7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a:m., and react prayers.
– It is reported in today’s newspapers that the Ship-owners Federation has postponed indefinitely the sending of another vessel to Fremantle. In view of the fact that large stores of goods are awaiting transhipment to Western Australia, and that there is a shortage of food supplies in the State, will the Minister for the Navy endeavour to have a ship sent to Fremantle at the earliest opportunity?
– The honorable member spoke to me privately about this matter yesterday, but I was unable to get into touch with the officer from whom I wished to obtain information on the subject. I shall look into the question, and see if it is possible to do what is suggested. Western Australia is being hit hard with thestrike, and is in a peculiar position, so that every effort should he made to keep open communication between that State and the eastern States.
– On the 6th instant the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) asked -
I am informed that -
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether work has been stopped on the transcontinental railway ?
– My impression is that the work on that line is proceeding, and that the gap between the two ends will shortly be bridged.
– I wish to know from the Postmaster-General if a decision has been arrived at regarding the future rate, of postage on catalogues.
– As the result of conference and consultation, I have arrived at a decision concerning the future rate of postage on catalogues pending legislation, and I shall make the details public early next week.
– The Postmaster-General has advised the public to send money rather than parcels to their friends at the Front, but I would point out to him that what is appreciated by the soldiers is not so much the contents of the parcels as the fact that they have come from home and from their relatives. A parcel from England to them is a very different thing from a parcel from Australia; they like the personal touch. I hope, therefore, that the Postmaster-General will try to make some arrangements whereby parcels may be sent from Australia to those who are serving the Empire abroad.
– An honorable member may not make a speech in asking a question.
– The public wish to know what is to be done. Is the Navy making arrangements.
– Because of the dearth of shipping, and, to some extent, because of the industrial upheaval, there has been difficulty in carrying out the usual mail service with Europe. The need for supplying foodstuffs to the troops was responsible for an instruction to curtail to some extent the space available for parcel malls. However, I have been in consultation with the authorities, and it has now been decided that more space shall be given to enable parcels to be sent to the Front.
– By way of personal explanation, I desire to refer to a statement concerning me by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts) made yesterday afternoon after I had left the chamber. According to the newspaper account, the honorable member said, inter alia, that he had been on two conferences with me, and that I had advised unionists to drop bricks on the heads of non-unionists. There is not a word of truth in those statements. To the best of my knowledge and belief, I have been on pne conference only with the honorable member, and then the employment of non-unionists was not an issue, the object of the conference being to prevent a New Zealand strike from extending to Australia, and we were successful. Neither ‘then nor at any other time have I given such advice as has been . attributed to me by the honorable member.
– The Argus report is abbreviated, and does not exactly convey what I said. The Prime Minister left the chamber when he saw me rise to reply to him, and it is, therefore, not my fault that he did not hear what I said. The Prime Minister was president and I was secretary of a strike conference which dealt with a waterside workers’ dispute in, I think, 1913, when the conditions were much as they are to-day. The conference met daily for some weeks and controlled the whole of the union movement of Australia. The New Zealand Government had inaugurated a so-called National Service Strike-breaking Bureau, and were employing so-called loyalists for the purpose of smashing the New Zealand unions. As every one who has had to do with industrial disputes knows, when nonunionists are employed in an industry—–
– The honorable member is entitled to explain any matter in regard to which he has been misrepresented or misreported, but he is not entitled to openup new ground.
– I have been misrepresented ‘ by the abbreviated report of my speech in the newspaper, and the Prime Minister has increased the misrepresentation by misstating the facts.
– I have not misstated the facts.
– The honorable member’s statement is inaccurate, as I am showing.
Efforts were being made by the conference of which we were members, to bring about a settlement of the New Zealand dispute.- The right honorable gentleman, on behalf of the conference, made overtures tothe ship-owners of Australia to put pressure on the shipowners of New Zealand, with a view to bringing this dispute to a conclusion, lest through the employment of black labour Australia should be involved in a sympathy strike. Delegates from New Zealand were present at the committee meeting, watching the interests of the New Zealand unionists. A settlement was proposed as the outcome of these negotiations.
– Surely the honorable membercannotopen up an entirely new matter?
– I have already drawn the honorable member’s attention to the fact that he may not open up new ground, and I again ask him to confine his remarks to a personal explanation. All such explanation must have reference to matters in which a member has been misrepresented, and in making a personal explanation a member may say only so much as may be necessary to correct that misrepresentation.
– As the proposed terms of settlement did not include the dismissal of blacklegs, the New Zealand representatives protested that they should not be asked to go back to work with these so-called loyalists.
– This is new ground.
– I ask the honorable member to confine himself strictly to a personal explanation.
– I was not opening up new ground.
– I am afraid the honorable member was doing so.
– The statement I made yesterday, the abbreviated report of which does not put the matter correctly, was that when complaint was made regarding the men returning to work with non-unionists, the Prime Minister pointed out that they had gone back to work with non-unionists upon numerous occasions, and that they knew how to deal with them. I was leading up to this point by a recital of the circumstances. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that unionists had returned to work with nonunionists at the gas works in Sydney, and described their treatment at that and other places, and in his own lurid language said, “You men know perfectly well that it would be easier to find the cross of Christ at the bottom of hell than to find a non-unionist amongst you in a week’s time.”
– To the best of my knowledge and belief, I said no such thing. I have no doubt the honorable member is able to say whether at the bottom of hell such things can be found.
– The honorable gentleman is not very positive in his denial. He ought to be able to recognise his own expression.
– Not when it comes from the lips of a person such as the honorable member.
– When the honorable gentleman is reminded of his own expression, the whole circumstances should recur to his mind.
– I submit, Mr. Speaker, that this whole discussion is out of order.
– The honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) said that the Prime Minister had misrepresented him, and that the abbreviated newspaper report does not correctly convey what he said to the House. He is now endeavouring to make the matter clear. I have already reminded him that it is necessary for him to confine himself to the personal explanation, and not open up new ground. If the Prime Minister interjects he gives the honorable member some provocation to do what I am trying to prevent him from doing.
– The Prime Minister exhibits some objection to the facts being recited. I am prepared to allow the matter to rest upon judgment formed of the statement of the Prime Minister and my reply.
Mr.FINLAYSON.- In view of the intense desire of the Government to bring the session to a speedy close, and in order that honorable members from different constituencies may make their arrangements, I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Minister for Works and Railways, to inform the House of the approximate date of the opening of the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway?
– I shall ask the Minister for Works and Railways to supply the information on Tuesday.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to - That this House, at its rising, adjourn until 3 o’clock p.m. on Tuesday next.
– I have received from the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) notification that it is his intention to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ the proposals of the New South Wales Government for working the coal mines and their detrimental effect on the successful prosecution of the war!”
Five members having risen in their places,
.– I very much regret having to take this course. For several days I have been waiting in the hope that the negotiations in Sydney would have resulted in the resumption of work in the interests of the Commonwealth and the successful prosecution of the war. But the proposals which emanated from the New South Wales Government yesterday are such that, with my experience of coal mining, I have no hope of the immediate resumption of work, nor do I think that the activities of the Commonwealth can be brought to their normal condition in reasonable time. Therefore, the State Government’s proposals are likely to retard, to a very large extent, the Commonwealth’s efforts for the prosecution of the war. This Parliament was elected for the purpose of doing its utmost to win the war, and I feel sure that honorable members on both sides of the House have an intense desire to bring about such a condition of affairs as will conduce to the attainment of that end. These proposals, coming, as they did, right in the midst of a conference which, we had hoped, would have resulted in a settlement, have so accentuated the industrial crisis, that I can see no prospect of the activities of the country regaining their normal condition for a considerable time.
In considering this matter, I ask honorable members not to be led away by any feeling as to what has happened during the last five or six weeks. What we must concern ourselves with is the position at the present, and the prospect for the future ; and each of us, if he looks at the matter from that point of view, will come to the conclusion that everything possible should be done to enable the Commonwealth to get its usual coal supplies. The proposals of the New South Wales Government are as follows : -
If these conditions are applied to coal mines, it will mean that the miners will be askedto resume work under conditions which will endanger their personal safety. It is impossible to work mines which give off gas, and have other dangers, with inexperienced men. The New South Wales Government seem to have thought that extreme legislation would have a big influence in settling the trouble in the railway and tramway services. As a matter of fact, this legislation has had no such influence, but it is having a very detrimental effect on the Commonwealth generally. The trouble with the railway and tramway servants seems to have been settled, and the State Government ought to bend every energy to the bringing about of a resumption of the normal activities of the country. I remind honorable members opposite that, though they may be powerful, though they may be in a position to dictate terms, though they may adopt an autocratic policy, the great public of Australia will not submit to such conduct for any length of time.
– The public are on our side.
– The right honorable gentleman will realize that a powerful Government must be merciful, and it is not a safe axiom of government to say that, because a party is in power with very strong support, it is justified in going to extremes. Such action would probably result in disaster to the Commonwealth. We must have regard to the national position. There comes a time in connexion with every trouble when justice must be tempered with mercy ; and, having regard to the fact that the railway men have resumed on the Government’s terms, the State authorities should endeavour to settle the coal miners’ strike amicably, rather than accentuate any existing bitterness.
– Have the railway services resumed?
– The railway service in the Newcastle district is resumed, and the Commissioner has said that the Government are able to continue the existing services ; but, until the mining trouble is settled, they will not extend them. Apparently, the whole position depends upon the Government getting supplies of coal. Nobody knows better than the Minister for the Navy the reasons for the passing of’ the Coal Mines Act with a provision precluding inexperienced men working alone at the coal face. That legislation was not introduced by a Labour Government, but by a Liberal Government, who realized that on account of the dangers attendant on coal mining, the industry required the services of skilled men at the coal face. This legislation provided, therefore, that each incompetent man should be under the care of a skilled miner.
If ever there was panic legislation, it was that recently passed by the Government of New South Wales, apparently without thought, and simply for the purpose of’ exercising power against a body of men who ceased work out of sympathy with their comrades. Now that the men are ready to resume work, the Government say that the panic legislation must continue. In two or three mines where the Government had succeeded in getting a body of inexperienced labour, those men are to continue at work, and the experienced miner is to be asked to work alongside them. If that is done, each man who enters the mines will run the risk of being blown up. No one can say that there may not be at any moment an ignition of gas consequent on the acts of inexperienced men, and a disaster may befall the whole of the employees in the mine. I am sure honorable members will not support legislation of that sort. I could have understood the Government, if their desire is to be loyal to the men who accepted work in the mines, stipulating that such men must continue in work, but having experienced men alongside, in order to protect the lives of all. In imposing such a condition the Government would have been on safe ground, but they have merely said that the inexperienced men must remain where they are. Those men have been employed only in two or three mines that are not giving off gas, and from those properties the output of coal is infinitesimal. In the Catherine Hill Bay mine, where 250 men are employed, the output is only 250 tons per day, although 200 experienced miners produced 1250 tons a day. The Richmond Main and the Pelaw Main, which are to be worked on behalf of the Victorian Government, are very dangerous mines, because they give off gas in large quantities. Yet the Victorian Government is advertising for gold miners, labourers, and workmen of any sort to man those mines. With inexperienced labour of that character, an explosion might occur at any moment. If*, the men are prepared to settle the dispute - and I believe they are - the Government should meet them in a conciliatory spirit. The union officials told me a few days ago that they would bend all their energies to the settlement of this trouble. The action of the State Government in bringing forward such proposals just at the critical moment when Mr. Holme was negotiating with the miners, suggests that they have no intention of trying to effect a settlement, but desire to accentuate the difficulty and crush the unions. I do not think that even honorable members opposite want anything of the kind, but we can take no other view of the attitude of the New South Wales Ministry.
– What hurt would there be if the men went back ito work ?
– How could they go back?
– They have done it many times before.
– It is no use talking humbug.
– I am not indulging in humbug; I am stating absolute facts, and the right honorable member knows it. He would not advocate inexperienced men being allowed to work in coal mines, as they are at the present moment. In the two mines to which I have referred, the Government are prepared ibo employ any class of labour, and they expect efficient miners to work with these men; notwithstanding that their very presence in the mines is an absolute danger to them. This action on the part of the State Government is criminal. Mr. Hagelthorn may not have had much experience of coal mining, and I can only say that in persisting in this proposition to work the mines with inexperienced men he is deluding the people. The sending over of inexperienced men from Victoria to New South Wales to cut coal will probably end in disaster. This is not a time to mince matters. The danger is very real. The New South Wales Government have found it necessary to cause inquiries to be made in regard to the use of elec trical appliances in these mines, because sparks corning from them are likely to ignite the gas. At this critical time, when every effort , should be made to bring about a settlement, we find that the Government are prepared to send from this State inexperienced men to work the coal mines of New South Wales. From whatever stand-point we may view the situation, we cannot escape the fact that it is most serious.
– They would allow the scabs to kill the union men in New South Wales.
– That sort of talk does not mend the situation.
– I should be recreant to my duty as a member of the National Parliament if I permitted a Government composed, perhaps, of men inexperienced in coal mining, to go on with these proposals without pointing out the danger and offering a protest. This working of the mines by inexperienced men means a serious risk to life.
Every one admits that a supply of coal is essential to the welfare of the Commonwealth at any time, and is particularly necessary in this time of war. I have heard the Prime Minister and other honorable members opposite say that it is the desire of the National Government that industrial conditions should continue as they were before the war, and that in order that the war might be successfully prosecuted there should be no cessation of work. Why not give effect to that desire ? The Prime Minister will probably reply to my arguments with the statement that lie appointed a tribunal some time ago to deal with the grievances of the coal miners, and that although that tribunal settled their disputes, they are again on strike. He will probably point to that fact as justifying the action of the New South W.ales Government on this occasion. Let me tell him plainly, however, that the State Government are largely responsible for the present crisis. It would have been far better - it would have been more in keeping with national interests - to allow the introduction of the card system to remain in abeyance until after the war.
– But does the card system apply to the miners?
– It does not. I am merely anticipating the Prime Minister’s reply to my contention. I am pointing out that the trouble in connexion with the New South Wales collieries occurred owing to the action of the State Government in connexion with the operation of the card system.
The New South Wales Government now make certain demands. I am inclined to think that the Prime Minister and Mr. Beeby quite understand the position. Mr. Beeby visited Melbourne a day or two ago, and in his absence negotiations were proceeding inSydney, with every prospect of success. There seemed to be every hope of a settlement, but yesterday, according to the press reports, the Cabinet of which Mr. Beeby is a member suddenly came down with these new proposals. They did not wait for Mr.. Holme to submit the proposals made by the conference which he hadbeen attending, but issued their mandate to the miners. I ask the Prime Minister to state, when replying, whether it is not a fact that Mr. Beeby discussed this matter with him when in Melbourne a day or two ago, and whether he agreed with Mr. Beeby that the Commonwealth should not intervene at this hour of national crisis, but should permit the State Government to deal with the dispute in the way that it now proposes to do. I ask the Prime Minister to give a direct answer to that question. There appears to me to be some ground for the belief that such an arrangement was made by him with Mr. Beeby. In view of the fact that Mr. Holme, the Industrial Commissioner, was negotiating with the men in accordance with the terms of the State law, and that there seemed to be some hope of a settlement, I am at a loss to account for the action of the StateMinistry in suddenly stepping in and breaking off those negotiations.
There is a large quantity of coal at grass in the Newcastle district, and it is said to be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the Commonwealth for some time. I shall not be guilty of any breach of confidence in stating that I was assured by the right honorable gentleman himself that that coal was for another purpose. I was informed byhim that it was for a definite object, and some time ago I conveyed that fact to certain representatives of the men, so as to prevent any trouble. I have bent all my energies to the task of avoiding industrial trouble in connexion with the coal mining industry. If the Government think that they can fill the mines with free labour, and so starve the men into submission, they are mistaken. They will find the task more difficult than they imagine, and even to attempt it will not be in the best interests of the country. I believe that rather than submit to the conditions that have been laid down by the State Government, the coal miners would stand out until after Christmas. The State Government cannot hope to starve these men into submitting to such proposals as are now made. I appeal to the Government to be reasonable, and to endeavour to bring forward a reasonable scheme. If they do, they will find the men amenable. I am convinced of that as the result of conversations I had with the leaders of the miners while on my way over from Sydney.
I have brought forward this matter in order that it may be seriously considered by the House. This Parliament is paramount. We have in the past taken up the position that in this time of national crisis the Commonwealth Parliament is supreme, and that we have a right to control everything within the Commonwealth. There is the further point to be considered, that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides that When an industrial dispute extends beyond the limits of any one State it at once becomes a Commonwealth matter. I cannot understand why the Prime Minister, who, in the past, has done so much to settle industrial troubles, should be prepared now to allow a State Government to deal with an industrial upheaval, affecting, not only one, but every State in the Commonwealth, and which is doing an immense amount of injury to the successful prosecution of the war.
– What does the honorable member suggest should be done?
– I say that the most recent proposals of the State Government should not have been issued. The Commonwealth Government should at once get into touch with the State Government, and urge them to take action to secure the early resumption of work, so that the war may be successfully prosecuted. They should urge the State Government to modify their proposals.
– In what way?
– The State Government: could easily go back to the conditions that previously existed.
From time to time statements appear in the press - and they probably originate with the State Ministry, that, in New South Wales, there are many collieries working. Let me say straight out that the quantity of coal that is being won from the collieries now working is not worthy of consideration. At the Catherine Hill Bay mine there were something like 6,000 tons of coal in the bins when the men ceased work. There are very large bins on the mine, and all that is necessary is to run the trucks under them and load up. It has been proclaimed far and wide that the volunteers working in that mine have been cutting large quantities of coal. As a matter of fact, the coal being supplied from that mine was cut by the old employees, and was in the bins when this trouble arose. There is very little coal in the bins now, and the same statement will apply to other collieries. Assuming that the State Government could successfully work the coal mines - and I say they cannot - how could they get the coal away? Is it in the interests of the Commonwealth that the whole of our shipping should be held up! From every stand-point it is most important that we should do all in our power to settle this strike.
Whatever may be said of “their action in coming out, it is to the eternal credit of the Newcastle colliers that they have supplied more volunteers for our fighting forces abroad than has any other electorate in Australia. The electors of Newcastle turned down conscription by a very substantial majority; but that electorate holds pride of place among all others in regard to the number of fighting men it has sent to the Front. Its population consists chiefly of miners and mine workers ; so that no one can urge that the men there are not doing their level best to aid the Government in the successful prosecution of this war. All their sympathies are in the direction of bringing the war to a speedy and successful termination, and they are prepared to do all they can in that direction. They are setting an example to the people of every other electorate by their response to the recruiting appeal. Even now they are supplying their full quota of recruits. That being so, no one can say that they are disloyal,’ or that they are in any way opposed to the best interests of the Empire.
The whole trouble is the ‘ result of a mistake, and every effort should be made to bring about a settlement. The State Government having overcome the trouble in regard to the tramway employees, surely it is only fair to call upon the State Administration to be reasonable. If they are strong they should be merciful. That is an axiom of good government. It is easy to adopt autocratic methods, and to resort to extremes, but we require at the head of the Government a man . of tact, who knows exactly how far to go, and when it is time to pull off. The time has arrived when this trouble should be settled in the interests of all concerned. I ask the Prime Minister to seriously consider the position. Surely no one would have this industrial trouble going on until after Christmas. If the State Government so embitter the feeling of the men that they refuse to return to work, then we cannot hope to do much in the prosecution of the war. If the men become embittered we shall not be able to look to them to help us to make up our reinforcements as they have been doing. They will have the impression that the Government, because of their success at the polls, are no longer prepared to be reasonable. This is a bad idea to get abroad amongst workmen, and I submit to the Prime Minister, and to this House, that the time has arrived when the Government of the Commonwealth should get into communication with the State Government, and instruct the latter to come to a settlement on reasonable terms as early as possible. The proposals that have been made by the State Government are most unreasonable; but I feel sure that, so far as the miners of the Newcastle and Maitland districts are concerned, they would accept reasonable terms. That being so, I appeal to the Prime Minister to take immediate action, realizing, as he must, that this matter concerns not only the miners, but the whole of the Commonwealth. In all matters concerning the Commonwealth, and the welfare of the Empire, since the commencement of the war, the Government have endeavoured to maintain control ; and surely they ought to do so at the present moment. I speak feelingly, because there is no man more anxious than myself to see the wheels of industry going round, and everything possible done to bring the war to a successful ending. If we all have that desire, surely we can sink our personal feelings, and those in power can afford to be generous.
– This is the second occasion on which the adjournment of the House has been moved in relation to this matter; but of that I do not complain. It is a matter of importance, and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), who represents a district vitally concerned, has, as becomes him, put forward the case temperately on behalf of his constituents. I venture to say, however, that he has not put forward a case which will commend itself to the community in general. I admit that much of what he says in regard to the position is true. I admit, for example, that the amount of coal now being got out by the men from the National Service Bureau is insignificant. I admit that the amount of coal that is likely to be got out by volunteers will still leave many of the most pressing needs of the Commonwealth unsatisfied. But I take exception to the major premise of the honorable gentleman in his statement of the case. He has entirely passed over the reason for the strike, thoughthat is the touchstone of the whole position. The honorable member said that, because the Government happened to succeed at the polls, we ought to remember our duties - that while we are strong we ought to be merciful. I say that the real reason for this strike is that the Government did succeed at the polls - that it is the answer of those gentlemen who were then defeated, or, rather, tothe gentlemen who led those who were defeated.
Let me remind the honorable member of one or two facts. He said something about the card system, and contended that the New South Wales Government, by introducing it into the railway and tramway workshops, is responsible for the cessation of work by the coal miners. Could there be a greater manifestation of the position than is here set forth ? The card system is not responsible for the strike. I shall come to the main point in a moment; but it is certain that we could not get a coal miner to stand here and deny that the conditions grantedthem by the coal tribunal were the best they had ever made.
Here was a god who came bearing in both hands all the gifts of Heaven and poured them freely and. without price into their lap. Did this satisfy them ? Did it allay industrial unrest? No. They became light-headed through the exuberance of Heaven’s generosity. Since the award - some eight months or so ago - they have struck I do not know how many times. In the month of July - that is the month precedingthe strike - there were strikes at Seaham No. 2, Pelaw Main, Aberdare Extended, Hepburn, Burwood, Rothbury, and Richmond Main collieries.
These are only some of the strikes that have occurred. I have not had an opportunity to collect all of the necessary information, whereas the honorable member had hiscase prepared, and put it without warning. However, there were strikes without number, for any reason and for no reason. He now says that it was the card system that brought about this dire calamity.
– Will the right honorable gentleman permit me to say that there has been only one breach of any award delivered by the coal tribunal.
– I say that those strikes, some of which I have quoted, were deliberately fomented as part of an organized plan, and this strike served one of the purposes of the leaders very well. I shall not say one word about what that purpose was, but no doubt every coal miner knows. However, that shall not occur again.
I now come to the main cause of this strike. When the conscription campaign was in full swing, and about four or five days before the vote was taken, it is a fact that Mr. Baddeley, Mr. Willis, and two others, whose names I forget, waited on me at Newcastle. They said that they had been goaded by the irritating delay of the Arbitration Court into a state when it was only by superhuman efforts that they were keeping the men from striking. Of course, that appealed to me very much, because I know this business well; and I asked them what it was they desired. I told them I could not guarantee that the Court would hear their case, but I would do what I could, and use all my influence, and if that failed with the Court I would give them a tribunal. This conversation took place on the Thursday, or may be theFriday, before the referen- dum. It was anticipated by the miners, or by their leaders, that the vote would be carried in favour of conscription; and, apparently, it had been arranged that, if it were so carried, there should be a strike. There is no doubt about that - none whatever.
– Where is the proof?
– I have ample proof.
– You do not give it.
– What nonsense! Why, later on, the Waterside Workers Union had a congress in Hobart, and at that time I was president of the union. The minutes show that motions were openly moved - one to the effect that, if conscription were carried, the Waterside Workers Union would join in with every other union and strike. Everybody knows that is true.
– Were those motions carried?
– That particular one was. At any rate, it was discussed for three days. Honorable members must think that the community are fools. Do honorable members think . that unions always publish the things that they really mean to do ? Do they think I do not know what happened?
Now we have a strike of coal miners, who were enjoying the best conditions they or any coal miners ever had. They had deliberately ceased work because it was alleged that an injustice was being done, or proposed to be done, to a certain section of the railway employees. No one knows precisely how this card system would operate, but the railway men struck, and the miners left their work in sympathy with them. Now, after going six weeks, the railway employees, or a great number of them, returned to work unconditionally, and the rest went back with a settlement, accepting the card system as one of the conditions. But the coal miners are still out on strike, and declare that they will not go back unless and until a section in dispute is repealed and certain permits issued to loyalist miners under a special Act passed in New South Wales are withdrawn .
– They have not said that. They were negotiating with a view to resumption of work; but they did not say that. They did not make that a mandatory condition.
– All I know is that they now refuse to go back. The honorable member says that they are “ negotiating,” but what they are really doing is striking, though they have no grievances. They do not even allege one. According to the honorable member, there are 200 or 250 men cutting coal in some out-of-the-way place, which I do not suppose one miner out of every 300 on strike ever saw or goes near. Surely to heaven the honorable member is not going to tell me that such conditions are new in the coal trade - that we have not had the same sort of thing long ago ? The kernel of the business is still in the unionists’ hands. The Statute to which the honorable member has referred gave the unionists a monopoly of cutting coal, because they were the only skilled men; and those who have that monopoly - on which the community lives, and without which it cannot live, without which it cannot wage war - say, ‘ ‘ Unless you do as we say, and settle this card business as we say, unless you do everything we say in the way we say, we will not cut coal, and you shall not live.” We cannot have that; and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) could not accept such a position if he were in my place. Neither he nor any of the miners can deny that in the last trouble, when it was a question of eight hours from bank to bank, and they had a good case, I did stand by them, and gave them what they asked, or the means by which they could get what they asked. Now’, however, they have not a leg to stand on, and they are committing an offence against the community. I am informed that Mr. Baddeley, only last Saturday or Sunday, when speaking at a meeting, so far from expressing any desire to bring this unhappy dispute to a close, said that the miners would go back on their own terms - thatother men had had a month’s holiday, and why should not they ? - in short, it was an incitement to continue the strike.
The miners imagine that they have the community in the hollow of their hands, and they are going to extort their own terms. I do not think any man would justify such an attitude. The miners shall have a fair deal, and they may go back upon the same rates and conditions as before. But we are not going to allow them to dictate to the whole community after they have thrown the country into a state of chaos, holding up all transport. plunging cities into darkness, and gene-, rally waging ruthless war upon their fellow citizens.
The honorable member for Hunter says that Newcastle has sent more volunteers to the Front than any other place; and for that I take off my hat to Newcastle in recognition of the men who are gone; but I put my hat on again in contempt for the men who have remained behind to stick up the food ships necessary for the men at the Front. The miners shall have a fair deal, but they shall not exploit the whole community - they shall not block the work of the country with impunity
– They will go back tomorrow if they get the same terms and conditions.
– No. They abused the coal tribunal, which was given to them as an instrument by which they couldget justice, but which they have used as a stick with which to belabour the whole community. As I have shown, there were seven strikes in one month. They were striking every day. The coal tribunal was given to them to redress grievances. They have abused the privilege thus granted to them, and treated the Court with contempt. They do not. deserve the tribunal. They shall not have it any more.
– Very often these strikes were stoppages by men who were not associated with the unions. Mr. HUGHES.- I do not know what they were, but they were strikes. I was informed that they struck in one mine because a man had been paid 2s. too much. It is the first time that I have heard of men striking because one man has been paid too much. I do not think that that was a matter which should cause a strike. I agree with the honorable member that the present state of things is deplorable, and [that common sense should prevail on both sides. If the men would, with an earnest desire to bring the trouble to a conclusion, meet the Government of New South Wales, a settlement could be arrived at in halfanhour. I know that Mr. Fuller and the executive of the Federation are negotiating, either through Mr. Holme or directly. I trust these attempts at settlement will be successful. The desire of the Commonwealth is to bring the matter to a speedy end, and we are determined upon two things. We shall not permit the exploitation of the community by the miners, and we shall not allow those who have come to our aid to be victimised. At the same time the interests of the miners, like those of every one else in the community, will be safeguarded.
.- The Prime Minister has quite evaded the present position. His remarks mostly had reference to the unfortunate strike that is in progress, and were founded on hearsay statements and not on direct evidence. For instance, he said that the president of the Federation had made certain remarks, but he did not know where he had got the information. He also told us that he did many things for the coal miners. I do not deny it, but none of those matters affect the motion submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), which we are now considering. The point that we desire to bring before honorable members is that a specific attempt is being made by the State Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, aided by the Prime Minister, to injure one of the most loyal districts of the Commonwealth.
– The recruits are not there. They areat the Front.
– The fathers of the recruits are there, and the fathers are at the back of the strike, not the extremists that the honorable member believes are operating in other parte of the Commonwealth. The history of our coal mines has been a record of disaster after disaster as the mines became deeper, and legislation has had to be passed with a view to safeguarding the men engaged in them. Whenever a disaster has occurred there has been a wave of sympathy towards the workers from the people of Australia, but when it is a question of industrial turmoil, the sympathy seems to be quite the other way. The present proposal is that these men who take their lives in their hands every day, even when working with skilled and practical men, shall be deprived of the protection of the CoalMines Regulation Act. It is nota question of wages. It is a deliberate attempt to break the unions.
The amendment of the Coal Mines “Regulation Act will deprive the miners of the necessary safeguards imposed by the Act Further than this, the Government, for the first time in the history of Australia, has become an agent for engaging free labour, and has taken the place of the former free labour bureaux. The Prime
Minister said that he would be glad to see the trouble settled, after heaping abuse on men who clothed and fed him in the early days of his association with trade unionism in this country.
The Prime Minister has made a statement that negotiations are proceeding with the Government of New’ South Wales with the view to the settlement of the dispute, but, at the same time, in yesterday’s newspapers, an advertisement, paid for with Commonwealth money, and issued from his own Department, appeared organizing miners, shiftmen, shot firers, going right through the whole list of coal-mining employees, in order to supply them to one of the most dangerous mines in New South Wales. That is the neutral attitude of a man who professes a desire to see this trouble settled. While he tells us that he hopes that the negotiations will be successful, he is busy endeavouring to secure free labour through the National Service Bureau, for which, as we were told in re- ply to a question yesterday, £500 has been advanced from the Treasurer’s Advance Account. That is his method of settling the strike, while, at the same time, he is attacking a district which is as loyal as any other part of Australia, even if it does have its industrial troubles. All the sectional strikes that the right honorable gentleman quoted this morning are not like the case he quoted where trouble arose because one man had been paid 2s. more than he should get. Such a statement would be absolutely absurd coming from a layman. It is much more so emanating from the Prime Minister. Occasionally there are little troubles for a day or two, and we have had them since the tribunal was appointed, but they have not come from the Federation. They are created, perhaps, by a boy or two outside the pale of the Federation, nevertheless, they are all spoken of as strikes of some magnitude.
– In order to show that the miners have been producing sufficient coal, it has only to be stated that there is at grass about 200,000 tons more than has been required for export purposes.
– Yet we are told that these men would do anything to hold up supplies. When the Prime Minister was speaking I interjected that a card system was unnecessary among the coal miners of Australia.
– They have the card system.
– They have the piecework system.’
– It is the same thing. There is a complete tally of every skip.
– I maintain that no speeding up is necessary, so far as the coal miners are concerned.
– That is quite true.
– I am pleased to hear that admission, showing that the men’s attitude does not arise from a desire to hold up output; but because some other bodies of men are refusing to deal with transports, the Miners Federation have to accept the blame. From what I can hear among the miners they have been prepared throughout this trouble to supply coal to transports.
– We have not been able to get them to do it.
– Not in the way in which you wanted it done.
– Perhaps the honorable member does not know that the cooperative stevedores in Newcastle have declined to load a ton of coal, although they were given special concessions to do it.
– That is a matter quite apart from the miners. In the previous trouble, when the same stevedores wished to load transports, they found that other vessels were being brought in under the heading of transports, and they were asked to load them also. That was their reason for objecting.
– They were not asked to do that on this occasion. They, were asked to load transports, and they refused.
– It would be in the interests of the community if something could be done to discontinue the bitter fight that has already gone on too long, and to heal the breach as speedily as possible. If the State Government of New South Wales persist in the conditions that they .are offering as a basis for the settlement of this dispute, the men. will not accept them - not this side of Christmas, at any l’ate. We know that coal is necessary for all purposes in Australia, and above all for the general settlement of the present industrial trouble, and I hope that the
Federal Government will endeavour to influence the State Government, with a view to bringing about that settlement. To propose to man the mines with, unqualified labour brought’ from the other ‘States is to trifle’ with human life. much a thing should not be countenanced by any Government.
– Why did these men strike? They had no grievance ©f their own.
– I object to raising the whole position, which is unfortunate. The miners will be no party to holding up transports.
– If they had men like the honorable member and the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) to lead them, the dispute would soon be settled.
– I felt that the Prime Minister’s attack on the men was one that he should not have made, but I am sorry if, in replying to him, I have said anything more extreme than was justified.
. .-The two honorable members of the Opposition who have pub the case for the men hare done it with knowledge of the conditions, and with the conviction that something should be done to end the difficulties of the present situation. The Prime Minister, however, apart from the heat which he naturally exhibited, put the position clearly. This is not a fight between employees and employers to obtain better conditions or bigger wages. The coal strike in 1909, which lasted three or four months, enabled the men to get most of what they wanted. At the end of last year the community was greatly inconvenienced by another strike, to settle which the Government created a special tribunal, which dealt with the trouble within twenty-four hours by practically giving the men all that they asked for, and saddling the cost on the community.
Those engaged in the work of hewing coal have a monopoly. ‘ It is true, as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Chariton) pointed out, that coal mining is one of the most dangerous occupations, and it would be unwise to employ unskilled men generally in mines, and particularly in mines where gas is found. But what is the alternative? To that point the honorable member appears not to have given reasonable consideration. The coal miners have a virtual monopoly. Their’ position is that of the tyrannical employer of a century or two ago who had plenty of labour to hand and no conditions to embarrass him. The coal miners, by reason of their technical skill, and the protection of the legislation which surrounds them, have a monopoly, and are in a position to say to the community, “Unless you give us what we want, we will not supply you with coal.” Therefore, notwithstanding the danger of employing unskilled labour in mines, the only alternative, if this dictation of a section of the community is to be resisted by the Government, is to employ such labour. In a Democracy the Government chosen by the people as a whole must be supreme ; a section cannot be allowed to say to the rest of the community, “ Until we get the conditions we demand, we will not give you the benefits of our labour.”
– The capitalist says, “ Unless I can make a profit, I shall not. use my money in a business.”
– This is not a fight between capital and labour, but between the Government and labour.
– It is the same thing.
– The honorable member has lived all his life in the same atmosphere, but as be gets older his experience will become wider. Either the Government must be supreme, or we must have anarchy.
– Does not the honorable member think that the New South Wales Railways Commissioners blundered in forcing certain conditions on their employees ?
– That has nothing to dowith the matter, because the difficulty created by their action has been settled. No one wishes to see a. condition of civil war arise. The original dispute has been settled, and the troubles of the men still on strike have been increased as the result of their own action. The amendment of an Act of Parliament of which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton)-‘ complains took place after the strike began. Had the men not struck out of sympathy with other unionists, they would not have this to complain of.
– Had a Labour Government been in power- the Act would not have been amended.
– If a Labour Government had been in power, and had not asserted its right to govern, it would soon havebeen dismissed from office.
– The honorable member has a personal interest in this matter.
– I have not. Tho disturbances in this State arc merely the result of what has occurred in New South Wales. Coal mining condition? have not been altered here. It is only in New South Wales that there has been any alteration. The question is, who shall control the affairs of the country, the Government chosen by the people, ov a sec- -tion of the community? If honorable members opposite were divorced from their connexion with unions, and occupied positions of responsibility, they would find themselves compelled to take the same stand as has been taken by Ministers. Admitting the dangerous nature of coal mining, what alternative has the Government - which must have coal - but to employ unskilled labour? These honorable gentlemen say, “ Give the men what they want.” In other words, they suggest that the Government of the country should capitulate to a section of the community, which, by virtue of its monopoly, can withhold the very life blood of commerce. The mines that are now being worked, with the exception, perhaps, of Pelaw Main and Richmond Main, are not! gaseous, and these are not as gaseous as some of the south-coast mines, which it would be dangerous for an unskilled man to enter. I do not intend to deal with the matters touched on by the Prime Minister ; but it “ . must be recognised that there was a deliberate attempt to control all the affairs of the community by means of a sympathy strike, .and the calling. out systematically of the strongest! unions. This strike has not succeeded, and it is because the community has rallied to the assistance of the Government, determined that the whole people, and not a section, shall rule, that so much noise is being made. If the men thought they could succeed, they would not make appeals for leniency and consideration. It is because they are tottering to their fall, because they know that they have lost the sympathy of the community, and because the leaders have not the sympathy of three-fourths of their own men, that they wish to save their faces, and are willing to do anything they can to get out of the dispute which they have brought about.
– I regret that valuable time has to be wasted in discussing this matter, but the interests of the whole people of the Commonwealth require that something be done to relieve the existing conditions. The responsibility for the strike does not rest wholly and solely upon the shoulders of the employees. A certain amount of responsibility must be taken by the employers, and that being so, it is reasonable to ask the authorities to intervene in order to bring about an effective settlement..
– There is no strike against private employers.
– I do not know whether there is any strike against private employers or not, but I know that there must be two parties to a dispute, and the whole of the responsibility cannot be placed on the shoulders of one party. At he present time the coal mines in New South Wales are being worked under most tyrannical conditions. The recent amendment of the Coal Mines Regulation Act endangers the lives of miners, because a number of the men who are working in the mines to-day are unskilled and know’ nothing of the dangers that confront them. Blissfully unconscious of their dangers, they are led into the mines, and do not know of the disaster that may overtake them at any moment. ‘ I appeal to the Government to attempt to remove the obstacles that stand ‘ in the way of a settlement. Immediately that is done, the miners- will be prepared to resume operations in the coal pits. But in no circumstances is it reasonable to ask them to enter mines which may have been left in a dangerous condition. The men at present working the _ mines know nothing of the> dangers of’ coal mining, and are not likely to leave the mines in the condition in which they were when they entered them. The Prime Minister said that this strike was a direct result of the conscription proposals of the previous Government, and that the miners intended, in the event of the conscription referendum being decided in the affirmative, to refuse work until that principle of military service was abandoned. The facts of the lease are that the miners intended to take some sort of action in the event of the Prime Minister and his Government trying to foist conscription on the country by regulation. They said uo thing at all about ceasing work if conscription were carried by a vote of the people. But they would have had a great deal to say if the Government had attempted to impose conscription after the country had rejected it. Both the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) have admitted the unwisdom of permitting unskilled miners to work ,in coal pits, because of the dangers Attendant on coal mining. Is it fair to say to men, “ You may go into these pits and work at your own risk; you know perfectly well the work is dangerous, but we cannot get other men to work the mines under the conditions we are trying to impose on them?” I represent a district in which there is considerable mining of coal, and I know that many men in the Lithgow mines, although they are called disloyalists, have sons fighting at the Front, and rather than return to work under the conditions sought to be imposed by the New South Wales Government, they would starve. The Minister for tho Navy (Mr. Joseph Cook) knows the dangers of coal mining, because many years ago he worked in the pits of Lithgow, and from those pits the miners elevated him to a position in Parliament. The Prime Minister recognises that the so-called loyalists cannot produce nearly as much coal as can be produced by men accustomed to coal mining.
– There was not very much danger in the Lithgow mines.
– There is danger in some of them. I ‘was employed at coal mining for a number of years. From the Invincible Colliery 130 men are producing only about 135 tons of coal per day, whilst a similar number of unionists were accustomed to produce between 400 and 500 tons.
– The unionists can go back to the mines.
– They can when the Commonwealth Government compel the State Government to remove the conditions that are now stipulated. The men cannot be blamed for seeking to protect their own lives. In The Case for Labour the Prime Minister wrote that any man could vote, but it took a man with . a good heart to strike. Upon the evidence of the right honorable gentleman it mustbe allowed that the men now on strike are men with very decent hearts. I hope the Government will see their way clear to protect the interests of the community, because this dispute has now become a Commonwealth matter. Not only are the people of New South Wales suffering great inconvenience, but the whole Commonwealth is experiencing the ill-effects of this trouble. The dispute with the railway and tramway servants has been settled, but the coal mining trouble is not likely to be settled for the next four months if the conditions imposed by the State Government are insisted upon.
– I resent as keenly as I am able to do the imputations which have been made this morning that ‘the , Prime Minister is aiding an attack upon unionism in connexion with this strike. I know of my own knowledge and in my own heart that no statement could be further from the truth. That is not the attitude of the Prime Minister or of the Government. The only desire of the Government is that in these difficult and troublous times the business of the country should proceed, that they should fulfil the usual functions of Government, and attend to the ordinary duties and obligations arising from day to day in connexion with the war. Those duties the Government have discharged, and will continue to discharge, irrespective of what may happen. It is monstrously untrue to say that the Prime Minister has in any way attacked unionism or aided an attack upon unionism. I know that in support of that allegation honorable members opposite refer to the opening of the National Service Bureau. For what purpose was that Bureau opened ?
– To get blacklegs.
– The honorable member may put it in that way if he pleases, but th’e real purpose of opening the Bureau was to obtain men to do the work on the transports. * That is why the Bureau continues open. No doubt that , statement amuses the honorable member for Barrier, but to the Government it is a serious thing that transports should be hindered, that coal cannot be obtained to send away ships with supplies for the men at the front. However amusing it may be to my honorable friend, it is a serious matter for the Government. While we are on this phase of the question, may I ask for what principle the men in our own docks went out? Why did they leave their work on the transports, which had nothing to do with the railway strike, at a moment’s notice ?
– There were no transports in the dock at the time.
– There were, and these men left their work at a moment’s notice. An honorable member says that it is heart-breaking. I do not say it is heart-breaking; I say it is treasonable. If the men had done such a thing a little nearer the theatre of war we all know what would have happened.
Mr.Considine. - What about the strike that took place amongst the Welsh miners ?
– I have read that Mr. Lloyd George put some of the leaders of that strike in prison.
– And I have read that he sent some of them away to another town.
– The honorable member knows, therefore, that with Labour men in the Government and with the Labour party supporting the Government, drastic action was taken at Home in the interests of the troops at the front. My honorable friend points the contrast between a Government supported by Labour at Home and in every theatre of this war and the Labour party here. Does he not know that many of the Governments within the theatre of war are under the control of Labour Prime Ministers? InFrance—–
– Not in France to-day.
– Not to-day, but the greatest Socialist in France and one of the most successful War Ministers since the war began was M. Thomas, who has just resigned after three years of office.
I again ask why these men left our docks? It was not because of the card system. It was not because their union privileges were being impugned in any way. They had no trouble of any kind, and they have not yet told us why they went out. Itis idle to suggest that this strike and the attitude of the Government represent an attack upon unionism and its defence. They represent nothing of the kind.
There is another fact which my honorable friends opposite would do well to recollect, and that is that the coal miners, in particular, in New South
Wales, have been restive for a very long time. It is a fact that since they have had the new Coal Board, set up for them by the Prime Minister, there have been more strikes, disputes and troubles in that industry than ever before.
– It is not a fact.
– I allege it to be a fact, and it can be proved by the statistics to be so.
– I say it is not a fact.
– The figures will prove what I say. If ever men were treated handsomely by the Prime Minister of a country, the coal miners were treated handsomely by our present Prime Minister.
– Is it to be said that they were treated handsomely because for once they got justice? They got no more than justice.
– I venture to say that the coal miners were treated handsomely by the Prime Minister, and treated in such a way as should not have provoked the bitter outburst of personal feeling which we saw in this chamber this morning. No man has tried to help the coal miners more than has the Prime Minister of Australia, and it is not fair fighting - it is not fair conduct in any shape or form - to charge him with every unworthy motive, and to allege that he is attacking these men when he is merely discharging his duty as Prime Minister of Australia.
I shall tell honorable members opposite what I think ought to be done in the circumstances. The case is & very simple one. Is it not, after all, a question of who is to back down in this matter? We have the two parties facing each other; the miner says, “ I will not budge an inch.” The Government say, “ We will not back down.”
– No; the miners have not taken up that position. I can assure the right honorable gentleman that they are prepared to negotiate to overcome the difficulty, but that the Government have brought down proposals that are quite impossible.
– Have the miners ever submitted any proposals to the Government?
– Yes, they have been negotiating with the State Government’ every day.
– The honorable member has put forward only one proposal - a proposal which he knows as well as I do is impossible.
Mr.Charlton. - I think it is the proper thing for the Government to do.
– It is impossible, and it is not in the interests of the men; nor calculated to induce them to go back to work, that he should keep on flogging it. He knows that the Government cannot put the free labourers out of the mines as a condition precedent to the men going back. ‘
– I did not raise that point.
– Then what does the honorable member mean by his suggestion that the men should go back on the terms and conditions they were enjoying when they came out ? Mr. Charlton. - My main contention was that an attempt should have been made to bring about a resumption of work, instead of which the State Government brought forward impossible conditions as soon as Mr. Beeby returned from his interview with theCommonwealth Government.
– Here we have again an unworthy insinuation.
– It is quite true. Mr. JOSEPH COOK.- The insinuation is not justifiable. Such insinuations are unfair. The Prime Minister has had only one object in view - he has only one object to-day - and that is to get the miners back to their work, and to see the industrial activities of Australia flowing in their normal channels. That is the one and only desire of the Prime Minister and the Government as a whole.
The country’s work, however, must go on. If the miners will not do it - if the men turn down the work of loading and provisioning our transports, other labour has to be got to do it. It is the duty of the Government to see that the work is done, and if the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) were in the Government, he would be one of the keenest advocates of it, in the interests of keeping up our supplies to the Front. That after all, is the head and front of our offending, and as long as I live I shall be proud of the part I have played in this matter. The ‘honorable member may denominate our action as he pleases, but the only pur pose of the Government is to push forward the business of the country, and to take care that unfailing supplies reach the men in the trenches, so that they may do the work for which they have been sent.
– We are all anxious for that.
– I believe my honorable friend is anxious, and, that being so, I should like to know what step he has taken to try to induce these men, who have turned down the coaling of our transports, to do their work.
– The right honorable member and I could settle the whole trouble in half an- hour.
– I am inclined to think so, but just why the honorable member should be “ barracking “ for these men, who will not settle the trouble, I should like to know. It is my honest conviction that the honorable member for Hunter knows that this strike of miners ought never to have taken place. There never was any justification for it. There never was a strike more baseless. I shall go further,and say that there never was a strike with less reason than that which has just taken place. The men had no grievance. They admit that. The fact that they want to go back on the old conditions proves that they had no grievance whatever, and it is mistaken sympathy to help any set of men to hold up the country in time of war for any purpose whatever.
These are the facts, and it is well to keep them in mind. As to the rest, I believe, with the honorable member for Hunter, that the trouble could be settled to-morrow if there was a disposition to settle it on the part of the leaders of the men who are now out on strike. But if they keep on stipulating, as the honorable member has stipulated this morning, that they must have the absolute conditions upon which they came out, that, as he knows, is quite impossible. They are not the friends’ of the miners who urge them ‘to stand out for any such conditions. The time for that has gone.
– Supposing that is admitted, for the sake of argument, does not the Minister for the Navy think the time has also arrived when the State Government, having secured a settlement of the railway strike, should try to bring about an industrial peace on conditions that would be acceptable to the Commonwealth?
– Yes, and I believe the Government are trying to bring about conditions such as will secure a lasting peace. But it is well to keep in mind the fact that bargains have already been made with the coal miners of Australia. Only a little while ago, after a fearful struggle which disturbed the whole community, terms and conditions were arrived at, by reason of the intervention of the Prime Minister, which satisfied the miners, and on the faith of which they entered into asolemn bond to keep the peace for three years.
– Order. The right honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish only to say that my conviction is that the best advice that can be given to the men today is to return to work under such conditions as are obtainable, leaving the future to develop itself, as I believe it will, satisfactorily in the end.
.- The coal miners know their own business, and it is no part of my duty as a member of this House to offer any apology for them. We have been told that in a country where a democratic form of government prevails there is no excuse for these men ceasing work. I assert that in Australia to-day, under the guise of Democracy, there is an industrial Oligarchy which is using the Government to break down unionism in New South Wales.
– The oligarchy is on the other side.
– No;the honorable member knows where it is. The Government have had the opportunity to bring about industrial peace had they desired to do so. They could have done what Senator Pearce, as Acting Prime Minister, did on the occasion of the 44 hours’ strike at Broken Hill - a strike that was a mere bagatelle compared with the present industrial upheaval. The coal miners cannot go back on the pre-strike conditions while there exists on the Statute Book of New South Wales legislation that allows blacklegs to work in the mines.
– What would the honorable member do with the loyalists ?
– Unfortunately I can do nothing with them. I would leave them to the tender mercies of the employers who have made use of them to break down union conditions.
Debate interrupted under standing order 119.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are the names of the sub-committee appointed by the Central Wool Committee to “ conduct an examination into the constitution of each company, its shareholders, directors, and everything connected with the corporations “ which have entered into an agreement with the Commonwealth Government to share profits arising’ out of the manufacture, sale, and export of wool tops?
– The Prime Minister will make inquiry, and furnish the information later.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What is the paid-up capital of the Colonial Combing and Weaving Company Limited, which has agreed to share profits with the Commonwealth Government? ,
– The Prime Minister will make inquiry.
Naval Workman Dismissed
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Do the instructions of the Defence Department re preference to returned soldiers imply that rejected married men, also men over military age, are to he discharged from departmental positions to make way for returned soldiers?
– Married men who have volunteered and been rejected, and men over military age, will not be discharged from departmental positions to make way for returned soldiers.
” THE FIDDLERS.”
Suppression of Publication.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister knows nothing of the matter, but he will make inquiry.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows : -
The delegates of the Australian Workers Union met the Chief Prices Commissioner, Mr. Clarke, on 17th July. Mr. Clarke, in his report, stated that, under ordinary conditions, the prices asked for by the trappers bore a reasonable relation to the existing fixed prices of rabbits for local consumption and for export. He added that the conditions at present are abnormal, owing to the accumulation of frozen rabbits in store, and the practical suspension of packing for export. The Commissioner also states that, in view of the very peculiar position, he was doubtful if the suggested prices would be to the trappers’ advantage. Mr. Whitton, the new Commissioner, has been instructed to make further inquiry into the matter, and is doing so.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Bill returned, from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of Deputy Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Wood Pulp and Bock Phosphate Bounties Act 1912.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of Deputy
Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Jensen) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of crude shale oil.
Resolution reported, and adopted.
, - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. On 17th November, 1910, an Act was passed for the payment of a bounty on oil from shale produced in Australia, and that Act expired on 30th June, 1913. The two companies operating in New South Wales in the production of shale oil were the Commonwealth Oil Corporation Limited, and the British Australian Oil Company. The production of oil in Australia has so far not been a success. When I was Minister for the Navy I was seized of the fact that the time had arrived when Australia- should, if possible, be selfsupporting ‘in respect of this product which we so much desire. I had interviews at that time with the then Premier of Tasmania with reference to the Commonwealth taking a certain amount of oil per year from the Government of that State, if the State entered into negotiations in regard to the Latrobe Shale Oil Deposits. The Commonwealth Government communicated with the Government of Tasmania, and offered to give £3 15s. per ton for oil up to 8,000 tons per year for a period of eight years. In Tasmania the shale oil deposits are believed to be huge, and it is anticipated that there is shale enough to produce 450,000,000 gallons of oil. Some 40 gallons of oil per ton of shale can be extracted. In consequence of an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government of Tasmania, a Bill was introduced into the Legislative Assembly of that State to provide for the taking over of the deposits, the payment of a certain amount of money for them, and for the erection of certain machinery to cost the State Government approximately £200,000. That Bill passed the Lower House of the State, - but, in the Upper House, unfortunately, it was lost by one vote, for the reason that the members of the Legislative Council were not satisfied that £3 15s. per ton was a satisfactory amount. The Premier of Tasmania has made a request to this Government more than once for a bounty, and has even gone so far as to ask the Prime Minister whether he cannot see his way clear to join with the State of Tasmania in the production of this oil. The company at present in operation in New -South Wales is controlled by Mr. John Pell, who has taken it over, and under whose supervision there is being produced, roughly speaking, 2,800,000 gallons of oil per annum. That company at the present time is in such straitened circumstances that Mr. Fell is considering whether he should not close down the whole of the works. He has produced balance-sheets and mad: statements, to the effect that, owing to the increase in wages, and in the cost of material, during the last nine months, ‘expenses during ‘the year have been increased by 52^ per cent. He has entered into certain contracts for supplying crude oil at so much per gallon, and has produced evidence which goes to show that, unless he gets some assistance from the Commonwealth Government, he will be forced to cease operations. Such a step would, in my opinion, be a disaster.
– If the business is such a good thing, why do not the Commonwealth Government take it over?
– The Government is not prepared at this time, at any rate, to take over the enterprise of shale oil production. In order that the Government might be assured of its position in submitting a measure of the kind now before us, Mr. Lockyer, one of the Inter-State Commissioners, was invited to report and make recommendations on the proposition as put forward by Mr. Fell. Mr, Lockyer was asked to look into the balance-sheets, and so forth, in order to ascertain whether the statements made by Mr. Fell to the Prime Minister and myself were accurate. This Mr. Lockyer has done, and, in his report, he recommends that there shall be paid a bounty of 2£d. per gallon on crude oil up to 3,500,000 gallons produced by any one company; that between 3,500,000 gallons and 5,000,000 gallons the bounty shall be 2d. per gallon; that from 5,000,000 gallons to 8,000,000 gallons the bounty shall be 1¾d. per gallon, and that on all production above -8,000,000 gallons the bounty shall be l£d. per gallon.
– Up to. what amount?
– Up to £67,500 per annum. It is anticipated that, in the first two years, at least, there will be only one company to receive any bounty, and on the output of that company only half the sum provided will be required, and it has been arranged that any of the prescribed sum not earned in these first two years may be earned and paid in subsequent years. It is proposed that £270,000 shall be appropriated for the purpose of paying this bounty, and that the bounty shall be made available for four ‘years. It is important that Australia should be in a position to produce oil for its Navy. If we were attacked by an enemy and our overseas supply of oil were cut off Australia would be in a most precarious position.
– Are there any stocks in hand?
– I am not at liberty to inform the honorable member as to that matter. I ask members not to look at the matter from the present point of view, but from the point of view of five years ahead. If it is possible to have the extraction of oil from the shale deposits of Australia in full working order in a few years our commercial community as well as our Navy will be greatly benefited. There are shale deposits in New South Wales, Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia. This Bill makes no provision for paying a bounty on the production of oil from running’ wells. The Government “have considered that aspect of the matter, but if it should happen that a big running stream of oil is struck in Australia, the Government, though delighted at the discovery, would be called upon to pay out the whole of the 2£d. per gallon bounty in a week. My personal view is that financial assistance on a pound for pound basis should be given to any person or company which is Boring for oil, and I am prepared to ask Cabinet to give consideration to such a proposition. But that is a different proposition from the extraction of oil from shale. We have the shale deposits, and we know that the oil is in them, but unless we offer some encouragement to those persons who are mining the shale for the purpose of extracting oil from it. the small production that we now have will cease altogether. The. Inter-State Commission, which investigated this matter’, in 1915. recommended that a bounty of Id. per gallon should be paid on crude shale oil, but since then the cost of wages and material and everything in connexion with mining operations has enormously increased, and I can quite understand Mr. Lockyer, a member of the Inter-State Commission, recommending a week ago that the amount of bounty should be increased to 2£d. per gallon. Judge Edmunds, who inquired into the troubles of the coal and shale rnining employees in the earlier part of the year, and awarded the miners enormously increased wages and much better working conditions, which have added considerably’ to the cost of production of both shale and coal, has forwarded a letter to the Crown Law officers stating that he is convinced that some assistance must be given by way of a bounty to the shale oil industry, because he is assured that shale mining cannot be carried on profitably under the increased wages that he recommended. His letter supports the action that the Government are taking. The working expenses of the Australian Oil Corporation of New South Wales have increased by 52 per cent, since 1st January last.
I ask honorable members to regard this matter as a national one. The purpose of the Bill is to enable the Commonwealth to get the oil it requires for its Navy and its commercial community. I trust that honorable members will view the measure in a favorable light, and that as a result of the granting of this bounty there will be before very long at least 20,000,000 gallons of oil extracted from shale. I trust, also, that there will be discoveries of oil wells, but honorable members must not confuse oil extracted from shale with oil raised from wells. The two things are quite distinct. We know that there is oil in. the shale deposits of Australia, but we do not know that there are oil wells here.- I hope that in their zeal to help in the discovery of running oil streams, honorable members will not prevent assistance being given to the industry that we have already in our midst.
.- I have just had an opportunity of seeing the Bill, and what strikes me about it is the amount of the bounty that is to be made available for the production of crude oil in comparison with other bounties. Parliament considered £30^000 per annum a sufficient bounty to enable the iron industry to be established in Australia, whereas £67,000 is thought to be necessary for the purpose of establishing the shale oil industry here. We considered that a total bounty of £150,000 was enough for the iron industry, yet this Bill proposes a total bounty of £270,000 for shale oil production.
– And that is quite apart from the value of the oil.
– I have not taken that aspect of the question into consideration, because the people concerned in the establishment of the iron industry also retain the value of their product. According to the report of the’ Inter-State Commission, dated the 26 th May, 1915, a bounty of Id. per gallon on locally produced crude oil from shale is equal to a duty of 5d. per gallon, or a 2£ p.er cent, import duty on kerosene. If a bounty of1d. per gallon on crude oil locally produced is equal to a duty of 5d. per gallon on kerosene, a bounty of 2¼d. must be equal to a duty of 1s. 0½d. per gallon on kerosene. It is equal to a bounty of £2 6s. 7d. per ton on crude oil. I have no doubt the Ministry have considered the matter carefully, but the producer of the crude shale oil, as the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) has interjected, will secure all the by-products, such as petrol, light spirit, heavy spirit, and lubricating oil. The only company operating in Australia, formerly called the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, claimed, and obtained, a bounty of 2d. per gallon on kerosene, which was a much smaller bountythan the1d. per gallon on crude oil suggested by the Inter-State Commission. Kerosene is the’ refined article. The difficulty commences after the crude oil is produced. I think that the Government would have been better advised if they had devoted £50,000 per annum to subsidizing on a pound for pound basis persons who would bore for oil. When I was at Newnes last, over £1,250,000 had been spent by the company engaged there in the production of oil from shale. The company has now passed into the hands of Mr. John Pell, and I understand that he is trying to work the mine on his own account, and all honour is due to him for endeavouring to establish the oil industry here, but I doubt whether the extraction of crude oil from shale is the wisest method to follow for the production of oil in Australia. I desire the establishment of the crude oil industry, but, to my mind, the proposal of the Government is not a practicable one. The Minister says that it is not expected that, in the first two years, the full £67,500 per annum will be claimed, but that the money will be available in subsequent years. Most honorable members will agree with me that it would have been sufficient to make available £35,000 a year, or thereabouts, to encourage boring operations. If a good supply of oil were struck, the bounty would be claimed in a week. No one would remain in politics if he knew he could go out and find payable deposits of oil. The Inter-State Commission say that a bounty of1d. per gallon on locally-produced crude oil may be expressed as equivalent to an import duty on kerosene of 5d. per gallon, or to a bounty of½d. per gallon on locallyproduced crude shale oil, together with 2½d. per gallon import duty on kerosene. There has been no alteration of industrial conditions to warrant the increasing of the bounty by 150 per cent. Mr. John Pell is probably the most practical man in the oil business now in Australia. According to the Commission, a bonus of 2d. per gallon on crude oil was supported, in the alternative, by Mr. John Fell, who, at an earlier date, opposed the application in regard to crude oil.
– He was then an importer.
– No. He took me over the works of Newnes in 1915, when he was connected with this company, which was before this report was written. He originally requested a duty of 2d. per gallon on kerosene, benzine, benzoline, naphtha, gasoline, crude petroleum, petrol, pentane, turpentine substitutes, solar and fuel oils, residual and all petroleum spirits; and 3½d. per gallon on all pure mineral lubricating oils. Before the war, the price of crude oil was about £3 per ton. We put. a duty of¼d. per gallon on it, and are now asked to encourage the industry by a bounty equivalent to ten times that duty. The Bounties Act 1907 provides £339,000 for bounties extending over the period from 1908 to 1922, on cotton, fibres, New Zealand flax, jute, sisal hemp, oil materials, cotton seed, linseed, rice, rubber, coffee, tobacco-leaf for the manufacture of cigars, fish, dates and dried fruits, and combed wool or tops. The amount set aside to encourage the production of all those articles is only about one-third more than what is now proposed for the encouragement of the oil industry alone. I would not put an obstacle in the way of the establishment of any industry, but we are justified in asking if the present proposal of the Government has been carefully considered, in view of the fact that they propose to increase the bounty suggested bythe InterState Commisson two and a half years ago.
– Mr. Lockyer signed another report a fortnight ago.
– Important as the oil industry is, there are others which could be encouraged with bounties; and if we set aside £67,000 a year for four years for the encouragement of the oil industry, we shall have less for other industries.
– I was at first influenced by the criticism of the Leader of the Opposition, which was based on the report of the Inter-State Commission, which investigated the shale oil industry. The honorable member made it appear that a bounty of 2¼d. on the first 3,500,000 gallons would be equivalent to a duty of1s. a gallon on kerosene, which seems excessive; but having made a short examination of the report while the honorable member was speaking, I think now that his argument was not entirely borne out by the report. It is true that the Commissioners say that a bounty of1d. per gallon on locally-produced crude oil from shale may be expressed as equivalent to an import duty on kerosene of 5d. per gallon. But they appear to base that calculation on the assumption that the only products of crude oil are kerosene and wax. Those may be the main products, but distillation produces many more. They speak of the yield of 100 gallons of crude oil as 20 gallons of kerosene and 40 lbs. of wax. If we assumed that kerosene alone benefited by the bounty, the honorable member’s argument would be right, but, as a matter of fact, only a fifth of the bounty on the crude oil is to be attributed to the kerosene distilled from it, which makes the bounty much less than1s. a gallon on kerosene. To arrive at a right conclusion as to the effect of the bounty, we should know the value of the various products distilled from 100 gallons of crude oil, which I understand to be first benzine or petrol, kerosene, and other volatile products, then the lighter and heavier lubricating oils, and finally wax.
– About 200 grades of oil are distilled from crude oil.
– No doubt the highly-organized plants of American factories producea very large number of products. I have merely outlined the principal of these. It is desirable that the Minister, if he can do so, should tell us, approximately, what are the products derived from the oil. I am not in favour of cheeseparing in this matter. The Ministry does right to offer a substantial bonus if it wishes to stimulate this industry, which I admit is of immediate importance to Australia. But we should be placed in a position to determine the effect of the bounty, not merely on kerosene, but also on wax and all other oil products.
– I must support the Bill. There is no industry in Australia more entitled to the consideration of the Government than the oil industry at Newnes. A large amount of money has been expended in the establishment of this industry, and unless the Government come to the rescue,’ £1,250,000, which was spent in the erection of the plant at Newnes, will certainly go to waste, because under present conditions it is not possible for the Commonwealth Oil Corporation to carry on in competition with the American Oil Trust at the present prices of kerosene and crude oils. If this industry were in the hands of some unscrupulous individuals, who were reckless in the production of oil, there wouldbe some justification for honorable members taking exception to the amount of the bounty. But Mr. John Fell is the most practical and experienced oil expert in Australia, and it is only through his ability that the oil industry stands in its present position. Some four year’s ago the industry was abandoned as hopeless, but Mr. Fell took the enterprise in hand, spent a certain amount of money, and erected some experimental retorts, which have proved most successful. But for the success of those retorts, Newnes would be at a standstill to-day. Nevertheless, it must be realized that it is. not possible for the company to carry on unless the Government render some assistance. Newnes is situated in an isolated spot in the Wolgan Valley, and is served by one of the steepest railway lines in Australia. It runs a distance of 28 miles from Newnes Junction, and its construction cost about £250,000. Consequently the cost of getting the product to the market is considerable. Having regard to all the conditions surrounding the industry, the bounty proposed by the Government is not too high. It is essential that we should have an oil industry upon which we can rely, and the shale deposits in sight at Newnes are not likely to be worked out under fifty or sixty years. Therefore it cannot be said that this industry is of an ephemeral character. Apart from the Commonwealth Oil Corporation’s works at Newnes, there are oil works at Murrurundi and Temi. The two last-named works had to close down some time ago, but it may be reasonably^ assumed that if a bounty of 2£d. is given they will re-open, because they should then be in a position to compete with the product of the American Oil Company. It is recognised that it is necessary, at the present time especially, to stimulate oil production in Australia, and the only way the existing industry can be maintained is by giving it protection against the competition of the imported ‘ article. The conditions existing in Australia are totally different from those in America, because the cost of raising a ton of shale from the ground is considerably greater than the cost of pumping a ton of oil from a well.
– I most cordially commend this proposal. There is no doubt that the people who have hitherto engaged in the production of shale oil have shown their bona fides by the expenditure of vast sums of money. They have fought against most discouraging conditions, and I am glad to see that the Government are at last realizing the value to the community of an oil industry- It is true that the bounty is limited to crude shale oil from mined shale. The bounty is substantial, and nothing else would ‘be of any value. I hope this measure is only the forerunner of many Bills of a like character, and that amongst other things the Minister will see his way clear ito offer a bounty for the discovery of petroleum fields. There are many indications that such fields do. exist throughout Australia, and the expenditure of a considerable sum of money for the encouragement of those who are prepared to invest their own means in exploiting and developing them would be justified. The principle embodied in this Bill is an admirable one, which we should endeavour to apply still further. I do urge the Minister to give his attention to the discovery of oil fields, and offer like encouragement to enterprising individuals and companies.
.- It was my privilege some years ago to visit the shale oil mines at Newnes in company with the Leader of the Opposition. I was very much impressed with the importance of those progressive works. At that time we were considering whether, by placing a duty on kerosene, we could encourage the development of those mines and enable the company to make a decent profit. I asked one of the directors whether at Newnes they could produce kerosene, of a quality equal to the imported article at the recognised market price. He said that they could do so provided the labour conditions remained as they were. It appears to me that the labour conditions are the crux of the whole question. There are many enterprises in Australia which could be, and would be, worked profitably, and very much to the advantage of the people as a whole, if it were not for the uncertainty with regard to labour conditions. If the Commonwealth is to provide this bounty for the shale oil industry, we ought to protect the public interest by insuring that those employed in the actual working of the mine are not allowed to usurp an influence which puts an additional cost upon production, making it necessary to still further increase the bounty.
I was surprised at the statement made by the Minister in regard to wages. Practically the taxpayers of the community are to be asked to pay portion of the wages in this industry. If the increases in wages were of any particular advantage to tine employees, there might not be much reason to object to them. But we know that through the artificial conditions of labour imposed by Statute, and through the Arbitration Court, wages have been raised to such an extent that it is impossible for us to develop the industry as we should like to do. I commend to the Government the suggestion that if we grant this bounty it must be upon something equivalent to free labour conditions. Honorable members opposite may laugh, but the crisis which confronts the community to-day is the result of the artificial labour conditions which have been brought into existence. Certainly, when we are voting out of the public Treasury money which is to be extracted from the people by way of taxation, we should insure that no unfair conditions are imposed upon those who, accepting the opportunity which the bounty affords, are yet unable to make their enterprise profitable. This suggestion is worthy of the serious consideration of the Government. If we are to vote money for this or any other developmental purpose, we must see that the public interests are protected as against the interests of those who make unjust demands. It has been the unfortunate experience in connexion with many factories and industries that, no sooner are they started, than the union bosses come along, and tell the men that they must have better conditions and more wages, and the ventures become financial failures. No amount of bolstering by way of bonuses will overcome that disability until the labourers to be employed are compelled to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and to do it under equitable and reasonable conditions. I have not had time to study the merits of the Bill, but it is certain that we have oil shale in Australia, and that we can produce oil in almost unlimited quantities if the production is made profitable. There are very many properties which, under present labour conditions, could never be utilized, and the Leader of the Opposition will agree with me that most of the shale being mined when we visited Newnes was being exported to Germany. Only a very limited quantity was being distilled in Australia. The reason advanced for this was that labour conditions here did not permit of our establishing the subsidiary industries, and the consequent advantages were lost to us. The Germans were prepared to purchase in unlimited quantities the shale produced from the mine, because it is regarded as being about the best shale discovered in any part of the world. The artificial conditions that we have been labouring to establish, however, are absolutely fatal to the successful prosecution of many industries that would be very valuable to us and which, under normal conditions, could be carried on with profit.
– I presume that the Minister for Trade and Customs, in submitting this Bill, is merely beginning to fulfil the promise given by the Government that it would encourage new industries in Australia.
– Yes; this is only a commencement.
– There are many struggling industries which, with the help of a small bounty, would flourish and produce numerous articles “absolutely essential to a self-contained Australia. We have the raw material for many new lines of manufacture, and that is why I hope this Bill is but the forerunner of other proposals by the Government to encourage new industries. While providing for a bounty on shale oil the Government might well have gone a little further, and have provided for a bounty to encourage boring for oil deposits. I hope that the Minister will urge upon the Government, in the immediate future, the desirableness of encouraging in this way. boring for crude oil, so that we may be able to supply our own requirements in that direction. The honorable gentleman said that if he could secure the support of the Cabinet - and, I suppose, of his party - he would be prepared to propose a bounty of £ 1 for £1 to those who were boring for oil deposits. Oil is one of the essentials of our Navy, and of many industries in Australia. In a country that is rich in many minerals, it is more than probable that large deposits of oil will be found. I believe that a very small proportion of the total oil production of the world comes from shale. The great bulk of it is drawn from oil wells.
I hope that, as soon as we meet, after the approaching adjournment, the Minister for Trade and Customs will bring down a Bill to encourage the discovery of crude oil deposits. We have every sympathy with those who have invested their capital, and have spent much time and energy in the endeavour to provide Australia with an article such as this, which is so essential to all branches of industry. This bounty, I understand, is to be at the rate of 2¼d. per gallon on crude oil. The extraction of by-products will follow.
– We are only proposing to pay on the crude oil.
– Quite so; and from that crude’ oil subsidiary products will be extracted. I accept the Minister’s promise that he will give the House an early opportunity, provided that he can induce the Cabinet to support him, to encourage oil discoveries within the Commonwealth. It is only by making an early attempt to promote the production of shale oil and the discovery of oil deposits in Australia that we shall be able to meet the necessities of the situation, and to make Australia independent of outside sources of supply. When we succeed in doing that it will be a happy day for Australia.
.- I had the privilege of moving in this House, in 1910, that a bounty should be allowed on crude shale oil. I then pointed out how important that form of oil was becoming in all manufacturing industries, and how important it was from the point of view of the Australian Navy that we should have adequate local supplies. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was then Minister for Trade and Customs, but he could not be induced to take a wide view of the proposal or to display any foresight in regard to it. He could not be persuaded to do more than grant a bounty for the production of kerosene. There was only one company in Australia - the New South Wales enterprise - able to produce kerosene at that time, and those who now hold the property of that company are calling for the very bounty for which I pleaded in 1910. Had the Government of that day looked the matter fairly and squarely in the face, we might by this time have had firmly established in Australia a most important industry. The war has served to intensify the importance of this industry. It is absolutely necessary for the naval defence of Australia that we should be selfcontained so far as the supply of oil is concerned.
I am glad that the Bill has been intro.duced, but I regret that the Government have not come to some arrangement with the Government of Tasmania, to jointly work the Latrobe-Railton shale oil deposits. There we have a deposit which, according to experts, is in every respect satisfactory. The only trouble is that we have been unable to float a company with the capital necessary to develop it.
– Why have not the T.asmanian Government taken it up?
– They tried to become possessed of the property, .but, although a Bill with that object in view was almost unanimously passed by the Lower House, it was defeated by a narrow majority in the Upper House. I am satisfied that the deposit to which I have referred could be worked to greater advantage by the Government than by any private company.
– Were the laboratory tests satisfactory ?
– I believe so. The reports were so good that I cannot understand why any body of men who were not actually experts in oil production should turn down the reports of experts and reject the proposition. Had the proposal of the Tasmanian Government been agreed to by the State Parliament, the industry would have been well established, and the whole of the oil produced by it would have been used by the Navy. I repeat that, in the hands of the Government, the industry would have- a better chance of success than if it were controlled by a private company. If conducted by the Government it would be freer from the possibility of labour troubles, and any unfair competition by the Standard Oil Company or any other great corporation could be met. There are many solid reasons why the Government might reasonably be expected to make a better success of the proposition than a private company.
I regard this Bill as an honest attempt on the part of the Government to found a very necessary industry, and, so far as it goes, I cordially support it. I hope that it will not only benefit the New’ South Wales company, but will lead to the establishment of the industry in Tasmania. The Government certainly have not gone too far in the provision they have made on the Estimates for -the payment of this bounty. I do not think the whole amount will be claimed for a year or two, but if we can found this industry on a solid basis, we shall have every reason for satisfaction.
.- I cannot say that I am opposed to this Bill, but at the same time I am not wholly in’ favour of it. There are certain facts in the report of the Inter-State Commission on the production of shale oil to which I propose to draw attention. In the first place, the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Palmer) is not very keen about paying the bounty.
– You are not justified in . making that statement, for I am very keen in regard to. all these matters.
– The only matter that seems to bother the honorable member is the fact that working men are to be. employed by means of this industry. If it were possible to do without working men. in this enterprise, he would go back to his little nest to-day quite satisfied, and happy to think that he had done something to put his foot down on the neck of the worker.
– The honorable member knows that that statement is absolutely incorrect.
– Personally, I think that a bounty is much to be preferred to a fixed duty as a means of industrial encouragement. However, after looking at the report of the Inter-State Commission on the shale oil industry, I find some difficulty in believing that the Government have thoroughly considered the matter, or they would not have introduced a Bill containing such a schedule as we have before us. I am pleased to see that the Government have followed the example set by the Bounties Act, which was passed in the time of - the Labour Government, in respect of rates of wages and conditions of employment. This will prove one safeguard for the working man, notwithstanding the Peddlington ideas of the honorable member for Echuca; and it is the one redeeming feature of the Bill.
The honorable member for “Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) has told us that the crude oil extracted from shale in Tasmania is very good, but that sufficient capital has not been forthcoming to develop the industry in that State. As a sporting offer, I venture to say that if any one can guarantee shale oil in any part of Australia, I shall be able to raise him a capital of £100,000 in forty-eight hours. I should like to read an extract from the- report of the Inter-State Commission on this question.
– Wages have increased, we are told, by 52£ per cent, since that report was issued; and it is one of the members of the Inter- State Commission who recommends a bounty of 2£d.
– The report of the InterState Commission in respect to shale oil is dated 1914-15, and contains the following :-
On an* estimated output of 4,000,000 gallons by the British-Australian Oil Company, and 10,000,000 gallons by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation, which is not likely to be reached or exceeded for some years, we have a total of 14,000,000 gallons. It must be remembered that there will be the initial difficulty of capturing the local market in competition with well-known brands. It may be assumed with fair accuracy that, in relation to such an output, the total capital of the two companies should not exceed £1,000,000. Assistance by bounty of Id. per gallon of crude oil on 14,000,000 gallons would amount to £58,300, or 5.83 per cent, on the above capital. It would represent 25 per cent, on 4d. per gallon, the value of the local output.
It will be observed that these figures are on a basis of Id. per gallon, whereas the
Government propose a bonus of 2½d., or 11 per cent, or 12 per cent., on a capital of £1,000,000. This, I think, is pretty “ sultry,” and I can only wish we were all interested in an investment of the kind, for we should very soon become ‘ GetrichquickWallingfords . ‘ ‘
– It is an important new industry.
– It is not altogether new, for it has been tried with bounties for years, as you, Mr. Speaker, must know, seeing that you have been one of the biggest champions of this industry in the House. May I ask whether this Bill will include Papua?
– I do not know.
– Papua is part of Australia according ito the Acts Interpretation Act.
– There is no shale in Papua.
– We do not know that that is so. At Roma, and in the Crow’s Nest district, and elsewhere in Queensland, there are outcrops of shale, and the Queensland Government are boring for oil at the first-mentioned place. A company was started some years ago at Roma, but, unfortunately, the hole got blocked up, and the place caught fire; but there is no doubt about oil being there. If there is one place in Australia where I feel confident oil can be obtained, it is in the Roma district.
– But that venture is being conducted by the State Government.
– Quite so; and I contend that the State Government are entitled to the bounty if they produce oil. In Tasmania the industry is practically a State monopoly; and I do not see why any distinction should be drawn between those who are digging for shale and those who are boring for crude oil.
– I have said I will consider the matter of giving financial assistance to those who are boring for oil.
– It would have been impossible for a private company to find sufficient money to properly explore that part of Queensland, and so the Government have proclaimed it a Government monopoly, and have a claim to come under this Bill in view of the fact that they are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds. A good oil discovery would mean much, not only for Queensland, but for Australia as a whole; and this northern enterprise ought to have some encouragement. The one thing I am afraid of, in view of our past experience, is that, if we coddle an industry too much, it ceases as soon as it is required to stand on its own legs.
– That is not so; the wooltop industry is running without a bounty.
– Do not talk to me about the wool-top industry - it is one of the biggest swindles in Australia. If the oil industry should prove a success, this bounty expenditure will be money well spent; and I again urge the Government to have some regard for the State industry in Queensland.
.- In supporting, the Bill, I desire to call attention to a phase of the matter that certainly requires consideration. If this industry is established, I think it will be found that the supply is more than there is a local market for, and that fact may involve a good - deal of negotiation with the British Government after the war is over in order that we may have a guaranteed market in the Old Country. A great change has come over the view of British statesmen, as we have seen in the case of the metal trade. If the aim is to make the British Empire self-contained, and that aim is achieved, there ought to be a good future for Australia in connexion with oil-production, whether from shale or from boring. In Tasmania, I was told that one of the reasons why the “Upper House rejected the proposed arrangements with the Commonwealth Government was that New South Wales would be able to supply the whole of the markets of Australia. We know, of course, that expectations in that regard have not been quite realized, owing, it is said, to the machinery employed not being of the right kind. The reason given by some members of the Legislative Council was that they were afraid that the venture was not good enough without some guarantee of the market. I hope that one result of the war will be that Australia will be able to dispose of its surplus oil in the markets of the Old World. There are few places in the world that have a big supply of oil, but we cannot compete with foreign companies in the British market. If the British Government! adopt a Protectionist policy - they are practically committed to it - there should be a future for our oil industry when it outgrows the local demand. I know that this bounty is to be paid on oil produced from shale, but I do not think that there is any doubt that supplies of natural oil will be discovered. They’ are prospecting for it with successful results in Papua, and the prospects in Queensland are good, while a visiting expert has pronounced the opinion that oil will be found in the Northern Territory. Any assistance towards the discovery of oil wells must be given on a different basis from that which is proposed in regard to oil produced from shale. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) that boring should be encouraged, and that the Commonwealth Government should not await results before giving assistance. Australia has not been explored from its oil bearing point of view, and the Government could well give encouragement to prospectors for natural oil streams. Mr. Wade and others have examined the Tasmanian shale deposits, and there is no doubt that the oil is there, but the reason advanced by the members of the Legislative Council of Tasmania for the action they took has something in it. I believe that their objections can be overcome in the way I have mentioned.
.- This is not the first occasion on which a bounty has been offered for the production of oil in the Hartley Vale district in New South Wales. Forty years ago the State Government paid a bounty of 2d. per gallon on kerosene, and the oil produced from the Hartley Vale shale was the best in the local market, and held that market for a number of years; but owing to the crude methods of treatment t<he industry had to be abandoned. The Newnes Company was subsequently brought into existence to work another shale deposit in the same locality.
I would rather have a protective duty than a bounty, because there is always reason to suspect the genuineness of the latter, while the former gives every one an opportunity to commence operations for the production of the article for which the assistance is given. The machinery in use at the Commonwealth Oil Corporation’s mine is worth an inspection by any person interested in this matter. The company itself has had a very chequered career. Its capital has been renewed three or four times, and I do not think that it will ever secure a return which will pay even the interest on the money that has been spent there: The failure and the heavy cost of operations have not been due to the high cost of wages, but have been due entirely to early mismanagement on the part of those who had charge of operations. I am pleased that the Minister is making no attempt to compensate these people for the money they have put into the venture. No bounty that we could offer would do that. The Minister takes the view that the bounty is needed because of the increased cost of mining brought about’ mainly by the recent increase in wages. He is notlike the honorable member for Echuca, who considers that if an industry for which a bounty is given cannot succeed by paying the Australian rate of wages, Chinese or other coloured labour should be employed.
One feature of this oil company’s operations that must be given consideration is the fact that it is not able to export its shale. When mixed with coal, it produces a very good gas, though it has not the illuminating qualities of coal gas, and its odour is rather offensive. Large quantities of the New South Wales shale were shipped to Glasgow, and if that market was still available to the company it might be able to carry on, but owing to the absence of shipping it is not now available. The distillation of the oil produces many valuable by-products, for which there is a demand in Australia, and gives employment to a large number of people. Therefore, I trust that this assistance will be given, though, as I have said already, I prefer a protective duty to a bounty. I am glad to see that the Government have given attention to this matter. They were elected to carry out a win-the-war policy, but I am pleased to see that they have been able to devote attention to other matters. I hope that they will be able to give consideration to other questions which must come before us for earnest consideration after the war. Any preparations that we can take in hand now will render our task after the war much easier. I am pleased to see that the Government have stepped out in order to do something for Australia, and I hope that they will step out a little more in the same direction.
– The honorable member hopes that they will step out altogether.
– Yes. One of the greatest blessings they could confer on the community would be the vacation of their seats in this Chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The only important clause in the Bill is that’ which extends the bounty on rock phosphates, which would’ otherwise expire in January next, for a period of five years:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended, and Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
– The Senate has made three amendments in the Bill, but they do not affect any matter of principle.
– Is the honorable member satisfied with them? Mr. GLYNN. - I am. I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Prosecution of Soldier - Songs of Industrial Workers of the World - Order of Business.
– In moving
That this House do now adjourn,
I wish to say that the Government is much obliged to honorable members for the help that they have given to it today.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Honorary Minister to the facts embodied in the following communication which has been sent to me: -
Dear Sir,- I desire to bring under your notice what appears to us a ease of extreme hardship and gross injustice to a returned soldier, Mr. James Elliot, No. 392, Naval and Military Forces atRabaul, time of service, two years and two months. Returned feverstricken and unlit for further service. Mr. Elliot served through South Africa, and carries a Military Medal with six bars, also the King’s Medal. When returned to New South Wales from Rabaul, on account of extreme cold, he was allowed a military coat, which he has publicly worn hundreds of times since he returned to Maitland district. He is a resident of Woodville.
He was summoned for having a military coat in his possession, and finedL 2. He asked for a stay of proceedings, which was granted till the 14th of next month (September). We think such drastic action as this is against recruiting, and would like you to make inquiries, and if possible, have the conviction quashed.
I am enclosing a report of presentation to Mr. Elliot at Woodville. You will see by it the respect he is held in his own locality.
I forwarded that communication to the Department, and thought that there would not be the slightest difficulty in getting it tointervene in the case, seeing that the man concerned has not only served two years at Rabaul, where his health broke down, but also that he had distinguished military service in the South African War, being the possessor of the Military Medal, with half-a-dozen bars, and of the King’s Medal. I am not of the opinion that men should take for their private use what is the property of the Commonwealth, but officers should be able to discriminate between those who take what does not belong to them, and those who, as in this case, arc doing what there is no harm in doing. The man in question had been wearing a military coat for a considerable time, and thought that it belonged to him. As a matter of fact, old coats such as his are generally burned. This is the reply I received from the Department: -
With further reference to your letter dated 1stultimo, inclosing a communication from Mr, J. B. Booney,Lawes-street, East Maitland, In regard to a returned soldier wearing a military overcoat, I am directed to inform you that as this man - ex-Sergeant James Elliott - was found to he in possession of Government property, and wearing same without authority, no action can be taken by this Department to traverse the decision of the Court in his case. The correspondence forwarded by you is returned herewith.
Matters of this kind are doing much harm. The particulars of this case have been circulated all over the Maitland district, and published in the local press, and I did think that the Department, even if it could not interfere with the verdict of the Court, might have done something to redress the wrong done that man. He was not knowingly taking Government property; he thought he was entitled to the coat. He had ruined his health in the service of the country, and the least thing the Department should have done was ‘to have allowed him to wear the coat without interference.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Acting Prime Minister a newspaper statement that the Premier of New South Wales has requested provincial papers in that State to publish the songs of the Industrial Workers of the World. As this Parliament has passed an Act declaring the Industrial Workers of the World an unlawful association, will the AttorneyGeneral take action to restrain Mr. Fuller from the disgraceful action he is taking? We should not allow any Government to ask for the publication in the press of songs and writings issued by an organization which this Parliament has declared illegal.
– Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House what will he the first business on Tuesday?
.- The first business will be the introduction and explanation by the Treasurer of the Bill for the imposition of a special income tax on eligibles.
– Do the Government propose to proceed with that Bill after the Treasurer has made his explanation?
– Not if the honorable member desires us not to do so. I hope that we may then proceed with the Defence Bill and with the Senate’s amendments to the Railways Bill. We should be able to complete that business on Tuesday, and then the way willbe clear for dealing with the Repatriation Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 September 1917, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1917/19170914_reps_7_83/>.