get back to normal times. Millions of pounds are being spent on these railways; yet, as every one knows, they will be unproductive, if not for all time, at any ratefor many years, and the burden of providing revenue for the purpose of carrying on these works is very severe on the whole community. I am glad to see that the Government propose to revise the previous proposals in’ :regard to the entertainments tax. The primary purpose of such a tax is to raise - revenue, and on that ground its imposition is justifiable; but under the proposal previously submitted there was a danger that the source of the anticipated revenue would be dried up altogether by the tax operating - in addition to the various State taxes already in operation - in the -direction of entirely dislocating that branch of industry and closing up many places of amusement. The result would probably have been that the actual revenue would fall very far short of what the Treasurer anticipated receiving, from that source. The proposed wealth tax and the income tax are imposts which are very popular with a certain section of the community, and when extra revenue is required for the purpose of carrying on a war special levies of taxation are justified, and no one can take exception to extra taxation for war purposes; but, at the same time, we should endeavour to see that such taxation is levied equitably. We have to remember that we have already the State income tax and Federal income tax, while in New South “Wales, in addition to. the ordinary income tax, there is a supertax amounting to a very considerable sum, and the Commonwealth Treasurer proposes another supertax to the Federal income tax to the -extent of an additional 25 per cent. This additional impost will fall very heavily and unfairly upon those of the community who are already paying income tax. Instead of levying a tax of 1-J per cent, on the wealth of the community, as the previous Treasurer proposed - a proposal which the present Treasurer does not at present purpose disturbing, except in regard to the mode and time of payment - I suggest that we should tap another source of revenue, and put a tax on the capital unimproved value of land for the special purpose of the Repatriation Fund. I am not speaking in any way for any other honorable member. These are my own views. Probably what I suggest will ‘not be too popular among some honorable members sitting on both sides of the House. It is a very unwise thing to put a tax upon capital. A tax of l£ per cent, on capital will mean the curtailment, to some extent, of the sources of revenue. The taxation of the capital from which profits and in comes are derived is an entirely different thing from the taxation of incomes and profits derived from the investment of capital; the one reduces capital, the other only reduces profits on income from capital. The taxation of capital to any appreciable degree must eventually defeat its own object by curtailing the source of revenue, thus placing the Estimates of the - Treasurer on a wrong basis by depriving him of the benefits which he expects to derive from the tax. The previous Treasurer anticipated that a. tax of l£ per cent, on wealth, spread over a period of three years, would yield £3,333,000 per annum, or a total of £10,000,000 in three years.
– I think that the estimate was excessive.
– Probably it may have been excessive; but I am not dealing with that point. The present Treasurer proposes to retain the tax of 1 per cent, on wealth, but to spread it over a period of five years, collecting one-fifth of the total amount each year.
– As the honorable member will see by the footnote, it may be possible to reduce the amount payable in the’ earlier years. There is no doubt that there will be a reduction in the earlier years.
– Ac- cording to the Treasurer’s figures, it is anticipated that, by spreading the payments over five years £1,835,000 will be derived each year. Instead of levying such a tax in this way. if the Treasurer were to levy a tax of 1 per cent, on land values, what would be the result? According to the tabulated war census card returns, the capital value of unimproved freehold estates in Australia amounted at the time the cards were filled in to £421,000,000. As to the cards remaining to be tabulated it waa estimated that they represented the value of £25,000,000, bringing the total capital unimproved value of freehold estates in Australia to £446,000,000. A tax of 3d. in the £1, which is li per cent., on that total capital unimproved value would yield a very considerable amount.
– Without exemptions?
– We are now charging a land tax of 9d. in the £1 on the top grades.
– But we are also taxing incomes very heavily, and this is to be a special levy for repatriation purposes. I am not . suggesting that there should be a tax of 3d. in the £1 on these land values, although, if it were imposed, we could considerably modify the income tax and other sources of taxation, and do away with a large portion of the Customs taxation, which is at present very burdensome on .the great masses of the community. Instead of being an additional levy, it could be a levy substituted for much of the taxation already imposed, and would relieve the burden of a very large number of people, who are now feeling very acutely the oppressiveness of the existing systems of taxation. Instead of levying per cent, on wealth, if we were to levy 3d. in the £1, or 1 per cent., on the total unimproved capital value of f reehold lands in Australia it would bring m a revenue of £5,575,000 per annum, whereas, by his tax of 1 per cent, on wealth, the Treasurer anticipates receiving £1,835,000 per annum. From a tax of Id. in the £1 on capital unimproved land values the Treasurer would get £1,858,000 per annum, or an excess of £23,000 per annum over the revenue expected to be derived by imposing a tax of li per cent, on wealth, spread over five years. I commend this scheme to the serious consideration of the Treasurer as an alternative to that which he set out in his financial statement.
– Why should landholders bear the whole burden of repatriation 1
– Because the scheme of repatriation ‘should be based upon the values which the whole community creates. By a tax on unimproved land values, imposed for that purpose, the whole ‘community would be required to bear its proper burden. Unimproved values are not the creation of any individual. They are not the result of industry or the expenditure of capital, but are rather the result of the presence, needs, and activities of the people as a whole, and the expenditure of public funds upon public utilities, such as railways, roads, bridges, and other public undertakings, differentiate between unimproved values and improved values. I do not suggest that improved values should be taxed. I am speaking now entirely of unimproved values.
– How would the honorable member tax the man who will not go on the land ?
– He owns his share of land values as well as any one else. I know of no man who does not go on the land. I know of no man who lives in the air. Man is essentially a land animal. Some people speak of land as if it were something in the country. They forget that the most valuable lands are city areas, such as those on which this building is erected. Some of my ‘honorable friends are afraid that under this scheme the poor farmer would suffer. As a matter of fact, under it the farmer could be relieved of many of his already burdensome taxes. We could, for instance, afford, if such a scheme were in operation, to remove many of the imposts om agricultural implements that he has to pay.
– What would the hon- orable member give him while he was clearing his land and earning nothing?
– He is called upon ‘to pay various taxes at the present time, regardless of whether he is earning or not. It is only when we propose to tax the primary source of all wealth that we hear this plea for the poor farmer ,and the poor widow. Under this scheme we should be able to remit burdensome taxation which the farmer already has to pay, whether he likes it or not, and concerning which there is no protest from either side. There is no consideration for the poor farmer when he has to pay heavy imposts on all the implements an’d machinery that he needs for productive purposes. It is only when we propose to remit those taxes, and to substitute another tax which would fall upon him more lightly, that we hear this outcry. Let us see how this tax would fall. There are 669,474 holdings of freehold land in Australia, and of that number 534,000 are .holdings of less than £600 in value. The great bulk of these holdings, therefore, are under £600 in value. A tax of Id. in the £1 on estates valued at £600 would amount to only £2 10s. per annum. Surely that would not be a very heavy burden for these people to pay for repatriation purposes, ft is far less thai they are asked to pay under the wealth levy.
– They would not pay anything like that amount under the wealth tax.
– The wealth tax is per cent., while this would not amount to J per cent. On estates valued at £500 this tax would be only £2 ls. 8d. per annum. On estates valued at £400 it would be £1 13s. 4d. a year ; on estates valued at £300, £1 5s. per year; on estates valued at £200, 16s. 8d.; and on estates valued at £100, only 8s. 4d. a year. Estates of a higher value would, of course, have to pay proportionately higher rates.
– Does the honorable member believe in taking the exemptions off all land?
– Yes ; I would place all on the same footing. I submit this proposal to the Treasurer as being far more equitable than his 1-J per cent, wealth tax - a tax which was really proposed by his predecessor in office.
I pass on now to the question of the referendum. I believe that the referendum was a very grave mistake, and I have held that view from the time that it was first announced. I felt from the first that the question of reinforcements for our troops should not be made the subject of a referendum - that the Government of the day - whatever party might be in power - should take upon their own shoulders the full responsibility for the conduct of the war. I regarded the refusal of the present Prime Minister to accept that responsibility, and his action in shifting it -on to the backs of the people, as a lamentable confession of weakness. There was no one in. Australia in so good a position as the Prime Minister to know the real requirements of the war. He had come fresh from the inner councils of the Allies, with all the information necessary to enable him to form an opinion as to what was required. He had information which no other honorable member possessed, and which certainly no member of the general public could have. I thought from the first that it was most unfair to submit to the decision of the people a question concerning which they were not. and could not. in the very nature of things, te permitted to be acquainted with the full facts. The people were largely asked to vote in the dark upon the question. The Prime Minister should have taken the full responsibility for any action ncessary ta maintain the strength of our Australian forces at the front and supplying at the time they were required the necessary reinforcements.
It was also foolish for him to issue, just as the referendum was to be taken, a proclamation calling upon all men between twenty-one’ and thirty-five years of age to go into training without any regard whatever for the convenience or the requirements of the industrial, commercial, and business community. These men were called up indiscriminately, and business, trade, and industry were dislocated on every hand. In this way, the Prime Minister raised a formidable wall of antagonism which, from the very jump, threatened to wreck his scheme. The right honorable gentleman himself was primarily responsible for the disastrous result of the appeal to the people. It was due to his bad generalship and the faulty tactics which he displayed. These men ought not to have been called upon until the result of the referendum had been made known. The excuse made for calling them up was that time was the essence of the contract. But we have not one of those men in camp to-day, so that evidently it would have been sufficient to call them up after the referendum had been taken, especially as most of their actual training would, in any case, have to be done on English soil. As it was, men were called up against their will, and nearly every man so called up could be, relied upon to- vote “No.” I am speaking now, of course, of the unwilling recruits. Another point is that business men who were deprived of the services of employees were also extremely irritated by this dislocation of their industry. I know that employers of labour, in very large- numbers, also voted “ No,” because they did not wish to be suddenly deprived of the services of men in their employment. As to those who call themselves “ anti-conscriptionists/’ I have never for < one moment admitted that the matter was one of conscription versus anticonscription, fo-r we already had conscription under the Defence Act. The only question waa whether the men who could be conscripted under the Defence Act for service within the Commonwealth, should be sent beyond Commonwealth Territory., That was the sole question involved. I have reason to believe that a very considerable portion of the funds, which those who opposed the proposals, received for conducting the campaign, came from business men in the city, whose businesses had been interfered with by the precipitate action of the Prime Minister in issuing that proclamation at the time. As a reason for taking that action the Prime Minister stated that the voluntary system had absolutely failed; but he now proposes to again have recourse to the same system. I am afraid that some of those who were engaged on the “ No “ side in the recent campaign, were not only against the Minister’s proposals, but were against recruiting of any kind, voluntary or otherwise. I have reason for saying this, because I had occasion to listen to a number of speeches in opposition to the proposals; and the purpose of those speeches could have been nothing else than to do everything possible to prevent reinforcements being sent to the front by any means whatever. I do not say that that is true of all who- were on the “ No “ side, but I- do say that in a great many instances which came under my personal notice I could come to no other conclusion than that the campaign was undertaken by some for the purpose of stopping recruiting of any kind. In my opinion, however, voluntary recruiting did not really have a fair trial. It failed for many reasons, and amongst the contributing causes of failure were, first and foremost, in my opinion, breach of faith on the part of the Government towards returned soldiers in not giving them that preference for employ-* ment in the Government service which Mr. Fisher, when Prime Minister, promised on the floor of this House, without any reservation whatever. A great many men went to the front accepting in good faith that statement of the ex-Prime Minister, but when they came back, expecting the promise to be redeemed, they found themselves blocked at every turn unless they first joined unions. They found that preference to returned soldiers was not offered, but that preference to union- ists was still to prevail in the Public Service. I myself saw notices posted in the Home Affairs Department referring all applicants for employment to the Trades Hall. I am not speaking of this Ministry only, but particularly the former Ministry, because they were primarily res.sponsible, and tried to shirk their responsibility by a mere quibble. It was urged by the Government that they had issued no instructions that certain questions were to be put to these men; but what they did was to refer the men to a tribunal, before which they knew those questions would be asked, and by which there was no possible chance of being recommended for employment unless the applicants were, or became, unionists and Labour supporters. The real question was whether an applicant belonged to a union or not; and returned soldiers by the score have complained most bitterly to me of the breach of faith on the part of the Government in dishonouring the ex-Prime Minister’s promise for preference should any man desire to enter into casual service with the Commonwealth. When men presented themselves as applicants for employment they were met with an intimation that they must go first to the Trades Hall people, and, when they did so, they had to answer to the satisfaction of the secretary of the unions concerned, whether or not they were members. If they were not members they were advised to become so as” soon as possible, as it was no use applying until they were. Many of the men refused to do anythingof the kind; and we have seen letters in the newspapers from such men complaining of their treatment. From that moment recruiting began to fall off. These men got among their friends in the community, and made known the treachery of the Government in dishonouring the promise of preferential employment in the Public Service. Another contributing factor to the failure of the voluntary recruiting system was the indiscriminate employment of returned soldiers as recruiting agents.
– Some of them had notact at” all.
– The most tactless speeches were made in many cases, though some of the men spoke exceedingly well in making good patriotic appeals. I addressed a number of meet- ings myself along with returned soldiers, who had been sent out to assist, and, therefore can speak with experience of what took place. As will be remembered, Federal and State members of Parliament were asked to lend active assistance in this way, and, in conformity with that request, I and others took our share of the work. As. a matter of fact, in some cases, I had with me returned soldiers whose speeches absolutely nullified the effect of anything that might have been done in the way of recruiting. They depicted all the horrors of war; they gave their own personal experiences, and presented the most gruesome and harrowing side of the picture, contrasting it with the easy, lazy life led by the young men remaining in Australia, who had a good time going out with their girls to picture shows and other entertainments, and generally enjoying themselves.- Those young men to whom we were appealing were, many of them, without any responsibilities, and, having no deep-rooted sense of patriotism, but an inherent love of ease, born of long experience of existence in Australia, were quite untouched. No appeal was made by these soldier speakers to the patriotism of these young men, or to the necessities of the Empire; it was never urged that they were required to fight for the maintenance of the very conditions they now enjoyed. I made representations to the recruiting committee in Sydney to the effect that some little care should be exercised in selecting the returned men sent out to assist in the recruiting, but I am afraid very little notice was taken of this suggestion. Under the circumstances, it was not surprising to me that there was sometimes not a single recruit obtained at the meetings themselves, whatever the young men may have done afterwards. Another factor which contributed to the failure of the recruiting system was the’ reports which appeared in the newspapers, in the form of letters by soldiers to their relatives and friends and members of Parliament, describing the treatment they were receiving from certain officers in command over them. There were stories of grave injustices, tyranny - of autocratic and overbearing conduct - on the part of officers who had been sent out with the original contingents and reinforcements; and such stories are still rife. All this has certainly caused a great amount of dissatisfaction on the part of a number of men, and their feelings are expressed in their letters to their friends. It is a great pity, I think, that greater discrimination is not exercised in the choice of men to whom responsible positions are given in the command of men, especially of Australians. We have to remember that Australians are brought up in an atmosphere different from that in which the people of the Old Country live - that they have been reared in an atmosphere of independence and freedom, which, to a large extent, is unknown in any other part of the world. Anything in the nature of discipline is, in itself, irksome enough, and when it is accompanied by, arrogance and overbearing and unjust conduct on the part of some of those in authority, a spirit of revolt is apt to manifest itself amongst men who have been brought up under Australian conditions. I only mention these as some of the contributing causes to the failure of the voluntary recruiting system in the past. However, these are defects which can be ‘remedied; and I sincerely hope that the embargo on returned men obtaining employment unless they become union members will be speedily removed by those who have control of the government of the country. I should now like to say a word or two in regard to rifle clubs. Here is an arm of the service- which I do not think has ever been properly appreciated by the military authorities ; and it is about time that some recognition of its value was made. There are in the Commonwealth no fewer than 1,546 rifle clubs, with a membership of 104,000, of which some 20,000 have enlisted for active service at the front. I know that the rifle clubs complain very bitterly of the cavalier treatment they have received at the hands of the Defence Department. The clubs have not been acknowledged as a useful arm of the military service; yet I am sure that, if they were properly taken in hand and given that recognition which is their due, every rifleman would become a valuable recruiting agent in himself. If the large membership of the clubs were utilized in this way for the purpose of recruiting, it would not only considerably augment the number of recruits from the rifle clubs and from the general community, but would popularize those clubs as an institution, and induce many to join them. When a young man joins a rifle club, and becomes interested in shooting, he speedily becomes interested in military matters. As it is, however, many who have joined the clubs have left them in sheer disgust at the utter neglect of the authorities. I sincerely hope that the Government will do something in the direction of giving proper recognition to the clubs, and of utilising their services to the fullest ex-, tent in the recruiting movement about to be launched. I have offered these few remarks in regard to the finances for the consideration of the Treasurer, and, in regard to recruiting, for the consideration of the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister ; and I trust that we may see some action taken in the’ directions I have indicated.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia to reduce the Supply Bill by £1,000,000, my only objection .to it being its extreme modesty. I am ready to vote for any proposal to reduce supply to the utmost limit, because,, having no confidence in the Government, I am prepared to refuse them supply for even an hour. The only reason I have for supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Capricornia is that at present it is the lowest amount .on which I have the opportunity to vote. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members who profess to have no confidence in the Government and yet are willing to give them supply to carry on the services of the ‘country. If the -Government do not possess the confidence of honorable members there is ‘only one thing to do with them.
– Can you tell us how any Government could be formed in this House that could have the confidence of the ‘majority without the assistance of a second party ?
– No; but I think a better Government than that now in office could be formed. I cannot understand the attitude adopted .by the Leader of the Liberal party and his supporters, who have indulged in a most scathing criticism of the conduct of the Government. Nothing stronger could be said against the Government than was contained in the -speech of the right honor able member for Parramatta last night. He trounced the Government, and referred to some of their conduct as a public scandal. Yet he coolly proposes, and his followers support him, to keep the Ministry in power.
– Do you advocate an immedate appeal to the country?
– I am quite in favour of that, and will assist in every way any effort to that end, because I believe that the sooner the present position is altered the better.
– You have received instructions to that effect, have you not?
– Not yet. Last week I stated that I would spare no -effort to force the Government to the .country so as to allow the people to decide who is to be entrusted with the responsibility of governing the Commonwealth. I disagree, to a large extent, from the method of finance proposed by the Treasurer. That money must be found to carry on the Government, and particularly to continue our share of the war, must be acknowledged by everybody. I am not at all associated with those who suggest any slackening of our -efforts in regard to the conduct of the war- I believe that, to the utmost of our strength and opportunity, it is our duty to take an active part until the war is satisfactorily ended, and we must obtain money for that purpose. But I can-not find ‘satisfactory reasons to .give to myself, far less to my constituents, for the methods of finance proposed. For instance, in regard to the war profits taxation, while I certainly believe that some effort should be made to restrict abnormal profits during war time, and whilst, unfortunately, it is quite true that there are some people who take advantage of war time difficulties to reap excessive profits, I hold that a judicious application of the fixation of prices and a heavy income tax would destroy all incentive to make excessive profits, because we would practically rob them of any profits they made, besides limiting their opportunities to make them,
– I ‘have never heard you .protest against the proposal before.
– Yes, I protested to the ex -Treasurer, and I have also had the “honour of expressing privately to the present Treasurer my views on this question. Another -objection to the war profits’ legislation is that it will create an unnecessary amount of new official machinery, with which Australia is already overburdened. Our financial machinery is altogether too extravagant at the present time. We have State and Federal officers overlapping in financial affairs in every direction, and I agree entirely with the suggestion repeatedly made by the honorable member for Flinders that there should be one taxing authority in. ‘ Australia. We want unification in finance more than in any other department of our Government.
– You mean coordinated machinery.
– I am prepared to’ accept that definition. There is nothing more irritating to business people than the constant inspections and demands for reports and returns from the various authorities operating through State and Federal channels. Now it is proposed that there shall be another super-financial body to inquire as to how war profits are made and what proportion of them is taxable. This will add another irritating and disturbing experience to the business community. Besides, some people will be taxed unfairly. There are a number of people who have taken over businesses during the war which previously were not profitable, and, by reason of improved management and better methods, have made them successful. The very fact that success has come through particular ability and energy is to be made the reason for penalising the owners and extracting from them the profits they have made, although such profits might be quite reasonable. Because the profits have been made in war time they are to be interfered with. There is one way of getting at the people who take advantage of war time to inflate prices and reap great profits. To a small extent, and not too successfully, we have tried to regulate the prices of our principal products and the necessaries of the country.
– We have made a failure of it
– We have not made a success of it, but that may be because we have been experimenting. I contend, however, that by proper scientific fixation of prices we could keep down the tendency to make excessive profits. In cases in which we fail to do that we can, by the imposition of a heavy income tax, for which we have already the machinery in existence, take from those people the profits which they have made.
– You would require to increase the income tax by 58 per cent. to obtain the same results as are anticipated from the war profits legislation.
– I am quite prepared to support the Treasurer increasing the income tax by whatever percentage may be necessary. The income tax is a fair, reasonable, and proper method of taxation; income is a proper subject for taxation. Besides, we have already the machinery in operation. Returns are coming in every year, and those same returns could form the basis for any further taxation of income. To the utmost extent that an income tax is necessary, I am pre, pared to support it, because, in my opinion, incomes are, after all,, the surest index to. what people are able to pay by way of taxation.
– Plenty of people confess that they earn a taxable amount of money, but never pay the income tax, because they are able to “ rig up “ their schedules.
– The prevention of falsified schedules is only a matter for administration. Surely it is possible to so administer an income tax that people cannot, by subterfuge, introduce into their schedules items that are not proper subjects for exemption. I approve of tha Treasurer’s proposed increase of the existing tax by 25 per cent., and I wish he could see his way clear to abandon these other taxation schemes and confine himself fo a heavy income tax.
– We would not get at war profits by an income tax.
– No; but by a scientific regulation of prices, and an income tax, on profits, we should, in the first place, remove all temptation to make excessive profits, and, secondly, deprive the people of those excess profits if they did succeed in making them.
– Would you base the fixation of prices on the profits of the producer, or what are assumed to be the necessities of the consumer?
– All prices should be based first of all on the cost of production, and, secondly, on securing to the consumer a good article at a- fair price. I may mention the Cane Prices Board in Queensland as an illustration of what I mean. That Board waa established for the primary purpose’ of securing to the cane-grower a satisfactory price for his product, the complaint being that the grower was doing the heavy work and the (manufacturer and the renner were getting the profits. The Board commenced with the miller, discovering first of all the expense of milling sugar, and the price which the miller obtained from the refiner. Having secured to the miller a fair proportion of profit, the Board said that the grower might take the balance. I contend that the wrong method was adopted. The Board should have started first of all with the grower, guaranteeing to him a fair price for his cane and a reasonable return for his energy, something which would insure that his work on the land would be adequately rewarded. Then the Board should have settled with the miller and the refiner prices that would ultimately give to the consumer sugar at a reasonable figure. No matter what the prices may be to the consumer finally, the first requirement of the fixation of prices is to ascertain what it costs to produce an article so that the producer may be assured of a fair return.
– How about the difficulties presented by good and bad seasons?
– They are a matter for scientific adjustment. You cannot base the cost of the production of sugar or the returns to the grower on an abnormal year of excessive or reduced crops. You must take a period of five or ten years, and I am told by the best authorities in Queensland that it is reasonably easy to arrive at the average cost of production in each district, based on a period of five or ten years.
– How about the differences in the quality of land in the various districts ?
– We are already able to allow for the difference in the quality of land in our everyday dealings.
– What about the differences in farming?
– You cannot provide for every individual case. You can only strike a reasonable average, and if a man is so incompetent in farming or in anything else as to be unable to come up to the average, that man is in a wrong place. He was not meant to be a farmer. The Prime Minister, when making his Ministerial statement on the 14th September last, said -
There must be, as far as humanly possible, equality of sacrifice. Wealth has its duties; it owes all it has to the State, and must be prepared, if necessary, to sacrifice that all to the State. Many wealthy men have responded nobly to the call of duty; others have not. But they cannot be allowed thus to evade their responsibilities.
All other considerations must be swept aside; one great principle must now govern our every action. Whatever is necessary for. the salvation of the country must be done; and since we are calling upon men to sacrifice their lives, we ought not, and shall not, hesitate to compel men to sacrifice their wealth.
With those sentiments I entirely agree. The sacrifice of wealth ought not to depend in any way on the sacrifice of life. What is called conscription of wealth should not be contingent upon conscription of life. We should take whatever wealth is necessary to carry on the war and the government of the country. Those who have should pay, both in times of war and in times of peace. Those who have not are not able to pay.
– We are forced to fight.
– The country has decided that compulsion shall not be applied to military service oversea. Last September I said that a referendum should not be taken on the subject, and that the Prime Minister, if he felt that conscription was necessary, should announce it as his policy, and let those follow him who would.
– Did the honorable member cheer Mr. Fisher when he spoke of giving the last man and the last shilling?
– Does the honorable member still believe in doing that?
– Yes. But Mr. Fisher then, and later, expressed his opposition to conscription. His statement cannot be twisted into a proposal for conscription. As to the wealth tax, I think that the Treasurer should walk delicately. I do not quite understand the phrase “ conscription of wealth.” If it means taking men by the throat and relieving them of their money, as it was proposed to take men by the neck and push them into the firing line, I am opposed to it.
– Does the honorable member agree with the honorable member for Hunter?
– The honorable member for Hunter does not propose to take away capital. He proposes only to conscript income.
– He proposed to take all income above £400 a year.
– I say, take all income above £200 a year, if necessary.
– Then that should Apply to the members of this House.
– I am quite willing that it should apply, and will support the right honorable member if he moves an amendment to give effect to it.
– There is no necessity for such taxation.
– What I am opposed to is the taking away of capital. There is very little capital lying idle in this country. Most of our money is invested in reproductive enterprises, or, at any rate, is being used. To lay violent hands on invested capital would interfere with development at a time when we need as much money as we can get.
– What is the honorable member’s alternative? He believes, I suppose, that we should make provision for returned soldiers.
– Absolutely. My alternative is to pile up the income taxation. I would take income, but not capital. The suggestion to take capital has already had an effect upon investments. I think that the Government should discourage “wild-cat” proposals; but everything possible should be done to encourage investment in enterprises making for the development of the country and the employment of its people.
– There is provision for regulating the employment of capital during the war.
– I approve of that. I am ready to support any proposal for increasing income taxation, even to the highest limit, because I think it proper to get at those who have money. Capital is useless except for the production of income. Not many persons in this country can afford to have capital lying idle, though I believe that in the banks of the Old Country millions of pounds are lying idle. It is a fair thing that the nation should make use of capital that individuals are unwilling to use. In this country we have no large amount of capital lying idle, and to interfere with invested capital would be very dangerous.
– I do not think that in any part of the world are -there large accumulations of capital which are unused by any one.
– I heard it stated yesterday that something like £90,000,000 are lying unused in the banks of Great Britain. ‘
– That money is being used by the banks and those to whom they make advances.
– Probably. But the persons who possess it are not getting any return from it.
– Still, it is giving employment and supporting industry.
– All the capital we can get is needed for the development of this country. At the present time there are opportunities for ‘ establishing new industries which we have never had before, and nothing is more calculated to discourage investment than a proposal to confiscate capital. Let the capital of the country be used to the fullest possible extent, and tax the income that it produces.
– The honorable member knows how the Labour conditions are affecting the employment of capital.
– Does the . honorable member suggest that the rates of wages are too high?
– I refer to the slowingdown policy of the unions.
– There is indisputable evidence that our coal miners produce twice as much coal as the coal miners of Wales, working the same number of hours. There is no country in the world where the bricklayers are better or quicker than they are in Australia.
– What about , America ?
– There they work ten or twelve hours a day.
– American bricklayers do three times as much as our own in the same length of time.
– Hour for hour, there are no better workers in the world in any trade than the Australians.
– They can do the work if they like.
– They showed that, when putting up a picture theatre recently, but they were stopped by the unions.
– I am surprised that a bad name should be given .to the working men of this country.
– No; to the unions, of whom the honorable member and his party are the slaves.
– When the Beef Trust erected works in Brisbane, men who had had experience of American conditions stated that the buildings had been put up more quickly, more satisfactorily, and ‘more cheaply than would have happened in America. The Australian working man does work equal to, if not better than, that done in any other part of the world. There is no one who does not admit the superiority of the Australian worker. We have a right to expect this superiority, because we have always contended that good conditions would give good results. We have proved that that is so by the way in which our soldiers have acted.
– It is not the men of whom we complain, but the system which controls them.
– The controlling system of which we ought to get rid is that which makes men work for wages instead of being offered the incentive of the good of the country. Men are compelled to work for the means to live and to get shelter. While that prevails you will not get the best results. Justice is a thing that is sold and has to be bought. If a man wants justice, good wages, a decent house to live in, and reasonable conditions of labour, he has to spend money in the law Courts to secure those things.
– Who is decrying the country now?
– I am decrying, not the country, but the system of which I speak.
– We decry the union system that compels men to slow down.
– Nothing has elevated the masses of the workers of the British Empire more than trade unionism.
– The British unions are very different from the Australian unions.
– The industrial unions of Australia have done more to elevate the working men and improve the institutions of this country than have any of the political unions that have been, or are now, in existence.
– The trouble is that the industrial unions have become semipolitical.
– That is the trouble to the honorable member. I have no doubt that honorable members who belong to the Liberal party are quite consistent in their attitude. Their objection to industrial unions is that they are political.. The fact that they are political is not their fault; it has been forced on them, because they found that until they gained political control in some form or other they were unable to secure protec-tion in their employment. I have no desire Just now to go into industrial history, but every one knows, that until the men formed themselves into industrial unions they were unable to secure benefits, and that until they were formed into political unions for the purpose of securing political power, they were unable to secure the benefits that they had obtained by means of their industrial unions. If industrialists have formed themselves into political associations it is because those who held the political power endeavoured by every possible means to prevent them from reaping the rewards secured by their industrial organization. ‘
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Twice yesterday I had occasion to appeal to honorable members to cease these interjections. They are becoming entirely disorderly. Interjections at all times are disorderly, but what we have at present is not a debate, but a number of interrogations from all over the chamber. It is impossible for the Hansard reporter, or myself, or any one else, to hear what is going on. Therefore, I ask honorable members to restrain themselves, and not force me to take drastic action.
– My worst trouble is that I am afraid the Treasurer will not be able to hear the suggestions that I wish to offer. Now, in regard to the amusements tax, I believe in the principle of taxing amusements. During a time like the present amusements of a certain character should be severely curtailed. When I suggested to the Prime Minister that he should shut up stadiums’ and race-courses, he appeared to be very much annoyed, and his expression was practically that I had better be shut up ; but to me the proposal to tax amusements, beginning with od. tickets, is most objectionable, though certainly it is an improvement upon the proposal of the ex-Treasurer to begin with 3d. tickets. Those honorable members who are acquainted with the Arbitration Court know that, in estimating the minimum wage standard, the Justice has always laid it down that a certain amount should be allowed for recreation, and when we begin to tax the man or woman who can afford only 6d. for an amusement, whatever it may be,- picture show, theatre, stadium, or anything like that, we are interfering with something which is not only reasonable, but also almost a necessity in our civilization. If the Treasurer would propose to start at ls. tickets, he would be just about on the edge of a fair thing, but when he proposes to commence at 6d. tickets he is touching the masses of the people, who already have difficulty in getting any pleasure or comfort out of life as things are now managed.
– How much would the honorable member propose to impose on ls. tickets?
– I am prepared to go to 25 per cent, on ls. tickets. Those who can afford to pay ls. for amusement can much better afford to pay an extra 3d. than those who pay 6d. for amusement’ can afford an extra penny. For the hundreds who can pay ls. there are thousands who can pay 6d., and the taxation proposed on the 6d. ticket will be an unfair increase of burden on people who can least afford to bear it.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the ‘6d. ticket would be increased by one penny ?
– Yes. In Brisbane a deputation of picture-show people waited on me in connexion with the proposal of the ex-Treasurer, .and put -certain facts before me, which I shall be very pleased to place at the disposal of the Treasurer, if ‘he cares to ‘have them. I believe that the experience of Brisbane people is that of people throughout Australia. It was pointed out to me that ©wing to the general disturbance of the community, the withdrawal of so many men from the country, &c, the income from picture shows had been seriously reduced, and they could not afford to continue the accommodation at the prices charged, and must pass on the tax to the public, or put up the prices.
– Recently they have increased their prices.
– I know that they have, and, in reply to a deputation which waited on him in Melbourne, the exTreasurer said to these people, “ I suppose that you will pass it on.” This tax will be passed on.
– Nearly all taxes are passed on.
– Of course they are, and that is why I complain. ‘People who can only afford to pay 6d. for such amusement as they can get for that amount ought not to be further penalized. People who can afford to pay ls. will probably stand the tax being passed on, while those who can afford to pay more than ls. can afford to be penalized. As I have already said, there are certain amusements that could be very severely curtailed during this period.
– There are two ways of looking at the matter. The honorable member does not seek to get revenue, but to wipe out some of the amusements.
– No; I want the Treasurer to get his revenue from the people who are best able to pay it. I do not want him to put the tax on the poor people.
– Has the honorable member any idea of what the profits of the picture shows are?
– I believe that they are very good. The picture shows will be most affected by the proposed tax. But a tax on 6d. tickets will also affect all the little socials, concerts, lantern entertainments, and such like things that are run by churches, temperance societies, various social societies and organizations solely in the interests of the community, and not for pecuniary profit. Their tickets are usually 6d.
– There are plenty of shilling ‘entertainments promoted by those bodies that would have to pay a tax df 3d. under the honorable member’s proposal.
– They can afford to pay it.
– There are as many shilling entertainments as there are sixpenny.
– I do not think so. I do not think that the Treasurer is anxious to deprive the people of good, suitable, cheap amusement without their being unnecessarily penalized.
– All the small picture shows in the small towns will suffer very largely.
– They will suffer very keenly. Very many of them will be closed up. I think that it is time the Government took some very drastic action in connexion with picture shows. I used to be a very regular attendant at the pictures. I used to enjoy going to them, but I do not now, because the character of the pictures shown is such that I am generally disgusted with them. At one time we used to be treated to some good national educational pictures, but I was at a picture show one day last week, and I frankly confess that the American dramas, with all their elaboration of the conduct of criminals and runaway marriages and faked arrangements, are simply repulsive, and their moral effect on the young people of the community cannot be good for the future generation. They are dangerous to have on exhibition.
– What about “ Damaged Goods “ ?
– I have not seen that play. I believe that it is very highly spoken of. If honorable members will take the trouble to visit picture shows they will see for themselves the kind of pictures that are being exhibited, and will realize the effect that they must have on the young mind. It is shown daily in the public papers, because almost each day we read of crimes being committed and departures from moral rectitude which are generally traceable to some suggestion that has been given out in the pictures. There are some pictures so much oh the border of indecency that one wonders if the pictures were cut out at the right place, or whether it is mere accident that they do not continue the indecent scenes that are to be witnessed. I do not know whether this matter comes within the purview of the Treasurer, but I think that the Government should take it up very soon. I approve of all the suggestions that have been made in regard to economy in financial administration. It is amusing to me to read pf the remarkable stir that has been caused because the ex-Minister for Home Affairs proposed to give honorable members of this Parliament an opportunity of a free trip to New Zealand once a year.
– Once in three years.
– I thought that it was once a year. The idea that honorable members should be given an opportunity of a £15 trip at periodical intervals in order to become more closely acquainted with our sister Dominion, with which we should cultivate continually increasing friendly relations, and with which it is to our interest, as to theirs, to get into the closest possible touch, seems to be something that has alarmed those who are interested in financial economy in this country. I understand that the Prime Minister’s trip to Great Britain cost this country about £1,600. Every honorable member in both Houses could have a trip to New Zealand for the sum that was paid to enable the Prime Minister to visit Great Britain. The time has come when we should cultivate, not only with New Zealand, but also with the other British Dominions, and also with the other nations of the world, the closest possible acquaintanceship.
– Why stop at New Zealand ?
– Exactly. Mr. Fisher had very broad ideas on the matter, ideas that were staggering to some honorable members of his own party, but he believed; as I believed strongly with him, that the more often we could have inter-communication, particularlyby visitations on both sides, the better it would be for all of us; because, after all, there are certain political, social, moral, religious, and scientific problems that are common to all countries, and if we do not travel we cannot get the benefit of the knowledge and experience of those other countries. It would be money well spent.
– The honorable member must not forget that the honorable members who went to the front were very divided in their opinons when they came back.
– But that does not detract from the value of the visit made. The Treasurer must not imagine that a party of men who go to visit another place will all come back with the same opinions. If they did it would be a most unfortunate result. Men should go to other places and enlarge their minds, and increase their store of knowledge, and when they come back they will be better men and better fitted for taking part in the affairs of the nation. I believe that the time has come when this country could well afford to spend £20,000 per annum in order to send, every year, representative men and women to other countries of the world in order to join with them in considering the problems that are common to all of us. We could better afford to spend £20,000 in that direction, and so cultivate friendly relations, than spend £50,000,000 a year in fighting other people. I can conceive of nothing more likely to advance the peace of the world, and to extend those kindly relations which ought to exist between all countries, than an interchange of visits in every possible direction.
– Does not the honorable member think that we interchange too many visits with Germans?
– And that we have brought in too many Germans?
– No. I do not hold the German people - either those living in Germany or those who have come to Australia - responsible for the war. The war was brought about by the Secret Junta which manages the affairs of Germany, and over which the people have no control. If the people of Germany, and all the other nations engaged in this war, had an opportunity to say whether or not the war should be continued, there would be a very large majority against any further fighting.
– What would the honorable member do in such a case?
– Cultivate the most friendly relations.
– There is no Christianity about the Germans.
– And there is little about us. I am sorry that the Sermon on the Mount has been suspended during the war. If the people of Germany had an opportunity like that afforded the people of Australia, to say whether they were in favour of compulsory military service a majority would vote against it. Things will be different in Germany after the war. The people of Germany, France, and Great Britain also will demand a bigger voice in the government of the country after the war is over.
– That will depend upon how it ends.
– I am entirely with those who believe that we ought to do our utmost to bring the war to a successful conclusion. I have no doubt as to our duty in regard to it. It is our duty to make every effort that we possibly can to bring the war to a successful issue. I have no doubt as to the final result, and the sooner we reach it the better. If, as one result of the war, the people of the various countries engaged in it have opportunities of government such as we have in Australia - if they have government by the people on the basis of adult suffrage - it will go a long way to eliminate the possibility of further wars between the peoples.
An Honorable Member. - But we must beat Germany before we can secure that.
– Certainly. Germany will beat itself. The people of Germany are becoming so educated that they will not tolerate much longer the power without responsibility to the people that has been arrogated by the few. I believe, therefore, that this war will accomplish German as well as European emancipation. That is why I have always done what I could, both on the platform and in private, to advocate the putting forth of our utmost possible efforts, both financially and otherwise, to win this war. Some honorable members think that because I hold that view I should be willing to force men to go to the front. It is there that we part company in the most decisive fashion.
I suggest to the Treasurer that he might well consider how it would be possible, not only to save, but to spend money wisely. After all, economy consists not so much in how little you spend as in how wisely you spend. Extrava*gance does not consist so much in spending enormous sums of money as in the spending of money uselessly and foolishly. Economy is a matter of quality, not of amount. You may spend millions and spend them so wisely that not one penny of that expenditure can be described as extravagance.
– If the honorable member contemplated a particular work, would he commence at a time when all the material required for it was at top rates?
– No. That brings me to the statement of the Leader of the Liberal party, that he was prepared to shut down entirely on all public works during the war. I am not prepared to go to that length.
An Honorable Member. - He did not say “ entirely.” He spoke of unnecessary public works such as works at the Federal Capital.
– There are certain public works, even in the Federal Capital, the suspension of which would result in waste. We cannot do without certain public works in this country. Suppose, for example, we were to suspend operations on the east-west railway, as suggested by the Leader of the Liberal party.
– No; that work must be finished.
– Exactly. Apart altogether from the moral aspect, it would be unwise from a business point of view to do that. We have the men and the plant there, and if we disband our gangs, and lay up our plant, the result will .be that when we desire to resume operations, as we must do, our plant will have deteriorated, and it will be difficult to bring our gangs together again.
– That argument does not apply to a new work.
– No. As to new enterprises, I hold the view that there is a very large quantity of necessary workto be done in this country, and that we should be getting ready to undertake it, so that after the war we shall be, able to absorb the thousands of men who will be returning to Australia, and looking for employment. So far as I can ascertain, however, little or no arrangement is being made in anticipation of the ending of the war. It is our first duty, of course, to win the war. There is a good deal to be said for General Botha’s point of view, “ Let us first win the war, and then we can discuss these matters.” That policy, although reasonable on the face of it, means, however, when you come to examine it, that after the war is over we shall be in a lamentable position. We ought to have our preparations for the starting of new works - our ;plans and other essentials - so well .advanced that almost immediately and automatically with the return of our soldiers to civil employment we shall have something for them to do. I have a dread of unemployment,
– That preparation would not cost much.
– No, and that is’ an additional argument in its favour.
– Why does not the honorable member and his party give us the three months’ Supply for which we ask and so enable us to do these things ?
– I am so anxious to get rid of the Government, and particularly of the Prime Minister, that I would not give the present Administration a day’s Supply if I had my way.
– Why the -Prime Minister?
– Because he is the Government, and there is no other.
– The honorable member must admit that the Prime Minister has done a lot for Labour.
– Does the honorable member think that throughout his whole life he has done as much for Labour as the Prime Minister has done for it in one day?
– I have never been foolish enough to compare my weak and humble efforts with the Trojan work of the Prime Minister. I have never been so unutterably foolish as to suggest that anything I could do would ever reach the merest effort put forward by him. I feel so unutterably incompetent when I .contemplate his magnificent abilities and the remarkable services rendered by him that I am almost speechless with modesty. I am not concerned so much to-day with what the Prime Minister has done. I have repeatedly expressed, in the House and outside, my personal appreciation and recognition of the immense services he has rendered to the Labour party and to this country. That, however, does not blind me to the fact that he has abandoned every principle - I may be wrong, but so it seems to me - for which he previously stood. Instead of being a Democrat he is to-day the biggest autocrat in Australia. While he was the leader of out party I heartily supported him; but I -am bound to support a man only so long .-as I think he is right. When I consider him to be wrong I am in honour bound to withdraw my support of him.
– The Prime Minister’s action in referring the question of conscription to the people was the very antithesis of autocracy. .
– His method of referring it is one of the strongest arguments I can produce to show that he is an autocrat. He referred it to the’ people because he was not allowed to get his own way either in the Cabinet or in the Caucus. It was because he defied his Cabinet and his Caucus - because they refused to say “yes” when he said “yes,” and “ no “ when he said “ no “ - that he referred the question to the people.
– Wai it not submitted to the country with the consent of a majority of the Labour party?
– It was. The proposal was agreed to on the vote of the majority present in the Caucus.
– I looked up the minute-book of the party meeting in regard to that very vote, and it does not bear out the Treasurer’s statement.
– The official statement issued by the Labour party was that a majority voted for the reference of the question to the people.
– The honorable member has forgotten to mention that a majority of the party also supported the Referendum Bill in this House.
– I have not lost sight of that fact.
– That would seem to support the honorable member’s statement that a majority of our party upstairs voted to refer the question to the people ; but it did not.
– The honorable member for Werriwa in this House said that there was a majority of two in the Caucus in favour of that course.
– Yes. That appears in the minute-book, but not in reference to the motion mentioned by the honorable member.
– Let us have a look at the minute-book.
– I do not think that the honorable member for Newcastle would object to the honorable member seeing the minute-book.
– I am dealing with the official statement of the party.
– It would not be the majority of the party - there were only 23 votes.
– There is no doubt now as to where the majority of the party are, and what their opinion is. However, it does not matter, for all that is over and done with.
– Then why dig it up ?
– I did not.
– We were all told, and it was understood, that we were to have a free hand outside.
– You voted the way you desired. I have been trying to conline my remarks to the financial statement, and I should like to know whether the Treasurer supports and takes the view expressed by the Argus, in its leading columns, on the 28th September, to the effect that to increase invalid and old-age pensions at such a time as this is a/sheer vulgar piece of party politics. The Argus, in the course of its leader, said -
It is stated in well-informed circles that Great Britain, when purchasing the clip, would follow the procedure adopted when the whole of the British clip was taken over. In the case of the British producers, the Government, purchased the whole of their clip at an advance of 35 per cent, on the prices ruling in 1913-14 season, which was the last season prior to the war. It is understood that Great Britain offered to the Australian pastoralists practically the same advance on the 1913-14 prices. It was this offer which the conference convened by the Prime/Minister (Mr. Hughes) last week met to consider.
And then the Argus speaks of “ sheer vulgar party politics.” Does the Treasurer propose to economize in the direction suggested by the Liberal Argus?
– That is a question big enough to require notice.
– I have not heard the Leader of the Liberal party express his approval of the sentiments of the Liberal press in this respect, and I am glad that there is nothing in the statement of the Treasurer to indicate any intention to reduce pensions or to make the increases in taxation proposed by the ex-Treasurer. It is amusing to observe that all these suggestions for the reduction of the oldage pensions and for increasing the taxes on the poor people of the country - that all the objections to the increase of the income tax - come from people who themselves take advantage of every opportunity to increase their emoluments and to secure advantages for themselves. A great deal has been said in regard to the pastoral industry, and the Pastoralists’ Review used some very strong language during the recent campaign against those who were opposing conscription. In the Argus of the 27th November there appeared a column dealing with the sale of the wool clip of this season to Great Britain, and I should like to read the following extract: -
The Federal Ministry intended to obtain £1,000,000 more by increasing the income tax, and to make a gift of practically the whole of that amount to invalid and old-age pensioners. At a time when the resources of the country are being strained to the utmost this large sum of fructifying money is to be handed over to persons who can make no productive use of it, and who are already receiving £2,859,766 a year as a free gift from the Treasury. This is sheer vulgar party politics..
What lovely “patriots” are these, who are represented by such papers as the Argus and the Pastoralists’ Review, both of which papers have a common policy in regard to the affairs of this country ! These “patriots” refused an offer of 35 per cent, advance on the price of 1913-14, and insisted on 50 per cent.
– They did not refuse; they had no word in the negotiations. In New Zealand the same stand was taken.
– Quite so; there is an affinity amongst moneyed people in every country ; it does not matter whether it be the Australian Government or the British Government, if it ‘can be squeezed it will be squeezed. Yet these people who do the squeezing talk about their “ patriotism,” and accuse others opposed to them of “disloyalty” and “.ProGermanism.”
– When miners ask for an increase they are told they are disloyal, but in the case of the squatters not a word is said !
– Quite so. What is a vice on the part of the working man who demands a slight increase in wages, and is able to prove that it is necessary to secure reasonable conditions of life, becomes a virtue in the case of the pastoralist, although he is already securing a better price than ever previously.
– What about all his losses? There has never been such serious losses by pastoralists since Australia was Australia than in the last few years.
– I am only putting the fair facts- of the case. According to the Avgas, the wool-growers of Australia refused an offer of 35 per cent, increaseon the 1913-14 clip, and forced the British Government to give an extra 15 per cent. What does it matter to them if the soldiers in the trenches are cold ! What do they care whether or not sheepskin vests are available, so long as they get an extra 15 per cent?
– I think the majority of the pastoralists have been very good in that way !
– Of course; and they can afford to be good ! ,
– Do not be ungenerous, if the pastoralists are good in that way.
– Ungenerous ! I say that men who refuse to the British Government, at such a time as this, what is absolutely necessary to the comfort of the people of the country, unless they can squeeze an extra percentage of profit, are unpatriotic - are Prussians - and ought to be the last people in the world to accuse those opposed to them of being disloyal and pro-German. There is nothing more contemptible in any country during’ war time than people that take advantage of the necessities of the case to make extra money.
– Do you apply that all round 1
– Yes; and I have always said that something should be done to stop these abnormal profits during war.
– What about the strike ?
– Well, the woolgrowers went on strike.
– I think there ought to be a quorum present. [Quorum formed.]
– It is not only those engaged in pastoral industries who can be .accused of unpatriotic actions during the war, for the daily papers are full of illustrations of the fact in other directions. I am quite sure that we in Australia are anxious to help the Mother Country in every possible way with our resources and strength to secure a satisfactory ending to the war. But I am quite unable to reconcile those protestations of loyalty and devotion with a de- mand for an increased price for goods especially when it is such an abnormal increase as that suggested by the Argus for the wool clip. No doubt pastoralists are entitled to a satisfactory return for their labour, and so are those engaged in sugar growing, wheat growing and other industries of the kind.
– The sugar people do not get it.
– That is no excuse for others taking advantage of the oppor- tunity to make more profit than they are entitled to.
– What about the Shipping Ring?
– That is simply an item.
– What about the Brisbane merchants?
– Exactly, and what about merchants in any part of the world ? We read the other day a most unfortunate statement from Russia in regard to the ex-Premier having been charged with having accepted a bribe. In the press this morning there is the report of the prosecution of a “Victorian firm for charging against the Navy a quantity of material which it ia contended was never supplied. I am told that the Navy Department is holding up £30,000 claimed for work which has never been rendered.
– You will find that robbery is rampant.
– The men who are guilty of these actions -and approve of them do not see how inconsistent it is with their preachings and practices to accuse us of being disloyal and in favour of the methods of the Industrial Workers of the World. The methods of ,that organization are not worse than the actions of those of whose conduct I am complaining. I am no apologist for the Industrial Workers of the World. I have denounced them, and they have denounced me. No love is lost between us. Association with the Industrial Workers of the World is not a mere accident of connexion with certain unions. Acceptance of the principles of the Industrial Workers of the World is not indicated by the simple fact of belonging to a certain organization. It is one’s conduct which shows whether or not he believes in these people and their principles. A few years ago we used to denounce the Syndicalists, a French, organization. The Industrial Workers of the World are an American organization. In every country in the world there are organizations whose conduct does not represent the intelligence of the people of that country or commend itself to people of other countries. We used to hear a good deal of the Nihilists in Russia. I had much sympathy with the Nihilists in their efforts to bring about political reform, but I had no sympathy with their methods. I have a great deal of sympathy with the militant suffragettes, but I disapprove of their methods. Similarly, though I had a good deal of sympathy with the objects of the Industrial Workers of the World, I denounce their methods. But the difference between them and us is that all these rabid organizations propose to abandon the orderly procedure of constitutional government in order to secure what they think will be a quicker and more effective reform.
– The Labour party in Queensland fought the last election with the literature of the Industrial Workers of the World.
– No, we did not. The literature used by the Labour party in the last Queensland elections, or in any other elections is not based on the doctrines of the Industrial Workers of the World, and will bear comparison with the literature used by any political party in any other part of Australia.
– You sent to America for that literature.
– The fact that the literature came from America does not necessarily mean that it emanated from the Industrial Workers of the World.
– No other organization sent it.
– The mere fact that literature comes from a certain place does not necesarily identify the person who receives it with any movement in the country of its origin, any more than the fact that my being in the company of the honorable member for Wide Bay would identify me with his politics. The Minister for Trade and Customs comes from South Australia. A few years ago during a Federal election campaign a pamphlet, which was the most scurrilous and dirty ever used in an . electoral contest, was issued by the Liberal party.
– That is a tissue of falsehood. The statement has been denied over and over again. You ought to be ashamed of repeating it.
– The Liberal party repudiated the pamphlet.
– The Liberal party were so ashamed of the pamphlet that they repudiated it. But it came from South Australia; therefore, according to the argument of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, because he also comes from South Australia, he is identified with that pamphlet.
– There was a red thread running through it.
– The ropes and lines used by the British Navy have a red thread running through them; therefore, according to the honorable member for Calare, all such ropes and lines are bad. How stupid these arguments are.- Principles alone count in these matters. If there are some people in the world who are foolish enough to believe that by revolutionary instead of evolutionary methods they can accomplish reforms, they may have some reason for thinking so.
– You should dissociate yourself from them.
– I have done so in plain language.
– You denounce them and accept their votes.
– Certainly. If the honorable member will qualify as an elector of Brisbane I will be glad to accept his vote. To what foolish argument’ is the honorable member treating us? I am well known as a prohibitionist in regard to the liquor traffic, but I receive the votes of hundreds of intelligent people who believe in having a glass of beer or whisky when they want it.
– So you manage to get the votes of the publicans, too.
– That shows their intelligence.
– It shows how thoroughly they understand the honorable member. The publicans know what he will do.
– They do, and they believe that it is better to vote for a man on whose actions they can depend, even though he be an opponent, than for the twisters who are generally associated with Liberal politics. One of the most interesting developments in Australia during the last couple of months has been the attempt to identify every person for whom the Industrial Workers of the World vote as a supporter of that organization.
– You use their influence.
– I have heard Industrial Workers of the World in public meetings denounce the Labour party to the utmost of their ability. We are the particular objects of their scorn and ridicule. I have never heard them say much about the Liberals.
– What about the Liberal leader in New South Wales who defended them?
– There is a state- ‘ ment published in this morning’s press about the methods of the Industrial Workers of the World. I shall not read it now, but it shows how easy it is, once you give a dog a bad name, to classify every other dog in the same category. The honorable member for Lang to-day expressed strong opinions in regard to the taxation of unimproved land values, and, judging by the interjections, his views are not indorsed by members of his own party. But he is a member of the Liberal party, and speaks from the front bench; therefore, according to the interjector, his party is identified with his opinions. That is a foolish argument. Nothing is more absurd than to say that because certain people support you, or because in some other way you are identified with certain people, you are responsible for their opinions.
In conclusion, I assure the Treasurer that to the utmost extent possible I will support his endeavour to get money for the carrying on of the war. But I hope he will consider methods of getting the money from the people who have it and leave untouched those who cannot afford to pay increased taxation at the present time. I believe also that economy should take the form, not of limiting the expenditure of money, but in seeing that money is properly spent, and in getting the country organized for peace by the establishment of industries and finding employment for our soldiers when they return from the war.
Sitting suspended from 1 p.m. to 2.15 p.m.
– Is there a quorum present? (Quorum formed.)
– I believe that in many quarters I am regarded as a somewhat serious member. I have been told that more than once - sometimes maliciously and sometimes in the way of compliment - by the gentlemen of the fourth estate who sit above us and determine our political fortunes. Whether this characteristic is spoken of complimentarily or otherwise, it appears to me that any one who, like myself, has sat in this chamber for the past fifteen years, and has known something of what was behind the various happenings here, must at times, if he has any conception of the dignity and usefulness of Parliament, feel serious. To-day, I shall be even more serious than usual, because the subject that I have to discuss is one, the seriousness of which few outside Parliament, and few even within the chamber, seem to fully comprehend. I do not intend to follow the honorable member for Brisbane all round the compass, touching on the many subjects political, religious, social, moral, immoral, and otherwise which he discussed, nor do I intend to deal with the very interesting statement of the Treasurer, not out of want of respect for him, nor for lack of appreciation of the considerable improvement that this financial statement is on the production of his predecessor. Nor am I going to discuss the details of the war, although they are matters of considerable importance. I am not going to ‘follow honorable members who have insisted that Australia has done as much as Canada, or that, she has done her share, and that our men in the trenches are as lively as the proverbial kitten, because they have not enough to do, and have not sufficient danger to face. I have something even graver than those matters to speak about, and I shall approach it’ in my own way-, placing the responsibility on the proper shoulders, and endeavouring to emphasize the position as much as I can for the benefit of this country and its future. I do not know that my speech will make very much difference. One sometimes has a feeling of desperation when discussing matters on which it is wished to throw some light, When the report of his remarks is cut down to three or four lines of letterpress in the newspapers of the Commonwealth. Were I anything of an orator, that is to say, were I to use 200 words to , express what I endeavour to say in ten; were I to hunt through the dictionary for extravagant terms, to painfully coin epigrammatic phrases beforehand, and then throw them off as if they were impromptu ; were I to create scenes,’ or to make myself ridiculous, my remarks would be reported at considerable length. But the ordinary commonplace, practical observations that I and some other members endeavour to make are, in the estimation of those whose ‘business it is to make public our discussions to the world at large, of very little account indeed in the counsels of Australia. Despite these conditions, I intend to speak earnestly about a matter which- does not seem to have been thought of yet either within or without the chamber, that is, the international position of Australia to-day. I said that I did not intend to follow the honorable member for Brisbane throughout all his remarks, but there is one of them to which I take strong exception. He assured us that the people of Germany were not responsible for the war. They may not be responsible for the initiation of the war, but I think that the world will hold them guilty of having assented to it and to all the horrible and inhumane methods by which it has been carried out by their armies. The world will hold the people of Germany guilty of having made an attack upon civilization, and upon the rights and liberties, not only of nations, but of individuals. The honorable member for Brisbane surely forgets the shriek of joy that arose over the length and breadth of Germany when the Lusitania was sunk. He surely forgets the insistence by every newspaper published in Germany upon the Zeppelin warfare against women ‘children, and unarmed persons. For his benefit, I shall quote an -extract from an article written by Professor Bang, of Denmark, which appears in the October number of the Hibbert -Journal. The writer : SaVE - It is very significant that nowhere was the war welcomed with such jubilation as in Germany. Of course, it went without saying that Germany -was absolutely innocent, and the object of the most infamous assault, but, nevertheless, when war was proclaimed, the people were enchanted. Thousands of pens at once set to work to extol the blessed effects of war. till one at last began to wonder why peace was ever permitted, since -she was the mother of all the vices, as war of all the virtues. Thousands of pens were busy in insisting upon a Christian authority for war -
I wish my honorable friends who have been suggesting that our attitude towards the people of Germany is unchristian to note that - till at last one began to wonder why Christ himself did not go about preaching it. And last, but not least, they looked forward to “ ein frischer, frolicher, Krieg “ - a newer, pleasanter war - because it would extend .greatly the power and splendour* of the German realm, and probably lead to -‘German domination -of the world.
Professor Bang also quotes the remarks of a prominent ‘German publicist, who. speaking ‘of ‘the ‘resu’lt of German victories, said -
The German creation will assume .an elevated and decisive importance .upon the earth. German thought and research, German songs .and sayings, German piety and morality, German justice and unselfishness, German magnanimity and heroism, German sincerity and cordiality, German profundity and purity, German manliness and anger, German staunchness and tenacity, German simplicity and straightforwardness, German reliability and loyalty, German spirit of enterprise and organizing capacity, German industry and German thoroughness - this marvellous God-given German creation in its entirety shall be born again in pure beauty out of the travail of war, and shall celebrate its proud resurrection. This is the vocation to which the hour of our fate calls us Germans in the world.
If, as is sometimes suggested, lunacy is exaggerated . egotism, one must conclude that a nation which seriously puts forward such views should, if it were possible, be confined as a whole in a lunatic asylum. We have to contend with a powerful nation, obsessed with a mission that it regards as divine, to obtain control of the civilized world by any means, foul or fair. Any one who, in the face of that declaration, suggests the possibility of peace, as it has been suggested here to-day, places himself on a level with the lunatics that we are compelled to fight. Let us consider what peace would mean at the present moment. Germany is master of the situation, and dominates the whole of Europe. Is it to be thought that peace on terms that would be acceptable to her would mean anything more than a position intolerable for the British Empire? Does any one fail to realize that peace on any terms, except the crushing of this monster, would mean the renewal of the war within a few years in a more ruthless fashion than ever, and with the single object of destroying the Empire to which we belong8 I am with those who agree that the only course for us and the civilized world is to wage war until we can dictate terms of peace, instead of asking for them, as we should have to- do to-day.
As regards the war, the position today is serious and critical. I do not think that we are quite so cock-sure as we were about our winning, nor so firmly convinced that it is not necessary for Australia to do more than she has done. But Australia is in a graver situation as a result of the conscription referendum than even the course of the war’ indicates. I wish to show, as briefly as I can, how this has come about, and where the blame for it lies. We are satisfied now that the referendum was a very big mistake. It is easy, I may be reminded, to be wise after the event, but I wish to remind honorable members, as I would remind the Prime Minister if he were here, that there were not a few whose opinions should have had some weight, who pointed out as forcibly as they could, that the holding of the referendum was wrong, at any rate at that particular juncture, and that it was likely to have a very unfortunate result.
– Is that not where the question of wise leadership should come in?.
– Undoubtedly, it is a question of wise leadership. From many quarters the Prime Minister was appealed to in regard to the dangerous nature of the proposal that he had made up his mind to submit to the country. He had another course to follow, and it was urged in this House by myself, among others. In fact, I was so certain that the referendum would fail that I did a thing which I had never done before in the whole course of my public life: I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister imploring him to take the other course, because I felt that the referendum was sure to fail; and I gave him one reason which, if he had been a man of judgment and a man who understood human nature, he would have recognised as absolutely conclusive regarding the result of the course which he had made up his mind to pursue.
– What does the honorable member call the other course to which he refers?
– I have already indicated in the House what I thought the course should have been. If the Prime Minister had declared at once when he came back from the Old1 Country that there was nothing- else for Australia but conscription, and if he had introduced it under the War Precautions Act, I am satisfied that there would have been little or no trouble about it. For one thing, he would have got to work, and carried it into effect before the above organizations had got at the coat tails of their representatives in this Chamber, and pulled them back from a position which I have no doubt they would have gladly taken up if they had dared. Such a course might or might not have meant the disintegration, of the Prime Minister’s party; but, at any rate, it would have saved the country from the shame and degradation of turning conscription down.
– It would ‘have meant civil war.
– Who were going to create civil war? The skulkers who will not do their share now? There is not much civil war about them.
– You take the step, and see what will happen.
– I would be prepared to do it if I had the power. When the Prime Minister returned to this country the people, as a whole, were looking for conscription, and ready to accept it at his hand, and it was a .responsibility which he, as the head of the Government, ought to have shouldered. If he had done so, he would not have dragged the name and reputation of Australia in the mire, as, unfortunately, he has done. But his visit to the Old Country had effects from which Australia is now suffering. He went away a rather unscrupulous and truculent partisan. He came back a great Empire statesman. How had this been achieved, many of us wondered. We read his speeches, ,and we found in them only two notes, ‘ ‘ Down with the Germans, that accursed race,” and “ Up with the British, the salt of the earth.” He harped on these two notes in his own peculiar way, and with that wealth of language to which we are accustomed in this House, but which we all ‘ discount to a considerable extent, even those of us who sit behind him and cheer him on. However, the right honorable gentleman went Home, and, on the strength of a number of speeches made there, he came back to us a statesman, and I suppose he felt that to introduce conscription by means of a proclamation under the War Precautions Act was far too commonplace a course to follow. He had swept through Great Britain and electrified the community with his eloquence. He would do the same thing in Australia. He would, carry the country by means of such speeches as had worked such astounding results in Great Britain. It was a disaster to Australia that the Prime Minister went to Great Britain, and came back with such a halo round his head as the people at Home had given him. I have no desire to speak in a personal way, and I make my remarks without the slightest scrap of malice, but I wish to observe that the Prime Minister, in conducting the referendum, committed almost every mistake it was possible to make, and but for those mistakes I believe that we would have had a chance of a “ Yes “ majority.
– It is very easy to be wise after the event.
– It is our duty to try to profit by the mistakes of the past, to see how they could have been avoided, and how they can best be repaired. I do not believe in going back into the past. The honorable member for Gippsland is very good at that sort of thing. He very seldom rises in the Chamber without ^having a dig into the pages of Hansard of years and years ago in order to discover some inconsistency on the part of some unfortunate honorable member. Therefore the suggestion that he has just made comes rather unfortunately from him.
If the referendum had been conducted in a sensible way, we might have had a majority; but, to my mind, an ordinary majority would not have been sufficient. A narrow majority would have been equal to a moral defeat, and the only chance, in . a matter of this kind, to act on a votetaken by way of a referendum would have been to have secured an overwhelming majority in favour of the proposal, such a majority as was recorded in my own State of Western Australia alone. The first mistake was the calling . up of the men for home service. I do not know for what reason that step was taken. It brought men into military camps who would never have been called’ up under a straight-out form of conscription, and in that way the disadvantages the country would suffer under conscription were quite unnecessarily emphasized. Then we had ever so many exemptions, many of them with no justification whatever. In Western Australia there was? not much opposition to the conscription proposals, and almost the only taunt I got in the course “of my campaign was, “ Why do you people exempt members of Parliament?” I was obliged to admit that I did not know, and that there was no reason why members of Parliament who were of military age and fitness should be exempted from serving their country. Then, in regard to. the inquisition at the polling booths, I am surprised that any Democrat who regards the secrecy of the ballot as sacred would have made a suggestion of that kind.
– How did the honorable member vote on that point last week!
– I did not give my vote on that point. I gave my vote on a greater matter, and I am not going to have the greater matter overshadowed by the trifle that was suggested by the honorable member for Yarra.
So far as the statesmanship of the Prime Minister in Australia is concerned, we have seen none of it, but rather the opposite, and I am bound to say that, to those who know him intimately, it is almost commonplace to suggest that,, while he has any amount of picturesque abilities, he. is not preeminent so far as useful horse-sense is concerned.. I do not know, that any honorable member in this chamber, if he owned a fried fish shop., would give the Prime Minister the. running of it, The right honorable gentleman could make a magnificent speech on the subject of fried Ash shops, he could dilate splendidly on the iridescent beauty of his stockintrade, he could assure us of the succulent qualities of the goods, he could give us brilliant flashes of wit regarding fishiness, flabbiness, and so on, he could wind up with a magnificent peroration proving the absolute necessity to the country of fried fish shops. But if any one were soimpertinent as to ask him how a fried fish shop could be run at a profit, he would have as blank a look as when he is favoured with other awkward questions from this corner of the chamber.
While the Prime Minister has brilliant qualities, he has not, in the matter of judgment, anything to recommend him as the controller of the affairs of Australia at the present critical juncture. Holding such an opinion of him - an opinion which is shared, I believe, by every honorable member who knows him - I may be asked why I tolerate this gentleman’ as Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. I give the right honorable gentleman only a qualified support. I remember that the members of his present Ministry were not members of the Administration which was guilty ‘of all the blunders I have just enumerated-. I yield to no one in- my admiration of those gentlemen. I yield to no one in my admiration of the magnificent stand those honorable members have taken in the country against the Labour organization, on the question of conscription, which they regarded as vital to the interests of Australia and of the whole Empire. They have made sacrifices of no ordinary character. They have shown a strength of mind that every one must honour, and have, therefore, a perfect right to be in the position that -they, with the Prime minister, now occupy together, for one reason, and one reason alone,, and that is to make good in regard to the prosecution of the war. The Prime Minister, especially,, is in that position. He chose to appeal to- the Governor-General when he disbanded his previous Administration, and- asked leave to form a second Government. I am as yet entirely in the dark as to why the Governor-General gave him a commission to do that. The right honorable gentleman could not assure the Governor-General that he had a majority behind him. Be that as it may, I say, in all seriousness, that when the conscription proposals were turned down by the people it was the duty of William Morris Hughes to have resigned, from the Prime Ministership. Failing that, he, should have got into communication with the Leader of the Opposition.
– So he did.
– He did not. Unfortunately for Australia, and unfortunately for the Prime Minister’s personal position in this matter, throughout the referendum campaign, and until a day or two before he met this House, he ignored the Opposition and its Leader as if there were no such party in existence.
– He cannot ignore it now.
– No ; and I give him po credit for any gracious attitude that he may now adopt towards us. Having formed a new Ministry entirely from his own immediate following, the Prime Minister and his ‘ party remain on the Treasury bench only to make “good in connexion with the war. If he and his colleagues fail to do that - if they do not vindicate themselves in the prosecution of the war - then after a short experience and a fair test they should no longer occupy the Treasury bench.
– What would the honorable member consider to be a fair time?
– Sufficient time to give the new recruiting movement a trial. I have no illusions, nor has any honorable member, as to that movement. While a little may be done with it at the very outset, it is going to give us substantially no better results than were obtained before. I do not wish to discuss the matter at present; but the Government has put forward this recruiting movement as a means of reinforcing our men at the front, and of carrying out Australia’s responsibilities in respect to the war. If they fail in that respect, then there is no other reason why they should remain in office, and it will be the duty of this House to get back as soon as possible to something like responsible parliamentary government.
The referendum has failed. Conscription has been turned down, and we are back again to the old method of obtaining recruits. Certain members of this House, and many people outside of it, have been congratulating themselves and the country on what they choose to describe as this great victory for the cause of Democracy and freedom. It is thus they speak of the turning down of conscription - the turning down of the suggestion that Australia ought to do its share in its war; the turning down of the first duty of the individual of any democratic community to defend his country and his kith and kin from foreign aggression. I have listened to several such speeches, and they seem to have rung very hollow. I am afraid that it is a case of making a good deal of noise to smother the little voice of conscience. Having regard to the situation to-day, I do not think that any of those honorable members who declared only a few weeks ago that Australia had done her share, and that the war was practically over, will feel so confident on the subject. We are not by any means out of our trouble. We have to face a more serious situation than we have ever done. It behoves us, therefore, to walk warily, and not to indulge in congratulations of that kind. The people outside take their cue from parliamentary and other leaders. They are quite prepared, unfortunately, to go on now as if everything were satisfactory. The picture shows, theatres, race-courses, and stadiums are crowded with those who are obsessed with pleasure. Business goes on as usual. A writer in the Argus a few days ago commented bitterly on the fact that he had seen a huge crowd struggling round a city hotel window to read a notice, not in connexion with the war, as he at first thought, but merely giving the result of a horse race in the country. It is obvious to any one who moves about Melbourne or Sydney that the war is a mere remote, far-away circumstance to the bulk of the people. While they read of it, much as they would read of events at the North Pole or the South Pole, they have no immediate appreciation of the situation as it affects Australia, or of the obligations it throws upon us. I cannot help remarking that this is due to the fact that Australia too long has been the spoilt child of the Empire.
– A very good child.
– Sometimes. We have had a magnificent country thrown at us without any sacrifice or effort on our part. We have enjoyed all the advantages and forgotten our responsibilities. We have been allowed to exercise our own free will within our boundaries, and we have done that in a way that affects the international relations of, not only Australia, but the Empire as a whole. What is our White Australia policy? We could never maintain it, but that we are an integral portion of the British Empire. Behind the British Navy we are able to maintain that policy. But it is not many years since there were in Australia many who boasted that the White Australia policy, or any other that Australia chose to adopt, was secure even without the British Navy. It is not very long since we heard a good deal of talk to that effect. To-day that attitude is a thing of the past. We all thank God for the British Navy. .We thank God. that we are a portion of the British Empire. We are prepared also to skulk behind the British Navy, and to let the rest of the Empire do the fighting for us. We are prepared, not only to do that, but to allow the conscripts of Russia and France to fight for us, and to secure our country against foreign aggression.
By our action in turning down conscription we have neutralized for ourselves the benefit of our association with the Empire. We have written our deathwarrant as a free white community. I. knew such a statement would be greeted with a laugh of contempt. Many honorable members regard it as absurd and impossible. I want to show them the reality of it. Remember for a minute the position of Australia. Here is a country occupied by a handful of white people, who are intruders upon an area which, geographically, belongs naturally to the yellow and black races. There are around our northern shores countless millions of those races who regard with ill-concealed hatred the attitude we have taken up towards them. It is an arrogant attitude, as they regard it and naturally so, to exclude them from a part of the world belonging by right to those races, and not to us.
– The honorable member must know that Japan has saved us.
– Our White Australia policy is a standing insult to those coloured races. It is a standing insult to our great ally, Japan. I do not wish to discuss our position in regard to Japan. Too much has been said already about it. I desire to enter my protest, however, Against the alarmist suggestions that have emanated from various quarters during the last few months. These suggestions are dastardly and uncalled for. I am not in the least afraid of any warlike aggression on Australia by Japan, which has always been an honorable and chivalrous nation. Japan has stood loyally by the Allies in this war, and will continue to do so until the bitter end. But there are other dangers besides war, and one danger now threatens Australia by reason of the fact that we have turned down conscription. We all admit that we do not hold Australia by our own strength. Do we hold it entirely by reason of our association with the British Empire - by the strength of the British Navy ? No, we do not. Great Britain has been able to maintain our attitude because we had -the moral support and sympathy of the white races of the rest of the world. Have we got that support and sympathy to-day ? Look to America. Not very long ago an American newspaper headed, in scorn and contempt, an article in regard to Australia, “ Australia quits.” We all know that there is a slang word in use in America, a “quitter” - a word of the strongest contempt that can possibly be appliedto a craven, worthless individual. That term is hurled at us from America to-day, and we can look for no sympathy, in this attitude of ours towards the war, from that country.
– What has America done in the war?
– That has nothing to do with what I am arguing. As I have already said, we are not in danger of warlike aggression ; but, after the war is over, there are going to be very many adjustments of the world’s affairs. Supposing it is suggested, on behalf of those yellow races, that this craven handful of white people in Australia have no longer a right to monopolize this great continent - what then? Suppose it is suggested that effective occupation in international law is something that we in Australia ought to be no longer allowed to ignore - that those yellow races have a right to come into Australia, and to take up at least those parts we are not using for ourselves? Supposing the spokesmen of Asia make that suggestion on behalf of those millions of Asiatics, who, as I say, regard our attitude towards them as one continual insult? Supposing the suggestion is made to Great Britain, how will Great Britain be able to regard it ? And that the suggestion will be made is as sure as the sun will rise to-morrow; and when it is made, and Great Britain is confronted with the situation, what can she do ? The matter will not rest there. Supposing Japan asks Russia what she thinks of this handful of degenerate white people monopolizing this country any longer, what will Russia say -Russia, whose millions, it has been suggested, should go to the front in order to save Australians, and because the Russians are cheaper, as if the son of a Russion mother was of less account to her than is the son of a mother in Australia ? These things have been noted in Russia, make no mistake. And when Russia is asked what about the White Australia policy, can we doubt what Russia’s answer will be? If France is asked her opinion about this handful of degenerate white men, who keep out the Japanese and other yellow races, and yet refuse to do their own share in the war, what will France say ? France is going to say, “ We have no time for such people; let them go; let them suffer the fate they deserve.”
– The French Consul does not say so.
– The French Consul will not be asked what he thinks about it; it is the French people who will have the say in the matter; and, while their sons are dying by the million, we can understand their attitude towards a country that refuses to send its young men away from the race-course and the picture show to fight its own battles. Let me ask this House, and, if possible, the country, what position we will be in after the war if we have forfeited the good opinion and the moral sympathy and support of the white races of the world? The principle of a White Australia will be challenged, and we shall be no longer able to maintain it, because we have lost that support and sympathy without whicheven Great Britain could not have helped us to maintain our position in the past. I have now only to suggest that there is a chance yet of our rehabilitating ourselves-and only one chance. When this second attempt at voluntary recruiting has failed,and when we are face to face with the resultant situation, if all sections of this Parliament, recognising the gravity of the situation as. I have tried to point it out, can come together and say to the country, “ Well, we turned down conscription once, but we put the question to you again as the only chance of our salvation,” there will still be some hope. If we can wipe out the stain and degradation by another vote which will throw Australia once more into the ranks of those who are fighting for the cause of civilization and humanity, we may regain the good opinion of the white races, without which we cannot exist here in Australia for a single year. If we fail to do that, the “ writing is on the wall “ for us, and we shall go down dishonoured and disgraced beneath the yellow race, more virile than we.
.- After the speech we have just heard, I think the Prime Minister might well pray to be saved from his friends.
– It was a good speech.
– I am not saying it was a bad speech; the honorable member for Darwin misses the point. The honorable member for Perth has, in my judgment, delivered a speech which contains the gravest criticism of the actions of the Prime Minister throughout the recent campaign. I deplore the fact that so many attempts are made to fasten on honorable members on one side or the other responsibility for the attitude of extremists who opposed the proposition placed before the people. Personally, and for the party to which I belong, I disown any connexion with that section of the community to which reference has been made. Further, it is beside the issue, and unfair, to be told that it was the vote of the Industrial Workers of the World in this country that brought about the rejection of the referendum. Are we to believe that the majorities in all the farming electorates of New South Wales and South Australia are associated with that organization? The fact is that the Prime Minister, when he returned to Australia, did not, as he ought to have done, appeal to the people to continue their recruiting efforts, which they had not failed to make before. The figures showed that for the previous fourteen months the total enlistments had been 114,000; and if the Prime Minister desired to keep up the strength to the extent he had promised, he ought to have taken the people into his confidence, and asked whether they were prepared to supply the numbers. Instead of that, however, he placed the referendum proposal before us, although Australia had, up to that time, done as much as the rest of the Dominions put together. We were asked to take the extreme step, although the people had up to then acted most willingly. Long before I left for the Old Country, at the beginning of the year, I regarded the conscription proposal as a political attempt to divide the Labour votes and Labour forces of the country.
– I felt that to be so, and the position to-day seems to prove the accuracy of my idea.
– Who wished to divide them ?
– Those who originated the idea of conscription when this country was doing so well in recruiting.
– Not the Prime Minister ?
– Not the Prime Minister; but that honorable gentleman, when he came back from England, fell into the trap, with the result that we see the division of a party that has held together for twenty-five years. The Prime Minister swallowed the bait, but those who introduced the idea, and who, like “Kaiser Bill,” thought their organization to be absolutely complete, forgot many things, and the result is that, not only the Labour party, but the Liberals are divided, and the people embittered from one end of the country to the other.
– The Liberals did not expel their members because they acted in good faith.
– The Liberals did not, I admit.
– The Liberals are not divided, as is proved by the result of the municipal elections in South Australia last Saturday, when they swept the polls.
– That observation is quite wide of the mark.
– It is right on the “bull’s-eye.”
– I am afraid that the farmers in the honorable member’s electorate got him on the .” bull’seye “ when, by their votes, they turned him down. .An angry people will do many things; and, although the organization of the Government was behind the proposal submitted, it was rejected. In opposition to this proposal were many hundreds of women who had given two and three boys to the war. It was argued that more nien would be obtained under that shallow conscription scheme than by voluntary ‘ effort. But what happened in connexion with the Forces sent into camp under the proclamation ? People on that occasion had a dose of what they are likely to get under a system of conscription. Parents who had willingly yielded their sons were further bled, and -those who had escaped in the first place escaped again. In this State, as in every other State, the people with influence had their sons exempted on all sorts of flimsy pretexts. Only sons were not required to go into camp at all, even for home service. The conscription law was not a measure to recruit those who attended race-courses and picture shows, as had been said, but to make further demands on those who Had already given all they could afford of their manhood. Why were only sons exempted? Was it fair to widows who had previously surrendered their only sons . that others who had made no such sacrifices should be screened by the proposed compulsory law ? In the main those people who have only one son belong to the wealthy and idle classes, and the son, as a general rule, is a waster to whom military training would do much good.
If conscription was to produce the recruits which were necessary because of the Empire’s .dire straits, why should anybody be allowed to have a conscience in regard to compulsory service? Why was that conscience clause inserted ? It was done so that a certain class of people might escape, as they have done in connexion with all matters in regard to which conscience may be pleaded.
– There should be no conscience against doing one’s duty.
– I agree with that sentiment.
– It was for the benefit of members of your party, I should think.
– The enlistments amongst the working classes and Labour members will compare more than favorably with the response made by the section from whom these disparaging statements come. A good deal has been said about the coal miners who went on strike recently, and their association with the Industrial Workers of the World. Would it surprise honorable members to know that of the 10,000 members on the official roll of the Coal Miners Union, apart from the other workmen surrounding the mines, one out of every five is at the war. Yet we hear cheap taunts hurled at the workers.
– You are not supporting the Industrial Workers of the World 1
– The men engaged in that strike were not Industrial Workers of the World. In the Defence Department to-day there are a number of men who have been wearing khaki ever since the war began. They hold various ranks, from lieutenant down to private, and are receiving as much as 26s. a day from the! taxpayers. But they show no desire to go to the war. Why does not the Defence Department organize internally, and ask these men why, if they intend to remain in the Military Forces of the Commonwealth, they do not go to the front.
– Senator Pearce is a Labour Minister.
– He is the Liberal party’s Minister at the present time. Is it fair that we should have in the Defence Department young men fit to go to the war, and drawing from £1 ls. to 26s. a day for rolling up other men and putting them into military camps?
– When you were sitting on this side of the House why did you not object to these things ?
– We did. Let me admit, in fairness to some of the men in the Defence Department, that they have been endeavouring to get to the front and have been denied permission, because they were told that their services are required in Australia. I am of opinion that by this time there are sufficient returned soldiers, with experience of modern warfare, to carry out all the work of the Defence Department. Whilst I conscientiously believe that the responsibility for the unsatisfactory recruiting today lies at the doors of those who divided the people on the conscription issue, I do not agree with those who say they will not engage in the recruiting campaign. From the beginning I have held that this was a just war, as much the fight of Australia as of Great Britain and her Allies, and although I differed from the methods proposed by other honorable members who advocated conscription, that will not prevent me, and should not prevent other honorable members, from endeavouring to fulfil the promises we have made, and meet our obligations until the war is over. I firmly believe that if Australia is appealed to in the proper way we shall get the recruits required from time to time.
– Which is the proper way?
– The people have not been appealed to, but insulted. I have no wish to make comparisons for the sake of making it appear that Australia has done better than any other country, but I remember the Leader of the Liberal party stating some time ago that Canada should be our example, and that the Dominion at that time had 300,000 men at the front. When in Canada recently I made inquiries of Sir George Foster, a member of the Dominion Cabinet, and he stated that 300,000 men had been recruited, but that only 150,000 were at the front and iGreat Britain. At that time Australia had 200,000 men at the front and in Great Britain. Remembering that it costs Canada only £4 per head to send troops to Europe, as against £14 per head from Australia, it will be seen that if Canada had three times as many men at the front as Australia had, Canada would not be doing more than the Commonwealth.
– What is Canada doing in the manufacture of munitions ?
– I saw many of the munition factories there, and I say, to the credit of the Canadian people, that they have made hundreds of thousands of pounds out of this war, whereas Australia’s participation in it has been a dead loss.
– We should have been making money out of it, too.
– We should.
– Canada has less to lose by a German victory than Australia has, because it is protected by the Monroe doctrine.
– Should that prevent the Canadian people doing their duty to the Empire?
– I call, for a quorum [Quorum formed.”]
– I do not admit that if some other country is not doing its duty, Australia should not do hers. I have- only referred to Canada’s contribution because of the- fact that the Dominion’s example was held up to Australia as one to be followed. If we had taken Canada as an example, as the Leader of the Liberal party suggested, instead of increasing our contributions we should have decreased them. The cost of this war to Australia is so much greater than to any other Dominion, that the people had a right to be taken into the confidence of the politicians when they were asked to take such a drastic step as was proposed a couple of months ago. In regard to the financial aspect, there has been waste taking place in the Defence Department ever since the commencement of the war. Some drastic step should be taken to remove the incapable who are responsible for this waste, and are unfit for the big job they have in hand, in order to make room for somebody who will be honest with the people.
– Why did you not bring about these reforms earlier?
– The honorable member may be old in years, but he is a child so’ far as this House is concerned. Some months ago we essayed to make munitions in Australia. There were many engineering people ready to lend assistance. I know one man who offered to put in machinery at a cost of £3,000 for this work, but the Government hesitated about telling him to start, and when he was asked to start the machinery cost £7,000. Furthermore, no sooner ha3 munition making started than the order came to stop everything. Over £500,000- was thus wasted. The Government were in possession of knowledge regarding the making of shells, and yet the military people engineered a Commission to visit India to report on the subject, and I challenge Ministers to say that that report gave any more information than we had already. It was unfair to those connected with engineering to get them to spend money .as they did. They were going to give the shells to the Government at their bare cost. Persons who wished to help their country in this great struggle were thus penalized. In conclusion, I deprecate the bickering that has occurred during the debate, and throughout the whole of the present unfortunate business. We are still in the war, and we must fulfil our promise to see it brought to a successful conclusion. I sometimes feel that we are fiddling while Rome is burning. I, at least, am prepared to take my place with others in trying to secure the recruits necessary for the further prosecution of the war.
.- Mr. Chanter- ‘
– I ask the honorable member to postpone his remarks until a future occasion, so that a division may be taken this afternoon.
– There will be another opportunity to speak next week.
– I am willing to give way if others will also forego their right to speak.
– I intend to speak.
– As usual, doctors differ.
– Perhaps my honorable friend, as we shall have an opportunity to deal with the patient next week, will defer his remarks until then.
– The patient is the bounder who was your boss for a little while. I am going to speak him to death.
– I appeal to all honorable members to allow the division to be taken now.
– I mean what I say.
– In that case, I shall exercise my right to speak now. I re-echo the concluding words of the honorable member for Newcastle, and express deep regret that at a time like this honorable members consider it either neces sary or expedient to continue personal hostilities, which might well be suspended during the present great national crisis. As I am one of the oldest members of the House, I trust that honorable members generally will not consider that I am unduly lecturing them. It is because I earnestly desire that the people of Australia, and its Parliament especially, shall give the best and immediate attention to the part that we ought to play in this great contest that I advocate the cessation of personal interchanges which, although they may sometimes relieve the monotony of public life, might well be relegated to obscurity at the present time. I give all honorable members credit for desiring the successful termination of the’ war, but I put it to the Committee in the strongest terms that we are not all doing all that lies in our power to insure that. Honorable members are not exercising that mutual forbearance and self-sacrifice which they ask others to exercise if they will not abate one jot or tittle of what they consider to be their personal rights. I regard the financial statement of the Treasurer as one of the most important that we have ever had. It marks an epoch in our financial history which I venture to say will often be referred to by those who come after us. During the past three years there has been what the Treasurer has called a financial revel, but what I call a financial debauch, such as the country has never previously experienced. Extravagance has not been limited to Parliaments, it has been indulged in by the people themselves. There must be an utter and complete failure to realize the source whence our money is derived, and the inevitable results of dissipating it in the manner which is being followed. The statement of the Treasurer discloses in lurid fashion the absolute necessity for, not only national, but also personal economy. The State Governments as well as the Commonwealth Government, are blameworthy for unwarrantable extravagance. But the people themselves are materially hastening the advent of the evil day. At this period of the year it has been the custom of people to spend money extra.vangantly to outvie their neighbours during the great racing carnival, and when the weather has been inclement the newspapers have been filled with complaints about the loss of business experienced by drapers and clothiers generally. The least ill-weather has always been regarded as a menace to the profits of these shopkeepers. But although this year the weather has been exceptionally bad, we have had no complaints from business people. They have faced with equanimity conditions which in previous times they would have regarded as pestilential. Why is this? Simply because, as their balance-sheets disclose, their profitsduring the past two years have exceeded all previous records. I know of a shop in a leading thoroughfare of this city of which the profits last year were £12,000 and this year £20,000, an increase of £8,000.
– Fine patriotism!
– The figures show how extravagant the public has been. This extravagance will prejudice the welfare of the country.
– Is it not the increase in prices that accounts, for the greater profits?
– Nearly all the goods sold in the establishments which I have in mind are imported, and our people, by their over-indulgence, have not only been squandering money which they should have saved for the day when it will inevitably be required, but also have been depleting the country of its gold, which has been sent abroad to purchase the things that they have required.
– Is it not a fact that commodities have increased in price threefold ?
– Any increase in prices has nothing to do with the extravagance of which I am speaking. I feel that I should be wanting in my” duty as a member Of the Federal Parliament if I did not draw attention to these facts immediately I became convinced of them. The statement that I make is only too well borne out by the records of the Customs and Excise Department. Every quarter, theGovernment Statist publishes figures which indicate how trade is travelling, and how the commodities which reach this part of the world are being treated by the people who purchase them. During the last twelve months the imports of what may be described as luxuries and non-essentials have increased to an enormous extent. During the first three months of the year 1915-16 the total imports were £20,544,000; for the same months of the year 1916-17 the total imports were £22,168,000. The most significant fact of all is the tremendous advance which our imports have made over our exports. Any tyro in political economy, the veriest apprentice in public finances, realizes that a country which allows its imports to exceed its exports is doing it at the expense of its gold and at the expense of its credit. In 1910-11 we were in a position to send away from Australia more than £11,000,000 in excess of our imports. The figures that I give are exclusive of gold. In 1911-12 the excess of exports over imports was £2,437,000. In 1912- 13 there was a terrible slump to the other side of the ledger, the imports exceeding the exports by £9,848,000. In 1913- 14 the imports exceeded the exports by £3,423,000. In 1914-15, including the first year of the war, the excess of imports ober exports rose to £5,878,000. Last year it rose still further, to £12,701,000, and for the first three months of the present year, 1916-17, the excess has already reached the enormous total of £6,358,000. There is only one possible deduction from these figures. The financial stability of this country is on the down grade. No country can afford to get into the position we are now occupying, and I regret to say that the Government are mainly responsible.
– In the last two years we have done nothing to help industry.
– We have been resting on the proposals which were brought down by the ex-Minister for Trade and Customs, and allowing money to be collected illegally on a Tariff which we have not had the courage to tackle.
– We have not endeavoured to establish new industries.
– If that is the case, the honorable member cannot shirk responsibility in the matter. He has been a supporter of the party which has been in control during the whole of that period, and he knew what was going on.
– I have always taken my stand on that point.
– The stand which the honorable member has taken is one that he knows is utterly ineffective. If he disagrees with the Government, there is only one stand he can take with success, and that is the most recent stand that he has taken.
– The honorable member is now serving under a splendid Protectionist leader.
– Surely I am not to be charged with having enlisted under the leader whom the honorable member found good enough for two years, and whom now, for some reason or other, he desires to repudiate.
– What about the honorable member following Mr. Deakin, and repudiating him?
– The memory of the honorable member has surely failed him on this occasion. He is quite wrong, and I am sorry to see that some of the new members of the House take it for granted that his statement was perfectly true.
– It is quite correct. Did Mr. Deakin leave the honorable member ?
– I did not belong to the Liberal party that went over to the cross benches. The honorable member is quite misrepresenting the position.
– Did you not help to build the bridge?
– I was not there. As I understand that there is a desire to come to a vote, and as I have an assurance from the Treasurer that I shall have an opportunity of speaking on the Works Bill, I shall postpone what further remarks I have to make.
– If the people only understood the tricks of Parliament, some of the arguments of the Industrial Workers of the World might be applied for more direct legislation. No wonder that they are getting tired of parliamentary action. If trains must go, let them go, and let honorable members go with them. I have been endeavouring for two days to say something on this motion, and I intend to have my say. The honorable member fox Parramatta has gone. What were the points of his insults and the attacks on the Labour party? From all round the chamber we hear the letters “ I.W.W.” I am getting very tired of hearing them. . If the public only knew how Parliament was fooling, they would say, perhaps, that parliamentary action was foolish. I hurl back in the face of every one who has uttered them the insults and the untruths that they have spoken. I know nothing of the Industrial Workers of the World, but I claim that if the scales of justice are to be held fairly, the men of that body should be treated fairly, and judged fairly. I accuse the Prime Minister of prejudging them on every platform, in order to inflict the curse of conscription on the people. The honorable member for Perth has said that he would not trust the Prime Minister to run a fish shop. The honorable member should have said a “fruit shop.” I wish to tell the honorable member for Perth that the Prime Minister may probably be a resident of Perth in the future, if we are to judge by finding his name amongst the money-lenders registered in Perth. He has been registered there for a paltry loan of £29 18s. 9d., dragging the sacred name of the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth into the dirty columns of the bills-of-sale list among money-lenders. Who would dare to say that ever a Prime Minister has done the same thing, or the Premier of a State? Yet here it is in this list of money-lendingtransactions.
– That is not our “Bill”?
– Yes, the present Prime Minister of Australia, by the grace of the right honorable members for Parramatta and Swan, without whose assistance he could not possibly be in office. Thrice has the crown been offered to the Leader of the Opposition. It reminds us of the ponderous words of Shakspeare, where Mark Antony was made to say-
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse.
We have offered the right honorable member for Parramatta the kingly crown of being Prime Minister of Australia, yet on more than three occasions he has passed it by. I quote the following from a Weekly Trade Gazette, published in Perth on 22nd November: -
Grantor - Bergin, Henry, and Bergin, Ellen, of 29 Hay-street, East Perth, insurance agent, and wife. Grantee - Perth Finance and Discount Co., of Perth, financiers. Consideration - Contemporaneous advance, £20, and for a note exceeding in aggregate £50.
Grantor - Scully, Johanna, of 239 Bulwerstreet, Perth, family housekeeper. Grantee - Perth Finance and Discount Co. Ltd., of Perth, financiers. Consideration - Contemporaneous advance, £15, and for a note exceeding in aggregate £50.
Grantor - Thomas, David Watkins, and Thomas, Rosetta (his wife), of 354 Williamstreet, Perth, purveyors of refreshments. Grantee - Hughes, the Hon. William Morris, of Melbourne, Prime Minister of Commonwealth of Australia. Consideration - Contemporaneous advance, £29 18s. 9d. Property comprised in bill of sale, stock-in-trade, fittings, fixtures, furniture, and chattels.
These be your gods, O Israel! this the leader of men who are keeping him in power. I hope that they are proud of him. In a book written by Weigall, a great Australian who has gone to Egypt, and given the answer to the cry that Australians are decadents and quitters, there is a picture of a mummy of a famous Pharaoh, Sety of the 19th Dynasty, who lived 6,000 years ago, which compares favorably with Mr. Low’s wonderful caricature of our Prime Minister. We all know how the artist depicts our Prime Minister smashing up the furniture in the British Cabinet room, and spilling the ink, and Mr. Asquith appealing to Mr. Lloyd George to “ speak to him in Welsh and pacify him.” Any one can see in this mummy the facsimile of our “ glorious William.” I compliment Sena. tor Millen, in the other chamber. I have been trying to get a little sympathy as to the swindling that has been done in connexion with the many collections of war funds in Australia. The Crown Solicitor of New South Wales, Mr. Tillett, when a charge was made of stealing £260 from the Red Cross Society, gave this as his opinion -
In my opinion, a strong prima facie case can be established against both Shiels and Anning, and I feel constrained to add that this type of case is one of the many frauds that are being perpetrated on charitable organizations which have arisen during the present war.
Why was not the Red Cross scandal in Egypt dealt with? Why were the men not brought here and punished for their misdeeds ? If two of them had not belonged to the Government House push, they would have been. One has never yet shown his face in Australia. He dare not come here. Why has action not been taken against these men ? Even cigarettes which the kind women of Australia have sent to our troops in the front have been sold in shops, and the buyers of them in some cases have found in the packets the names of the senders, and have written to them. I know of two such cases. Even the socks which we see the dear women knitting in the trams and trains, in theatres and con- cert halls, do not always reach those to whom they are sent. Early in the war I urged that these various patriotic funds should be brought under proper supervision and control. I thank the Minister for the Navy for the splendid work he is doing in guarding the country against improper dealings. It would be cowardly for me to follow the example of the Prime Minister by alluding to a case that is still sub judice. But no gaol is too bad for any man who is found guilty of having robbed his country during this time of war. What has been done by dishonest contractors in England ? Take the case, for instance, of certain clothing contractors to the British Army, who, according to a report before me -
Were lately censured by Mr. Justice Low, and who have been expelled from all public offices held by them. In some instances boycotting has taken place, and ruin faces them. The scoundrel Asselling, who fainted on receipt of a sentence of five years’ imprisonment, is in the gaol hospital, suffering from shock, and has become deranged.
The following remarks of the Judge should be taken to heart by fellows of like kidney in Australia -
I can only say, with regard to the contractors, that I very much regret that it is not in my power to send them to share the wellmerited punishment of their associate and accomplice. They leave this Court free men, but they .will leave the Court disgraced men, with the disgrace that should attach to men who have not hesitated .to sacrifice the interests of their country to the desire to accumulate money.
The Minister for the Navy will never be afraid to deal with any case of dishonesty on the part of contractors that is brought under his notice. Work that was carried out for his Department is now being done by trade unionists, and ,1 am perfectly certain that they will never rob the country. I shall not accuse any of the Navy contractors of having done so. But the action taken by the Navy Department will be a lesson that robbers will take to heart. I am sorry that the Leader of the Liberal party is not present, as I desire to refer to his insulting references to the Labour party and the Industrial Workers of the World. I shall hurl such insults back at him, as well as at all members of the Liberal party from whose lips they come so trippingly. I challenge any one to say that the Industrial Workers of the World control any union. There are burglars in our midst, but we do riot accuse the people of any sympathy with them.. Then, again, we have German spies in our midst; but we do not say that the people are in sympathy with them . When we discover a German spy, we intern him. I accuse the head of this Government, however, of having allowed rich Germans to go free, although they have not been naturalized, while he has caused the arrest of poor Germans who have married Australian women and have boys and girls born in Australia. To say that the Labour party is in association with the Industrial Workers of the World is to display a want of common sense. It would be just as reasonable for me to accuse all members of the Liberal party of believing in reducing the pay of old-age pensioners because the honorable member for Flinders, when Premier of Victoria, robbed the old men and women.
– The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– Very well. The honorable member is certainly not a robber, and I will withdraw the expression. When he was Premier of Victoria, he reduced the old-age pensioners’ allowance. They were receiving only 5s., 6s., or 7s. a week, and their children were required to go into the witness-box in order that it might be ascertained whether they could not contribute ls. or ls. 6d. a week towards their support. As I have said before, I would die like a dog in the gutter rather than see my boy or girl placed in the witness-box for such a purpose. The Victorian old-age pension system was costing £238,000 a year, and the honorable member for Flinders, who was then Premier of this State, thought that was too much to spend on feeding the aged- poor. He, therefore, reduced the amount to £150,000 a year, thus taking the bread out of the mouths of the old-age pensioners. But because he did that, would it be fair for me to accuse every member of the Liberal party of being in sympathy with such action ? By the way, where are the members of the Liberal party ? The honorable member for Lang, with whose speech this morning I was more in sympathy than was any other honorable member on this side of the House, is the only representative of that party now present. It would be just as fair to accuse every member of the Liberal party of being prepared to grind down the old-age pensioners because of the action of the honorable member for Flinders as it is to accuse us of adopting the tactics of the Industrial Workers of the World. I might just as well accuse the Liberal party of believing in perjury and conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice because of what happened in connexion with the Ronald-Harper case. Practically every witness against the Rev. J. B. Ronald was gaoled for conspiracy or perjury. Yet Mr. Robert Harper, against whom he proceeded, still goes upon the platform in support of conscription. Three Judges of this State - to their honour be it said - urged that the law ought to be amended so as .to enable justice to be done to Mr. Ronald. I do not accuse the Liberal party of having any sympathy with the injustice that was done to Mr. Ronald, but I do condemn the Liberals in the State Parliament for failing to amend the law which three Justices of the Supreme Court said should be altered so that an unfortunate minister of religion might obtain justice from Mr. Harper. Mr. Harper supports conscription. But would it not be unfair for me to accuse those who supported the “Yes” campaign, and who are never tired of hurling at us insinuations with regard to the Industrial Workers of the World, of being fit companions of those who commit perjury and engage in conspiracies ? Some people say that we should speak only good of the dead. I believe the Almighty would say, “ Speak of the dead, if you will, but speak the truth.” I challenged a Victorian Ministry which sat in this very House with having allowed the late Silas Harding to escape imprisonment. The Attorney-General of that day had to own that he had been found guilty of perjury right up to the Supreme Court, but he did not die in gaol. He was not sent to gaol. He was a rich man. Would it be fair to say that the Liberals, who kept that man out of gaol, all approved of perjury ? No . It would be just as unfair as it is for the Liberals to accuse the official Labour party of being the allies of the Industrial Workers of the World. I do not wish to hurt the feelings of the honorable member for Balaclava, since the honorable member for Capricornia has already been severe, and justly severe, in his criticism of him. The honorable member, who was for many years Premier of Victoria, deprived 100,000 men and women in this State of their right to vote. The Minister for the Navy did good work in Tasmania when he held office for a few days in a State Administration. Aged men and women, and poor, unfortunate children there, have cause to thank him, and I believe remember him in their prayers, for the benefits he then conferred upon them. Mr. Prendergast, when holding the office of Chief Secretary for a few brief days in this State, wrote a minute to the effect that the name of every man and woman who was entitled to be on the rolls should be at once enrolled. That minute resulted in Victoria having 100,000 additional voters. It increased by 1,000 the number” of electors in the Flemington and Essendon electorate who had been deprived of their vote. The honorable member for Capricornia will be glad to learn that that, possibly, was responsible for Mr. Watt leaving that electorate and going to Balaclava. The honorable member who preceded me could have told us, had he chosen, of a very interesting episode that is well known in Masonic circles. I shall leave it for him to put before the Committee on some other occasion. Then, again, the right honorable member for Swan was responsible for the most iniquitous law ever passed in Australia - a law under which the age of consent was reduced from fourteen years to twelve years. It would be just as reasonable for members of the Labour party to accuse the Liberal party of approving of that amendment of the law because it was brought in by the right honorable member for Swan as it is for them to accuse us of being in alliance with the Industrial Workers of the World. A child of twelve would not know how to’ give consent, yet the right honorable member, when Premier of Western Australia, brought in that infamous amendment of the law. If there is going to be any mud-slinging, I shall refer to Hansard for records of those gentlemen who are always yelping about the Industrial Workers’ of the World. I am sorry that the honorable members to whom I refer are absent, but I would say the same thing in their presence. I was very glad to hear from the Government that the wheels of industry will soon be in motion again. “If they are not, I shall appeal to the citizens of Australia as to whether it is not time we took over the industry from the “ coal barons.” In the past the barons, with their armed retainers, could rob every passer-by, and the coal barons are quite as bad. It is preposterous that we should have to wait until 1916 before these miners should have the right of an eighthours day. Anybody who knows about mining would rather accept half the pay on the surface than go below, and the danger commences directly the cage begins to go down. If the Government had gone a little further than they did, and seized the mines, It would have been far better for the country. At one time in Victoria, when the Ballarat and Bendigo miners desired to have an eight-hours day, and the mine-owners refused, Mr. Francis Longmore, who was a State Minister at the time, was asked to grant an exemption of the working conditions of the leases. The reply of Mr. Longmore to the owners was that, though he could not compel them to open their mines, or to give the men an eight-hour day, he could, and would, compel them to keep the labour conditions, or forfeit the leases. This, of course, finished the strike, and the men got what they desired. In Germany, when there was a strike for a ten-hours day and 18s. a week, the Emperor, after there had been some little disturbances, owing to the masters’ refusal to meet the men, told the latter that if they kept the peace he would see justice done, while if they created riots he would shoot them down like dogs. On the other hand, he told the owners that if they did not appoint representatives to meet the men within twenty-four hours, he would do it for them. The result was that the representatives were appointed, and in forty-eight hours the strike was decided in favour of the men. Further, these German mines were nationalized, and there has never been any industrial trouble there since. Another instance was afforded when Mr. Roosevelt, as President, told the mineowners that if they did not keep the mines going, he himself would work them at their risk; and there is a still further example in the more recent action of President Wilson, which undoubtedly caused his re-election. Before concluding, I should like to say a word about the case of Gunner Perry, that poor wretched soldier who volunteered and suffered so much subsequently. Honorable members will be glad to know that that man has received an honorable discharge, and not only a pension for himself, but one for his wife. If the then Government had acceded to the request of the Leader of the Opposition, and sent one of the three Ministers to see this man, the country would have been saved £2,000, the cost of the inquiry. I accuse Senator Pearce of having involved the country in that amount in trying to rob this man of his pension, although that man was , one of five brothers who had all volunteered. I may say that two of the brothers have been killed, one severely wounded, and another missing, leaving only Gunner Perry with his honorable discharge and pension. I do not know what the sensations of the doctors must be who gave evidence that this man was a malingerer. I do know, however, that Dr. Cuscaden is the least qualified of any medical man who is under him in the Army, and I dare him to say that, at the Melbourne Hospital or the Alfred Hospital, he would be allowed to practise either as an in-patient or an out-patient surgeon. The fact is that Dr. Cuscaden is a woman’s doctor, and it isan absurdity to have him in his present position. We all remember how it was sworn by Senator Pearce, at the Perry inquiry, that the fence was over 7 feet high, and how that statement was afterwards disproved, the fence, as a matter of fact, being only 4 ft. 6 in. I asked Senator Pearce to nominate any two men of the Labour party, in order that there might be a proper investigation of the facts connected with this case, but he refused; and we know how he dragged the honest name of Mr. Fisher into the case. If there is any more of this Industrial Workers of the World business, unless it is given by the Book, I shall quote more of these cases, not only here, but outside. If the members of the Industrial Workers of the World have committed arson, that is a crime sufficiently serious to judge them on without the Prime Minister and his satellites yelling out about them while they were on their trial. The’ men have been tried by a Judge. If he gave a wrong decision, it is a question between him, his conscience, and his Creator, and his conscience will never let him rest. If he gave a just decision, and the men were guilty of trying to burn down buildings with danger to human life, there is not one man in our party who would deny that the sentence was deserved. I am about full up of this Industrial Workers of the World business. The Prime Minister is the leader of what will be known as the “Devil’s Ministry,” because there are only thirteen in the party, and no Whip ever had as easy a time as the present Whip has in looking after three men. If the Prime Minister wants to earn the respect he has lost among those who knew him best, he can do good now by seizing and nationalizing the coal mines, instead of letting the coal lords run them. Also, is he man enough to let us know how the soldiers voted at the front? Is he man enough to lay the papers pertaining to the purchase of the Commonwealth steamers on the table? Will he state if any commission was given, and, if so, to whom? I do not accuse the Prime Minister himself of being concerned, but he is in such a terribly suspicious positionthat it is timethe public knew the facts. 1 would urge him for his own sake to give up that superlative cunning which he has been showing. Every body of men, from his Cabinet and his Caucus down, to whom he told all these secrets, turned him down, and if the public outside had. only known the truth, and been given fair play, they would have turned him down even more severely than they did. If the soldiers had given a thumping majority for the slavery of conscription the fact would have been heralded throughout the land. The Prime Minister refused to let us have scrutineers to check the vote. When I asked him if he would cable to the Labour party in England to appoint scrutineers to act for our Labour party in England, and where possible at the front, he was not “taking any.” I am informed that the executive of the Labour party here tried to cable the request at their own expense, but that the cable was not allowed to go. That is fishy and suspicious. If the Prime Minister wants to save the remnants of his political honour he must let us know how the troops voted. Are they degraded beings fit only to be put in gaol that he will not. allow the people to know how they voted ? I accuse the Prime Minister of suppressing the truth in that case. With all his tricks, he is after all in the position of thefox in the fable, which, lacking the one trick of the cat that could climb a tree, fell a victim to the dogs.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Poynton andMr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and passed through all its stages.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
For the information of honorable members I may state that we shall proceed with the consideration of the Works Estimates on Wednesday,
– What Bills will succeed the Works Estimates? The Treasurer has informed me privately of his intentions, but I think the House should know what taxation proposals are to be considered before we adjourn for the holidays, and also on what date the adjournment will take place.
– The taxation proposals of the Treasurer will follow the consideration of the Works Estimates.
– The income tax will be dealt with first.
– As to the date on which we shall adjourn for the Christmas holidays, I can make no definite statement, but I am not aware of any settled and implacable resolve having been formed, in violent conflict with the desire of other honorable members to adjourn as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 8 December 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19161208_reps_6_80/>.